Onions are generally easy to grow. They can be grown in seed trays and planted out in 4-6 weeks.
Individual plants should have a spacing of between 5 and 10cm. The bulbs should be placed on the surface of the soil, rather than be buried. Maturity will be reached in six to eight months.
They will be ready when the tops of the plants start to dry and fall over. The plants can then be pulled from the ground and left to dry for a few days. Onions should be stored in a cool, dry, airy place.
Onions are available in a range of varieties, including:
Brown onions - strong flavour and pungent. They are usually good keepers for storage purposes.
White onions - milder but still flavoursome. They keep fairly well.
Red onions - mild flavour, making them suitable for use raw in sandwiches and salads.
Liliums (lilies) produce very elegant flowers during the summer months. The bulbs can be planted out now.
Plants prefer to have a cooler area for their roots, while having the flowers in sun. A position sheltered from strong winds is also preferred. To achieve this, the bulbs can be planted between low growing plants and shrubs in mixed borders.
Bulbs can also be planted into bulbs, allowing one bulb per pot if using a 150mm pot, or two bulbs if a 175mm pot has been selected. Liliums prefer a soil that is slightly acidic, and is well drained.
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Soil should be enriched with well rotted compost, mixed with a complete fertiliser. The soil should have been moistened prior to the planting of the bulbs. A layer of compost or mulch over the soil will help in keeping the bulbs cool.
Lilium bulbs can be left in the soil for a number of years, maintaining moisture levels while the plants are actively growing.
The area of the garden where the lilies have been planted should be top-dressed each autumn and spring, using a complete fertiliser.
Rhubarb can be grown in a wide range of soil types, providing they are well drained, but it prefers deep loams well supplied with organic matter. Rhubarb is usually propagated by planting pieces or divisions of 'crowns' formed during preceding seasons.
Under ideal conditions, a strong, healthy division will produce a sturdy plant in one season's growth and some stems may be harvested in this first season. Crown divisions are usually planted about 90cm apart and covered with 5 to 7.5 cm of soil and firmly pressed into place.
Large amounts of organic matter (animal manures) should be used. Choose a sunny or lightly shaded spot and dig plenty of organic matter into the planting area. Some pellets of Dynamic Lifter can also be mixed into the soil before planting.
As soon as the leaves appear, begin applying organic mulch around the plant (without directly touching the stems) and water regularly with a liquid plant food such as Thrive or Aquasol.
Sydney Crimson is a reliable rhubarb variety that performs well in a wide range of climates.
When harvesting rhubarb, pick the largest stalks from the outside of the clump. Pull the stalk cleanly downwards and sideways. Always leave at least four stems in the centre of the clump.
However, rhubarb leaves are poisonous and should never be eaten. The leaves can be used to make a rhubarb spray for insect control. Boil rhubarb leaves with water, using approximately three leaves per 500ml of water - and add a small amount of soap (ordinary flaked bath soap) to the mix. Spray in early morning or late afternoon to avoid leaf burn.
An interesting native plant that produces attractive and unusual flowers, but is often overlooked for inclusion in garden settings, is Hakea laurina. This plant is also known as the Pin-cushion Hakea, because of the flowers it produces.
In December - January new flower buds become evident. They are spherical in shape and gradually increase in size through to the autumn months. Flowering starts towards the end of April, with the best displays occurring from July to the end of August. The rounded, pin-cushion flower heads, about 5cm in diameter, start out as a cherry red, covered in long styles. As the flowers age, they change in colour to pale pink and white. This creates an attractive display.
Leaves are about 15cm in length and are thick and smooth, with two prominent veins. They are blue-green in colour and often curl attractively at the end.
Hakea laurina grows as a large shrub or small tree, reaching 5 metres in ideal situations. These include open positions with light soil that is watered but well drained. If the plant has been placed into a position of full sun it will usually form a compact, rounded head and flower freely and evenly each year on the older wood.
Because Hakea laurinas usually do not have strong root systems, staking of the young plants is advisable. This is particularly important if the tree is growing in a more exposed position.
Hakea laurina is a native of south-western Australia. Young, tender growth may be frost tender, although plants that have reached about one metre in height are usually able to tolerate colder conditions. Mature, flowering specimens can be seen in areas of Victoria as well as in Council parks in central NSW.
GARDENING TIPS: What you can do
Take advantage of the recent rains by mulching garden beds, particularly vegetable beds. When mulching the beds, it is preferable to use low environmental impact mulches, such as pea straw, spent hay or sugarcane mulch as they will enrich the soil as they break down.
- Plant members of the brassica family, such as broccoli, cabbage, cauliflower and Brussel sprouts, near some sage plants as they will assist in repelling caterpillars and moths.