May Garden Diary

What to do
Watch out for whiteflies that can infest your cucurbit and brassica vegies, spoiling the crop. These little sap-suckers can be controlled in the same way you would aphids, mealy bugs and scale. They look like tiny white moths and are generally found on the underside of leaves. Methods of controlling them include spraying the affected leaves with a jet of water to knock the whiteflies off, displaying reflective objects around plants such as old CD’s or foil, and encouraging beneficial predatory insects such as ladybugs and lacewings. If necessary, neem oil or horticultural soap can be effective in controlling whiteflies and are generally deemed safe options.

Other bugs to be on the lookout for are aphids on your roses. These little critters can have a final burst of activity on wintering roses and need to be controlled now so populations are not too large come springtime. The quickest and most natural way to keep them in check is by spraying the affected bushes with a strong jet of water. You can also plant garlic chives amongst your roses to help control further infestations.

Ferns will benefit from a feed of liquid fish emulsion now to push fresh growth out before winter sets in. Give them a quick tidy up while you are there and remove spent fronds.

Cymbidium orchids start flowering now for some cool weather colour. Apply a weak liquid flower-promoting fertiliser over the foliage to stimulate the best possible results.

It’s a great idea to treat timber decking with natural oils before winter rains soak into the wood, causing it to expand and buckle. This will help prevent deterioration and will keep your outdoor area looking amazing for many years to come.

What to plant
This is the perfect time of year to plant green manure crops such as peas, lucerne and clover. These add valuable organic matter and nitrogen to the soil, rejuvenating tired garden beds. Allow eight weeks for the crop to grow, then up to six weeks for it to decompose back into the soil. A little patience is worth it here, as you will be left with a wonderfully rich, healthy soil to begin work again.

Seek out your favourite bare-rooted roses from catalogues and specialist nurseries now. Before planting, soak them in a bucket of Seasol diluted at the recommended rate for five minutes to alleviate transplant stress. You can also order a range of deciduous foliage trees through online catalogues and garden centres now. Check out www.flemings.com.au for the latest ornamental and fruit tree varieties.

Daphne is a great plant for mild climates as they tolerate light frost. Plant yours in a protected position with morning sun or dappled shade in a well-drained, compost-rich soil. These pink, cream or white flowers have a lovely fragrance that you can make the most of by planting close to entertaining areas. Beware of the berries though – they are poisonous, so don’t let children handle the plant in case they try to taste one.

Harvest highlights
Jerusalem artichokes are coming into season now. Try this delicious, simple soup from Delish – From Garden to Table, available here.

jerusalem-artichokeJERUSALEM ARTICHOKE SOUP

  • 500 g Jerusalem artichokes, scrubbed, peeled and roughly chopped
  • 2 T extra virgin olive oil
  • 2 large onions
  • 2 garlic cloves, crushed and chopped
  • 2 ½ C chicken stock
  • 1 strip of orange peel
  • Salt
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • 3 T extra virgin olive oil for garnish

Fry onions until transparent, add garlic and continue to cook until aromatic, usually a couple of minutes. Toss the artichokes into the pan and mix with the hot oil and onion. Add the chicken stock and turn up the heat so the stock comes to a boil. Season with pepper and salt then drop in the orange peel. Cover the pan and simmer for 20 minutes. Remove the peel and place small portions of the mixture into a food processor and pulverise to a creamy consistency. Serve in individual bowls with a swirl of olive oil.

For your state-by-state guide, please see our Seasonal Garden Guide on the right-hand side of the homepage.

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