Amateur Gardener: October key

Amateur Gardener Column

I wonder what October 2017 will bring, as this year has been full of surprises weather wise.
It is also a year since the flood of 2016, which seems so long ago now.
October is the month to get your patches ready to grow your summer vegetables.
The soil is now warming up and the vegetable seedlings are appearing in the nurseries, or perhaps you prefer to grow them from seed.
For the children this year, if you want to grow another exciting easy crop, the gourd family are full of surprises.
Gourds are part of the Curcibitaceae family so enjoy the same conditions as cucumbers, but the vines can grow to quite a size.
They can easily scramble up a fence or take over the vegetable patch!
The gourds have many varied uses including bird houses, musical instruments, and for food and drinking vessels to name just a few.
Plant them in some fertile soil, water and see the odd shapes that appear.
Like pumpkins they need to mature on the vine and when the vine starts to die and the gourds are hard, pick them with a section of the stem still attached and leave them to fully dry in a cool and shady spot.
They may be lacquered or left and just buff polished and arranged in a large bowl for ornamentation.
Joe’s Connected Garden in Elizabeth Vale grew them last year and had a good display of the gourds.
They are planning to again grow them for the two days that their garden is open in the SA Open Garden scheme in the second weekend in February next year.
Gourd seeds are available from The Diggers Club either on line or from the Diggers Shop in the Adelaide Botanic Garden.
If you are driving along Main North Road near Elizabeth, the median strip has some good examples of the native hibiscus Alyogyne hugelii or more commonly known as the lilac hibiscus.
The plants are thriving and at the moment are flowering prolifically.
They dislike wet feet and need to keep their shape- give a good pruning at the end of their flowering season.
They grow to about 2.5 by 2.5 metres.
There are several other hibiscus plants that do well in our climate and the variety Hibiscus syriacus, unlike the other members of the hibiscus family, is deciduous.
This one will withstand mild frosts and has flowers in shades of white, mauve and pink.
The Hawaiian hibiscus is the one we generally associate with the name hibiscus, and now that the threat of frosts should be over for this year give the Hawaiian plants a good prune and fertilise to promote flowering.
Like all the other Hibiscus plants they prefer a sunny position.
Another variety that is easy to grow in our climate is Hibiscus mutablis, which has flowers that change from white to a deep pink over the period of a day.
Hibiscus flowers only last for one day but the plants are generally so prolific with flowers that this is not at all noticeable.
A rare Hibiscus that has quite unusual flowers is the Phillip Island Hibiscus (Hibiscus insularis), which flowers nearly all the year, and has green-yellow flowers with a red throat.
Phillip Island is to the south of Norfolk Island and this hibiscus is a threatened species but seems to grow well in our climate here.
The last two Hibiscus varieties may be bought online if unable to source from a local nursery.
Hibiscus flowers are such a joy to see with several different varieties easy to grow on the Adelaide plains.
Enjoy your time in the garden.
From the Amateur Gardener

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