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Make the Most of Early Winter Rain

The benefits of early rains are obvious with stressed plants coming back to life almost immediately.  It gives us renewed enthusiasm to get stuck into the garden and enjoy the extra moisture.

Sand to SoilSeedlings_soil_web
If your garden soil is less than desirable and retains no water, the addition of a bentonite based product is highly beneficial.  Bentonite has been used in the commercial agricultural and horticultural industry for many years, but it has only been in the last five years that it has been part of the home garden range.

Bentonite is a naturally occurring mineral that has unique properties that improves sandy soils. It helps to bind the sandy soil together at the same time holding onto nutrients, soil improvers and water. These are then available to the plants when needed. This binding process assists in the trapping of organic matter, which in turn assists in creating a beneficial microbe population that improves soil fertility and eventually plant growth. Bentonite based products should be dug in to sandy soil with soil improvers when planting anything from the largest tree right down to the smallest seedlings.

In the case of established gardens, digging around the soil surface at this time of the year will definitely help the water holding capacity of the soil. Lawns over sandy soil will benefit from an application at this time of the year as well. Sprinkle it over the lawn and let the rain water it in. Lawns roots are in the top 10cm of soil and improving the water holding capacity of this layer is often the difference between a good lawn in summer and a great lawn that stays looking amazing in the most extreme heat.

If only the plants would grow as fast as the weeds. With the extra rain and warm days the winter weeds have sprung out of the ground. There has been no stopping them. If there is only one job completed this month in the garden, it’s controlling the weeds while they are small and before they get their root system established. By taking action now you will be saving yourself seven years work.  The old gardening tale states, ‘if a weed is allowed to seed in one year, it will be there for seven more’. Weed seeds have the potential to stay dormant in the ground for up to seven years – incentive enough to get on top of them while they are small.

Weeds in lawns are best treated when they have just started to germinate before they manage to take hold in the bare patches. Weeds will compete for water and nutrients and have the potential to choke out the lawn in certain areas. Spray with selective weed killers now while they are very young because less chemical is needed and the success rate is 100% at this time of the year.

Take a look at the lawn, often weeds will thrive in compacted soil better than the lawn. If this is the case take to the lawn with a pitch fork or aerator to loosen up the soil, add some lawn reviver and rake smooth. Another crop of weeds may germinate as the lawn is starting to recover – control these while they are still small as well.

Orange tree2_webCitrus
Enjoying tasty citrus plucked straight from the tree is a delight for any gardener. They are my favourite fruiting tree and so many different varieties to choose from. It’s the time of the year when citrus are fruiting and it makes us think about planting more. These small delightful trees are underrated and should enjoy a position in any garden. They are perfectly suited to Western Australian climates and will thrive in any sunny position given a little extra water and nutrients. Having said that, once citrus trees are established they are incredibly tough and will cope with no extra care.

It’s time to sprinkle blood and bone around the root system and let the rain water it in well. Citrus in pots will also benefit from a little blood and bone sprinkled around the soil surface. The benefits of blood and bone will be seen down the track, as well as supplying nutrients to the plants it has numerous benefits which improve the soil. Never plant without it, always have a bag on hand in the garden shed because regular applications throughout the year will benefit the garden for many years to come.


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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