“Throughout spring, the energy in the garden is palpable, with the warmer weather inciting new buds and blooms. This month we hear again from Kelly Beauchamp, our helpful gardener and owner of Tate’s Nursery, who provides us with seasonal ideas for helping plants burst to life this spring. ”
What are your five ‘must-do’, timely tasks for the garden during spring?
I feel the most important job to do before any spring project starts is to take a walk around and really assess your garden. Have a good look around, and see if your garden is giving you the pleasure it should. You may see a problem with a plant, or identify an area that you may like to screen for privacy, a thinning patch of lawn, or you may feel it just lacks some colour and personality.
By spending this time in the garden, your own five ’must do’ tasks will become clear, as different gardens will have differing needs. However, my own ’must do’ list goes like this:
Wake up your garden with a light application of an organic based fertiliser. As the ground starts to warm up, it is the perfect time to kickstart your garden. A general purpose organic based fertiliser is all that is needed for the majority of your plants. You could also use this in conjuction with a liquid seaweed base fertiliser, for faster results. Think of the liquid fertiliser as the ’berocca’ for your garden, and the organic base fertiliser the multivitamin.
It’s a really good time to undertake some pruning. Your plants will respond quickly with a covering of fresh, new growth – especially if this is combined with fertilising. It is also a great time for big renovation pruning, if you feel that is what some of your plants require. The risk of frost has passed and with the ground warming up, your plants will shoot in no time.
Do not mistake fertilising your plants with soil improving. Ideally, most garden beds should have some organic matter added to them this time of year. It will encourage earthworms and will also keep the root systems of all of your plants happy. It can be as simple as some cow manure added to your bed before mulching.
Mulching is one of the most important jobs to undertake. Do not underestimate the value of using mulch in your garden, it will take care of so many jobs for you: it improves the soil as it breaks down, keeps the moisture in the soil, keeps the weeds at bay, and will generally improve both the look and the health of your garden. By taking the time to mulch your garden, even though it may seem like a big job, it will repay you many times over.
The planning and planting is what makes all the other tasks worthwhile. Exploring your options and choosing what to plant next makes even the most back-breaking work all OK.
Spring in bloom … which trees can we look forward to seeing drop their petals like confetti in a bright (albeit brief) and dazzling show?
Nothing seems to herald the beginning of spring like a blossom tree. For this climate, I would recommend the crabapple; it will perform for you year after year, regardless of the season. Other suggestions would be the varieties of flowering plums. Do not forget that stone fruit will also supply you with a dazzling display of blossoms as well.
What are the best flowers to sow during spring?
There is always so much to choose from when sowing seeds in spring. Petunias in all the varieties are always popular, but do not dismiss snapdragons, cosmos, dianthus and marigolds. Whilst not seed, consider planning for some summer flowering bulbs; early spring is the perfect time to plan a garden filled with lilliums. Dahlias should also be investigated at this time – so easy to grow and return so much to you with the amount of beautiful, bright flowers they offer.
When should evergreen plants, such as lavender, be cut back?
As a general rule, all plants should be cut back right after flowering. Each plant should, however, be considered on its merits. Sometimes a light haircut is all that should need to take place and sometimes a much heavier prune, to bring a plant back into shape.
Myself, I try to follow a little but often technique. This still allows the plant to recover quickly and will also encourage the plant to flush again with flowers. Do not forget that even the worst pruning job is still preferable to no pruning at all.
Dividing an orchid can be a sensitive business. What’s the best way to divide and pot orchids after flowering?
Mention orchids, and it is likely you will hear tales of woe. Orchids are very tough plants, and it is likely that if you haven’t had a great deal of success, you have probably given it too much love, rather than not enough. There are only a few ’rules’ to consider when dividing an orchid.
Firstly, look for healthy bulbs; they will be green and plump, with good looking foliage. Aim to split the orchid (perhaps with an old bread knife) into clumps of three to five healthy bulbs. By doing this, it will ensure the plant will flower for you again next year. If you leave smaller clumps of bulbs, it will just take a lot longer to flower. Remove the bulbs with no foliage, and take away any roots that appear to be damaged.
When repotting, select a pot that will be a snug fit for your bulbs; orchids do like to be tight in their pot, so do not be alarmed by this.
Lastly, a good quality orchid mix and a small amount of slow release fertiliser will keep them happy. A shady position with a little morning sun and regular but sparse watering will repay you with blooms again next year.
Just about everything will likely appreciate a feed at this time of year. When should spring-flowering plants be fertilised (during or post bloom)?
Fertilising is a little like pruning – feeding even at the ‘wrong’ time of year is better than not doing it at all. If you were to be correct, like pruning it should be done after flowering. It is important to remember just how well these jobs go together. Neither one of them is as effective by themselves, as they are when combined.
Which veggies should be sowed early, before summer temperatures become too hot for planting?
Planning your summer veggie garden is an exciting business; there is so much to choose from. All leafy crops can be planted now … think silver beet, rocket, spinach and endless lettuce varieties. Zucchinis, cucumbers, squash, pumpkins, sweet corn are all good choices for this time of year. Spice things up a little with different varieties of chilies and capsicum. If you haven’t grown an eggplant before, give one a go. They are so easy to have in the garden and will offer you a terrific crop. Tomatoes in all their different forms should go in the ground now. And what would summer be without basil; look out for the different varieties that are becoming available. All can be planted now.
Any other tips for those with a green finger who eagerly await spring gardening?
Get in and have a go in the garden; it doesn’t have to be big projects that turn your garden into your piece of paradise. Yes, mistakes will be made along the way, but gardening is a learning curve at the best of times. Jump in, get your hands in the dirt, then sit back and admire what you have created.
Thank you Kelly. Interview by Karen Farrell.
This story was published in issue 68 of the Manning-Great Lakes Focus