What to grow in August 2021

If you have a cold frame or a warm, protected verandah, you can get an early start on growing tomatoes in August. Sow seeds in small pots and, when they are about 15 cm high, lie the pots on their side. The stem will turn 90° to grow upright and auxiliary roots will start to grow along the horizontal part of the stem. Don’t forget to keep the pots watered. When planted out, these extra roots allow the plants to absorb more water and nutrients, and help keep the plants less stressed in the heat waves that are becoming more common.
August is the last month you can effectively get rid of Bindii (or Jo-jo as it is called in some places) as it will have produced flower heads by mid spring. The flower heads contain vicious spines. You can find methods of eradication of this pest here: Bindii or Jo-jo
The following gardening advice is an abbreviated list for vegetables, fruit trees and some culinary herbs that can be sown or planted during 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 the diary section of my book Easy Organic Gardening and Moon Planting; (Scribe Publications, 2006, 2009, 2012, 2017 with moon planting 2017–2022), and e-book (Booktopia 2012, 2017).

* 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. (See post on when to sow Broad beans and peas for your local climate.)
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 2021

July begins in Last Quarter phase this year – not the best phase for sowing seeds but good for general garden maintenance. Plantings in July are very similar to those for June, but in areas experiencing very cold winters with late frosts peas can be planted later because pea plants are frost hardy but the flowers are not. Don’t forget to snap some outer leaves of cauliflower plants and bend them over the curd to prevent the curds discolouring in sunlight.
Potatoes can be sown in warm temperate and temperate areas. Grape pruning should be completed this month. July is a good time to prune deciduous trees, shrubs and vines in frost-free areas.
General winter warning: If plants in your garden are damaged by frost, please resist the temptation to prune back the damaged parts until all danger of frost has passed. The damaged parts help protect the plants from further damage.
The following gardening advice is an abbreviated list for vegetables, fruit trees and some culinary herbs that can be sown or planted during July 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 with moon planting 2017–2022), and e-book (Booktopia 2012, 2017).

* 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.
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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 (see link in the June planting post on when to sow Broad beans and peas for your local climate).
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.

SAFER GARDENS – Lesley Corbett

Safer Gardens is an essential resource for those of us who love our garden and want to keep our home safer from more frequent and intense bushfires.
Australian gardener Lesley Corbett has analysed a remarkable collection of expert research from across Australia and around the world to produce this guide, which rates plants’ flammability based on their characteristics, and combined dry and green leaf testing.
The Plant Flammability Table of more than 550 species provides a quick reference for gardeners, with further information on most of these plants provided in the following sections for trees, shrubs, low plants, climbers and succulents.
Corbett also provides helpful information on how to make all parts of your garden less flammable, and keep your property safer.

More information can be found at: SAFER GARDENS: Plant Flammability & Planning for Fire by Lesley Corbett (Australian Scholarly Publishing 2021)

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.

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