What to grow in May 2015

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA Time to sow garden peas in frost-free areas directly into a garden bed with a trellis to support the plants. Contrary to some garden guru advice, legumes do need compost or complete organic fertiliser added to the bed before sowing here as Australian soils do not naturally contain the rhizobia that fixes nitrogen in these plants. If you live in a frost-prone climate, remember that peas take about 14 weeks from sowing to harvest, and time the sowing of peas so that they will not be flowering during frost periods. The plants are frost hardy but the flowers are not. If you have a spare bed over winter, why not grow some field peas or broad beans (fava beans) as a green manure to enrich the soil for spring planting. Don’t forget to cut back asparagus foliage that has become yellow.
The following gardening advice is an abbreviated list for vegetables, fruit trees and some culinary herbs that can be planted in May in Australia and New Zealand. A comprehensive monthly guide that includes planting times for the entire garden, as well as when to fertilise, prune, weed, take cuttings or divide plants plus individual cultivation notes can be found in my book Easy Organic Gardening and Moon Planting (Scribe Publications, 2006, 2009 2012) – also available as an e-book.
* For gardeners who do not use moon planting: sow or plant out any of the following list at any time this month, although you may find germination is weaker when the Moon is in Last Quarter phase.

WARM CLIMATE – South of Rockhampton
Before the Full Moon, bulb fennel, open-headed Chinese cabbage, grain crops, lettuce, mizuna, radicchio, rocket, silver beet (pre-soak seed), spinach, tatsoi, chamomile and coriander can be sown directly into beds, also a green manure crop of barley, cereal rye, chick pea, white clover, faba bean, field pea, cereal rye, Japanese millet, oats, triticale, or wheat. Leek and spring onions can be sown or planted out.
During First Quarter phase, broad beans, and peas can be sown directly into beds.
During Full Moon phase, radish, turnip and garlic can be sown directly into beds, also potato north of Brisbane. Early season onion and watercress can be sown or planted out. Olive trees can be planted.

WARM CLIMATE – Rockhampton and northwards
Before the Full Moon, bulb fennel, open-headed Chinese cabbage, grain crops, lettuce, mizuna, radicchio, rocket, silver beet (pre-soak seed), spinach, tatsoi and coriander can be sown directly into beds, also a green manure crop of barley, cereal rye, lablab, oats, or triticale. Fast-maturing celery, headed Chinese cabbage, leek, silver beet, spring onions, parsley, and chamomile can be sown or planted out.
During First Quarter phase, bush and climbing beans and peas and sweet corn can be sown directly into beds, and pumpkin, rock melon, summer squash, tomato, watermelon and zucchini can be sown or planted out.
During Full Moon phase, beetroot (pre-soak seed), carrot, radish and swede can be sown directly into beds, and evergreen trees, shrubs, and vines can be planted.

TEMPERATE CLIMATE
Before the Full Moon, open–headed Chinese cabbage, lettuce, mizuna, spinach and tatsoi can be sown directly into beds, also a green manure crop of faba (broad) bean, field pea, barley or oats. (Cereal rye can be sown in frost-free areas.) In frost-free areas, grain crops, lettuce, radicchio and spring onions can also be sown or planted out.
During First Quarter phase, fast-maturing broccoli, broad beans, peas and chamomile can be sown directly into beds in frost-free areas. In frost areas, delay sowing broad beans and peas until June. Although the plants are frost-hardy, the flowers are not.
During Full Moon phase, radish, turnip, and garlic can be sown direct, and early season onion can be sown or planted out. In frost-free areas, strawberries can be planted out.

COOL CLIMATE
Before the Full Moon, suitable lettuce and spinach can be sown directly into beds, also a green manure crop of faba (broad) bean or field pea, oats, or triticale. Spring onions can be planted out.
First Quarter phase: broad beans and peas can be sown directly into beds in late May. Avoid sowing broad beans and peas too early in frost areas. Although the plants are frost-hardy, the flowers are not.
During Full Moon phase, radish can be sown directly into beds, and early and mid season onion can be sown or planted out. Garlic can be sown in warmer areas, and raspberry and currants can be planted from mid May.

Watering in drought conditions

This week, two readers have asked me about garden problems caused by lack of water. As you know, it is extremely difficult to keep gardens well-watered in drought conditions. However, as plants can only absorb the nutrients they need for healthy growth and ripeness of crops as water-soluble ions, inadequate water is the cause of a wide range of problems, including pest attack.

Bare soil in garden beds and around trees, shrubs and vines allows a lot of soil moisture to be lost to evaporation. A 5 cm layer of organic mulch over beds and around larger plants (keeping it a hand span from the trunk) will prevent water applied to the soil from being wasted. Lawns are greedy and as their roots are close to the soil surface, they take water and nutrients intended for fruit trees and favourite ornamentals. Keep lawns beyond the outer canopy of trees and cover the area under trees with mulch.

wtrbttle.jpg A method that we have found very helpful to water mulched beds is to use plastic soft drink and juice bottles to funnel water through mulch directly to the root area of susceptible plants. This is a quick and very efficient way to hand water during drought, water restrictions, heat waves or windy weather. Limp tomato seedlings will freshen up in about 10 minutes after watering by this method.
Simply cut off the base of each container, remove the lids and bury the necks of the containers about 8 cm deep near outer edge of the foliage of plants. Large shrubs may require several containers. Pour water into the container until it begins to drain slowly – an indication that you have dampened the soil in the root area.

Seedlings and pot plants are usually the first to suffer during heat waves, and you can find advice on how to revive stressed pot plants here: Pot plant stress

Why buy organic?

Some good reasons to buy organic produce:
Why buy organic

Emmaandpie

What to grow in April 2015

spinach As the weather cools, why not sow lots of English spinach directly into a garden bed. It grows quickly, is milder tasting than silverbeet, is rich is vitamins and minerals and, unlike silverbeet, freezes well for use when weather is too warm to grow spinach. Just blanch the leaves and stems, chop them and pack them into ice cube trays with a little water. Once frozen, the cubes can be transferred to a plastic bag and stored in your freezer for use in soups, stews, quiches, rice dishes or Spanakopita.
Sow some dill between your broccoli and other brassicas. The smell of dill foliage confuses the butterflies and moths that like to lay their eggs on the leaves of the cabbage family.
The following gardening advice is an abbreviated list for vegetables, fruit trees and some culinary herbs that can be planted in April in Australia and New Zealand. A comprehensive monthly guide that includes planting times for the entire garden, as well as when to fertilise, prune, weed, take cuttings or divide plants, can be found in my book Easy Organic Gardening and Moon Planting (Scribe Publications, 2006, 2009, 2012, also now available as an e-book).

* For gardeners who do not use moon planting: sow or plant out any of the following list at any time this month, although you may find germination is weaker when the Moon is in Last Quarter phase.

WARM CLIMATE South of Rockhampton
Before the Full Moon, cabbage, headed and open Chinese cabbage, grain crops, lettuce, mizuna, radicchio, rocket, silver beet (pre-soak seed), spinach, tatsoi, coriander, and nasturtium can be sown directly into beds, also a green manure crop of, chick pea, white clover faba bean, field pea, cereal rye, Japanese millet, oats, triticale, or wheat. Celery, leek, spring onions, parsley, bulb fennel and chamomile can be sown or planted out.
During First Quarter phase, broad beans, fast maturing broccoli, peas and nasturtium can be sown directly into beds.
During Full Moon phase, carrot, garlic, radish, swede and turnip can be sown directly into beds, and early-season onion, mint, rosemary, thyme and watercress can be sown or planted out. Globe artichoke suckers, lemon grass, strawberries, pineapple, and evergreen trees, shrubs, and vines can be planted.

WARM CLIMATE Rockhampton and northwards
Before the Full Moon, cabbage, headed and open Chinese cabbage, grain crops, lettuce, mizuna, radicchio, rocket, silver beet (pre-soak seed), spinach, tatsoi, coriander, and nasturtium can be sown directly into beds, also a green manure crop of cereal rye, lablab, Japanese millet, oats, or triticale. Celery, leek, spring onions and parsley can be sown or planted out.
During First Quarter phase, bush and climbing beans, fast maturing broccoli, peas, and nasturtium can be sown directly into beds, and cucumber, pumpkin, rock melon, summer squash, tomato, watermelon and zucchini can be sown or planted out.
During Full Moon phase, beetroot (pre-soak seed), carrot, parsnip, potato, radish and swede can be sown directly into beds, and lemon grass, strawberries, pineapple, dandelion and oregano can be sown or planted out. Evergreen trees, shrubs, and vines can be planted.

TEMPERATE CLIMATE
Before the Full Moon, bulb fennel, cabbage, headed and open Chinese cabbage, grain crops, lettuce, mizuna, radicchio, rocket, spinach, tatsoi and coriander can be sown directly into beds, also a green manure crop of faba (broad) bean, field pea, barley, cereal rye, oats, triticale, or wheat. Chickpea can be sown in frost-free areas. Leek, spring onions, chamomile and parsley can be sown or planted out, also silver beet (pre-soak seed) in frost-free areas.
During First Quarter phase, broccoli can be sown directly into beds, also broad beans and peas in frost-free areas.
During Full Moon phase, radish, swede turnip, turnip, and garlic can be sown directly into beds, and early season onion can be sown or planted out. Globe artichoke suckers, strawberries and lemon grass can be planted, also evergreen trees, shrubs, and vines during first half of April.

COOL CLIMATE
Before the Full Moon, grain crops, lettuce, spinach can be sown directly into beds, also a green manure crop of faba (broad) bean, field pea, oats, or triticale. Leek can be planted out.
Avoid sowing broad beans and peas too early in frost areas. Although the plants are frost-hardy, the flowers are not.
During Full Moon phase, radish and turnip can be sown directly into beds, and early season onion can be sown or planted out. Swede and garlic can be sown in warmer areas, and raspberry and currants can be planted in cold areas.

Happy Easter 2015

Easter2

Compost worm farms

compworms.jpg For organic gardeners who don’t have enough recyclable waste for a productive compost heap, a compost worm farm is the answer.

Compost worms are different from earthworms that tunnel through soil and move into compost heaps after organic matter has been partly processed by microorganisms. Consequently, the term ‘compost worms’ can be confusing to new gardeners. Worm farm (compost) worms require a moister and cooler environment than earthworms (10–30° C.), and feed on a wide range of organic matter, including vegetable and fruit waste (except for citrus and onions), wet paper and cardboard, grass clippings, aged cow and horse manure, soft weeds and hair. Chopping waste into small pieces provides a larger surface area for worms to feed on and speeds up production. The digested waste (worm castings) are a clay-like humus that contains all the nutrients and trace elements that plants need for good health in a form that plant roots can absorb immediately.

Worm castings are Nature’s slow-release, complete organic fertiliser. The more varied the worms’ diet, the better the fertiliser. Simply rake the worm castings into the topsoil on garden beds. As they do not smell, they are the perfect fertiliser for both indoor and outdoor pot plants. They are also a great addition to seedling mixes and, when diluted to very weak black tea strength, the liquid that drains from the worm farm is a fertiliser that gets seedlings off to a flying start.
Worm farming has become a very popular method of recycling and various commercial worm farms are available to suit different situations. Most children find worm farms fascinating and enjoy looking after them.

  • Commercial worm farms come with complete instructions, a starter colony of worms and edible bedding for the worms. Small commercial farms with several tiers are easily moved into a shed or garage in areas where frosts occur. Or, in frost-free areas, if you can find an old hip bath or large sink, you can make your own worm farm as we have here. Worm farming
  • Containers with a drainage hole prevent moisture build up in the base of the farm and a waterproof cover excludes light and rain. (Avoid using old carpet or underlay as a cover as these are impregnated with pesticides.)
  • Add a little water to the farm when necessary to keep the food and bedding damp.
  • A light dusting of dolomite every few weeks will keep the worm farm smelling sweet and the pH close to perfect.

HARVESTING WORM CASTINGS
Worms in farms with stacked trays will move up into the next highest layer when all the food in their tray has been eaten, and it is time to collect the worm castings.
Uncover the worm farm and leave the surface exposed for 15-20 minutes. The worms will move down through the castings away from the light. The castings will contain worm eggs. These are easily recognised as you can see in the photo. They are about the size of the head of a match, or a little bit smaller. Worms don’t lay their eggs in groups like some insects do. They lay them one at a time through the worm castings, but usually close to where they can find food when they hatch.
Harvestcastings1 Use a scoop to collect a layer of castings from the top of the farm. A scoop can be made from a 2 litre juice bottle with a handle. Spread the castings onto an old tray by lightly brushing the castings with gloved hands. Check for worm eggs and any small worms that might still be in the castings and put them safely back into the farm. Cover them with a layer of food.
Then tip the collected worm castings into a bucket and collect another scoop full of castings until you have enough to put into your garden bed, or to make ‘worm tea’.

What to grow in March 2015

mandarin.jpg March weather is usually pleasant for gardening, and let’s hope that this year repeats the pattern. Yellow leaves on citrus trees often indicate a magnesium deficiency at this time of year. Citrus trees have a high citrus requirement. See: Yellow or pale citrus leaves
The following gardening advice is an abbreviated list for vegetables, fruit trees and some culinary herbs that can be planted during March in Australia and New Zealand. A comprehensive monthly guide that includes planting times for the entire garden, as well as when to fertilise, prune, weed, take cuttings or divide plants, can be found in my book Easy Organic Gardening and Moon Planting (Scribe Publications, 2006, 2009, 2012, also now available as an e-book).

* For gardeners who do not use moon planting: sow or plant out any of the following list at any time this month, although you may find germination is weaker when the Moon is in Last Quarter phase.

WARM CLIMATE – South of Rockhampton
Before the Full Moon, bulb fennel, cabbage, headed and open Chinese cabbage, grain crops, lettuce, mizuna, radicchio, rocket, silver beet (pre-soak seed), tatsoi, chamomile, coriander, nasturtium and sunflower can be sown directly into beds, as well as a green manure crop of strawberry or white clover, Japanese millet, oats, field pea or triticale. Celery, leek, spring onion, sweet basil and parsley can be sown or transplanted.
During First Quarter phase, broccoli, bush and climbing beans and peas can be sown directly into beds, and tomato and zucchini and can be sown or transplanted.
During Full Moon phase, beetroot (pre-soak seed), carrot, parsnip, and radish can be sown directly into beds, and cauliflower, early season onion, swede turnip, turnip, lemon balm, lemon grass, marjoram, oregano, rosemary, thyme and watercress can be sown or transplanted. Globe artichoke suckers, strawberries, avocado, citrus, olive and pineapple can be planted.

WARM CLIMATE – Rockhampton and northwards
Before the Full Moon, nasturtium and sunflower can be sown directly into beds, as well as a green manure crop of Japanese millet, lablab, oats or triticale. Cabbage, leek, silver beet (pre-soak seed), spring onion and chamomile can be sown or transplanted.
During First Quarter phase, broccoli, and bush and climbing beans can be sown directly into beds, and capsicum, cucumber, egg plant, pumpkin, rock melon, summer squash, sweet corn, tomato, watermelon and zucchini can be sown or transplanted.
During Full Moon phase, beetroot (pre-soak seed), carrot, parsnip and radish can be sown directly into beds, and lemon grass and oregano can be sown or transplanted. Citrus, pineapple and strawberries can be planted.

TEMPERATE CLIMATE
Before the Full Moon, bulb fennel, cabbage, headed and open Chinese cabbage, grain crops, lettuce, mizuna, radicchio, rocket, silver beet (pre-soak seed), tatsoi and coriander can be sown directly into beds, as well as a green manure crop of red or strawberry clover, faba bean, field pea, barley, cereal rye, oats, triticale or wheat. Leek, silver beet , spring onion, chamomile and parsley can be sown or transplanted. In warmer areas, celery and chickpea can also be sown. In colder areas, also sow English spinach and sow Brussels sprouts directly into beds.
During First Quarter phase, cauliflower can be sown directly into beds, and broccoli can be sown or transplanted. In warmer areas, peas can also be sown directly into beds.
During Full Moon phase, beetroot (pre-soak seed), carrot, radish, swede turnip and turnip can be sown directly into beds, and early season onion, globe artichoke, lemon balm, marjoram, rosemary, thyme and watercress can be sown or transplanted. Globe artichoke suckers, strawberries, avocado, citrus and olive can be planted. In warmer areas, parsnip, mango, and pineapple and oregano can also be sown or planted.

COOL CLIMATE
Before the Full Moon, headed and open Chinese cabbage, grain crops, lettuce, mizuna, English spinach and tatsoi can be sown directly into beds, as well as a green manure crop of clover, faba bean, field pea, cereal rye, oats, triticale or wheat. Leek and spring onion can be sown or transplanted. In warmer areas, cabbage, radicchio, coriander and rocket can also be sown.
During First Quarter phase, suitable broccoli can be sown or transplanted in warmer areas.
During Full Moon phase, radish, swede turnip, turnip and garlic can be sown directly into beds, and strawberries, mint and watercress planted.

What to grow in February 2015

tomato1 February can be a challenging month for gardeners with heavy rain in some areas and fierce heat in others. Gardening efforts may be limited to collecting the fruits of your labour and taking advantage of the cooler parts of the day to prepare beds for gardening in more pleasant conditions.
The following gardening advice is an abbreviated list for vegetables, fruit trees and some culinary herbs that can be planted during January in Australia and New Zealand. A comprehensive monthly guide that includes planting times for the entire garden, as well as when to fertilise, prune, weed, take cuttings or divide plants, can be found in the diary section of my book Easy Organic Gardening and Moon Planting, updated edition (Scribe Publications, 2012), and e-book (Booki.sh 2012).
* For gardeners who do not use moon planting: sow or plant out any of the following list for your climate zone at any time this month, although you may find germination rates are lower when the Moon is in Last Quarter phase.

WARM CLIMATE South of Rockhampton
Before the Full Moon, leek, sweet and purple basil can be sown or planted out, also celery, spring onions, in late February. Cabbage and silver beet (pre-soak seed), can be sown directly into beds (also lettuce in late February), as well as a green manure crop of millet, mung bean, pigeon pea, or Japanese millet.
During First Quarter phase, bush and climbing beans and sweet corn can be sown directly into beds. Capsicum, cucumber, tomato and zucchini can be sown or planted out, also broccoli, cauliflower and spring onions in late February.
During Full Moon phase, beetroot (pre-soak seed), carrot, parsnip, potato (Brisbane and areas south), radish, swede turnip and turnip can be sown directly into beds, and watercress, avocado, banana, mango, and pineapple can be planted out.

WARM CLIMATE Rockhampton and northwards
Before the Full Moon, a green manure crop of lablab, mung bean, pigeon pea, or Japanese millet can be sown.
During First Quarter phase, capsicum and tomato can be sown or planted out in suitable areas. Sweet corn can be sown directly into beds.
During Full Moon phase, lemon grass can be sown or planted out.

TEMPERATE CLIMATE
Before the Full Moon, cabbage, lettuce, radicchio and silver beet (pre-soak seed) can be sown directly into beds, as well as a green manure crop of cowpea (early), mung bean, barley, Japanese millet, oats, or triticale (also cereal rye late in February). Brussels sprouts, leek and spring onions can be sown or planted out (also bulb fennel and celery in late February). Sweet basil can be also sown in warmer areas.
During First Quarter phase, bush beans can be sown directly into beds (also sweet corn in warmer areas), and broccoli, cauliflower and summer squash can be sown or planted out. Peas can be sown in colder areas in late February.
During Full Moon phase, beetroot (pre-soak seed), carrot, parsnip, radish, swede turnip, and turnip can be sown directly into beds. Dandelion, mint and watercress can be sown or planted out. Also avocado, potato, mango, and pineapple can be planted in warmer areas.

COOL CLIMATE
Before the Full Moon, cabbage, lettuce and silver beet (pre-soak seed) can be sown directly into beds, as well as a green manure crop of mung bean or oats (plus barley late in February). Leek, lettuce, silver beet (pre-soak seed), spring onions and parsley can be sown in punnets or planted out. In warmer areas, also sow or plant out Brussels sprouts (early), and radicchio. In colder areas, also sow or plant out open Chinese cabbage, mizuna and tatsoi, plus English spinach in late February.
During First Quarter phase, broccoli can be sown. In warmer areas, cauliflower and peas can be sown directly into beds.
During Full Moon phase, beetroot (pre-soak seed), carrot, radish, swede turnip, and turnip can be sown directly into beds, and watercress can be sown or planted out. In warmer areas, also sow parsnip directly into beds. In colder areas, also sow garlic directly into beds.

Flies around fruit bowl

Drosophila-wikipedia Column 8 in today’s Sydney Morning Herald stated that Sydneysiders’ kitchens have been infested by fruit flies, stating that, “They emerge from fruit and hang around all summer”. The flies referred to are not fruit flies, they are the very small vinegar or ferment flies (Drosophila). Genuine fruit flies are kept out by fly screens. Vinegar flies emerge from fruit, tomatoes, etc. as grubs (larvae) and require pupation outside the fruit in order to complete their life cycle as a fly. If these tiny pests are a persistent problem, there must be a breeding ground nearby or the kitchen needs more regular cleaning.
Vinegar flies are attracted to the smell of yeast in fermenting organic materials and drains. To eliminate the problem:

  • Do not keep fruit at room temperature in warm, humid weather
  • Cover compost and garbage containers
  • Regularly rinse out garbage containers
  • Rinse beer and wine containers before recycling
  • and treat drains with an enzyme product to break down thick scum where they can feed and reproduce.

Genuine fruit flies, the Mediterranean Fruit Fly (Ceratitis capitata) and Queensland Fruit Fly (Dacus tryoni) cause a lot of destruction in gardens. They require pupation in soil after the maggots emerge from fruit. To reduce the problem of genuine fruit flies, collect all fallen fruit, put it in a sealed black garbage bag and leave the bag in the sun for three or four days to cook the larvae (and encourage your neighbours to do the same). Never put infected fruit in the compost container.

Corn – improving pollination

All types of corn are pollinated by breezes that blow pollen from the male flowers onto the silk threads that emerge from the top of each ear of corn. This is why it is better for home gardeners to grow corn in a block rather than a long row. Each strand of silk is connected to a separate immature seed and is covered in tiny sticky hairs that collect the pollen. If some silk strands don’t receive pollen, kernels may not form along one side of a cob, or near the top of the cob. (Female part of corn plant in photo at left.)

Male flowers form at the top of the corn plant as an upright spike and lower branches that open out like umbrella spokes. Pollen forms in small yellow ovals (anthers) that release their pollen mid morning after dew has dried from the flowers (between about 9 and 11 am). The centre spike is the first part to release its pollen. Pollen release may only last from 3 to 5 days and the released pollen is only viable for up to 24 hours. (Male flower in photo at left.)
It can help when growing small quantities of sweet corn or popcorn to pollinate it by hand, to ensure that the cobs your plants produce are full of juicy kernels. In nature, silks are rarely pollinated by the same plant.

To ensure good pollination, you need a sheet of A4 paper and a clean, dry, soft paintbrush. Fold the paper in half lengthways and open it out, then fold it in half the opposite way and open it out. This helps the paper to form a shallow well. Or, you can use a small clean shallow tray – something easy to manoeuvre between the plants. Hold the paper under a male flower and gently tap the spike and lower branches of the male flower with the handle of the paint brush. When tassels are ready to be pollinated, plenty of bright yellow pollen will fall onto the paper. Collect some of the pollen on the hairs of the paintbrush and dab it onto all sides and the centre of silk strands of other corn plants. Repeat this process over several days. Once a tassel has been pollinated, the ends of the silk strands will start to turn brown. As the cobs mature, you may have to net your corn crop as birds know when corn is perfect for eating.
Corn anthers won’t release pollen when conditions are too wet or very dry, the plants will wait until conditions are favourable. In areas of Australia that experience long periods of rain, it is best to plan your corn crop to avoid the wet season.