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Hi Gardeners,

It is the beginning of winter and a feeling of contentment settles into the garden, signalling cold nights. Let’s take a moment to reflect upon the positive side to winter’s ways.

These cold mornings have a devastating effect on many garden pests like spider mite and aphids. Although some damage will occur to soft-leaf and fleshy-stemmed plants, resist the temptation to prune as this will leave the plants even more vulnerable during further cold periods ahead.

GENERAL PLANTING GUIDE

You have just arrived home with your new plants. Water the plants thoroughly each day and place in a semi-shaded position until you are ready to plant out the same day. Do not wave the hose across the foliage and pot but fill the pot with water two or three times, allowing it to soak away in between each water. Remember – plants in pots dry out much quicker than those planted in the ground, so you should plant your trees or shrubs as soon as possible after getting them home.

The first sign of stress is wilting of the tips and/or leaves and a plant still in its pot should be quickly immersed in a bucket of water and left until the bubbles stop. Sometimes, if the plant has been in this stressful state for a period of an hour or more, temporary damage can be done to the plant. However, most plants will respond to a thorough soaking. Now everyone can be a successful gardener. All you need is common sense and a little guidance. Following are some basic steps which should get your new trees and shrubs growing in no time and make you proud to have produced such results. Remember, plant a tree today for a cool shady tomorrow. When purchasing plants, take note of their height at maturity, preferred position and any special water requirements and match these carefully to your planting position. Water the plant thoroughly every day from purchasing to planting. Don’t let the pot dry out.

  • Dig the hole twice the size of the plant’s pot size. Dig a square hole not a ‘well’.

  • Blend soil from the hole with compost and blood and bone fertiliser.



  • Spike the hole with a garden fork to create good drainage. If the hole is not spiked, it may form a ‘well’ when the plant is watered.

  • Remove plant from pot and gently tease out any twisted roots from root-ball (with the exception of bougainvillea and native plants). Do not leave to dry out.

  • Place a portion of blended soil and compost into the hole, then place the plant in the hole so that the surface of the root-ball and surrounding soil is level. Replace blended soil around plant and firm down.

  • Mound soil around the top of root-ball to create a slight depression to catch water.

  • Add recommended rate of slow-release fertiliser e.g. Osmocote around top of root-ball.



  • Cover surface around the plant with mulch (e.g. tea tree, Lucerne, pine bark chip), to help maintain and prevent weeds. DO NOT build mulch up around the trunk of the plant as this can cause disease problems.

  • Water the plant thoroughly.

  • If required, place a garden stake outside root-ball of plant and push gently into ground. Tie plant to stake in a loose manner to allow plant movement and growth – remove when the plant is strong enough to support itself or it will become weak. Remove the label as it may tighten and cause stunting of growth.

  • Buy a photo album to keep your labels as future reference. That way they are not blowing away in the garden.

  • Maintain a strict watering pattern every day for a period of two weeks. After the two-week period, reduce watering until a pattern is found to meet the needs of the plant, soil and weather conditions.


Enjoy your plants!

GERBERAS

These have been one of the most popular plants grown in gardens for decades. Bearing single to multi-petaled flowers, in a large range of strong rich colours, gerberas can always be relied on to brighten the garden.

The gerbera bed should be sited where it can at least get the morning or afternoon sun without reflected heat from brick walls, etc and should be built up about 20cm above the surrounding ground. Soil should be free draining open loam to allow a good air supply to the plants root system.

Prepare the bed in advance by covering it with a layer (approximately 5cm) of very old compost. Apply approximately one handful of Rose Fertiliser per square metre to the bed, plus one handful of trace elements per four square metres. All this should be evenly turned into the soil. (Note - do not use undecomposed compost, fresh animal manure or grass clippings, as they can induce root rot fungi.)

Heavy clay soils can be improved by digging in larger amounts of compost and Gypsum to open up the clay. Lime may then have to be added to correct the pH due to the acidifying effect of the compost.

Carefully remove the plant from its container and hose away about one half of the potting mix. This allows the roots to extend out into the new soil, letting the plant become established quicker. Plant the crown of the new gerbera at, or slightly above, soil level in the prepared garden bed.

A light application of Rose Fertiliser at two monthly intervals should be sufficient to promote healthy plants. The use of fertilisers containing high nitrogen levels will result in excess leaf growth and reduction in flowering.

Gerberas may also be successfully grown in large pots (300mm in diameter or larger) provided that they are only fertilised with slow release for pots and a liquid fertiliser like Flourish. Soil pH should be maintained around 6.5 for best results.

There are some pests and diseases that can affect the gerberas, like black leaf spot, a fungus which can occur during the long dewy nights of autumn or during periods of showery weather. Use Copper Oxychloride. Red spider mites can breed under leaves during hot dry weather causing the leaf to have a mottled appearance. Caterpillars sometimes appear in the flower heads during hot weather and these are easily controlled by spraying with Dipel. Root rot, which occur during periods of prolonged wet weather, can be best controlled by drenching with Anti-Rot.

Happy Gardening,

Jill

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