Spring Gardening

Bernadette Brady recommends getting your hands dirty with some tasks in the spring garden

Good news, it's official! Scientists have for some time now been verifying what some of us intuitively know — gardening is good for us.

Aside from the physical activity involved in gardening, there appears to be positive links between soil microbes and human mental health and well being. Forget Prozac. The bacterium Mycobacterium vaccae has been shown to exhibit a similar effect on our neurones as this anti-depressant. All this and no side effects, except maybe a good crop of vegies! What a bonus!

So given that spring is nearly upon us, it's a great time to take stock and think about getting out in the garden and planning for a bumper season ahead, especially now we know it will keep us fit and happy too.

Tasks for Spring - Fruit Tree Care

To enjoy some lovely citrus in spring and summer think about fertilising and adding compost to citrus in early spring. Prune out diseased and dead wood, remove any gall wasp swellings and trim back the tree to a more manageable size before giving it a good soak and feed.

For deciduous stone fruit trees, like peaches and nectarines, a copper based spray needs to be applied fortnightly to control leaf curl and other fungal problems. This needs to be done before the buds ‘burst’.

Codling moth is on the move in spring so set traps around pome fruit such as apples and pears. So too are the pesky aphids, looking for soft spring growth to feast upon — a good squirt with the hose, a squash between the fingers or a spray with an eco-oil spray will make them rethink their game plan!

Tasks for Spring - The Vegie Garden

Potatoes can be planted once the chance of frost has passed. They are ideal for breaking up hard clay soils and are a perfect crop in terms of a return for effort with each tuber yielding 10 potatoes. If you were organised enough to have planted green manure crops, consider digging them in before they flower to have the bed ready for those wonderful spring plantings.

Hungry vegetables that have been growing through winter such as broccoli, cabbage, cauliflower, spinach, silverbeet and beetroot will benefit from a liquid fertiliser to prolong the harvest before they eventually bolt into bloom as the spring equinox approaches. For garlic it is best to slow down with fertilising now so as to promote bulb formation over foliage growth.

In the southern states especially where frosts are around, start growing your early summer vegies indoors, in glasshouse or cold frames. Seeds such as tomatoes, eggplant, basil and capsicum can be started this way ready for planting in the ground when the air and soil temperatures are warmer from October onwards. Easy seeds such as peas, beetroot, silver beet and spring onions are worth growing also. These can be sown directly into well prepared soils.

For our northern neighbours, spring sees you waiting for the coming wet season. Fruit that is maturing may well be in the sights of the bothersome fruit fly. Exclusion netting or individual cloth bags are the answer to protecting the fruit. Think about crops that can deal with the wet like corn, peanuts, taro, sweet potato and kang kong as well as some tropical fruit trees such as mangoes, custard apples and jack fruit.

For inland areas, if you are clear of frosts, all summer crops can be sown giving you a head start on your southern counterparts. Ensure watering systems are serviced and ready so you can sow and successfully grow all your cucurbits — pumpkin, squash, cucumbers.

Dirty hands? Yep, you will get ‘em. Happy heart? Worth a try!

* “Is dirt the new Prozac?” by Josie Glausiusz, Discover magazine, July 2007 (discovermagazine.com/2007/jul/raw-data-is-dirt-the-new-prozac)

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Clive Blazey explains the Diggers guide — our Garden Pyramid

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Grow Your Own Berries

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Grow Your Own Food (Early Summer)

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Moon Planting

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Plant Ratios for the Backyard

Clive Blazey's thoughts on providing the right balance of plants in your backyard

Q&A - Green Manures

Trials manager Ian Magnus answers questions about using green manures to boost soil fertility and water retention

Q&A - Mulch

Bill Bampton, head gardener at Heronswood, explains our success with making and using mulch

Q&A - Seeds

Seed manager Evette Jungwirth answers your questions about growing from seed successfully

Q&A - Soils

Hugh Hunkin answers your questions about soils and why they are at the root of most gardening problems

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Subtropical Growing Zone

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The “Hauteculture” of Espalier

Bill Bampton talks about turning an untidy orchard into a bountiful border

The best flower selections for ‘This goes with that’ summer borders

Clive Blazey, author of ‘The Complete Guide to the Flower Garden’, discusses the power of intelligent combination

Tomato Growing Problems

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Veganics and plant-based living

Plant-based living launches Veganics The vegan movement is gathering momentum for many reasons from animal welfare to climate change, and this is creating a wave of change across all industries from wine, to clothing and even gardening.

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Bernadette Brady

Bernadette is an experienced gardener with a long term involvement in Community Gardens and a keen interest in growing "all things edible"!

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