For most of the country spring has arrived but here in Queenstown the start of spring is just teasing away the last of winter. But this time of year is magical, the sun is still low in the sky offering a soft light to fall on the equally soft blooms of spring. Hints of spring are bursting out everywhere, depending where you are the daffodils may be in full flower. Other spring bulbs such as glory of the snow, crocus and wood anemone prelude the show of daffodils followed by tulips later in the season. If you have bulbs appearing you can apply a top dressing of balanced fertiliser now. Slow release fertilisers take time to work into the soil, the aim of fertilising is to make sure the plant has the food available before it needs it.
Anticipation is in the air and so is the eagerness to begin the season However gardeners are governed by the seasons and the ground temperatures are still relatively cold. There are complaints all around that plants aren’t growing. This time is best taken to plan for the weeks ahead as planting season will be here sooner rather than later.
On the 23rd of September the spring equinox will take place. The spring equinox is one of two times in the year when day and night are of equal length after then the day length will become longer than night. After this the southern hemisphere will be closer to the sun than it has been since the autumn equinox in March. That sounds like a great reason to celebrate.
In the mean time, prepare veggie beds with with rotted manure/pellets and blood and bone. In some gardens the ground will be warm enough to sow seeds such as broad beans and peas. If you cover your bed with a polythene cloche you will be able to direct sow a plethora of plants such as radishes, carrots and beets to name a few.
Tomatoes can be sown indoors or in a warm/heated greenhouse. They need a constant temperature of 18-20 degrees to germinate, a propagator and heat pad is hugely beneficial for this. After germination, tomatoes require temperatures of at least 16 degrees and 20 degrees to actively grow. If you cannot provide these temperatures along with bright light then hold off sowing them until you can. Or buy already grown tomatoes when the temperatures are stably nearer 20 degrees. Most likely at some point in October. This is much the same with chillies.
1st early potatoes can be planting in a sheltered spot. They work extremely well planted into larger planter bags and kept in a frost free place. The key is to keep covering the emerging shoots with soil as the tender leaves are easily frosted.
Hardy annual flowers can also be direct sown and so can some perennials which still need a cold snap to germinate. Get climbing structures ready for sweet peas which are fantastic for creating height, colour and fragrance to the garden.
Flowering plants such as Rhododendrons, Camellias or anything that is flowering can be given a high potassium feed to encourage more blooming. Spring annuals such as pansies, violas and polyanthus appreciate a balanced feed now and will start looking fantastic with the extra sunlight. Hold off giving a general feed to garden plants as this will stimulate soft growth which is easily damaged by frost. Early October should be a safe time to start your feed schedule.
Primulas start coming into their own now, starting with the understated primula vulgaris and cowslip to the showier primula malacoides. Primulas and polyanthus love rich well drained soil in a sheltered area. Rich soil is one full of organic matter, think of a woodland floor. You can achieve the same by adding heaps of compost, well rotted manure or leaf mold when planting.
September will be your last chance to spray stone fruit for peach leaf curl before the leaves unfurl. Spray copper all over the trunk, branches and swollen leaf buds before the disease has a chance to splash onto leaves. Clear away any old leaves from the base of the tree and dispose of them, do not compost them. Apricots are sensitive to copper when in leaf so use a different fungicide if disease occurs then.
Herbaceous perennials are also just pushing the soil aside, making it a great time to plan what supports will need to be used or to redeploy last years supports.
Weeds will start making an appearance too. Spray paved and gravelled areas with a path weedkiller. These specialised weedkillers contain an anti germination agent which will coat any seeds waiting dormant. Glyphosate weedkillers do not affect seeds.
Lawns may be starting to grow depending on position. Now is a good opportunity to assess winter damage. Making the conclusion whether damage could have been avoided with better drainage or level ground. Aeration and top dressing goes a long way to a healthy lawn. Feeding your lawn will mask any underlying problems and cause you more working in mowing. Aerate by using a fork to make holes every 15cm across your lawn then fill with a mix of 2 parts sand and 1 part good quality compost. Spread a topdressing over the top of the lawn at no more than 2mm thickness. A healthy lawn has a healthy root system, good soil is essential.
It is an exciting month but it is hard to not get over excited at the small signs of spring. Lets take the moment to listen to the silence of the long drawn breath before the exhale of spring.