What to grow in August 2016

cldfrmesml In warm and some temperate climate zones, where days are warm but nights are still chilly, gardeners can get an early start on spring-summer vegetables and herbs by sowing seed in containers in a cold frame. Instructions for an easy to construct cold frame can be found here: A simple cold frame
Gardeners in cooler climate zones gardeners can start celery, leek and lettuce in a cold frame, but do not plant celery out until soil temperature has reached 13° C., or celery will run to seed quickly.
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.
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.

What to grow in July 2016

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA I never worry about growing too much English spinach. It has a more delicate flavour than silverbeet, can be picked progressively through winter and, unlike silverbeet, it freezes well. Spinach leaves can be chopped, packed into ice cube trays, topped up with water, and bagged when frozen for use through the year in a range of dishes for a vitamin and antioxidant boost.
Frosts can be severe in some areas. 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.
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.
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.

What to grow in June 2016

Oops, my apologies. I was so focused on writing the composting articles this month, I completely forgot that I hadn’t posted plantings for June.
OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAFinally, cold weather is setting 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 and peas in temperate and cooler areas. ‘Coles Dwarf’ and ‘Egyptian’ are better varieties of broad beans for milder or windy conditions. Broad beans and peas 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.
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.

What to grow in May 2016

dblcompost It is International Compost Awareness Week from May 2 – 8. For those who haven’t yet discovered all the wonderful benefits of compost, I’ll be posting some tips on compost making this week.
It’s time to plant garlic in non-tropical warm climates and temperate climates. Also 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. Don’t cut back asparagus plant until the foliage yellows, which is a sign that plants have withdrawn nutrients into the crowns for growth next spring.
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.

French beans

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA Occasionally, garden gurus will say that “beans will grow on the smell of an empty fertiliser bag because they will fix nitrogen in the soil”. This is not true in Australia, where the soil bacteria that is necessary for these legumes to fix nitrogen does not occur naturally. Gardeners are often then disappointed to find that the lower leaves of their beans and peas have yellowed.
French or green beans (and peas) will benefit from the addition of some mature compost and a light application of complete fertiliser when preparing the planting area. Plants need more than nitrogen to be healthy and produce good crops, and compost in soil helps beans resist bean fly.
French beans do well in a sunny position with a soil pH not lower than 6. However, they may need some temporary shade during our heat wave conditions. Regular, deep watering and a 5 cm layer of mulch over the bed will help to keep them growing strongly. Bush varieties of French beans grow best when sown in a block rather than rows, and can be ready to harvest in eight to ten weeks after sowing.
For a continuous supply, sow a small quantity each month listed in the monthly planting guide for your climate.

Moving trees and shrubs

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.
dripline1

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. 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.
  5. 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.
  6. 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.
  7. Place a clear mark on the north-facing side of the plant so that it will be positioned in the same orientation.
  8. 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.
  9. 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.
  10. 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.

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.

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.

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

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.