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August Gardening – Sue McDougall

With spring only around the corner, Western Australia often experiences warm days throughout August.  While the sunshine is enjoyable, it’s the wintry wet days that are needed. There may still be dry soil in certain areas in the garden despite the winter rains. WA soils can become extremely water repellent and will not absorb water without some intervention. The addition of a quality wetting agent to water repellent soils at this time of the year will ensure the last of the winter rains soak into the soil.

We live with the threat of frost this month, particularly if the days have been clear and sunny. Protect tender young seedlings with a small tree branch, umbrella or shadecloth cover. Also protect young seedlings from slugs and snails as these destructive pests are very active at this time of the year and it doesn’t take many to devour a punnet of seedlings. Venture outside with a torch after dark and a container of salt solution which the slugs and snails can be thrown into after plucking them off the leaves. This is a quick, chemical-free way of reducing the population. Coffee grounds around seedlings will also help to protect the plants from further damage.

If there is access to a mini hot house or green house, later this month is the ideal time to germinate summer vegetable seedlings. Call into a Better Pets and Gardens store for the seed raising mix and seeds which is all that is needed to get started. Growing vegies from seed is economical and really easy. To find out how, download the “Make New Plants by Seeding” factsheet from the Better Pets and Gardens website.

It’s the last chance to transplant advanced shrubs and trees. Take as much of the root system as possible to minimise root damage and moisture loss. If transporting them from one property to another, lay the plants down and wrap them in a sheet or hessian which will reduce moisture loss and stress. Plant them into well improved soil, apply a thick layer of organic mulch and keep them damp over the next few weeks. Apply a solution of Seasol around the root system fortnightly for the next few months.

Trim citrus trees after they have finished fruiting and before they have started to flower for next years fruiting. If leaves are slightly yellow apply Powerfeed or Fish Emulsion over the foliage, then at the beginning of September apply a controlled release fertiliser around the root zone, scratch it under the soil surface or apply it under organic mulch.

Keep an eye out for aphids on roses and vegie plants. These small sap sucking insects usually congregate on the new growth. Control them by squashing, hosing off with a high pressure spray of water or spraying a safe spray such as Beat a Bug or Natrasoap – available at Better Pets and Gardens. Remember that a ladybug will devour up to 400 aphids in its lifetime, so encouraging these beneficial insects to the garden is very important.

Replant indoor potted plants now to revitalise them as the weather warms up. Trim any damaged leaves and replant into premium potting mix. Rub a white oil solution over the foliage which will clean up any insects and leave the foliage shiny and glossy.


Written by Sue McDougall, a qualified horticulturalist and experienced garden centre owner who grew up in the WA wheatbelt and has had experience in gardening throughout the entire state.  You may know Sue as the garden expert on 6PR radio and by her many TV appearances.


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