On average Australia has just experienced its second highest rainfall on record for winter. That doesn’t necessarily mean that it’s time to rush in and start planting. What it does mean is that it’s not too late to get your garden off to a flourishing Spring gardening season.
Spring is indeed a time of new beginnings. In your garden, that can mean planting out a vegetable garden, starting a herb garden or building new garden beds. Here are some basic steps you need to take to get ready for a Spring flourish.
Step 1: Get your garden tools Spring gardening ready
Write a list of all the gardening tools and equipment you’ll need to get your garden into good shape.
This weekend, plan to spend a couple of hours in your garden shed doing a stock take of your gardening tools against this list. Consider what needs replacing, what needs some maintenance and what’s missing.
Some mower and gardening machinery suppliers offer tool sharpening services. Garden shears and secateurs, hedge clippers will be kinder to your garden if they’re cutting cleanly.
Heavier garden machinery such as ride on mowers; hedge trimmers and chainsaws will need a decent inspection, clean, grease and refuel.
Don’t forget to check that your protective gardening hat is in shape to see you through the season too. And if you’re of my vintage or older, a few spare kneeling pads are a very welcome addition in the gardening kitty.
Step 2: Check your garden edging , stakes, fences and trellises
With a wet winter behind us, you’ll need to do a good check of all timbers in your garden. Wooden stakes holding back wet garden beds may need to be replaced. Check the bases of any timber trellises and timber fencing. With your garden tools ready, make general timber maintenance your focus before you turn any sod. If your outdoor furniture has fared as poorly as mine, you may want to look into some sanding back and coating it ready for some outdoor entertaining.
Step 3: Kick out Winter garden tenants – dead or alive
Clear dead plant matter
Invite your friends for a working bee BBQ. Okay, maybe not the best way to kick off your Spring social calendar. Once the foundations of your yard are in shape following on from Step 2, it’s time to do a good ‘spring clean’ of your yard.
Clear all the rotting fallen branches, leaves, winter fruits and flowers from your lawns, garden beds, guttering and drains.
Send the weeds packing – now!
How you get rid of weeds from your lawn and garden beds is a personal choice. Whether you decide to use a weed spray, or get down and dirty with weeding tools in hand is entirely up to you. You just need to do it – NOW! If you don’t get on top of weeds early in Spring, you will be spending your Spring days cursing. Weeds love Spring as much as your prized weeping cherry loves blossoming. Weeds will thrive in the perfect conditions of the coming months.
Once you’ve removed all the winter weeds, from here on you need to stay on top of weeds. Make it your obsession.
Every Spring I commit to a half hour every afternoon of pulling out emerging weeds. To date, I’ve not achieved this and have spent many Spring days, cursing! Don’t follow my lead.
Remove and discourage pesky bugs
You’ve put in the hard yards (pardon the pun) of getting your gardening tools gleaming, sinking brand new timber stakes into the earth and eradicated the weeds. Don’t let little six legged critters unhinge your gardening finesse this Spring. Get onto them early and well before you start planting any new seeds, seedlings or established plants. A $250 weeping cherry is a very gourmet feast for your insect tenants.
If you don’t like the idea of using store bought pesticides, you can make your own. There are plenty of online tips around. Here is one I’ve used. It seems to work but you do need to regularly spray. Pop a couple of crushed garlic cloves and a chopped up chilli in a large pot of water on your stove top. Heat the water – but not to boiling point, and then turn the heat off. Leave the garlic and chilli to steep for a half an hour. Strain the liquid and pour into a spray bottle ready to bug bust.
Pruning encourages new growth. For many plants, pruning is best done after the first lot of blooms. Check with your local nursery if you’re not sure of when or how to prune any favourite shrubs, roses, hedges or trees. If your plants are showing signs of frost damage, prune off the damaged plant anatomy. Remember to dead head flowers. That is, to remove dying flowers regularly to encourage fresh blooms. Ideally you’ve already started some pruning before you throw yourself into your Spring gardening.
Step 4: Prepare your soil
For new garden beds, or even existing garden beds that you can safely work around, it is time to up the nutrients in the soil and also balance the PH level. To find out how and what that should be for your local area, visit your local garden centre. They’ll welcome your Spring gardening questions because it means potential sales for them!
Wait until the next drop of rain and then whip out the slow release fertilisers or rebalance the nutrients in your soil by digging in some well nurtured compost. When I popped in to our local garden centre last weekend, I was advised that after weeding thoroughly to dig up the top 20 centimetres of soil and add organic waste or nutrients recommended for your local soil conditions.
We drink a lot of coffee in our home. Used coffee grounds are a feature in our compost heap. I learnt recently that coffee grounds through your soil, not only beef up the nitrogen levels but are also a pest repellent – particularly for slugs and snails.
Once you have that sorted, get out the well maintained garden rake and rake the garden bed so it is level.
Then it is time to mulch. Yes, mulch before planting. That way if you end up with a few weekends where you simply don’t get to the garden, you’ll slow down those pesky weeds from emerging and be providing your garden bed with a lovely protective layer to hold in moisture, and let the rich nutrients rejuvenate the soil beneath.
Step 5: Research what to plant and get planting!
After such a wet 2016 winter across a lot of Australia, make sure your soil isn’t drenched when you decide to start planting out your carefully researched choice of new plants. Plants love a light aerated soil, not a dense mass and a wet winter usually calls for some time to dry out the garden beds a little before planting.
Make sure you do some research on which plants you’ll get the best from during Spring and moving into Summer. As for herbs, fruit and vegetables, only plant produce that you’ll actually eat!
I remember our very first vegetable garden. It looked fantastic. It was full of vegetables that were very rarely on our regular shopping list. We gave a lot of vegetables away which was great for our friends and neighbours but felt like a lot of effort from us.
Off you go. Just take one Spring gardening step at a time and before you know it, you’ll have a BBQ ready yard to enjoy!
Helpful online Australian Spring gardening resources
The Garden Clubs of Australia – gardenclubs.org.au
Lifestyle Home – Garden Ideas