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.

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.

Compost

compostbins2 Composting recycles organic waste into a product that makes garden soil healthy. Mature compost is a dark brown, sweet-smelling material that can be added to topsoil.
There are two ways to make compost – aerobic, which requires aeration during the process, and anaerobic, which is a slow, rather smelly process. Mature aerobic compost can be produced in about 6–8 weeks in most areas of Australia.

How does compost make garden soil healthy?

  • Compost keeps soil more moisture-retentive, yet better-drained.
  • Compost provides food for earthworms that increase the depth of fertile topsoil by leaving digested food along their deep tunnels.
  • Compost provides food and a home for the many helpful bacteria and fungi that help protect soil from soil-borne diseases.
  • Well made compost has a pH of 6.5 – where all plant nutrients are fully available, and the perfect pH for the majority of plants.
  • Compost buffers plant roots from an unsuitable pH in surrounding soil.
  • It also insulates plant roots from temperature extremes so that soil stays cooler in summer and warmer in winter.
  • Compost contains all the minerals that plants, animals and humans need for good health, most of the soil’s nitrogen, plus lots of humus that forms the most stable part of recycled organic waste.
  • Humus and the minerals that plants need both carry a weak electrical charge. The electric charge holds the plant food minerals close to plant roots and prevents them from washing away in heavy rain.
  • Humus is able to control the release of trace elements needed in tiny amounts, and block absorption of poisonous metals in soil so that they do not end up in our food.
  • Humus stores carbon in soil for very long periods of time.
  • Humus, in compost, provides a habitat for a soil community of billions of beneficial bacteria and fungi that perform important functions.
  • Some bacteria species in humus make a ‘glue’ that is able to hold soil particles in a way that improves the flow of water and air through soil. This improves the structure of soil so that plant roots grow more easily. Strong roots help plants to resist the effects of drought and storms.
  • Mycorrhiza fungi in humus stick like hairs to the roots of plants, helping them absorb water and nutrients in exchange for sugars produced by plants during photosynthesis. Some 95% of perennial plants rely on mycorrhiza for healthy growth.

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.

Frangipani from seed update

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.

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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.

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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.

 

 

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.

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.

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.