By GEOFF MIERS
It’s time to put a final big burst into the garden completing a range of necessary tasks before we start to slow down as the holiday period quickly arrives.
Following nine days where rain fell this October in Alice Springs and only a couple of hot days plant growth has been stimulated and it’s time to complete most planting over the next couple of weeks to take advantage of the generally favourable climatic conditions.
As summer fast approaches it is critical that a range of tasks are completed as even November can have on average eight days over 40 degrees.
In other words, do not procrastinate and get the gardening chores completed so you can sit back a little and relax as we all wind down towards Christmas.
As the days start to warm work early morning and in the evenings, completing the majority of general planting by mid month. The second half of the month should be devoted to preparing the garden to confront the hottest months of the year.
With special care it is possible to plant right throughout summer. As the soil temperatures warm plants quickly put on a burst of growth prior to summer.
Plants introduced into the garden now will thrive, so do not be afraid to plant as conditions are ideal. You simply need to ensure you water adequately to meet the plant needs.
Give plants a good soak prior to planting, plant only into moist soil and water the plant in well after planting.
A daily watering will be required for the first two to three weeks allowing the plant to settle and commence spreading its root out into the surrounding soil.
The root development out into the surrounding soil rests on you giving the plant a good water ensuring the surrounding soil is also moist.
After three weeks it is possible to increase the volume of water applied while decreasing the time between watering from once a day to once every three days.
Look to purchase plants that have been grown here and are hardened to the climatic conditions. Look for plants that grow naturally here as they once hardened off are going to cope with our climatic extremes, be it 46 degrees in the shade in summer or minus 10 degrees in mid winter.
if planting out in the general garden and in locations where conditions maybe quite extreme then provide some protection until the plants have established.
In the native garden for example place four by 30cm stakes (sticks) in the ground around each Sturt Desert Pea seedling and impale a square of cardboard on the stakes to provide protection from the midday overhead sun.
In the vegetable garden do the same when planting rhubarb as the central crown needs to be protected from the direct midday sun.
If planting shrubs, trees and ground cover plants up next to a hot corrugated iron fence where the sun will be beaming down radiating heat onto the plants place a sheet of cardboard or hessian against the fence to reduce the impact.
Sharpen the secateurs now as time needs to be allocated to undertaking pruning activity on a variety of plant types.
Dead-heading roses weekly and they will continue to bloom until well after Christmas, prune spring flowering ornamental prunus / plum species after flowering to promote next seasons blooms and regularly tip prune many early summer flowering exotics that have an extended flowering season to improve floral displays.
Regular light pruning can be undertaken to manage spring growth on many plant species to improve shape, consolidate growth, improve summer/autumn flowering and improve cropping on food producing plants.
Native plants that have finished flowering can be pruned to remove seed pods forming and taking away much energy from the plant generally.
Pruning will also manage plant growth and will remove any pests that have been introduced to the plant by birds seeking nectar from the floral blooms while the plant is flowering.
Hedge plants particularly require regular attention to ensure good form is maintained while growth can often be rapid at this time of the year. Prune spring and summer grasses to promote strong healthy growth to reward with wonderful healthy displays over the hot months.
Give container gardens priority this month as its time to re-invigorate them.
Repot as required, apply both solid and liquid fertilisers to promote strong new growth, and plant masses of colourful flowering annuals to compliment perennial container plants giving great colour for the festive season.
Create a new herb collection, planted now many will be providing by Christmas great additions to flavour soups, main courses, sweets and many delicious cool drinks.
Harvest leafy greens regularly, lift root crops as they mature and remove late maturing winter vegetables likely to attract aphides and caterpillars.
Plant repeatedly a range of fast growing crops ever six weeks to ensure continuous supply, give leafy greens a boost with a high nitrogen fertiliser and apply potash to improve fruit set and quality of produce on a range of fruiting crops such as tomatoes.
Plant out a block of sweetcorn now and you will have a great supply of corn coming into the new year. Plant corn every six to eight weeks and you will have sweet corn right throughout Summer and Autumn going into winter.
If felt necessary shade the summer garden with 50 percent white shade cloth to reduce plant stress. Black and green shade cloth can block out particular sun rays necessary for good growth and shade cloth of 70% or greater will result in long leggy weak poor yielding produce, be warned.
Shielding gardens against the full impact of summer becomes a number one priority as the month progresses.
Mulching the entire garden should be given priority in late November and early December. Mulching the garden will help suppress weed growth if the forecast rains arrive, will help limit soil erosion and will moderate soil temperature extremes.
Sand, bush mulch, pine bark, crushed gravel, river boulders laterite, sandstone, leaf litter and wood chip can all be used as mulching materials to moderate the evaporation rates, soil temperatures and when used skilfully can add an attractive element to the landscaped garden.
In the vegetable garden pea straw will give the best results as it will break down relatively quickly without drawing up necessary nutrients needed for strong plant growth.
Sugar cane mulch on the other hand is a woody mulch that will draw up much of the nitrogen in your soil away from your plants resulting in poor plant growth.
Sugar cane mulch also if applied as a relatively thick layer will limit the ability of water to penetrate the mulch and getting through to the soil.
When using woody materials it often pays to lay down a thin layer of slow release nitrogen before laying the mulch to counter the impact of the soil microbes drawing nitrogen out of the soil to break down the organic matter.
In summary complete planting over the next two to three weeks before it really gets hot and then concentrate on fertilising the garden generally to give it a boost, remulch the entire garden to limit summer weed growth and reduce water loss through evaporation, check irrigation systems are fully operational and adjust irrigation controllers to meet climatic conditions and plant needs.