1. Feed citrus trees and treat any pest problems in late winter. Black, sooty mould on leaves is a sign of scale or aphids, so spray the tree with PestOil. Peeling bark on the trunk indicates collar rot. To treat, cut off any dead branches, then paint the affected area of trunk with Yates Liquid Copper fungicide, mixed with a little water-based paint. If yellow leaves persist after fertilising, water the soil with a solution of iron chelates.
2. Look out for cabbage white butterfly caterpillars, which attack cabbages, caulis and broccoli. Spray affected plants with Success or Dipel. To discourage further attacks, try using decoys such as solar butterflies – available from selected nurseries and hardware stores – or butterfly cut-outs on sticks.
3. To pretty up your patch, interplant crops with a few violas or pansies.
4. If your early azalea displays are being spoiled by petal blight – causing brown, mushy blooms – treat the affected flowers with systematic fungicide Zaleton.
5. Get your garden primed for an early spring start with a feed of slow-release fertiliser – feed Australian natives with a dedicated native plant formulation, which is low in phosphorus.
6. Check lemon trees for swellings on branches caused by citrus gall wasps. If present, cut away the galls using a sharp knife or blade – heavily infested smaller branches are best cut away altogether. Do this by the end of August and you’ll have hopefully stopped the cycle.
7. Attract bees with a few plantings of Californian poppies (Eschscholzia californica). They can be grown from seed sown directly in soil that drains well, and will usually self-seed year after year.
8. Fertilise early jonquils and daffodils as they finish flowering, but don’t cut back the foliage until it’s completely died down.
9. Add a touch of the exotic to your landscape by planting the low-water bird of paradise plant (Strelitzia sp.). Native to South Africa, it does well in sandy coastal areas and, once established, requires minimal maintenance.
10. Plant a few old-fashioned dianthus, now right back in fashion since the release of newer and better performing varieties such as Dianthus ‘Passion’. Rich red and with a spicy perfume, it’s long flowering and perfect for pots.