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Gardening

Hi Gardeners,

We are experiencing beautiful winter weather; however we desperately need some more rain.

THE BIRDS AND THE BEES

You will notice Kangaroo Paws starting to appear in nurseries. They are rich in nectar, attracting pollinating birds like honeyeaters and silvereyes. The larger Kangaroo Paws have very long stems topped with furry paw flowers originating from clumps of strappy leaves.

The amount of space in your garden will dictate the varieties you wish to plant. They need an open, sunny, well-drained position with compost added to the sandy soil. A slow-release low phosphorus fertiliser can be used. Most are resistant to ink disease, a fungal disease which blackens plant leaves, however a regular application of Liquid Potash and Silica will help.

As birds feed on the lower levels of the flowers and move up to the higher levels, planting Kangaroo Paws of the same height work well for the birds.

Another plant that likes similar conditions is the Grass Tree with spires up to three metres high. The spike is on a short wooden stalk and opens from the base. Each flower, cream in colour, has a tiny six-petalled star, with ants, hoverflies, butterflies and some native bees loving their nectar. With a lovely mop of grassy foliage, it is excellent for landscaping, especially in sandy soil. Honeyeaters and lorikeets also love the nectar and pollinate the plants.

All grass trees are slow growing. Plant in a well-drained composted sandy soil in either sun or filtered sun.

After planting give it a drink of one cup of brown sugar in five litres of water. Do this at least three times a year for the first couple of years. This produces mycorrhiza, helping the root system of the plant.

Have a large variety of plants in your garden that produce seeds, fruit, nectar and blooms, which birds and bees are attracted to. Sit back and enjoy their life and yours.

VINES AND FRUIT TREES – A TIMELY REMINDER

Grape Vines

Fertilising in late winter or early spring is essential, as this is when the new growth is starting. Discretion is required with the use of Nitrogen. Ensure a low nitrogen content so as to not encourage vigorous growth of canes. A regular fungicide spraying program during the growing period is necessary, with the first spray at bud well and the second spray at bud burst. Do not spray when the vine is flowering.

Passionfruit

Remember your vine is shallow rooted requiring a good deep watering every five to seven days. Mulching is really handy. However, when mulching any plant do not let the mulch touch the stem. Vines planted in spring give a light crop in autumn and will bear fruit in the following summer. Fertilise with a Citrus and Fruit Tree Slow-Release fertiliser in spring when growth starts and then give them a light dressing of Sulphate of Ammonia every three to four weeks in summer. The fruit usually falls to the ground when ripe.

It is now time to plant Citrus in your home garden.

Lemonade trees are hardy and very productive, producing several crops in a year. Fruit can be eaten like an orange or made into an excellent juice.

Lime trees are medium size with some thorns. The fruit has a true acid lime flavour and makes a refreshing drink.

Oranges

Washington Navel is a medium size tree with a drooping habit. Easy to peel and matures around April to May.

Seedless Valencia is a large vigorous tree. Matures around August and is great eaten fresh or juiced. This Australian variety is a bud variation of Valencia and differs in that the fruit is more oval in form, less seeds and matures slightly earlier.

Valencia is king of the juice oranges and is very popular in home gardens. A large tree with sweet but slightly acid taste. Great for eating.

Mandarins

Imperial is of medium height with slender leaves and few thorns. Nice smooth skin with very few seeds becoming puffy when left on the trees. Fruit matures in April to May. The fruit will need thinning out and pruned back after harvest. These are not susceptible to white louse scale and gall wasp.

Emperor is another medium height tree with pale orange coloured fruit and numerous seeds. The fruit matures in May to July and is great for coastal areas.

Fig Trees

Black Genoa or Brown Turkey are the best varieties to grow, with Black Genoa being the most popular, fruiting from October to March. They grow to 2.5-3m in the ground but will do really well in a pot, growing to approximately 2m. They lose their leaves in winter and this is when they should be fed with a Citrus and Fruit Tree fertiliser. They love our humid conditions, but remember to water early in the morning. A problem to be aware of is anthracnose, which will appear on the leaves as a yellow, black or brown spot. This can be treated with a copper or sulfur fungicide. No overhead watering, as this will also cause this problem.

If you are feeling decorative and exotic, how about growing some of the above trees or vines.

Happy gardening,

Jill

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