Setting your garden clock to lupin time

Did you know that you can tell the time by looking at a lupin?

Chrysanthemums come in a spectacular range of colours which guarantee a stunning display.

Chrysanthemums come in a spectacular range of colours which guarantee a stunning display.

Like some other plants, lupins turn their leaves towards the sun so that, by observing their position, you can tell what time of day it is.

Lupins are a legume, a member of the pea family, and there are many varieties.

Russell hybrids are the most spectacular lupins and the most suitable for Tasmanian conditions, but they tend to die out after a few years, so it’s wise to plant a few each year.

They provide their spectacular spikes of pea-shaped flowers in spring.

Because all the flowers in each spike are open at the same time, lupins make a lovely showing.

They like a sandy or light soil with lime dug in. In heavy clay the roots often rot.

Fresh animal manure should not be used in a bed of lupins.

Neither should artificial fertilisers containing large percentages of nitrogen as these will only encourage leaf growth at the expense of flowers.

Lupins should always be planted in full sun.

They must be kept moist during the growing season, but otherwise need little attention.

In addition to being beautiful, as a legume, they are also apparently good for combating high blood sugar, heart disease and obesity.

Winter hibernation

LOVING THE LUPIN: Not only are these flowers stunningly beautiful, as part of the legume family, research suggests lupins can help combat health issues like obesity.

LOVING THE LUPIN: Not only are these flowers stunningly beautiful, as part of the legume family, research suggests lupins can help combat health issues like obesity.

Look about you and you will find nature blanketing the earth against the rigours of winter.

We should definitely be taking our cue from Mother Nature as this is exactly what we should all be doing to our gardens.

As your crops are harvested, there will be plenty of waste plant material.

Accumulate all the organic matter you can find – the crop stalks and residues, manure, pulled weeds (burn the seeds), fallen leaves, grass cuttings, old hay - it is all valuable.

Then lay down a thick mulch over the ground you plan to plant with new crops next spring.

If you run out of this as a cover, plant rye grass or some other fast-growing crop. You can sow this between your rows of corn before the stalks are pulled out.

Little by little you can add to the protective carpet, for that is exactly what the rye grass will provide.

This is also the time of year to apply lime to your garden beds, but be careful where you put it.

Naturally you won’t apply it to acid-loving plants such as azaleas, rhododendrons and camellias.

But it can go around fruit trees, especially quinces and stone fruit, and on the vegetable garden.

I use only dolomite, which is rich in magnesium as well as calcium. It is relatively slow to act and lasts a long time.

Mother’s favourite

Take a leaf from Mother Nature's book and protect the soil from winter's touch with mulch and rye grass.

Take a leaf from Mother Nature's book and protect the soil from winter's touch with mulch and rye grass.

Chrysanthemums have been cherished garden plants for more than 2000 years. Originating in China, they were introduced to Europe in 1789.

As long as they have a fertile soil, good drainage and sunlight for at least six hours a day they will thrive in a wide variety of conditions.

The soil should preferably have a neutral pH.

Planted in early spring, they will provide flowers from March through to the end of May.

They can be grown successfully in containers, if fed, and watered regularly.

Mix plenty of well-rotted organic matter into the soil before planting.

Chrysanthemums need quite a lot of maintenance for the best results, so gardeners who have little time to spare should not plant a lot of them.

They are also heavy feeders and will benefit from top dressings of compost during the growing season.

They must be watered carefully at all stages of growth.

When the young plants have grown 15 to 20 centimetres tall, prick out the tip of each stem to induce side-branching  

The pristine beauty of the white chrysanthemum makes it a Mothers' Day favourite.

The pristine beauty of the white chrysanthemum makes it a Mothers' Day favourite.