Autumn – The Big Picture
Plants are extremely smart. Look in a forest. They know how to co-exist with other different species.
- They share the available food sources
- They work together to maximise the use of moisture in the ground and the available sunlight.
- They passively resist the fire, wind, sunlight and mans’ attempts to remove them and regrow stronger than ever when faced with such crises.
However, there is one exception. An invasive "Bush", in the United States, threatens to cause havoc throughout the world – not very smart. Locally we have a "weed" from Canberra that could cause as much trouble. Maybe we should all stroll through a forest to refocus on the nature of things.
The Sulphur-crested Cockatoo is the greatest pest on the Surfcoast. The Cocky loves living on the Surfcoast because he has an abundant food supply (some foolish people even feed them) and lots of games to play. His/her favourite game is "Eat the Holiday House" and then sit in a nearby tree on a Friday night and watch the weekenders turn into apes.
Actually what is happening is that a Cocky’s bee grows about 2 inches (50cm) per year and he needs to constantly file it away in order to eat properly. The soft woods of our houses provide a comfortable method of keeping the old bee in check.
Home owners have come up with some ingenious methods of keeping the Cockies away. Rubber snakes on the roof, pergola and balustrading seem to be effective. Please write to me if you have other suggestions. Anyway, as usual, I am slightly digressing from my gardening topic.
AUTUMN – THE MEDIUM PICTURE
Whether you are just starting a garden or preparing to renew an old one, start with the soil preparation. Firstly, look at the soil structure. Your soil will be either very find sandy soil that when you rub it in your hand turns to dust or heavy clay. In both cases the soils are very fine particles that definitely need propagating sand (large particles added to them). The addition of the large particle sand will enable deeper water and therefore root penetration and much faster growth rates.
Your new plants need water in the first year or so to make them grow. Utilise your grey water, stormwater or town water to get them going and mulch around plants to maximise the benefits of the water regardless of the source.
The availability of trace elements in small amounts is essential to healthy plant growth. SULPHUR, CALCIUM, MAGNESIUM, MANGANESE, IRON, COPPER, ZINC, BORON, MOLYBDENUM. They assist the plants to absorb and utilise the major elements.
THE MAJOR ELEMENTS -
NITROGEN increases the protein content of all plants and gives rapid growth to leaf crops such as turf, lettuce and cabbage. Deficiency symptoms include yellow leaves, stunted growth and burning of leaves.
PHOSPHORUS makes the plant hardy, stimulates early growth and root formation and assists the production of flowers, fruit and seeds. Deficiency indicated by weak roots, spindly growth, delayed maturity and no flowers and fruit production.
POTASSIUM more frequently called potash, aids in the production of starches and sugar. Plants needing potash cannot resist disease. Growth is slowed, and leaves look scorched, particularly on the tips and margins and the fruit is shrivelled.
* NEARLY ALL GARDENS ON THE PENINSULA AND SURFCOAST ARE DEFICIENT IN TRACE ELEMENTS. ASK YOUR NURSERYMEN FOR A SMALL PACK (ABOUT $6 FOR 250gm) AND YOU WILL BE AMAZED AT THE DIFFERENCE
JOBS FOR MARCH
- Prepare the vegie garden by adding lime and blood and bone (a handful to the square metre) and dig in material from your compost bin.
- Plant sweet peas. Soak the seed in water overnight and fill the hole with water the day before planting. Sweet peas love lime so add a handful to the soil and dig in. Remember to place snail bait around each grouping of seeds.
- Fertilise native plants with nitrogen and potash once we get rain. Fertilisers containing phosphorous could burn roots.
- Cut back any summer flowering shrubs that look a bit straggly.
- Lawns – fertilise with quality lawn food like Scotts Lawn Builder on the first day of rain.
- Flowers – sow seeds or plant alyssum, calendula, cineraria, hollyhock, pansy, polyanthus, poppy, primula, stock and viola.
- Vegetables – beetroot, broad beans, broccoli, cabbage, carrot, cauliflower, celery, chinese cabbage, lettuce, onion, peas, radish, silver beet and spinach.
- Bulbs – Fantastic colour for later winter and spring. Need well-prepared ground with lots of organic matter in well-drained sunny position. Place bulbs in crisper of your fridge for one week prior to planting.
Warning – Freesias on the surfcoast have become invasive and a threat to the surrounding bushland. Ensure that seed is removed from the stems after flowering.
McGain’s Nursery is open everyday in the Industrial Estate, Anglesea.
Tel: 5263 3841 Peter McGain has been designing and building beautiful gardens since 1971.