February 22, 2008 Weekly Garden Guide

  • While the rains last week were very welcome, we are still in moisture deficit and we will dry out again very quickly if more rain does not eventuate soon. Keep thinking in drought mode for a while longer.
  • Do not, however, be tempted to plant in the garden using water retaining crystals. These are a huge amount of fun to play around with for children old enough to understand that they are not edible (they expand exponentially when you add water to give a jelly-like substance) but they are only for hanging baskets and containers of annuals. We are dry for a few weeks of the year only and in the remaining months these crystals will sit in your soil like wet jelly and rot out the roots of everything around them. For this reason, they are also likely to kill container grown woody plants during winter. Keep them for summer crops of potted colour in containers.
  •  Last week’s rain will have triggered spring bulbs into growth (it is a signal to them that autumn is coming) so get onto patches of daffodils, bluebells and the like that you have been meaning to lift and divide.
  • You can start preparing areas for new lawns now. Getting them weed free before you sow the seed in autumn can save a lot of work later. It is also time to deal to flat weeds in the lawn – by cutting them out or spraying if you feel you must. Few of us have lawns at this time which are a source of pride. So if you are looking at a neighbour with a pristine green sward, you can feel self righteous that at least you are not wasting water and pouring on chemical sprays to keep your lawn immaculate. Never fertilise a dry lawn. You will kill it.
  • The rains triggered a surge in weeds. Keep on top of them while they are still small.
  • Keep the copper sprays up to tomatoes.
  • You can sow peas along with spinach, beetroot, cauli, cabbage, lettuces and radishes. Dwarf beans are still fine to sow. Fresh seed gives the best germination so keeping your own seed not only saves money but also gives you a good start. Seed keeps best in paper bags and then in a sealed container in the fridge but make sure the seed is dry. A sachet of silica gel will do this.