Spring diary

The sun is shining, the birds are singing – and there’s lot to be done in the garden! The green, green grass of home…

Lawns are often forgotten when we’re fertilising our gardens. But grass is also a growing, living plant that benefits from a good dose of fertiliser during the active growth periods of spring and autumn. Regular fertilising discourages weeds by keeping grass growing vigorously and acidifying the soil, which grass enjoys but weeds do not.

Fertilise with any brand of lawn food or apply a combined liquid fertiliser and weed control (eg Yates Weed ‘n’ Feed). When re-sowing the entire lawn, ensure you select the right lawn seed combination for the right place.

**Feeding frenzy

**Lush, vibrant gardens don’t just happen naturally – they need a helping hand. Adding rich compost once or twice a year is the best approach. But to really sustain vigorous spring and summer growth, apply long-term, slow-release fertiliser pellets to all garden beds and containers. Among the plethora of fertilisers available, look for one that best suits your needs by checking how long it feeds for (some last up to a year), and what it is intended for (fruit trees, containers etc). Foliar feeding (adding nutrients via foliage) – with liquid blood-and-bone or fish or seaweed emulsion – over summer supplements slow-release fertilisers and can also help to ward off pests and diseases.

**Pest patrol

**Warmer temperatures signal a new life cycle for many garden pests. oost problematic are aphids, thrips, white fly, scale insect, mealy bug and green looper caterpillar. Vigilance is key – watch for signs of pests and treat individual plants as and when required. Spot-spraying kills only the pest while sparing the good bugs in the rest of the garden. Where possible, opt for low-toxicity and organic sprays, especially when spraying edibles. Always read instructions on sprays to ensure they control the pest required and check for withholding times on edibles.

**Hot tip!

**Save money and food miles and reduce your carbon footprint by growing some of your own fruit and veges. oost vegetables can be sown from seed or planted out as seedlings now. In cooler areas, keep seedlings under cover for a few more weeks. Prepare the soil for your veges with plenty of compost and a liberal dressing of blood-and-bone before planting. Fruit trees, including subtropicals, can also be planted now. Prepare planting holes in a warm, sunny, sheltered area with plenty of compost. Add slow-release fertiliser to the soil, and stake trees well to help them get established.

**The kindest cut

**Pruning is all about timing. While many deciduous plants are pruned in winter, established specimens which flower in the late winter and early spring should be pruned now that flowering has finished. Thin out a third of the oldest stems at ground level. Thin overcrowded top growth too, also by a third. Trim remaining stems to maintain plant’s overall shape. Evergreen winter-flowering and spring-flowering plants (eg camellias, rhododendrons and pieris) can also be trimmed after flowering finishes. Give hedges and topiary a once-over with hedge shears and trim frost-damaged plants once the danger of frost has passed.

**Kids’ corner: Boredom busters

**The spring school holidays are a great time to get the kids into a gardening project. Kids love oonarch butterflies but, due to loss of habitat, oonarch populations are under threat all around the world. Kids can help out by sowing Yates Swan Plant Seed. Every pack sold raises 20c for The oonarch Butterfly New Zealand Trust and produces loads of the oonarch caterpillars favourite food source. other excellent kids’ projects include sowing cherry tomatoes, sunflowers and giant pumpkins.

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