Welcome to 2022 and to another great year in the garden. Best wishes to everyone for a happy, healthy year, and hopefully it will bring rain just when you need it and no frosts until April or even May!
If you took the plunge and spent time away from Armidale over the Christmas / New Year break, you may have returned to overgrown lawns and waist-high weeds that you're certain weren't there when you left!
Do a quick circuit around your garden beds with a bucket in hand and pull the seed heads off any weeds that are already spreading seeds, or are about to release them. That will give you a bit of breathing space for a few days until you can get back to them.
If your lawns have also taken on an overgrown form, when you do your first mowing for the first time in a while, it's best to take only about a third to a half of the length off. Maybe give the lawn a water and/or some seaweed solution, especially if it's quite hot, and then, after it has had a few days to recover lower the mower to its usual height and give the lawn another trim.
Lawns benefit from regular water and light applications of nitrogenous fertiliser through summer. Spray with an appropriate weedicide, if necessary, for broadleaf weed control. It is a good idea to keep a separate watering can for use when applying weedicides to avoid costly errors.
Agapanthus are a classic easy-care plant that are looking good at the moment. Remember that the traditional blue or white orientalis agapanthus, (the common non-hybridised form) is a declared environmental weed in Victoria, having invaded bushlands and roadsides and a potential environmental weed in NSW, Tasmania, SA and WA. The finished flower heads go to seed quickly, so taking the time to remove the finished flower head while the seed is unripe will prevent plants from seeding and prevent any problems. Hybridized cultivars such as Queen Mum, Cloudy Days, Black Pantha and Lavender Haze set very little seed and are not invasive.
With the warmer weather, make sure to keep the birdbath topped up, not just for birds that visit your garden, but for smaller insects, such as bees and other beneficial insects such as hoverflies, lacewings, lady birds and predatory wasps.
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There are a still a few jobs to do in the vegie garden if you didn't fit them in around Christmas activities, particularly if you went away for a while.
Net crops of stone fruit, figs, apples and grapes against bats, birds and possums. Fruit protection bags are available for protecting individual fruit or bunches of fruit, or you can protect the whole tree. Remember that you need to use netting that you cannot poke your finger through with a mesh size 5mm by 5mm or less when fully stretched. 2mm mesh is also available that will also exclude fruit fly and codling moth.
If the problem is possums or rats climbing up trees, a sheet metal collar around the trunk may stop them, as long as they can't jump into the lower branches or climb on to the tree from a fence or a neighbouring tree. In those situations you need to use a net and gather it closely around the trunk of the tree.
With the warm conditions of summer pests and diseases become more prevalent. Keep an eye out and act early to ensure they don't become rampant. Aphids and white fly, in particular, can literally arrive overnight. Red spider mite and thrips are prevalent in hot, dry weather and the recent rain has seen snails and slugs come out in force to feast on those tasty morsels we provide. Try to spray only as a last resort and then using a low-toxic spray or repellent. If you must spray, do so either early in the morning or, preferably, late in the evening when there are fewer beneficial insects around.
Reduce the spread of powdery mildew on zucchini and squashes by removing badly affected growth. Spray the entire plant weekly with a solution of one-part fresh full cream milk to 10 parts water.
Encourage good fruit set on your tomatoes by applying a little potash to the soil just as flowering starts. Also apply liquid potash to your fruit trees. This improves sap flow.
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