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.

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.

Aussie gardening, Australian organic gardening, backyard vegetables, climate change gardening, cuttings, easy gardening, easy organic gardening, environmentally friendly gardening, first quarter moon, flowers, fruit, full moon, gardening advice, garden soil, growing plants, growing vegetables, healthy soil, herbs, how to grow, last quarter, lunar cycle, lunar month, March, moon phases, moon planting, new moon, New Zealand, organic fertilisers, organic gardening, planting by the moon, plants, propagating, synodic period, stink bugs, sustainable gardening, vegetables, weeds, what to grow, when to sow,

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.

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.

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

Aubergine (eggplant)

eggplantwht Have you ever wondered why they were called eggplants? This variety is the reason. The small white fruit, which look like hens’ eggs hanging on a bush, has a delicious flavour but has been very difficult to find in recent years and I was delighted to finally find some seeds. Yates has ‘White Star’ and there is a variety called ‘Easter Egg’ available from an Australian grower on eBay.

Aubergines (Solanum melangena) are a member of the tomato family and require a similar position, soil preparation, and soil pH. However, they require warmer conditions for germination than tomatoes and are usually sown 1 cm deep in small pots in a warm, protected position. The small, white variety produces a compact bush and can be grown in beds or pots. Aubergines need staking because the stems are brittle, and they appreciate a light application of poultry-based, complete fertiliser as buds form. Regular harvesting increases production. Cut fruit from the plant with a 2 cm stem when the skin is firm and shiny.

Healthy tomatoes

tmtroots A strong, healthy root system that allows your tomato plants to absorb enough water and nutrients is essential for producing a good crop and allowing your plants to produce their own pest-deterrents. Tomatoes in their natural state, grow along the ground and will form auxiliary roots along their stems, but our method of growing tomatoes tied to stakes prevents this.
However, you can give them a helping hand to produce extra roots before planting out by lying potted seedlings on their side when they are 10-15 cm tall. Leave them like this for a week or so, depending on the growth rate, and remember to stand them upright for watering. As you can see in the photo, the main stem with make a 90-degree turn, and root buds will form on the horizontal part of the stem. Plant them out with the growth tip vertical and the horizontal stem just below the soil surface. Or, you can remove the seed leaves and plant them up to just below the next set of leaves, then hill soil around them slightly as they grow.

Frost damage

frostonplants Last night was unusually cold, and we had frost where we had not had any for many years. If plants in your garden have been damaged by frost, please resist the temptation to prune back the damaged parts. They may look unattractive, but there are probably more frosty nights to come, and the damaged parts will protect the plants from further damage. Pruning damaged plants is best done in spring after the weather warms.
If you have plants that are frost intolerant, you can protect these with a temporary cover. See: Cold and frost protection.
Seedlings are very sensitive to frost. You can provide protection for these by making a simple cloche. See: Cloche for seedlings.

Compost – bins and tips

Compost Bins

Compost can be made in a variety of containers. The examples below show a double bin made from recycled timber, a double bin made from recycled, heavy gauge bird wire covered with knitted polypropylene shadecloth, and a commercial single bin. Double or triple bins are best as you can turn the compost from one bin into the next, with the third bin used to start a new heap.
dblcompost compostbins2

Homemade containers don’t require skilled carpentry. What goes into the compost container is more important than how it looks.

 

SAMSUNG DIGIMAX A503 SAMSUNG DIGIMAX A503 Compost tumblers (on right) do the work of aerating the mixture. They are suitable for composting small quantities of fairly soft ingredients quickly, for people who are not able to turn compost easily, but the mixture may not generate enough heat to kill diseases. The main points to remember in deciding on the size and site of your compost container are:

  • When ingredients form one cubic metre (i.e. 1 m. x 1 m. x 1 m.), aerobic bacteria will generate enough heat to kill diseases and weed seeds.
  • Open-base bins that are in contact with soil allow earthworms to enter the mixture (when it has cooled down) and provide worm castings to the mixture while they help complete the composting process.
  • Recommendations to position compost bins in full sun do not apply to many parts of Australia, as too much heat can kill off composting organisms. A shaded spot is ideal.
  • Compost bins need a cover to prevent the ingredients becoming sodden in heavy rain.

Some Composting Tips

If you are new to compost making, don’t be intimidated by statements of the ratio of carbon to nitrogen in compost making. Most recommended ingredients contain a mixture of both. With a little practice, you will quickly learn to identify and correct any imbalances.

  • Chop up tough items using shears, a shredder, or a sharp spade (spread items on soil or grass first to prevent jolting). This assists faster decomposition as bacteria work on the surfaces of organic waste. The more surfaces you can provide – the faster they can work.
  • The secret to making compost quickly to turn it regularly to keep it aerated, and to keep it damp as aerobic bacteria that commence the process require nitrogen, air and moisture to process the carbon.
  • The secret to fast composting is regular turning and mixing of the ingredients. Weekly turning while the ingredients are generating heat will produce mature compost very quickly. As the compost breaks down, the mass is reduced.
  • You don’t have to wait until you have a cubic metre of ingredients – turning and mixing ingredients will get the bacteria working.
  • If the pile looks grey or contains ants – it is too dry. Turn and mix the ingredients, while adding enough water to dampen the mixture.
  • Don’t be concerned about slaters in your compost heap. They feed on semi-decomposed organic matter.
  • If the pile is black with an unpleasant smell – it is over-wet. Air has been forced out, and anaerobic composting has begun. Turn and mix the ingredients, while dusting with agricultural lime every 15 cm, and adding some straw to the mix. Protect pile from rain.
  • If the pile seems inactive – it may need more nitrogen. Turn and mix the ingredients, while adding some manure every 20 cm. If manures are unavailable, you can substitute a generous sprinkling of poultry-based, organic-allowed fertiliser.
  • Your compost is ready when it is dark brown, crumbly, with a pleasant earthy smell and ingredients, apart from pieces of egg shell, are no longer recognisable. A 5 cm layer added to topsoil provides your garden with all the minerals that plants, animals and humans need for good health.