IN THE FLOWER GARDEN

Sunny side up
Get a head start on summer by planting sunflower seeds in individual pots and nurturing them indoors until it’s time to plant them out in spring. We are testing out Sunflower ‘Pro Cut Red’ (Helianthus annua) this season, which is one of the best dark colours on the market, with rusty red petals and chocolatey centres. It’s been bred for commercial cut flower production and has strong, tall stems and pollenless flowers. The flowers top a single stem, and with these types it’s important not to pinch out the growing tip, or you lose the flower!

Top bulb
Ranunculus bulbs can now be bought in single colours for greater impact. Each bulb will produce 20 to 30 flowers, and do it all again next year.

Face it
Pansies are a charming winter filler and bulb support in the garden or dripping gently down terracotta pots and stone urns. Who can resist those precious faces!

Pick now
Grevillea, banksia, crowea and correa are excellent native cut flowers for winter, and cutting the flower stems to enjoy indoors has the added benefit of keeping the shrubs compact and lengthening their lives.

Plant now
Plant sweet pea seedlings into limed soil so these old-fashioned frilly blooms can add fragrance and beauty to your spring arrangements.
Iceland poppies are generous pickers, supplying plenty of crepe paper flowers per plant. For the longest shelf life pick them when the bud just cracks to show the colour beneath.
Last chance for spring bulbs. Grab a bargain and get them in.
Rosy success is better with bare-rooted roses planted in winter than for flowering pots planted in spring. Bare root systems seem to establish faster, especially if they are planted into improved soil.
Add delicate cyclamen under trees for a woodland look. The just-picked flowers last surprisingly well in a small vase.

IN THE KITCHEN GARDEN

Tool time
Clean and oil secateurs frequently. These hard-working tools are especially prone to rust from sap and residue build-up on the blades. Use a stiff brush or scrubby pad to loosen dirt from the crevices, then wash the blades with warm soapy water and dry them thoroughly. Apply a few drops of lubricating oil to the pivot joints and blades, and wipe off the excess with a towel. We always have a supply of lubricating oil on hand for dissolving rust on steel blades, protecting tools from corrosion and lubricating the moving parts on my various shears.
Less knotted
The gardener’s twine we use to tie up sweet peas, tomatoes and dahlias stays knot-free in cheap aluminium funnels on the back of our shed door.

Bitter pill
The voracious cabbage moth butterfly is the curse of the cabbage family. Plant wormwood, which is full of bitter chemicals, to warn them off.

Do now
Get a head start on summer by germinating tomato seeds indoors on the kitchen bench or anywhere undercover with bright light.
Hang yellow sticky traps to trap clouds of white fly and prevent them transmitting viruses from plant to plant.
Spray stone fruit at bud swell with Yates Fungus Fighter, Eco Fungicide or lime sulphur to keep fungal diseases at bay. After citrus have fruited, prune to open the canopy into a vase shape that will increase air flow and promote ripening of fruit on interior branches.
Sharpen cutting tools and organise the shed.
Cut down asparagus ferns, manure and dress the patch with blood and bone before mulching.

Grow now
Hearting lettuce, such as mignonette,
oak leaf, iceberg and cos grow well through the cooler weather. Plant a few every few weeks for a continuous supply.
Plant asparagus crowns. Check out the Mr Fothergills range at your local nursery or hardware store.
Grow a wigwam or trellis of peas so you can decide for yourself which is sweeter — frozen or home grown. Add a handful of garden lime to the soil before sowing.
Plant strawberry runners, ensure the runners are severed so individual plants can develop their own root systems.


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