April and May is the best time to buy and plant your spring flowering bulbs. Daffodils, tulips, hyacinths, ranunculus and freesias are only a few of the large range available. Most bulbs are dug up, packaged and sold when they are dormant. They are usually graded and sorted, checked by hand, counted and packaged. Some bulb companies package seconds and some package premium bulbs so in effect you get the quality you pay for.
There are a few things to look out for when selecting bulbs, and just by physically picking one up and feeling it can tell you a lot about its quality. Bulbs should be full and firm, not soft or dry and withered. If it feels light then it is possible that it is dry and dead inside. If the bulb is soft it is often a sign of fungal disease. Avoid any bulb that is diseased or physically damaged or has a bad smell. The outer skin of tulips is quite important because it helps to prevent dehydration and damage and should be intact. Bulbs need to be a reasonable size to flower in their first year. Some bulbs, like daffodils, will sometimes have a smaller bulb attached, but these will probably only flower in the second year. The supplier will pick up most problems with bulbs when they are packaging and sorting so you receive good quality.
Bulbs can look deceptively delicate, but most are surprisingly hardy and easy to grow. They can be planted in multiples or randomly, to achieve a natural look. Scattering the bulbs, and planting them where they fall can create wonderful natural drifts. These may look sparse in the first season, but they will get better each year as they get a chance to spread, expanding into dense clumps. Bulbs can be planted effectively together with perennials, disguising the bush as the foliage is dying down, while the bulbs supply ongoing colour.
Most bulbs prefer an open sunny position or light shade, and in fact many will flower poorly if they don’t receive enough natural light. In warmer climates many will tolerate a little more shade. Most bulbs like very good drainage. If you have heavy or poorly drained soil try growing them in raised beds or pots. As a general rule, bulbs can be planted twice as deeply as they are high, and about the same distance apart. Bulbs are usually planted with the pointy end upwards, except ranunculus which are planted claw downwards. If you are unsure, just ask at your local specialist nursery when you buy your bulbs. Most bulbs need very little attention except a complete bulb fertiliser at planting time, and then again when they have finished flowering. As tempting as it is to cut of the dying foliage – don’t. The foliage helps to provide the energy for next years’ flower.
It is important to remember that if you want to plant tulips, the winters sometimes don’t get cold enough to initiate flowering, so they need to be given a short time in the fridge before planting. Between 4 and 8 weeks are usually enough, and somewhere like the crisper is ideal. It is amazing to think that these small dull, lifeless packages will burst into spring magnificence.
So there you have it - the basics for incorporating some beautiful spring flowering bulbs in your garden to compliment your chosen garden style.
One of the most important things about growing vegetables is to know their requirements for cold and warmth. Soil preparation is a very important step too. Some vegetables can be disappointing if they are planted out of season, and unfortunately some stores have seedlings on their shelves more suited to coastal areas than the Toowoomba climate. Here’s some information to help you, but if you’re not sure please ask the helpful horticulturists at your local independent nursery.
Most warm season vegetables like daytime temperatures of 20 degrees C or above. This group includes beans, capsicum, eggplant, sweet corn, sweet potato, tomato and vine crops like melons, cucumbers, pumpkins, zucchini, and squash. Some gardeners have lovely protected warm spots to grow a tomato or two in a corner with a warm north-facing wall or fence next to them, or you could build a small ‘hot-house’ to grow some summer vegies in winter.
Cool weather varieties grow their best in daytime temperatures of 10-20 degrees C, and include broad beans, broccoli, brussels sprouts, cauliflower, onions, peas, spinach, silverbeet and turnips.
A good idea is to plant successively every 4 weeks or so and then you will have an ongoing supply of the freshest, healthiest, and tastiest vegetables just outside your back door.
An open, sunny site is a must for your vegetable garden. To grow quickly and well, vegetables need as much sunlight as possible, especially in winter. If possible, select a part of the garden facing north to north-east to catch the winter sun and at least 4 or 5 hours direct sunlight each day. Do make allowances for the shorter daylight hours, long shadows in winter, and avoid heavy shade from buildings, fences, or large trees and shrubs.
Trees and shrubs with large root systems will compete for moisture and plant nutrients as well as sunlight so avoid planting too close to them. A level site is best and easier to manage with rows running north-south. This way each plant in the row receives balanced and maximum sunlight. Healthy soil for vegetables should be loose and crumbly which absorbs and holds moisture and nutrients, and it should also drain easily.
Vegetables are often divided into three groups depending on the part of the plants we eat.
Type 1: Fruit and seed vegetables – beans, peas, capsicum, eggplant, tomato, sweetcorn and the vine crops
Type 2: Leaf and stem vegetables – cabbage, celery, lettuce, rhubarb, silver beet and spinach
Type 3: Root and bulb vegetables – beetroot, carrots, onions, parsnips, potatoes, radish and turnips.
All vegetables need to be grown quickly so plant nutrition is very important too. You don’t need different soils for different vegetables, however the grouping of your vegetables into fruit, leaf, and root plants gives you very good guidelines for fertiliser use.
Fruit and root crops need large quantities of phosphorus included in their fertiliser to promote the flower, fruit, seed and root development. Fertilisers high in nitrogen may produce too much leafy growth and reduce yields of fruits and seeds.
On the other hand, nitrogenous fertilisers are needed in greater quantities by leafy vegetables like broccoli, cabbage, cauliflower, lettuce, silver beet and spinach.
So as you can see, the fertiliser needs of vegetables are partly determined by the part of the plant we eat. There are fertilisers available which are specifically blended for the different needs of vegetable growing, as well as phosphorus separately.
Experience is a great teacher, so don’t be afraid to have a go at growing some luscious, fresh vegetables.
Toowoomba’s climate with our fertile soil gives us the ability to grow a wide variety of plants and makes our gardens unique - hence we are “The Garden City” and the envy of many a gardener in Australia and worldwide. Many magazines, radio and television programs have information galore for the Tropical and Sub-Tropical areas but our climate here is more along the lines of Cool Temperate. So you will find some information you see, hear or read does not actually apply to our area. For instance, planting citrus trees now is good in our area as they have a length of growing time to establish before the winter chills arrive. There are certain varieties on ‘trifolate’ rootstock which perform best in our area too. Always check with your local specialist nursery and their dedicated horticulturalists will steer you in the right direction.
Citrus Planting & Care
Choose a well drained sunny site protected from strong winds. Plant the citrus tree keeping the bud union 10-15cm above soil level and following the step by step instructions in last Saturday’s Toowoomba Telegraph. The largest proportion of roots on a healthy citrus tree are in the top 30cm of the soil within the drip line (the area under the tree canopy). Avoid digging this area, this is the area to apply fertiliser, water and mulch, keeping the mulch from resting directly on the tree trunk to help prevent collar rot.
Pruning Citrus- Heavy pruning is not usually required. No shoots should be allowed to grow below those already established on the tree as these are usually from the rootstock and can take over if not removed. Cut out any dead wood and trim back water shoots by one third to half of their length. Heavy pruning can be used to revitalise an old established tree.
Frost protection- Trees can be protected by spraying Envy during winter, wrapping the trunk with hessian or newspaper and covering the tree at night with hessian will also help. There is also a special ‘Frost Cloth’ you can leave on the trees all Winter for protection which lets through enough sun to grow a healthy tree. If the tree is frost damaged the best thing is to leave the tree until further frosts are over, then prune the damage off, fertilize and lovely new growth will appear.
Heat Stress – Watering in the morning or evening and deeply is the answer. Let the hose run very slowly under the tree for a few hours to give a deep soaking usually once a month is enough in summer. If there are drying northerly winds you may need to water more often. You can also spray with Envy Anti-transparent during summer to avoid heat stress which saves up to 50% moisture loss from the leaves and make a huge difference to the vitality of the tree.
Pests and Diseases: Leaf Miner, Scale, Gall Wasps, Mites, Scab, Brown Rot, Melanose, Root and Collar Rot are the most likely culprits. If you are concerned with the health of your trees please trim some affected growth from the tree, place in a tied plastic bag or sealed container so you don’t spread the problem and take to your local nursery for identification and solutions.
Fertilizing – There are a few types of fruit and citrus fertilizer to choose from all having the correct balance to feed for optimal health and production of fruit. At times you may have to add extra trace elements depending on your soil. Citrus trees like to be fed spring, summer, and autumn and have a large appetite so don’t be mean if you want good results. The healthier they are the less likely they will have pest and disease problems – a bit like you and I hey!
The Crepe Myrtle Trees provide us with a great summer show and flower around town beautifully. As are the Dwarf Crepe Myrtles growing to 1.2m (4’) and ideal for beds built into lawns, for pots, and general garden use where a plant of low height is needed in a sunny spot. They come in colours of white, pink, dark pink, mauve, and ruby red. Crepe Myrtles have good cold tolerance and the flower petals are ruffled, with a crepe-like texture. In autumn the mid-green leaves turn yellow, orange or red (depending on the variety) before falling.
The Indian Summer series of Crepe Myrtle (Lagerstroemia indica x L. fauriei) have been specially bred to resist powdery mildew, a fungal disease that can be seen on some older crepe myrtle varieties. Each cultivar is named after an American Indian tribe, and they range in heights from around 3-6m (10-18’).
'Acoma' (white flowers and a weeping habit), 3m (10')
'Tonto' (rich pink flowers), 3m (10')
'Zuni' (mauve flowers), 3m (10')
'Sioux' (carmine pink flowers) 4m (12')
'Yuma' (pale pink flowers) 4m (12')
'Tuscarora' (rose red flowers) 5m (15')
'Natchez' (white flowers) 6m (18')
On the trees, remove low growth to develop a smooth, attractive trunk. Mulching Crepe Myrtles with leafy mulch is preferred to help with moisture retention, weed prevention, and improve your soil. Please keep plants well watered until established and also in prolonged dry periods. Remember my chook scratch method – to check the moisture levels scratch the soil like a chook and if there is moisture not far down you don’t need to water.
Crepe Myrtles are a very hardy plant for tough conditions. They do well in poor soils and resent feeding with rich manures so for the best results feed Crepe Myrtles with a controlled release complete fertilizer including trace elements and potash. Some varieties are susceptible to powdery mildew and this can be controlled.
If you are concerned with any possible pest or disease problems in your garden please trim some affected growth from the plant, place in a tied plastic bag or sealed container so you don’t spread the problem. Bring the sample to us and our dedicated horticulturists can identify the problem and recommend the correct treatment.
Nothing tastes better than your own home grown potatoes. Potatoes can be grown successfully in most parts of Queensland in the warm months. The ideal growing temperature is 20-25 degrees celcius.
Planting in frost free areas close to the coast can be carried out all year round, while in most areas in Queensland two plantings occur and in north Queensland plant only in winter. On the Darling Downs the best planting times are late July to mid September and again January to early March to avoid frosts at maturity.
Seed being the potato tuber itself, Certified seed means the potato tubers have been grown under DPI supervision being true to type and disease and virus free.
Small tubers can be planted whole while large potatoes may be cut with at least two eyes in each portion. As a guide, a tuber the size of a cricket ball should only be cut into two pieces and anything smaller left whole. A single eye can be scooped and planted but it will only produce one stem and a few tubers. Aim for a tuber with several eyes as they will produce better. Rubbing the cut area with Sulphur powder or ash and drying in the sun for one day will prevent rotting.
Potatoes will grow in any garden soil provided it is well mulched and well drained. Before planting, an application of Gypsum together with Organic Extra one cup per square metre is recommended. Organic Extra is a blend of fertilisers containing Blood & Bone, Seaweed, Poultry Manure, Potash, Magnesium and Trace Elements. A side dressing Sulphate of Ammonia should follow 4 weeks after the plants emerge.
The seed is best planted in a trench 15cm deep, 30cm apart and 60cm between each row. Cover with moist rich soil. Hilling of plants when 15cm high is essential to increase yield because new potatoes only form above the original seed. The more soil hilled - the better the crop. It also prevents sunburn and greening of potatoes. Mulching with sugarcane mulch at 8 weeks will also prevent sunburn.
Water when necessary. Plants should be kept moist while growing, however avoid over watering. Allow plants to flower and then die down before digging. If storing, this will increase their holding time. Stop watering after flowering. After digging, store potatoes in a cool dark area and dust with Derris Dust to prevent being stung by the potato moth. This is not harmful to humans. Cover to prevent greening.
It’s a great time to plant trees and shrubs to get some strong healthy growth happening while during warm weather. The initial planting is of vital importance to the success of your plants and these step by step instructions will help give your plants the best possible start you can provide.
Once established mature plants can withstand dry periods with minimal attention. Remember, deep infrequent watering will encourage deeper root development which enables the plant or tree to survive through the tough times. If you lightly water the moisture just doesn’t make it down to the root system where it is needed.