By GEOFF MIERS
With rain in January and February this year conditions are absolutely ideal for starting March gardening activities 10 to 14 days earlier than normal.
The soil temperatures have cooled improving seed germination and root growth on transplants and with everything so well watered gardening is easy with digging no longer a real chore.
We have not enjoyed such a start to autumn for several years. If you are wanting to start a new garden or replant existing gardens that need reinvigorating or simply planting winter crops the time is fast approaching.
Weed issues will be a problem for most gardeners over the next month. Tackle them with gusto and within a week or two your garden should be weed free ready for planting.
To repeat I started tackling potential weed issues within two hours of the rain stopping and they are already fast disappearing.
I had literally thousands of weeds emerge after the January and February rains. Within a few days of the weeds emerging I lightly sprayed and within the week a weed could not be seen.
Half an hour spraying is far superior to hours of digging out mature weeds and having to cart them out to the landfill.
Once you have tackled the weeds give the garden a good spring clean, pruning as required, raking up surplus leaves, turning beds and introducing fertilisers and other necessary ingredients to improve the soil.
A beauty: Ruby saltbush.
From early March to early May it is a great time to be planting whether in the vegetable, bulb, flowering annual or herb gardens or planting generally throughout the garden.
The vegetables that can be planted now are many and varied. Beet root, broccoli, brussel sprouts, cabbages, Chinese spinach, endive, lettuce, leaks, onions, parsnips and silver beet are all best planted this month for optimum results.
Further broad beans, cauliflower, celery, cress, French beans, parsley, peas, potatoes, radish, shallots, spring onions, swedes, sweet corn and zucchini can also be planted now.
Nurseries are likely to be still be a week or two away from totally restocking with seedlings until once the weather has cooled to the low-mid 30’s.
In the flower garden the diversity is huge. Old summer favorites such as petunias, gazanias, Sea-side Daisies, verbena and marigolds can be planted however many gardeners thoughts should already be turning towards planting the vast array of Winter and Spring flowering annuals.
Stocks, alyssum, primula, lobelia, pansies, viola, ageratum, anemone, snap dragons, calendula, candytuff, carnations, corn flowers, cineraria, chrysanthemum, gypsophila, helichrysum, linaria, lupins, nasturtiums, nemesia, poppies and wall flowers are other winter flowering annuals that can be planted from now onwards.
Annual wild flowers should also be sown this month, including the ever popular Sturt’s Desert Pea, everlastings and many other Central Australian flowering annuals.
Roses should continue to be dead-headed if already flowering. To improve your March/April rose display prune immediately if pruning wasn’t undertaken in February. Follow pruning with a side-dressing with a complete NPK rose fertiliser.
Nice: Button grass.
Prune and fertilise your roses now and you will be rewarded with a magnificent April flush of blooms.
Sweet peas are best planted over the next 5-6 weeks along with snow peas, commencing planting from the first week of March. As the soil temperature slowly cools germination rates quickly become high. Plant, water in and almost totally refrain from watering as over-watering will cause the seeds to rot.
Sweet peas are traditionally planted on Saint Patrick’s Day on the 17th March.
In the general garden take advantage of the recent rains and plant to your hearts content. Planting now your plants will quickly settle with little stress and quickly burst forth with new growth.
We are likely to get some warm weather but not the 40 degree days we had at the beginning of March two years. The rain has most definitely brought the planting season forward by at last 2-3 weeks.
Buffel – get rid of it.
Most nurseries will be well stocked with last Autumn and Spring propagated plants just waiting to be planted. Many gardeners believe that their Autumn plantings of native plant stock establish better than Spring plantings.
Food plants including grape vines, fruit trees, tropical fruiting species and citrus can all be planted now. Your tropical species including guava, banana, pawpaw and mangoes if planted now will be well established prior to the cooler months arriving.
Citrus, fruit trees, olives, grape vines and lawns should all be fertilised if not already undertaken. It’s also an ideal time to plant new lawns .
Lastly after this recent rain pest problems are likely to explode and gardeners need to be vigilant and take decisive actions to limit pest and disease problems. More on that next week.
PHOTOS: For those who start a garden from scratch, here are a few plants to keep, including the Three Cornered Jack (at top) because the orange tailed black cockatoos love them.