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Better Homes & Gardens’ Melissa King shares her Spring Gardening Tips

There’s something really exciting about Spring. The frenzy of new growth and longer, warmer days finally signal an end to winter and the display of new spring flowers is a feast for the senses.

It’s also garden party season, so why not dress up your backyard for the occasion. Fill decorative pots with this season’s brightest bedding plants like petunias, portulacas, snapdragons and impatiens and dot them around entertaining areas for a lively splash of colour. Make Sunday lunch extra special and decorate your outdoor table with a garden grown floral centrepiece or fill recycled containers or jars with freshly picked blooms and dot them along the length of the table. Create garden inspired napkin rings made from flexible branches, flowers and foliage, then decorate everything from salads to desserts with edible flowers like nasturtiums and marigolds. I also like to serve home grown mocktails filled with fresh fruit and herbs straight from the garden.

You might also like to make the most of fragrant, spring flowering beauties in pots. Daphne ‘Eternal Fragrance’ is a top choice for its compact habit and superb perfume. It’s longer flowering than ordinary daphne and you can grow it in full sun. You’ll also love Dianthus ‘Passion’ with fiery red blooms and a sweet scent. It grows to just 30-40 cm tall so it’s perfect for pots.

It’s also a busy time in the Kitchen garden, with all of our summer vegies on the planting menu. Footy finals time is a reminder to get tomatoes in the ground. Get planting now and you’ll be enjoying plump, garden-ripe tomatoes in everything from tomato tart to fresh salsa and heirloom tomato salad.

I like to grow a combination of old and new varieties and flavours. You’ll love ‘Cherry Fountain’, a trailing variety with trusses of tasty fruit that you can pop into your mouth whole or ‘Big Boss’ with big pink tomatoes that weigh up to 425 g and are bursting with flavour. Or explore the world of flavoursome heirloom tomatoes and grow unusual types like ‘Wapsipinicon Peach’ which has slightly fuzzy, creamy yellow fruit and a sweet, almost spicy flavour or Tomato ‘Green Grape’ with bite-sized olive green fruit.  If you’re short on space, try growing compact types like ‘Tiny Tim’ with masses of red cherry-style tomatoes on a bush just 30 cm tall or the cascading tomato ‘Tumbler’, which is perfect for pots and hanging baskets.

With their big smiley faces and tall jack in the beanstalk like stems, sunflowers are always a big hit with the kids and spring is a great time to get seeds into the ground. Why not entice the kids outdoors with a sunflower growing competition and see who can grow the tallest plants?

Here are my tips for competition worthy plants:

  • Choose tall growing varieties like ‘Giant Russian’ or ‘Yellow Empress’
  • Sunflowers like a sunny spot that is protected from wind. Direct sow the seeds in fertile soil, with lots of added compost.
  • Apply a seaweed based plant tonic at planting time and throughout the growing season to promote strong roots and healthy, competition winning plants.
  • Protect plants from slugs and snails, which can quickly make a meal of young sunflowers.
  • Liquid feed your growing sunflowers every two weeks for an award winning display!
  • Don’t forget, you’ll need to stake taller growing varieties

Did you know that the world record for the tallest sunflower is 9.17 metres? That’s taller than an average two-storey building!

Watch Better Homes and Gardens every Friday at 7PM on Channel 7 for more tips for your garden.

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