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Greater Brisbane region
What's your gardening resolution for 2014?
With the turn of the year and holidays for some, it's a time for assessing the past and contemplating the year ahead. Perhaps you've decided that this is the year to focus on the home front, and get into the garden. What's your gardening resolution?
Tidy Up. Perhaps you've let things go and just need to catch up with basic maintenance. Pruning and weeds are likely to be on your list, especially if the summer is wet. If it's all gotten out of hand, you might consider bringing in a garden maintenance service to get the job done before it gets any worse. If you really don't have the time or physical ability to maintain the garden in it's current state, think about modifying your garden design (e.g. replacing roses with other shrubs) or alter your practices (e.g. better mulching to reduce weeding).
Create or renovate an outdoor living area. Outdoor Living and Balinese or "resort style" gardens have been a big trend of recent years. While some of the more expensive landscaping and accessories (like outdoor kitchens) might not be seen as often in new gardens of the future as they were during the "boom" years, an outdoor living area that's functional, comfortable and attractive could enhance your enjoyment of your home. Even if you can't afford a deck or patio right now, think about the vegetation beyond. While you can get fast tropical effects with some plants, trees and shrubs need time to achieve height and fullness. The sooner you can get them planted, the sooner you can enjoy the benefits. This is especially important to remember if you want to block neighbours. Some researching the species you might want to grow is an ideal rainy day activity. See also Garden Ideas
Start growing food. "Grow your own" has been another big garden trend internationally over the last few years. Some people like to know what chemicals have been on their food, some enjoy the educational and recreational aspects. If household budgets continue to be sqeezed, more people may turn to the backyard to save money, but do take into account that in the suburbs most inputs (fertiliser, mulch, seeds etc) need to be purchased and there are many things that can go wrong, especially for beginners. If you're a complete novice, start small and don't be afraid to ask friends and neighbours, or your local garden centre, for advice.
Enter a garden competition. You'll want it to look it's best at judging, which is usually springtime in SE Qld. If you're going to use a lot of flowering plants, timing will be crucial. Spring flowering annuals usually go in autumn, but you can begin preparing now with hard landscaping, soil preparation and lots of planning. Research, observation, and a certain amount of trial and error over many years undoubtedly go into the most spectacular gardens, but don't be deterred if you're new to the game. Some competitions even have special categories for new gardens. To find out what competitions are held in your area, check with local council, local newspaper or garden clubs. Some information may also posted in the news section on the home page here as it comes to hand and on the Garden Competition page at www.calyx.com.au (if you're an organiser, please send in some information!)
More jobs for January
Considering the heat, there's usually enough to do in January keeping just the lawns mowed, hedges trimmed, weeds controlled and rubbish collected.
Unless there's significant rainfall this month, you will also be concerned with keeping water up to your most valued plants.
If we get drenching rains, on the other hand, constantly full pot saucers can cause waterlogging and rotting of potted plants as well as provide breeding grounds for mosquitoes. Empty these or remove them completely while the rain lasts. Check the garden for other receptacles that could harbour mossies, too.
If it does rain, the pressure may be off watering gardens for a while, but don't forget about your potted plants. They will dry out quickly in hot or windy weather and require regular watering. Don't be fooled into thinking a light shower of rain will do the job for you, because very little, if any, will reach the potting mix of a well-foliaged plant. Of course pots under eaves or a patio roof will still need watering by hand all the time.
If there's been good rainfall (or you can water adequately) apply a complete fertiliser to the general garden. In some cases a fertiliser formulated for certain plants may be more appropriate e.g. low-phosphorus for grevilleas and banksias (native plant formulation) or high nitrogen for lawns. With growth stimulated by summer rainfall and warmth, demand for nutrients will be high and deficiencies are likely especially if heavy rainfall has leached minerals from the soil.
If you haven't mulched in a while, top up garden beds to supress germinating weeds. With the warm weather, weeds will be growing vigorously, especially if some good rain falls. With the ground soft, however, it will be easier to manually remove localised weed infestations. Whether hand weeding or spraying, get to work before they set seed. Unfortunately, it's too late to do anything about bindii, except extract the prickles from the soles of your feet. Learn to recognise the foliage and be on the lookout next winter/early spring and attack the developing plants then.
The Queensland Turf Producers Association recommends mowing an established lawn no lower than 30mm in summer. (Turfgrass Quick Tips). Queensland DAFF gives a more detailed set of recommendations for specific turf types on their webpage Turning grass into lawn: Mowing tips.
Take note of where you'd like more shade next summer, such as entertaining areas, and try to determine the optimal location and height of shade structures or trees at the time of day you need it.. The movement of the sun is different in winter, and you can't use it's position in winter to position shade for summer. Of course, access to sun may be an additional consideration you may like to preserve access to sun in winter, on the other hand. (see also Weather and Climate, Outdoor Living)
Needless to say, when positioning trees, you also need to take other factors into account such as proximity to buildings, utilities etc. While potted trees and shrubs can be planted at any time in SEQld, you'll probably prefer to wait until it's a little cooler. This will mean less stress for both the gardener and the plant.
Be vigilant collecting fruit-fly infested fruit off the ground, to prevent the grubs pupating into a new generation of flies.
Give Poinsettia and Snowflake a light pruning to encourage more bushiness prior to the initiation of flowers as the days shorten. Prune Gardenias when flowers are finished.
Like December, weather conditions in January are usually harsh and pests and diseases so active that vegetable gardening is difficult, for both the plants and the gardener.
If you want to have a go, try planting tomatoes, capsicums and eggplants; lettuce (heat-tolerant varieties); sweetcorn; radish; silverbeet; beans; cucurbits; sweet potato.
Otherwise, wait until milder temperatures arrive, when a larger range of vegetables becomes more feasible. Furthermore, you'll want to make sure you have space available if you plan to put in a lot of temperate-climate climate veggies in autumn.
Even though they are essentially cool-climate vegetables, the long growing season required for cauliflower or broccoli means making a start while it's still hot. If you want to grow from seed, and you have the space to grow them, you can try starting a few in seed trays or pots for later transplanting. Don't forget that they will be very susceptible to caterpillars at this time of the year, as will other cabbage relatives, so take precautions. Make successive sowings over the next few weeks in case the earlier ones fail, as late as April/May.
Instead, relax in the shade and start planning what you'd like to grow this autumn. Get your order in to mail-order seed companies in plenty of time if you want to try unusual or hertiage varieties not available through regular garden centres and chain stores.
These days, many seed companies have extensive catalogues online. There are also many websites that can give you information about particular vegetables as well as other information and ideas for growing fruit and vegetables as well as the ornamental garden. Bear in mind, however, that the majority of gardening information online originates from cool, temperate or Mediterranean climates, and adjustments need to be made for out subtropical conditions.
Many plants are simply unsuitable for the coastal regions of Qld. Of the vegetables, brussel sprouts and scarlet runner beans are generally considered unsuitable. Others like broadbeans, parsnips and cauliflower are difficult and have to be timed to take advantage of the coolest weather, and results may be dissapointing. Unless you're a huge fan of these vegetables, or if you have plenty of time and space and like a challenge, you'll find it more rewarding to stick to the tried and tested varieties. Furthermore, there's a huge variety of tropical vegetables better suited to the Qld climate that most of us have yet to explore.
See also: Vegetables, Seed raising.
Sorry, I haven't prepared any monthly notes for fruit trees yet. In the meantime, you can try the main page dealing with this subject and check the links for the type of fruit tree you're interested in, here: Fruit Trees
The Flower Garden
See also: Annual Flowers and Bedding Plants, Seed raising
Garden shows, open gardens
See what's included in the Events Diary for January, although you won't find a lot of events over the Christmas and New year period. Entries for all of 2015 are welcome now, so if you're organising a garden show, workshop, gardening opening or similar public event in Qld this year and you have firm dates, please get in touch if you would like to have your event publicised for free on that page.
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NB: These notes are under development. At present, the following applies to the greater Brisbane region only. It's hoped to expand these notes further in future updates, adding more information and eventually, more regions.
Naturally, this is a general guide only and will vary depending on local conditions, weather, plant variety etc.
Ongoing water availability is also a big concern these days, so take this into consideration too, especially if planning new gardens.
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