Chilly winter weather has started early this year with some areas already experiencing frosty nights. Frost damage is more likely to occur in parts of the garden where cold air cannot drain away. If plants in your garden have been damaged by frost, please resist the temptation to prune back the damaged parts. They may look unattractive, but there are more frosty nights to come, and the damaged parts will help protect the plants from further damage. Leave pruning of damaged plants until spring after weather warms.
There are several methods gardeners can use to protect seedlings or favourite shrubs and young trees.
Seedlings cope well if you use a cloche. You can find tips for protecting shrubs and young trees, here: Cold and frost protection
Limit frost damage
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 with moon planting 2017–2022) – 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.
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.
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.
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.
The 2012 edition on my book Easy Organic Gardening and Moon Planting has been re-printed with the section on Moon Phases and Best Gardening Days updated to the end of 2022.
This book is not just about growing food – all your garden will benefit from organic cultivation. It has 500 pages packed with easy-to-follow guides and secrets on how to maintain good health in your whole garden so that all your plants become naturally pest and disease resistant, and more tolerant of climate change while saving water.
The monthly gardening diary of what to do when for all climate zones can be used with or without moon planting, and there are spaces in the diary for you to add personal notes and reminders. For more information about this book, see: Recommended reading
The new revised edition book will be available from 1st June 2017
With high temperatures predicted for many areas of mainland Australia this week, I would like to remind you that you can find tips on helping your garden to survive extremely hot temperatures here: Heat wave protection
This method of frangipani propagation is becoming popular with readers, and one of our readers, Margaret, has been kind enough to share some photos of her very successful efforts.
Why choose this method of propagation? Frangipani grown from seed grow more quickly than trees grown from cuttings and, in the same way a family of children or animals can inherit different combinations of their parents’ genes, plants grown from seed may demonstrate different characteristics of parent plants, sometimes resulting in spectacular new varieties. Plants grown from cuttings are an exact copy on one parent. Not only may the flowers vary in colour or form, we have found that the perfumes of different-coloured frangipani also vary.
We have multiple trees of four different frangipani and the orange one reminds me of the smell of ripe peaches, while the deep pink one has a sweet citrus smell, and the pale pink one hardly any perfume at all.
If your frangipani tree has produced a seed pod or two and you would like to try this method of propagation, you can find more information here: Frangipani trees from seed.
Sometimes it is necessary to move an established tree or shrub. Deciduous plants can be moved in winter or early spring, and evergreen plants in spring. This is best done in two stages if you have to move an evergreen plant, but sometimes situations arise, due to weather conditions or moving house where a shrub or tree has to be moved urgently.
This advice is for moving trees and shrubs small enough not to require the assistance of mechanical equipment.
- Dig a deep trench around the plant you want to move, using a sharp spade to cut through the roots. The trench will usually have to be dug inside the drip-line of the plant, otherwise the root ball will be too large to handle. The drip-line is the area of soil directly below the outer edges of the foliage – where rain runs off the leaf canopy onto the soil. This is where the feeder roots usually lie.
- Water the area thoroughly, but do not apply fertiliser. Then prune back the foliage, or remove whole branches in the case of frangipani. This is necessary to compensate for a smaller root ball, so that the plant will not suffer water stress.
- If possible, leave evergreen plants in position for about a month, watering it regularly. This will help the plant to produce some feeder roots within the reduced root ball area.
- When ready to move the plant, make sure the soil is damp. Get a large piece of hessian, shadecloth or weed mat and some cord. This will help to keep the root ball intact during transplanting. A trolley, or tarpaulin or another large piece of strong fabric will help to use as a sled to drag the plant to its new planting position if the plant is too large to lift into a barrow.
- First dig the hole where the plant is to be positioned. Fill the hole with water. This is important for two reasons. How quickly the hole drains indicates whether drainage is good or you will need to plant the tree or shrub in a raised mound. If the surrounding soil is not damp when you transplant, the water you apply after planting will be drawn away from the root ball into the surrounding dry soil, and the plant will look stressed several days after planting.
- Work the spade around the trench dug previously, easing the spade further and further under the root ball until you have cut through all the roots.
- Place a clear mark on the north-facing side of the plant so that it will be positioned in the same orientation.
- Ease the fabric gently under the root ball. It will be much easier if someone helps by slowly tilting the plant to one side. Gather the fabric around the root ball and tie with cord.
- Carefully transfer the plant to the new hole positioning it at the same level it was planted previously. Untie the fabric and gently ease it out from under the root ball.
- Fill the hole with soil, adding some compost, if available. Do not trample the soil around the plant. Water thoroughly to remove any air pockets around the roots, and apply a 5 cm layer of mulch around the plant, keeping it a hand span from the trunk. Job done.
** Please note: Moving Eucalyptus taller than 45 cm, or other plants that have tap roots is often unsuccessful.
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.
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.
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. 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.
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.
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