Suddenly everything looks bigger, greener and much more flowery. As the growing season takes off in earnest, we get the beauty of blossom and the thrill of new leaves. But spring also brings a cornucopia of weeds, a growth spurt for lawns and a fast-closing window for timely tree planting. It’s hard not to feel a little frantic.
As the days lengthen and the sun gets warmer, the trick is to find the right balance between hands-on activity and put-your-feet-up pleasure.
As the days lengthen and the sun gets warmer, the trick is to find the right balance between hands-on activity and put-your-feet-up pleasure.Credit:Gerry Angelos
This is the season for basking in the beauty of metre-high borage, marching euphorbias and frothy crab apple trees but it’s also a time for uprooting what you don’t want, pruning hedges, trimming shrubs that have finished flowering, reviving pots and plumping up beds.
Let’s start with weeding, because while every gardener will opt for a different balance between reigning plants in and letting them ride, all of us will invariably have at least some unwanted specimens that need pulling. Sometimes there will be so many you will need to be strategic. Tackle the most visible areas first, then the beds with the least weeds as well as anything that is about to set seed.
But there are really no rules, especially now that more of us are starting to think about gardening as a process of fostering whole ecosystems. Stinging nettles, say, provide food for ladybirds, which feast on aphids, which have a nasty habit of tucking into almost every plant you love most. Leaving nettles be can have an upside.
As for all the weeds you do remove, not to mention all the other debris you generate from the tidying, trimming and lawn mowing of spring, make sure you have space for it in your compost heap. Extract all your mature compost and apply it to beds, along with mulch, to encourage worms and microbial activity. The more lively your soil the more healthy your plants.
There’s also still time to sow a green manure mix on beds you are saving for yet-to-be-planted edibles. These medleys of fast growing legumes and cereal grasses, which should be dug into the soil before they start fully flowering, will add organic matter, build nitrogen stores and enhance soil structure. But, a word of warning, it will put the bed out of other action for other planting for at least a couple of months because you will need to allow between four and six weeks of green-manure growing and then up to a month for the dug-in material to begin decomposing.
And while we are talking edibles, if you are propagating tomatoes, capsicums, eggplants and other such summer crops from seed you should be staggering your sowing indoors now. But it’s perfectly possible to skip this bit entirely and, in another month or two, buy seedlings that can go straight into the ground.
Other seedlings, like lettuces, other leafy greens and herbs can be planted now, including in pots on balconies. Pamper them with fresh potting mix and your crops will reward you for it. It’s also the time to repot – or plant – ornamentals in new potting mix because all the goodness will have been drawn out of the old stuff, which you can add to the compost.
The same goes for houseplants. Replant them into the same container with a slight root trim or into a slightly larger pot. It’s also time to up the indoors watering and to start checking on indoor plants at least once a week.
Moving back outside, it is a good time to fill any gaps with perennials or annuals that will be able to grow into their space in time for summer. Most trees and shrubs, though, are better planted in autumn and if planted now will only need extra cossetting through the dry heat of summer.
As always, one of the best ways to get ideas – for both what you like and what you don’t like – is to visit other peoples’ gardens and Open Gardens Victoria is currently outlining on its website the wide variety of gardens it is opening through to early December.
But once you are inspired to stock up at the nursery, resist the urge to get what is looking at its showiest now. By the time they are settled in your own garden they will already be past their prime for this season. Better to choose plants that are yet to hit their stride.
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