By GEOFF MIERS
The party is over and it’s time to get back into the garden before major disasters unfold after rain on nine days over the festive season, being away from home or simply celebrating, sitting back and relaxing.
No excuse now that the kids are heading off back to school.
The three to four inches of rain over Christmas and New Year have made nature, the streetscapes and the home gardens literally smiling, looking so fresh and clean.
But there are downsides that bring problems.
Those gardeners with lawns will need to be mowing more regularly as particularly the kikuyu and buffalo lawns will be experiencing masses foliage growth with some lawns needing to be cut weekly.
With the rain and increased humidity come the army worm and the African black beetle and they can cause massive damage to the lawn in a very short time.
If part of the lawn looks like it has been mown or areas are dying off you can be sure something is munching on your lawn.
By simply flooding a section of the lawn you may see caterpillars or black beetles emerging from the grass and then you definitely know you have a problem that needs addressing urgently.
The rain and the humidity both combine to provide favourable conditions for many insects, disease and other garden pests to breed up quickly.
If you are living on a rural property and live particularly along the Todd River then you can be sure the next generation of rabbits have already bred up and will be looking for young plants to nibble on.
Put simple tree guards around young seedlings or saplings and this will stop the rabbits from ring-barking the young plants.
Blood and bone acts as a great deterrent for rabbits. Simply sprinkle it over and around the plants that need protection and the rabbits will leave them alone.
If you have pumpkins, zucchini, water melon, rock melons and cucumbers growing these broad-leaf crops may already be suffering from powdery mildew.
This appears as a white or grey film on the foliage and needs to be managed as it will kill the plants.
Try three parts full cream milk to seven parts water with a little squirt of dishwashing liquid to make it stick to the foliage. Repeat this treatment every 10 to 14 days and you will see the problem abate.
Alternatively with powdery-mildew and other fungal diseases you can spray with copper oxychloride at the rate of 35 to 50mls per 10 litres of water.
Grape vines maybe looking a little poorer as the summer progresses as can the foliage on deciduous fruit trees. They will all benefit by being given a spray with a copper based fungicide.
Don’t use wettable sulphur at this time of the year as its too hot. Wettable sulphur will kill off and fungal diseases however it will burn off your plant foliage and will kill the plant.
Weeds are another real potential problem now if you do not address them with some urgency. After each rain burst generally another crop of grasses will quickly emerge.
By treating these emerging grasses you problem will quickly disappear with no slashing, mowing or digging and carting away.
Where grasses are emerging in cleared areas or gravel patches try making you own weedicide using salt, vinegar, dish washing liquid and water, this mix will quickly kill off any fast emerging juvenile grasses.
For areas where couch and other grasses are emerging try a grass specific weedicide like fusillade as this will only affect grasses. If you spray it on plants they will be totally unaffected, only the grass will die.
I have noticed a number of vigorous growing ground cover plants that have scores of seed pods covered in burrs or sharp needles. Best solution for these plants is to chip them out and bag them up getting rid of the seed source.
Once the immediate pressing problems have been addressed its time to look a little into the future. Preparing garden beds for late summer crops, autumn crops and for winter crops should commence soon. In the case of a second summer garden work needs to commence yesterday.
Highly productive gardens need to be regularly re-fertilised and have organic matter added to recondition the soil.
Each time you add compost and organic fertilisers you are providing a food source for all the microbes, fungi and other soil born creatures like worms. They all have the task of breaking down this organic matter and turning it into more readily available nutrients that sustain healthy plant growth.
Some of your summer flowering annuals will benefit by being given a prune now to cut back dead or scrappy looking material and then given a side dressing of necessary nutrients. Your plants will respond quickly and be in full bloom again as the summer starts to pass.
Roses also will respond positively now to a light prune, a feed and a spray with a fungicide to clean up any fungal diseases present. Do this to your roses in early February and by the beginning of April your roses bushes will be back into full bloom and looking absolutely glorious.
Now is also a great time to start germinated desert pea from seed. Desert pea seed needs to be placed in a cup and have boiling water poured over the seed, leaving the seed to soak for 12 to 24 hours. The seed then should be planted into seed raising mix and allowed to germinated.
After several weeks the germinating seed should be lifted and planted into small pots giving them time to establish well before being planted out into the garden.
Portulaca (pictured), or moss rose, rich in vitamin C, is an edible plant prolific in The Centre at the moment.
For the complete series of gardening columns by Geoff Miers, starting in Spring 2020, go to the Features button on the home page menu bar.