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 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 . 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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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.

Banksia rose

This lovely climbing rose is a popular addition to many gardens. The Banksia Rose, (Rosa banksiae) or Lady Banks Rose, originated in China, and is named after the wife of famous botanist Sir Joseph Banks.
An evergreen rose with few, if any, thorns, it is a dense climber to about 6 metres – perfect for covering a fence or pergola. Masses of creamy yellow or white flowers are produced on long canes from spring onwards. The flowers have a delicate fragrance, some say reminiscent of violets.
PLANTING
This vigorous rose needs a well-drained soil in full sun or part shade where it won’t crowd out other plants. First fill the planting hole with water. This is important for two reasons. How quickly the hole drains indicates whether drainage is good or you will need to plant the rose in a raised mound. If the surrounding soil is not damp when you transplant, the water you apply after planting will be drawn away from the root ball into the surrounding dry soil, and the plant will look stressed several days after planting. The addition of compost to the planting hole, and a 5 cm layer of organic mulch to the soil surface, is very beneficial. Keep the mulch one hand width from the stem.
It is a hardy plant but it should be watered weekly for the first couple of months after planting if weather is dry. Then, only water when the top centimetre of soil is dry.
PRUNING
Climbing roses are pruned after flowering. Banksia roses are usually pruned by late summer when the main flowering flush has finished. As these roses flower on last season’s wood, just remove any damaged canes, and shorten the rest of the canes by one third. Hard pruning results in no flowers next spring. Prune new roses during First Quarter phase when sap flow is higher and growth response will be faster.

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

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

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.

 

 

Moving trees and shrubs

Sometimes it is necessary to move an established tree or shrub. Deciduous plants can be moved in winter or early spring, and evergreen plants in spring. This is best done in two stages if you have to move an evergreen plant, but sometimes situations arise, due to weather conditions or moving house where a shrub or tree has to be moved urgently.
This advice is for moving trees and shrubs small enough not to require the assistance of mechanical equipment.
dripline1

  1. Dig a deep trench around the plant you want to move, using a sharp spade to cut through the roots. The trench will usually have to be dug inside the drip-line of the plant, otherwise the root ball will be too large to handle. The drip-line is the area of soil directly below the outer edges of the foliage – where rain runs off the leaf canopy onto the soil. This is where the feeder roots usually lie.
  2. Water the area thoroughly, but do not apply fertiliser. Then prune back the foliage, or remove whole branches in the case of frangipani. This is necessary to compensate for a smaller root ball, so that the plant will not suffer water stress.
  3. If possible, leave evergreen plants in position for about a month, watering it regularly. This will help the plant to produce some feeder roots within the reduced root ball area.
  4. When ready to move the plant, make sure the soil is damp. Get a large piece of hessian, shadecloth or weed mat and some cord. This will help to keep the root ball intact during transplanting. A trolley, or tarpaulin or another large piece of strong fabric will help to use as a sled to drag the plant to its new planting position if the plant is too large to lift into a barrow.
  5. First dig the hole where the plant is to be positioned. Fill the hole with water. This is important for two reasons. How quickly the hole drains indicates whether drainage is good or you will need to plant the tree or shrub in a raised mound. If the surrounding soil is not damp when you transplant, the water you apply after planting will be drawn away from the root ball into the surrounding dry soil, and the plant will look stressed several days after planting.
  6. Work the spade around the trench dug previously, easing the spade further and further under the root ball until you have cut through all the roots.
  7. Place a clear mark on the north-facing side of the plant so that it will be positioned in the same orientation.
  8. Ease the fabric gently under the root ball. It will be much easier if someone helps by slowly tilting the plant to one side. Gather the fabric around the root ball and tie with cord.
  9. Carefully transfer the plant to the new hole positioning it at the same level it was planted previously. Untie the fabric and gently ease it out from under the root ball.
  10. Fill the hole with soil, adding some compost, if available. Do not trample the soil around the plant. Water thoroughly to remove any air pockets around the roots, and apply a 5 cm layer of mulch around the plant, keeping it a hand span from the trunk. Job done.

Staking a replanted tree or shrub will stabilise it until it becomes established in its new position. Gardening Australia has an excellent video on how to support plants using 3 stakes. See: 3 stake method

** Please note: Moving Eucalyptus taller than 45 cm, or other plants that have tap roots is often unsuccessful.