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In The Subtropical Garden: August

Late winter can be a very productive time in the Subtropical garden. But with the mild temps there are a few catches.

Cool, dry winds and infrequent rains can reak havock on the delicate temperate plants in particular. But that doesn't mean there's no time to enjoy the stars of the season.



Admire the ifafa lily, Cyrtanthus mackenii. This reliable, spring-flowering bulb bulks up rapidly each year and is great to plant in drifts through the garden. Cultivars are available in lemon, white, pink, red and apricot and bulbs are often for sale at markets or plant fairs at this time of year.


Ifafa Lilly. Photo - Arno King



Water plants well during this dry time of year, keeping an eye on plants from Mediterranean and temperate climates, which are in peak growth and must not dry out. Also ensure citrus and azaleas are watered regularly during dry weather.

Increase watering and resume fertilising plants in the bush house to address the surge of growth that will occur with warming temperatures. Divide and repot plants and label plants, noting name and date of repotting. Use a high quality potting medium.

Cut back and clear winter crops from parts of the vegetable garden in preparation for summer production. Top-dress cleared areas with garden lime (or gypsum if your soil is alkaline) and three weeks later dig in manure, compost, humic acid (humates) and a complete garden fertiliser containing ground rock minerals. Apply a thin layer of lucerne or composted stable manure as a mulch.



Sow seeds or plant seedlings of: beetroot, green beans, carrot, celery, coriander, kale, leek, loose leaf lettuce, pak choi, raddish, radicchio, rocket, tomatoes, cherry tomatoes, silverbeet and spinach.

Repot and plant lotus and waterlilies plants, dividing plants where the pots are choked. Handle lotus tubers very carefully, with special attention to the brittle young shoots. Plants thrive in rich clay topsoils to which cow or chicken manure has been added. Maximise flowering by fertilising regularly during the growing season, adding additional chicken manure (wrapped in paper towels) or proprietary fertiliser tablets pushed down into the pots every 2 to 3 weeks.



Plan areas for future tree planting to provide shelter from cool, dry August winds that can be damaging to the garden.

Erect teepees, arches and trellis in the vegetable garden for the most productive vegetables in the summer garden which include cherry tomatoes, climbing zucchini, cucumbers, luffas, gourds, and snake, winged and lablab beans.

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Author: Arno King