Winter tomatoes

  There is nothing like the taste of vine-ripened tomatoes, and this is how my neighbour, Cheryl, keeps her tomatoes cropping through winter on the Mid-North Coast of NSW. The tomato plants self-seeded in the rose garden in front of her north-facing verandah and, as they grew, she trailed the foliage across the verandah surface. The plants get plenty of sun during the day and the verandah roof keeps the plants warmer at night and protects them from frost. This clever idea has worked very well and Cheryl has so many tomatoes, she has been giving them away.

Tomatoes can also do well during the colder months in pots on a protected north-facing verandah, as the potting mix in black plastic pots stays warmer than soil in garden beds. Fruiting on tomatoes depends on warm air and tomatoes do not need bees for pollination. Don’t forget to water the plants regularly, and give them a light application of complete organic fertiliser as flowers start to form, to ensure a sweet-tasting crop.

Revised edition of my book


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

Bindii or Jo-jo

Early winter is the time to eradicate this weed pest, although I’ve noticed young growth of this weed in May on the Mid North Coast of NSW. Bindii (Soliva pterosperma), or “Jo-Jo” as it is called in some places, or “onehunga” in New Zealand, is a delicate-looking lawn weed that produces carrot-top or ferny foliage.
In late winter and early spring, each branch produces a rosette of spiky seed heads that detach from the rosette into individual seeds with a sharp spine that attach themselves to the soles of shoes, and make walking barefoot or sitting on grass a painful experience. By the time the plants produce seed heads, the branches will also produce roots from stem joints and removal is difficult. For successful removal this diabolical weed has to be eliminated before the seed heads form. From now until the end of June is a great time for action, in any moon phase if seed heads haven’t formed.
If you don’t have a steam or flame weeder, young plants are easy to dig out in early winter if you only have a light infestation. For more wide-spread infestations, the good news is that several companies have produced certified-organic weed sprays.
Certified-organic weed sprays
Spot-spraying with Yates ‘Nature’s Way Weed Spray’ or Organic Crop Protectant’s ‘Slasher’ will burn off the weeds, while Organix’s ‘Weed Blitz’ works by removing the outer coating of foliage and seeds, causing cells to collapse. A Google search will direct you to a local supplier.
Bindii is more common where lawns are undernourished. Vigorous lawns usually out-compete this weed. To avoid future problems, in late winter, water the lawn and fertilise with organic complete fertiliser and seaweed extract tea, and do not mow the lawn too short as this weakens lawn growth – raise the mower a notch or two. Dynamic Lifter granules are easy to apply to lawns.

Heat wave help

recycled juice bottle

 

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

Aubergine (eggplant)

eggplantwht Have you ever wondered why they were called eggplants? This variety is the reason. The small white fruit, which look like hens’ eggs hanging on a bush, has a delicious flavour but has been very difficult to find in recent years and I was delighted to finally find some seeds. Yates has ‘White Star’ and there is a variety called ‘Easter Egg’ available from an Australian grower on eBay.

Aubergines (Solanum melangena) are a member of the tomato family and require a similar position, soil preparation, and soil pH. However, they require warmer conditions for germination than tomatoes and are usually sown 1 cm deep in small pots in a warm, protected position. The small, white variety produces a compact bush and can be grown in beds or pots. Aubergines need staking because the stems are brittle, and they appreciate a light application of poultry-based, complete fertiliser as buds form. Regular harvesting increases production. Cut fruit from the plant with a 2 cm stem when the skin is firm and shiny.

What to grow in September 2016

Grnpatch Time to get busy for many gardeners. Many commercial seed retailers use hybrid seed (F1) and the seed produced from hybrid variety crops is usually sterile so there is no point in saving it. If you want to grow open-pollinated seed so that you can save seed from your crops to sow next year, these seeds can be obtained by mail order from Greenpatch Organic Seeds, Green Harvest, Eden Seeds or Phoenix Seeds in most states.
Keep a close eye on seedlings as warm weather in September can suddenly turn into a cold snap. Lots of different varieties can be sown this month if you have a warm, sheltered spot where seedlings can get a strong start before planting out when nights are warmer.

The following gardening advice of what to grow in September 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 2006, 2009, 2012 (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, suitable grain crops, lettuce, mizuna, rocket, silver beet, NZ spinach, tatsoi, nasturtium and sunflower can be sown directly into beds, as well as a green manure crop of pigeon pea, millet, Japanese millet or mung bean, if water is available.
Cabbage, suitable open-headed Chinese cabbage, parsley, spring onions and sweet basil can be sown or planted out.
During First Quarter phase, bush and climbing beans, pumpkin and sweet corn can be sown directly into beds, and capsicum, cucumber, eggplant, rockmelon, rosella, summer squash, tomato, watermelon and zucchini can be sown or planted out.
During Full Moon phase, Jerusalem artichoke, beetroot, carrot, potato (Brisbane and areas south), radish and sweet potato can be sown directly into beds, and asparagus seed, banana passionfruit, passionfruit, pawpaw, and chives can be sown or planted out. Avocado, banana, citrus, tropical and cherry guava, macadamia, passionfruits, marjoram, mint, oregano, sage, and thyme can be planted.

WARM CLIMATE North of Rockhampton
Before the Full Moon, suitable cabbage, suitable lettuce, silver beet and NZ spinach can be sown directly into beds, as well as a green manure crop of pigeon pea, lablab or millet. Parsley, spring onions and sweet basil can be sown or planted out.
During First Quarter phase, bush and climbing beans sweet corn can be sown directly into beds, and capsicum, cucumber, eggplant, rosella and watermelon can be sown or planted out.
During Full Moon phase, beetroot, carrot, radish and sweet potato can be sown directly into beds, and banana passionfruit, passionfruit and pawpaw can be sown or planted out. Avocado, banana, citrus, tropical guava, macadamia, passionfruits, lemongrass and mint can be planted. Also plant marjoram, oregano, sage and thyme where they won’t become waterlogged.

TEMPERATE CLIMATE
Before the Full Moon, suitable Chinese cabbage, grain crops, lettuce, mizuna, rocket, and tatsoi can be sown directly into beds, as well as a green manure crop of chickpea, clover, barley or millet. Celery, leek, lettuce, silver beet and spring onions can be sown or planted out. Cabbage, parsley and sweet basil can be sown in a cold frame, and NZ spinach, coriander and dill sown direct after frost.
During First Quarter phase, bush and climbing beans, and sweet corn can be sown directly into beds, in frost-free areas. Capsicum, cucumber, eggplant, pumpkin, rockmelon, tomato, summer squash, watermelon and zucchini can be sown in a cold frame.
During Full Moon phase, Jerusalem artichoke, carrot, potato and radish can be sown directly into beds, and asparagus seed, beetroot, sweet potato and chives can be sown in a cold frame. In frost-free areas, banana passionfruit, passionfruit and tropical guava can be planted. After frost, avocado, blueberry, citrus, cherry guava, macadamia, olive, marjoram, oregano, sage, rosemary, French tarragon, thyme and evergreen trees, shrubs and vines can also be planted.

COOL CLIMATE
Cool climate gardeners may still need a cloche to protect young seedlings.
Before the Full Moon, grain crops, lettuce, radicchio and rocket can be sown directly into beds, as well as a green manure crop of clover, broad beans, field pea, barley, oats, triticale or wheat. Cabbage, celery, bulb fennel, leek, silver beet and spring onions can be sown in a cold frame. In very cold areas, broad beans, peas and spinach can also be sown.
During First Quarter phase, capsicum, cucumber, leek, suitable pumpkin, suitable rockmelon, summer squash, tomato, watermelon and zucchini can be sown in a cold frame, or after frost.
During Full Moon phase, Jerusalem artichoke, carrot, potato and radish can be sown directly into beds. Asparagus seed and globe artichoke can be sown in a cold frame.
After frost, potted grapes and evergreen trees, shrubs and vines can be planted, and turf can be laid.

Gall wasp reminder

gallwasp For gardeners on the east coast – don’t forget that it is a legal requirement in some areas to remove galls from citrus trees by the end of August. Gall wasps lay eggs in main stems or fruit stalks. This forms a swelling and gall wasp larvae weaken trees. As trees may be forming blossoms, delay in pruning may reduce next year’s crop. If you haven’t done so, check citrus trees (especially grapefruit and lemons) this week and prune off any galls before adult wasps emerge to lay eggs in new shoots. Burn affected prunings or dispose of them in a sealed plastic bag. See: Citrus gall wasp

Healthy tomatoes

tmtroots A strong, healthy root system that allows your tomato plants to absorb enough water and nutrients is essential for producing a good crop and allowing your plants to produce their own pest-deterrents. Tomatoes in their natural state, grow along the ground and will form auxiliary roots along their stems, but our method of growing tomatoes tied to stakes prevents this.
However, you can give them a helping hand to produce extra roots before planting out by lying potted seedlings on their side when they are 10-12 cm tall. Leave them like this for a week or so, depending on the growth rate, and remember to stand them upright for watering. As you can see in the photo, the main stem with make a 90-degree turn, and root buds will form on the horizontal part of the stem. Plant them out with the growth tip vertical and the horizontal stem just below the soil surface. Or, you can remove the seed leaves and plant them up to just below the next set of leaves, then hill soil around them slightly as they grow.

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For moon planters

Calwdgt2b

Colour-coded Calendars now available

In response to readers’ requests, Aussie Organic Gardening now has easy-to-follow, colour-coded, moon planting calendars for gardeners. Colours indicate suitable moon phases for certain garden activities and the best days within each phase. Weeks begin on a Monday, so that weekend gardeners can see at a glance which activities are suitable for coming weekends.
Our planting by the moon calendars are suitable for all gardeners in Australia, New Zealand and other countries in the southern hemisphere. The practice of sowing and planting by the moon, also known as lunar planting, has been used by farmers and gardeners around the world for many centuries.

Click on the links on the right side of the home page to purchase a planting calendar for the rest of 2016 or a planting calendar for 2017.
For readers not familiar with moon planting or gardening by the moon, information can be found here All about moon planting: