Enjoy the specular flower displays of late winter!

Despite the date on the calendar, spring is already springing around the country as our plants make the most of the (mainly) benign conditions of late winter. Enjoy the brilliant flowers of August from spectacular magnolias, camellias and clouds of blossom from flowering and fruiting prunus to bold Iceland poppies and early flowering daffodils. Native plants too are in bloom making August an exciting month to be in the garden or exploring local parks and bushland.

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Late winter lawn tips

In most areas lawns have taken a battering over winter. In normally warm winter zones, unexpectedly cold conditions have browned off warm season grasses such as kikuyu, couch and buffalo while further south, cold and wet conditions have also taken their toll on both grasses and soils.

Late winter and early spring offer a chance to reclaim the lawn with a bit of much-needed TLC. Flood-affected soils can be boosted with regular applications of Seasol to reinvigorate microorganisms lost from the soil during prolonged inundation. The Seasol hose-on application is ideal for lawn, simply attach to your hose and spray over your lawn. Each 2 litre spray container will treat up to 100 square metres of lawn.

Tips for wet and compacted lawns

Where soils are wet and compacted they can be aerated and lightly top dressed. Seasol Lawn Top Dress Mix has all the ingredients the lawn needs to grow and prosper in one bag and is ideal for late winter top dressing and to help revitalise soils

Remove weeds and, where areas are bare, rake over the surface, apply Seasol Lawn Top Dress Mix and reseed or use runners to get the grass growing again. Keep new plantings well watered and apply Sessol Lawn & Turf Starter weekly for six weeks. Hold off applying lawn fertiliser such as PowerFeed LawnFeed until warm conditions return and new growth starts to appear in spring.

Out with the secateurs – it’s rose pruning time

Late winter means it’s time to hard prune roses. Indeed in warm, frost free gardens roses may already have been pruned and surging back into life. Start by roughly cutting each rose bush all over. If a branch is hard to cut, bend it towards you. If it is too thick for secateurs or hard to reach, use loppers.

Get out a pruning saw to cut off old woody stems low to the ground. Aim to leave a framework of three to five main stems on a standard or bush rose. Use secateurs to finish pruning by cutting back the roughly pruned stems to just above an outward-facing bud.

Pruning tips

When pruning also remove stems that are badly affected by scale and cut out spindly growth along with branches that are crossing over each other. Also remove suckering stems from the base of the shrub below the graft union.

A word of caution: don’t remove water shoots. These lush red shoots are not suckers but new stems that are part of the rose’s regrowth and arise from above the graft.

Clean up by removing all prunings (put them in the wheelie bin, not the compost). Spray the pruned rose and the ground around it with lime sulphur to control pests such as scale and diseases including black spot. When new growth appears, increase watering and apply a fertiliser such as Seasol plus Nutrient Roses & Flowers.

Top tips on preparing soil for spring planting especially, in the vegie patch

Soil provides air, moisture, nutrients and anchorage for plants to grow and flourish. The better the soil for plant roots to grow, the better the resulting plant. Not many soils are ideal for growing productive plants without a bit of preparation before seed sowing and planting begins.

  1. Clean up and clear out Remove weeds, unwanted plants and debris including roots and stones. This gets rid of impediments to growth, removes potential sources of pests and diseases and reduces competition for moisture and nutrients.
  2. Add nutrients Most soils benefit from the addition of fertiliser before planting. Spread and lightly rake in pelletised or granular soil improvers such as Seasol Plant + Soil Booster. Alternatively add a layer of organic matter and compost and/or Seasol Super Compost or animal manure and work it in. Water well after applying fertiliser. Ideally leave soils for a week after applying fresh manure and before planting. Liquid products such as Seasol Liquid Compost are a no-dig way to incorporate compost prior to planting and can improve soil structure. If water fails to soak in to soils, apply a soil wetting agent. Hose-on products are easy ways to apply soil wetters to a large area or use a watering can for a smaller bed.
  3. Watch and wait If there’s time between soil preparation and planting, wait a few weeks. This break allows weed seeds in the soil to germinate. As they appear turn them into the soil using a spade or chip them out with a hoe. Cover the area with a layer of organic mulch to prevent more weed growth. When it is time to plant, move aside the mulch to create planting rows.

Aloes and succulents for colour

Aloes bring bold flowers to gardens in winter. These tough, spiky succulents produce spires of flowers that are highly attractive to nectar-feeding birds. Named varieties available in the ‘Aloe-Aloe’ range have extended the colour range of aloes to include pink, white and bicolours as well as the familiar hot reds, oranges and yellows. Aloes are native to South Africa.

As well as enjoying spiky aloes, there are other succulents for winter colour. Readily available are kalanchoes including the variety ‘Freedom Bells’, which grows well in a hanging basket to display its cascades of red and orange tipped Christmas-bell flowers. The flowers last well, so buying a basket in flower will brighten up winter for many weeks.

Successfully planting succulents into pots

Not all succulents enjoy cold winters. Some are highly sensitive to cold and frost and can also suffer when conditions are wet through winter. Protect sensitive succulents by growing them in pots with free-draining potting mix such as Seasol Advanced Potting Mix designed for succulents and all plants (except phosphorous-sensitive Aussie natives) and positioning containers in a dry, sheltered spot.

When planting your succulents water them in with Seasol to reduce transplant shock and aid establishment. Succulents don’t need a lot of fertiliser so liquid feed with PowerFeed All Purpose including Natives (mix 20mL of concentrate per 9 litres of water – standard watering can) and apply monthly through the growing season.