We are almost there! Each day is getting longer with the promise of just a little more sunshine to warm the cockles, and of course increase the temperature of the soil, which in turn means all of the buds will start to swell with pride, ready to burst into bloom to welcome the onset of Spring! Brilliant!
So all we have to do is get through today (which in the southern states will be one of the coldest days of the entire winter!) and focus on the tasks at hand in preparation for a magnificent Spring.
Give everything a good dose of organic fertiliser. You can use blood and bone, pellets or compost. My favourite way of feeding my plants is with a 100mm thick layer of organic compost sourced from my local landscape supplier. Not only does it feed the plants as at breaks down in Spring, it acts as a mulch and also puts beautiful organic matter into the soil, improving the structure.
Start on the veggie beds too. Reinvigorate the soil with a good rake and a sprinkle of organic fertiliser. Allow around 2 weeks prior to planting so that the seeds or seedlings do not burn. By covering areas of your designated veggie garden with cloches, it warms up the soil more quickly allowing you to plant a little earlier.
Top dress all outdoor potted plants with compost to keep them happy and healthy. Do the same with your indoor plants but with premium potting mix. Make sure you water all of your indoor plants with water that is room temperate.
Whilst you should still be harvesting your winter vegies, you can begin to sow some seeds in preparation for Spring planting. Seed trays and a good seed raising mix is the best bet (particularly in the cooler climates), watered gently with a mister, covered and placed under cover to protect them from any frost. Seeds that can be sown now include Beetroot, Celery, Leek, Lettuce, Mint, Mustard Greens, Parsley, Parsnip, Peas, Potatoes, Radish, Rocket, Shallots, Silver beet, Spring Onions, Watercress.
Its time to plant artichoke suckers and potatoes, and shallots and rhubarb crowns in the more temperate areas. Seedlings that can be planted directly into the veggie patch include Beetroot, Broccoli, Cabbage, Cauliflower, Leek, Lettuce, Parsley, Shallots, Silver Beet, Spinach, Strawberries, Tomatoes (they need to be totally protected), Watercress. Force your rhubarb and strawberries with cloches which will give them a helping hand.
You can still plant bare rooted plants. But be quick, as you will start to see the buds begin to swell in the next few weeks.
Complete all of your fruit tree pruning now before the weather starts to warm. It’s also a great time to reshape your deciduous trees as you can clearly see the limb formation. Deadhead all winter flowering plants to prolong their display.
Follow Christopher Owens’ lead (see his recent Plant Profile) and try your hand with one or more Hippeastrum. Source healthy bulbs from a local grower or online at www.hippeastrum.com.au. They advise to “pot them into your pot of choice or into a well prepared garden bed that is moist but not wet. All Hippeastrums must be planted with their necks out of the ground. Plant into well prepared beds that drain well, rich in compost or into pots containing a good quality potting mix. Bulbs must only be watered from the top. If planting into pots, the pot must drain freely with no tray under it. The soil must be moist before planting the bulb. A slow release fertiliser can be added at time of planting.”
“Full sun is best for the bulb and for future flowering. Give a liquid feed of a seaweed based product once a week to help them grow back their leaves but don’t over water them. Cut back on water in Winter, but as soon as it starts to warm feed and water well. As soon as the scapes appear you must feed the bulb.”
And of course, there is the standard weeding, upkeep of tools and machinery and the cleaning out of the shed to contemplate.
So embrace the last month of Winter! It won’t be long before we are saying “how about that heat!”
Until next month…