Here are our top five garden spring cleaning “must do’s” to ensure healthy plants over the coming warmer months.
No matter where you are in Australia, spring calls for an overhaul or revitalisation of your garden, veggie patch or orchard.
With the change of season there is a rise in ambient temperature, meaning a rise in both air and soil temperatures as a whole. This may be a small or large change, depending on where you live. For those in the higher peaks and ranges this won’t happen for quite some time yet.
Wherever you are in Australia, your spring cleaning can begin with pruning, weeding, vegetable garden bed preparations and garden design.
Here are our top five garden spring cleaning “must do-s” to ensure healthy plants over the coming warmer months.
1. Mulch your beds
As the temperatures rise and we get rain, humidity and increasing hot days, make sure soil is well covered with well composted manures and mulch. This is to ensure lower evaporation rates from your soil whilst increasing soil water holding capacity.
This will also provide structure to sandy or well-drained soil. In high clay or poorly-drained soils perhaps think about raising or mounding your gardens or use any slight naturally sloping ground to help with drainage.
This is a great time to use that compost that has aged in a pile over winter. The plants you put in over spring will love a good feed for that initial growth spurt.
Compost teas and worm juice are great tonics for seedlings. You can also start a new compost pile to get you through to next spring.
3. Prepare for wind
Another challenge for this time of year can be the wind. If it is a new garden think about your potential hazardous wind directions and design wind breaks.
Establishing microclimates is very important in any garden design – particularly permaculture – because it ensures a longer and more successful growing season.
Aspect is another important factor as this will give you early daylight and warmth in winter. NE is always a good one. Although in the Tropical North you may like a SE aspect for growing some of your favourite leafy greens.
4. Water regularly
A lot of annual plants will bolt to seed fairly quickly at this time of year if they are exposed to infrequent water intervals. Daily monitoring will help with knowing how much or how little water to use.
If planting seedlings ensure they are fresh and not old stock as these will bolt to seed as the weather warms.
Plants bolt to seed (particularly annuals) if they become stressed. This sends a signal to the plant that it should complete its life cycle, which means flowering and setting seed. So allowing some plants to dry out, such as coriander, lettuce, Asian greens, and basil for example, will encourage this.
5. Plan your crops
Start thinking about what you would like to grow and harvest within say one to three months, which scarily brings us almost to Christmas!
Work out what is regularly eaten in your household and how much and plant accordingly, remembering to add some extras to share with others.
For all of Australia, diversity is the key.
If you have a range of herbs, vegetables, fruit trees, native and exotic flowering species in your garden you are going to encourage a wide variety of insects, animals and birdlife to it, to hopefully help you to create the balance which nature intended.
If raising seed at home start planting short-lived annuals as these will grow with the changing seasons.
So what can you plant now?
It is quite an exciting and challenging crossover time. For the north of Australia and our hotter regions there is quite a lot that can be grown and what is already established can be continued to be grown.
All leafy greens, including Asian vegetables, can be planted now. Pumpkins, tomatoes, zucchinis and cucumbers can be planted now because if left until later in the wet season or increasing humidity, mildews and rusts will become a problem. There are a lot of herbs and spices too such as basils, cumin, and fenugreek.
For cool areas such as the peaks and ranges, try kales, spinach, silverbeet, Asian greens, sprouting broccoli and cabbages now. Perhaps raise your seed in a warm protected area and then transplant out.
Grow herbs now such as sage, parsley and coriander. Some kale can be grown to -40 degrees. Again think about a microclimate and aspect. Otherwise try raised beds. Another trick for frost and snow is watering times. Keep soil dryer and water only in the morning or middle of the day.
For the southern rim of Australia, such as the coastal areas, there is a cross-over of the two above extreme regions. Try planting any of the above. Divisions and cuttings of plants and planting of bare–root stock are also done now for your region.