Gardening in January
It’s hot, hot, hot...
There’s no such thing as a “typical” Australian summer, despite the glossy marketing brochures showing bronzed Aussies and miles of stunning surf beaches. In tropical coastal areas, Summer is warm to hot and very humid, with torrential downpours and the occasional cyclone thrown in for good measure.
The more temperate, southern and inland regions are often blisteringly hot (in excess of 40 deg C at times) and extremely dry, with winds that may resemble a fan-forced oven. Wherever you live, summer is not conducive to outdoor activities that involve much effort, but there are still some maintenance to be done to keep the garden at its best for entertaining outdoors.
What to plant now:
Planting is not recommended in most areas because conditions are just too stressful for young plants, even the tough ones like cacti and succulents. There may be some edibles that could be planted in the far north’s “dry season”, including sweet potatoes, yams and okra.
Planting in other areas should be confined to replacing spent seasonal flowering plants in pots and hanging planters decorating outdoor entertainment areas and verandas.
- Seasonal flowers:
Advanced colour or bloomer pots or shrubby plants with trailing stems look terrific in large tubs and hanging baskets. Choose from:
“Soft” herbs – parsley, basil, coriander, chives, tarragon – will do better in pots over summer, where they can be moved out of the sun and watered frequently if necessary.
- Salad greens:
Continue planting leafy salad favourites including the “pick and come again” lettuces; water in well and give some shade for the first few days until they can tolerate the sun.
The Vegetable Patch:
There should be plenty to harvest from the veggie garden now, including beans, lettuce, carrots, radishes, tomatoes, beetroot, spring onions, snap peas, silver beet and sweet corn. Pick early in the day before the sun becomes too intense. Give them a quick rinse in cold water before eating.
What to plant now:
Seedlings of salad and Asian greens may still be planted now into well prepared, moist soil. Water in with a half strength solution of liquid fertiliser. Alternatively, grow them in planter boxes filled with Osmocote Professional Vegetable, Tomato & Herb Potting Mix. Move them into the shade on days of extreme heat.
Check your local garden centre to see what other veggies are on offer.
Plant seedlings of the following:
- Asian greens
- Silver beet
- Spring/Green onion
Veggie patch tips for January:
Keep vegetables and herbs growing and producing well with a liquid plant food like Osmocote Boost+Feed Vegetables, Tomatoes & Herbs or a certified organic fertiliser.
Check the ties on bush tomatoes and other veggies to ensure they are not too tight.
- Make sure your climbing crops like peas and beans are growing up their supports and not smothering other crops close by.
- Hand pull or hoe out weeds that compete for nutrients and moisture and may also harbour pests that could attack your crops.
- Water early in the day direct on to the soil – avoid wetting leaves because this could encourage diseases.
- Bird netting over the entire veggie patch will keep birds and possums out. Make sure the mesh size is less than 5mm to prevent birds or animals being caught in it.
Fruit & Flower Beds:
Fruits to harvest now:
Stone fruits like apricots, peaches, nectarines and plums should all be ready to harvest this month, depending on the varieties being grown. Pick ripe fruits early in the day, before they heat up. Leave those still very firm to the touch on the trees until they are fully ripe. If you find any rotting fruits, pick and discard them immediately, before they release fungal spores.
Never put diseased fruits (or plants) in the compost bin – wrap them in newspaper and place in the household rubbish bin so they’re removed from the property. Strawberries, raspberries, blackberries and other berries will be plentiful this month. Enjoy them while they last because some have quite short seasons. Passionfruit will also be ripening now. Tropical fruits and citrus are still cropping in warmer areas, and honeydew melon, watermelon and cantaloupe are still in season in hot, dry climates.
What fruit to plant:
Planting of evergreen and potted deciduous fruit trees is not recommended in mid-summer.
What flowers to plant:
Plant seedlings of the following into pots, tubs or baskets (not into the garden):
- Sweet William
Garden jobs for the month:
- Summer is all about the outdoors, so make sure you spend plenty of time relaxing and enjoying your garden, with a cool drink in hand, a wide-brimmed hat and plenty of sunscreen.
- If the mulch on garden beds has compacted or is starting to break down, top it up with fresh material to a total depth of about 100mm. Pea straw, lucerne or sugarcane mulch will keep the soil cool, moist and weed-free.
- Fortnightly applications of Osmocote Boost+Feed All Plant Types will keep your garden healthy and growing well.
- Continue regularly trimming evergreen trees and shrubs to keep them neat, particularly those being trained as topiary, mop-tops or other geometric shapes.
- Any spring flowering bulbs still in the soil should be lifted now. Leave them to dry off for a day or so before brushing loose soil off them, then store in a cool, airy and dry place until it’s time to plant again in autumn.
- When high temperatures or strong winds are expected, take down hanging baskets and move them, together with outdoor pots, to a sheltered spot where they won’t get burned to a crisp.
- Some flowering plants may need dead-heading now to keep them neat and encourage more flowers. Roses in particular appreciate having faded flowers trimmed off. They will produce new shoots that will produce a second flush of flowers in late summer and autumn.
- Water indoor plants when the top 5cm or soil of potting mix feels dry to the touch. Allow excess water to drain freely from the base of the pot. Don’t leave pots standing in saucers of water.
- Keep the air around indoor plants humid by regularly misting plants with a water atomiser.
- Feed fortnightly with ready to use Osmocote Pour+Feed Indoor Plants – no mixing required. There are also Pour+Feed products for orchids and cacti. When you come home from holidays, give all your indoor plants a good drink before returning them to their usual positions.
While regular mowing will keep existing lawns looking neat, avoid cutting the grass when extreme temperatures are forecast or when heavy rain is predicted. The longer the grass, the better insulated the roots and soil will be and the risk of soil erosion will be minimised.
- Make sure the lawn is well watered at least once a week, if permitted by local water authorities. The earlier in the day you water, the less risk there is of the sun burning the grass through moisture droplets.
- If you have a broadleaf weed problem, buffalo and lawn substitutes can be treated and fed with Lawn Builder Buffalo Weed, Feed & Green Up, a hose-on product that can be safely used on all lawn types.
- If bindii is spreading through the lawn, get on top of it quickly with Lawn Builder Bindii, Clover & Broadleaf, a ready-to-use, hose-on lawn weeder that’s safe to use on all grasses.
- Watch for thrips on young plants and flowers. This insect is tiny and may be hard to see but the damage it causes is highly visible – white streaks or blotches on flowers and leaves. You may only learn of its presence when you see hundreds of dark specks on white washing hanging on the clothes line. Thrips are attracted to light colours. Defender Pyrethrum Insect Spray will control them. Don’t forget to spray the undersides of leaves as well as the top surface.
- If you don’t want to use chemicals, hang yellow sticky traps among plants to attract and catch pests.
- Watch for powdery mildew on roses and other plants including pumpkins and zucchinis, especially when nights are warm and humid. Use a copper-based fungicide to control them.