What to grow in April 2021

As the weather cools, why not sow lots of English spinach directly into a garden bed. It grows quickly, is milder tasting than silverbeet, is rich in vitamins and minerals and, unlike silverbeet, freezes well for use when weather is too warm to grow spinach. Just blanch the leaves and stems, chop them and pack them into ice cube trays with a little water. Once frozen, the cubes can be transferred to a sealed plastic bag and stored in your freezer for use in soups, stews, quiches, rice dishes or Spanakopita. (Shown above is ‘Galilee’ spinach, the most heat-tolerant variety of true spinach.)
Add compost now to the bed where you plan to plant garlic during Full Moon phase towards the end of this month. Also check that soil pH is close to neutral (7.0). Gardeners in temperate climates can plant spring bulbs and lilies this month, and gardeners in temperate and cool climates can divide irises and day lilies.
The following gardening advice is an abbreviated list for vegetables, fruit trees and some culinary herbs that can be sown or planted during April 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 the diary section of my book Easy Organic Gardening and Moon Planting (Scribe Publications, 2006, 2009, 2012, 2017), and e-book . Both can be ordered on-line from good book stores.

* 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, cabbage, headed and open Chinese cabbage, grain crops, lettuce, mizuna, radicchio, rocket, silver beet (pre-soak seed), spinach, tatsoi, coriander, and nasturtium can be sown directly into beds, also a green manure crop of, chick pea, white clover faba bean, field pea, cereal rye, Japanese millet, oats, triticale, or wheat. Celery, leek, spring onions, parsley, bulb fennel and chamomile can be sown or planted out.
During First Quarter phase, broad beans, fast maturing broccoli, peas and nasturtium can be sown directly into beds.
During Full Moon phase, carrot, garlic, radish, swede and turnip can be sown directly into beds, and early-season onion, mint, rosemary, thyme and watercress can be sown or planted out. Globe artichoke suckers, lemon grass, strawberries, pineapple, and evergreen trees, shrubs, and vines can be planted.

WARM CLIMATE Rockhampton and northwards
Before the Full Moon, cabbage, headed and open Chinese cabbage, grain crops, lettuce, mizuna, radicchio, rocket, silver beet (pre-soak seed), spinach, tatsoi, coriander, and nasturtium can be sown directly into beds, also a green manure crop of cereal rye, lab-lab, Japanese millet, oats, or triticale. Celery, leek, spring onions and parsley can be sown or planted out.
During First Quarter phase, bush and climbing beans, fast maturing broccoli, peas, and nasturtium can be sown directly into beds, and cucumber, pumpkin, rock melon, summer squash, tomato, watermelon and zucchini can be sown or planted out.
During Full Moon phase, beetroot (pre-soak seed), carrot, parsnip, potato, radish and swede can be sown directly into beds, and lemon grass, strawberries, pineapple, dandelion and oregano can be sown or planted out. Evergreen trees, shrubs, and vines can be planted.

TEMPERATE CLIMATE
Before the Full Moon, bulb fennel, cabbage, headed and open Chinese cabbage, grain crops, lettuce, mizuna, radicchio, rocket, spinach, tatsoi and coriander can be sown directly into beds, also a green manure crop of faba (broad) bean, field pea, barley, cereal rye, oats, triticale, or wheat. Chickpea can be sown in frost-free areas. Leek, spring onions, chamomile and parsley can be sown or planted out, also silver beet (pre-soak seed) in frost-free areas.
During First Quarter phase, broccoli can be sown directly into beds, also broad beans and peas in frost-free areas.
During Full Moon phase, radish, swede turnip, turnip, and garlic can be sown directly into beds, and early season onion can be sown or planted out. Globe artichoke suckers, strawberries and lemon grass can be planted, also evergreen trees, shrubs, and vines in frost-free areas.

COOL CLIMATE
Before the Full Moon, grain crops, lettuce, spinach can be sown directly into beds, also a green manure crop of faba (broad) bean, field pea, oats, or triticale. Leek can be planted out.
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 and turnip can be sown directly into beds, and early season onion can be sown or planted out. Swede and garlic can be sown in warmer areas, and raspberry and currants can be planted in cold areas.

Seeds not germinating?

Seeds lose their vigour over time and, they can deteriorate more quickly than they should if storage temperatures or moisture levels have been unsuitable. If a batch of seed has not germinated well I do a germination test on some of the seed to see if it’s worthwhile trying another crop.
All I need for this is a wide mouthed screw-top jar, a saucer, and some cotton wool.
I place the cotton wool in the centre of the saucer, and add enough water to wet it thoroughly – but not enough to allow it to float in the water. Seeds absorb a lot of water during germination, and inadequate moisture alone can cause germination failure. I then check that the cotton wool is covered by the inverted jar.
Then I sprinkle a sample of the seed from the suspect batch onto the cotton wool. If the seeds are large, such as corn or cucurbit seed, I use the blunt end of a pencil to press the seed firmly onto the surface of the cotton wool, so that they have good access to moisture. This is unnecessary with small seed.
When I place the jar over the cotton wool I have a miniature glasshouse. Most seeds require dark for germination; and I place the mini glasshouse in a dark cupboard that is not opened frequently. I check the jar every three days for signs of activity. To test if the cotton wool is still moist, I lift the jar and check that the cotton wool is still moist. If necessary, I add a few drops before replacing the jar.
Some vegetables such as most lettuces, cape gooseberry, seakale, shiso and tomatillo, and some herbs and gazanias require light for good germination. For these seeds the jar can be kept in a well-lit room out of direct sunlight. Seed packets will indicate the best conditions for that species’ germination.
Most common varieties of vegetable seeds will show activity in a fortnight or so, but some, including capsicum, carrot, celery, eggplant and parsley can require a month for germination to occur.
If the majority of the seeds show signs of germination, the problem is more likely to be the growing mixture, lack of adequate moisture, or unsuitable soil or growing mix temperatures. If germination is poor or the seeds don’t germinate at all, and the seed was purchased recently, the supplier should be contacted to replace the seed.
To reduce problems with seeds, packets should be kept in a cool stable environment where they are protected from moisture and pests. A metal biscuit tin makes a suitable storage container if the tin is kept in a cupboard in the centre of the house where temperature fluctuations are minimal.

What to grow in March 2021

Autumn is a busy time in the garden and stormy weather in some areas has increased nitrogen in soil and produced the soft, sappy growth that pests love. If you find yellow cocoons on your brassicas, don’t destroy them, they belong to beneficial insects. See: Cocoons on Brassicas
Check citrus trees for nutrient deficiencies, particularly magnesium (yellowing in older leaves) or iron (yellowing starts in young leaves). These deficiencies will affect the quality of your crop. To correct any problems, see: Pale citrus leaves
Passionfruit vines that have produced a good summer crop will benefit from a light application of complete organic fertiliser tucked under the outer edges of the mulch.
It is also time to select your spring-flowering bulbs for planting through autumn. Perennial bulbs are best planted during Full Moon phase.
The following gardening advice is an abbreviated list for vegetables, fruit trees and some culinary herbs that can be sown or planted during March 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 the diary section of my book Easy Organic Gardening and Moon Planting (Scribe Publications, 2006, 2009, 2012, 2017), and e-book. Both can be ordered on–line.

* 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, cabbage, headed and open Chinese cabbage, grain crops, lettuce, mizuna, radicchio, rocket, silver beet (pre-soak seed), tatsoi, chamomile, coriander, nasturtium and sunflower can be sown directly into beds, as well as a green manure crop of strawberry or white clover, Japanese millet, oats, field pea or triticale. Celery, leek, spring onion, sweet basil and parsley can be sown or transplanted.
During First Quarter phase, broccoli, bush and climbing beans and peas can be sown directly into beds, and tomato and zucchini and can be sown or transplanted.
During Full Moon phase, beetroot (pre-soak seed), carrot, parsnip, and radish can be sown directly into beds, and cauliflower, early season onion, swede turnip, turnip, lemon balm, lemon grass, marjoram, oregano, rosemary, thyme and watercress can be sown or transplanted. Globe artichoke suckers, strawberries, avocado, citrus, olive and pineapple can be planted.

WARM CLIMATE Rockhampton and northwards
Before the Full Moon, nasturtium and sunflower can be sown directly into beds, as well as a green manure crop of Japanese millet, lablab, oats or triticale. Cabbage, leek, silver beet (pre-soak seed), spring onion and chamomile can be sown or transplanted.
During First Quarter phase, broccoli, and bush and climbing beans can be sown directly into beds, and capsicum, cucumber, egg plant, pumpkin, rock melon, summer squash, sweet corn, tomato, watermelon and zucchini can be sown or transplanted.
During Full Moon phase, beetroot (pre-soak seed), carrot, parsnip and radish can be sown directly into beds, and lemon grass and oregano can be sown or transplanted. Citrus, pineapple and strawberries can be planted.

TEMPERATE CLIMATE
Before the Full Moon, bulb fennel, cabbage, headed and open Chinese cabbage, grain crops, lettuce, mizuna, radicchio, rocket, silver beet (pre-soak seed), tatsoi and coriander can be sown directly into beds, as well as a green manure crop of red or strawberry clover, faba bean, field pea, barley, cereal rye, oats, triticale or wheat. Leek, silver beet , spring onion, chamomile and parsley can be sown or transplanted. In warmer areas, celery and chickpea can also be sown. In colder areas, also sow English spinach and sow Brussels sprouts directly into beds.
During First Quarter phase, cauliflower can be sown directly into beds, and broccoli can be sown or transplanted. In warmer areas, peas can also be sown directly into beds.
During Full Moon phase, beetroot (pre-soak seed), carrot, radish, swede turnip and turnip can be sown directly into beds, and early season onion, globe artichoke, lemon balm, marjoram, rosemary, thyme and watercress can be sown or transplanted. Globe artichoke suckers, strawberries, avocado, citrus and olive can be planted. In warmer areas, parsnip, mango, and pineapple and oregano can also be sown or planted.

COOL CLIMATE
Before the Full Moon, headed and open Chinese cabbage, grain crops, lettuce, mizuna, English spinach and tatsoi can be sown directly into beds, as well as a green manure crop of clover, faba bean, field pea, cereal rye, oats, triticale or wheat. Leek and spring onion can be sown or transplanted. In warmer areas, cabbage, radicchio, coriander and rocket can also be sown.
During First Quarter phase, suitable broccoli can be sown or transplanted in warmer areas.
During Full Moon phase, radish, swede turnip, turnip and garlic can be sown directly into beds, and strawberries, mint and watercress planted.

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What to grow in February 2021

February is my least favourite month for gardening because of more extreme weather conditions, which can stress your plants and attract pests. Scatter some dill seed between your brassica plants, and scratch it lightly into the top soil. The smell of dill confuses the pests that are attracted to this plant family. I was advised that if brassicas are starting to attract white cabbage moth, white bread tags attached to the edge of a leaf can discourage the butterflies from laying eggs, because they think that plant is having eggs laid on it. Give it a try.  If hot weather is predicted to continue in your area, delay sowing lettuce until later this month, or it is likely to run to seed.
The following gardening advice is an abbreviated list for vegetables, fruit trees and some culinary herbs that can be sown or planted during February 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 the diary section of my book Easy Organic Gardening and Moon Planting (Scribe Publications, 2006, 2009, 2012, 2017), and e-book (Booktopia, Dymocks, Kobo and Amazon 2017).
* 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, leek, sweet and purple basil can be sown or planted out, also celery, spring onions, in late February. Cabbage and silver beet (pre-soak seed), can be sown directly into beds (also lettuce in late February), as well as a green manure crop of millet, mung bean, pigeon pea, or Japanese millet.
During First Quarter phase, bush and climbing beans and sweet corn can be sown directly into beds. Capsicum, cucumber, tomato and zucchini can be sown or planted out, also broccoli, cauliflower and spring onions in late February.
During Full Moon phase, beetroot (pre-soak seed), carrot, parsnip, potato (Brisbane and areas south), radish, swede turnip and turnip can be sown directly into beds, and watercress, avocado, banana, mango, and pineapple can be planted out.

WARM CLIMATE – Rockhampton and northwards
Before the Full Moon, a green manure crop of lablab, mung bean, pigeon pea, or Japanese millet can be sown.
During First Quarter phase, capsicum and tomato can be sown or planted out in suitable areas. Sweet corn can be sown directly into beds.
During Full Moon phase, lemon grass can be sown or planted out.

TEMPERATE CLIMATE
Before the Full Moon, cabbage, lettuce, radicchio and silver beet (pre-soak seed) can be sown directly into beds, as well as a green manure crop of cowpea (early), mung bean, barley, Japanese millet, oats, or triticale (also cereal rye late in February). Brussels sprouts, leek and spring onions can be sown or planted out (also bulb fennel and celery in late February). Sweet basil can be also sown in warmer areas.
During First Quarter phase, bush beans can be sown directly into beds (also sweet corn in warmer areas), and broccoli, cauliflower and summer squash can be sown or planted out. Peas can be sown in colder areas in late February.
During Full Moon phase, beetroot (pre-soak seed), carrot, parsnip, radish, swede turnip, and turnip can be sown directly into beds. Dandelion, mint and watercress can be sown or planted out. Also avocado, potato, mango, and pineapple can be planted in warmer areas (- best time late February or early March this year).

COOL CLIMATE
Before the Full Moon, cabbage, lettuce and silver beet (pre-soak seed) can be sown directly into beds, as well as a green manure crop of mung bean or oats (plus barley late in February). Leek, lettuce, silver beet (pre-soak seed), spring onions and parsley can be sown in punnets or planted out. In warmer areas, also sow or plant out Brussels sprouts (early), and radicchio. In colder areas, also sow or plant out open Chinese cabbage, mizuna and tatsoi, plus English spinach in late February.
During First Quarter phase, broccoli can be sown. In warmer areas, cauliflower and peas can be sown directly into beds.
During Full Moon phase, beetroot (pre-soak seed), carrot, radish, swede turnip, and turnip can be sown directly into beds, and watercress can be sown or planted out. In warmer areas, also sow parsnip directly into beds. In colder areas, also sow garlic directly into beds.

Calling all gardeners

Seed sales for edible plants have boomed as many house-bound people have adopted the ‘green therapy’ of gardening. Organic gardening has long been respected for providing healthy outdoor exercise and mental health benefits while providing healthy, pesticide-free produce for your family.

My book Easy Organic Gardening and Moon Planting has been helping gardeners get the best from their gardening efforts since 2006. It provides practical advice on what to grow when in the perpetual monthly diary, and how to get good results in both your vegetable patch and ornamental parts of your garden. It can be used with, or without, moon planting. There are also sections on compost making, worm farming, drought-proofing your garden, and much more. See reviews:  My book

Easy Organic Gardening and Moon Planting is available as both a paperback and e-book, and can be ordered on-line, so you don’t have to leave home to find it. Happy gardening, everyone.

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

Zing ginger

stemginger Recently, I received a sample of certified-organic Zing ginger, and it certainly suits its name. It was grown on Bauer’s Organic Farm in the Lockyer Valley. Rob Bauer is a very knowledgeable and dedicated certified-organic farmer and I always look out for his produce when shopping.
We use a lot of stem ginger, especially in stir fries, but it does not grow at its best in our area. At this time of year, we also make a delicious grapefruit and ginger cordial to use our excess fruit.
Ginger (Zingiber officinale) is an amazing herb. We all tend to add ginger to foods for flavour, however, ginger has a range of medicinal properties and you can find these are listed on the Zing website, although they seem to have forgotten its long history as a preventative for motion sickness. The Zing ginger site also provides 101 recipes of the many, different ways you can use this wonderful plant root.
Zing ginger can be found at Woolworths supermarkets.

Cloche for seedlings update

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.

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