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May Gardening – Sue McDougall

The rain has started tumbling down and there is no better news for a gardener after a very dry summer.  Western Australian soils are still warm and plants, particularly natives, will put on new growth now the soil is damp. A top dressing of blood and bone will benefit the whole garden at this time of the year. Pure blood and bone or blood and bone with added trace elements is not only fantastic for the plants, it will add life to the soil at the same time.

The Ornamental Garden

Even after the rain there will be patches in the garden that are still bone dry. It’s very important to apply a wetting agent before it rains next as this will allow the water to soak into the soil rather than running off down the street. Water retention is very important for sandy soils and the health of autumn gardens. When extremely dry soil comes together with warm temperatures it can often tip plants over the edge and result in them becoming stressed.  Getting that soil wet is a huge priority this month.

Prepare an area for everlastings. These colourful annuals look fabulous in spring planted in Australian plant gardens, road verges or in any sunny position. Prepare the area by weeding (always the worst job first) and then add some soil improver mixed with a little Dynamic Lifter. Rake smooth and mix the seed with some more soil improver and sprinkle this over the area and rake again. Water in well and keep the snails off as they love the baby seedlings.

Feed the lawn with a good quality lawn food to get the root system healthy and strong before the cold winter days set in. The lawn will then stay greener throughout the winter.

Cover any frost susceptible plants by surrounding them with clear plastic or hessian and enjoy the foliage show put on by the deciduous trees. It’s also a great time to select any tree varieties for your own garden.

The Edible Garden

In cooler areas protect small tropical fruit trees from the cold. Often these trees are grown way out of their natural climate zone. Treat with a strong solution of seaweed extract as this will help increase the microbial activity around the root zone and create warmth in the soil. Surround them with clear plastic creating a mini glasshouse effect and spray with an anti transparent.

Scale insects are prolific this year on citrus trees. Apply Pest Oil or white oil as a cover spray. Oil sprays work by coating the pest and suffocating it but it can take two or more applications to be effective. Regular applications of oil can cause premature leaf drop on citrus however.

Any growth below the graft of a passionfruit needs to be removed. If it is allowed to grow it will take over the whole garden and disappointment will set in as rootstock will not fruit. The trick is to cut into the stem and remove any bark from around the shoot as well. This will ensure all the growth cells are removed from the root stock shoot.


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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