September 17, 2020

In the garden: It’s springtime, let’s party!

Spring is a wonderful time to get back outside and reacquaint yourself with your garden. Make the most of the glorious days ahead, says Michael Keelan.

Michael Keelan and Bessie the dog enjoy getting into the garden in spring.

No matter how long and cold the winter is, we know that spring is the next season to follow. 

As I write this article it is a glorious, clear 20-degree early spring day. How wonderful it is, the early flowering trees and shrubs at the vanguard of a riot of diverse blooms, colours and perfumes. As the late Robin Williams once said, “Spring is nature’s way of saying let’s party”.

It’s the most splendid and enjoyable time of the year here in SA, perhaps surpassed only by the balmy autumnal days our state is also famous for.

As we expect here in SA, the early days of spring this year have been a mixture of rain, frost, fog, wind and sunshine. I must admit, it’s a delightful feeling to once again enjoy the sun on one’s back as the overdue weeding tasks commence in the garden! 

This year the late winter almond blossom was extraordinary, followed closely by the prunus and pears, it’s almost like the trees have a few weeks to show off on their very own, before being followed by the next group featuring crab apples and cherries, and finally through to November when the show-stopping jacarandas come into flower. We are blessed with so many flowering trees here in SA, including flowering native trees.

Every year when I write about spring, I am always mindful not to confuse gardeners, of any age or experience, with the vast array of seasonal tasks most gardens present to us — especially after a long winter spell. No matter how large or tiny a garden is, there is always something that requires some attention or tweaking.

Spring, also by some magical inbuilt programming, signals us to visit our local nursery to buy the most planted seeding on the planet: the tomato! It’s almost mandatory; if you’re going to plant anything this spring, it will be the humble tommie. Many keen growers will have already planted out their tomatoes. In days gone by, it was gold bragging rights among gardeners if your bush could produce tomatoes by Christmas Day. I can assure you it was very competitive. 

However, if you haven’t planted your tomatoes out yet, don’t panic, this is the perfect time to plant out seedling tomatoes in the ground or in pots.

Apart from planting, spring is also a time to fertilise most things that you have growing. This includes large trees, shrubs, ground covers, natives, climbing plants, herbs, vegetables, lawns, succulents, potted and indoor plants. If I have forgotten any, they will also benefit from a feed as well.
My adage is: if it’s growing, feed it! 

The “go-to” fertilisers these days are organic or organic-based. If you are unsure which one is best for your specific application, always ask at your local garden centre. The major gardening companies such as Brunnings, Neutrog and Yates make prescription fertiliser for most major plant groups, such as roses, citrus and native plants. Slow releasing fertilisers are excellent for potted trees, shrubs and established seedlings.

Once you’ve finished your own patch, spring is also a good time to visit other gardens. This can be informal, such as a stroll around your local suburb, or it can be a little more structured, such as a day at one of SA’s four botanic gardens: the Adelaide Botanic Garden, Mt Lofty Botanic Garden, Wittunga Botanic Garden and the world-renowned Australian Arid Lands Botanic Garden at Port Augusta. 

If you are a rose lover, there is the State rose garden, in the Adelaide Botanic Garden, and the gardens and grounds of Carrick Hill to visit — all free of charge.

The other perfect way is to visit gardens in the Open Gardens SA program. If you haven’t visited any of these gardens before, you are missing a treat. Apart from strolling around someone’s botanical treasure, the ideas you can pick up for your own back yard are invaluable. 

The open gardens are a great source of relaxation and a chance to see new plants in a garden situation and meet like-minded people over a cup of tea and scones.

I know this doesn’t always fit into our busy lifestyles, but my motto is garden when you want to. Don’t force yourself to finish projects and chores in unrealistic time frames. Work out a schedule, and remember these may not exactly fall into place, due to weather, and other unforeseen happenings.

Remember one will never know all there is to know about gardens and gardening, just enjoy the moment and don’t take it too seriously.

Finally, we really are blessed with glorious weather, delightful parks, streets, boulevards and gardens both public and private to experience, so embrace spring. 

It comes but once a year! 


This story first appeared in the October 2019 issue of SALIFE magazine.

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