During the cooler months, newly planted specimens will have a chance to acclimatise in the garden and make root growth before producing new leaves in the spring. Note that in dry or warm areas, perennials & shrubs are best planted between May and October, but if you have adequate water and a cooler garden, the planting season may extend a little. Shrubs are best planted out in their final positions, however perennials and herbs can easily be divided and moved around every few years should you wish to do so.
Making a nursery bed
What do we do with those small or slow growing precious perennial plants we bring home from the nursery? Or even just plants which aren’t quite ready to cope with the wilderness of your own garden. Do we pot them up or plant them out? A small nursery bed produces the best and quickest results if you have good soil and a source of water close by. Prepare a small nursery bed either in your garden or veggie patch, preferably close to your house in a sheltered spot receiving sun for half the day. Ensure the soil is free draining and friable to 20cm deep, free of weeds, and has sufficient organic matter content. Plant your new bare-rooted or potted tube-stock between May and October, and mulch with pea-straw, mushroom compost or similar. Water daily for the first week, then once a week for the next 4 weeks. After that, only water when necessary. By May the following year you should have achieved good growth and your plants should be ready to plant out directly in the garden. Trim back any old growth before transplanting.
In addition to water, a good potting mix is the key to growing plants successfully in pots. Commercial potting mix is a start, however it quickly runs out of nutrients and is generally insufficient to grow plants in long-term. We find using just the cheapest ordinary potting mix as the base for the recipe is good. For exotics, vegetables, perennials and herbs, add half a cup of blood-and-bone per 25L bag. Then add 4 x cups of good quality garden compost, half a cup of worm castings (if available), 2 x cups of pulverised sheep manure, 2 x ice-cream containers full of mushroom compost (or partly composted finely chopped straw is a good substitute) and half a cup of dolomite. For natives leave out the blood-and-bone and sheep manure, and replace with 2 x tablespoons of 6-month native osmocote. Mix well and water daily for the first week, then occasionally depending on the plants water requirement. Note this recipe is suitable for larger pots only, not tubestock.
Improving Soil - starting out
Generally speaking, the key ingredient in making good productive soil is to activate its microbiological environment by adding the correct amount of animal manures and organic matter in the form of green manure, straw and compost. Making fertile soil is an obvious benefit when producing vegetables, herbs, and cut flowers, but native shrubs are generally happier with undisturbed natural soil, with only mulch and trace element additives. If you are starting out with a bare paddock or lawn, the quickest practical way of starting out, is to kill all the weeds in your chosen garden area; either organically by solarising the ground by covering with carpet, cardboard , plastic sheet etc, or by spraying with a recommended herbicide
Mowing is a great way of mulching up grass and old weeds, and can add valuable organic matter to your new garden beds. Once the weeds are dead, ( 2-8 weeks) sprinkle 200-300g per m2 of dolomite, and also whatever old fowl manure, horse, or sheep manure in a 40mm layer onto the surface of the ground. Then rotary hoe or dig over gently to a shallow depth of approximately 75-100mm taking care not to bring up any subsoil or clay.
Break up any clods and rake over with a fine rake before sowing in Autumn; broad-beans, lupins, mustard, tic-beans, peas, or any other green manure crop you want to try. By early Spring mow down the green manure crop and rotary hoe again, adding more dolomite. The ground should now be ready for planting, however if it is too sandy; add more organic matter in the form of manures before planting, or if it contains too much clay, add more dolomite, manure and a combination of 1 x bucket of sharp sand and rock dust in equal portions per sq m before lightly rotary hoeing again. Aim for a PH range of 6-7, adding fine pine bark to lower the PH and AG-lime to raise it.
Plants and your environment
Each season, we continue to be surprised at the wide range of climatic conditions our perennials, shrubs grasses and herbs will tolerate. However, we do encourage you to do some research into which plants are most suitable for your own climate. For example, cool climate lovers like primula will grow successfully in Tasmania and the Blue Mountains but will struggle or perish in Brisbane.
Conversely, some plants may do too well and grow more prolifically elsewhere than they do for us in southern Tasmania. As it is impossible for us to trial our plants in every climatic region, we encourage you to research your plant choices before planting, and to be sensitive to your local bushland and coastal environment. If you have any enquiries or concerns, contact the Environment section of your State Government for information relevant to your area.
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