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June 2011 – Sue McDougall

When we think of winter gardening we always think of cold, wet and windy. In fact, in Western Australia nothing could be further from the truth. Secretly as gardeners we would love it to rain every day but in reality it just doesn’t happen. Take advantage of the warm winter sunshine and use the time wisely to get stuck into the garden to plant, prune, transplant and plan.  The more tasks that are completed at this time of the year the better a garden can cope with the extreme summer weather.

Jobs to Do

The best range of fruit trees are in the stores at the moment. Bare rooted trees are available to plant. Don’t put these trees into the ground without improving the soil. Better Pets and Gardens have some great deals on soil improver, water storing granules and blood and bone. These are all essential ingredients to ensuring the new fruit trees will thrive in their new home.

Adding water storing granules to the ground at this time of the year sounds crazy when in fact they should be added at planting all year round. These granules last for up to five years and hold moisture around the plant’s roots that can be accessed by fine feeder roots where water is needed. It’s important to use these hydrated  (or in the semi gel form) under the soil surface as they swell up by a large amount and have the potential to push the new plant out of the soil and will break down with UV light if exposed to the sun.

When planting a new potted or bare rooted fruit tree, mix a solution of seaweed extract in a bucket or a large plastic tub and soak the new trees in it for 15 minutes. Water in well with the seaweed solution after planting to help establish a strong root system.

Plant another crop of broad beans, it’s not too late. Broad beans are a legume and are incredibly beneficial at improving the soil. They take atmospheric nitrogen and fix it into the soil. Even if the crop doesn’t turn out very successful, you will have rich fertile soil in the spring ready for the next crop.

Winter loose leaf lettuce is deliciously sweet and should be harvested when the leaves are small and lush. These varieties grow incredibly well from seed and will be ready to start harvesting in about four to six weeks. Harvest only the leaves that are needed as this will allow the plant to keep producing.

Pak choi is a fast growing Asian green that is very easy to grow. Once again, plant from seed and harvest only the leaves that are needed. The smaller the leaves, the sweeter they are.

Keep plants protected from frosty conditions on clear nights. Do this by mulching thickly with a rich organic much such as pea hay, lupin mulch or lucerne hay. An alternative is to cover up seedlings at night with an upturned pot and remove it in the morning.

Winter Spraying

To many, spraying in winter seems like a waste of time because the insects or fungal diseases can’t be seen from the kitchen window.  There are no leaves on our plants so it is thought that it won’t help them in any way.  Nothing is further from the truth. Many insects and fungi survive dormant on plants in the winter and are ready to attack all the new growth that appears when plants should be growing vigorously. If we spray in the winter we break the life cycle of these pests and diseases.

Fruit trees, roses and grapevines should all be sprayed in winter.

Spray fruit trees with White Oil or Pest Oil to clean up scale and insect eggs once they are bare.  In the case of apples, spray with an oil in July after pruning.  Spray stone and pome fruit at the end of July, just as the buds are swelling and again as they are starting to show colour with a copper based spray. This will control peach leaf curl, shothole, freckle and other fungal diseases.

Next year, as the leaves are falling (in late May or early June) spray all stone fruit and pome fruit with a copper based spray to kill any spores before they have the chance to go dormant under the bud scales.

A copper based spray is also beneficial for berry fruit plants.

Spray roses immediately after pruning spray with lime sulfur to control rose scale and various fungal diseases. Grapevines should be sprayed just before bud burst, in late July.  Spray with lime sulfur to clean up fungal spores and leaf blister mite. This shows up as blisters on the upper side of the leaf. Spray vines again when they are shooting.

Copper based sprays have been around for over one hundred years and are relatively safe to use. The same applies to lime sulfur and oils which are petroleum based. These prevention sprays are much safer than the cure alternatives but be careful not to spray lime sulfur in temperatures above 25°C as it can burn foliage.

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