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Gardening jobs for May – Sue McDougall

Ladybugs are one of the best aphid predators to live in the garden. Both the adults and nymphs seek out aphids to devour. In Western Australia there is a new Ladybug species on the block, the Hippodamia, which can be identified by its distinct black head with white markings and a flatter body. This species was introduced to control aphids and has naturalised in certain areas which is perfect for the health of your garden.

For bright autumn colour, place a few clumps of perennial salvia in sunny positions. These hardy waterwise perennials are the ideal choice for low hedges, group plantings and for under-planting taller shrubs. Improve the soil with a quality organic soil improver or compost and sprinkle blood and bone before planting.

When establishing turf during autumn, prepare the soil with compost or soil improver to a depth of at least 20cm.  Preparation at planting time will ensure the establishment of a strong healthy root system. The result is a lawn that will thrive on minimal watering. Fertilise lawns in autumn to strengthen their natural defences against pests and extremely cold weather. The varieties of lawns that grow successfully in Western Australia are warm season grasses and will naturally yellow off slightly during winter. Getting the lawn into tip top shape now will pay off next spring.

Plant sun hardy climbers on frames to cast shade and to protect plants from the searing hot afternoon sun. Varieties suitable include passionfruit, Orange Trumpet Vine, Wonga Wonga vine, native wisteria and Pandorea. For areas that require winter sun, deciduous varieties include wisteria, ornamental grape and fruiting grape species.

Now is the time to plant bulbs. Daffodils and jonquils should be planted at least 20cm deep. This will preserve the bulb throughout the summer months since the soil is cooler at that depth. Bulbs that are at the soil surface will dehydrate in extremely hot weather when they are dormant and will need to be replanted every year.

Applying fertiliser in the warm weather is not recommended as plants’ foliage can burn easily. At the first sign of cooler weather, feed roses and citrus then water in well. Both these varieties require nutrients for flower and fruit development.  Over fertilising will cause premature fruit drop. Apply foliar fertiliser to citrus in pots as these are absorbed up to 400 times quicker than if applied via the soil so will rectify deficiencies quickly. Reapply foliar fertilisers fortnightly throughout late April and May.

Slugs and snails become more active as the weather cools down and there is more moisture around. These destructive pests will devour complete seedlings overnight so they need to be controlled any way you can. Beer traps, salt, squashing, coffee grinds or copper spray barriers all work to a certain extent but nothing beats a friendly Khaki Campbell duck.

Remember not all that moves in the garden is destructive or detrimental. Allow the predatory insects to build up in numbers so they can keep the destructive pests in balance. If sprays are needed for certain situations always reach for the safe alternatives. Beat-a-weed will control small seedling weeds and is safe for pets and children.

Natrasoap is used by organic gardeners to control sap sucking pests such as whitefly and aphids and caterpillars are controlled by the use of Success.  All of these are available at Better Pets and Gardens.


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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