What to grow in December 2021

December and January are very busy months for many, and last month has been very wet in many parts of the country producing more challenges for both gardeners and farmers.
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, 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 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.

What to grow in November 2021

The squash family relies on insects, mostly bees, for pollination to bear fruit. With less bees around in many gardens, hand pollination of female flowers will ensure a good crop. Early mornings are best as flowers are full of pollen. Just use a soft paintbrush to ‘tickle’ the centre of a male flower to collect pollen, then transfer it to the centre of female flowers. Details can be found here: Pollinating Squash family
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).
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.
The following gardening advice is an abbreviated list for vegetables, fruit trees and some culinary herbs that can be sown or planted during November 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 my book Easy Organic Gardening and Moon Planting (Scribe Publications, 2006, 2009, 2012 and 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 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 2021

October is a good gardening month, and a lot can be achieved. Apply a complete organic fertiliser to citrus after they have finished cropping. Make sure you add some complete organic fertiliser to beds before sowing bush and climbing beans as they do not fix nitrogen naturally in Australian soils. See: Fixing nitrogen.
This is also a good month to plant out flowering annuals and evergreen perennials, as well as sowing asparagus seed. Remember to give tomato, capsicum and chilli plants a light application of organic fertiliser as soon as they start to flower. Also deep, regular watering rather than a light watering daily will ensure that they have enough calcium to prevent Blossom end rot.
The following gardening advice is an abbreviated list for vegetables, fruit trees and some culinary herbs that can be sown or planted during October 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 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.

Help wanted

Can anyone in the Melbourne area help a reader who needs plants of the weed known as Cobblers Pegs, Farmers’ Friend, or Black Jack, for medicinal purposes?
This common, widespread weed (Bidens pilosa), with its spiky seeds that attach themselves to gardeners’ clothing, has a long history of use in complementary medicine. This lady requires the plants to make tea from the leaves. She does not drive and is having trouble finding them locally.
If you can help, please contact me by email or comment, and I will forward her email address.

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.

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.

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.