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Judy Horton's Gardening
Yates gardening expert Judy Horton provides gardening advice on what you should be doing in your garden.
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Week 1: May gardening
May is the last gasp of autumn. It’s a (mostly) pleasant month with plenty of colour still on show, so make the most of sunny May days in the garden. Winter is coming!
Vegies to sow in May
May is a good month in most areas to plant onions but if you’re in too much of a hurry to wait for bulbs to form, spring onions are the way to go. They’re easy and fast. Yates Spring Onion Straightleaf has neat, upright growth that keeps well clear of the soil so, as a result, stays clean.
Flowers to sow in May
Calendulas are yellow and orange, daisy-shaped flowers that add bright warm colours to the late winter and spring garden. In relatively warm areas sow calendula seeds straight into pre-prepared garden beds. Where it’s cooler, start them off in pots for later transplanting. Don’t forget to toss some calendula petals – free of chemical sprays of course - into salads or winter stews.
Feed in May
May is the best month to feed the soil, in preparation for new plantings of roses, deciduous trees, winter planted bulbs and vegetables. Dig in well-aged manure or compost and add some Dynamic Lifter pellets. The DL will ensure that the young plants have access to a non-burning source of nutrients that will encourage new growth.
May pest watch
Be on the lookout for winter grass. Upright, bright green winter grass seedlings start to emerge in the lawn as soon as the temperatures cool down. Get onto it straight away, especially when it invades flat, running grasses like couch and buffalo (where it will stand out like the proverbial sore thumb). Yates Winter Grass Killer will remove winter grass from common couch and buffalo lawns
Prune in May
Tidy up summer fruit trees by removing dead fruit and cleaning up any fallen fruit on the ground. Prune apples and pears and remove loose bark to reduce hiding places for codling moth. In cold areas, cut out old raspberry canes.
May job file
It’s hard to ignore the ‘C’ word, for compost, at this time of year. There are so many fallen leaves that it’s an inspirational time to start a compost heap.
Also, don’t forget to finish planting bulbs and spring annuals. And, in all but the coldest parts, there’s still time to move shrubs and break up and replant perennials.
Plant of the month – Sasanqua camellia
It’s a gardening paradox that, although sasanqua camellias are some of the most obliging of plants, many people have trouble pronouncing the word ‘sasanqua’. Versatile sasanquas grow to various sizes (some are even ground covers), have plenty of flowers, cope with sun or shade and make great screens. The autumn/early winter flowers can be single, double or almost any configuration in between. Dwarf or clipped sasanquas also grow well in pots.
Week 2: Mother’s Day books for gardening mums
Yates began to establish its reputation for supplying good gardening information in 1895 with the publication of the first Yates Garden Guide. Since then the Guide, now in its 43rd edition, has gone on to become established as Australia’s favourite gardening book.
And, as well as the Garden Guide, Yates now has a number of other inspirational gardening books that would make wonderful Mother’s Day presents.
* Yates Month by Month, released in spring 2012, provides all the answers to that common question “What do I do in the garden at this time of year?” Clearly set out monthly tips help you to keep the garden in shape and make sure that you don’t miss out on important planting, pruning and harvesting dates for each season. Month by Month’s flexible, plasticised cover protects the book, even when it goes out into the garden. This book is packed with practical information. For example, the May entry in Yates Month by Month has a list of some of the most common gardening questions, including how to control those horror weeds such as oxalis and onion weed.
* Yates Vegetable Garden is a lavishly illustrated book that has the latest advice on growing eighty of the most popular herbs and vegetables. Written in New Zealand, this book is just as useful for Australian gardeners. While vegetable growing books seem to be everywhere these days, the difference with this one is that the author writes from personal experience, so she knows the pitfalls that can trap the inexperienced in the vegie patch. This book, like Yates Month by Month, has a protected, flexible cover that is very reader (and garden) friendly.
* Yates Garden Fresh Cookbook not only tells you how to grow your own edibles, but how to use them in the kitchen. It’s filled with delicious and healthy recipes. Here, for example, is a recipe from the book that would be ideal for a Mother’s Day brunch.
Zucchini Flapjacks – Ingredients: 2 cups of grated unpeeled zucchini, 2 eggs, ¾ cup flour, 45g melted butter, ½ cup grated parmesan cheese and salt and pepper.
Let the grated zucchini stand for 30 minutes and squeeze out the liquid. Add the beaten eggs and stir in the flour. Mix well, then add melted butter, cheese and salt and pepper. Drop spoonfuls of batter onto a medium hot, greased frying pan. Flip to cook both sides and keep warm. Serve by folding hot flapjacks around small pieces of brie and sliced strawberry. Yummy for Mum!
* The big one in the Yates library is still, of course, the Yates Garden Guide. The most recent (43rd) edition was brought out specially to celebrate Yates 125th birthday. But its historical section covers far more than just Yates history – it also celebrates the last 100+ years of gardening in Australia. All the information in the book has been updated, and the latest gardening trends are reflected in the pages of this recent edition.
Any one of these books would make a gardening Mum very happy on Mother’s Day!
Week 3 : Worm farming – compost in small spaces
May is always thought of as composting month, probably because the autumn leaves that fall at this time of year provide valuable bulk for compost. But if you don’t have room for a compost bin, a worm farm is a compact solution that is ideal for even the smallest backyard. Inside the farm, contented compost worms will happily turn kitchen scraps into usable compost.
How to start
You can make your own worm farm using plastic or polystyrene boxes but it’s easier to buy a purpose-made container that will usually have more than one level. Some local councils even sell them to residents at discounted prices. There are numerous designs, most of which have a tap to drain off liquid that can be diluted to use as an organic plant food and soil stimulator.
Start by choosing a position for the worm farm where it won’t get too hot or cold. You may even have to move it around as the weather changes over the year.
Put a few sheets of damp newspaper on the base of the bottom level, then cover with a layer of bedding. Aged horse manure makes good bedding if you can get it. Otherwise use what you can get hold of, including shredded newspaper, shredded egg cartons or old organic mulch. A little bit of soil helps, too. Either add the soil to the bedding or spread a layer on the bottom beforehand. Dampen the bedding layer and add some pieces of vegie scraps (food) so that there’s time for them to be partially broken down before the worms arrive
Next, the worms!
The worms that go into the worm farm are not the same as earthworms, so you can’t just pinch some out of the garden. Buy special compost worms – they’re suited to the rich diet they’ll be fed. Spread the worms over the bedding material and they’ll quickly settle in. Cover them with a piece of damp cloth, hessian or an old towel. Put the waterproof lid back on and, once again, check that the site’s not too hot or cold.
Feeding the worms
Compost worms will eat most vegie scraps but it’s best to avoid too much of any one thing. They don’t like really acidic foods – such as onions, citrus and chillis – and it’s better if the food is chopped into smaller pieces beforehand (big lumps will be too much for their tiny jaws!). Egg shells are okay but, again, break these up beforehand. That way, even if the worms don’t eat them, the shells will end up adding extra calcium to the worm castings that are produced. A small amount of Yates Garden Lime every six months or so will help keep everything sweet.
Once the worms have converted a fair amount of the bedding and food into dark, crumbly worm castings, move the castings and bedding to one side and put some fresh bedding and food on the empty side. Or, if you have a farm with multiple layers, start feeding into the layer above and encourage the worms to move up. Then swap the trays.
Use the castings
Add worm castings to the soil, mix in with potting mix or soak castings in water to produce a liquid food. The worm ‘wee’ or liquid that comes out of the farm can also be diluted to the colour of weak tea and used as a fertiliser. It’s not very strong, though, so fast growing plants will need to have other food as well.
Week 4: Lemon tree very pretty
When you listen to any of those garden question and answer sessions, it seems the lemon tree always tops the ‘most asked about’ list. But it’s not because lemons are all that troublesome. It’s because they’re so widely grown that almost everyone has one in their yard – hence, lots of questions!
While we associate lemons with sunny Mediterranean gardens, in reality it’s thought that this popular fruit tree originated somewhere in India. But it was so long ago the origins are somewhat lost and not all that important. What is critical is choosing the right variety for your area.
Eureka produces fruit almost year round in warm areas. The fruit is virtually seedless and has a thin skin. However, as lemons go, Eureka isn’t particularly cold tolerant. Villa Franca is a relative of Eureka that does better in inland areas, as well as in the subtropics.
Lisbon develops into a large, prickly tree that produces a heavy winter crop. It is very hardy and more tolerant than Eureka to both cold and heat.
Meyer is a small grower that is thought to be a cross between a lemon and an orange. Its small size means it’s suited to pot culture and its cold tolerance sees it used widely in frosty areas. Lots A Lemons is a dwarf form of Meyer. In order to guarantee perfect drainage, Lots A Lemons should be grown in a pot.
Choosing the spot
Lemons trees need sun and good drainage. Anything less is a compromise. If the soil is heavy, you can build a raised bed, dig in organic matter and gypsum or, safer still, choose a small lemon variety that can be grown in a pot. Most of the popular lemons are available on a dwarfing rootstock called Flying Dragon that restricts their size by about half. Potted lemons should be grown in a good quality mix (such as Yates Premium) and moved into larger containers as they develop.
Lemons planted out into the ground don’t like competition, so remove any grass from the base and keep the root area mulched with a light organic mulch. Don’t let the mulch touch the trunk of the plant because this could encourage rotting in the stem.
Feed lemons at least twice a year with a good fertiliser such as Dynamic Lifter PLUS Fruit Food. An annual treatment with a small amount of trace element mix is also a good idea.
Controlling common problems:
* Apply PestOil regularly, especially through late summer and autumn, to control citrus leaf miner, a tiny caterpillar that creates wavy lines and causes curling in new foliage. This will also help prevent scale infestations.
* If soil is heavy or drainage questionable, spray plants twice yearly with Yates Anti Rot.
* Cut off gall wasp lumps in stems. Only worry about the most recent lumps – leave old ones (the wasps are long gone).
* Give a winter treatment with Yates Limes Sulfur to clean up white louse scale on the trunk. This could also help with getting rid of young stink bugs.
Week 1: June gardening
What can a gardener do to acknowledge World Environment Day in early June? Why not plant a local native in the garden or start some pots of home-grown vegies?
Vegies to sow in June – Spinach
Seed sowing options are a bit limited in June but it’s worth giving spinach (true spinach, not silverbeet) a go. In cool areas soil temperatures might be too low for in-ground germination but spinach, especially the Baby Spinach that’s found in Yates seed range, grows happily in pots, which means it can be started and kept in a sheltered, slightly warmer spot.
Flowers to sow in June – Linaria
Linaria flowers resemble miniature snapdragons. The plants look dainty and delicate, but they’re as tough as old boots and grow easily from seed. Yates Linaria Fairy Bouquet is a dwarf variety (to 30cm) that adds soft pastel touches to the garden. It will grow happily in either full sun or light shade.
Feed in June
Continue feeding annual flowers and leafy vegetables with a liquid fertiliser such as Thrive All Purpose or Uplift. Feed sasanqua camellias after flowering. Repot dormant waterlilies and, as you do, push a stocking toe filled with Dynamic Lifter pellets into the pot. The stocking will keep the pellets in place so they won’t float away.
June pest watch
Watch out for snails eating new shoots, especially on emerging bulbs. Sprinkle some Blitzem or long-lasting Baysol pellets. Other options are to make snail traps using saucers of beer or to surround plants with snail-deterring barriers of sand, sawdust or copper bands.
And remember, all members of the cabbage family – including rocket, turnips, cauliflowers Brussels sprouts etc. - are likely to be attacked by the grubs of cabbage moths and butterflies. Use non-toxic Yates Nature’s Way Dipel or naturally-derived Success.
Prune in June
Prune sasanqua camellias and natives as they finish flowering.
June job file
Plant and transplant deciduous (lose their leaves in winter) trees and shrubs. It’s much safer to do this in winter while the plants are dormant.
Take cuttings for propagating new plants from hydrangeas, roses and, in warm areas, frangipanis.
Plant of the month – Poinsettia
In frost-free climates poinsettias create a bright splash of colour throughout the winter months. Flowers (which are really long-lasting bracts) can be cream or pink but the traditional red is the favourite. Prune hard after flowering and feed in spring with Dynamic Lifter PLUS for flowers.
Week 2: Winter gardening
It’s surprising how much is happening in the winter garden. Flower buds take some time to open, but the resulting blooms last a long time. Leaves finish falling from deciduous trees and break down into natural compost. Winter bulbs start to flower and many natives are putting on their best show.
Take special care with plants that come from tropical or warm areas. If in pots they can be moved indoors or into a more sheltered spot - under the eaves or next to a wall would be good choices. In the garden, hammer three or four stakes around cold-sensitive plants. Then, when a really cold night is predicted, it will be easy to throw a protective blanket or sheet of plastic over the stakes (but don’t forget to take it off in the morning!).
Another option is to spray a layer of Yates DroughtShield over tender plants – this will help get them through the winter.
Winter pruning – Long-flowering summer shrubs that are best pruned in winter include fuchsias, crepe myrtles and roses. Prune the hydrangea shoots that flowered last season. Prune tibouchinas that have finished flowering. This can be done in early winter in frost-free areas, but it’s best to wait until late winter in cooler parts. Prune deciduous fruit trees and grapes that weren’t cut back after fruiting. Trim natives as they finish flowering. Prune all the long-blooming roses and spray with Yates Lime Sulfur to clean up pests and diseases. Towards the end of winter give photinias, viburnums, murrayas and other hedging plants a trim.
Winter pest control – Many garden pests take shelter during winter, so this is the perfect time to seek out their hiding places and try to get rid of them. Otherwise, if left alone, they’ll make it through winter and start building up their numbers again in spring.
* Loquat trees, which continue maturing their fruit right through winter, are renowned for maintaining the fruit fly population through the colder weather. Keep using Yates Nature’s Way Fruit Fly and check fruit regularly. Remove and destroy any infested fruit.
* Clean up loose bark and other winter hiding places near apple and pear trees to destroy hibernating codling moth cocoons.
* Deciduous fruit of all types should be given a clean up spray with Yates Lime Sulfur after leaf fall and again before the new leaves come out in spring. Or switch to Yates Liquid Copper for the spring (bud swell) spray.
Winter in the edible garden - Winter is the season for planting artichoke crowns, asparagus, rhubarb and shallots.
Winter lettuce, cabbages and relatives, onions, peas and broad beans are all growing well. Keep feeding them with Thrive or Uplift and watch for pests. Most sap suckers (aphids etc.) can be controlled with non-toxic Natrasoap. Caterpillars, a particular problem for the cabbage family, will need to be treated with Success or Dipel.
Week 3: Growing grevilleas
While there are hundreds of species of grevilleas – also known as spider flowers – growing in an incredibly wide range of natural habitats around Australia, horticulturists have used their plant breeding talents to develop many more grevilleas with desirable attributes. A seemingly endless stream of new cultivars is being introduced on a regular basis.
Among the most popular are the large-flowered, bottlebrush-type grevilleas that have descended from the Queensland species Grevillea banksii. Grevillea ‘Robyn Gordon’, probably the best known, was bred in the 1970s by Queenslander David Gordon. Other closely related crosses are G. ‘Superb’ and ‘Peaches and Cream’. One of the main reasons for the popularity of these bottlebrush-flowered hybrids is that they bloom for much of the year. Because of their Queensland origins, however, most of these bottlebrush grevilleas aren’t particularly happy in frosty climates.
The spider-flowered grevilleas such as Grevillea juniperina, Lavender grevillea (Grevillea lavandulacea) and Grevillea rosmarinifolia (‘Scarlet Sprite’ is a well known cultivar that makes a good low hedge) are far better suited to areas with heavy frosts.
Members of another group, the toothbrush-flowered grevilleas, are often seen at their best when used as ground covers or grafted onto a silky oak (Grevillea robusta) stem to create a weeping standard. Both situations show off the one-sided combs of bloom at their best. One of the longest established toothbrush varieties is G. ‘Poorinda Royal Mantle’ that spreads to cover almost a metre. Grevillea x gaudichaudii, with attractive, deeply cut foliage, expands even further, to more than three metres.
This is just a tiny taste of the many grevillea varieties that are available. Before you make a choice, it’s a good idea to visit local gardens or talk to neighbourhood members of the Australian Plants Society to see which grevilleas do best in your area.
Caring for grevilleas
Many grevilleas grow as understorey plants in open forests so will tolerate some shade, although they’ll usually flower best in full sun. Take care when fertilising as grevilleas are very sensitive to phosphorus. To be safe, choose a specialist fertiliser such as Garden Gold for Natives or Acticote for Natives.
Regular pruning will keep the plants producing healthy new growth. The usual advice is to cut back after flowering but this can be a challenge with long-blooming cultivars like G. ‘Robyn Gordon’. With these, you may have to sacrifice a few flowerheads every so often in order to maintain or improve the bush’s appearance.
Grevilleas can suffer from root rot, especially in heavy soils. In these areas, it’s best to plant them into raised beds and treat twice yearly with Yates Anti Rot. An occasional spray with a copper fungicide can help control the dark mould that sometimes disfigures the stems.
And a final word of warning: some people are allergic to prickly grevillea leaves, so be aware of this as a potential problem.
Week 4: Winter fragrance in the garden
There’s something about the crisp winter air that magnifies the perfume of winter-blooming plants. And, when flowers are a little scarce, fragrance is even more valued.
Perfumed jonquils and other small-flowered ‘cluster’ daffodils (those with flowers in ready-made bunches), are in bloom right through from early winter. The best way to enjoy the perfume of jonquils is to pick some of the stems and bring them indoors. Be aware, though, that the sap of daffodils and jonquils can clog the stems of other flowers. It’s best to keep them in a separate vase or to sit them in water for a few hours before adding other blooms.
Jonquils are some of the easiest bulbs to grow in the garden but don’t forget that, if you leave them in the garden from year to year, they’ll need regular feeding after flowering, while the leaves are dying down. Thrive Flower & Fruit is a good option for feeding through this period because it’s applied in liquid form, so gets quickly into the plant.
The hyacinth is another winter/spring flowering bulb that has a pleasant perfume. Hyacinths grow well in pots and can be brought inside while they’re in bloom. After they’ve finished flowering, hyacinth plants can be transferred carefully to the garden but, in warmer areas, it’s probably more practical to simply tip them into the compost. Unless they have a hearty winter chill, it’s difficult to get them to flower in subsequent years.
Daphne is the winter-flowering shrub that is most renowned for its fragrance. It’s loved, too, for its congenial habit of blooming right in the middle of the cooler months. An exciting newcomer, Daphne ‘Eternal Fragrance’, has been released in recent years. This neat, one-metre-tall shrub has fragrant white flowers that appear throughout the year. ‘Eternal Fragrance’ is also more tolerant to sun than Daphne odora. Look out later this year for the new pink version.
The shrubby wintersweet (Chimonanthus praecox) is at its best in cool climates. ‘Praecox’, which means ‘precocious’, refers to this shrub’s habit of blooming on bare branches in the depths of winter while most similar shrubs are still quietly dormant. Branches decorated with waxy yellow wintersweet flowers can be picked for vase arrangements. Prune back and feed (with Dynamic Lifter pellets) at the end of flowering. Chinese witchhazel (Hamamelis mollis) also flowers on bare branches. Golden yellow, strappy-petalled, fragrant blooms appear in late winter. Chinese witchhazel can grow to small tree size, so allow for this at planting time.
Some lavenders are in flower through winter but, because there are so many different types of lavender, it’s best to buy one in bloom at that time of year or to look for a lavender with ‘winter’ in its name. ‘Winter Lace’ and ‘Winter Delight’ are two suggestions. Italian lavender (Lavender stoechas) can usually be relied on to flower in the cooler months. Plant lavender in a spot with full sun and good drainage and, in acid soil areas (where azaleas flourish), sprinkle some Yates Garden Lime around and over the plant once a year.
Luculia, with its large pink trusses, is the most heartbreakingly beautiful, fragrant winter bloomer. Give it good drainage and a protected spot that’s sheltered from extremes of heat, wind and cold. You may then be lucky enough to have it survive and thrive.
Lavender Fields in France
Photos from Judy's European trip
For more information contact Judy Horton (02) 97949481 firstname.lastname@example.org