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Summer Brings New Challenges in the Garden

On the whole, spring has been kind to our gardens on the golden plains. November has been a cool month, with plenty of cloudy days, and enough rain to hold soil moisture late into the season.  We have spent the last week ensuring we tidy up fuel hazards around the home and ensuring our garden is well prepared for summer.

Mulch is all spread and irrigation repaired where necessary. Any spring pruning is now done to reduce required moisture and harden exposed foliage prior to summer heat which can burn recently pruned plants. Water tanks are and have been full for quite some time but instead of letting overflow disappear out into the street I water areas which tend to dry out first.  Plants surrounding my larger trees are the main areas. I water just before rain. This moistens the soil surface so the rain penetrates deeper, knowing my tanks will fill up again at the same time.

Although I would not recommend it largely, we have been planting out ornamental garden beds too.  Planted this late in the season you see instant gratification with almost immediate growth but must keep a close eye on watering.  Without an established root system plants planted at this time of year do require additional care however it’s the time of year when I have the most time to get out in the garden and enjoy it with the beautiful long evenings and extended daylight hours.  If planting now ensure you only plant what you can maintain.

In the vegetable garden corn and pumpkin are now in and if yours aren’t, be quick. Beans went in too but these can be staggered and planted right up until January with great success.  I will plant basil in coming weeks with the evening temperatures climbing up. The tomatoes are growing rapidly and have required their first ties onto their hardwood stakes put in at planting.

The orchard is still progressing nicely and must be netted soon. Cherries are just starting to get a red blush and should be ripe before Christmas. Apples are laden as are the plums. Crops are down on nectarines due to leaf curl, the cooler damp season providing ideal conditions for it to thrive. No matter what the weather I always find it benefits some things and disadvantages others.  In the end it all averages out I guess!

Composting accelerates as the weather warms with organic matter breaking down faster so long as moisture is adequate. Make the most of it adding all your scraps and left overs inside the home and out. It’s great to have big pile of ready to use compost at summers end, and as the real planting season approaches.

As much as I love plants, we all have busy lives, and I largely stay away from plants which require fussing over, I just don’t have that much time to dedicate to one plant when I want to grow so many!  I will however water a few chosen plants throughout the summer as they require. The value in some plants makes them worth the extra attention and cost of water whether it is sentimental, productive, the time and/or cost of replacement or other. Sometimes I see plants in gardens neglected to die when 5 minutes worth of water or basic care would see them through another year to become more established and resilient.

Now I’m sure I’ve spoken about them before, but it has been great to see Hot Pokers flowering around town. We have a winter flowering variety, aptly named Winter Cheer in our garden but seeing them flowering now I have had to mail order some varieties which I do not have. I cannot wait until they arrive in coming days.  Some cultivars flower right into summer too.  They are a very hardy plant which clump a little like agapanthus.  Dwarf varieties flower from 60cm tall; their larger cousins can produce flowers up to 2m high. Check them out - google Kniphofia to see how stunning they really are. I guess you could call it my plant of the month!!

To those who visited the two open gardens in Teesdale last month, well done!!  I’m sure you would have enjoyed the day, learnt a lot and helped raise valuable $$ for our local CFA, in fact just over $1,000 was raised.  A special thanks therefore must go out to the hosts of these gardens,  Jutta and Ian for their generosity and commitment to the open garden scheme in 2013. 

Finally, thank you to all those who have offered positive feedback, having read my articles throughout the year.  I am Looking forward to a wonderful festive season, and a great 2014.  


Chris Hose