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November 2011 – Sue McDougall

What an amazing October!  Soaking rains and only a few hot days has resulted in some glorious spring gardens. The roses are brilliant this year – not to mention the size if the aphids as well. The ladybirds are certainly lagging behind this spring. One ladybird, in its lifetime will munch its way through up to 400 aphids so these amazing creatures need to be encouraged as much as possible. There are many beneficial insects that call a garden home; remember not everything that crawls is bad.

Jobs to Do

Roses are fantastic this year; it is amazing what a little extra rain and cool days can do to the flowers. Swarming scarab beetles are flying in and munching on flower petals at the moment. These small metallic looking beetles are difficult to control and will disappear very soon but not before they damage petals on the roses.  If you see them shake them off.

Apply coarse chunky mulch over the whole garden. Coarse mulches are the best for letting the water through to the plants roots where it’s needed at the same time as shading the soil from the hot searing sun. Apply a layer 100mm thick.

The last of the broad leaf weeds in the lawn need to be removed now as they are busy seeding so if you don’t want a worse problem I recommend you get onto it ASAP.

Keep deadheading the roses.  Research has shown by snapping old flowers off where they naturally break new flowers develop more quickly than by giving the roses a prune back to a 5 or 7 leaf.  It’s a good job to do at dusk when relaxing after a hard day at work.

Prune Wedding Bush and Callistemon after they have finished flowering. This encourages a bushy growth habit and rejuvenates the plant.  Both Wedding Bush and Callistemon make brilliant hedges and will screen out the nosiest neighbours in a short time.

How much water is too much for the lawn?  Research has proven that warm season grasses only require a 10mm watering twice a week to survive summer. This is referred to as the ‘standard’ drink and can be measured by laying catch cups out on the lawn and turning the reticulation on until 10mm of water is caught in the containers and so this becomes the length of time that the reticulation system needs to be set to.

Plant Now

Any bare patches of soil can be planted with a few groundcovers.  As these versatile plants grow they act as living mulch and will shade the soil reducing the evaporation rate and keeping the moisture in.

Do you have limited space for a vegetable garden but still want to grow enough tomatoes to feed the whole family for the summer? The answer is to grow a grafted tomato. These select cultivars have been grafted onto a hardy rootstock that is very vigorous and performs brilliantly under any conditions. Growing grafted tomatoes is just the same as growing other varieties of tomatoes with one exception, bury the graft under the soil level about 10 to 12 cm. This will encourage roots to grow along the stem establishing an even stronger plant. Because of their vigorous growth they also need some support as their branches can get very heavy.

The horizon will be a sea of purple soon with Jacarandas in full flower. A majestic tree that is very hardy it can grow in the most adverse conditions. Susceptible to frost when young it needs to be covered on those cool clear nights, after it reaches a height of about 2m there is no looking back.  This is a great shade tree for the summer garden.  But beware; it’s not for small gardens!  They do get quite large.

An old gardener’s tip: If your Jacaranda has never flowered an old gardener’s tale is to bang about three copper nails into the trunk at varying heights and stand back. Let us know how you go.

Often brushed over in favour of petunias, portulacas are an annual that will tolerate almost no water and put on such a fantastic show that you will wonder why you had not discovered them earlier. A ‘pig face’ type of plant, the foliage is fleshy and flat. Available in bright colours they do really well in the hottest, driest part of the garden, in pots and hanging baskets. Their only requirement is hot sun and lots of it.

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