Summer garden pests and diseases

Posted by | Garden Design, Garden Maintenance, Landscape Advice, Pests and diseases, Seedlings, Snails, summer gardening, Summer gardens, Uncategorized, Vegetable gardens | No Comments

Snail

Many common garden pests emerge as the warmer months ensue. By mid to late summer, if allowed to proliferate unchecked, these pests can cause serious damage to plants. Healthy plants will always have a better chance at resisting the scourge of pest infestations; working on the overall health of your garden will minimize the impact of common pests and diseases.

Common pests and diseases include…

Snails and slugs – familiar to us all, there are many home remedies for controlling snails and slugs. Labour intensive but effective, is manually removing them by torchlight, on moist nights, when they appear on paths and lawns to feed. You can set out beer traps, saucers of beer, which the snail are attracted to then remove the snails by hand – two hours after sunset is the best time. Many chemical controls are dangerous to other children, pets and animals – snail pellets with an active ingredient of iron sulphate are a safer solution however still dangerous to dogs if consumed in quantity. Far and away the most important step you can take is eliminating habitat; snail and slugs hide away during the day in leaf mold, under pot rims, in rock borders etc. – if you keep these areas clean, you can limit the number of snail and slugs in your garden.

Aphid

Aphids

Aphids are tiny, prolific sucking insects, commonly green however can also be black, brown and pink. They attack new growth on ornamental flowering plants like roses as well as many vegetables. They weaken the plant by sapping nutrients and damaging the plant stems and buds and making the plant vulnerable to diseases.

Aphids can be removed manually by squishing the aphids, wiping and spraying them off with water. Alternatively, they can be controlled with soap sprays and white oil.

Scale

Scale are similar to aphids, scale are sucking insects however are immobile and appear as small, dry, white bumps on the surface of leaves and stems. They weaken the plant similarly to aphids.

Scale can be removed by manually brushing from the leaves and stems with soap spray. There are chemical products available to help control serious infestations.

Thrip and mites

Difficult to see because of their size, the effects of thrip and mites are obvious on your plants when you have an infestation on your hands. Spider mites affect azaleas in particular, causing the leaves to appear stunted and bronze in colour.

Control mites by installing aerial spray irrigation systems as the mites cluster on the underside of leaves and can be inhibited by regular spraying with water. Chemical miticides are available but not always effective. Biological controls such as encouraging lady beetles and other ‘good’ garden insects as well as under-watering from spring through summer will help minimize the impact of thrip and mites.

White fly

White flies

White flies infest the shady lush parts of your vegetable garden, clouds of tiny, irritating white insects emerge when disturbed. They feed on the surface of leafy plants such as lettuce, silverbeet and parsley. They damage the leaves and cause them to appear mottled and unhealthy.

White flies can be controlled to a degree with pyrethrum and soap sprays. Their numbers fluctuate seasonally and during periods of high humidity you just have to wait them out.

Mildew

Sooty mould, powdery mildew and downy mildew are all fungal infections that occur on the leaves of some plants. Encouraged by high humidity, they create a dusty film and patches of grey and white fuzz on the leaves – the spores are spread by wind.

Control by removing infected foliage and applying fungicides such as sulphur dust,

Black spot

Black Spot

Black spot is a fungal disease commonly affecting roses and fruit trees, black spot attacks the leaves causing them to whither and drop prematurely. As with most fungal diseases, it is encouraged by humidty.

Leaves affected by black spot should be removed and disposed of in the garbage – do not compost. Plants can be sprayed in late winter to prevent any outbreak with a copper based fungicide.

 

Summer pruning tips

Posted by | Garden Advice, Garden Maintenance, Hedges, Ornamental Trees, pruning, summer gardening, summer pruning, Uncategorized | No Comments

hydrangeaThere are a couple of great reasons to prune our flowering ornamentals and fruit trees in summer…

Summer pruning and removing spent flower heads encourages repeat blooming through the end of summer and on into autumn. With roses, for example, removing not only the spent flower but cutting back 30cm of stem, will encourage an additional flush of long stemmed blooms on the end of the cut branches within six to eight weeks.

Generally speaking, summer pruning retards growth where as pruning in winter prior to the growing season, encourages vigorous regrowth. Pruning in summer, especially for deciduous plants, give you a good opportunity to do some formative pruning while the plants are in foliage and you can really see how the framework looks and how each plant relates to the space around them. Keep in mind that removing too much foliage exposes the plant to more sunlight and just like us, plants get sunburned; citrus and crepe myrtles are particularly susceptible.

Hedges are also great candidates for a summer prune once the mad spring growth has slowed down. A summer tidy up should see you through to their next burst of growth in autumn.

Here is a list of plants that enjoy a prune after they flower in late spring early summer:

Azaleas & rhododendrons

Spirea

Flowering crabapples

Hawthron

Hydrangeas

Magnolias

Philedelphius

Laurel

Serviceberry

Acid Lovers…

Posted by | Acid loving plants, Camellias, Courtyard Garden, Garden Advice, Garden Design, Garden Maintenance, Mulching, Ornamental Trees, Soil pH | No Comments

Camellia101-2Acid loving plants…

Both feared and revered by gardeners, the acid loving plants include popular garden ornamentals such as azaleas, gardenias, daphne, camellia, pieris and rhododendrons. Producing some of the most beautiful and wonderfully fragrant blossoms, these plants can be problematic for gardeners, as generally, they prefer a pH of around 5.5; this lower pH allows them to absorb the nutrients they require.   Along with their particular pH requirements, these plants are sensitive to their microclimate and soil/water conditions.

Valuable maintenance tips for our acid loving plants

 

Check and balance pH levels

Acid loving plants can survive in soils with a pH range from 5 to 6.2 however prefer the pH to be between 5 and 5.5. You can use a home pH test kit to test your soil – pick one up at your local nursery.  Soils that tend to be too alkaline or have a pH that is too high can be remedied by using the right selection of mulch and compost materials. A good solution is to use leaf mold; it tends to be acidic and breaks down quickly, making it excellent mulch that will also build the organic matter in the soil and lower the pH. If the pH needs adjusting there are many products available that introduce combinations of iron & sulphur into the soil to increase acidity and lower pH.

Mulch

As acid loving plants tend to require a soil rich in organic matter, mulches that break down have the added benefit of building the soil as they compost. Choose mulches like lucerne & pea straw. Using a long-term mulch like wood chips will require a separate program for maintaining the organic matter in the soil below and as the root systems of these plants are sensitive, is not ideal. Rhododendrons and camellias have shallow, fibrous root balls, which need to be kept cool and moist.

Irrigation

Regular watering is essential so choose a suitable watering system so either a well placed drip system or over-head system is preferred. Irregular, deep watering is not recommended as it causes the plants to drop their buds. Aerial sprays are an excellent choice for maintaining azaleas as spraying the underside of azaleas helps control spider mite infestations – a common pest affecting azaleas.

Pruning

Only ever prune these plants to shape or when hedging azaleas – otherwise it is not required. Disbud Camellia japonicas to improve the quality and size of the blossoms; remove excess flower buds along stems for optimal spacing and leave two buds at the terminus of the branch only. Rhododendrons can be deadheaded; take care not to damage the nodes beneath the blossoms on the stem otherwise there will be no new growth or flowers next season.

Soil Maintenance

This includes checking and improving drainage and amelioration. Improve clay soils by adding organic matter and using gypsum or clay breakers where necessary. Sandy soils can be built up with the addition of organic matter.

Fertilising

In soils with significant deficiencies, feed acid loving plants with a fertiliser designed specifically for the needs of acid loving plants. They contain added iron and sulphur to help maintain a low pH and often also include a soil wetter to aid in maintaining soil moisture:

Disbud

To increase flower size and vigor of the japonica camellias, remove excess flower buds along stems for optimal spacing and leave two buds at the terminus of the branch only.

rhododendron_lem's_cameo

Irrigation…

Posted by | Garden Advice, Garden Design, Garden Maintenance, irrigation, Landscape Advice, Mulching, Vegetable gardens, Watering | No Comments

Impact_Sprinkler_Mechanism_2Gone are the days of running the sprinkler during hot, lazy summer afternoons. Residential irrigation systems are becoming an essential management tool to maintain our gardens while supporting water saving initiatives.

One of the key steps to designing your irrigation is to understand the water requirements of your plants and the natural attributes and deficiencies of your site. Conditioning soil and mulching will maximize water retention and should be considered an essential element of your ‘irrigation system’.

You can divide your garden into primary, secondary and minimal hydro zones:

  • Primary hydro zones include turf, entranceways and formal beds as well as vegetable plots – these types of gardens require regular supplementary watering.
  • Secondary hydro zones include established ornamental beds with shrubs and small trees that require routine but minimal supplementary watering.
  • Minimal hydro zones are those that require little or no supplementary watering.

As well as helping you choose the right type of irrigation, these zones can also be used to manage your overall irrigation system, including a schedule for soil improvement and rebuilding mulch.

Primary and secondary hydro zones can be fitted with a combination of spray and drip irrigation systems. All spray sprinklers lose water due to weather condition and evaporation but are essential for irrigating turf or large zones. Drip systems are much more efficient and are generally easier to maintain. The most common sprinkler fittings are as follows:

Pops up sprinklers – excellent for turf as they are submerged when switched off so do not create a hazard or incur damage. Not great for garden beds as vegetation can interfere with spray.

Fixed spray sprinklers – installed on risers in garden beds, these can be set to a fixed radius or pre-set arc so maximize efficiency. These work particularly well in garden beds with established plants and fixed requirements.

Rotator nozzles – can be installed and rotate in a sweeping arc. These work well to cover large areas but are only effective in calm weather conditions.

Drip irrigation – the most water efficient irrigation system for garden beds. Minimal water loss through evaporation, no interference from weather conditions.

All spray sprinklers lose water due to weather condition and evaporation.

The other essential component of your irrigation system is the system sensor and computer – these are small devices either fitted to the main tap head or fixed to a wall or fence. The system sensor measures rain, soil moisture and evapotranspiration and transmits this data to the system computer. The system computer regulates the timing and flow rates to your garden. You can have single or multiple hydro zones with varied timing and flow rates for the perfect soil moisture balance.

Watering…

Posted by | Garden Advice, Garden Design, Garden Maintenance, Uncategorized, Vegetable gardens, Watering | No Comments

4581-gardenwaterleadUnderstanding your soil type is the first step to effective watering.  Soil types can be broken into three basic categories, loam, clay and sand.

Loam soil – Loam is the ideal soil type, it holds water and drains well and can be watered deeply and infrequently.

Clay soil – Clay soil holds moisture for long periods however if allowed to dry out can become hard and hydrophobic and water can just run off. It can be improved by tilling with organic matter and by adding gypsum. Water deeply and slowly so that water can soak through.

Sandy soil – Sandy soils should be watered frequently in smaller volumes as water tends to drain away and soil will dry out again quickly.

This diagram shows how water is distributed in different soil types:

images

Building a loamy soil by adding compost and organic matter, breaking up clay with gypsum and adding coco-peat to sandy soils will make a huge difference to your garden’s water needs.

Great elements for building soil are cocopeat, compost, green manure, composted animal manure, straw and worm castings.

As discussed in an earlier article Mulch, mulch, mulch  – mulch can potentially reduce your water requirements by up to 60%. Cover beds with 75mm of composted pine mulch or 40mm of pea or cane mulch for vegetable beds.

At the end of the day, the plants in your garden will dictate how much you need to water. Good garden design and understanding the cultural needs of your plants will allow you to make decisions about when and how much water needs to be added.

One you know your soil type and your plants requirements, you water accordingly. If you are hose watering, you can test the flow rate by measuring the time it takes to fill a 10L bucket, which will give you a good idea, of how much water you are applying. Add water directly to the root zone.

Rather than frequent, surface watering, deep watering through the root zone encourages deep root development. In the long run, encouraging deep root development circumvents the need for regular supplementary watering – do this for juvenile trees, shrubs and perennials to establish strong root development and cut down on water consumption in the future. Plants with naturally shallow or fibrous root balls such as Camellia’s will always need frequent, regular watering as well as a good layer of leaf mold and mulch to keep the root ball cool and moist. Pot plants, annuals and vegetables will need frequent, regular watering.

Installing irrigation systems cuts out the labour and along with developing your soil can provide a customized supplementary water program that will allow your garden to flourish.

 

 

Hedging outside the box…

Posted by | Courtyard Garden, Garden Advice, Garden Design, Hedges, Landscape Advice, Uncategorized | No Comments

Want to create or update a hedge using something other than the ubiquitous English box or Cyprus?

Here a some ideas for creating beautiful hedges using less common plants, to great effect…
photo2Strawberry guava or Feijoa sellowiana creates a dense, soft grey hedge with gorgeous flowers and delicious fruit…an edible hedge!
Lulu-FoliageThere are many varieties of Lily Pily being produced such as Syzygium australe and Syzygium luehmannii that make wonderful hedges. They are native and therefore much better suited to our dry climate. There are many, many cultivars being produced with a wonderful variety of foliage colors to complement their gorgeous, cream blossoms.
Port-Wine-Magnolia-Hedge-2The beautiful and fragrant Port Wine Magnolia or Michelia figo can be cultivated as a beautiful hedge.
ficus_pumilaB
Creeping Fig, Ficus pumila can be used to quickly cover ugly brick or masonary fences to give the appearance of a low maintenance, neat, dense hedge.
maxresdefaultSalt Bush, Rhagodia spinescens, has soft grey foliage and is extremely hardy. With it’s silvery foliage it can be used to great effect as a hedge.
Correa-pulchella SG-2Correa pulchella or Salmon Correa has deep green leaves and punchy salmon pink blossoms. It makes a great, low hedge and as a native, is is very hardy.

SONY DSC

Flowering Quince, or Chaenomeles japonica makes a beautiful hedge. It is available in the deep pink/red or white flowering varieties. The blossoms appear before the leaves in late winter and make a stunning herald to spring.

Camellia

Sasanqua camellias are the fine leaves, prolific flowering camellias with the looser, more adaptable structures that can be encouraged to hedge.
l_plum_gorgeous11Loropetalum chinense is most commonly seen in its pink form, which has variegated foliage that blends from green to burgundy. It is a common hedging plant in Asia.
Callistemon-Perth-Pink-1Some varieties of Callistemon or Bottle Brush lend them selves beautifully to hedging such as. As natives, they are very hardy. Callistemon ‘Perth Pink’ is a great example.

b7494bccf0e1b238cdede177afbe0e08Leptospermum are commonly known as Manuka or Tea Tree and some varieties lend them selves beautifully to hedging, with their fine foliage, prolific flowers and gorgeous range of colours.
63c67155bdf98b411cd4bbbfbba5f1d8Rose hedges will require ongoing maintenance but are worth the effort for the stunning blossoms and that unbeatable fragrance.
backhousia-citriodora-lemon-scented-myrtle-5339
Lemon Scented Myrtle can be cultivated into a hedge and with its scented foliage and soft white blossoms makes a beautiful alternative.

Successfully sowing seeds…

Posted by | Garden Advice, Garden Design, Raising seeds, Seedlings, Vegetable gardens | No Comments

pumpkin-seedlingSuccessfully sowing seeds…

Springtime, is the right time for sowing seeds for your summer vegetable and flower gardens. Purchasing seedlings may save you some time, however seedlings can be problematic and often do not transition well from punnet to garden bed.

The varieties of seeds you have to choose from is enormous so you can have fun experimenting with new and unusual vegies and flowers. It’s a great fun, rewarding family activity.

Here is a list of things you need to get started and a list of tips for a successful seed growing adventure…

Seeds! Check the packet for the sowing season if you are unsure whether you have the right ones.

Seed raising mix – seed raising mix is fine, light and sandy, perfect for developing strong roots.

Vermiculite – Vermiculite is an inorganic mineral material that used in soil mixes for its lightweight, absorbant properties. When raising seeds, vermiculite is mixed over the surface of the soil and seeds in the punnets to protect and retain water.

Punnets or seed cells – if you are recycling old punnets wash them thoroughly with soapy hot water to kill any lingering bacteria. Seed cells are great because there is minimal root disturbance when replanting. Plantable pots are another good option as you can pop them straight in the ground when the time comes.

Labels! Ice-cream sticks and a pencil will do the trick, so you can keep track of what’s what.

PR2000003745_card_lg

Misting hose nozzle or spray bottle for watering – Seedlings require regular, gentle watering and normal watering nozzles and rosettes will knock the soil out of the punnets.

A warm sheltered place to grow – most spring seeds need to be kept warm and moist in order to germinate. If you are serious about your seed raising, perspex seed raising boxes can be purchased however you can improvise; styrofoam boxes with a sheet of glass on top works – any solution that maintains light (not direct sunlight), warmth and humidity. Otherwise, a warm, sheltered spot in the garden will work as long as the punnets are not in direct sunlight, however seeds may take a little longer to emerge.

When you are ready for sowing, follow these basic steps to give your little seeds the best shot…

seed-packets-1209-m

Read the seed packets – this is obvious but very, very helpful. This will also be important information as you formulate your garden design plans for situating your seedlings. Your seed packs will tell you what the best conditions are for each particular plant.

Prepare your punnets – mix soil one part vermiculite to four parts seed raising mix.   Fill your punnets and seed cells to the top and tamp down by tapping them on a hard surface. Don’t push the soil into the punnets/cells, as it must remain loose so that the seedling roots can develop.   Keep some vermiculite aside to spread over the top of the seeds once you have sown them.

Sow your seeds – there is two ways to approach this step; you can sow the seeds singly so that you can plant them out once they are big enough or you can sow them in multiples and pick out them strongest once they have grown. Sowing them in multiples requires the extra step of thinning and sometimes ‘potting on’ as seeds that are sown to thick can suffer from dampening which is basically rot due to lack of air circulation.  It will also depend on the type of plant – leafy greens can be sown thickly as you will consume them in volume and in their entirety, but things like cucumbers, and zucchinis are better in singles because apart from the fact that they are much larger seeds, you will only need a half dozen plants for an average back yard vegetable garden.

How deep you sow the seeds depends on the size of the seeds. Tiny seeds can be cast on the top of the soil but larger seeds need to be covered. The general rule of thumb is the depth you sow them should be 2.5 times the diameter of the seed.

Once you have cast your seeds, cover with a fine layer of vermiculite.

Place your punnets in a warm, sheltered position in the garden and keep moist with regular watering. Punnets should not be allowed to dry out for any length of time.

Once the seedlings emerge, continue watering and feed weekly with a half strength liquid fertilizer

hypocotyl Tecomanthe speciosa

When the seedlings develop their second set of leaves, thin and pot on if necessary. When transplanting seedlings, hold them by their leaves rather than their roots as handling the roots can burn them. Use a ‘dibble’ stick to make a hole in the soil of the new pot deeper than the longest root, ensuring that the roots are never bunched up (this can cause deformities in the developing plant).

Continue as before until the seedlings develop their third set of leaves.

Begin hardening them off. Hardening off refers to the process of moving the seedlings from their ‘nursery’ of sheltered indirect light, to full sun. This must be achieved over at least a four-day period.

When you have hardened them off, you are ready to plant them out into the garden beds you have pre-prepared.   Regular watering must continue until seedlings have settled in. Mulching and fertilising are also necessary. Snail pellets are a must, as snails love juicy baby seedlings and can go through an entire crop in one night.

Goodluck!

bigstock-Farmer-planting-young-seedling-74599984-770x472

Magnificent Magnolias

Posted by | Courtyard Garden, Garden Advice, Garden Design, Landscape Advice, Magnolia, Mulching, Ornamental Trees, Uncategorized, Winter | No Comments

magnolia-soulangeana_magnolia-genie-flowerHeralding the coming of spring, Magnolias, especially the deciduous varieties hold a special place in the hearts of many a gardener with their stunning displays of large, fragrant blooms on elegant naked branches. Originating in Asia there are over 100 species and unnumbered cultivars. They are well adapted to Australian conditions and provided you give them a good position and adequate food and water they will reward you for many years.

Magnolias can be a little sulky for the first few years so feed them well when you first plant them with a good compost, build a well around the base of the trunk to direct water into the root zone and mulch well to keep the roots moist and cool. Choose a north or east facing position with shelter from hot winds and frost.

Here are 10 of our favorites with a brief description and their height and width noted so you can make a good choice for your site:

Deciduous varieties

magnolia_x_soulangeana_flowers_16-03-11_1-2Magnolia x soulangeana
cv. 3m X 3m; one of the old varieties and the basis of many cultivars Magnolia x soulangeana is perhaps the most common Magnolia seen in Melbourne gardens.

Magnolia_stellata_RJBMagnolia stellata 1.5m X 1.5m; a slow-growing medium-sized deciduous shrub of broadly rounded habit, flowering in early spring. This Magnolia is particularly stunning because of it fine white petals. It also comes in a pink variety Magnolia stellate rosea.

Magnolia-Caerhays-Belle2-590by387Magnolia ‘Caerhays Belle’ 7m X 5m; a very narrow, fastigiate shape, excellent for a small garden because it needs almost no pruning and has a beautiful fragrance.

Magnolia Philip TMagnolia ‘Phillip Tregunna’ 5m X 3m; an upright tree, with a vivid purple flower and a beautiful fragrance.

Magnolia rubyMagnolia ‘Ruby’ 3m X 2m; a beauty because of the beautiful, exquisite shape of the bud and also a white edge around each of the petals. Does well in a smaller garden and can be pruned to shape.

Magnolia vulcanMagnolia ‘Vulcan‘ 3m X 2m; a hybrid raised in New Zealand. The flowers are large, wine red and lightly perfumed.

Magnolia elizabethMagnolia ‘Elizabeth’ 4m X 2.5m; with perfumed primrose yellow fading to cream coloured flowers. It is later flowering than other magnolia varieties blossoming in late spring.

magnolia-royal-purpleMagnolia ‘Royal Purple’ 3.5m X 1.2m; a beautiful new magnolia from New Zealand; a narrow yet stunning column with 20cm cup and saucer shaped blooms, dark red purple with a gorgeous perfume. A great choice for a small space.

Evergreen varieties

magnolia Little gemMagnolia ‘Little Gem’ 5m X 2.5m; a very popular plant used as an ornamental lawn tree or as for screening and even hedging. It is an outstanding variety of Magnolia grandiflora with a compact habit, deep green discolourous leaves and large white blooms.

 Magnolia st maryMagnolia ‘St Mary’ 6m X 3m: A wider growing variety with large glossy apple green leaves. It is a hardy and versatile plant that will tolerate a range of conditions and is relatively pest and disease free. During the warmer months it produces beautiful, creamy-white, fragrant flowers and will flower from an early age.

Mulch, mulch, mulch

Posted by | Garden Advice, Garden Maintenance, Landscape Advice, Mulching, Uncategorized | No Comments

ch_wide_mulch_20121126231108575608-620x0
In our climate, mulching is one of the most sensible, cost effective treatments you can apply to your garden for all round positive results. Using the right mulch and using it the right way, can reduce the need to water by up to 60%, improve soil conditions, help minimize the need for manual weeding or herbicides and nourish your garden.

Your options for mulching are organic and inorganic. The inorganic mulches are pebbles, scoria and gravel – these should be used judiciously as they can be a challenge to maintain in some situations. Organic mulches range from lawn clippings, leaf litter, cubed mulches, baled lucerne or pea straw to the hardier composted bark mulches.

Organic mulches are your best option for overall garden health; as they slowly breakdown they encourage microbial activity and worms, which in turn nourish and oxygenate the soil as well as adding organic matter and improving soil structure. Good mulch will secure moisture in the top layer of the soil and discourage weeds, which compete with plants for nutrients and water.

Lawn clippings and leaf litter are a handy option, however are better put to use in the compost, as they are yet to breakdown. Using them as mulch can have the unwanted side effect of reducing the nitrogen in your soil, as the little microbes that will do the composting require nitrogen to go about their business. This is called nitrogen drawdown and anything that is not fully composted before adding to the garden can have this effect. It can however, be easily counteracted by applying a good fertilizer.

Cubed mulches, which are a chopped pea straw or lucerne, are easy to spread but will soften and break down quickly so are excellent as soil conditioners but not a mulch with any long term prospects.

Baled lucerne and pea straw are another great option, especially in productive garden beds as they supply all the benefits of good mulch but can be easily dug in to the soil at the end of a season to add essential organic matter. They are also inexpensive, easy to come by and easy to handle. Ordinary hay should be avoided, as it will invariably carry unwanted seeds.

If you are going for the bark mulch option, always choose composted bark mulch and select the grade or ‘coarseness’ carefully. Fine grade mulch can actually act as a barrier to water as it compacts and can also form a seedbed for unwanted weeds. The mulch should be medium to large grade and spread up to 7.5cm deep. These larger particle mulches allow water to trickle through to the soil and do not compact over time. Most of the bark mulches available to us are by products of the pine industry, which is an advantage, as these products tend to acidify the soil as they decompose which is great, as most plants prefer a neutral to lower pH soil.

Happy mulching!

mulched garden

Winter…where did my garden go?

Posted by | Garden Advice, Garden Design, Landscape Advice, Winter | No Comments

Cherry Blossom

At first glance, your garden may appear to be barely alive in the long, dark cold days of winter. Most of the deciduous plants will be skeletal versions of their springtime selves, the ground hard and bare where all the spring and summer perennials have rotted away, the summer grasses yellowing off…a general sense of stillness that could be mistaken for lifelessness pervades.

Appearances, as we know, can be very misleading. This period of stillness that occurs in our gardens is an essential time in the lifecycle of our plants. In fact, this dormancy allows us to enjoy many of things we consider most valuable in our gardens; foliage, flowers and fruit!

For many of the plants that originate in colder climates, winter is a time for conserving nutrients, rebuilding tissues and a whole bunch of other unseen yet essential chemical processes.

Deciduous plants typically lose their leaves; as the temperature drops the plants metabolism slows, resulting in a decrease in chlorophyll – the chemical used to turn sunlight into energy – which also gives leaves their green pigment. As the chlorophyll production stalls during the cold, the leaves of many deciduous trees, such as Liquidambar styraciflua – turn from green, to gold, to that lovely deep red we all love.

We all notice the summer grasses such as buffalo, kikuyu and couch yellowing off, with growth slowing to next to nothing. Most of us count this as a bonus of the cold weather…no mowing! These are winter dormant rhizomatous grasses and all return with renewed vigor as soon as the spring arrives.

During winter, while all but appearing dead, many trees hide their buds beneath layers of bud scales and actually need to be chilled for a period of time to cause them to burst forth into flower and foliage – cherry trees are one such tree. Bulbs are another garden favorite that require a sustained drop in temperature to promote growth. No cold, no flowers!

Apples need over a 1000 hours exposure to temperatures below 7°c to ensure the production of a hormone that initiates spring growth…no cold, no apples!

So there is magic going on quietly, beneath the cold surface in our winter gardens.

Already know what you need? Click here to contact us. CONTACT US FOR A QUOTE