What to grow in December 2016

Do check suitable plantings for your climate zone each month before purchasing seeds or seedlings from large nursery chains as some send the same plants to their stores in all parts of Australia. I noticed while browsing in Bunnings today seedlings of peas, snow peas and English spinach. These varieties do not do well in December in our warm temperate climate and will quickly attract pests and disease. To help your garden cope with very hot weather, give your plants a drink of seaweed extract tea at weak black tea strength. This provides potassium and trace elements that help plants to become more tolerant of hot weather. Organic mulch around plants not only helps to keep soil damp longer, it reduces fluctuations in soil temperatures. In extreme conditions, some shade during the hottest part of the day prevents sun-scald of fruits and vegetables, and reduces water loss from plants with soft leaves. See Sun and heat protection.
For those who have a some time to spare this busy month, the following gardening advice is an abbreviated list for vegetables, fruit trees and some culinary herbs that can be sown or planted during December in Australia and New Zealand. A comprehensive guide that includes planting times for the entire garden, as well as when to fertilise, prune, take cuttings or divide plants, can be found in the diary section of my book Easy Organic Gardening and Moon Planting (Scribe Publications, 2012), and e-book (Bookish 2012).

* For gardeners who do not use moon planting: sow or plant out any of the following list for your climate zone at any time this month, although you may find germination rates are lower when the Moon is in Last Quarter phase.

WARM CLIMATE ZONES
If your area has a wet season in the next few months, it might be wiser to not sow sweet corn this month, as heavy rain will prevent good pollination. Corn of any variety can be sown as a green manure crop, though, because green manure plants are cut down when about knee high.

WARM CLIMATE South of Rockhampton
Before the Full Moon, silver beet, nasturtium and sunflower can be sown directly into beds, as well as a green manure crop of adzuki bean, cow pea, lablab, mung bean, pigeon pea, soybean, Japanese millet, millet, or sorghum.
During First Quarter phase, bush and climbing beans, eggplant and pumpkin can be sown directly into beds, and capsicum, rock melon, summer squash, tomato, watermelon and zucchini can be sown or planted out.
During Full Moon phase, beetroot, carrot, parsnip, radish, and watercress can be sown directly into beds. Banana passionfruit, lemongrass, passionfruit and dandelion can be sown or planted out, and banana, mango, pineapple and mint can be planted. Cuttings of mint, oregano, rosemary, sage, thyme, and watercress can be taken.

WARM CLIMATE Rockhampton and northwards
Before the Full Moon, sow a green manure crop of adzuki bean, cowpea, lablab, mung bean, pigeon pea, soybean, Japanese millet, or sorghum.
During First Quarter phase, capsicum, tomato and watermelon can be sown or planted out.
During Full Moon phase, lemon grass can be sown or planted out, and mango planted.

TEMPERATE CLIMATE
Before the Full Moon, cabbage, lettuce, silver beet, dill, nasturtium and sunflower can be sown directly into beds. Leek and spring onions can be sown as well as a green manure crop of adzuki bean, cowpea, mung bean, pigeon pea, soybean, millet, Japanese millet, or sorghum.
During First Quarter phase, bush and climbing beans and sweet corn can be sown directly into beds. Capsicum, cauliflower, cucumber, eggplant, rock melon, summer squash, tomato, watermelon and zucchini can be sown or planted out.
During Full Moon phase, beetroot, carrot, parsnip, and radish can be sown directly into beds. Banana passionfruit, passionfruit, dandelion, lemon grass and watercress can be sown or planted. Banana, mango, pineapple and mint can be planted. Cuttings of marjoram, mint, oregano, rosemary, sage, thyme, and watercress can be taken.

COOL CLIMATE
In cool climates, there is still time to plant fast-maturing varieties of pumpkin, rockmelon and watermelon. Seed for these can be ordered from Phoenix Seeds in Tasmania (PO Box 207 Snug, Tasmania 7054).

Before the Full Moon, cabbage, grain crops, lettuce, silver beet, tatsoi, dill, and sunflower can be sown directly into beds, as well as a green manure crop of adzuki bean, mung bean, soybean, cereal rye, millet, Japanese millet, or sorghum. Broccoli, Brussels sprouts, leek, lettuce, spring onions, sweet basil and parsley, can be sown or planted our. In warmer areas, NZ spinach and nasturtium can be sown directly into beds, and in colder areas bulb fennel, open-headed Chinese cabbage, and mizuna can be sown directly into beds.
During First Quarter phase, bush and climbing beans and sweet corn can be sown directly into beds, as well as suitable varieties of pumpkin, rockmelon and watermelon (see notes at beginning of post). Cauliflower, cucumber and zucchini can be sown or planted out, as well as summer squash in warmer areas only.
During Full Moon phase, beetroot, carrot, parsnip, and radish can be sown directly into beds. Dandelion, pyrethrum, sage, and watercress can be sown or planted out, and mint planted. Cuttings of rosemary, thyme, and watercress can be taken.

cmas2016

What to grow in November 2016

garlicpurple Garlic should be getting close to maturity now. Slowly reduce irrigation as bases mature. Garlic needs to be harvested in dry weather, so keep an eye on weather predictions. It will dry (or cure) more quickly if you harvest after the Full Moon when sap flow is lower in the foliage part of plants.
Give tomato, capsicum and chilli plants regular deep watering and a light application of complete organic fertiliser as they start to flower. If soil is too dry tomatoes won’t be able to absorb enough calcium for healthy skins and your tomatoes will form black patches on the part opposite the stem (Blossom end rot).

The following gardening advice is an abbreviated list for vegetables, fruit trees and some culinary herbs that can be planted during November in Australia and New Zealand. A comprehensive guide that includes planting times for the entire garden, as well as when to fertilise, prune, take cuttings or divide plants, can be found in the diary section of my book Easy Organic Gardening and Moon Planting (Scribe Publications, 2012), and e-book (BookIsh 2012).

* For gardeners who do not use moon planting: sow or plant out any of the following list for your climate zone at any time this month, although you may find germination rates are lower when the Moon is in Last Quarter phase.
WARM CLIMATES
Advice to sow sweet corn in Warm climates this month will apply only to those areas that do not have almost continual rain in January – February. Pollination of corn is poor in wet weather, and the crop could be lost. However, corn of any variety can be sown as a green manure crop, though, because green manure plants are cut down when about knee high.

WARM CLIMATE South of Rockhampton
Before the Full Moon, cabbage, suitable lettuce, silver beet, NZ spinach, nasturtium and sunflower can be sown directly into beds, as well as well as a green manure crop of adzuki bean, cowpea, lablab, pigeon pea, soy bean or millet, Japanese millet, mung bean or sorghum. Parsley, spring onions and sweet and purple basil can be sown or planted out.
During First Quarter phase, bush and climbing beans, eggplant and sweet corn can be sown directly into beds, and pumpkin, rockmelon, summer squash, tomato, watermelon and zucchini 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, pawpaw, pineapple, lemongrass and watercress can be sown or planted. Banana suckers can be planted.

WARM CLIMATE Rockhampton and northwards
Sow a green manure crop of adzuki bean, cowpea, lablab, pigeon pea, soybean or millet.
During First Quarter phase, sweet corn can be sown directly into beds, and capsicum, eggplant, tomato and watermelon can be sown or planted out.
During Full Moon phase, radish and sweet potato can be sown directly into beds. Banana, passionfruit, pawpaw, pineapple, and lemongrass can be sown or planted.

TEMPERATE CLIMATE
Before the Full Moon, cabbage, grain crops, lettuce, rocket, silver beet, NZ spinach, dill, nasturtium and sunflower can be sown directly into beds, as well as a green manure crop of cowpea, mung bean, pigeon pea, soybean, millet, Japanese millet, or sorghum. Leek, spring onions, basil and parsley can be sown or planted out.
During First Quarter phase, bush and climbing beans and sweet corn can be sown directly into beds, and capsicum, cucumber, eggplant, pumpkin, rockmelon, rosella, summer squash, tomato, watermelon and zucchini can be sown or planted out.
During Full Moon phase, beetroot, carrot, potato, radish and sweet potato can be sown directly into beds, and banana passionfruit, passionfruit, pawpaw, and watercress can be sown or planted out. Asparagus seedlings, banana suckers, mango, pawpaw, mint and lemongrass can be planted.

COOL CLIMATE
Before the Full Moon, cabbage, headed and open Chinese cabbage, bulb fennel, grain crops, mizuna, rocket, silver beet, NZ spinach, tatsoi, dill, nasturtium and sunflower can be sown directly into beds, as well as a green manure crop of mung bean, soybean, barley, cereal rye, millet or Japanese millet. Brussels sprouts, cabbage, celery, leek, lettuce, parsley, silverbeet, spring onions and chamomile can be sown or planted out.
During First Quarter phase, bush and climbing beans and sweet corn can be sown directly into beds, and cauliflower, cucumber, suitable pumpkin and rockmelon varieties, summer squash, tomato, watermelon and zucchini can be sown. In warmer areas, capsicum and eggplant can also be sown. In colder areas, sow suitable broccoli varieties.
During Full Moon phase, beetroot, carrot and radish can be sown directly into beds. Asparagus seed, chives, oregano, pyrethrum, rosemary, sage, thyme and watercress can be sown or planted out. Blueberry, cherry guava, mint, and evergreen shrubs, trees and vines can be planted. In colder areas, parsnip and lawn seed can be sown.

What to grow in October 2016

Check seedlings daily, as punnets, seedling trays and small seedlings can dry out quickly, especially if weather is also windy. Light applications of organic liquid fertiliser can help seedlings to establish quickly, but too much high-nitrogen fertiliser will result in too much soft growth that is very attractive to pests.
To keep tomato plants healthy, a deep watering once or twice (in hot, dry weather) a week is better than a daily late watering. As flowers start to form on tomato plants, a light application of a complete organic fertiliser will ensure good cropping.
Make sure you apply plenty of mature compost where you grow cucumbers, melons, pumpkins and zucchinis. The compost helps to keep soil pH close to the range where the fruits can absorb the calcium they need to form firm skins, and avoid the problem of immature fruit going yellow and soft. Regular, deep watering also helps calcium absorption when needed.
The following advice on what to plant in October is an abbreviated list for vegetables, fruit trees and some culinary herbs for 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 the diary section of my book Easy Organic Gardening and Moon Planting, 2012.

* For gardeners who do not use moon planting: sow or plant out any of the following list for your climate zone 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, suitable grain crops, suitable lettuce, silver beet, NZ spinach and sunflower can be sown directly into beds, as well as a green manure crop of cowpea, pigeon pea, lablab, millet, Japanese millet, sorghum, mung bean, or soybean. Parsley, spring onions and sweet basil can be sown or planted out.
During First Quarter phase, bush and climbing beans, eggplant, pumpkin, rockmelon, rosella, sweet corn and watermelon can be sown directly into beds, and capsicum, cucumber, summer squash, tomato and zucchini can be sown or planted out.
During Full Moon phase, beetroot, carrot, radish and can be sown directly into beds, and asparagus seed, banana passionfruit, passionfruit, pawpaw, lemongrass and chives can be sown or planted out. Avocado, banana, citrus, tropical and cherry guava, macadamia, sweet potato, marjoram, mint, oregano, and sage can be planted.

WARM CLIMATE Rockhampton and northwards
Before the Full Moon, cabbage, suitable lettuce, NZ spinach and sunflower can be sown directly into beds, as well as a green manure crop of cowpea, pigeon pea, lablab or millet.
During First Quarter phase, bush and climbing beans, eggplant, sweet corn and watermelon can be sown directly into beds, and capsicum and tomato can be sown or planted out.
During Full Moon phase, beetroot, carrot and radish can be sown directly into beds, and banana passionfruit, passionfruit, pawpaw and can be sown or planted out. Banana, citrus, tropical guava, macadamia, passionfruit, pineapple, lemongrass and sweet potato can be planted.

TEMPERATE CLIMATE
Before the Full Moon, suitable Chinese cabbage, grain crops, rocket, NZ spinach, tatsoi and sunflower can be sown directly into beds, as well as a green manure crop of clover, buckwheat, millet, Japanese millet, pigeon pea, soybean – or sorghum late in October. Cabbage, celery, leek, lettuce, silver beet, spring onions, basil, dill and parsley can be sown or planted out.
During First Quarter phase, bush and climbing beans and sweet corn can be sown directly into beds, and capsicum, cucumber, eggplant, pumpkin, rockmelon, summer squash, tomato, watermelon, zucchini and rosella can be sown or planted out.
During Full Moon phase, asparagus seed, banana passionfruit, beetroot, carrot, Jerusalem artichoke, passionfruit, pawpaw, potato, radish, sweet potato, chives and lawn seed can be sown directly into beds. Avocado, blueberry, citrus, tropical and cherry guava, macadamia, mango, pawpaw, marjoram, oregano, sage, rosemary, French tarragon, thyme and evergreen trees, shrubs and vines can be planted, and turf laid.

COOL CLIMATE
Before the Full Moon, headed and open Chinese cabbage, bulb fennel, grain crops, radicchio, rocket, tatsoi, coriander, dill and sunflower can be sown directly into beds, as well as a green manure crop of clover, barley, cereal rye, millet or wheat. Cabbage, celery, leek, lettuce, parsley, silverbeet and spring onions can be sown or planted out. In very cold areas, also sow Brussels sprouts.
During First Quarter phase, bush and climbing beans can be sown directly into beds. Capsicum, cucumber, eggplant, tomato and chamomile can be sown or planted out, and pumpkin, rockmelon, summer squash, watermelon and zucchini can be started in a cold frame.
During Full Moon phase, carrot, Jerusalem artichoke, potato and radish can be sown directly into beds. Also sow or plant out asparagus seed, beetroot, globe artichoke and chives. After frost, blueberry, potted grapes, cherry guava and evergreen shrubs, trees and vines can be planted. Also sow lawn seed or lay turf.

Start weeding now

July and August are ideal months to get a head start on weed control. Last Quarter phase is a good phase for weeding because seed germination tends to be lower then, and you are less likely to stimulate further weed seed germination while removing weeds. Many weeds that germinate in cultivated soil are and pests that damage vegetable crops. July is too late to eliminate the lawn weed Bindii as the spiky seed heads will be starting to form.

You can find organic treatments for troublesome weeds in the ‘Weeding Between the Lines’ category on this blog.

Disease hosts

This is a good time of year to get a head start on weeding, as no-one likes weeding in hot weather. Leather gardening gloves or rigger’s gloves are great for weeding because they provide good protection from thorns, prickly stems, sharp edges of leaf blades, and insect or spider bites.
Weeds in the vegetable garden don’t just steal water and nutrients from your crops, many are also hosts to pests and/or diseases that can spread to your vegetables. By hosting diseases, weeds undermine your work at crop rotation to keep soil healthy.
Newly germinated weeds can be removed with a shuffle hoe, left on the bed surface, and covered with mulch. They will break down to return organic matter to topsoil. Small weeds that have not formed seed heads and are disease-free can be composted or put into worm farms. Larger weeds with seed heads must be removed and destroyed by burning, or soaking in water for an extended period, or disposed of in a sealed plastic bag. Remember the adage “One year’s seeds equals seven year’s weeds” – 15 years in some cases.
For gardening advice on removing troublesome perennial grasses and bulbous weeds, see my post on perennial weeds.

Nightshade (Solanum spp.)
The nightshade weeds are members of the same family as tomatoes, potatoes, capsicum and eggplant. Nightshade weeds (and Buffalo/Noogoora Burr) are hosts to Rhizoctonia fungi that can damage potato plants and tubers; cause collar rot in many plants, and cause damping-off in seedlings. They also provide a host to verticillium wilt that can affect a wide range of vegetables, fruit trees and ornamentals. Black Nightshade is a common weed in gardens. It grows to about 120 cm high, has groups of white (or purple-tinged) star-shaped flowers with a ring of 5 bright yellow stamens in the centre, and small green berries that blacken as they mature. Birds spread this weed by eating the berries.

Cobblers pegs (Bidens pilosa)
This weed is also known in Australia as ‘farmer’s friends’ because the barbs at the end of seeds allow the masses of seeds to cling to clothing and animal fur. Each plant produces hundreds of seeds and this weed can grow into dense stands that can quickly fill an entire bed. It is a host for root knot nematodes, tomato spotted wilt, and sclerotinia rot that can affect many crop plants. Remove and destroy these weeds while they are very small.

Onion weed and Bindii

Around this time of year, a lot of gardeners seek answers from gardening gurus, books and the internet to their onion weed or bindii problem.
Treating onion weed and oxalis with glyphosate will only kill the parent bulb – not the tiny bulbs that are loosely attached to the base of the main bulb. Onion weed also tends to be resistant to normal strength herbicides and gardeners have said that they have to use undiluted glyphosate. In garden beds, this can create other problems. Glyphosate is not broken down on contact with soil. It binds to certain soil compounds. When soil conditions change, it can become unbound and affect later crops. Soil-borne plant diseases are also more common where herbicides are used.
Get Rid of Onion Weed
For an effective way to rid your garden of onion weed, see Onion weed treatment
Get rid of Bindii
Bindii or Jo-jo needs to be treated in early winter before the vicious spiky seed heads form. It is far more difficult to eradicate this weed later in the season, see Bindii or Jo-jo

Onion weed problems

A lot of gardeners seem to be having problems with onion weed lately. To compound the problem, there is some confusion about what is “onion weed”? Nothoscordum gracile, or N. inundorum, or Asphodelus fistulosus are all referred to as onion weed in various articles. Onion weed is often confused with another weed (Romulea rosea), that is known as “onion grass” or “Guilford grass”. As children, we used to call them “plum puddings”.
Basically, the treatment for all these weeds is the same and can be found on Aussie Organic Gardening in this post.
To help indenitfication, you can see images of these weeds on the links below.

Nothoscordum gracile
Asphodelus fistulosus
Onion grass

Onion weed

Onion weed (Nothoscordum inodorum) seems to cause problems for quite a few gardeners who are unsure about organic ways to be rid of this pest. I did cover onion weed previuosly in a post on perennial weeds but, as it is a common problem, it might be worth covering it separately.
It is fairly easy to eradicate it from lawns, by keeping grass growing vigorously. Healthy lawn grass will out-compete onion weed in a fairly short time and no other treatment is necessary. In fact, onion weed in lawns is merely a sign that your lawn needs a bit more TLC.
Onion weed in garden areas is an entirely different problem. Because onion weed is a perennial weed, it stores nutrients and carbohydrates in its bulbs to generate growth in the following season, in the same way as spring bulbs such as daffodils. Trying to pull out or dig up these weeds in garden areas results in the parent bulbs releasing tiny bulbs (bulbils) from the base of the main bulb. These grow into mature plants, and all the digging has achieved is multiplication of the problem.
To get rid of onion weed, you have to prevent the bulbs storing food for growth. Onion weed can also produce seed. Cutting off the foliage at ground level will prevent the plants making carbohydrates in their leaves, and also prevent seed forming.
In an unused garden area, you can do this by slashing, or mowing, the foliage to ground level, then covering the area with black plastic for several months. Anchor the edges of the plastic with planks, bricks or whatever you have to prevent it blowing away. Deprived of moisture and the sunlight that enables it to store carbon dioxide as carbohydrates (photosynthesis), the bulbs will weaken and die. Avoid using clear or light plastic, as these will still allow the plants to photosynthesize and, in some conditions, they can actually improve weed growth.
In garden beds that are being used, onion weed is more difficult to eradicate because the bulbils can be released whenever you disturb the soil. Cut off the foliage at ground level with shears to prevent it making food for the bulbs. Then mulch the beds with 5–7 cm of mulch. You may have to cut back foliage several times as soon as it appears. If you do this consistently, bulb growth will become progressively weaker, and you will eliminate the problem without disturbing the soil and stimulating the growth of more bulbs.
When you have a chance to leave a particular bed lying fallow, you can give the bed the black plastic treatment. Onion weed is more commonly found in undernourished soils, or where soil pH is unsuitable for healthy plant growth. Where onion weed has been a problem, check your soil pH, and improve organic matter content in soil to prevent the problem recurring.

Perennial weeds

In order to eradicate problem weeds, including Nut Grass, Onion Weed, Sour-sob (Oxalis), and Tradescantia (Wandering Jew/Creeping Jesus), it is necessary to understand how these plants reproduce, because merely digging, or pulling out, these weeds is rarely successful.
Wandering Jew or Creeping Jesus is a weed of moist, shaded places. It produces extra roots at the stem joints where they touch the ground. The stems snap easily when pulled, allowing small pieces of stem to remain in soil and produce new plants, making it difficult to completely eleiminate in one go.
You can tackle this weed by whipper-snipping or cutting off as much above ground growth as possible. Rake it up and dispose of it in a sealed plastic bag. Then cover the area with black plastic or weed mat anchored around the edges. It likes damp soil, so the black plastic is best – it will prevent rain getting to the soil. Excluding light also prevents the plants from manufacturing food for future growth. Then, the most important part is to go around the outer edges of the plastic with a sharp spade and cut through any underground runners that may be extending beyond the plastic, otherwise these parts will keep supplying the runners under the plastic with food and moisture to grow. It can take up to a couple of months to kill off this weed.

Nut grass, onion weed, and Oxalis or Sour-sob release small bulbs (bulbils) into the soil when plants are pulled out, or when soil is disturbed by digging, which rapidly increases the number of weeds. During each growing season, these weeds use sunlight, carbon dioxide and water to manufacture glucose to use for energy. The glucose is stored in the bulbs and bulbils during a period of dormancy to be used for growth in the next season (in the same way as spring flowering bulbs).
The way to eliminate this type of weed is to prevent them manufacturing food through the green parts of the plant. This can be done by excluding light and water for a couple of months with thick cardboard or black plastic. If these weeds are a problem where they are close to plants, repeatedly cutting off the foliage at ground level will eliminate them.
If they are growing in a lawn area, improve fertilisation and watering of the lawn. A healthy, vigorous lawn will smother these weeds.

Lawn into garden

If you want to convert some of your lawn to a garden, the obvious first step is to get rid of the grass. This is easier said than done with Couch and Kikuyu. Any pieces of runner left in the soil will re-shoot and become a pest in your garden beds. Lawn grasses are perennial, which means they are long-lived and able to regrow from stored nutrients after a period of dormancy.
All green plants require sunlight, carbon dioxide and water to manufacture glucose that they use for energy, and we have to deprive them of these in order to kill the grass without using poisons. You can exclude light with pieces of thick cardboard, a very thick layer of mulch, or a sheet of black plastic. I’ve found black plastic works best because it absorbs heat and speeds the process. Clear or white plastic won’t exclude light, and can actually increase growth in some conditions. The light-excluding cover will have to be weighted around the edges with some stones or scraps of timber.
Now comes the most important step. Go around the outer edge of the plastic with a sharp spade and cut through the grass runners. If you don’t do this, the runners outside the plastic can keep supplying water and glucose to the covered grass, and it won’t die off.
The time taken to kill the grass will vary according to the climate. In warm, dry conditions it can be completely killed off in 4–6 weeks. The dead grass and roots will break down to provide valuable organic matter to soil.
Avoid using herbicides to kill the grass. Recent research published by the US Department of Agriculture has shown that glyphosate can stimulate the growth of Fusarium Wilt pathogens in soil. This disease can affect many food crops, and is difficult to eliminate once established.