Gardening with Browns Mitre 10 Gardening centre

Hi, and Welcome! Gardening is a fun and relaxing experience. I aim to meet the needs of all gardeners, and look at providing information on a variety of plant species. I hope to create a tranquil environment for both yourself and the flora and fauna that inhabit your garden. This information is yours to enjoy, and hopefully leave you passionately indulging in gardening as it is one of the most relaxing and healthy activities you can immerse yourself in.



GARDEN PROTECTION

Your garden investment will from time to time need protection. When I ask customers what type of soil they have the answer is usually “Bribie Soil”. In other words, sandy soil (which can be acidic).

You can reduce water use in the garden by preparing the soil, using Wetting Agents, being generous with mulches and watering less, but densely.

Simple things like using a Wetting Agent, in liquid or granular form, helps water penetrate the soil down to the plant roots. Surface tension will be changed, run off is minimal and water penetrates deeper into the soil. All gardens, pots and lawns should be treated.

Mulch, mulch, mulch - it helps reduce evaporation from the soil. Spread about 50mm thick and then apply a Wetting Agent on the mulch, making an effective solution to watering.

A good long watering once or twice a week is better than a light watering every day. If using a sprinkler try for at least 1 hour per area.

Ranges of mulches include, sugar cane, lucerne, tea tree, red cypress, “Who Flung Dung” and pine bark. All of these will provide not only an attractive finish to gardens or pots, but keep the soil cool and the roots protected from heat.


FERTILIZER

When a baby is born we are given guidelines on what and when to feed it. As the baby grows, they become more vocal telling you when they are hungry. By 12 months they are on solids and liquids.

Just like a newborn you want your garden to be healthy and thriving, requiring a good balance of nutrients. Sandy soil, for example, requires more fertilizer than clay soils.

The major trace elements required for plant growth are N P K.

N = Nitrogen

P = Phosphorus

K = Potassium (Potash)

All complete fertilizers have a percentage of each. For example, N9% P4% K8%, with additional trace elements like sulphur, calcium or boron. These percentages are printed on the packaging.

In most soils these elements are available naturally. Occasionally deficiencies show up in plants, e.g., yellowing of leaves. If the plants fail to survive, the soil may be too acidic. This can be improved by adding Lime or Dolomite to sweeten the soil. If the soil is dry and chalky, it may be too alkaline. This soil can be improved by adding sulphur, compost and sulphate of iron. Liquid fertilizing of your plants gives them an extra boost.

If you are unsure of when to use a complete fertilizer (known as slow release fertilizer), feed your garden or pots every change of season. Liquid feed your garden during Spring and Summer once a fortnight. Any plant in a pot should receive a liquid feed once a month.

Slow release fertilizers like Osmocote comprise granules coated with organic material. Water passes through the coating to the fertilizer and nutrients are released. Different types of Osmocote have different formulae for individual plants, like citrus and fruit trees, roses, and potted plants. Release times of these nutrients vary from 2- 3 months to 8 – 9 months. When the weather is extremely hot the nutrients can be released too quickly. Gardeners find the slow release method of feeding plants convenient, as they are only having to feed every 3 to 4 months.

An annual dressing of lime, dolomite or gypsum improves clay soil, and the availability of phosphate. Use gypsum, not lime, for acid-loving plants as it is neutral.

Animal manures for the garden improve the soil structure. A good soil will hold nutrients and water, making it easy for the plant roots to extract. Compost should be added at least once a year to maintain good soil condition.

Good hygiene should also be maintained, keeping tools, pots and seed raising trays clean. Pick off all diseased leaves and dispose of them to minimise spread of disease.



POTTING MIXES

What's the best potting mix (sometimes called medium), for your plants? As you stand in front of a shelf full of potting mixes and fertilizers, the question is, which to buy that will keep your pot plant healthy? Factors such as light, temperature, humidity, draughts, insects and diseases affect the plants.

The potting mix needs to have good aeration, readily available water, little shrinkage over 6 months, and be easy to re-wet if it dries out.

So you need to choose a potting mix that can supply all of the major nutrients and trace elements, otherwise you must supply that fertilizer yourself. A general rule: If the potting mix bag says no fertilizer needed for some months, you don’t have to start feeding straight away. Otherwise, start feeding the plants as soon as you have potted them.



POT LIFESTYLE

Buy your pot on impulse! The number of times I've seen something and not purchased, only to come back later and find it gone, so don’t let someone else get that pot. You can always buy the plant later.

Pots come in many shapes, sizes and finishes - glazed, tall, bowl, terracotta and troughs. It can take many bags of potting mix to fill a large pot. So look at buying beanbag beans or stones to fill the pot before adding the potting mix. On the back of some of the potting mix bags it has measurements on how many bags are required to fill the size of the pot you have just purchased.

The visual effect of the plant in the pot is most important. For example, small bowls are ideal for succulents and cacti. For tall plants make sure the base of the pot is stable like a square base pot and saucer, so they can’t be blown over in windy weather.

Terracotta pots should be soaked in or with water so the moisture is not drawn out when the plant is potted up. Wet the terracotta pot itself each time you water your plants.

Pot feet help with good drainage. If the pot is sitting in a saucer, use either sand or small stones to act as a filter. Once the pot plant is watered the water in the saucer is trying to push back up into an already wet plant. This will cause over-watering and the plants to rot, or become susceptible to bacterial and fungal diseases.


SEEDS

Growing your own plants from seed is very fulfilling, and of course, cost saving, and this can be achieved by following a few simple steps.

Use the seed for the appropriate season. Seed packs unopened should last a couple of years.

Some seeds can be grown directly into the garden, e.g., carrots, beans or sweet corn. With fine seed like carrots add a sand mix with the seed making it easier for distribution. Some seeds can be soaked overnight in warm water or scarified with a light sandpaper. With most other seeds, sow into a tray to germinate.

When sowing directly into the garden make a long narrow trench 1 cm deep for fine seed and 2-3 cm deep for larger seed. Line the trench with Seed Raising Mix, sow the seed, cover with Seed Raising Mix and firm down so the soil makes contact with the seed. Protect the emerging seeds with snail bait.

Sowing in trays – fill the trays first with a layer of potting mix, then add the Seed Raising Mix. Firm down. Sow the seed and cover with 5mm of the Seed Raising Mix. Fine seed can be just pressed into the surface.

Water lightly and place in a warm spot out of the sun. By placing the trays on Besser blocks, it will give the bottom of the tray heat and keep them off the ground away from pests like snails and ants.

The bottom heat will help with the seeds germinating quicker. Also, to help with seed germination use 2 teaspoons of Epsom Salts in 5 litres of water – use only once. Water regularly – I sometimes give them a half-strength drink of Seasol.

Once the seeds have germinated and the plants have at least 6 leaves, transplant into the garden. Poor germination can be caused by planting seeds too deep, being too wet or being eaten by snails or birds.



LAVENDER

Available soon in all garden centres. There are a number of varieties of Lavender with the most popular being French Lavender. A bushy evergreen shrub with narrow-toothed grey-green leaves. The lavender blue flowers are distinctively scented. The height and spread is 1m x 1m.

English lavender is a dense evergreen shrub. The scented grey/blue flowers are carried above the foliage. The height and spead is 1m x 1.2m

Italian lavender is a quick growing rounded evergreen with narrow smooth grey leaves up to 2 cm long. Dark purple scented flowers grow above the foliage. Height to 60cm.

Lavenders make a nice hedge and should be planted quite closely. Being a grey foliage plant they don’t like wet feed. If you wish to grow lavender in a pot, use terracotta as they aid good drainage. The flowers attract bees and dried they repel moths.



MAKE YOUR OWN LAVENDER WATER

You'll need:

1 cup Lavender flowers and leaves

Airtight container

300ml Cider vinegar or white wine vinegar

A fine sieve

Jug

150ml Rosewater


Method:

  1. Put Lavender flowers and leaves into airtight container and pour over the vinegar. Put the lid on and allow to infuse for about 3 days in a cool, dark place; shake twice daily.

  2. After 3 days strain lavender through a fine sieve into a jug.

  3. Add the rosewater to the lavender infusion and stir to mix thoroughly.

  4. Decant into a pretty bottle.


THE LAST WORD

When customers visit me here at Mitre10 they say I have the best job in the world. This is when I usually have a hose in my hand watering the plants. At this time of the year it is best to water in the morning. Imagine you have come home from work and you run yourself a bath and fall asleep. When you awake the water is cold. That’s what it's like for your plants in the garden.

So go and draw yourself a bath, pop in some of the Lavender Water, maybe that cocktail I had in my first article and enjoy after a wonderful day in the garden.









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