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Canberra Today 8°/10° | Monday, July 4, 2022 | Digital Edition | Crossword & Sudoku

Cold comfort from colourful cyclamen

Cyclamen… they keep flowering for at least four to six months. Photo: Jackie Warburton

Cyclamen would have to be the most popular indoor plant for cold climates like ours, writes gardening columnist JACKIE WARBURTON.

Jackie Warburton.

I ALWAYS buy two largish cyclamen at the beginning of winter, one lives outside and the other in the bathroom. 

I swap them over every few weeks and the cold air gives them a lift. They will keep flowering for at least four to six months and are a cheaper alternative to a bunch of flowers. 

Cyclamen like moist, well-drained soil, but not wet feet. Deadheading the flowers and the leaves with a twist at the base will give more room for fresh growth to come through. 

There is a wide colour range from whites, reds and pinks including some hybrids to choose from. When the plant slows down its flowering in a few months’ time, it can be planted in the garden for flowering next year. 

ANY fallow soil should be covered up now with either broken down leaves, mulch or compost to decompose over the winter months – and keep the weeds at bay. 

If the veggies are growing strong, keep a fortnightly seaweed solution and water to keep them growing fast. Garlic can be put in still and this year most of mine have gone into the rose garden. As good companion plants, the garlic will keep insects away from the roses and will be ready for harvest when the roses begin to put on a show. 

Medlar… a heritage fruit tree that can double as a small shade tree. Photo: Jackie Warburton

MEDLAR (Mespilus germanica) is a heritage fruit tree that can double as a small shade tree and produce edible fruit as well. The fruit is eaten when it is bletted, which is a process of over-ripeness and is the same as quince and persimmon fruits that can be eaten raw or cooked. 

The tree is self-fertile, so only one tree is needed to produce fruit and is relatively pest free. The tree has a spreading and weeping habit with gorgeous fragrant white/pink flowers in spring. I have had success with the “Nottingham” variety and found it is the best at growing in our region with good flavour. 

THERE’S still all those wonderful autumn leaves to collect and compost. The smaller the leaf the quicker it will break down. Elsewhere, there is still a lot of pruning of herbaceous perennials to do as well as getting the garden beds ready for winter. 

I prefer to use manures and mulches to feed the soil in winter and let it all rest for spring. Cow manure is available by the trailer load and a lot more economical than bags, although sometimes bags are more convenient. 

Manures can be added to the garden in the next few months and chicken manure is readily available for me and throughout the year.

I give the chook run a good clean out, let the manure age in a large bucket and spread it on to the veggie garden in winter. Chicken manure is high in nitrogen and all fruit trees and vegetables need nitrogen, which makes it a terrific non-chemical fertiliser. 

It’s also available in pelleted form and is a lot easier to distribute on to garden beds if you don’t have chickens. When using any manures always water in and wash off the foliage of plants.

NOW’S the perfect time to prepare any garden beds for winter planting of garden trees and fruit trees. 

Some fruit trees are self-fertile, meaning there is only one tree for fruiting, but some trees such as plums, apples and pears require two trees for pollination and there might be more space needed to grow in the garden. 

Planning the long-term space for trees is vital and it would be a shame to have years of growth gone for a tree planted in the wrong spot. 

Prepare by digging over the area with a sharp spade or fork and aerate the soil, manure and compost can be added and turned over every week or so until planting. 

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Thank you,

Ian Meikle, editor

Jackie Warburton

Jackie Warburton

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