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February Gardening – Sue McDougall

There is still an opportunity to garden in the hottest month of the year. There is always a cool spot under a tree, around a pond or in the evening that benefits from some extra attention. Enjoy this time of the year.  A little work now will result in a productive and great garden throughout autumn.

The Ornamental Garden

The potted plants can be revamped as the soil tends to dry out in extremely hot weather. Potting mix that has shrunk from the sides of the pot is a good indicator that the water isn’t soaking into the plants roots where it’s needed. The addition of a wetting agent and liquid seaweed solution will revamp the potting mix, reducing the need to completely replace the soil.

If pots have been sitting in a saucer of water for an extended time, the fine feeder roots at the bottom of the pot could have rotted. It’s a perfect opportunity to re-pot these plants and completely replace the soil. Always use premium potting mix as the formulations have been developed to give you maximum plant growth. There is huge competition between potting mix producers which ensures that you always receive a quality product.

Hibiscus are prone to producing bright yellow leaves after extreme changes in temperature this month. This can be likened to the behavior of a two year old when they don’t get their way – they sulk. Bright yellow leaves on a hibiscus at this time of the year is not a cause for concern. Apply controlled release fertiliser and lightly scratch into the soil surface. Controlled release fertiliser is the best to use in hot weather as there is a minimal chance of burning and nutrients are released gradually by temperature and water

Spent Kangaroo Paw flowers can be removed at this time of the year. Trim them right back to ground level. If the foliage looks particularly damaged and tired it can be trimmed back to ground level too and then fertilised with blood and bone with added potash. Blood and bone is a fantastic soil conditioner and if there is a chance of a rain from a thunderstorm it will wash the nutrients in and give the plants a much needed boost before the cool of autumn.

The Edible Garden

Passionfruit are prone to dropping flowers before the fruit sets throughout the warmer months. The main reason for this is the absence of bees in our backyards which results in the fruit not being pollinated. Artificial pollination with a fine paint brush will result in more fruit set. Brush the pollen from a mature flower and then brush this against other flowers. The addition of plants that attract bees is beneficial for pollination in the garden. Fennel, lavender, perennial ageratum and alyssum are brilliant for attracting bees.

A thick layer of pea hay, lupin hay or compost around the citrus will keep the plants from becoming stressed. They are forming their fruit at the moment and at the first sign of water or heat stress will drop their fruit.


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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