From Jon Lamb Communications
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July 19, 2019

Where are you sunshine?

Almost two weeks of non-stop showery weather along with endless, gloomy grey clouds has taken much of the fun out of winter gardening.
The showers are making it difficult – if not impossible to prune deciduous trees and shrubs.
Fruit trees in particular should not be pruned while the branches are wet.
However, with the likelihood of an early spring it is important to finish winter pruning – if possible, before the middle of August.
This is when many deciduous plants will begin breaking their dormancy.

. . . and for the record

Despite the showers, only 25 mm of rain has been recorded for July at Kent Town – still well short of the monthly average of 78 mm.
Adelaide’s yearly progressive total of 210 mm is also still well behind – if we are to reach our annual average total of 550 mm.
Feature plant
Desert Flame

Desert Flame – a colourful native groundcover

There is nothing like a splash of bright yellow to brighten your garden in mid winter.
Desert Flame is a colourful selection of Chrysocephalum, a very hardy Australian native plant that deserves to be more widely planted in gardens and landscapes.
Desert Flame is low growing (20 cm) and, once established, each plant will grow to around half a metre wide.
This makes it an ideal plant for growing under trees and shrubs in an open landscape or as a border plant in a sunny garden.
If planted above a retaining wall or a very large container, it will spill over and produce a mass of small golden yellow heads, which contrast well with the plant's silver leaves.
Desert Flame is a long lasting, hardy, water wise plant that thrives in the sun and recovers quickly if pruning is needed.

Desert Flame is available from leading garden centres.
More information »

Soursob control – it’s all about timing

The colour in many gardens is suddenly changing from green to yellow. Soursobs are flowering. Although many gardeners try to control this troublesome weed, most fail.
Soursobs control is all about timing.
The aim is to spray the plants (or remove the bulbs) just as the first flowers are forming.
This is when the bulbs that support the plants are exhausted (at their weakest). It is also the time when they can be effectively controlled.
If you spray (or remove) too early, you destroy the plants leaves – but not the bulbs – and they live to flower again next year.
When you wait until the flowers are fully formed (or later) the plants will quickly produce numerous small bulbils beneath the surface and again the plants live to flower once more.

Glyphosate is the only effective herbicide registered for home garden control of soursob bulbs. If you are using this chemical make sure you read and follow the label directions.

Room for a quince

quinceQuince trees are so easy to grow. Sadly they lost favour a few generations ago when making jams and jellies was considered to be old-fashioned.
While quince jelly is indeed superb, it is the taste of baked quince and the flavour of quince paste, so expertly demonstrated by the cooks and the chefs on television, that is leading a home garden revival.
It good to see a new generation is discovering an art form that nearly was lost.

Growing your own

The best quince variety is undoubtedly Smyrna.  This will produce a tree four metres tall and almost as wide.
However, it is easily contained by regular pruning.  In small gardens, the trees are easily grown on a side wall as a hedge or espalier.
Quince trees produce very attractive soft pink and white flowers in spring while the leaves turn a golden yellow in autumn.
The trees should be mulched in spring and deep watered during the warmer months.

Protists, microbes and photosynthesis

With regard to plants, the most important and perhaps the most amazing relationship is between bacteria and other ancient life forms which resulted in the ability of these organisms to use photosynthesis.
We know about the ability of plants to turn water, carbon dioxide and sunlight into sugars via photosynthesis, but plants were not the first to do this.
In fact, photosynthesis evolved in bacteria and is still found in a number of these organisms.
What is thought to have occurred is that somewhere about 1.5 billion years ago, bacteria were eaten by organisms called protists (single-celled organisms), and photosynthetic bacteria were part of the meal. Instead of digesting these bacteria, they formed a relationship and the bacteria provided the protist with sugars via photosynthesis. 
Over time, bacteria that were living within the protist lost the ability to live outside of the host, so its DNA shrunk, as the host provided many of the functions normally carried out by the bacteria. So what plants are left with is what’s called a chloroplast, which is where photosynthesis occurs. 
Chloroplasts are essentially a cut down version of a bacteria – its DNA is a small circular molecule, and chloroplast divide and grow within plant cells in the same way bacteria still do today. 
In fact, chloroplasts are not the only thing which is thought to be bacterial in origin - mitochondria (the cell’s powerhouse) are also thought to be captured and subverted bacteria.
So what does this have to do with soil microbes and plants?

To find out, click here to continue reading »

    Pruning pointers   
Abelias need reinvigorating

Aim at removing 25 percent of the oldest branches as close as possible to ground level each winter.  This will encourage the development of strong vigorous new canes.  Prune the remaining branches by 20 to 40 percent. Laterals (side branches) should be shortened 30 to 60 percent.  Remove any twiggy growth.

Tip prune most native plants

Tip prune winter flowering native plants lightly, just as flowering is finished.  Tip prune again four to five weeks later.  This will help maintain a compact shape and prevent the lower part of the bushes from becoming woody.

Pruning fruit trees - keeping it simple

Pruning fruit trees can seem shrouded in mystery, but it’s not rocket science.
Keep the main objectives in mind and it is possible to anticipate what you need to do.

Sunlight:  This is required for bud initiation (as well as fruit colour and fruit flavour).
So, let the sunlight into the centre of the tree. When the centre becomes too shaded it stops producing fresh growth. 

Fruit production: We also want to maintain fruit production and tree renewal.
Since most fruit grows on the ends of branches, removal of a few larger branches each year is more effective than the usual regular removal of small laterals from the ends of all of the branches.

The importance of early training: If possible train new trees right from the start. If you select 4-5 main branches coming out of the trunk it is possible to remove one of these each year.
This achieves the objectives of renewing wood while letting the light into the centre of the tree.
Trees purchased in pots with potting mix don’t need pruning in the first year.
However, bare-rooted trees (sometimes bagged in sawdust) do need to be pruned to ensure there is a good balance between the trees branches and roots.
These have already been reduced in volume when the trees were dug out of the field in the nursery.

Controlling tree vigour: It is worth remembering that pruning stimulates growth. Winter pruning results in more vigour than summer pruning.
It is possible to reduce the vigour of a tree by tying branches down horizontally (using string and a brick) – instead of pruning - particularly plums.

Premium locally grown stock from Balhannah Nurseries are available now.
Best time to plant bare-rooted trees is June to August. Look out for the green bag.
It's Balhannah Nurseries' guarantee of a premium fruit tree.
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Start tomato seedlings soon

If you like growing your own tomato seedlings ready for planting out early in spring – it’s time for action.
Seeds sown now will take 8 to 10 weeks to germinate and grow to transplanting size.
However you will need a mini glasshouse or cold frame to get them started as tomato seeds won’t germinate below 10° C.  For the record capsicum and egg fruit need 15° C to germinate.

Fluffy insects on indoor plants          

Take a close look at the lower leaves and crowns of indoor plants situated in a heated room. If you see small, white, fluffy insects, you have the dreaded mealy bug.
These insects thrive when conditions are warm and moist.
Small infestations can be contained by dabbing with a cotton bud soaked in methylated spirits.
Heavy infestations will need repeat spraying with horticultural oil or a single application of a low toxic systemic chemical containing Imidacloprid.
Lawn Care – Stefan Palm

It’s not too late to control winter grass

Winter grass populations are much higher than normal this winter – particularly where lawn grasses were stressed through summer.
SA turf advisor Stefan Palm believes this weed has the potential to take over your lawn.
While winter grass is best controlled with a herbicide before the grass germinates in autumn, Stefan points out control is still possible once it has started to grow providing you carry out the right management.
In this week’s lawn blog Stefan looks at the best control options for controlling winter grass and provides some practical advice on reader comments.
More information here »
Paul Munns Instant Lawn

Leaves on roses refusing to fall

What a dilemma – the roses of Adelaide are still covered with a thick canopy of green leaves.
If you have not experienced a season where roses hold their leaves until late winter the message is clear, don’t wait for the leaves to fall before you start pruning.
More details on pruning roses in my gardening column in The Advertiser tomorrow.

Removing leaves

It is much easier to prune a rose bush once the leaves are gone. Right now they are easily removed by hand. Grab the end of a stem with one hand and starting at the top end, remove the leaves by brushing down the stem with the other. NB Make sure you’re wearing pruning gloves.
Sustainable living tips

Chatting about climate

We know that climate change can be a tricky topic to understand, let alone talk about.
Check out our Climate Change Guide for some ideas. We developed it for educators, but it’s great for the wider community too.
It contains information on climate change concepts, expected impacts for our local areas, and how to talk about them, plus links to other useful information.

Download a copy here »

Hands-on learning for climate action

Permaculture SA is running a series of low-cost workshops and free ‘permablitzes’ for climate-ready houses, gardens and neighbourhoods.
Topics include:
  • waterwise living, catching and storing water
  • soil improvement and building, and carbon sequestration
  • perennial plants for food, wildlife, and beneficial insects
  • permaculture gardens and solar passive house design
  • minimising waste, maximising reduce, repair, re-use and recycle
Through practical examples, discussions and design exercises, you’ll leave with the skills and knowledge to put it into practice at home.
Workshops are being held throughout July and August, and locations vary across Adelaide and SA.

See here for booking and more details »

Houseplants easily overwatered      

Many houseplants fail to thrive in winter because they are overwatered. Very few will die of thirst.
Houseplants rely on their roots to absorb moisture, oxygen and minerals from the potting mix they are growing in.
When you water, most of the spaces in the potting mix that supplies oxygen to the plants roots fill with water.
Providing the plants are growing in a quality potting mix, excess moisture drains quickly and the spaces refill with air.

Please keep your questions for Talkback Gardening

Good Gardening  is unable to answer individual reader's questions via email.
If you're looking for specific gardening advice please give me a call on ABC Radio Adelaide's Saturday morning Talkback Gardening  or speak to the experts at your local garden centre.

Talkback Gardening tomorrow

ABC Radio Adelaide Talkback Gardening this Saturday – phone me and Deb Tribe on 1300 222 891 and have your own gardening question answered.

All about citrus. Riverland (and international) citrus authority, Ian Tolley will cover citrus gall wasp, climate change, best varieties for small gardens, as well as all of your citrus growing questions.
This is sure to be a “not-to-miss” program.
Weekend gardening weather

Coming soon

Sunday, August 4
Northern Yorke Peninsula – Australian Plants Society
Community open day. Advice on plant selection, establishing a native garden.
10 am – 2 pm, 1866 South Terrace, Kadina. Free entry, free raffle, plant sales.

Saturday & Sunday, August 10, 11
Annual Camellia Show, Camellias South Australia annual show
Carrick Hill, 46 Carrick Hill Drive, Springfield. Sat. 12noon - 4 pm; Sun. 10. am - 4 pm
Quality plants for sale. Free admission to the show & Carrick Hill grounds.

Saturday & Sunday, September 7, 8
Enfield Horticultural Society Spring Show
Klemzig Community Hall, 242 North East Road, Klemzig. 12 - 5 pm Sat, 10 am - 4 pm Sun. Admission $2. More information 8251 2299.

Saturday, September 21
Spring Garden Festival, Mount Pleasant
Stalls featuring quality plants, garden furniture, decor and garden-care products.
Showgrounds, Melrose Street. 8 am - 3 pm. $5 entry, concession $3, child under 15 free.
More information »

Saturday & Sunday, October 12, 13
Spring Expo – Native Flower Display & Plant Sale
Australian Plants Society (SA Region). Adelaide Showgrounds. Sat.10 am - 4 pm; Sun. 10 am - 3 pm.

Saturday & Sunday, October 19, 20
SA Geranium and Pelargonium Society spring show
Payneham Library complex, corner O.G. Road and Turner Street, Felixstow. Plant sales & display. Entry $3.

Burra Spring Garden Expo and Open Gardens
More information »

Saturday & Sunday, October 26, 27
Rose Society of SA Spring Rose Show – Roses are Red
Burnside Community Centre, corner of Portrush and Greenhill Roads Tusmore.
To be officially opened by the President of the World Federation of Rose Societies, Henrianne de Briey, 3 pm Saturday afternoon.
Competitive rose classes in Australian Championships and World Federation of Rose Societies classes, lectures, floral demonstration,trading tables - gifts, plants, rose growing information, including “Identify your rose”. Entry $5.
Full program here »

Sunday, November 10
Art and Roses at The Cedars
Heysen Road, Hahndorf. An exclusive one-day celebration of  spring in the garden of the renowned father and daughter artists Sir Hans and Nora Heysen. Featuring reproductions with real flowers of the artists' still life works, display of heritage roses, talks on art and blooms.
10 am - 6 pm. $15 (children under 15 free) Includes entry to the garden, house and studios.

Regular garden attractions

Adelaide Botanic Gardens – free guided walks
Friends of the Botanic Gardens of Adelaide guided walks for the public at Adelaide, Mount Lofty and Wittunga Botanic Gardens, and Botanic Park.
More information »

The Waite Arboretum, Fullarton Road, Urrbrae

Open free to the public every day of the year from dawn to dusk, except on fire ban days. Free guided walks on the first Sunday of every month, 11 am to 12.30 pm.
Meet at the West lawn (Croquet Lawn) of Urrbrae House. Bookings not necessary.
More information »

Urrbrae House historic precinct gardens
At the end of Walter Young Avenue, off Fullarton Road, Urrbrae, or from the Urrbrae House gate, Claremont Avenue, Netherby.
Open from dawn until dusk every day. Free entry.
More information »

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Disclaimer: Although all reasonable care is taken in preparing information contained in this email, neither Jon Lamb Communications (JLC) nor its officers, staff or suppliers involved in the editing and production of this email accept any liability resulting from the interpretation or use of the information set out in this document. Information contained in this document is subject to change without notice and is of a general nature and should not take the place of professional personal advice. No responsibility is accepted by Jon Lamb Communications for the accuracy of information contained in web sites linked from this email. Publication of an advertisement does not constitute endorsement by JLC of any product or service, or warrant its suitability.

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