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February 2010 – Sue McDougall

Traditionally February is the hottest month of the year. It’s always the same.  Just as the kids go back to school the hot weather sets in.

Keeping your garden looking good at this time of the year is a priority and if it’s mulched well, you have a maintained reticulation system and you have used wetting agents regularly your garden will still be looking superb.

My big tip this month is to avoid being in the garden in the heat of the day.  Wait to do your work until the cool of the evening or in the early morning.  You will enjoy it a whole lot more.

Jobs to do

Sunblock for our garden comes in a handy trigger pack. Anti-transparents have been used in commercial horticulture for many years to reduce the evaporation rate of plants and protect them from the searing heat or extreme cold. They are a polymer based product which works like a sunblock. It puts a layer over the leaves that stretches as the plants grow and is used for transplanted plants to reduce shock and moisture loss. Yates has recognised the need for this product to be available to the home gardener and Droughtshield Ready to Use is available in a handy trigger pack. It is fantastic for all garden plants to protect them over the summer months and one of those “must have” garden essentials.

At this time of the year we crave some shade in the backyard. One tree can reduce the immediate temperature of the area surrounding the tree by 5 to 10 degrees. A few of these in the backyard can turn into a cool oasis. By using deciduous trees and large shrubs, the sun will stream in throughout winter warming the garden on those clear sunny days.

My favourite deciduous tree at the moment is the Weeping Mulberry.  A gorgeous umbrella-shaped specimen tree that, in my garden, we have pruned the inside branches out of and is now a “fairy cubby” for the children. It has a diameter of over 3 metres and will fit many children and their toys. I feel rest assured that even on the hottest day they are shaded from the hot sun.

Citrus trees are developing fruit at the moment but in times of extreme hot weather they will drop these small fruit. Keep the water up to them at this time of the year.

It’s time to feed the roses. They are developing their buds for the autumn flowers and will benefit from a top dressing with a complete fertiliser. Water it in well and be sure the mulch is shading the soil from that searing sun.

Gardenias have finished their main flowering and can be pruned to ensure bushy plants. The application of an organic soluble fertiliser is also beneficial at this time of the year.

Grapes may need to be treated for mildew as it tends to re-occur at this time of the year. This fungus appears on the fruit in humid weather. To reduce the chance of getting mildew, prune some of the foliage around the vine to increase the air movement.

Plant Now

There is still time to plant a follow-up crop of tomatoes. These will be fruiting very quickly and it will ensure you have fresh home grown tomatoes in autumn. Plant any seedlings in the cool of the evening and they can be shaded with a small tree branch until they get established.

Bougainvilleas have come a long way from the large spiny, unruly shrubs that were planted over ‘outhouses’ many years ago. They were avoided like the plague and when there was even a slight murmur of prune time, everyone scattered. Thankfully, now they have been bred for their compact growth habit, repeat flowering and hardiness. Bougainvilleas look fantastic as a low growing hedge, in pots or even in large hanging baskets and flower so brilliantly in the summer that they deserve a place in any garden. The summer garden can be just as colourful and rewarding as the spring garden.

Succulents, which are now so popular, are the perfect choice for planting in the hottest part of the garden. They look fantastic in pots or planted in gaps in the retaining walls.

When we think of kangaroo paws we think of spring flowers but the ‘Bush Gem’ series of Anigozanthos flower just as much at this time of the year as they do in the spring. Bred for their resistance to Black Ink disease, they have gorgeous shiny green foliage and multiple flower heads to 60cm high.

The Vegie Garden

It’s the time to be preparing to plant the cool season vegetables like cauliflower, broccoli and brussel sprouts even though it may not feel like it. They need a long growing season and if you get them in early you will miss the cabbage white butterfly which can do so much damage to the leaves.

Vegies to plant now include: beans, beetroot, broccoli, Brussel sprouts, cabbage, carrots, cauliflower, celery, Chinese cabbage, lettuce, onions, radish, silverbeet.

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