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Holidays are here but there’s work to be done

January is a favourite time for many families. It’s a great time to involve the kids with a few gardening projects over the school holidays. Large planters filled with their favourite vegies or flowers are quick and easy projects to get them excited about gardening. Choose varieties of plants that are waterwise and look good at the same time.

Some of the Australian plants suited to pots include kangaroo paws, verticordias, scaevolas and grevilleas. Use potting mix and controlled release fertilisers designed specifically for natives.

Frangipanis are a favourite amongst Perth gardeners. These hardy, small trees create a tropical feel in a backyard and are easy to look after. Premature yellowing and leaf drop may be caused by frangipani rust, a problem that has recently been detected in Western Australia. Apply a fungicide suitable for rust and dispose of any leaves that have fallen to reduce the number of spores on the ground.

Substantial rains in late November have ensured the summer weeds have a chance to take hold. Control weeds in paving when they are small by spraying with a product which is family friendly and safe to use around kids and pets.  Ask at Better Pets and Gardens for which to choose.

Recent research conducted by UWA has concluded that by lowering mowing heights on turf grasses the turf will actually use less water. This is contrary to previous advice. The shorter leaf blade means there is less transpiration and therefore less moisture loss. Apply a controlled release fertiliser on the lawn when there is a cool break. Controlled release fertilisers keep the lawn growing and healthy while minimising the quick growth which results in less mowing.

Plant a tree in a sunny spot. Trees are nature’s natural air conditioner. There is no time like the present to plant something to provide shade or colour. Improving the soil at planting will ensure the tree will get its roots established quickly. Remember to apply mulch around the root zone to keep the soil cool.

Wetting agents are very important for allowing water to penetrate into the soil. Western Australia has some of the worst non-wetting soils in the world. Wetting agents allow the water to soak in around a plants root system. Always wash off the foliage after application so that it doesn’t burn the leaves in hot weather.

Plant waterwise, sun tough plants in newly established garden areas. There are many plants that love our hot summer sun; these are the varieties that you want to plant. For some ideas on what to plant check out the Better Pets and Gardens fact sheets that are written by West Australians for Western Australian gardens.

Bonsai plants dry out very quickly in hot weather. One of the easiest ways to ensure the plant is watered correctly is to dunk the whole pot in water until the bubbles disappear and then allow it to drain. Because the soil is usually mounded on a bonsai plant it tends to run off the surface when applied from above and doesn’t have a chance to soak in.

Plant zucchinis, squash, rock melons and basil this month. Earlier crops are at their fruiting stage and a follow up crop will extend the fruiting season. Harvest squash and zucchini when they are small as this is when they have maximum flavour.

­Poinsettias will hold onto their bright colourful bracts for months. If they are still in small pots replant into larger containers, apply controlled release fertiliser and keep them in a well-lit position.


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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