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March Gardening – Sue McDougall

The days are getting shorter and there’s moisture in the air. Cool, damp mornings excite the gardener in us all. Autumn is truly nature’s planting time.  If there are jobs that you have been putting off because it’s been too hot, now is the time to get stuck into finishing them off.

Jobs to Do

Prune the new growth off the wisteria to encourage it to put its effort into flowering wood for next spring.

Feed the lawn with a quality lawn fertiliser and, if the water is running off and not soaking in, treat the area with a wetting agent.

Feed roses to encourage the autumn flowers which are the best flowers in my opinion as the sun doesn’t bleach the colour as quickly as it does in spring.

It’s the time of the year to plant pansies, my favourite annual flower. Plant the premium varieties that have been selected for length of flowering, cold and heat hardiness and compact growth habit. Often they will be flowering within a few weeks of planting and still be in full flower when it’s time to plant the garden up for the summer show.

Officially autumn is here.  Unfortunately the weather sometimes doesn’t always know that and we can still have some very hot days. It is the most stressful time for the garden plants which have survived the dry summer and so some late, very hot weather can tip them over the edge. Check the reticulation, apply a wetting agent to the soil and reapply mulch if needed.

Stocks and foxgloves need to be planted early in order to get as much strong growth on them as possible before they flower. The thought of perfumed stocks in full flower in August is enough to entice us into planting now. Nip the tip out to encourage bushy growth and lots of flower spikes.

Autumn is nature’s natural planting time. The soil is still warm and when given moisture, plants will get established very quickly. Go for it and start preparing and planting the garden beds that have been put off because of the dry weather.

The best range of bulbs is available instore now. Bulbs are great value, as most varieties perform beautifully with relatively no care. Select a colour combination for a small section of the garden and it can be added to year after year.

As it cools down it is time to plant coriander. Traditionally a cool season herb, it will bolt to seed when we have some hot weather but herb producers are now growing varieties that are more tolerant of the heat. Plant some seedlings in a large pot and put it in a sunny but cooler area to get a head start on the weather. They can be harvested from only a few weeks old and there is nothing like the flavour of fresh coriander.

Mandarins and oranges will be starting to fruit in only a few weeks and it is a timely reminder to do something about fruit fly in infested areas. They are attracted to the sweet fruit and are usually fairly desperate at this time of the year as all the stonefruit has finished. Trees can be baited or sprayed. Pick up and dispose of all infected fruit, don’t place in the compost as the fly will hatch only to reappear next spring.


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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