Magnolias, Hellebores and Camellia reticulata are still blooming, lovely leftovers from a long cold winter. Blossom spotting is a favourite spring time activity, usually played in a car at 60 km/hr! You’ll notice the winter peach first with its candy pink flowers encrusting each branch. Then the cerise bells of the Taiwan cherry. Then come the lighter fluffier cherry plums with black leaves that follow. White is out next with a bevy of pear blossom. Then almonds, cherries, crab apples, each with their own chapter of spring.
In my garden I’m loving Daffodils! Autumn’s bulb-planting is paying off big time: enjoy the show! Moneymaker, King Alfred and Sydney sport the traditional golden trumpets that herald the new season but there are other daffodil shapes and colours to enjoy. Try pink-throated ‘Pink August’ and the cluster-white ‘Paperwhites’. Miniature daffodils like ‘Tete a tete’ and ‘Jetfire’ are perfect for the window sill. Buy a pot in flower now.
Depending on your winter activity there is a long list of jobs to do. Shall we get started?
Lightly prune spring-flowering shrubs, including native plants such as Eriostemon, as soon as they finish their spring show. Natives need this prune each year.
Prune heat loving shrubs like Hibiscus, Oleander, Angel’s Trumpet and Poinsettia now. This helps to shape growth, remove diseased wood and invigorates the plant. Prune from September providing there is no chance of frost. Remove one third on the bush, cut just above a node at a 45 degree angle. Angels Trumpet (Brugmansia) should be pruned (hard) back to the spokes of the umbrella to get the lovely mushroom shape we love so much.
Now is the time to rejuvenate your lemon tree. Lemons, oranges and mandarins will take hard pruning (yes you might need a chainsaw). Cut back thin and dead branches. Cut back branches that are crossing over. Cut back all other branches to a height you can reach. Remove grass and feed well.
Apply liquid fertiliser to bulbs as they finish flowering, this will encourage better flowers next year.
Look after the lawn – aerate and feed, dig out weed infestations, particularly bindi and dandelions, and then top dress any uneven areas. They come up so easily by hand when its wet.
Separate suckers from bromeliads and pot up to create new plants.
Feed and water gardenias well. If old leaves are yellowing, water the soil with one tablespoon of Epsom salts in a watering can. For yellowing young leaves apply iron chelates or sulphate of iron.
Feed garden beds with an organic fertiliser such as Dynamic Lifter and apply a layer of cow manure or compost. The rain should water it in.
In the Veggie Patch
Sow tomatoes, eggplant, cucumber and beans inside to get a head start on spring. My tomatoes spend their nights inside for a few more weeks yet. I’ll plant them out when soils warm up. There’s no room in the patch yet – it’s full of cauliflower, purple broccoli, podded peas, broadbeans, and every shade of kale. Eat through winter crops as their peak with flavour and nutrient.
Clean out fireplace ash and spread it around rose gardens and vegetable patch.
Watch for the 28-spotted lady beetle on potato crops. These insects can skeletonise leaves overnight. Pick off and destroy.
Hammer in tomato or bamboo stakes as soon as seedlings go in. Try growing tomatoes on a long tepee tunnel, 2.5m high and place tomatoes at 1m intervals with basil in the tunnel.
Control scale and leaf miner on citrus trees by spraying with Eco Oil regularly. At this time of year Eco Oil is also effective against young bronze orange bugs.
Protect stone fruits by hanging fruit fly lures nearby.
Use coffee grounds to deter snails from newly planted spring seedlings.
Codling moth peaks in October but hang lures up now.
Attract helpful wasps. Early spring is the time to hang parasitic wasp (Encarsia formosa) cards up in new plantings of tomatoes and eggplant to protect these vegetables from white fly. The cards are impregnated with wasp eggs. The eggs hatch, the wasps grow and the adult female lays her eggs into white fly. Many commercial tomato growers are now using these wasps as a chemical-free way of controlling white fly infestations in their glasshouses.