Well. Things certainly do change a lot in a month. In fact, things seem to be changing by the day at the moment. It's a confusing time for all of us and we want to make sure you know that you can still rely on us for all your gardening needs and advice.
We've seen a huge increase in people planting vegetable seeds and seedlings, many for the first time. While it might be a sign of uncertainty, it also reminds us of other times when backyard veggie gardens have played an important role.
The Victory Gardens of the Second World War provided both food and morale as a symbol of collective effort. Australians were encouraged to "dig for victory". Hopefully, the gardens and veggie patches being planted now can be a similar source of comfort in these uncertain times.
April is a great time for planting, with plenty of warmth in the soil but no extreme temperatures—ideal growing and gardening conditions. In these troubled times, gardening is a rewarding hobby. It's an excellent form of low-impact exercise, a nice break from being stuck inside and social distancing is easy to maintain. Like most people, we have a lot of uncertainty at this time but, whether big or small, a garden certainly brings a little bit of joy to a lockdown.
As the weather cools but the soil is still warm, we should be looking at planting new season, cool climate plants that will see us through to spring. In flowers, this includes Pansies, Violas, Primulas and Poppies along with transeasonal blooms like Lobelia and Alyssum.
In veggies it’s all about the Brassicas—cabbages, caulis, kale, and broccoli are all ready to go right now. Silverbeet, spinach, lettuces, rocket and strawberries can also be planted. As for seeds, broad beans, carrots, peas and beetroot are great options at the moment.
Most herbs do well at this time of year and parsley, chives, coriander, mint or thyme are fantastic for adding fresh flavour to whatever you're cooking. Always plant into a good potting mix or improve your soil with Blood and Bone, organic pelletised fertiliser, Zoogro or your own compost. Water in your new herbs and veggies with a seaweed fertiliser like Maxicrop to start your garden off on the right foot. Follow up with a balanced liquid fertiliser every two weeks or a complete powdered fertiliser every four to six weeks.
Your veggie garden's biggest enemy is the caterpillar of the Cabbage White Butterfly, which love munching away on new plants. They are easily controlled in a few ways—Pyrethrum or Natures Way Pyrethrum Plus Oil are both very effective but they do break down in sunlight. I always spray at dusk to maximise effectiveness through the night. You can safely pick herbs and vegetables by lunchtime the next day. Dipel is another very safe option for edible plants.
- Feed up Gardenia plants, as well as Buffalo, Kikuyu and Couch lawns this month to fatten them up for winter. Their next effective feed will be in spring. Always water in any dry food!
- Feed Citrus trees, Azaleas, Pieris and Camellia shrubs to ensure they are successful over the next few months, their most productive period.
- As Helleborus start to grow, their new foliage is often infested with aphids, which you can treat with Confidor or Bug Killa. Feed to encourage more flowers and prune off older, unsightly growth.
- Give roses their last feed of the season with a high potash fertiliser to keep them flowering into Winter.
- Flowering veggies like Brussels sprouts, broccoli and cauliflower also need a high potash fertiliser to stimulate flowering.
- Pruning robs the plants of stored nutrients so hold off on substantial pruning until winter for woody plants and August or September for herbaceous plants.
- Snails are about so always use snail protection, especially on new plantings. My favourite is the iron-based Multiguard which can be used safely around pets.
- Start a compost heap! Ideally use a mix of wet ingredients, such as kitchen scraps and lawn clippings, and dry ingredient,s such as autumn leaves and newspaper. Add a little organic nitrogen to fuel the aerobic bacteria and aerate regularly with a fork. If you use carboniferous material like Plane and Pin Oak leaves, add extra Blood and Bone to balance things up!