Once summer vegetable crops have completed their cycle and are no longer producing adequate amounts, the plants should be cleared from the beds. If the plant material is not diseased it can be composted.
Long stems should be chopped into smaller pieces in order to hasten the decomposition process.
Appropriate soil preparation is necessary if good cropping is to be the end result.
Prepared compost should be added to the soil to replace the nutrients that have been used by the summer crops.
A dressing of blood and bone will be beneficial, as well as some well-rotted animal manure. Ideally, the soil should then be left to settle for several weeks.
At planting time, the soil should be of a crumbly consistency, without large pieces of compacted soil.
House plants, plants that are grown mainly indoors, can suffer from diseases. It is important to keep the plants well-hydrated, particularly when air-conditioners and fans are being used for cooling, as these will soon cause leaves to dry out.
Spraying with water, using something like an ironing spray bottle, will maintain hydration levels. Placing plants outside when rain occurs will also be most beneficial to the plants.
However, it is most important to remember to take the plants back inside so that they are not subject to the strong rays of the sun later on.
Old and diseased leaves should be removed from plants.
One of the main problems that will affect indoor plants is scale. Scale appears as small grey-white spots, generally on the undersides of leaves. These can be removed by gently rubbing the leaf surface.
Scales are sucking insects that feed on the juices of the plant. The spots that appear are actually a protective covering for the insects underneath. Because of this factor, an application of an oil-based product, such as Eco-Oil will be required in order to suffocate the insect. It will also provide a repellant that will discourage further infestations. It is important to ensure that the under surfaces of the leaves are sprayed.
A liquid fertiliser will encourage new growth.
Care needs to be taken with watering routines for indoor plants. Many indoor plants die because of over-watering. Rather, it is preferable to allow plants to have dry times between watering. Pushing a finger into the top soil will indicate if water is needed. If the soil feels damp and sticks to the finger, then watering is not required.
Spring and summer will lead to increased watering needs, while less will be required during the cooler months.
One of the delights of a late winter/early spring garden is a display of sweet peas, whether they have been grown as one of the varieties that form a low border in a garden bed or a variety that climbs over a structure, forming a wall of fragrant colour.
Sweet peas are easy to grow from seed and many varieties are available, so the gardener is able to choose a variety that suits their own particular preferences or situations.
March 17 (St Patrick’s Day) is regarded by many as the preferred day for planting out the seeds to ensure that they will be in flower before the hotter weather of late spring arrives. However, if the weather is still warm it may be preferable to delay seed planting until later in the month or even early April.
In preparation for the planting out of sweet pea seeds, the garden beds can now be prepared by adding some garden lime or dolomite to the soil, in addition to an application of blood and bone. This will allow the soil to settle in time for sowing the seeds.
A sunny, well-drained position should be selected. One that is sheltered from strong winds will assist in preventing damage to the delicate flowers once the plants come into bloom. The soil should be watered well the afternoon prior to planting out the seeds, allowing the seeds to be placed into damp soil. This will aid in their germination.
Once the seeds have been placed into the soil, the surface should be firmed down. It is preferable to withhold water for a several days after planting out the seeds, as they suffer from rotting if the soil is too damp or too warm. If a climbing variety has been selected then the structure that will be used to support the plants should be erected prior to sowing the seeds.
Small growing varieties of sweet peas that are available include: Bijou, a good choice for growing over low fences; Potted Fragrance, producing semi-dwarf plants up to 60cm in height and suitable for growing in large containers; Cupid, forming a ground cover in shades of pink; and Pixie Princess, the smallest grower, reaching 22cm and suitable for a hanging basket display and for use in the garden bed.
Taller growing varieties include: Colourcade, perhaps the most popular variety grown, producing brightly coloured flowers; Brilliant Fragrance, producing pale cream flowers that change to soft pink as they age; Original, the oldest variety with smaller, bi-coloured flowers in shades of maroon and mauve, but having the sweetest perfume of all the varieties; and Blue Reflections, providing a mass of flowers in shades of blue, mauve and white. Many other varieties are available at garden centres.