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October Gardening – Sue McDougall

Late September rain has resulted in gardens looking fantastic in the metro area and the south west. The spring display of wildflowers has been incredible and the new growth forming on established trees is a pleasure to see. Despite these late rains, warm weather is not far away so a little work at the moment will ensure you get the best from the spring garden.

Take a visit to a local Open Garden; the owners of these gardens are some of the best and most inspirational source of ideas. These garden owners know their backyard and the surrounding local area. Many are willing to share their garden knowledge.  A list of gardens open in your area can be viewed at

It’s the time of the year to get stuck into planting summer vegies.  Improve the soil with compost, organic soil improver and add blood and bone before planting. After planting, mulch thickly to save water and to stop weeds. Coarse chunky mulch will allow the water to soak into the soil around the plant’s roots and reduce soil temperatures in summer– vegies are very shallow rooted and require a cool root zone to thrive. A composting mulch such as pea hay or lupin mulch is favoured among vegie growers because it breaks down and improves the fertility of the soil over time. A healthy soil results in tasty, healthy vegies.

When planting tomato seedlings or semi advanced plants bury them deeper than their original soil level. This will allow the plant to develop more roots along the stem, therefore increasing the root system resulting in strong healthy plants.

Lawns can be renovated throughout this month. A spongy couch lawn can be a problem when it comes to water soaking into the soil. Vertimowing will remove much of this build-up of organic matter and renovate the lawn. The lawns we grow in WA are warm season varieties and have a vigorous root system. By removing much of the root system and applying a fine layer of lawn reviver over the top, the result will be a lawn that will perform brilliantly with minimal water over the hottest months.

Applying a wetting agent over the whole garden this month is a must and the first step in making the best use of water that’s being applied to the garden. Western Australian soils are unique as they become water repellent quickly. These soils form a waxy coating, which stops water soaking in. A wetting agent breaks down this waxy coating so the water can soak into the plants roots where it’s needed. A quality wetting agent will not only allow the water to soak in immediately, but to continually soak in over summer. Better Pets and Gardens have some fantastic deals on wetting agents this month. A quality wetting agent will reduce the number of times the product needs to be reapplied during the warmer months. If soil is particularly water repellent it may need an application of wetting agent every 4 to 6 weeks.

Gardening is a great school holiday project. Plant varieties of plants that grow very fast so the kids can see results. Also plant what they like to eat and sneak in a few that they don’t. It’s amazing how much nicer it tastes straight from the garden. If you have enough area get the kids to design a corn maze and plant the seeds this month.

As the weather warms up, give the passionfruit vine a prune. One third of the growth can be trimmed off to keep them contained a little for the following growing season. Passionfruit produce fruit on their new growth and it is not very fair if all the new growth and fruit is on the neighbour’s side of the fence when you are doing all of the watering and feeding. Feed with a complete fertiliser for fruiting plants along the root zone and water in well.


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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