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March 2010 – Sue McDougall

The official start to autumn is here and there is no better excuse to get stuck into the garden. Autumn is when the plants can grow while the soil is still warm and get themselves established before the cool weather sets in. So, go for it!  The focus is on planning, preparing, digging and planting.

Jobs to Do

Redo the herb garden or herb planters. You can do this by completely replanting with premium potting mix or topping up the soil around the roots. After an extended dry spell and continual harvesting they are in need of some maintenance. Add water storing crystals to existing pots and baskets as the soil tends to become water repellent at this time of the year.  There is nothing quite like the taste of fresh herbs in cooking.

Whiteflies are very busy on leafy vegetables. These small sap-sucking insects draw sap from vegetables leaving them yellow and failing to thrive. A yellow sticky bug trap is very effective in controlling them as these insects are attracted to yellow. Hang the traps on stakes at vegetable level around the garden and watch the bugs stick!

It’s the month to revamp the vegetable garden. The main job is to replenish the soil after the summer has passed. The plants have drawn lots of nutrients from the soil to produce and a few bags of chicken and sheep manure spread around will go a long way to keeping the garden productive throughout autumn.

When planting Australian plants always add controlled release fertiliser for natives into the soil and mix well. This fertiliser is ideally suited to Australian plants and releases nutrients over a period of time

Plant Now

Prepare the garden bed for broad beans and peas. These legumes not only produce well, they increase the fertility of the soil by taking nitrogen from the atmosphere and fixing it within the soil ready for the next crop. The first cool days mark the start of the broad bean sowing. Get these plants in early and before you know it you will be harvesting fresh tender juicy broad beans – not like the dry floury ones I had to endure as a kid!

All the winter producing vegetables can be planted with my first choice being broccoli. Broccoli that is planted at this time of the year will produce large grub-free florets. The cabbage white butterfly tends to not damage the early crop. Once the first crop has been harvested leave the plants in, give a feed of Powerfeed liquid fertiliser and the side shoots will be just as abundant as the main crop.

Plant some colour around in pots or baskets. Brighten up the patio area and outdoor entertaining area for the long weekend and they will flower right through autumn adding much needed colour to outdoor living spaces.

One perfect choice is Mandevillea Crimson Fantasy. A beautiful fast growing climber which performs in a part shaded position. Dark red large flowers cover the plant and are a great contrast against the dark green foliage. Plant these against a wall or in a large pot.

Hibiscus look stunning over the next few months. The best selection ever is available at this time of the year. Hibiscus are such hardy plants and flower beautifully on almost no care at all. Remember if you live in a frost susceptible area they will need covering up at night in the winter months. Plant with premium soil improver and add controlled release fertiliser to the hole.

If you have had problems keeping the soil damp in summer with overhead irrigation it might be time to try a sub mulch system. Cheap and easy to change, this system is laid under the mulch and drippers at spacings of 15 or 30cm. This delivers water to the plants roots where it is needed and is great for a windy city such as Perth.

Check dry patches in lawn by digging a spades width and depth out and observing the soil. Often it is dry below the thatch layer.  Ninety nine percent of the time dead patches are caused by soil becoming water repellent.

Scaevolas are a hardy ground cover that adds colour to an autumn garden. This low growing ground cover (25cm high by 1metre wide) sports purple fan-shaped flowers nearly all year round. They are perfect for borders, hanging baskets or containers.

Kangaroo Paws are another perfect choice for hot dry gardens. There would be at least 30 different varieties of Kangaroo Paws in garden centres throughout the year. For attracting birds look for the Bush Gem series which only grow to 60cm high and are available in pink, yellow, orange and red.  They are perfect for a hot, dry sunny position.

 

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