Just in case we were in any doubt, winter arrived in force this month bringing plenty of rain and plenty of cold too, however, work continues apace in the Australian Garden with a growing focus on Stage 2 of the AG. We’re planting those plants that will tolerate the cold wet conditions and also staying on top of the weeds as much as we can. Some weeds such as Poa annua or Winter Grass really thrive and reproduce rapidly in our current weather conditions and so it’s important to stay vigilant to prevent them from setting seed and becoming too well established.
My favourite plant for the month is Lechenaultia formosa, also known as Red Lechenaultia. This very pretty dwarf shrub can be seen in the Ephemeral Garden and, as the name suggests, is covered in small, bright red flowers at the moment. In order to thrive, the Red Lechenaultia needs free-draining soil, lots of sunshine and reasonable air movement around it, without which it can be a little susceptible to moulds during damp or humid conditions. An application of slow release native fertilizer in Spring and Autumn along with some regular, light tip pruning should ensure an attractive and healthy plant. They also do very well in pots.
A great job to do in the home garden at this time of year is to build a new garden bed. To replace an area of lawn with a garden bed, begin by spraying out the area of lawn with herbicide or, if you’re trying to stay away from chemicals, by covering the grass with a thick layer of overlapping cardboard. It’s important that the cardboard is at least 10 cm thick and that no gaps are left, otherwise some grasses such as couch or kikuyu can find a way through and soon begin to take back the garden. It’s also a good idea to put in some kind of barrier or edging around the new garden bed in order to stop the remaining lawn from invading your new garden.
Once the cardboard has been laid out, a layer of animal manure can be applied to provide nutrients for the plants that will go into that area and also to provide a source of Nitrogen which, when combined with the Carbon stored in the cardboard, will feed the composting process and break down over time into a fantastic humus for your plants to grow in. After these first two layers have been applied, the bed can be built up as high as you like by adding layers of compost, manure, newspaper, straw or top soil (among other things) and then topped of with a layer of mulch. It’s a good idea to let the bed settle for at least four to six weeks before planting anything in it and also to be mindful that some plants may not respond well to the high levels of nutrients in a freshly-built raised garden bed like this one. If you build your garden bed now, it should settle in nicely over winter and be ready and waiting to plant out in early Spring.
Now is also a good time of year to remove any dead wood from your shrubs and trees. By doing this, you allow air to circulate around and through your plants which helps to reduce the risk of fungal infections in your garden. Some dead limbs and hollows on mature trees can provide excellent habitat for native wildlife so be sure to consider this aspect before you start pruning.