Now or never to get ready for planting months – Alice Springs News Online

now-or-never-to-get-ready-for-planting-months-–-alice-springs-news-online

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By GEOFF MIERS
You’ll miss the prime planting season of March and April if you wimp out on must-do jobs in the current month promising to be warm to hot.
February is the month for fertilizsing literally the entire the garden. Fertilising now will see a new flush of growth towards the end of February and in mid March as temperatures slightly cool and plants enter their second growth flush of the year.
All fruit trees including citrus, olives, deciduous fruit trees and tropical species will benefit by being given a complete NPK fertiliser by mid February. This will stimulate healthy growth and improve next season’s fruit crop quality.
For the organic gardener an application of the organic fertiliser GrowBetter will be required every four weeks for at least three months. I believe that GrowBetter is one of the best organic manures on the market because it is a blend of blood & bone, chicken manure and sea-weed extract.
Where severe nutrient deficiencies are apparent specific nutrient supplements maybe required. This can particularly be the case where iron, zinc and nitrogen deficiencies are obvious. You can purchase a blend of trace elements and apply this if you are not sure which specific nutrient is missing.
Severe nutrient deficiencies maybe the result of high pH where the soil has become alkaline. High pH or alkaline soils results in nutrients being locked up in the soil and become unavailable to the plants, the secret then is to lower the pH.
The soil should be tested and organic matter in the form of well rotted compost, sulphur and/or sulphate of ammonia should be applied in an attempt to lower the pH.
Sulphur traditionally comes in a yellow powder form that needs to be dug through the soil however now sulphur also comes in a liquid form that makes application easy. You simply water it in with a watering can.
Lawns will greatly appreciate a feed with a complete NPK lawn fertiliser as they recover from the hot weather and the summer devastation caused by lawn grubs, particularly bad again this year.
This NPK feed should be followed up by an application of a high nitrogen fertiliser six weeks later. Sulphate of ammonia will give best results. This will result in good foliage cover and is early enough for the grasses to toughen and be ready for the cooler months.
As a general rule as part of a lawn maintenance program spray or spread lawn grub killer twice 10 to 14 days apart for lawn grubs in early February as they tend to reach their second peak breeding season of the summer.
Where lawn grubs have eaten out lawns it may be necessary to replant.
With our hot days now warm season grasses germinate quickly often up in anything from four to seven days. The secret is to water regularly often up to five to six times a day for a minute or two thus keeping the soil surface visibly looking moist until the grasses emerge.
The rose gardener needs to be busy this month, pruning, spraying and feeding in that order. Roses are susceptible to several fungal diseases, are often mite ridden at this time of the year and need necessary maintenance works.
Roses in the garden given this treatment during February will reward you with a great Autumn flush of blooms. February works can see your roses blooming from March through to June and July when it’s time again to prune, spray and fertilise.
Now should be a busy time in the vegetable garden as a second summer crop can be planted and its time to prepare for early plantings of winter vegetable varieties. While we increasingly tend to plant seedlings in fact planting seed is a much better and safer option when temperatures are in the 40s.
The next three weeks is an ideal time to plant tomatoes. Planted now they will grow furiously and commence flowering in March, setting fruit as temperatures drop and with enough time to fully ripen before Winter arrives.
Most summer vegetables can still be planted including zucchini, cucumber, melons, pumpkins, chilli and capsicum. Planted now you may well get better results than from your Spring planting.
At the same time as planting a second summer garden beds should now be prepared for an early planting of winter vegetables. Prepare the soil well and if using commercially prepared organic fertilisers you can plant one to two weeks after preparing the soil.
If using organic manures you need to blend them into the soil, water twice weekly and allow the soil to mature over many weeks before planting. Planting into newly prepared beds with rare manure can see plants react adversely with big disappointment.
An early planting of cauliflower, brussel sprouts, cabbage and broccoli will allow you to plant a minimum of two crops over the season. Remember cauliflower and brussel sprouts take at least four months to mature.
Beetroot, broccoli, brussel sprouts, cabbages, cauliflower, potatoes, swede and parsley are best planted over February.
Silver beet, radish, beans, carrots, lettuce, onion, sweet corn, shallots and zucchini can all still be planted confidently.
PHOTO: Malabar spinach, an edible climbing plant, already doing well in a container (an old stock watering trough) in a rural area garden. It may be eaten raw in salads, boiled, steamed, stir-fried, or added to soups, stews, tofu dishes, and curries. The native portulaca, also edible, has self-seeded all around it.

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