WATCH THAT WATERING
Most houseplants grown for spring and summer displays require far less water during winter than most would think, and PETER CUNDALL says it doesn’t hurt to start reducing that amount of water right about now
Go easy on large-flowering florists cyclamens ... Thousands are killed every winter due to over-watering by over-enthusiastic owners
Temperatures are perfect and conditions relatively dry for healthy outdoor work right now. Here are a few jobs, which if carried out over the next week or so can rejuvenate exhausted or neglected gardens.
Lay turf or sow seed to create new lawns. Cool moist weather immediately ahead ensures success. Apply lime to moss patches in existing lawns and where layers of ‘thatch’ – dead grass occur to speed up decomposition. Also, sprinkle lime over flower beds destined to grow annual or biennial plants during later winter and spring.
Late autumn is an ideal time to plant camellias, rhododendrons, azaleas and ericas, all of which will produce winter and spring flowers this year. Continue to purchase and plant spring bulbs. Include un- common ones such Baboon Flower (Babiana spp.) and be sure to plant bulbs deeply for superb, royal blue flowers.
Jockey Cap (Tigridia pavonia) is another outstanding bulbous plant which goes in during autumn. The huge, bright red, orange or bi-coloured flowers have a startling beauty and thrive in Tasmania.
Perennials such as Canterbury Bells, delphinium, gypsophila, lupin, ornamental kale, oriental poppy and herbaceous peonies can go in now as seedlings or divisions for unforgettable spring and summer colour.
Go easy on large-flowering florists cyclamens. Thousands are killed every winter due to over-watering by over-enthusiastic owners. Always wait until potting soils have started to dry out before adding more water.
Most houseplants grown for spring and summer displays of foliage and flowers require far less water during winter so start reducing the amount they receive. Don’t make the mistake of placing waterfilled saucers beneath containers. Waterlogged potting soils are the biggest cause of house-plant loss during winter.
Groom existing house-plants by removing diseased or yellowing leaves and always clear away decaying debris from
surfaces of potting soils. Root bound houseplants can be re-potted now while soils are still warm.
The best tonic for winter-flowering houseplants is very weak liquid fertiliser.
In the vegetable garden it’s a perfect time to plant garlic and sow broadbeans, English spinach and in well-drained, frost-free coastal districts, early peas.
Also harvest pumpkins before frosts strike and store under cover on layers of cardboard.
Those green tomatoes still hanging can be saved by pulling entire plants, roots and all from the ground. Hang upside down from a beam in a garage or garden shed so the tomatoes can continue to ripen, safe from frosts.
Leaf vegetables such as cabbage, cauliflower, Brussels sprouts, broccoli, lettuce, silverbeet, Chinese brassicas and English spinach are best fed with extra-weak fish emulsion every three weeks.
Beds which will be growing grow onions, asparagus, globe artichokes, celery, winter brassicas and lettuces are limed in autumn.
Help control diseases and pests by raking up all fallen fruit and removing all clinging mummified stone fruit. Most fruit trees are best mulched to suppress grass and weeds. All badly suckering passionfruit are best grubbed out replaced in October. Codling moth trap bands must be completely removed from apple trees and destroyed.
Plant new certified strawberry runners into clean soil and discard all plants more than three years old.
This is one of the safest times of the year to transplant small evergreen trees or shrubs while keeping root-balls intact. Many of these plants have relatively compact roots, so are easily lifted. Prepare new planting holes first and if dry, fill with water three or four times. Soak plants to be moved so wet soil clings around roots, then carefully lift each plant keeping rootball intact and undisturbed.
Those with tight, fibrous roots are the easiest to transplant and include aucuba, abelia, azalea, buxus, camellia, chamaecyparis, citrus, cryptomeria, cupressus, dicksonia (remove all fronds first), erica, escallonia, felicia, fuchsia, garrya, gordonia, hebe, hypericum, juniperus, kalmia, kerria, Laurus nobilis (Sweet Bay), lonicera, michelia, most palms, rhododendron (even large specimens), taxus, viburnum, weigela and yucca.