THE GREAT OUT­DOORS

Ev­ery­thing you know about gar­den­ing might be wrong

Sunday Herald Sun - Stellar - - Front Page - By Neale Whi­taker Neale Whi­taker is co-host of Fox­tel’s Love It Or List It Aus­tralia on Life­style, and a judge on Nine Net­work’s The Block.

Isus­pect there is a di­rect cor­re­la­tion be­tween my sud­den urge to write an out­door col­umn and the fact that I have re­cently ac­quired a cou­ple of acres. In Lon­don many years ago, I lov­ingly tended a tiny, aro­matic herb gar­den with an old French miroir rest­ing against an ivy-clad wall. And in Aus­tralia, I’ve raised cacti, suc­cu­lents, jas­mine, frangipani and an im­pres­sive num­ber of agaves and cy­cads. If you can terracotta-pot it, I’ve done it.

But now we have some land and a ride-on mower. We’re talk­ing to our neigh­bours about dams and na­tive seedlings, and just writ­ing those words fills me with a mix of ex­cite­ment, an­tic­i­pa­tion… and anx­i­ety. Small won­der then, that in de­vour­ing ev­ery use­ful col­umn inch my not-so-green thumbs can find, a re­cent post by Queens­land-based hor­ti­cul­tur­ist Adam Wood­hams (adamwood­hams. com.au) caught my eye. And in an un­usu­ally warm spring, with sum­mer on the hori­zon, it seemed like a good idea to share.

Ap­par­ently my sum­mer evenings, hosepipe in hand, were all in vain. Evening is not the best time to wa­ter, as wa­ter­ing af­ter a long, hot day can cause ex­ces­sive evap­o­ra­tion. The best time to wa­ter your lawn and plants is early morn­ing, when the soil has cooled overnight. Nor is sum­mer sun­shine a one-size-fits-all for­mula for suc­cess. Pot­ted plants in par­tic­u­lar have dif­fer­ent needs de­pend­ing on species, and Wood­hams rec­om­mends wheeled dollies to move larger plants in and out of the sun, avoid­ing po­ten­tially dam­ag­ing ex­tremes of tem­per­a­ture.

His ad­vice may be ripe for sum­mer, but I had to ask Wood­hams what we can be do­ing right now – in spring – to pre­pare our gar­dens for the hot months ahead. “Spring is the time for a few sim­ple tasks that will have your lawn and gar­den sum­mer­proofed and look­ing healthy,” he ex­plains. “The first thing is to feed the lawn with a qual­ity, slow-re­lease fer­tiliser to im­prove its tol­er­ance to harsh sum­mer con­di­tions and re­sis­tance to weeds. Then spread a soil wet­ter to en­sure that any rain or wa­ter soaks deep into the soil in­stead of run­ning off.” And like most gar­den gu­rus in my ex­pe­ri­ence, Wood­hams rec­om­mends a good layer of gar­den mulch (at least 4cm thick), al­though as an am­bas­sador for Victa he also ad­vises switch­ing your mower to mulch-mow­ing mode to turn clip­pings into su­perfine mulch that is then blown back onto the turf. Pass me the ride-on man­ual.

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