December 20th, 2020Glen, about the house
2020 – Groundhog Day revisited
I don’t know about anyone else but apart from the fear of the virus itself and the mind-numbing isolation from family and friends, the lockdown itself at least gave us time to “find ourselves”. With me, it was mostly getting back into writing and an opportunity to spend more time in the garden.
Incidentally, it was my regular column in The Local that relit that horticultural spark, especially since we graduated to weekly issues.
Researching and keeping on top of garden trends does tend to keep the grey matter active. Admittedly I have more than 50 years of writing and broadcasting material to fall back on for subject matter.
I do have a confession to make though – I am totally over gardening. That is, the actual repetitive tasks of weeding, digging and watering, all the mind-numbing tasks. After 15 years in the family nursery, from the age of eight, hand watering, weeding, carrying pots etc, daily after school, on weekends and holidays. I constantly searched for a means of escape and it came via an offer to write a weekly column for an Adelaide daily, The News. Then followed the first gardening talkback programs for Adelaide, both on radio and then television, and I was free to build my own life.
But my love of plants and all things botanical has never wavered. It’s all in my genes, handed down in a straight line from my celebrated botanist great-grandfather, and like him, I’m fascinated by the entomology, history and discovery of plant life. He was also a prolific writer.
One of my latest thrills was to successfully cultivate the prehistoric Wollemi pines. First in sand-filled pots, and now, indoors in water, along with African violets and other plants. Pictured below.
Peta and I make a great team. I do the planning and planting and she delights in tending and fussing over them and keeping the weeds at bay.
Our garden, the first of many I have started but lived with long enough to see the results is no show garden, rambling as it does through separate rooms and over several sloping banks and levels. Friends have described it as an ever-changing woodland garden and they’re probably right.
Now, back to work
I couldn’t possibly let the rest of the year go by without setting you at least one more gardening task for this decade – save the citrus.
If, like mine, your citrus trees look a little worse for wear, yellowing leaves and a little droopy, it’s time to give them a boost.
Firstly, although we have just experienced a wetter than usual Spring, with the promise of more rain to come, it isn’t wise to trust just the rain.
Mature citrus trees require at least 200 litres every two or three weeks through the Summer months but feed mainly through surface roots, so will need regular watering from now on to ensure they do not suffer from the heat or drying out.
The remedy is simple. Keep the soil within the foliage dripline (approximate spread of root growth), well mulched to retain the moisture and water directly to the roots – trickle or drip feed is easiest and best – to avoid extreme wet/dry variations which are the main cause of splitting fruit.
Citrus are voracious feeders responding well to nitrogenous fertilisers. Again, regular small doses are more beneficial than heavy-handed infrequent feasts.
While you are at it, they will appreciate a pruning and thinning out of close or overcrowding branches and this is the best time of year to encourage fresh new growth.
Got a gardening question? Ask Glen.