One group of plants that are quite active are the cool season weeds. As with all weeds, prompt removal (whether by hand weeding or spraying) will prevent multiplication and bigger problems in subsequent years. Don't forget that weeds are also discouraged by good gardening practices - minimise exposed soil with mulches or cover crops and encourage strong growth of garden plants or lawn grass to outcompete weeds. Pay attention to drainage and soil pH. Selective cutting back or thinning out of trees and shrubs to encourage stronger growth of sun-starved lawn or groundcovers could be part of your strategy. Untidy flowering perennials that have finished can be cut back, but hold off pruning summer-flowering shrubs and tropical foliage plants until closer to spring, especially if in a frosty area. Just trim off any dead flowers and stray branches to keep them looking tidy. Spring-flowering shrubs should definitely not be pruned now - you'll be cutting off those developing flower buds. It's also the season for planting bare-rooted rose bushes.
Why not bring some cheerfulness into the garden with flowers? In Australia we are lucky to be able to grow many spectacular tropical flowering trees, shrubs and vines as well as the more traditional English-style perennials and bedding plants. The cultivation of annual flowers, or even herbaceous perennials, is not as popular as it once was, but with our water problems eased at the moment, why not give it a go? If you don't have much space in the garden, you can still create eye-catching displays in pots and planters and brighten up balconies, patios, and paved areas.
While it's too late to plant most spring annuals from seed, in frost-free areas you can still sow some for later flowering. A few varieties that are readily available in seed packets to try now include alyssum, nasturtium, pansy, viola, johnny-jump-up (heartease), amaranthus, celosia, lobelia, cleome, salvia, coleus, verbena, petunia, dianthus, californian poppy (eschscholtzia), snapdragon. Seed of perennials can be started just about any time if you can care for them, especially keeping them away from frost at this time of year, but germination will be slow in cold weather.
If you sow into smaller pots or seed trays you can get them started in a warmer place indoors, as long as you check them regularly and bring them out into the light at the very first sign of emergence (or before) and harden them off to the sun gradually. An alternative is to buy seedlings from the garden centre, which will save you effort plus several weeks growing time. More advanced plants already in flower are more expensive but the way to go for colour immediately prior to a special occasion like a party or garden wedding.
So there are a few ideas and tasks to keep you active and your garden well looked after during the colder months. Enjoy!
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Article provided by Tony Squire