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Winter is coming

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April is here. Those in isolation will think time is going slowly, but seasonal-wise we are already in the second month of autumn, which is one of the loveliest months for gardening.

There are many jobs to do this month in preparation for winter – one of the most important is to remove the fading summer annuals and prepare garden beds and pots ready to plant out pansies, primula and poppies. Anzac Day is the traditional time to plant out poppies, but gardens must be prepared at least one week prior to planting by digging in poultry manure and an all-purpose plant food.

Pots will need fresh potting mix – plant a mix of primula and pansies for a colourful winter display.

Winter vegetables, which I must warn you are in very short supply this year due to high demand and, I imagine, a production slowdown during the drought, prefer an alkaline soil – hence the use of poultry manure.

The most requested is silver beet and spinach, which generally have a 20% dump age rate. It is a mystery, perhaps because so many are unfortunately spending time at home.

Like vegetables, spring bulbs will also be hard to source as some major suppliers have shut down due to the virus. It may be possible to obtain bulbs from The Diggers Club at Dromana in Victoria, which supplies by post.

This year we should all be happy to see deciduous trees drop their leaves as, during the drought, many looked sad due to lack of water. My catalpa standards are extremely brown and will enjoy a winter rest.  

When the trees drop their leaves, don’t forget they are a valuable source of mulch. Don’t rake them up and send them to landfill – either compost them or simply leave the dropped foliage to return goodness to the soil as Mother Nature intended.

This is an ideal month to divide perennials like over-crowded agapanthus, clivia, iris and violets, all of which can be split successfully. Perhaps lonely neighbours may like a surprise left on their doorstep during this worrying time.

Stuck indoors? Check out your houseplants – some may need repotting or feeding, which should be done by the end of April.

Though in our coastal areas we don’t getting many trees display autumn foliage, the Sasanqua camellias are just beginning to bloom.  

These plants are hardy and great for hedging, growing in the full sun or shade. They have missed our normal rainfall this year but are great survivors – an application of peat moss around their root surface will be most beneficial.

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