Gardening Tips - Spring

- Household liquids

The urge to garden in early spring is primal. Re-connecting with the earth is affirming, renewing, promising. Waking up the garden to a new growing season is about more than soil and seedlings, this rite of spring is a tonic to the gardener as well. As an avid gardener you don't have to look further than your kitchen for some gardening maintenance resources.

  • To remove the salt deposits that form on clay pots, combine equal parts white vinegar, rubbing alcohol and water in a spray bottle. Apply the mixture to the pot and scrub with a plastic brush. Let the pot dry before you plant anything in it.

  • You can control aphids with a strong blast of water from the hose or with insecticidal soap. or if you want to rope your kids into doing it for you - get some tape! Wrap a wide strip of tape around their hands, sticky side out, and let them pat the leaves of plants infested with aphids concentrating on the undersides of leaves, because that's where the little bugs like to hide.

  • The next time you boil or steam vegetables, don't pour the water down the drain, use it to water potted patio plants, and you'll be amazed at how the plants respond to the "vegetable soup."

  • Use leftover tea and coffee grounds to acidify the soil of acid-loving plants such as azaleas, rhododendrons, camellias, gardenias and even blueberries. A light sprinkling of 1 teaspoon applied once a month will keep the pH of the soil on the acidic side.

  • Use chamomile tea to control damping-off fungus, which often attacks young seedlings quite suddenly. Just add a spot of tea to the soil around the base of seedlings once a week or use it as a foliage spray.

Spring gardening tips

- Splash of colour

Spring is a great time of the year, when all of a sudden, splashes of colour are seen to pop up everywhere. This is the perfect time of the year to have a look at our own gardens and see where colour could be "sprung from barren land" year after year, marking the beginning of a new warmer season and sunny days to come.

The typical mistake that enthusiastic gardeners make, come spring, is to be attracted to the brightly coloured petunias, violas, pansy's etc that are on display at the local nurseries. Be aware that these type of plants are annuals i.e they only last for 3 months and need to be replenished with new stock each year, making spring colour an effort and costly exercise each year.

Rather focus on buying evergreen indigenous flowers that are there all year round. Plants like Arctotis, Gazanias, Dymondia and Lampranthus are all ground covers that will bring that spring colour to your garden.

Spring gardening tips

- Fertilising

Spring always brings with it a change of energy in the air, a sense of lightness, an urge to discard old things and to make space for new life. It is the best time of the year to feed and nourish your garden, creating the foundation to enable your garden to provide you with a flower vista of beautiful proportions for the year to come.

September is a good month to establish a new lawn area, prepare the area by loosening compacted soil with a fork, compost and level the area well, install the roll on lawn, water and feed with organic fertiliser like Neutrog Blade Runner (3:2:2), and only mow on medium height once the roots have settled in the soil.

If you have an existing lawn area, minimise the winter lawn thatching (build up of dead matted grass which prevents water and fertilisers from penetrating the soil) with a good strong metal rake or a lawn spike aerator, mow it short, rake in good top dressing to fill in any dips and holes, and water and fertilise with organic fertiliser like Neutrog Rapid Raiser (3:3:3).

Additionally, order a good amount of compost and mix that into your garden beds with a good fertilisation of flower and growth enhancing organic fertiliser (Seagro Superkel and Seagro Organic Plant Food are great for this) and mulch the bed surface to keep the moisture in.

Finally, check your irrigation system is working effectively, adjust where necessary and activate the spring irrigation program settings.

Spring Gardening Tips

- Soil enrichment

Nowadays, with the corporate job taking up so many waking hours, many home owners simply employ a garden service company to maintain their gardens, thereby ensuring that the precious hours after work and on weeekends are available for recreation and family time.

Unfortunately, by using these services their gardens are slowly being depleted of its natural nutrients. Garden service companies sweep up leaves off paving, clean out beds of all fallen leaves and twigs and remove all pruning and shaping refuse from the property.

"Unwanted" green refuse items are those of most value to a garden as their decompostion process returns the necessary macro and micro nutrients they absorbed from the soil back into the soil. It in itself, is a natural recycling program.

During the process of landscaping a garden, landscapers add compost to the soil to provide a rich environment for the newly planted plants to grow in. This is generally effective for between 1 - 2 years, depending on the quality and quantity of the original compost, the extent of watering and the regularity of garden services conducted. All too often the owner of the property is not aware of this and a visit back to the property 3 or 4 years after the garden has been landscaped illustrates just this in the lack of quality of plant and growth.

Our Spring gardening tip is to keep plants continually healthy by following a good soil enrichment process at least once every 2 or 3 years, depending on the quality and quantity of compost utilised. Earthworm compost or mushroom compost are two of the most enriched composts available.

With regular fertilisation of the garden and lawn, your garden will continue growing, flowering and producing wonders of nature for you to enjoy.

Composting regularly

- Veggies & Herbs

When creating a veggie / herb patch, start on a small scale and if you find you need more space extend the area later. Make small, successive sowings using seeds or advanced seedlings rather than buy entire punnets that may have more plants than you need.

Choose disease-resistant varieties that will grow well in your climate or situation and avoid growing members of the same vegetable family in the same part of your garden in successive seasons.

Mulch between the rows and between individual plants to suppress weed growth and if any weeds do appear, pull them up straight away. Give the growing crops a quick check every day with 5 minutes for watering in mornings and/or evenings, harvest any crops and keep an eye out for pests and diseases. Some damage might occur to leaves and other parts of the plant and instead of using chemicals, try companion planting as your first line of defense.

Provide shade for plantings made in summer with a temporary shadecloth screen, which you can then remove as the plants become established. Plant flowering ornamentals such as lavender among vegetables to attract pollinating insects. Planting sweet peas next to runner beans will encourage early pollination of beans.

Veggie Gardening Tips

- Attracting butterflies

Brightly coloured butterflies can be a welcome addition to your wildlife garden, not only because of their beauty, the timeless entertainment they provide for the kids and adult nature lovers, but also because of their usefulness in the pollination of your garden flowers.

Attracting butterflies involves incorporating plants that serve the needs of all life stages of the butterfly. The insects need places to lay eggs, food plants for their larvae (caterpillars), places to form chrysalides and nectar sources for adults.

  • Plant type and colour is important : Adult butterflies are attracted to red, yellow, orange, pink and purple blossoms that are flat-topped or clustered and have short flower tubes.
  • Plant good nectar sources in the sun : Your key butterfly nectar source plants should receive full sun from mid-morning to mid-afternoon. Butterfly adults generally feed only in the sun. If sun is limited in your landscape, try adding butterfly nectar sources to the vegetable garden.
  • Plant for continuous bloom : Butterflies need nectar throughout the adult phase of their life span. Try to plant so that when one plant stops blooming, another begins.
  • Say no to insecticides : Insecticides such as malathion, Sevin, and diazinon are marketed to kill insects. Don't use these materials in or near the butterfly garden or better, anywhere on your property. Even "benign" insecticides, such as Bacillus thuringiensis, are lethal to butterflies (while caterpillars).
  • Feed butterfly caterpillars : If you don't "grow" caterpillars, there will be no adults. Bringing caterpillar foods into your garden can greatly increase your chances of attracting unusual and uncommon butterflies, while giving you yet another reason to plant an increasing variety of native plants. In many cases, caterpillars of a species feed on only a very limited variety of plants. Most butterfly caterpillars never cause the leaf damage we associate with some moth caterpillars such as bagworms, tent caterpillars, or gypsy moths.
  • Provide a place for butterflies to rest : Butterflies need sun for orientation and to warm their wings for flight. Place flat stones in your garden to provide space for butterflies to rest and bask in the sun.
  • Give them a place for puddling : Butterflies often congregate on wet sand and mud to partake in "puddling," drinking water and extracting minerals from damp puddles. Place coarse sand in a shallow pan and then insert the pan in the soil of your habitat. Make sure to keep the sand moist.

Spring tips - attracting butterflies

- Bonsai Care

Clean out weeds, trim new growth, start to train branches, remove old flowers, re-pot evergreens (while re-potting, trim roots keeping slightly more roots to the volume of leaves, work in the shade keeping roots moist, after potting, dunk whole pot in water to remove air bubbles), feed and do pest control, keep your bonsai slightly protected from wind and too much rain for first 3 weeks before moving it back to its usual place.

Young bonsai trees are re-potted every 1-2 years, while established trees are re-potted every 5 - 7 years. The following species can be re-potted in September & October: Brush Cherries, Cedars, Oaks, Pines, Firethorns and the Chinese snow rose; October - November: Junipers; Late October - January: Fig trees.

Bonsai Re-potting tips

- Rose care

Growing roses is not as difficult as we've been lead to believe. Roses will keep growing and blooming even if gardeners neglect them entirely. But they do benefit from some TLC and the efforts you make in caring for your roses in the early spring will mean that many fewer problems to tend to during the growing season.

The first thing to do in spring is to remove any winter rose protection you did last autumn. Rake off any soil or mulch you used to protect the graft union and rake up and remove any debris or leaves you used to insulate the bushes for winter.

Not all types of roses need to be pruned, other than for clean-up and size control, but if you are going to prune your roses, early spring is the perfect time. Pruning before the leaf buds open causes the rose bush to put its full energy into new growth.

Prune repeat blooming hybrid tea, floribunda, grandiflora and miniature roses by at least half and shrub and other varieties of roses by at least a third. If the rose only blooms one time per year, wait to prune until after it blooms, as these roses only bloom on previous year's growth. Also prune repeat blooming climbing roses after first bloom. Remove any dead wood, die back as well as any spindly or crossing canes.

If your roses are still dormant, now is a good time to apply a dormant spray such as Lime Sulphur. This will kill on contact any fungus. Be sure to spray the area around your roses too. Do not apply once roses have leafed out, it can damage your shrub.

If needed, now is a good time to add amendments to the soil. Mix (in equal parts) garden soil, composted cow manure, sand and mushroom compost. The result is a friable soil rich in growth enzymes that will encourage your roses to grow.

Top off your soil amendments with a two inch layer of mulch. This breaks down quickly, provides weed control and helps to keep the moisture in the ground.

Once roses have broken dormancy and the threat of frost has passed, apply fertiliser. There are many great fertilisers on the market for roses; many of them produced the same results. Alfalfa tea as well as manure teas will do wonders for your roses.

Roses need at least 3cm of water per week to produce quality blooms. Only water roses at the base of the plant. If it doesn't rain during the week, be sure to water your roses.

The best defense against pests and disease is prevention. Dormant spray, removal of diseased leaves and clean rose beds will work wonders to keep disease to a minimum. If disease does become a problem such as blackspot or powdery mildew, remove diseased leaves and spray a fungicide. Repeat every 3-5 days until it clears. Pesticides also kill beneficial insects and only use only as a last resort.

Spring tips - Rose care

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