Warming up in the garden

The usual mid-May cold snap has got us all reaching for the woolly jumpers and scarves – but why not get out into the garden and warm up with some productive tasks?

Now is a good time to lift and divide perennials like dietes and agapanthus. Don’t be frightened; after all, you’ve got one clump now, and it’s unlikely you’ll manage to kill all of the divisions, so what have you got to lose?

Cut back the foliage first so you can see what you’re doing. For large clumps, spade out sections of the outer edge, as these are the younger and more vigorous bits. Replant any piece that has either a good clump of roots or a healthy-looking corm. Smaller clumps in reasonably light soil can be lifted in their entirety and cut up on a table before replanting. Always throw away any dead, diseased or feeble-looking divisions.

Fallen leaves should not be wasted; rake them up for leaf-mould. All you need is a few star pickets wrapped with chicken wire to form a cage, somewhere at the back of the garden. Pile in all the leaves and let them slowly break down (it’s mainly a fungal process) until next year. You’ll then have a great soil additive.

Get on with preparing the soil for new roses. Dig over the earth in a sunny and airy site, adding either chicken pellets or a complete rose fertilizer as directed on the packet plus a cup of lime per square metre. Water well, then leave for at least three weeks before planting.

Now is also an excellent time to apply fine-textured mulches to the vegie garden. Mulches like milled lucerne hay and tea-tree waste retain water well, even when applied thinly, and will gradually break down and feed the soil.


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