Winter in Australia!
We certainly live in a country of temperature extremes. While some areas of Australia are receiving record cold temperatures others are experiencing unseasonal warm weather.
It certainly makes for interesting gardening as the spring flowers are appearing about 3 months too early, even before the leaves have dropped in some areas. When an established tree is flowering early, it’s a sure sign it has been stressed at some time over the last few months. Drenching the soil around the roots with a strong solution of Seasol will allow it to recover over July and August.
It’s July and while winter feels like it has just started in some areas, it’s time to start thinking about planting summer bulbs. Summer bulbs are some of the most rewarding plants for colour.
In the case of Dahlias, while not strictly a bulb are one of my favourites, flowering right through summer to late autumn. They are spectacular for a colourful garden display, are the ideal cut flower and perfect for pots.
Follow these simple steps for perfect Dahlias;
- Choose a sunny position away from gusty winds.
- Improve soil with compost, sheep manure or soil improver if growing in the ground.
- Select strong tubers that are firm and not shrivelled. Plant tuber crown about 5cm under the soil surface.
- When the shoots reach a height of about 30cm, cut stems off by 10cm. This will encourage bushy growth, which results in more flowers.
- Feed regularly with PowerFeed PRO SERIES Roses & Flowers (50mL of concentrate per 9 litres of water every 2 weeks). It contains less nitrogen so you won’t get excess foliage at the expense of flowering. It also contains extra iron to reduce leaf yellowing and improve budding and flowering. Plus it contains liquid compost to improve the soil structure and nutrient uptake by your Dahlias.
Once plants have completely died back in late autumn, tubers can be split, lifted and stored in wood shavings out of the rain in readiness for planting next year.
Strawberries love cool winters to initiate flowering and can be grown in most areas of Australia. There is nothing nicer than plucking a ripe strawberry straight from the garden. They are the ideal berry to grow for small garden areas, pots or hanging baskets and are guaranteed to produce.
Virus free varieties are the best option for the home gardener and planting early will ensure they produce lots of flowers early. Plant into free draining well improved soil in any container. Ensure the container is large enough to hold a few plants to improve fruit set and there is adequate soil around the roots so plants don’t dry out too quickly in summer.
Remove the majority of side runners as they form so the plant will put its energy into flower production rather than leaf growth. Fruit production will reduce after the second year so it’s recommended to replant with virus free plants regularly.
Looking for a fast growing herbaceous fruiting low shrub with a difference? The Cape Gooseberry is a favourite amongst vegie garden enthusiasts. A few plants are all that’s needed for a regular supply of fruit for cheese platters, chutneys or decorative features with their papery covering on the Christmas table.
The fruit is slightly tart or tangy and changes from green to orange when ripe. While the Cape Gooseberry will grow in most conditions, it will thrive in humus rich soil almost becoming a weed in some areas. In frost prone areas protect the foliage by covering when freezing temperatures are forecast.
Cape Gooseberries will grow easily from cutting or by aerial layering. Pin a branch at ground level, scrape the stem and mound this area with soil. When roots develop trim this stem off and replant in a different location.
Creating an edible garden is the one of the sheer joys of gardening and when you can combine this with the love of flowers you get the best of both worlds. This month when you take a visit to the Garden Centre selecting plants for your garden remember that many ornamental flowering plants are also edible.
Imagine sitting down to a salad that was made up of Calendulas, Nasturtiums, Violets, Rose petals, Lavender and Apple Blossoms. Many of these plants will bloom for weeks on end and create a colourful visual feast for both the garden and table.
To keep your plants happy and healthy applied Seasol (30mL per 9 litres of water – standard watering can) every 2 to 4 weeks. Seasol is your complete garden health treatment. It promotes healthy growth, stimulates flowering and fruiting and helps protect against, heat or frost depending on where you are in Australia.
5 of the lesser known edible flowers:
Carnation tastes spicy, peppery and clove like. Very similar to the perfume of the old fashioned Dianthus. The whole flowers can be used.
Fuchsias can be plucked from the bush at the last minute before serving and add rich exotic colour to dishes. Especially great for ice cream and chocolate, the flowers are slightly acidic.
Tuberous Begonias, only the Hybrid varieties are edible. The flowers and stems contain oxalic acid and should not be consumed; only the petals are edible.
Lemon flowers can be used where you need a subtle lemon flavour, although I must say they are a little waxy. Use sparingly as a garnish or to flavour a citrus water.
Gladioli, as well as being Dame Edna’s favourite in the vase, the petals can be consumed, imagine a salad of Gladioli. They taste similar to lettuce.