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Finally, a break from the heat – Sue McDougall

The cooler nights this month allow the garden to get a little reprieve from the late hot days. March is a season of variables; cool days are quickly followed by extremely hot ones. It’s also a time that the garden is most stressed.

After surviving a very hot few months it’s just hanging in there in anticipation of cool weather and I can tell you, so are the gardeners. We are all itching to get stuck into the garden as it’s the perfect time to spend revamping after the long, hot summer.

The lawn often suffers the effects of a heat wave and not many lawns around will be perfect at this time of the year. There are a few things that can be done to get it looking fabulous. Call into your local Better Pets and Gardens store and pick up wetting agent and controlled release fertiliser for lawns. Apply the wetting agent and water it in well before applying the fertiliser.

Bring indoor plants outside and wash the dust off the foliage. Remove any dead and damaged leaves and repot if needed. Most indoor plants can be placed back into the same size pot after the old potting mix has been removed and new fresh mix is added. Remember to water it in well to allow the soil to wash between the roots, filling up all the air spaces. Apply a coating of oil on the leaves as this will not only gloss up the foliage but remove any scale insects and mites that may be calling your indoor plants ‘home’.

A few bags of manure and soil improver will go a long way to replenishing the soil in the vegie garden. Remove any crops that have finished and dig in fresh compost, well-rotted manure or soil improver. Successful vegie gardens are the result of good soil.

It’s time to plant the first crop of seed potatoes. Call into your local store for the best range of potato varieties as they will be arriving this month. Planting potatoes in autumn is one of the easiest crops to grow. If you have limited space, plant them in a planter bag by tipping about 10cm of potting mix in then placing the potatoes about 15cm apart on the soil.  Cover with another 10cm of soil. As the potatoes shoot, cover these with 10-15cm more of potting mix. When the bag is full allow the potatoes to grow. Apply a little Potato Manure E at planting and then again when the bag is half full. Apply a liquid fertiliser for vegies when the bag is full and then fortnightly. Potatoes can be easily harvested by tipping the bag out when the foliage starts to die back.

Premium standard potting mix will give potted plants the best results.  Lobelia, pansy and viola can be planted in mixed planters now and will start blooming in about 6 weeks and will add bright colour through the colder months. Planting early allows the plants to reach flowering maturity before the cold weather sets in.

The mango trees in Perth that have fruit will be starting to ripen now. To help prevent bird and fruit fly damage cover each fruit (if the task is not too onerous) with a paper bag and tie it off. Fruit will still continue to mature inside the bag. If the tree has too many fruit the only alternative to prevent bird damage is to net the whole tree.

Fresh garlic, home grown broccoli and leeks all have one thing in common and that is they taste so much better if they have been grown in your own garden. It’s time to get all these varieties planted.  Plant broccoli early to avoid damage from the caterpillars of the cabbage white butterfly; these green grubs cause havoc on young plants and reduce the foliage to shreds.

Feed roses to encourage the gorgeous autumn flowers. Replenish mulch and apply a wetting agent and water in well. The autumn roses have brighter petals, hold on the plant for longer and have a stronger perfume than the spring flowers. Enjoy this time of the year.


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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