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Canberra Today 3°/5° | Friday, August 19, 2022 | Digital Edition | Crossword & Sudoku

Material way to keep frost at bay

Frost cloth protests a Kroenleinia grusonii to prevent it from freezing and rotting from the centre. Photo: Jackie Warburton

Over the next four to six weeks the frost will be at its worst for the garden and a little care and attention might be needed to protect some plants that just don’t like the cold. says gardening writer JACKIE WARBURTON.

THERE are many cloth materials available on the market to wrap around plants to protect from the harsh elements, such as frost. 

Jackie Warburton.

My Kroenleinia grusonii is protected with frost cloth to prevent it from freezing and rotting from the centre. Frost cloth can stay on the plant during the day as its a lightweight material that lets the light and water in. Any other materials such as old sheets can be used, but heavy materials like that can’t be in contact with the plant and a staked frame could be used with the material removed during the day. 

If a tented structure is too unsightly then there are liquid products that can be sprayed on to the leaves and protect the plants from the elements, but will need to be reapplied after rain. 

TRUFFLES are a delicacy on the dinner plate this time of year and a long-term investment if you want to grow your own at home. 

The soil needs to be calcareous and a high pH around 7.5. Calcareous soils are clay-rich soils with little organic matter. Purchase trees already inoculated with mycelium known as mycorrhiza (root fungus). 

This will enhance the symbiotic relationship between the fungus and the tree to find nutrients from each other. If the soil has too much organic matter it won’t work. Keep the pH high by adding garden lime or dolomite lime to the soil annually. 

Oak trees and hazelnuts are the most common “host” tree for truffles. However, hazelnut trees would be a preferred choice for the home garden, with the bonus of having nuts to eat as well. 

Plant where they are protected from hot winds and can be grown as a hedge or a small tree. Hazelnuts are wind pollinated and only one pollinator is required every five trees. 

I’ve had success with Corylus avellana, “American White” and “Cosford” as they both only grow two to three metres tall and fit in a suburban backyard nicely. 

Hazelnuts are ready around February/March and fall to the ground at maturity and truffles are ready to be dug up around July/August. 

Winter cheer… Bulbine bulbosa, its flowers are fragrant and a bright yellow. Photo: Jackie Warburton

THERE are still some flowers in the winter garden that can really put on a show and natives are no exception. Bulbine bulbosa is endemic to our regions and grows well. Over time in the garden, it can create a clump and be problem free. Its flowers are fragrant and a bright yellow and give some winter cheer. 

POME fruits can be pruned now as the trees are into dormancy. First, remove all dead, diseased and damaged wood from the tree. Heritage apple trees are spur bearing and need minimal pruning.

Other varieties, such as Fuji, granny smith and pink lady apples, are tip growers (they grow their fruit on the tips of branches). Their lateral branches are shortened to about 20 centimetres long to reduce whippy growth and minimise the risk of branches breaking when in fruit. 

Planting chives under apples can repel apple scab and encourage predatory insects and are good companion plants. Place a little dolomite lime around the base of the tree to keep the pH high and add boron when the tree is coming out of dormancy for good flower set and fruit formation. Water in well. 

After pruning, spray trees with horticultural oil on the bark and branches to kill any insects overwintering in the bark. Also use a fungicide, such as copper, to keep fungal diseases at bay. 

THE bonus of having chickens is all my household food scraps go to good use and most garden pruning is put into their run and composted for me with free manure. There is a lot of research online for growing chickens in Canberra. They are a great addition to the family, especially for the kids, and having egg-laying chooks is a real bonus. 


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Jackie Warburton

Jackie Warburton

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