Bees and lavender

Beelavender Bees love lavender, and because French lavender* flowers during winter, it provides them with nourishment when there is little else in flower. Lavender is known for its calming effect on people and it has the same effect on bees. A hardy plant, French lavender prefers a gravelly soil with a close to neutral pH. It is an efficient water user and requires little complete fertiliser, suits warmer climates, makes an attractive hedge, and is happy in beds or a large pot. All it needs is a light hair cut when flowering has finished.
Bee numbers are declining around the world. This is a matter for concern for all of us as we rely on bees to pollinate a good number of our fruits and vegetables. As well as growing some French lavender or some winter-flowering annuals, please ensure you keep some clean water available in your garden as bees need clean water, too. Many drown each year from trying to drink chlorinated pool water. A bird bath or large plant saucer, regularly topped up with clean water, is all they need.
* French Lavender (Lavendula dentata) is also known as Toothed Lavender, so named for the edges of its leaves.

What to grow in August 2015

Peasfennel If peas have been cropping well, give pea plants and bulb fennel an application of seaweed liquid tea to help peas’ resistance to powdery mildew and fennel bulbs to fill. Remember to save some of your best well-filled pea pods near the base of plants for seed for next year’s crop. As weather can be very variable in August, this month gardeners will be more successful using local climate conditions (microclimate) rather than strictly following suggestions for climate zones. Milder nights in late August can be followed by a cold snap, so keep cloches handy.
The following gardening advice is an abbreviated list for vegetables, fruit trees and some culinary herbs that can be planted in August 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 and 2012) – now 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 rates are lower when the Moon is in Last Quarter phase..

WARM CLIMATE South of Rockhampton
Before the Full Moon, cabbage, open-headed Chinese cabbage, grain crops, lettuce, mizuna, silver beet, spring onions, tatsoi and dill can be sown or planted out, and rocket and a green manure crop of wheat can be sown directly into beds. Sow chickpea, nasturtium, and sunflower when soil feels warm to touch.
During First Quarter phase, bush and climbing beans, and rosella can be sown. Capsicum, cucumber, eggplant, rockmelon, summer squash, tomato, watermelon and zucchini can be sown in a cold frame or warm, protected area.
During Full Moon phase, carrot, Jerusalem artichoke, potato (Brisbane and areas south), and radish can be sown directly into beds. Asparagus seed, beetroot, rosemary, thyme and watercress can be sown or planted out. Avocado, citrus, macadamia and potted grapes can be planted.

WARM CLIMATE Rockhampton and northwards
Gardeners in very warm areas have time to sow late crops of many varieties.
Before the Full Moon, cabbage, lettuce, parsley, and spring onions can be sown or planted out. Grain crops, NZ spinach, silver beet and sunflower can be sown directly into beds, as well as a green manure crop of wheat or lablab.
During First Quarter phase, capsicum, cucumber, eggplant, parsley, rockmelon, rosella, summer squash, sweet corn, tomato, watermelon and zucchini can be sown or planted out. Bush and climbing beans and sweet corn can be sown directly into beds.
During Full Moon phase, carrot, radish and sweet potato can be sown direct. Avocado, banana, banana passionfruit, citrus and passionfruit can be planted.

TEMPERATE CLIMATE
Sowing and planting this month will depend on whether your area is prone to frosts. Gardeners in Temperate areas with access to a cold frame can get an early start this month with some warmth-loving varieties.
Before the Full Moon, grain crops and mizuna can be sown directly into beds, as well as a green manure crop of clover, field pea, barley, or wheat. Dwarf peas and chamomile can be sown directly into beds in colder areas. Celery, leek and lettuce can be sown in a cold frame.
In frost-free areas, Chinese cabbage, rocket, silver beet, spring onions, tatsoi and coriander can also be sown directly into beds.
During First Quarter phase, capsicum, cucumber, leek and tomato can be sown in a cold frame.
During Full Moon phase, Jerusalem artichoke and potato can be sown directly into beds; also carrot in frost-free areas. Asparagus seed and beetroot can be sown in a cold frame. In frost-free areas, rosemary, thyme, avocado, and potted grapes can be planted.

COOL CLIMATE
August is still too cold and frosty for most plantings.
Before the Full Moon, English spinach can be sown directly into beds, as well as a green manure crop of broad bean (Faba bean) or field pea. Celery, leek and lettuce can be sown in a cold frame.
During First Quarter phase, dwarf peas can be sown directly into beds. Tomatoes and chamomile can be sown in a cold frame. In very cold areas, broad beans can be sown. (See post on when to sow Broad beans and peas for your local climate.)
During Full Moon phase, Jerusalem artichoke and potato can be sown directly into beds, and late season onions can be sown or planted out. Asparagus seed can be sown in a cold frame. Herbaceous perennial crowns can be planted. In very cold areas, deciduous trees, shrubs and vines can be planted.

Cloche for seedlings

cloche With very cold weather set to continue over much of Australia for some time, gardeners can protect young seedlings with an easy-to-make cloche. This simple structure named for the French word for ‘bell’ keeps plants warm on chilly nights and can be easily ventilated so that they don’t get too warm during the day. When the nights are milder, the structure can be easily folded and stored until it is needed again.

Instructions for making cloches can be found here: Cloche for seedlings.
** And remember to leave frost-damaged parts on shrubs until all risk of frost has passed. They may look unattractive but the burnt portions are protecting the plants from further damage.

What to grow in July 2015

Plantings in July are very similar to those for June. Don’t forget to snap some outer leaves of cauliflower plants and bend them over the curd to prevent the curds discolouring in sunlight.
Reminder – If plants have been damaged by frost, do not prune them until all danger of frost has passed. The frost-burnt sections will prevent further frost damage.

Grapefruit Grapefruit trees often produce more fruit than we can use. You can convert excess fruit into a delicious Grapefruit and Ginger cordial.
The following gardening advice is an abbreviated list for vegetables, fruit trees and some culinary herbs that can be planted in June 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 and 2012) – now 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 rates are lower when the Moon is in Last Quarter phase..

WARM CLIMATE South of Rockhampton
Before the Full Moon, grains can be sown directly into beds, as well as a green manure crop of red clover. Cabbage and spring onions can be sown. Lettuce and silverbeet can be sown in a cold frame.
During First Quarter phase, tomatoes can be sown in a cold frame.
During Full Moon phase, Jerusalem artichokes, radish and turnip can be sown directly into beds, as well as potatoes in Brisbane and areas south. Beetroot can be sown in a cold frame. Asparagus and rhubarb crowns, fig, pistachio and other deciduous trees and vines can be planted.

WARM CLIMATE Rockhampton and northwards
Before the Full Moon, open Chinese cabbage, grains, lettuce, mizuna, rocket, silver beet, tatsoi, chamomile, coriander and sunflower can be sown directly into beds, as well as a green manure crop of lablab or corn.
During First Quarter phase, bush and climbing beans, popcorn and sweet corn can be sown directly into beds, and pumpkin, spring onion, summer squash, tomato, watermelon and zucchini can be sown or planted out. Capsicum and eggplant can be sown in a cold frame.
During Full Moon phase, beetroot, radish, turnip can be sown directly into beds, and avocado, banana, fig and pistachio can be planted.

TEMPERATE CLIMATE
Before the Full Moon, a green manure crop of broad bean (faba bean) or field pea can be sown. In a cold frame, sow celery and lettuce. In frost-free areas, suitable lettuce and spring onions can also be sown or planted out. English spinach can be sown directly into beds in colder areas.
During First Quarter phase, dwarf broad beans and peas can be sown directly into beds.
During Full Moon phase, Jerusalem artichokes, garlic, potatoes and radish can be sown directly into beds, and mid season onion seedlings, asparagus and rhubarb crowns, kiwifruit, pistachio and other deciduous trees and vines can be planted. In frost-free areas, fig can be planted.

COOL CLIMATE
Before the Full Moon, English spinach can be sown directly into beds, as well as a green manure crop of broad bean (faba bean) or field pea.
During First Quarter phase, dwarf broad beans and peas can be sown directly into garden beds (see link in the June planting post on when to sow Broad beans and peas for your local climate).
During Full Moon phase, late season onions can be sown, and asparagus and rhubarb crowns, deciduous fruit trees and vines can be planted where frosts are not severe. In cold areas that receive winter rain, it is better to delay sowing potatoes until August.

Pruning tub plants

mandarin.jpg Citrus, dwarf fruit trees and many ornamentals grow well in large tubs. However, there comes a time when the plant is growing in the largest pot size and needs pruning to remain in the tub or pot.

To keep these plants healthy, ease the root ball out of the tub and, using a sharp knife, cut a straight line through opposite sides of the root ball – 8 cm in from the edge of the widest part of the root ball, as shown in the diagram. Trimrootball The space provided by the reduced root ball and the amount of potting mix that falls away from the root ball will allow space for enough fresh potting mix to be added to the tub. After checking that the drainage holes in the base of the tub are clear, replace the plant in the pot with fresh organic potting mix.
Trimming plants in this manner provides space in pots without damaging all the delicate feeder roots. Place a durable plant tag into the top of the fresh mix on one of the sides where it was trimmed. When you need to re-pot the plant again, make the pruning cuts at right angles to the previous cuts.

Tip pruning the foliage will compensate for the temporary loss of roots and prevent the plant becoming straggly.

What to grow in June 2015

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA Cold weather is starting to set in, which means it is time to start making marmalade, lemon curd or preserved lemons as citrus fruit ripens. It is also time to set up a support frame and sow broad beans in temperate and cooler areas. ‘Coles Dwarf’ and ‘Egyptian’ are better varieties for milder or windy conditions. Broad beans love a humus-rich soil that is well-drained but avoid adding manures.
The following gardening advice is an abbreviated list for vegetables, fruit trees and some culinary herbs that can be planted in June 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 and 2012) – now 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 rates are lower when the Moon is in Last Quarter phase.

WARM CLIMATE South of Rockhampton
Before the Full Moon, cabbage, and grains can be sown directly into beds, as well as a green manure crop of barley, chickpea, red clover, broad bean (faba bean), field pea, or triticale. Lettuce, radicchio, English spinach and spring onions can be sown or planted out.
During First Quarter phase, dwarf peas can be sown directly into beds.
During Full Moon phase, radish and turnip can be sown directly into beds, as well as potatoes north of Brisbane. Asparagus and rhubarb crowns, fig, kiwi fruit, pecan and pistachio can be planted.

WARM CLIMATE Rockhampton and northwards
Before the Full Moon, cabbage, open Chinese cabbage, grains, lettuce, mizuna, rocket, silver beet, tatsoi, chamomile and coriander can be sown directly into beds, as well as a green manure crop of barley, corn, lablab, or triticale.
During First Quarter phase, bush and climbing beans, popcorn and sweet corn can be sown directly into beds, and pumpkin, spring onion, summer squash, tomato, watermelon and zucchini can be sown or planted out.
During Full Moon phase, beetroot, radish, turnip can be sown directly into beds, and fig and pistachio can be planted.

TEMPERATE CLIMATE
Before the Full Moon, English spinach can be sown directly into beds, as well as a green manure crop of broad bean (faba bean) or field pea. In frost-free areas, lettuce and spring onions can also be sown or planted out.
During First Quarter phase, broad beans and peas can be sown directly into beds.
During Full Moon phase, garlic and radish can be sown directly into beds, and mid season onion seedlings, asparagus and rhubarb crowns, kiwifruit and pistachio can be planted. In frost-free areas, fig can be planted.

COOL CLIMATE
Planting is extremely limited in cool climates during both June and July. Before the Full Moon, English spinach can be sown directly into beds, as well as a green manure crop of broad bean (faba bean) or field pea. Broad beans and peas grown as a vegetable can be sown during First Quarter phase (see link above to the post on when to sow Broad beans and peas for your local climate).
During Full Moon phase, mid and late season onions can be sown, and asparagus and rhubarb crowns can be planted, also deciduous fruit trees and vines where frosts are not severe. In very cold areas, leave planting of deciduous trees and vines until late winter.

Grapefruit and ginger cordial

This cordial is popular with children and makes a delicious mixer for adult drinks.
(yields about 600 ml):
Prep/cooking time: about 20 min. plus chilling..

250 ml pink or yellow grapefruit juice (2-3 fruits)
250 g white sugar
250 ml water
Fresh ginger to taste (I used 2-3 cm)

Juice the grapefruits. Peel the ginger and slice it thinly.
Pour the grapefruit juice into a small saucepan, add the sugar and water as well as the sliced ginger. Bring to a boil and allow to simmer until sugar has completely dissolved.
Remove from heat and let stand for 10 to 15 minutes. Pour through a fine mesh sieve into a sterilised bottle and refrigerate the strained syrup until thoroughly chilled. Seal the bottle. Store in the refrigerator.
To cut the sweetness, dilute with water or soda water and ice cubes.

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