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Get out and enjoy Winter Gardening!

Even though the rain is falling and it’s freezing cold, there is plenty to do in the garden. Enjoy damp soil, bare branches of the stonefruit and the laden citrus trees, plus beautiful flowering plants such as the camellias or hellebores.

 

Fertilising soil with leaves – the use of peas as a green manure crop

Improving soil fertility should be the major focus of gardeners. The healthier the soil the more productive it will be. One way of taking advantage of the cooler weather and improving the production capacity is to sow a green manure crop over the next couple of months:

  • Field peas are one of the most versatile and easy to grow green manure crops –
  • They are a legume and will fix atmospheric nitrogen in nodules in the soil which is readily available to future crops.
  • When dug in while the plants are at flowering stage, the nutrients in the leaves and stems will compost rapidly, improving water holding capacity and fertility of the soil.
  • Plants can be left to grow onto production stage and as it finishes can be laid down over the soil to act as mulch shading the soil from the searing summer heat.

Steps to successfully growing a green manure crop:

  • Prepare seed bed with compost, worm castings or manures.
  • Sprinkle field peas (available from stockfeed or produce stores) over seed bed and cover lightly.
  • As the peas grow, tender shoots can be harvested for fresh salads and stir fries. Apply Seasol (50mL per 9 litres of water) every 2 to 4 weeks for strong healthy growth.
  • Dig in the crop as it starts to flower and the foliage is green to a depth of at least 20cm.
  • Planting of vegie crops can begin within a few weeks.
  • Alternatively allow the crop to produce and trim off foliage at ground level and lay back on top of the soil.

Rhubarb

Longing for Rhubarb and Apple Crumble?  Rhubarb is enjoying resurgence in popularity and is a long term crop that will continue to produce year after year. Many recipes call for fresh rhubarb and a small space dedicated to this perennial ensures fresh produce is available most of the year. Rhubarb develops crowns and after a time will need to be divided throughout winter to ensure regeneration of the plant. If plants are starting to send up multiple flower stalks it’s a good indicator that they require dividing.

Quick tips for tasty Rhubarb:

  • Rhubarb requires rich fertile soil that’s not prone to waterlogging in winter. Apply compost, sheep manure or soil improver to soil before planting. Mulch with composting mulch ensuring the crown is avoided or it will be prone to rotting. This will feed the soil as it breaks down.
  • Regular application of  PowerFeed for Tomatoes and Vegetables (50mL per 9 litres of water) every 2-4 weeks will develop strong stems and help intensify colour of stalks. Different varieties have varying colours of stems and colour usually intensifies as the plants mature.
  • Rhubarb will wilt on hot days throughout summer in many areas of Australia; this is normal and will recover as the weather cools down again. Rhubarb plants will take as much water as you are willing to give them, but don’t need a lot to survive.
  • Plant in a position that receives afternoon shade, to reduce reliance on water in summer.
  • Remember that green Rhubarb stalks are just as tasty as the bright red ones.
yellow rose bushes

Sweet Smelling Roses

 It’s no surprise that the rose is Australia’s most popular ornamental flowering plant. There are not many gardens that wouldn’t contain at least one of these flowering beauties. The lure of the sweet fragrance on warm spring days is so strong, that it’s easy to find one more spot for the latest release rose.

Gardeners expect a lot from roses and as a consequence they need a little extra care at this time of the year to keep them at peak performance and ensure brilliant spring colour.

Rose Tip:

Retain water shoots on roses, don’t remove them. These long tall stems appear from the base of the plant, sport strong healthy foliage and grow taller than the existing plant. These strong shoots form the basis of next season’s framework and make next year’s pruning easy.

Apricot rose in the garden

Rose care after pruning:

  • Before foliage emerges (after pruning) apply a cover spray with white oil. This will clean up any mites or scale insects before spring growth.
  • Apply PowerFeed with Troforte Flowers Fruit & Citrus around root system and water in well. To save water, apply before rain. Potassium is the nutrient which thickens cell walls, strengthens stems and intensifies flower colour and perfume.
  • As foliage appears spray Seasol  (30mL per 9 litres of water) every 2-4 weeks over the whole plant. This will also build up the plants natural defence against black spot and powdery mildew.

 

Rabbits

Our native flora throughout Australia is unique and the threat made to this native vegetation can never be underestimated. It only takes one rabbit per hectare to stop natural regeneration of plant species, so you can imagine when they are in plague proportions the extent of the damage to both native flora and agricultural crops.

Newly planted trees are damaged by rabbits, adding to the cost of reforestation projects. Rabbits are not only a problem on a commercial scale; gardeners all over the country are battling rabbit problems.

It only takes one rabbit in the garden to cause severe damage. They love citrus bark and will ring bark newly planted fruit trees in one night. Kangaroo paws along with vegie gardens and soft tender seedlings are some of their favourite snacks.

Rabbits are difficult to control in a home garden situation as many of the standard rabbit controls available are for broad acre agriculture areas, so when it comes to the home garden options are often limited.

Rabbits don’t like the smell of blood and bone, so sprinkling pure organic blood and bone around the base of plants will deter those destructive teeth. The other benefit of blood and bone is it feeds the plants at the same time. Pure blood and bone can be applied every month and is safe for all plant types including natives. It’s also a great solution if a precious pet bunny lives in the backyard.