Spring into the garden

Posted: 9am 01 Oct 2021

The season that brings a smile to most gardeners’ faces is here and it’s the perfect time to freshen up garden beds and plant edibles and companion flowering varieties that look amazing while keeping pests at bay.

Redcliffe Garden Centre’s Sondra Grainger and Tylor Elmsley recommend planting herbs and vegetables now for summer before the heat arrives.

That means cucumbers, carrots, chillis, beans, corn, lettuces, zucchinis, watermelon, pumpkins, squash, strawberries, blueberries, most herbs and even citrus because many are flowering and starting to fruit.

“If you’re putting in a fresh citrus, you can chop off most of the fruit and just get a few select fruit that give you a better crop. Especially if you’re planting it in the ground, you have to give the plant time to grow before it starts producing fruit,” Tylor says.

“With the blueberries you can do the same thing but they’re such small fruit that as long as you’re putting fertiliser in the soil and keeping that up to them, they’ll be able to handle having that much fruit on them.”

Blueberries like a slightly acidic fertiliser, so you can use azalea, camelia, gardenia fertilisers or even just a fruit and citrus food.

Sondra says if you are planting blueberries in pots, they need an azalea/camelia potting mix.

“They do really well in pots, so if somebody wants to put a couple of pots in a full-sun spot on a balcony, they can. They’re great for the kids, the bees love them and they’re prolific fruiters. These new ones that are coming through are perfect for our climate and they’re delicious,” she says.

The varieties available now will keep fruiting into summer, but you can mix and match them if you want fruit throughout the year.

Perfect combination

Companion planting is a great way to deter pests and attract the insects your garden needs to flourish.

“It’s a very European way of gardening. The French call it a potager garden, and so they will actually put rows of flowers and herbs in amongst all their other edibles, so everything helps each other,” Sondra says.

“You bring in the beneficial insects and you get much stronger, better crops without having to use poisons. It’s a very smart way of gardening but it also looks really pretty.”

Tylor says many gardeners do not like allowing herbs to ‘go to seed or flower’, but it is a good way to attract pollinators, beneficial insects and bees.

Flowering plants which make great companion plants include marigolds, salvias, lavender, tansy, zinnia, sunflower and nasturtium

“Marigolds are beneficial especially in veggie gardens – just a little border of them, or spot-plant them among your herbs and veggies. They will do wonderous things and they self-seed, so you’ll find them popping up everywhere which is great for your budget and great for the growth of the garden as well,” Sondra says.

Lavender is looking good this time of year and it is a good time to plant petunias so you have a bouquet of colour in summer.

“They look amazing coming through for Christmas if you’re wanting to do decorative Christmas bowls. You can keep trimming them back and keeping them tidy and they’ll flower right through the summer months,” she says.

Geraniums are also good at keeping pests away because of their strong fragrance.

“There are ones that smell like citronella, you’ve got rose geraniums, even the common ones can help with pest control too. The citronella ones are good for keeping the mozzies away, apparently. When you brush against it, it will smell like citronella,” Sondra says.

Prepare for summer

Spring is the ideal time to prepare soil and garden beds now for the warmer months.

“Compost, mulch, organic matter, digging beds over properly, weeding and getting beds ready to be planted out. It’s like painting, the stronger your preparation is, the better the results will be right through the season,” she says.

“Whether you live in a tiny apartment, a townhouse, or a sprawling yard, there is something beautiful you can put in your space for spring – even if it’s a little indoor garden, some beautiful shade-loving plants inside, massive flower hanging baskets on a balcony or a big sprawling garden bed full of herbs, veggies, edibles and flowers there’s something for every gardener.

“It’s a great time to get kids in the garden too because they can plant things that are pretty, but also that they can pick and eat. That’s always tempting for children and it also gets them out, their hands in the dirt and understanding the process of growth. It’s beautiful time of year to be doing that.”

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