Along with a change of season comes a whole lot of things to do in the garden, with spring being one of the busiest times of year. The key is to make a list of priorities, set aside some time each weekend, and tick the jobs off as you go. To get you started, here are our top 6 things to do in your garden this spring.
There’s no denying that winter is party time for weeds, particularly after a period of rain. And, unfortunately, as the weather warms up, the weed party goes into overdrive. So top of your list of priorities is weeding your garden beds and around the roots of fruit trees, with the most effective tool being your two hands and a sturdy pair of gloves.
Once you’ve cleared away the weeds, give all your plants a good feed with an organic fertiliser or manure to boost their spring growth and take advantage of any rain. And don’t forget to feed your lawn as well, to ensure it stays healthy for as long as possible throughout the warmer months.
Now is the time to think about what veggies you want to grow over the summer and start preparing your garden beds or planters. A good principal to work from is to grow those things you most like to eat; this will not only save you money but will fill your summer meals with homegrown deliciousness.
When you’ve decided what you want to grow and where you’re going to plant them, do a bit of research to find out what kind of soil best suits that particular vegetable or fruit and start preparing your beds. After digging them through, you’ll probably want to add some nutrients, such as compost or manure, particularly if you’ve recently removed your winter crops. Luckily, most summer vegetables like a soil that is slightly acidic (a pH between 5 – 6.5) and fairly high in nitrogen, although you need to slow down on the nitrogen once the plants are established, as it encourages leaf growth rather than fruiting.
Once you’ve prepared your beds, cover them with a good quality organic mulch, such as sugar cane mulch or pea straw. This traps the moisture and nutrients in the soil, provides a great environment for worms, and then eventually breaks down, adding further nutrients as it goes and keeping the soil nice and pliable.
As the weather gets warmer, and after you’ve sowed your seedlings or your seeds have sprouted, keep mulching on a regular basis, particularly around the roots of your plants. This not only continues to provide nutrients to your plants, it keeps their roots cool and prevents evaporation. As long as you water deeply every few days, mulching can reduce the need for watering by up to 60%, and it’s also an excellent weed suppressant.
A lot of summer veggies grow well from seeds, and often these end up being stronger and more productive plants. Things that are easy to sprout from seed include zucchini, cucumber, pumpkin, leeks, beans and spring onions, to name just a few. Use a quality organic seed raising mix and sow the seeds in trays, placing them in a warm sheltered spot until the seedlings have got to a reasonable size to plant out. And most importantly, keep them moist.
If you’re planting seedlings, around the end of September is usually a good time to start popping them in the garden, as long as the soil has actually had a chance to warm up by then. (One way to speed up this process is to cover your beds in black plastic for a couple of weeks before you plant.) Water seedlings in well with a liquid fertilizer and mulch around the base. And keep an eye out for snails and slugs in the first few weeks, as losing a whole batch of lettuce or zucchini seedlings can be pretty soul destroying.
In temperate zones, like Sydney and surrounds, there are a lot of flowering shrubs that benefit from a spring prune. And now you’ve ticked a few of the more urgent jobs off the list, you’ve got time to turn your attention to the more decorative side of your garden. So get out the gloves and pruning shears and enjoy a day of chopping and lopping. Plants that appreciate a prune at this time of year include both the imported and native hibiscus, camellias, winter roses, daisies, bougainvillea and hardenbergia (commonly known as the Happy Wanderer), amongst others. It’s also a good idea to give your passionfruit vine a gentle prune and a feed before it starts flowering again, ensuring a bumper crop of fruit come February. And, of course, remove the heads of spent flowering bulbs and tie the stalks into knots. This sends all the goodness back down into the bulb in preparation for next spring!
One thing most summer veggies and fruit have in common is a need for bees to pollinate them. So, to improve the quality and quantity of your edibles, there are some easy ways to attract bees to your garden and keep them happy while they’re there.
Firstly, invest in some late spring and summer flowering plants, such as salvias, lavender, borage, calendula and nasturtiums. These are fantastic companion plants, acting as bee attractors and, at the same time, helping to repel lots of unwelcome visitors, like mosquitoes and cabbage moths. They also look beautiful, providing you with a display of colour right through the summer into autumn.
The other thing that bees need is a water supply, particularly in the height of summer. This can take the form of a pond or bird bath, positioned near the part of the garden you want them to visit. Just ensure that you’ve given them something to land on while they drink, as bees can’t swim and can easily drown.
There’s probably a dozen other things on your list of things to do, but start with these 6 and you’ll be well on the way to getting your garden prepared for a summer of outdoor fun and homegrown food.
Check out Seymour Building Supplies’ DIY guides for a range of great garden and landscaping projects.