GARDENING: Sow and grow to fresh foliage, flowers

MOST people equate spring with gardening, and what better time to "spring clean" the garden, with September marking one of the most exciting seasons for gardeners.

Not only is this a great time of year to start a vegetable garden or establish gardens beds; it's perfect to renovate your lawn, spruce up neglected areas and give your garden a good feed of fertiliser.

Prime time to fertilise - first rake to remove the build-up of dead growth, then scatter slow-release fertiliser and if the lawn is looking sparse, reseed or re-turf bare areas.

Planting vegetables and herbs, is rewarding, especially summer salad vegies such as tomato, snow peas, capsicum or lettuce, cucumber, rocket and parsley. Garden expert Yates suggests growing dill this spring. It is a mineral-rich, aromatic and versatile herb that will add flavour to many dishes. Dill is a hardy annual that prefers a full-sun position in either garden beds or pots, with small seeds that need to be sown only 1mm deep.

Avoid re-transplanting and choose a permanent home before sowing the seeds then lightly spread a thin layer of raising mix.

Seeds take 10 to 12 days to germinate and reach maturity in eight weeks. Dill's attractive foliage will also suit a mixed flower border. Plant it towards the rear, as dill can grow almost a metre tall.

Flowering spring annuals can be planted now to give your garden a quick lift. Add instant colour with pots of cineraria, pansy, polyanthus or flowering bulbs such as daffodils and tulips. Plan ahead - buy punnets of late spring and summer flowers including petunia, phlox and impatiens.

Plant trees, shrubs and annuals. Prepare for plantings by clearing grass and weeds, then digging organic matter into the soil. When placing a plant take into account space requirements; it grows out and upwards. Citrus trees will start their spring foliage flush this month, growing lots of lush- looking leaves. Young foliage is susceptible to citrus leaf miner attack, causing silvery trails distorting the leaves. Protect new growth with organic citrus spray.

Warm weather means outside entertaining. Check outdoor furniture, which may need repainting and nuts and bolts tightened. Top up water features and clean out ponds by removing accumulated leaves and rubbish that's blown in over winter.

For something new, try vertical gardening - having gained momentum in Australia, a new trend is emerging as creative gardeners are pushing the envelope, with picture gardens set to be the next big thing. Designing and assembling picture-frame planters are similar to artwork in your home, living pictures can help define an outdoor room and succulents are a natural choice because they grow slowly, have low water requirements and have rich hues and textures.


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