Get your house in order
The growing season is about to begin in earnest. Time to plant seeds, propagate shrubs and wash those greenhouse windows, says Mary Lovell-smith.
• Sow root crops – such as beetroot, carrot and parsnips – directly into the soil. Be a little adventurous and add swede and turnips to your seed shopping list this year. Baby turnips and fresh swedes are a true delight. • Plant potatoes (if their sprouts are about 1cm long) and Jerusalem artichokes. Sow capsicums, chillies, eggplants, melons, pumpkins, and tomatoes in trays under shelter, ready for planting out when the last frost is well over (in most places this won’t be until deep into November to be safe). There is no advantage to planting them out too early, as any cold weather will check growth. Set pheromone codling moth traps on apple trees and check them every now and then. When the numbers caught start to build up, it’s time to spray.
• Glasshouses should be prepped for the new growing season – wash all the glass with soapy water and replenish the soil with compost. If you’re planning on growing tomatoes or cucumbers, then get the strings ready for them to climb up. Even when growing tomatoes outside, a string dangling from a stake makes for easy tying up of tomatoes – simply twist it around the main stem every time it grows 12cm or so, or more often if the main stem looks like it needs it.
• Sow annuals such as clarkia, cornflowers, godetia, larkspur, poppies directly into the garden. More tender annuals, such as zinnias and asters may be sown in seedtrays and planted out in November. • Plant summer-flowering bulbs and tubers, such as gladioli, hippeastrum, lilies, zantedeschia and dahlias. Increase your stock of light shrubs – such as abutilon, fuchsia and tuberous begonias, among others – by cutting off new growths and inserting them in pots of sandy soil. Moisten well, and plant out in garden when a good system of roots has developed. Once autumn-sown poppies and Russell lupins start flowering, dead-head regularly to prolong their flowering.
• Spring means new growth, and new plants. Keep a look out in garden centres and catalogues for some of the season’s hottest newbies. • Compact plants are ideal for smaller gardens – for example ‘Dwarf Snack’, a most cute capsicum, growing no more than 35cm. Tibouchinas are more commonly purple and spreading, but ‘Peace Baby’ is white and compact, reaching a metre by a metre and flowering from autumn to spring. Look out for the new fragrant white lupin wowing gardeners. Lupinus nanus ‘Snow Pixie’ grows only 35cm high and matures in 90 days.