Spring Gardening Jobs
Spring is when we uncurl ourselves from the sofa and head outdoors to feel the warmth on our face. It’s one of the most wonderful times of the year in the garden but even though everything is looking shiny and new, there is still the realisation that the first job of spring is always to deal with the blanket of weeds that is smothering everything after the wet months of winter.
JOBS IN THE GARDEN
Spring is about controlling weeds, planting, pest control and fertilising. It’s the time for gardeners to get busy with these jobs around the garden:
- Head outdoors regularly with secateurs in hand to prune shrubs, low hanging trees and perennials which will be growing quickly and may need a bit of shaping. Be careful not to remove any flowering buds though as you will be disappointed later when you don’t get any flowers. It’s also time to prune any plants that flowered over winter and autumn.
- Weeds such as clover and bindii may be taking over in the lawn so you must deal with these early or no one will be able to walk on it in summer with bare feet because of the prickles. Find out which weed killer to choose on our “Coping with Weeds” fact sheet.
- If you’re planning to put down a new lawn, whether by seed or rolls, now is the time to do it whilst there is still moisture in the air and the roots have time to establish before the heat of summer.
- It’s time to plant basil again as the nights are finally warm enough but whilst you are at it, plant a whole herb garden which includes all your favourites such as parsley, coriander, thyme and rosemary.
- Divide orchids that have become crowded in their pots.
- Divide any clumping perennials now so that they have time to re-establish before the heat of summer.
- Apply a wetting agent to all areas of the garden to make sure that every drop of spring rain goes to the roots of the plants where it is needed most.
- After dealing with all the weeds, add a new layer of mulch. For added benefit, place a layer of newspaper over the soil before the mulch or pea straw as this will smother any existing weeds and prevent any seeds from sprouting. Any garden looks so much better once it has been freshly mulched
- Regularly trim the hedges during spring. Now that the weather is warming up, they will be growing strongly and will quickly get out of shape if left to their own devices.
- It should be just about time to harvest the broad beans which won’t produce pods until the weather warms up.
- Prune lemon trees so that they retain their shape. Try not to let them get too tall as that will make picking the lemons very tricky.
- Cyclamen will be finished flowering and will enjoy a bit of time outdoors in a sheltered, dry position.
- Cut down the dead leaves of bulbs and leave them in the soil or, if they have become cluttered, lift them and save them for re-planting in autumn.
- Dig gypsum and compost into clay soil to try to improve its drainage before summer.
- Mix lots and lots of organic matter such as compost and well-rotted manure through sandy soil as this will help improve its water holding capacity and provide a lot more nutrients for plants.
- Pinch back chrysanthemums to encourage bushy growth.
- Apply a wetting agent all over the garden. Just because it has been raining doesn’t mean that the water has gotten through the soil. Find out more in our “Water Saving Products” fact sheet.
Over winter, plants slow down because of the colder weather and require much fewer nutrients but in spring, everything gets going again and because the plants are growing much faster, they need to take up more nutrients from the soil. If the soil doesn’t have anything for them to feed on, they will go hungry!
So, have a multi-pronged approach to fertilising in spring. Mix in as much well-rotted manure or compost as you can into the topsoil of the garden, especially amongst vegies and seedlings. This will release nutrients relatively slowly, improve soil structure and get microbial activity busy in the soil which will help the plants in the long term.
Sprinkle controlled-release fertiliser over container grown plants or those in raised garden beds which will give them food for around four months. These can also be used on garden beds as well in conjunction with the manure and compost.
If there are any plants that are looking a bit yellow or stunted after winter, you can give them a quick boost of liquid fertiliser which will start to have an effect in just a couple of days. It’s a quick fix and won’t solve the long term problem in the soil but is still a worthwhile step to giving a plant a kickstart. Keep in mind though that yellow gardenias will benefit from a weak dose of epsom salts because their problem is a short-term magnesium deficiency.
Fertilise the lawn now with a slow release fertiliser. Remember that less is more. If you over fertilise in spring you will pay for it in summer because the fast growth will have you mowing the lawn far more than necessary.
Mid-spring is about the time to fertilise citrus because new growth is forming and it needs to be fed. Choose a fertiliser that’s suitable for citrus and it will also work on roses and vegies too.
Lastly, and although it’s not a fertiliser, apply seaweed extract every fortnight. It is very effective at strengthening plants so that they deal better with extreme weather conditions but more importantly at this time of year, helps them cope with the onslaught of spring pests such as aphids, mealy bug and caterpillars.
PROBLEMS IN THE GARDEN
Gardeners will be excused for thinking that spring has this name because it is the time of year when pests spring into action! And it’s true. Every few days, wander outside and take a close look at new flower buds that might be covered with aphids, look underneath leaves where two spotted mite hide, check out branches and trunks for scale, and watch over the lawn in case any brown patches appear. Here are some problems to look out for:
- The roses would have been pruned already but as they burst into bloom in spring, they will become very attractive to aphids which will congregate on their buds and distort their growth so that they don’t look like roses at all. There are several options for dealing with aphids and other rose pests, drop in and speak to our team so that you can nip the problem in the bud (excuse the pun!). Keep an eye out for aphids on vegetables as well.
- Keep an eye out for petal blight on azalea flowers which causes them to go brown and rot and, if the leaves have gone a bit silvery the culprit will be either two-spotted mite or lace bug. Mancozeb which includes a miticide will help to control both of these problems.
- Mosquitoes can be a real problem later in spring. Spray Coopex over walls and around doors and windows. It’s a residual insecticide that is very safe and effective (it can even be used in commercial kitchens).
- Slugs and snails just seem to be everywhere at this time of year, hiding under all the leaves, weeds and undergrowth. Either borrow some chooks for the day to work in the garden or use snail baits to control them. However, if you have pets, only choose a pet-friendly snail bait and follow the instructions carefully as the pellets should never be left in a pile in the garden since some dogs still can’t resist them even if they do taste terrible.
- Start putting out baits and controls for fruit fly. Find out how in our “Controlling Fruit Fly” fact sheet.
- Deal with African black beatle in lawns now before they really start to cause damage. There’s plenty of information on how to do this in our fact sheet called “Brown Patches in Lawns“.
- Holes in leaves of vegetables will either be from caterpillars or snails & slugs. Dipel or Success work very well on caterpillars and is safe to use on edible crops although it does need to land on the caterpillar to work. If there are only a few, just pick them off.
- If you’ve planted seedlings one day and then come along the next only to find that the stem has been chewed close to the ground, this will be slaters. They work quickly to fell a seedling, a bit like a lumberjack fells trees. Either shield the seedlings with cut off plastic bottles, or try a snail bait that also deals with slaters. Once the seedlings have grown, the slaters don’t cause any problems any more.
It’s time to plant vegetables and flowering annuals now that the days are a bit warmer and longer. A lot of people grow these from seedlings but they are also easy to grow from seeds and very economical. Check out how on our “Growing Plants from Seed” fact sheet.
It’s also a good time to replant garden beds with hedges, perennials and trees but don’t leave it too late as the extra moisture from spring will give these plants a few months to establish before the heat of summer. Remember to mix in lots of organic matter into the planting hole as well as treat the area with a wetting agent. Keep the plants well watered for several months until they’ve had time to settle in.
AUTUMN PLANTING GUIDE FOR TEMPERATE AREAS (South of Carnarvon)
Artichoke, Basil, beans, beetroot, cabbage, capsicums, carrot, chives, coriander, cucumbers, dill, eggplant, endive, leeks, lettuce, melons, oregano, parsley, parsnip, pumpkin, radish, rocket, rhubarb, silverbeet, spring onion, sweet corn, thyme, tomatoes, zucchini.
Ageratum, alyssum, aster, Californian poppy, carnation, catmint, calendula, celosia, coleus, cornflower, cosmos, dahlia, daisies, dianthus, echinacea, everlastings, feverfew, gazania, gerbera, Impatiens, lavender, marigold, nasturtium, petunia, phlox, portulaca, primula, salvia, snapdragon, strawberry, sunflower, zinnia.
SPRING PLANTING GUIDE FOR TROPICAL AREAS (North of Carnarvon)
Beans, beetroot, cabbage, capsicum, carrots, cucumber, eggplant, endive, herbs, lettuce, melons, mustard, parsnips, pumpkin, radishes, rhubarb seed or crowns, silverbeet, spinach, spring onion, sweet corn, tomatoes, zucchini.
Ageratum, alyssum, aster, Californian poppy, carnation, catmint, calendula, coleus, cosmos, dahlia, daisies, dianthus, echinacea, everlastings, feverfew, gazania, gerbera, impatiens, lavender, marigold, nasturtium, petunia, phlox, portulaca, salvia, snapdragon, sunflower, zinnia.
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