There’s still plenty of time to spring into action
While it seems like the plants in your garden are going gang busters all by themselves right now, there are still plenty of jobs the keen gardener can do to keep on top of the workload, according to PETER CUNDALL
November in Tasmania is always a time of frantic growth.
That’s because our plants are receiving extra sunlight and soil warm enough for even the most tender plants. Keep fuelling this vigorous spring growth by sprinkling fertilisers around most ornamentals and especially by feeding the soil in the vegetable garden where the demand is most urgent.
Most trees and shrubs are content with one good feed every spring.
Rhododendrons, azaleas, camellias, ericas and other ornamental shrubs benefit when thick layers of sheep or pulverised cow manure are spread generously – but always well clear of main stems to avoid collar rot.
Meanwhile here are a few jobs worth doing this month.
Start dividing congested bearded iris clumps immediately flowering finishes by cutting away dead rhizomes and replanting healthy increases after trimming the leaves back.
Withered rhododendron flower-trusses are best snapped off at necks leaving the new growth buds and shoots just underneath undamaged. Old, straggly rhododendrons, especially those of R. fragrantissima and Pink Pearl can be safely pruned back to junctions, to stimulate new shoots low down.
Prune back or thin spring flowering shrubs as blossoms fade. When lilacs finish blooming, remove dead flower heads leaving branches intact.
In the vegetable patch, plant seedlings of tomato, capsicum, summer cabbage, lettuce, basil, celery, celeriac, Brussels sprouts, kale, pumpkin, winter squash, zucchini and silver beet. Wait a week or two before planting cucumber and eggplant seedlings.
Directly-sowing seeds of root vegetables always produce healthier and heavier yields, especially varieties of carrot, beetroot, parsnip, spring onion, swedes, turnip, radish and kohlrabi. Sweetcorn grown directly from seed never looks back while bush and climbing bean seedlings hate
Pour in plenty of weak liquid manure every few weeks and remember it’s almost impossible to over-feed rhubarb
transplanting – so buy seeds every time and sow direct.
As weather condition start to become dry, deeply water rhubarb clumps and snap off all flowering spikes. Pour in plenty of weak liquid manure every couple of weeks and keep in mind that it’s almost impossible to over-feed rhubarb.
In the fruit garden, start thinning apples, pears, peaches, apricots and plums for bigger, tastier fruit. Constantly pick off and take away all small apples showing signs of codling moth grub attack.
When the first pear and cherry slugs appear on leaves, scatter builders’ lime over all the foliage – but be sure to stand up-wind to avoid being covered.
New raspberry and brambleberry shoots are best tied in as fast as they grow while strawberry plants should be kept groomed remove dead leaves and deformed fruit.
Blueberry bushes need lots of water and weak liquid fertilisers made from decomposed manures.
Long grass and weeds growing close to fruit trees and bushes are stealing nutrients at a crucial time. Mow them off then smother all new growth with heavy mulching materials.
All container-grown house and tub plants become vulnerable to drying out during this time of maximum growth so increase the amount of water applied. Also clean up potting soil surfaces to remove mouldy leaves and other debris to avoid diseases.
Regularly syringe room-temperature water over all ferns grown indoors. Most large-flowered florists cyclamens have been blooming since mid-winter and many are looking exhausted. As blooms and leaves wither, gradually allow potting soils to dry out. Sadly, these plants are prone to disease as they age and rarely flower prolifically the following year. Tuberous-rooted begonias are already shooting into new growth and with care, light feeding and constant dead-heading can produce spectacular summer-long blooms. The great killer of these beautiful plants is always too much water. So only apply more water as potting soils show signs of drying.
And when out in the garden be sure to wear a hat. Skin cancer is deadly – I write from bitter experience having just had a number of sinister-looking sun-spots, painfully cut out - and this year the danger appears particularly threatening.