Jump start on spring – what to do now for great results later

Has the wet autumn we’ve had meant you have a backlog of jobs to do in the garden?  Are you running behind the weeding?  Has your garden started to look more like Borneo and beautiful?  If you’re feeling overwhelmed by the task ahead, now is not the time to panic.  Just follow these simple steps, and your garden rescue plan is in place.

Ten Steps to Success

  1. Leaves are still falling and lying on the ground, which is great for areas under trees but not so good for lawns, which struggle to grow with shorter day lengths anyway. Think about raking, mowing up, crown lifting or thinning out canopies now to let more winter sun into your yard.
  2. Weeding is a top priority now, as the rainfall has turbo charged plant growth and weeds have capitalised on it. Three good things about weeding now are that the earth is still soft, and they pull out easily.  Weeds generally come into flower in later in the season too, so if you take them out now, you don’t get another crop of seeds.  Finally, the weather is great during the day now – cool enough to enjoy working outside.
  3. Pruning and winter go hand in hand. It’s a great time to do major renovation pruning, like cutting back an unwieldy wisteria, jumping on the jungle-like grapevine or reducing the size of mature shrubs that might have outgrown their welcome.  Plants like oleander, photinia, hibiscus, and viburnum can be pruned hard (more than 50%) if you need to recover some space.  Citrus trees than have become too tall for you to pick the fruits from properly can also be reduced to a manageable size, but bear in mind that you might lose some of the fruit it you don’t remove it first.  Don’t waste them though – preserving your fruit in syrup, salt, or freezing the juice are simple ways of saving them for later!
  4. In the vegie patch, it’s not too late to plant winter vegetables like kale, lettuce (they are like gold atm, but we have supplies!) and mustard greens. You might also look at preparing your soil with some green manure.  This could be as simple as sowing broad beans or peas (think snow, sugar snap or regular podding varieties), eating the first few crops from them and then digging the whole lot back into the garden in mid-August when you’re thinking summer vegetables.
  5. Raise your vegie seeds for spring plantings. If you are interested in beating the world crisis on Sriracha sauce, you might need to start hoarding chillies and growing your own!  They can’t be planted outside till the risk of frost has passed, but you can raise them inside in a sunroom facing north, then pot them into small pots for planting out later.  Ditto tomatoes, eggplants, and capsicums.  As a rule of thumb, you can start your seeds indoors about 6-8 weeks before the typical last spring frost for your region.
  6. Flowers and spring are synonymous with each other, but if you are missing out at your place, right now you can plant French marigolds, snapdragons, calendula, pansies and violas. In the native range you can still plant Cut-leaf or Brachyscome daisy and paper daisies. 
  7. Bulbs are beautiful spring flowers, but many people don’t realise that there are summer flowering bulbs that get planted now. Think hippeastrums, Liliums, Callas, Alliums and Dahlias.
  8. Do you have areas that the summer soaking has shown up as being poorly drained? You can address this by fixing the problem by raising your garden beds, increasing the soil porosity by adding organic matter, or selecting plants that cope with boggy conditions, like canna lilies, for example.
  9. Make compost! Winter composting might take a bit longer, but it’s a great time to move those bags of grass clippings, prunings, leaves and manure around to a heap and create a wonderful, layered heap ready to break down and be ready for spring and summer soil improvement.
  10. Indoors is a place of refuge, especially post 5pm when it’s dark so soon. Amp up the green indoors and use your indoor plants to clean the pollutants from the air that gas heating, paint and new furnishings can let off.  Five plants in a room make the air 75% cleaner…and ten have the maximum health and wellness effect according to w RMIT study.

By: Meredith Kirton