Let’s get ready for summer and entertaining in the garden!

The last month of spring can become hotter and more humid, especially with La Nina and the rain that is affecting many gardeners and gardens. Growth, flowers and produce will be in abundant. Keep up with regular watering where plants need it, fertilising, improving soils and maintenance such as deadheading to encourage and help gardens especially those affected by rain.

It’s also time to plant ahead for a bountiful supply of fresh vegetables for summer especially in pots and to create homegrown gifts from the garden for Christmas and the festive season. Late spring is also an ideal time to plant summer-flowering bulbs including liliums and dahlias.

Helping with rain affected gardens

With ongoing rain being experienced across much of Australia, wet and waterlogged soils are an issue for many gardeners. Few plants thrive in very wet conditions. Drought-tolerant and Mediterranean plants such as lavender, and rosemary along with citrus trees, which need well-drained soils may be showing signs of stress. Many plants will succumb to root rot and some may die or dieback.

Plants that are affected by water logging, may wilt as if they’ve not received enough water but the wilting is a result of root loss and lack of oxygen in the soil. Parts of the plant may die and some plants may also appear to be lacking nutrients. Some plants may be saved by watering over their foliage and roots with a soil fungicide to combat rot. Regular fortnightly applications of Seasol helps plants survive adverse conditions. Generally, mix 30mL of concentrate per 9 litres of water (standard watering van). Seasol assists waterlogged plants by stimulating strong root growth and encouraging beneficial soil micro-organisms.

Coping with wet soils

Where rain is continuing and soil cannot dry out between bouts of rain, precious plants may be saved by digging them out of the soil and transferring them into a container filled with a well-drained potting mix such as Seasol Advanced Potting Mix. It has everything in the bag to aid plant establishment, healthy growth and root development. Water transplants with Seasol but hold off applying fertiliser to waterlogged or transplanted plants until they show sign of new growth.

Long term it may be necessary to create raised garden beds to improve soil drainage. Adding extra drainage – both surface and sub-surface – to gardens and lawn areas to carry water away will also reduce waterlogging. Also avoid walking or parking on waterlogged soils as this will encourage soil compaction. Wait until soils drain before undertaking new planting or cultivating the soil. Once the soil drains, the key is to improve the health of the soil is by adding homemade compost and organic matter and/or Seasol Super Compost which helps improve soil nutrient content and the soils ability to manage moisture.

Spring rose care – feeding and watering

Roses put on a breathtaking show in late spring and early summer. To keep them looking good, regularly remove spent flowers or pick a bunch early for a fragrant vase display inside. This will also help to keep the air circulation moving around the bush to help reduce fungal diseases. Keep the plants both watered and fertilised.

Use a pelletised fertiliser and soil improver such as Seasol plus Nutrients Roses & Flowers to keep roses bursting with flowers and lush foliage. As well as providing a handful of rose food, top up the organic mulch around each plant with some aged manure and/or Seasol Liquid Compost. Water the plant food in to get nutrients down to the roots. Follow this dose of rose TLC with regular deep watering throughout summer, rather than shorter watering more often. This will also help to make the plant’s roots go down into the soil for water and nutrients.

Spring rose care – pests and diseases

If possums regularly prune your roses, cover new growth overnight (remove covers during the day). Once the growth has hardened off, it will be less of a target for hungry possums.

Keep an eye out for any signs of black spot, which a fungal disease that disfigures rose leaves and can cause roses to drop their leaves. Affected leaves start to show signs of infection when dark spots appear. Soon the leaves turn yellow then fall. Remove diseased leaves including those that have fallen around the base of plant. Dispose of these infected leaves in a bag into the rubbish bin (not the compost or green waste bin).

Apply an organic rose fungicide such as EarthCare Rose Black Spray & insect spray to reduce the infestation. Spray thoroughly including undersides of foliage. Repeat at 14-day intervals if required. Do not spray around beneficial insects or when temperature are over 25 ℃. To improve the health and growth of the plant and to reduce the stress of pests and diseases  water fortnightly with Seasol.

Deadheading keeps plants flowering

Deadheading is a simple but effective way to keep plants in flower. To deadhead, simply remove spent flower stems. Cut or snap off the stem at its base or just above a growth point (known as a node) as soon as flowers finished. Water and feed the plant to encourage new growth and more flowers. Deadheading prevents flowers forming seeds and encourages them to keep blooming rather than putting all their energy into seed production.

Plant a pergola for shade

A shady spot in the garden is a real bonus on a hot summer day. A quick way to create shade is with a pergola and a fast-growing vine. Train the vine to grow up and across the top of the pergola. Fast-growing options include wisteria, ornamental grapevine, mandevilla, pandorea and climbing roses.

Herbs for flavour

Herbs are among the easiest and most rewarding of all edible plants to grow either in a garden or a container. As well as adding flavour to cooking, they also add fragrance to the garden. In spring and summer include mint, oregano, chives, rosemary, sage, parsley, or basil. Mint, chives and parsley are more tolerant of a damp space and less sun, whereas Mediterrean herbs such as rosemary, oregano and sage require free draining soil and heaps of sun. If you don’t have the right conditions in the garden, herbs love to be planted in pots, so consider putting them around your outdoor entertaining area where it’s easy to pick them.

Keep herbs thriving with the occasional watering especially to establish new plants and when times are very hot and dry. Irregular watering can lead some herbs, such as coriander and parsley, to bolt into flower and seed at the expense of leaf growth. Most herbs don’t need lots of fertilisers as it can lead to sappy leaves which lack flavour, so apply a controlled release fertiliser such as PowerFeed Controlled Release All Purpose including Natives every season. Remember to water it in well after application. Pick herbs regularly to keep them growing well.For more information on growing herbs check our our easy guide to growing herbs.

Staking tall plants

As plants grow and come into flower or fruit they may require extra help to stand up tall and straight. Keep plants upright with a stake or other form of plant support. Use soft ties to avoid damaging plant tissue. Adjust ties as the plant grows and regularly check that the tie isn’t cutting into an expanding stem and that pests haven’t set up home between the stake and the stem.

Plants may also need extra support in heavy rain to stop them falling to the ground. All sorts of materials can be used as stakes from purchased wooden, bamboo or metal stakes to home-made stakes cut from straight branches or prunings. To make wooden stakes less prominent in the garden, paint them dark green so they blend with foliage.