By GEOFF MIERS
The secret to having a healthy, colourful and productive garden is to be industrious now and be rewarded in spring and early summer. Toiling hard now will pay huge dividends both in the short and long term.
While there is no Alice Springs Show this year you can still take pride in the produce you are harvesting from your winter vegetable garden. You can even show it off on Facebook.
Many tasks in the home garden now evolve around pruning, spraying, fertilising and preparing in advance sites for planting fruit trees and garden beds for spring / summer planting of vegetables, herbs and flowering annuals.
Roses, deciduous fruit trees, grape vines, citrus, leafy and perennial vegetables and flowering winter annuals all need varying degrees of attention this month.
Roses should be pruned by mid month. Remove dead and diseased wood and prune back to out-ward facing buds to stimulate new growth on which blooms will form in the months ahead. Don’t be timid with your pruning, roses love being pruned hard.
Spray roses after pruning to manage fungal diseases and to clean up any pest problems. Wettable sulphur works well to control fungal diseases like black spot, rust and powdery mildew and to manage pest problems like aphids, thrip, budworm, two-spotted mite and whitefly.
If pests haven’t been a problem but you need to manage any disease you can also spray with Copper oxychloride with a little wetting agent added. This can be white oil or simply liquid detergent. The wetting agent facilitates the spray sticking to the leaf.
If scale has been a problem on roses then use Eco-oil, White oil or Pest Oil to suffocate and kill these pesty sap sucking insects. Generally two sprays are recommended. Now is the best time to use environmentally friendly oil sprays as the temperatures are below 25 degrees limiting the potential for the oils to cause foliage damage.
After pruning and spraying it’s time to fertilise your roses with a complete NPK fertiliser.
Deciduous fruit trees including apricots, peaches, figs, mulberries, nectarines and plums will all need pruning very soon now most trees have defoliated.
The Chinese mulberry can be pruned hard for shape, to manage the trees size and to stimulate new growth. Don’t delay as they will reshoot quickly now they have lost their leaves. My dwarf mulberry trees have already budded with new foliage and fruit.
The English mulberry tends to stay dormant for a much longer period and pruning can be undertaken any time this month well into August.
After pruning spray the mulberry tree with wettable sulphur to clean up any mite and fungal disease problems. Repeat spray again at bud swell time. Again Copper oxychloride can be used to manage fungal disease.
Grapes likewise should be pruned now, sprayed with wettable sulphur to control mite and fungal diseases and they should be fed to stimulate healthy spring growth and good cropping. Remember, grapes according to variety need to be either spur pruned or cane pruned.
Harvest citrus fruit as they ripen, this will lessen the stress on the tree, limit potential fruit fly problems and improve next seasons crop quality. This is particularly true if your citrus tree is heavily laden with fruit that can result in limbs breaking if the weight is excessive.
Citrus should be fertilised in the third week of July through to early August to stimulate healthy spring growth and assist with improving next season’s crop.
Where problems with mealy bug, white cushiony scale and other scale pests have been a problem on citrus, roses, grapes or ornamentals including many native species consider pruning as appropriate and follow up with a spray program that in most cases will involve two sprays to provide maximum benefit.
With any severe outbreaks of mealy bug prune off the worse affected parts or the plant and then with the hose using strong jets of water blast the mealy bug off the plant.
Oil sprays can be used safely at this time of the year with little likelihood of causing foliage burn as daytime temperatures are low. Oil sprays including Eco-oil, White Oil and Pest Oil can be used.
Winter spring flowering annuals should now be liquid fertilised with an NPK fertiliser high in potassium to promote good flowering. Leafy vegetables should be feed with a high nitrogen fertiliser to promote vigorous leaf growth and longer maturing vegetables need to be drip fed with regular applications of a good organic fertiliser to maintain sustained growth.
Bulbs should be feed after flowering to ensure the bulbs have the opportunity to take up necessary nutrients essential for next year’s flowering.
July is essentially a month for pruning, cleaning up pest and disease problems and for feeding plants to guarantee healthy spring growth, flower production and good food production later in the year or for next year.
Poor fruit production on deciduous fruit trees, vines and citrus can be directly linked to inadequate fertilising regimes. With citrus for example you maybe currently excited about the current crop and neglect to meet the tree’s needs for next year’s crop.
It is essential to ensure regular cropping that you feed your citrus and fruit trees towards the end of the month.
Lastly devote time to preparing garden beds and planting sites for future plantings. The earlier you prepare these beds the better the results.
Being able to blend compost, cow manure and other necessary ingredients into your soil and irrigate once or twice weekly for six to twelve weeks will give you the best results.
This allows bacteria, good fungi, worms and other soil born organisms to work on the elements breaking down rare materials creating essential nutrient elements that are readily available for plants when you undertake spring plantings.
Rare manures and rare compost while it is breaking down will draw necessary nutrients away from plants resulting in poor growth and can really retard plant growth. This is particularly so with newly planted citrus trees.
This winter to date has been relatively mild with only two rather savage frosts causing damage to frost tender plants like basil, beans, pumpkins, rosella and tomatoes.
Don’t relax because winter has been relatively mild to date, provide protection if the forecast indicates extremely cold nights. In the next week temperatures between one and minus one are forecast over the next four days. Frost tender plants will need protecting over these four days.
I have been bringing special plants inside my house on the coldest nights. My sensitive tropical and sub-tropical plant species and my chillies for example hate the winter cold nights and only offering them special protection or night-time heating will ensure their survival unaffected.
PHOTO: Fertiliser makers.