Long summer evenings, friends over for dinner, weekends reading outside in the shade, gardening with the radio on…..finally summer is here.
I love Christmas because I don’t stress over it. I can always grab a plant from work for a last minute gift, and the current preoccupation with indoor plants and decorator pots has made it soooo easy. You can tailor the choice to the person’s personality: sleek modern, folksy rustic, quirky handmade, its all available. Just slip a plant into the appropriate pot – job done.
Bring your flowers onto the dinner plate
The flowers of many herbs and annuals like Nasturtium, Violas, Dianthus, Chives and Borage can also be eaten, tossed through salad, added to fruit punches and vegie dishes for colour and flavour. Keep this in mind if you are plating up for Christmas – a few scattered flowers can add that professional touch.
Summer is the time to enjoy the garden. Give the garden a lift for Christmas with bright plants and pots. There are many hardy perennials (as well as annuals) that provide long-lasting colour. Plant African Daisies and Arctotis for their large daisy flowers, or Verbenas and Pigface for vivid colour. Perennial Petunias are also great and they come in a wide range of colours. For foliage colour Flaxes, Cordylines and the Canna Lily ‘Tropicana’ are eye-catching and provide great structure and drama. Plant Kangaroo Paws, Grevilleas and Brachycome daisies for the longest flowering period. Kangaroo Paws have been fantastic this year. In shady spots, Nandinas, Crotons and Gold Dust Plant brighten up dull areas. Fuchsias and Dipladenia provide bright flower colour (although these need a little bit more water). As you plant at this unpredictable time of year, be sure to water plants in regularly, especially on very hot, windy days. Mulch well and encourage your new plants along with liquid fertiliser fortnightly.
Mulching & Composting
Keep replenishing your mulch as required. Your vegies will thank you if you add pea straw, lucerne, sugarcane or canola mulch around the plants. These will add nutrients to the soil and improve the soil structure as they break down, as well as making your watering more effective.
Don’t be put off by foul-smelling compost because it can be easily fixed. Check out our more detailed information on the site about composting and how to use mulches, or come in and ask us for help. Compost is especially good at conditioning soil and helping to retain moisture when placed under the mulch layer. Click here to see the range of mulches we have in stock.
There are more native cultivars available now than ever before, including many with excellent drought tolerance and more compact growth habits. A lot of the breeding work has been aimed at improving flower size and plant form. Many of the West Australian natives have spectacular flowers for a splash of bright colour, such as grafted Grevilleas and Eucalypts, large flowered Hakeas, and a the ever-popular Kangaroo Paw. For mass planting and form try natives such as Dianellas, Lomandras, Acacia cognata Dwarf, Leucophyta brownii and Westringias. There are many succulents and bromeliads suitable for dry pockets in the garden, and not all need full sun. Many will grow happily in dry shade which makes them perfect for containers. Recently succulents have come into their own, with a new appreciation of their form and colours.
Look to plant more drought tolerant productive plants when the weather is warmer or plan to include more of these in your garden. Once established, they will provide you with more food for less water and attention. Try Mediterranean herbs such as oregano, marjoram, thyme and sage. Lemon grass, scented geraniums and savouries also need less water. The more drought tolerant fruit and vegies include artichokes, Lebanese eggplant, chillies, cherry tomatoes, Bay, Olives, Cane Berries (like raspberries, boysenberries, youngberries), natal plum, many of the bush foods, feijoas and cherry guavas. There are also advanced tomatoes, chillies, capsicums and herbs available now if you didn’t get them in earlier.
Harvesting Your Produce
Harvest-wise, your garden should be providing a lovely assortment if you planted in early spring. Strawberries, raspberries and other cane berries, lots of salad and even some tomato varieties by Christmas. Other fruits to harvest include Gooseberries, Figs, Cherries, early nectarines like ‘May Grand’ or early Peaches like ‘Anzac’ and the tail end of the Mulberries.
If you stagger the planting of your edible plants they will be ready at varying times, which means a longer harvest time. If you planted up big in spring, you can now successively plant vegies to keep your harvest going into autumn. Beans, corn, cucumber, carrots, baby pumpkin and zucchini can all be replanted now alongside your existing crop. You can still plant many herbs now, but be sure to keep parsley in the semi shade. Exceptions are Rocket and coriander as they easily bolt to seed in the heat. They can still be grown now if you really love the flavour, but you will need to plant them in dappled shade or spot that gets some morning sun. Be sure to pick off any flower stalks. Plant more lettuce… you can never have too much salad this time of year.
Feeding & Maintenance Tasks in your Edible Garden
Remove any fallen fruit off the ground to help break any pest and disease cycle. If you have chooks or ducks they will do this for you. Put bands of corrugated cardboard or hessian on apple and pear trees to try to catch coddling moth pupating. Check every 3 weeks and destroy any caterpillars you find. It’s a good time to put pheromone traps out for them too. Remove any old gall wasp traps in your citrus as they only last for 3-4 months and will have done their job now. Remove many central tomato plant leaves and any that are shaded as they’ll only yellow off anyway. By removing them you keep a better airflow though the plant helping to keep diseases at bay. Tomatoes should be staked at planting, but do stake them if you haven’t already and tie them on to the trellis/stake with a soft tie or old bits of clothing cut into strips.
Tomatoes, eggplants, capsicums and other fruit bearers will do well from another application of potash or seaweed fertiliser now to help promote and develop fruit. Finally, top dress your vegies and herbs with some organic fertiliser or keep them liquid fed regularly.
Prune out any dead or diseased wood from deciduous and evergreen shrubs and trees. Deadhead perennials and roses. A very light prune of roses after their first spring flowering will help ensure another flush of blooms later in summer. The easiest way to do this is to cut the rose flowers to enjoy indoors in a vase. (It has been claimed that you can time the next flush of flowers: prune lightly 55 days before you need them and they should be there in time).
Thrip begin to cause problems now as the weather warms up. Thrip are small insects that attack a wide variety of plants including fruit trees, vegetable crops, roses and other ornamental plants. They attack the flowers, fruit and foliage causing considerable damage. Leaves may appear to be finely mottled with a silvery appearance. The flowers will have brown spots on them and if attached as a bud, can be deformed. Thrip tend to feed in protected areas like under the leaves or in unopened flower buds so control can be difficult. Systemic sprays don’t seem to work, though some success with time-released pyrethrum has been reported. You might like to experiment with sticky traps hanging from the plants (a yellow piece of cardboard, smeared with Vaseline). Otherwise you may just have to ride it out, these little critters tend to have a population explosion for a week or so and then die off as their natural predator number build up.
The cabbage grubs burrow deeply into the hearts of tender vegie plants, leaving their mess behind. They can devour leaves in an overnight feeding frenzy. Get back at them with Dipel or Success, both of which are biological agents and rated suitable for organic farming, therefore safe for humans. They degrade with sunlight – so spray in the evening for most effective use.
Gardening With Kids
Over the school holidays, try introducing children to gardening by propagating some succulents. Most of these are very simple to do by taking cuttings or offsets. The unusual shapes and textures of these amazing plants will fascinate and inspire kids. They are also virtually indestructible and are a great way to teach kids about the variety in the plant kingdom and about biology. They also make great pets that can be kept inside on a bedroom windowsill. Bonsai plants are another living gift that capture children’s imaginations, giving them the opportunity to care for a plant or miniature garden scape and to sculpt and shape it.
Children never fail to be enthralled by carnivorous plants, such as the Venus Fly Traps. They might not make ideal stocking fillers, but they will be enjoyed. Cacti, again not to be stuffed into the stocking, can introduce children to gardening in a very low maintenance fashion. They come in an amazing array of shapes and colours and are good for the older child. Books are always a good choice, and our bookshop has loads of gardening books for children (and adults too, of course). For the well-seasoned gardening child, gloves and little critters to decorate garden pots are inexpensive and worthwhile Christmas presents.
Teach the kids about how to sow seeds and propagate plants. Sunflower seeds are easy to sow and quick to come up; or take cuttings of Geraniums, which will strike readily, making new plants to plant out or share.
Hoping your summer holidays are healthy, happy and peaceful from all at BAAG.