- THE long spells of dry winter weather can make your soils water repellent. Now’s a good time to use soil wetting granules to make the most of any storm rainfall.
- If you haven’t done it yet, prune azaleas to keep them nice and compact, and give them a feed with azalea fertiliser. Spray them with Confidor to protect the leaves from the dreaded azalea lacewing.
- The wet humid weather is heaven for vegetable caterpillars and grasshoppers. They can strip leafy green veggies overnight. Hand remove or spray with a natural spray (such as Dipel or Success) every couple of days. Remember that water washes the spray off, so repeat after rain or overhead irrigation.
- Tunnelling ants are active and can cause headaches in pot plants. Drown them by watering with soapy water, maybe with a few drops of a pyrethrum insecticide.
- Paw paw trees that have grown too tall cut be cut back now. Cut the stem to 1m off the ground and cover the cut top with a large can.
- Prune back grevilleas by a third and feed them with a low phosphorus fertiliser. This simulates being burnt back in a bushfire and stimulates them to grow more branches. More branches mean more flowers.
- Don’t forget to slip-slop-slap when you go out in the garden, even if it is for a short period. Try to do most of the work in the early mornings or late afternoons, so that you miss the heat of the day. Take a water bottle with you too – keeping well hydrated is just as important.
- Tidy up the garden for Santa. He doesn’t think too highly of a messy garden.
- Passionfruit can be fertilised now using a citrus and fruit tree fertiliser.
- If you’re growing melons, as they set fruit, the water supply should be reduced considerably as over-watering at this stage will encourage the formation of tasteless fruit.
- Hygiene is terribly important in the control of black spot on roses. On a regular basis gather up any diseased leaves that have fallen on the ground and dispose of them carefully. Don’t put them in the compost heap.
- Watch for aphids on soft shoots of citrus and roses, check for beneficial insects such as hoverflies and ladybeetle larvae before controlling them. If some of the aphids look like little brown balloons, they have been parasitised by a micro-wasp. Spray Natrasoap as a least toxic control in the absence of predators.
- Bananas need regular removal of suckers to produce healthy plants. Each clump of bananas should be made up of a mature plant, a half-grown plant and one sucker only. Preference in sucker selection should be given to those on the side of the plant where you wish the clump to move in.
- Make your backyard mossie unfriendly. Don’t leave water lying around in pet bowls or pot saucers too long.
Plant tomato, capsicum, snake bean, okra, eggplant, sweet corn, lettuce (leafy varieties), radish, sweet potato, cucumber, zucchini, choko, pumpkin, rockmelon, watermelon and rosella.
Plant cosmos, marigold, salvia, zinnia, begonia, celosia, gomphrena, sunflower, torenia, ageratum, aster, impatiens and coleus.
Main image: Scented daphne (Phaleria clerodendron)