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.

Citrus gall wasp

Galls or stem swellings on citrus trees need to be removed by pruning by the end of August, as very tiny black wasps emerge from the galls in September and October ready to lay a new batch of eggs in citrus stems. Because these wasps are poor fliers, they tend to reproduce on the same tree unless blown by wind to a new host.
Unlike many other wasps that assist pollination or are pest predators, the citrus gall wasp is a true pest. Eggs are laid in young stems of citrus trees, particularly lemon and grapefruit varieties, and the native finger lime. The larvae remain within the stem, stimulating the growth of cells, and causing a gall or swelling to form on the infested stem by early summer. Trees that are repeatedly attacked will become weaker and produce less fruit.
Originally, only coastal gardens of New South Wales and Queensland were affected, however, this wasp is spreading to other areas of Australia.
Do not add galls to the compost heap. Burn them, or dispose of them in a sealed plastic bag. It is very likely that the gall in the photo missed last year’s pruning because it is unusual for galls to reach that size in one season. As you can see, the tree in the photo is also affected by scale, and it is more common for citrus gall wasp to attack stressed trees. After pruning, water the tree thoroughly, and feed it with a complete organic fertiliser and as much compost as you can spare. A drink of seaweed extract tea will help it to resist further pest and disease attack.

Purple potatoes

Not only do organic ‘Midnight Purple’ potatoes add interest to a potato salad, purple potatoes are very good for you. Like richly-coloured berries, purple potatoes are full of anthocyanin pigment, an excellent anti-oxidant that we are told is important in maintaining good health. Purple potatoes also contain chlorogenic acid, which is beneficial to the health of our blood vessels and, of course, important fibre. There is a range of purple potatoes now available, with varying degrees of colouring. I particularly like the Midnight Purple ones as they are an intense purple all the way through.

 

If you would like to grow your own, Green Harvest have a good selection of purple potatoes, see: Green Harvest potatoes.

Advice on how to grow potatoes can be found here.
Growing potatoes.
Other ways to grow potatoes.

Leaf-eating ladybird

This ugly little creature is the larva of the leaf-eating ladybird. Stressed plants in prolonged hot, dry conditions attract these pests. The larvae become almost black as they reach pupa stage. Both adults and larvae of leaf-eating ladybirds are particularly fond of the Solanum family (tomato, potato, eggplant) and the melon or squash family where they do a lot of damage to leaves.

 

The adult leaf-eating ladybird has 26 or 28 spots in rows across its wing covers. They are slow moving and drop to the ground when disturbed. In summer, if you see the adults on leaves in your garden, be sure to look under the leaves for their eggs. Remove small leaves containing eggs and, on large leaves, use a knife to scrape the eggs into a container. As I dislike spraying my garden, I just squash the adults and larva with a gloved hand.
Unfortunately, the damage done by these ladybirds and their offspring have resulted in many gardeners spraying other species of ladybirds that are voracious pest predators. Both adults and larvae consume a considerable quantity of pests such as aphids, scale and mites, and one type of ladybird feeds on fungus. Peter Chew and his family have an excellent website, Brisbane Insects and Spiders, where gardeners can easily identify which creatures are beneficial to their gardens and which are pests, and includes a Ladybird Field Guide.
The photo below shows both larva and pupa stages of the 28-spotted ladybird.

Blossom end rot

A common problem affecting otherwise healthy tomato and capsicum plants during heat waves is blossom end rot, where partly formed fruit develops a dark, sunken patch furthest from the stem.
This is caused by calcium deficiency, and is not a disease. Like us, plants need a good supply of calcium to form a strong structure. Hot and very windy days increase transpiration (water loss) from plants in the same way we perspire to keep cool, and calcium can only be absorbed by plants as water-soluble, electrically-charged ions. This problem can also affect zucchini, pumpkin and melon plants.

During heat waves, daily watering rarely solves the problem. A deep watering a couple of times a week is more beneficial. If soil around plants is mulched to keep roots cooler and reduce water loss, an efficient way to water quickly is to place juice or soft drink bottles, neck down, beside plants. See: Watering in drought conditions

Other causes of blossom end rot are:

• Erratic watering
• Soil is too acidic (soil pH less than 6)
• Poor fertilising routine
• Overuse of fertilisers high in nitrogen or potassium, including some seaweed fertilisers
• Rarely, in very alkaline soil where calcium becomes insoluble.