From one extreme to another, drought, fire and flood can all take their toll on gardens. The record breaking rainfalls experienced along the east coast recently have been a welcome relief from the drought and fires but they bring with them another set of challenges.
A lack of groundcover or thin mulch layer can result in erosion caused from the heavy rains. Large trees with compromised root systems through drought stress have the potential to be uprooted when soils become saturated and soft. With this in mind it's important to ensure that trees are kept well maintained which may involve thinning of the canopy.
Fruiting plants can also suffer as a result of saturated soils. Many fruiting plants will display fruit splitting after heavy rains. This is caused by the uptake of moisture quicker than the skin of the fruit can stretch.
Soft fruits such as tomatoes, peaches, nectarines, blueberries and citrus are among many fruits that may suffer from this condition. Premature fruit drop may also occur following heavy rains.
Following extreme weather events, stressed plants are the first to succumb to pests and diseases such as leaf eating insects, sap suckers and fungal diseases.
These plant problems tend to peak in February and March which requires additional effort on the gardener's part ensuring good cultural practices are in place.
Correct plant nutrition, regular watering and monitoring and implementing pest and disease control methods as required, will ensure good crops and flowers well into autumn. Particularly monitor for fungal diseases as they will be rampant following the rains and the increase in humidity.
Weeds are another issue that will require urgent attention. A surge in germination of weeds that having been laying dormant throughout the drought is occurring now and early removal is critical before flowering begins.
An explosion of growth will also occur in all garden plants and there will be a need to control some of that growth, particularly in vigorous species.
Hedges will require some attention, pruning the soft new growth before it has a chance to harden will keep hedges in good order for a few weeks at least before the next clip is required.
Gardening in Australia is often a case of extremes and from one week of intense high temperatures, to the next with record rainfalls, is par for the course.