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Spring has finally sprung! Sue McDougall

October is the month when roses are at their best. Strong, dark green foliage contrasts very well with their delicate flowers. Once a year flowering varieties are pruned after flowering as this will encourage strong flowering for next season. A teaspoon of sulphate of potash sprinkled around the root system will help the plants build up their natural resistance to pests and diseases.

About five weeks after your wisteria has finished flowering, trim the long shoots back to five or seven buds off the main stem. This will keep these fast growing vines more compact and manageable and will force the plant to puts its effort into developing flowering buds for next season. The more wisteria is looked after the less it flowers; in this case, it’s a plant that thrives on neglect.

Australian plants are in their most active growth phase in the four to six weeks after flowering and this is the time when they respond to pruning. Trim about a third off any Australian plants that are becoming a little straggly to keep them bushy and compact.

When sowing seeds of both vegetables and flowers be careful with the depth that you plant them as the main reason they fail is if they were sown too deep. Seeds are easy to grow and all that’s needed is quality seed raising mix, seed raising trays or even egg cartons (remember to place on a tray as they break down very quickly) and seeds.  To check if old seed is still viable, place a few on damp cotton wool and they should swell very quickly. Seed becomes less viable over time and if there is no action after a few days, discard them and buy a packet of fresh seed.

Sow small seed by scattering it on the soil surface and then sprinkle a light layer of seed raising mix to cover it.  Large seeds can be pushed into the soil so they are just under the soil surface.  Then, water them in well and place the tray in a bright well lit position that’s a little protected and away from the full sun.  For more information, check out the factsheet called “Make New Plants by Seeding” on the Better Pets and Gardens website.

Keep a bottle of anti-transpirant handy in the garden shed to use when the sun starts to get stronger. These products are safe to use and act like a sunscreen for your plants. It reduces the moisture lost from the plant in times of stress, during transplanting and in the heat of summer. If hot weather is forecast cover the foliage completely to the point of run off and reapply again in three weeks.

It’s time to divide gerberas. These hardy perennials flower through the warm months with minimal care. Multi planted in large bowls they look stunning in alfresco or patio areas. Remove spent flowering stems regularly and apply liquid fertiliser fortnightly.

There are more tomatoes grown in Australian backyards that any other vegetable.  Of course, technically a tomato is a fruit but if we include any fruiting plant, you would be hard pressed to beat the lemon tree. If you live in a frost prone area, tomatoes are planted throughout October. If you have a lack of space, cherry tomatoes look brilliant in large hanging baskets.

After the everlastings have finished flowering they can harvested for next year. Cut the flowers off the stems and crush them. Try to remove as many stems and petals as possible then store the seed in an air tight container to stop caterpillars destroying them before next autumn.



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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