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Preparing your garden for Summer

Wondering what to do with your plants purchased at our Native Plant Sale at Wilson Botanic Park?

Firstly, thanks to all the visitors to our recent native plant sale at Wilson Botanic Park, Berwick. It was a successful day with lovely weather, and lots of people had trolley loads of plants. Congratulations to all raffle prize winners as well.

If you bought larger plants, then you will need to get them planted or in larger pots straight away before the weather warms up. If you bought tubestock, these can also go in the ground, or you may like to repot them into larger pots and keep an eye on them till Autumn, when they can be planted out. As tubestock have a smaller root system if planted out you will need to keep an eye on them in terms of watering. However they should establish and grow well as they have not been root bound. This is the roots growing around the pot or a thick mesh of roots, a sign the plant has been in the pot too long.

Other more general garden things to do at this time of year include considering mulch levels, the plant history of your garden and neighbourhood, and also thinking about the visitors to your garden- animals and insects, and making your garden a home for them.

Top up your mulch- test the soil first to see if water is soaking in, and if it isn’t use a wetting agent. Water crystals may also be dug into the soil/old mulch before adding more. Leaving them on the surface encourages snails. It is best to spread mulch after some rain, and leave a space around the base of each plant.

Consider your garden's microclimates and plant accordingly: water-hungry plants are best planted in sheltered positions and grouped together to maximise watering efficiency, as are vegetables.

Water infrequently and deeply rather than little and often. Plants adapt to longer watering schedules by developing deep, dense roots which cope with dry spells more easily. Think about moving the plant if it is really struggling.

Remember what did well last Summer and check again this Summer. Maybe some plants just aren’t going to make it through hotter drier summers. See what does survive and plant some more. You might like to visit the carpark area at Wilson Botanic Park to see what is doing well. The native plants are now all with name tags so bring a notebook for some ideas.

Put in some bird baths and keep them full. Place them so birds have shelter, somewhere to perch and watch for cats. While birds love grevilleas and banksias, cater also to other birds with bottlebrushes (insects in the flowers) grass (seed) and if you still have some exotics in the backyard, focus on some fuchsias, Chinese lantern bushes (abutilon), buddleias (insect attracting) and kniphofias (red hot pokers) all of which birds also love.

Don’t use chemicals in your garden. Most plants can deal with an insect attack, and birds will soon come and deal with the problem for you. For instance, scale, which is common on some eucalypts, is full of sugars and nutrients and is a food source for birds and their young. Keep soil wetting agents away from ponds and waterways as they are toxic to water creatures.

You may like to consider having a small undisturbed wild area with fallen bark, leaves and grasses to encourage an insect base. Predator insects will move in and help deal with other pests such as earwigs. Insect hotels are becoming popular, as are native bee homes.

Replace your lawn with natives- at least out the front where lawns are not needed. Dichondra repens and the native violet Viola hederacea are both good groundcovers for shady areas, with running postman Kennedia prostrata for sun. Mulch ground thickly now, and plant up in winter.

Water pots in the cool of the evenings when there's less evaporation, and mulch all pots. Hanging baskets may need a good soak every so often with some wetting agent in the water. Keep an eye on them in the hot windy days. Tuck in some extra coir fibre for birds nesting needs.

Water crystals and soil wetting agents can help the soil to absorb and retain moisture over the drier months. If you are watering by bucket, add some soil wetting agent whenever the water starts running off instead of soaking in.

Take care of your bonsai – Wilson Park APS had a demonstration on native plants as bonsai last year, and Tracey recommended a long tray with a layer of pebbles in water. Bonsai pots on the pebbles don’t get waterlogged and stay moist through summer.

But most of all, enjoy your garden and the warm weather!

(some parts of this article from ABC Radio Canberra website)

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