The Winter Solstice is upon us as I write – I am always happy when it arrives, because although there is still frosty weather ahead, it only takes a couple of weeks before the days become noticeably longer, and everything starts to think about new life.
The current bouts of prolonged rainfall have provided an opportunity we haven’t been accustomed to recently, to identify boggy or poorly drained patches in the garden. There are several ways to attack this problem: you can dig some drainage channels to take the water away to where you want it, and bury some agricultural drainage pipe in the channel. I have had only limited success doing this – when most of the garden is basalt soil on a slope, water runs from higher ground for up to a week after the rain stops. Digging trenches across the slope and filling with gravel can help, or you can give up and build up planted areas or develop a bog garden in that spot, and plant species such as some of the Iris, that are happy with wet feet.
As described in the June issue, feed emerging bulbs as they appear, with complete fertiliser or bulb food, and give Spring flowering annuals a boost as well. Remember to check the ‘recipe’ on the label of fertilizers. The three main ingredients are Nitrogen (N), Phosphorus (P) and Potassium (K). Fertilisers that have a greater percentage of Nitrogen are good for producing foliage, while a slightly higher percentage of Potassium will promote more flowering and fruiting. When you have a plant producing lots of foliage and no fruit or flowers, it is often because it needs more Potassium and less Nitrogen. The fertilisers labelled ‘complete’ usually include trace elements as well. On the whole, the specialist rose foods are very good for most flowering plants and vegetables, especially when combined with good compost, and some mulch. Just be a bit careful using any poultry manure based product around acid loving plants such as Rhododendrons, Camellias and Daphne – you can apply such fertilisers but don’t dig them in, because these plants like their soil to have a lower Ph i.e. a higher acid content, than roses. We will include an article on compost and fertilisers in a future Bulletin.
If you are getting ready for the Camellia Spectacular, you might like to disbud some of your camellias to encourage larger flowers. The floral art gurus and Camellia specialists carefully remove the masses of buds that some species produce leaving the one bud that is nicely framed by two healthy leaves. It might be worth leaving buds that are in various stages of development, so that you prolong the flowering period – that’s the theory anyway – give it a try.
If you are planting newly acquired barerooted trees or shrubs, or moving a tree or shrub, first dig the hole at least half as big again as the root ball, scarifying the walls of the hole if the ground is hard or impacted, and adding some good old compost to the backfill. Stingy little planting holes in hard or sour ground are a guarantee of the plant failing to thrive. Leave Camellias until they have finished flowering before moving them, although you can plant out a newly purchased plant, or any plant in a container, straight away.
You can prune deciduous trees now if needed, but don’t prune Spring flowering species such as Lilac or May now, or you will cut off flowering wood – do it after flowering, to stimulate new growth through the Summer to carry next year’s flowers. Fallow areas in the vegetable garden could be weeded and enhanced with some blood and bone, and dug over, where tomatoes and cucurbits are to be planted later. Seedlings of lettuce, brassicas, spinach and silverbeet may be planted in small batches, a few weeks apart for continuous cropping.
Happy gardening. Margaret Stuart
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Berrima Public School Market
The March Friendship Garden was a great success at Berrima Public School Kitchen Garden. To continue to support the school in its efforts to raise funds, there is a School Market on every SECOND Sunday of the month from 9:00am till 2:00pm.
May 2013 Bulletin
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