By Anne Davies
As each day is gradually getting colder it is time to get stuck into the tasks that all gardens need in autumn and early winter:
1 The first is some serious pruning. This means cutting back shrubs that have finished flowering, removing dead or diseased growth (don't forget to sterilise tools afterwards), and pruning back long, spindly growth. Sharp secateurs, loppers, or a hedge trimmers (for larger jobs) will suit most plants.
2 Fertilise your garden with a slow-release organic fertiliser, such as pelletised chicken manure. This means that come spring when the plant is putting on new growth, it has plenty of nutrients available. Spreading a thin layer of compost (home-made or bought) and well-rotted animal manure will improve your soil structure. Good soil structure means healthy root growth, good drainage and readily available nutrients.
3 Layer on the mulch about 100 mm deep, being sure to keep it away from plant stems. I like to use hay or straw, but any organic mulch will suppress weeds and maintain a warmer soil temperature. Organic mulch will slowly decompose into the soil with your compost, giving your plants a wonderful growing environment. The plants you grow for winter colour won't need pruning, but will still benefit from fertilising and mulching.
4 Stake any young plants that may need support from gusty winds. Plants should always be staked so that some canopy movement is possible to build up the support roots. Remember to check the ties in spring, though, to make sure they are not ringbarking the tree.
5 Consider areas that need developing or revamping. Perhaps you could add some colour, plant more native habitat or put in a vegie patch. So, get out your gardening books, browse the internet or visit your local nursery and think outside the box. •
Article courtesy Salvation Army Warcry magazine.
Anne Davies is a nursery supervisor and horticultural trainer at the Salvation Army's Tom Quinn Community Centre in Bundaberg (Qld).