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Summer is just around the corner!

The weather is warming up across the country and this month our focus turns to enjoying the garden before the warm weather sets in. In the northern regions the first crop of tomatoes has already finished, while in the coldest parts the first crop has only recently been planted.

Grafted plants are a great choice as they will reach up to 2m high and the same wide. They will keep fruiting for many months and there is usually enough to share with the whole family – possums included! Grafted tomatoes are more drought hardy and will fruit better if the graft is buried between 12-15cm below soil level at planting.

There are only two plants that I recommend burying the graft at planting. One is the English Lilac and the other, a grafted tomato. By burying the graft the plant has a chance to send out roots along the stem that’s underground resulting in a larger root system and more capacity to draw up nutrients and water. Remember to mulch the plant with Lucerne hay or straw.

 

Top tips for tasty tomatoes –

  • To avoid Blossom End Rot (blackening on the bottom of the fruit) ensure the plant receives regular water and tomato fertiliser with added calcium such as PowerFeed Controlled Release Plant Food for Tomatoes and Vegetables
  • To prevent floury tomatoes avoid overwatering when the fruit is close to ripening.
  • Store tomatoes in a fruit bowl in the pantry to intensify and maintain flavour.
  • PowerFeed applications will result in a large crop and a very healthy plant.

Grafted tomatoes, if planted in the correct position (up to 6 hours of sun in summer and warm in winter) will continue to fruit for a lot longer than non-grafted varieties. It’s not unusual for a plant to continue fruiting into winter.

Creating a butterfly friendly garden

On a recent garden tour I was reminded about the incredible journey of a Butterfly. The Monarch Butterfly undertakes a long journey to avoid snowy winters. Over thousands of kilometres and many generations, the Monarch returns in spring only to start the journey again the following autumn.

Australia is home to nearly 400 species of Butterflies and the majority of these are from the tropical areas and a Butterfly friendly garden can be created across the country. Many of the southern Butterflies are not as large and showy as their northern counterparts, but are still as colourful.

Summer flowering perennials and annuals such as salvias, ageratums, sunflowers and alyssum are a perfect food source for attracting Butterflies.

Essentials for attracting Butterflies

  • Place small shallow dishes full of water in protected positions, at varying heights in the garden.
  • Select nectar producing plants for the garden.
  • Create protected areas where Butterflies can hide if a threat appears.
  • Plant food sources for larvae.
  • Be prepared to accept a few chewed leaves from caterpillars.
  • Avoid spraying insecticides at any time of the year, particularly those which target caterpillars.

 

Top Plants for Summer Shade

Plants are nature’s natural air conditioners. A thick covering of foliage will create a cool sanctuary that can be enjoyed in the heat of summer. Trees have been used for centuries to create shade and the famous tree lined roadsides of France are said to be a legacy of Napoleon, who planted them to create a favourable environment for his marching troops. One group of plants that is under-utilised for their shade casting properties are climbers. Fast growing climbers are an idea.

Factors to consider when designing for shade;

  • Consider the movement of the sun and where it is at different seasons. A tree positioned to cast shade in spring over a window may not be effective in summer due the change in the height of the sun.
  • For summer shade and winter sun, plant deciduous species.
  • Deciduous climbers grown over pergolas cast dense protective shade.
  • A canopy of foliage will protect sun sensitive understory plants.
  • Consider at what time of the year the area will be used and design the space accordingly. What type of shade does it require?
  • Can existing trees or buildings be used to your advantage?

With searing temperatures, the shade cast by a cleverly placed tree or two ensures the great outdoors can be enjoyed throughout the summer months.  Strategically planted trees will also reduce internal temperatures of buildings and plants have a large role to play in modern architectural design. Climbers are the perfect solution for quick fixes as they will reach the top of a pergola or frame in a short time.

 

Top 5 climbers for shade!

Ornamental Grape – is a hardy waterwise climber that can be pruned back in winter every year and creates dense shade cover. Rich claret and burgundy foliage colour in autumn is spectacular.

Wisteria – is a fast growing climber perfect for planting where large areas are required to be covered. While they are best known for their spectacular display of mauve flowers in spring, take a look at a Japanese Wisteria called Wisteria venusta alba. The perfume is sweet and short, compact flowers appear in late spring.

Fruiting Grapes – there is no reason to not have a grapevine in the backyard. They are incredibly hardy, fast growing and produce bunches of sweet grapes with almost no care. The can also be planted as a living wall. Erect a frame that’s strong enough to hold the weight of the foliage. Reinforcing mesh is good value, sturdy and long lasting.

Passionfruit vine – in most areas of Australia the passionfruit grows like a weed. In the cooler areas it will need protecting from frosty mornings, once it reaches the height of a pergola it’s a little hardier to cold weather. Passionfruit are evergreen, so are the perfect choice for hot positions and growing on a pergola guarantees easy harvesting.

Pandorea jasminoides – is a vigorous warm area climber that bears tubular bell like flowers. The feature of this climber is the dark green glossy foliage and it’s a perfect choice for use when creating a tropical garden style.