|A Calendar of Self Sufficiency
This is based on our climate here- first frosts in May, last in October, down to minus 5 in winter. Sydney and Perth can plant things about a month earlier than us; Melbourne about three weeks later; Brisbane about two months earlier except in frosty hollows; Adelaide about 2 weeks earlier (the Adelaide hills are about the same), Canberra and Hobart about three weeks later.
No matter where you are below the tropics, the seasons change in much the same way. Use this chart as a guide to the way the year can flow for you.
It's hot. The air smells of ripe peaches, the strawberries are rotting because you're sick of them, and you've still got a hangover from the dandelion champagne at Christmas. The last thing you want to do is plant your garden.
Unfortunately, after spring, January is the year's main planting time. Things you plant now will feed you from Autumn to Spring- and as nothing much grows during winter, you have to get things in now for them to mature in time.
Take heart, though- you don't have to dig. The whole of your winter planting should take about half an hour. Just lay black weed mat on the lawn, weigh it down, cut a few holes and plant seedlings in them- the cauliflower and brocolli and cabbages needed for autumn. It's so hot that the grass underneath will soon rot- and as long as you throw some hen manure, blood or bone or liquid manure on every week or so your vegies will gallop ahead.
Anything planted now will take advantage of the autumn flush as it matures. The autumn flush really does exist, just like the spring flush- a sudden burst of plant growth that seems to have no direct correlation with temperature or moisture levels.
Plant more beans as soon as the last lot start flowering; plant more corn when the last lot reaches ankle high; plant more zuchinni in case the first gets mildew (strongly growing young plants are more resistant); plant a new lot of tomatoes or take cuttings from old ones- pin a branch to the ground and dig it up when roots grow along it; then pot it and stake it gently upright.
You should be able to start picking the crops you planted in spring now- corn, tomatoes, beans, zuchinni. January is the bountiful time- it's as though nature conns you into planting more by showing you how wonderful the harvest can be.
Wheat and oats should be ripening now. Don't let them get too ripe if you are hand harvesting them, or they may shatter and you'll lose some of the grain.
Renew mulch around fruit trees now, and add old hen manure or blood and bone if you want an autumn flush of growth. Don't do this if you get early frosts.
Rig up a stretch of shade cloth to cover sun sensitive crops like lettuce- you won't have to water as much, and they won't turn bitter.
. pick off basil and other herb flowers to encourage more leaves to grow
. don't rake or collect grass clippings in hot dry weather- leave them as natural mulch
. keep feeding and dead heading your flowers baskets so they look good all summer
. prune back straggly petunias- they'll soon give another flush of blooms
.cut statice, rhodanthe, bracteantha, helichrysums and hydrangea. hang bunches in a dark room to dry them for winter
. trim hedges...if you have to trim back too much summer growth in winter the branches may die back
Mid Summer Splash!
Enjoy a touch of coolness in your garden this summer with:
. cascades of blue and white ... not water, but hanging baskets of blue lobelia, blue and white petunias, blue vinca minor or campanula poscharskyana
. a pond or bird bath filled with purple and white alyssum, blue and white pansies, blue ageratum or blue pimpernel
. a wheelbarrow of blue pansies
.a wall fountain- wall fountains s used to be used as drinking fountains, but they still create cool magic in a garden.
. a swinging seat hung from a shady tree
. create a waterless pond or stream with a winding bed of pebbles, or low green shrubs, or blue flowered dwarf lavender, or blue and white flowering agapanthus , blue Senecio repens. A bridge over the 'stream' would add to the water like effect.
. check out books of Japanese design for serene raked sand 'ponds' and 'stream's
. plant a cool moist shade cloth covered fernery by the house (warning: they can harbour mosquitoes)
. paint a trompe de oile scene of the beach or a waterfall on your hot garden shed
Make the most of summer shade with bright plantings under trees: a carpet of yellow or pink flowered silver and green lamium, or purple leaved heuchera or flowers like impatiens, or a background of taller ginger lilies, hydrangeas, lavatera, philadelphus, azaleas, Mexican orange blossom
Summer Ideas for Kids
. use shade sails to give your kids shade for playing
. a sheet or blanket over the clothes line makes a fast and simple cubby .. peg up more sheets to make extra rooms!
. trampolines can be set flush in a level garden surface so they're not as obtrusive- and there isn't as far to fall!
. check out which- if any trees in your garden are safe for climbing...and tell kids the results. put a thick mat of soft pine bark mulch at the base on any tree kids climb.
. don't hose the garden...hose the kids under a large tree that needs some water
. a tent in the garden plus spare saucepans and plastic crockery
. make a mosaic.. a patch of concrete with the kids names spelt out in pebbles(Buy both pebbles a and bag of concrete mix at the garden centre)
. haul the kids down to the library and check out books of easy to make swings, climbing frames and cubbies- ones you can make together!
PS some are really very easy, even for someone who can't bang in a nail.
Don't be a Drip!
Drip irrigation systems are a great way to keep your garden green with much less water! And in some (sensible) council areas drippers aren't subject to water restrictions!
Drippers are also great:
. above hanging baskets, to keep them flourishing too
. above the dog's bowl, so it will never run dry
. above the bird bath...birds (and dogs) like cool fresh water
ps even I can work out how to wind dripper pipe around my garden and punch in the drippers..and if I can mange it anyone can!
.low growing shrubs are better able to survive strong winds than tall rounded ones.
.thin out foliage and branches if possible to cut down wind resistance before a storm hits
. hedges survive wind better than fences
. lots of coastal palms will help break the force of the wind, and are easily replaced if they blow over
. if a shrub or tree is uprooted you may be able to save it by replanting at once
. deep mulch helps protect plants and soil from high winds and torrential rain
. watch out for flimsy aluminium sheds, fences, hanging baskets and unsecured garden seats- they can all become lethal flying weapons!
Check apples every week for signs of codlin moth. Pick any tunnelled ones. Feed them to the chooks or stew them if they're ripe enough or leave them under water for about three weeks. Don't compost them unless the heap is really hot. (And if your heap is that hot it probably has too much nitrogen - toss it around few times or you'll lose most of the nutrients and end up with parched grey powder.)
Fruit fly. Remember that fruit fly are attracted to ripe fruit and mostly breed on the ground- pick all fruit just before it gets ripe, and never leave windfalls more than a day. Watch out for fruit fly breeding in 'compost heaps'- piles or rubbish and food scraps that aren't heating up at all. Add blood and bone or sprinkle with urine to get them going. See 'Natural Control of Garden Pests' (Jackie French, Aird Books) for details of organic fruit fly control- or use commercial splash on baits that don't touch the fruit.
28 spot ladybirds. These like potatoes, tomatoes, and pepinoes- they speckled our eggplant leaves brown last year before I noticed what was happening. A reflective mulch (like alfoil or reflective insulation) will repel them; masses of yellow daisies or marigolds will keep the numbers down as long as they are thickly planted UNDERNEATH the other plants. I found last year that a strong nettle spray (nettles left in water till it turns brown; spray the dark brown liquid) helped repel them. As a last resort make a spray of derris and water and spray it on the leaves- underneath as well. This is a stomach poison, not a contact poison- the ladybirds have to at the leaf underneath to be affected.It will also repel them. For a long term solution, attract birds and keep cats away.
Fruit Rot. Try a weekly seaweed , nettle or even weed spray. The best I know is a mixture of chamomile flowers, chives, nettles, seaweed casaurina leaves, horsetail and comfrey- or as many of those as you can get. Cover with water and spray on foliage when the liquid is light brown. spray just before picking to minimise post harvest rot.Thin out fruit if necessary. After picking try and keep fruit as cool as you can: hot and humid storage areas, even for a short tine, can start them rotting. Pick out any bad fruit at once. you can also try dipping fruit for a second or two into boiling water- or hot, very salty water, or hot chamomile tea. but make sure fruit is dry before it's stored. (I leave them to dry on newspaper.)
Whitefly. If your plant leaves are wilting, mottled or speckled look underneath for clouds of small white flies.Spray them thoroughly underneath the leaves every second day- and increase the potash in your soil with wood ash, comfrey, compost.
February is the time you catch your breath. Holidays are over; so is Christmas. You can plant all the things you didn't get round to last month, and start bottling the tomatoes.
If you haven't got winter seedlings in now, dash off and buy some.This is the last month to plant winter brassica crops- after February these will mostly mature in spring. Plant only seedlings, not seeds- or choose early maturers if you want them for winter
Don't bother if you can't eat everything that's ripe in the garden in February. February always provides too much. Remember that in the self sufficient garden nothing is wasted- those surplus lettuces will make good mulch. Don't try and eat zuchinni with every meal- throw them in the compost instead.
Onions for storage should be lifted now. Wait till the tops have died off. Leave the dug onions in the sun for a couple of days to dry off, but don't let them get wet. Either hang them up in bunches by the dry tops or stick them in old net orange bags- make sure the air can circulate. Store them on a cool, dry, not necessarily dark place.
Apples start to crop well now- the ones like Johnnies and Delicious that will store a few months, unlike the early apples that must be eaten straight from the tree or they taste floury. Keep the apples cool and dark- packing them in bran or sawdust was an old fashioned way of keeping them.
What to do in February
Plant out strawberry runners.
This is a good time for summer pruning, especially vines like kiwi fruit now the fruit has set. (Summer pruning's other name is 'hacking back the jungle.' Bending back unwanted growth now will check plants far less than a rigorous pruning in winter, and cuts will heal quicker.If you must prune apricots or cherries, do so now.
February is probably the best month for budding stone fruit.
Stick out tomatoes on alfoil for sun dried tomatoes
. Give your beloved helpful hints regarding St Valentine's Day or you'll get a bunch of those modern scentless roses (what use is a rose without perfume?) or chocs when you're on a diet, so your beloved gets to eat them instead of you.
Have a look at the gift ideas on this page - books, rocks or a hardy little erodium that you can enjoy without cosseting!
. dunk pots and hanging baskets in a bucket of water for a good soak.
. keep weeding and feeding - but if soil is dry and you're short of water, don't feed! It's very easy to burn plants' roots in dry times with too much tucker.
. prune geraniums/pelargoniums and pot up the cuttings.
. feed citrus and other evergreen fruit trees, and camellias too.
. tidy up tomatoes, climbing roses, bougainvillea, dahlias and other climbers and sprawlers.
Flowers in the heat
Freshly cut flowers just don't last as long in February's heat. A bloom picked from a wilting plant won't perk up again! Pick flowers either in the early morning, or about an hour after you've watered at night. (omit the next bit if it's too long) Plunge the stems into cold water, then cut a few centimetres off the stems while they are under water. Move vases away from hot windows in baking weather too- flowers last longer in the cool!
At the first sign of mildewed vines pull off the infected leaves and compost or burn them. Make sure soil is well mulched to stop contact between vines and damp soil- and any leaf residues in the soil. Spray with chamomile tea or milk if the infestation is light, otherwise with half strength bordeaux. Spray under the leaves as well, and on top of the mulch where spores may linger.
Have another crop coming on elsewhere in the garden too- younger, strongly growing plants will be less stricken, and you'll extend your cropping even if you don't spray.
Brown rot should have been partially controlled by removing infected twigs and mummies in winter and spraying with bordeaux. Pick any infected fruit before it harms the rest. Stone fruit for storage can be treated by dipping them in hot water for about 30 seconds. If their skins shrivel hold them under for a shorter time. You'll need to experiment according to the heat of the water and the moisture content of the fruit.
What to plant:
Subtropical and tropical areas
Food plants: sweet potatoes, passionfruit vines, parsley and other herbs, hand pollinate pumpkins and melons if heat or rain is preventing fruit set, plant beetroot, capsicum, carrot, caulies, celery, cucumber, eggplant, lettuce seedlings (lettuce seeds may not germinate in the heat), paak tsoi, pumpkin, radish, silverbeet, sweet corn, tomatoes, watermelon.
Flowering plants: hibiscus, bougainvilleas, tropical evergreen fruit trees, ageratum, celosia, cosmos, coleus, Iceland poppy, salvia, sunflowers.
Temperate to cold areas:
Food plants: passionfruit and banana passionfruit, rhubarb, blueberries, artichoke, beans, beetroot, broccoli, cabbage, carrots (try the tiny, fat, fast maturing ones in cold climates), sweet corn (fast maturing varieties only), leek, lettuce, white onions, salad greens like corn salad, mizuna, cress, red Italian chicory, silverbeet, spring onions, spinach.
Flowering plants: spring flowering bulbs like iris, daffs and jonquils (look for heat tolerant ones in warmer areas, like Earlicheer jonquils) alyssum, stocks, and LOTS of flowers to give you colour and cheer through winter- pansies, violas, primulas, Iceland poppies, wallflowers, polyanthus
March is the harvest month- the time to gather in what you have grown and keep it safe for winter. It's a gentle month. The sun isn't as fierce and there's a touch of lushness in the growth- the Autumn flush before the winter.
The weather is cooling now. With a few exceptions like spinach, broad beans and cabbages the main vegetable planting time is over.
Early broad beans sown now will be susceptible to aphids- but you can just nip off the tops, steam them and eat them, and that will be the end of the aphid problem. Early broad beans may mean an early winter harvest, instead of waiting till spring to eat them. Plant them very closely together, so they can protect each other from the frost which will nip off the flowers. As soon as the weather warms up the plants will start setting fruit again.
Early onions, like flat white, can be planted now, and the ground prepared for later main onion plantings. Onions don't like weeds- as they grow slowly they won't take competition- so make sure the ground is clear.
Tomatoes will be glutting now, and melons and okra ripening. Test melons for ripeness by sniffing them, ( a fruity smell indicates ripeness) and by tapping them to see if they sound hollow. Don't pick pumpkins till the stems turn dry near the base of the pumpkin, then let them 'cure' or harden on a hot roof or dry cement for a week or two. This will help stop them rotting in late winter.
Pumpkins that aren't quite ripe will still be sweet- but they won't store well.
. Plant more peas or broad beans for 'green manure'- slash them in late winter or early spring just as they start to flower, to provide mulch and fertilizer for a 'no dig' garden
.Start to prepare for frost now- work out which trees are vulnerable, like avocados, citrus, tamarilloes, and start building shelters for them. See Chapter
Keep up fruit fly lures till there have been none caught for three weeks. Most pests will be vanishing as the weather cools down.
Jobs for March
.divide agapanthus and other large clumped plants. One big clump can give you twenty new plants!
. move shrubs and small trees while the weather is cool, but still arm enough for them to put out new roots
. take rose cuttings: - snappable wood about as long as you hand. Fill a box with clean sand and plant so just the top third is poking out. Keep moist and in semi shade; pant out your new roses next winter
. keep pots of succulents dryish- if they die over winter it may be too much moisture, rather than cold that kills them
. leave pumpkins in a sunny spot Ie the shed roof or on paving) for a few days to 'cure' so their skins will harden before storing them (on their sides- moisture collects in the tops and bottoms and the pumpkin may rot)
. pick off African violet, rex begonia, gloxinia, pepperomia leaves. Poke the leaves veins downwards into clean sand till the leaves are half covered New roots will form at the ends of the veins- and by next spring you'll have new plants to pot out.
Useful tip: worried that your favourite plants may turn into weeds ? go to www.weeds.org.au to find out what plants may become pests in your area
Quiet achievers: A good garden has plants that look good all year- not necessarily stunning bloomers, just trees and shrubs that give a garden shape and form. Autumn is a great time to mooch around your suburb, or visit local open gardens, and look at the 'background' plants- not the showy flowers, but the pleasantly shaped plants that should do well in your garden too.
Tired of straggly grass under trees? Replace it with:
.a bed of hellebores for winter flowers
. a mulch of bright pebbles or crushed rock
. a ground cover like yellow or pink flowered variegated lamium
. a wrap around garden seat
.half a dozen hydrangeas for a stunning summer display
What to Plant in March
New veg to try: coloured chard- just like silverbeet but with brilliant yellow pink or reed stems, long white radish- very mid tasting and fast growing ornamental kale- frilly and coloured but can be finely chopped to make a stunning coleslaw, sweet, tiny red mignonette lettuce, crisp fast growing Japanese turnips
Plant to eat: garlic, macadamias, avocados, bananas, custard apples, lychees, sapodilla, star fruit, paw paws, mangoes, passionfruit, citrus, strawberry plants, capsicum, carrots, chilli, cauliflowers, eggplant, okra, potatoes, silver beet, sweet corn, zucchini.
Plants for beauty: hibiscus bushes, calendula, poppy, primula, snapdragon, sunflower, salvias; fill bare spots with ferns.
Plants to eat: garlic, macadamias, avocado trees, citrus, strawberries, beetroot, broccoli, broad beans, cabbage, carrots (mini or 'French round' carrots mature fastest), cauliflower, garlic, leeks, parsnips, spinach, celery, fast maturing Asian veg like tatsoi, pak choi and mitsuba.
Plants for beauty: bulbs, including liliums, agapanthus, iris; multi stemmed jonquils, heat hardy tulip varieties, flowers like alyssum, dianthus, pansies, primulas, salvias, poppies, sweet peas, stock. Grevilleas for nectar for the birds (Superb and Robyn Gordon and her relatives bloom throughout the year)
Plants to eat: garlic, strawberry runners, broad beans, spinach, onions, seedlings of broccoli, cauliflower, Brussel sprouts, fast maturing Asian veg like tasto, pak choi and mitsuba.
Plants for beauty: bulbs like daffodils, jonquils, tulips, anemones, hyacinths, freesias, ranunculi, seedlings of Iceland poppy, primulas, pansies, polyanthus, sweet peas.
Fun for Kids
.Cut off a pineapple top with the 'shoulders' of the fruit as well as the leaves; plant in a large pot with the soil up to the lowest leaves; keep moist by a sunny window, or outside in frost free areas- and watch it grow!
. tie a string or a sticky tape around a young apple , orange or zucchini. As it grows it will develop a 'waist' and bulge out either side.
I love Autumn- blue sky and purple shadows and a gentle gold light. In autumn the soil cools down and things start growing. Autumn flushes are as marked as spring flushes. Fruit swells as much in a week as it did in the previous month and new soft shoots appear all over the place.
While in most respects this is good- after all, you do want things to grow- it can cause problems. Sappy new growth is attractive to sap sucking pests. Luckily these are less of a problem that they are on spring new growth- there are more predators around after a summer's breeding to cope with them. If you are worried by aphids and other sap suckers try a reflective alfoil mulch to deter them, or companion planting with nasturtiums or marigolds right around the plant. Glue spray is effective- mix flour with boiling water till it's just sprayable. Use before it sets into clag.
Mostly I just squash aphids or leave them alone- they'll disappear soon enough in cold weather anyway.
The other reason for leaving the aphids alone is that they will help regulate that soft sappy growth, which is liable to be blackened by frost- and dead material can host fungus and other disease that might start die back along the branch or twig. Don't always assume that pest damage is bad in the long run.
Bedding Your Garden Down for Winter
Mulching stops roots freezing- it insulates them. It will also increase frost damage to the leaves above. So choose- frozen roots or frozen leaves.Instead of mulch, plant ground covers around your frost sensitive plants- like marjoram or dyers camomile or very early bulbs that will provide living insulation.
A better alternative to mulch is just to plant very thickly, so that the leaf cover both insulates the roots and other plants around. I keep masses of foliage turnips and radish and parsnips in our garden over winter- far more than we need- just to help protect the other plants around.
Crowded brocolli plants and crowded silver beet plants in our garden continue to produce long after the 'spaced' ones have stopped.
Don't clean up the garden
Leave those corn stalks, radish going to seed and patches of weeds alone. The weeds probably won't seed or run about till spring anyway - and they'll protect the soil and help insulate your plants. Gardeners who recommend you spend your peaceful winter months 'tidying up the garden' just have a fetish for straight rows and nice chocolatey bare earth. This may help their spirits but won't help the garden. Gardens are wasted on people with a passion for sweat and blisters. Gentle pottering and a bit of contemplation are more effective than maniacs with mattocks.
Autumn is the time to prepare for the hungry gap. The hungry gap is spring to early summer. It's the time when you have eaten most of the surplus from last autumn- the apples, pumpkins, old carrots and parsnips in the garden- but the new seasons crops are still months away from maturing.
A few hundred years ago the hungry gap was the starvation time, the scurvy and plague time, when the weather was warming up but people's diet was still poor.
If it isn't in your garden now you won't be eating it in spring. The carrots, celery, silver beet etc you planted last spring will have to last you to the next one, the pumpkins and melons ripening on the vine will be stored through winter, the cauliflower and other brassicas should be steadily maturing.
If you don't have enough crops in now you will either be hungry or shopping at the supermarket. If you want fresh food in spring it should be growing now.
It's a bit late now for most things. Anything you plant now must either be quick maturing, or the sort of plant that will go quickly to seed as soon as the weather heats up - like peas, cauliflowers, brocolli- the sprouts and pods you eat are the immature seed heads.
If the soil still feels warm when you stick a couple of fingers in it, try spinach- real English spinach, not the smaller new Zealand spinach or big leafed silver beet. The leaves are smaller softer and more delicate than silver beet and run to seed in hot weather, though new varieties are a bit more bolt resistant. The taste is delicate and delicious and they are worth the effort,
Pick the leaves as young as you want. Steam them, stuff them or saute them in butter. There is an old gluttonous french recipe that I have never tried. You pick a kilo of spinach. Saute in butter till the butter has disappeared. Next day- add more butter and saute again. Do this for a week. At the end of the week eat the resulting buttery puree- very rich, very delicate, and just enough for one.
Without going to these extremes though well buttered spinach puree on toast is a winter delicacy.
Onions can also be sown now, and right through the colder months. Cold weather means bigger bulbs. Summer onions are all green tops and no bottoms.
Start putting in the brown skinned long keeping onions now till the end of winter. Pukehoe is a fine textured good tasting excellent keeper- but there are so many onion varieties it is fun to experiment. Like spinach you've never eaten onions till you've had fresh ones. Many gardeners don't bother growing them because they are slow, hate weed competition and are so cheap. But when you can only buy white red or brown onions in the shops a true onion taste is a luxury.
Other Autumn crops include:
.kale, or borecole, very easy to grow with dark green curly leaves
.chinese mustard, with thick succulent stems- very fast growing and easy to germinate. it will keep producing when your silver beet has slowed down- and shouldn't go to seed till late in spring.
.collards- a leafy cabbage like green traditionally cooked with bacon grease but better just steamed with butter. These can be planted from spring through to late Autumn.
.edible Chinese chrysanthemum you harvest the leaves after 35 days, and eat them steamed or in soup or stews. You can get the seeds from Minara Pty Ltd, PO Box 69, Aspley, 4034- ask for their catalogue, as they have the best range of oriental vegetables I've come across, including large green radishes, yam bean root, and a variety of snake beans.
.Corn salad or lambs lettuce is a traditional European salad green, also used for cooking. It should be grown in autumn rather than spring-it's less bitter in cool weather and won't run to seed till spring. It is slightly too strong for many tastes. Cover the plant with a large pot or box for a week before picking to lessen the strong flavour.
.swedes can be grown in temperate to tropical areas now. Don't confuse home grown swedes with the rank disasters available commercially. Swedes should be picked small and young- unless you want to feed them to the cow- and they lose their strong taste if grown in cold weather. Sow thickly and eat as small as possible or they'll taste like stock food.
.carrots and leeks and beetroot and silver beet can be sown as long as the soil still feels comfortable on your wrist they'll germinate. But they won't grow much till spring- and then they'll jump to seed, leaving you with spindly veg that tend to toughen.
.broad beans will crop in spring- try planting them against wire so they don't fall over and picking is easier. The extra light will also encourage more flowers.)
.peas- try dwarf sugar snap, a very quick maturing pea- eat the whole pod like a bean; snow peas- eat the flat pods ;
.turnips-these need cold weather for sweetening- plant mini varieties now so they mature before bolting)
.watercress ( keep snipping so it doesn't go to seed).
Warm and subtropical areas might still try quick yielders like- .tampala (chinese spinach or leaf amaranth). you'll get edible leaves in about six weeks of warm weather.),
.chinese cabbage ( about eight weeks to maturity- they're good even if they bolt without hearting in spring)
.cauliflowers ( early and late varieties will tend to crop about the same time in spring if sown now)
.kohlrabies if you don't expect a frost for the next ten weeks ( big cabbage flavoured roots, incredibly easy to grow; try them cooked or grated raw), .red mignonette lettuce ( if it bolts in spring don't worry- you've just got free seed for summer planting )
.cos lettuce ( pick off the leaves and eat them as they grow)
. brocolli (it may not grow much now but it'll be ready sooner in spring).
In colder regions Autumn is the harvest season, frantic with bottling. Here most harvests are in summer. Autumn harvests are gentler: late apples, late pears, pomegranates, medlars, quinces. The fruit is full of summer sun without that almost frantic fermented sweetness that crops get in high summer.
This is the time for gathering up whatever will be spoiled by winter cold- green tomatoes to ripen on newspaper indoors or make into green tomato pickle, immature cucumbers and pumpkin to slice and stir fry or hang by their vines in the garage to keep ripening for a few weeks.Dig up tomatoes and capsicum bushes with as much soil as you can, and try to pot them for a continued crop.
Ripening Immature Vegetables
Pull up tomatoes, capsicum, vines etc with as much soil as possible. Hang them in a shed or verandah. The crop will continue to ripen.
Even green tomatoes will keep ripening on newspaper indoors- check for bad ones often. Don't dig root crops till you're going to use them- they'll be sweeter for the cold. If the ground may freeze mulch over them, or try to shelter them with tall plants around them (move some potted plants next to them- I use a prolific climbing geranium in pots to protect small vulnerable plants.)
What to Do in April
. wander around your suburb to see what trees look stunning this autumn - then dash to the garden centre to buy one;
. move your garden furniture to a sunnier spot for winter;
. water camellias thoroughly so flowers don't drop prematurely;
. gather seeds from flowers and trees to germinate and grow your own spring seedlings;
. rake up fallen leaves to use for mulch; and
. cut back dead stems and summer flowers.
What to Plant in April
Food garden: Fruit trees, pots of herbs, artichoke suckers. Coriander rushes to seed in hot weather - try it now! Plant seedlings of broccoli, Brussel sprouts, cabbage, cauliflower, Chinese cabbage, lettuce, leeks, mustard, silverbeet, spinach, seeds of broad beans, onions. In frost-free areas you can also plant beans, capsicum, parsnips, carrots, beetroot, scorzonera, burdock and potatoes.
Flower garden: Ornamental shrubs and climbers, Spring bulbs; in cold areas plant seedlings and in frost free areas plant seeds or seedlings of allysum, amaranthus, balsam, bellis perennis, calendula, California poppy, honesty, Iceland poppy, larkspur, pansy, primula, snapdragon, statice, sweeet pea, viola, Virginia stock and wallflower. Frost-free areas only: nasturtium, petunia, ornamental chilli, salvia and sunflowers.
How to Plant Bulbs
Dig a hole twice as deep and wide as the bulb. Plant the bulb with the pointy bit upwards, the flat side down and with the claws pointing down for ranunculus.
Remember not to plant bulbs against hot concrete walls nor to leave pots of bulbs in full sun. Bulbs need cool soil or they'll bloom and die before you can blink.
May is clear blue skies here. The air is cool, but the soil still warm.It's the time when you wait for the first frost to mark the beginning of winter.
May is the gentle time, not too hot or cold, perfect for garden projects. A new garden path? Sandpit or bike track for the kids. Time to terrace that slope out the front?
What to do in May
This is the time to think about last minute seed saving. Transplant any carrots, parsnips etc you may be saving for seed into a less used part of the garden if they are going to be in the way where they are. Transplanting them now will only make them go to seed quicker.Stake them well- they'll get top heavy when the seed heads form and may fall down, causing the seed to rot or sprout prematurely.
Mulch soil well before it cools down to keep plants growing longer( black plastic and aluminium foil can be used to increase heat to plants). once frosts start, however, thick mulch can mean more leaf damage- it may be best to rake it off.
Dust wood ash over areas where you're going to plant broad beans, or in between the rows to help prevent brown spot
Think about green manuring unused ground to prepare it for spring, clearing weeds, fixing nitrogen, adding hummus- lucerne, broad beans, peas, field peas.
A garden needn't cost you heaps!
Free fertiliser: make compost from all your kitchen and garden scraps
Free Mulch: grass clippings mixed with fallen leaves make great mulch. Ask next door if you can have their fallen leaves too!
Free plants: This is a great time of year to collect seeds from flowers and shrubs to plant in spring, and to take cuttings of geraniums/ pelargonium, flowering shrubs like lavender, hibiscus, oleander, roses, daisies. Just have a go, no matter what type of shrub it is! You may be surprised how many grow. And if they don't, all you have lost is a couple of minutes work.
How to do it: Snap off a bit of wood as long as your hand, cut off nearly all the leaves, dip the end in 'cutting powder' from the nursery, then plant the cutting in a mix of half sand, half potting mix, so that half of it is below the soil. Water well, then tie it pot and all in clear plastic bag and leave in a warm, semi shaded spot. When the cutting starts to grow take off the plastic bag, and keep moist for another six months to a year. Then plant it!
Prune: Summer flowering shrubs that have lost their leaves; cut back grape vines as leaves die from mildew or cold. Cut back ornamental grasses too. Most die back in winter and can look messy.
Watch out for: Slugs and snails as snail eating lizards grow sleepier.
Spread: The contents of your compost bin, so you can fill it with prunings and perennials that die back in winter.
Plan: A rose garden to plant this winter; a hedge of fruit trees; a scented plant beneath your bedroom window; a tall native tree for the birds.
Harvest: Rose hips for winter teas and syrup…every rose bush will produce some hips, and as long as they haven't been sprayed with pesticides or fungicides you can use them in cooking, or save the seeds to plant in spring. Roses too can be grown from seed! The seedlings probably won't be like their parents, though- each one will be an adventure!
Don't be tempted by blue sky. Even if the soil still feels warm any soft new growth may be frosted off. Stick to broad beans and other hardy plants that will mature in spring.
This isn't a bad time of year for pests- the great population explosions have been and gone and predators should have built up to cope with the remnant.
If you have winter maturing fruit keep up your fruit fly traps and orchard hygiene. Otherwise just make sure that you don't have any old fruit in nice warm slowly decomposing compost heaps or pits- places where fruit fly can cozily over winter.
Check any late maturing apples like democrats or grannies or Lady Williams every few days for the sawdust like deposits from codlin moth larvae. If you find any pick off the apples and either feed them to the animals or stick them in a plastic bag to anaerobically compost over winter.
Remove any old ladders or boxes near the trees where codlin moth can hibernate, pick up any windfalls or let the chooks do it for you.
If you're troubled with harlequin beetles in the garden- sometimes called push-me- pull- yous because of their active sex lives- stick some broad pieces of cardboard on the ground around the garden. Check each afternoon for sheltering beetles. This should reduce the numbers in your garden next season considerably.
Stick hens or other animals under fruit trees now if you can, and in the old tomato patches- they'll help clean up any fruit residues that might help fruit fly overwinter.
Potatoes should have been harvested by now- and another crop put in if you can grow them in above ground beds of old tyres where they will get little frost. It's much too frosty here for winter potatoes- but the tyre beds sheltered by the avocados produced small new potatoes for us by the end of winter.
Clean out green houses now, and leave them open to the sun for a time. Take shelves out to air, and wash them in disinfectant or vinegar if they may be harbouring fungus or disease spores.
Make use of a slow garden and warm weather to revamp the chook house for next spring's chickens; build a mobile hen run to keep down the grass; build more compost heaps; make pot pourri with the last of the rose petals and scented leaves before they are frosted.
Nail tin cans with a hole punched in the bottom to brick or stone or white painted walls. Fill with compost or potting mix and geraniums, or strawberries or herbs or even lettuce. Paint the cans to make them prettier.
This is a month of prevention. Prune off dead twigs, mummies, band apple trees with grease or corrugated cardboard or old wool to help control codlin moth and oriental peach moth, and clean up old ladders and fruit boxes where moths may be sheltering. Let hens scavenge round the orchard to pick up old fruit or insects on the ground.
What to Plant in May
Plants to eat: Just about anything can be grown now! Put in lots of mixed salad leaves, apple cucumbers, basil, butter beans, huge New guinea beans, coloured capsicum, Chinese cabbage, chillies, chokos, sweet potatoes, long oval eggplant, melons, okra, rosellas, pumpkin, shallots, sweet corn, tomatoes. Try above ground beds for parsley- the roots may rot in hot damp soil.
Plants for beauty: alyssum, calendula, cleome, coleus, gerbera, petunias, phlox, salvia, torenia, zinnia,
Cold to Temperate:
Don't be tempted by blue sky and warm breezes. If you live in a very frosty area stick to onion seedlings and broad beans and lots of seedlings of brocolli, cabbage and cauliflower.
Plants to eat: seeds of radish, onions, winter lettuce, silver beet, spinach, broad beans, peas, snow peas, winter lettuce, spring onions, parsnips, fast maturing Asian veg like tatsoi, pak choi and mitsuba. Seedlings of beetroot, broccoli, cabbage, cauliflower, chicory, leeks, lettuce, leeks, onions, spinach.
Plants for beauty: seeds of alyssum, calendula, lunaria. Seedlings of Californian poppy, evening primrose, gazanias, primulas, pansies, polyanthus, Iceland poppies, viola.
This is the hibernating time. Humans huddle rounds hot drinks- pests like harlequin beetles, fruit fly, slugs and snails shelter in slow 'compost heaps' (really piles of weeds) ready to breed in spring. A good compost heap should be hot enough to kill pests- if it isn't, piss in it, or add another form of nitrogen till it does.
Thrips will be seeing the winter out on flowering weeds. When the weeds die off in spring they'll move to your plants. Either get rid of the weeds, or better still plant more flowering ground covers round trees and along garden paths, to tempt the thrips so they don't get into your fruit trees, (thrips prefer to be close to the ground) and to attract early predators in spring. Codlin moth will be cocooned in rough bits of bark, on wooden ladders, fences or old fruit boxes. Look for cocoons and squash them.
Any of April's crops can still be sown now if the ground feels warm when you touch it. If it makes you shiver most plants will simply sit and shiver too..
.Onions can be planted unless the ground is frozen. Onion seedlings are small and slow growing and can get choked by weeds. Try laying clear plastic on the bare ground for a month before planting out the onions. The weed seeds will germinate in the warmth and moisture, and you can rake them away. Otherwise mulch like mad. (If you can get hold of oak leaves for mulch they'll suppress weed seed germination, but won't affect the onion seedlings.)
Don't feed onions too much- you'll leaf but no onion.If your soil is poor, scatter blood and bone or old hen manure on top of a low nitrogen mulch like sawdust, old leaves, or old hay.
Don't keep carrots near fruit- the skin may turn bitter as ethylene is released from the fruit. Don't store spuds with fruit either, especially apples, or they'll sprout earlier. If you can be bothered, wrap fruit in newspaper- it'll keep longer- or fill the fruit box with clean dry sand. Root vegetables need some humidity or they'll wither (ever wondered why shop bought carrots look lush while your start to shrivel) Keep them in plastic bags with air holes, or in damp sand. Tomatoes ripen best in crumpled newspaper- and the newspaper will absorb the juice if any rot, so the rest won't be affected.
Beware of codlin moth breeding in your apple store- more apples are infected with codlin moth in storage than on the tree. (Friends bought a case of organic apples a few months ago- every apple had codlin moth- yet the case was codlin moth free when it left the farm. It had been infected during storage with the wholesaler)
Codlin moth love to live around apple storage sheds and kitchens and laundries, as well as near trees. It's worth while leaving small open jars of sweet port (or molasses and water if you have an alcoholic cat) near stored apples to trap the moths. Try pasting a few sheets of newspaper over the apple boxes to stop codlin moth and fruit fly getting in.
In most areas there are few pest outbreaks at this time of year. But you may have overwintering populations, especially of fruit fly and codlin moth, and any remaining fruit or windfalls should be rigorously checked to prevent an early pest build up when the weather warms.This is also a good time to think about planting to reduce pest problems next year.
If you have apple trees let parsnips or other umbellifera go to seed now and spring up wild around the orchard to reduce codlin moth infestations. This is extraordinarily effective, though I don't know the mechanism- whether the flowers attract predators or inhibit the moths.Tansy planted under apples is also supposed to reduce codlin moth, but I haven't found it works here- in fact pungent tansy just seems to make fallen fruit less attractive to wombats sheep etc, and uneaten fallen fruit is the best way to breed codlin moth.
Mid winter is the classic time for preventative spraying with bordeaux against curly leaf (pinkish raised blisters on peaches and almonds), rust, shot hole ( small holes in leaves, most common on apricots) brown rot ( exactly that- a brown soft rot on fruit, sometimes with a furry outside) black leaf spot, bacterial blight in walnuts and other fungal and bacterial conditions.
I try to avoid preventative spraying for anything.Even curly leaf, which is disfiguring, usually doesn't harm the tree unless it is very young, or the disease is so bad that new shoots wither and fruit sets badly. But if you have had problems with the above conditions in the past, or your neighbours have, or you have young trees you wish to cherish, it is probably best to give them a bordeaux spray when they are dormant.In very bad cases spray at leaf fall and again at bud swell- just before buds start to colour. Otherwise one spray should be enough.
Put Some Zest in Your backyard (citrus zest, that is!)
If I never ate another home grown mandarin in my life (though to be honest I'll probably eat another two while I write this I'd still grow backyard citrus, simply for their winter looks. Just as the grass looks dull and most flowers die of, most citrus start glowing from their green laves.
Kid's Delight: Mandarins - kids who have refused to eat citrus for years will guzzle down mandarins they pick themselves.
Cook's Treat: Tahitian limes, for the juicy fruit (A real flavour burst compared to lemons) or Kaffir Limes for their leaves
Most Elegant Citrus: Chinotto, for the neat pointed and restrained decorator's delight type shape. the tiny, slightly musty flavoured fruit (sometimes called Italian Cola) look stunning all winter. . Great in pots.
Juicer's Joy: Blood oranges. That deep red juice also makes great slushies.
Most Fascinating citrus; Buddha's Hand citrons- thick fragrant peel, juice like a lemon, and a definite conversation starter shape (even if the conversation is just 'what the heck is that!' )
Most Heat Hardy Citrus: pomelos, like giant overgrown grapefruit. They'll also grow down south if you want a massive fruit to boast about.
Best Marmalade Treat: cumquats, calamondins (like a sourer cumquat) pink grapefruit, or sour but intensely flavoured Seville oranges.
Most Cold Hardy Citrus: Bush lemons (will survive drought too) Eureka lemons (NOT Meyer lemons)
Best Potted Citrus: Meyer lemons, Chinotto, dwarf oranges, cumquats, calamondins
Native Citrus: hunt out are Australian Round Limes- not much juice, but fragrant, and very hardy.
Possible citrus problems: pale yellow leaves: feed feed and feed, with compost or complete citrus food in spring and mid summer. Most backyard citrus are half starved! Mulch and keep moist too- citrus are shallow rooted
. Scabby citrus: can be a disease or insect or cold damage. Just ignore it.
.Dropping fruit- too little or too much water
. Sap sucking bugs and other pests: vacuum off- seriously- with your vacuum cleaner then get rid of the pest stuffed bag, or use Pestoil. as directed on the container.
Pot Plant Renovations
. cover up daggy bare soil with coloured pebbles- there's a great selection at most nurseries
. dust! Or wipe over with a damp cloth- a dusty plant looks tatty and can't breathe either.
. never used those giant brandy balloons or glass vases you were given last Christmas? Turn them into an instant water garden with shade tolerant pond plants like twisted rush or many of the aquarium plants. Rinse glasses every week to stop algae growing.
.invest in some bright 'cache' pots to match your decor, then slip in 'bloomers' still in their plastic pots. Mulch the top with coconut fibre (also from nurseries) to hide any gap between the two pots.
. buy small plastic pots of herbs for your windowsill, then hide the ugly plastic in a long rectangular vase
. fill a basket with brightly blooming polyanthus or daffodils or hyacinths, , then hide the plastic pots with moss from nursery or florist.
. go for drama with the elegant foliage of Strelitzias or Dracaenas, or brighten dull spots with 'never say die' aspidistras and kentia palms- they may not grow much in low lights areas, but they'll survive
. don't overfeed or water! Water only when the soil is dry, and use slow release fertilisers. If the plant looks sick, it may need more light or have scale , not more tucker!
. use Pestoil- a light, non toxic oil covering- to suffocate indoor pests.
. don't liberate your indoor plant outside! many can become real weeds- and others like umbrella trees can become monsters that can disturb your house foundations!
What to Plant in June
Frost free climates
passionfruit vines and seeds mixed salad leaves, apple cucumbers, butter beans, huge New guinea beans, coloured capsicum, Chinese cabbage, chillies, chokos, sweet potatoes, long oval eggplant, melons, okra, rosellas, pumpkin, shallots, sweet corn, tomatoes. Try deep pots of parsley- the roots may rot in hot damp soil.
Plants for beauty: alyssum, calendula, cleome, coleus, gerbera, petunias, phlox, salvia, torenia, zinnia,
Cold to Temperate:
Plants to eat: seeds of radish, onions, winter lettuce, silverbeet, spinach, broad beans, peas, snow peas, winter lettuce, spring onions, parsnips, fast maturing Asian veg like tatsoi, pak choi and mitsuba. Seedlings of beetroot, broccoli, cabbage, cauliflower, chicory, leeks, lettuce, leeks, spinach.
Plants for beauty: seeds of alyssum, calendula, lunaria. Seedlings of Californian poppy, evening primrose, gazanias, primulas, pansies, polyanthus, Iceland poppies, viola.
Jobs for June
. if you garden looks bare, mooch about your area, to see what's blooming- or visit some Open Gardens for good ideas.
. water! Cold days- and especially cold windy days- dry plants and soil more than you think. a lot of 'cold damage' is often just lack of water!
. prune most vines now, thinning out messy wood, but not spring flowering ones- leave those till after they've bloomed
.plant bare rooted roses. they look like dead sticks now, but in a few mots they'll be glorious
. winter is the time to move shrubs in the wrong place- but most native plants don't transplant well. It's best just to plant new ones!
This is the slow time of year- the time to watch the garden through the window; to see where the frost falls and what bits get the sunlight first; to dream of what and where you'll plant when the shadows grow small again.
Most seed sown in cold wet ground will rot. (It helps to coat it with salad oil before planting). Most plants sown now won't do much till spring- and spring sown plants will soon catch up with them. Onions are still an exception. Plant the long keepers like pukehoe now. Make sure beds are weed free- onions grow slowly, weeds grow fast. You can never have too many home grown onions- they're sweet and have a flavour quite different to shop bought musty sulphuric acid.
In warm areas try potatoes in late July. They will take at least a month to shoot anyway, and by then days will be warmer. Try them in beds of old tyres- the height helps then get out of frost reach, the black absorbs heat.
Root vegetables are sweetest now, after frost and cold nights.Try them grated into salads with lots of parsley. Winter fruit will be at its best now, too-frost makes citrus softer and sweeter, and seems to give late Lady Williams apples a unique zing.
What to do in July
.spray 'Stressguard' on frost sensitive plants to help protect them. I put plastic tree guards on some youngsters- many plants become more frost resistant as they grow older
.clean up dead palm fronds; chop them up for mulch
. keep camelias well watered till they finish flowering, then mulch and feed
.divide clumps of perennials, for lots of free new plants
. spray bright green frothy patches of young bindii eyes with bindii killer, or use almost boiling water leftover from your next cuppa tea! Pour it on and watch the bindiis shrivel.
. plan the flowers you'll plant in spring, so you don't just grab the first few punnets of seedlings you see.
Useful tip: if you want to feed the small native birds but don't want to encourage mynas, sparrows, feral pigeons, starling and blackbirds, take Bryan's tip- tie a wide ball of wire netting around your bird seed balls. Small native finches can get in, but larger birds can't. And you can have a lot of malicious pleasure watching them try....
How to prune a bush, standard or miniature rose
. use sharp secaturs dipped in Detol or bleach
. cut out any dead, spindly or gray barked wood; then
. remove about half the top growth and half the centre growth
. mulch with lucerne hay or other good mulch; scatter on Dynamic Lifter or other good organic plant tucker
. don't prune roses in frosty areas till next month; don't prune climbers till after flowering; don't hard prune shrub roses, just tidy them a little if necessary
.plant deciduous trees, rhubarb crowns, asparagus.
. daydream through seed and fruit tree catalogues planning for next season, . clean up garden rubbish and make a final winter compost heap.
.And take a break.
What to Plant in July
Cold/ temperate areas: don't plant veg and flowers unless you're absolutely longing to get your fingers in the dirt! Seed may rot in cold ground, veg and flowers won't grow much before they bloom and die. Stick to onion seedlings, rhubarb, strawberry, asapargus and artichoke crowns, barerooted trees, shrubs and roses.
Frost free areas: plant just about anything and keep watering! Pop in some of the new spreading petunias too, for a touch of colour
This is a month to gird your loins and start dreaming of what you're going to do in spring. Don't try doing much yet. It's too early.
Potatoes can be put in now- they won't start to sprout for six weeks, and by that time the frosts should be over.
Peas can be planted - but coat the seeds in cooking oil in case they rot in cold soil. Dust them with white pepper after oiling if you're worried by snails.
You'll still be picking the same old veg as last month- but there'll be new shoots of the brocolli now (don't just pick the main bunch- keep picking all the little bits that follow), more brussel sprouts, and cauliflowers will be starting to form centres. In warm areas you might just get the odd spring of asparagus. Start gorging on winter root vegies now like carrots and beetroot, before they go to seed when the weather warms up.
Lay down weed mat for next month's gardens; build no dig beds; don't be in a hurry though to pull out last year's debris to make room for new crops- the debris will protect the remaining plants from late frost.
. clean up piles of rubbish (dowse them with hen manure or blood and bone and hope they turn into compost); pick off all dried fruit mummies that may infect next seasons crops
. restrain yourself! The air may smell all spring like, but the soil is still cold. Wait till the ground is comfortable to sit on before you plant out beds of spring veg and flowers
. put pots of bloomers now on warm patios or windowsills- petunias, geranium/pelargoniums, nasturtiums, calendulas, impatiens.
. water- your garden is probably drier than you think, even in this cool weather
. feed bulbs with a high phosphorous fertiliser for great blooms next season
. mow as soon as the lawn looks uneven. The earliest growth will be weeds, not grass- knock them back now by chopping off their heads before they seed.
. if you get hay fever ask someone else to mow your lawn and spread your mulch. Use a drier for your sheets too- pollens can cling to wet sheets, and you don't want to sleep all wrapped up in pollen.
How to give a shrub a hair cut
August is THE pruning month. Most shrubs look better if regularly trimmed- and new growth is usually more pest and disease hardy.
Winter flowering shrubs: cut out straggly growth, trim off flowers just behind the dead flowers. Most native plants do well with a light 'tip prune' every spring
Summer flowering shrubs: buddleia, fuchsias, santolina, lavatera all flower best on new growth made in spring. Trim back straggly branches to the base or main stem. Prune back hibiscus, tibouchina oleander heliotrope and other shrubs now too.
Hedges: trim then back till they're neat but don't cut back into bare wood past the leafing area, or the branch will probably die back.
Climbers: give winter flowering jasmines good hair cut- cut out straggly growth and trim it all back by about a third. Prune summer flowering jasmines by taking out some of the major stems- if you just give them a haircut you'll end up with a shaggy mess.
Hanging Baskets with Difference
By the 10th of August every year I'm pining to plant spring flowers, even if the garden still feels like a glacier has come to visit. So I compromise- the veg and flower seedlings stay in their punnets till the soil warms up, but I do plant out a few hanging baskets.
Baskets by sunny walls keep their plants much warmer than plants in the soil, so even in cold areas you can risk a basket of petunias and impatiens. Or think about some different combinations this season!
.red stemmed rhubarb with masses of white alyssum
.frothy parsley or basil around your potted fuchsias-all three need lots of feeding and moisture, and the basil will help keep pests from the fuchsias
. pansies and strawberries- the berries nestle happily among the flowers
. plant succulent cuttings (see below). Many will sprawl delightfully over the edges, and they'll forgive you if you forget to water, too.
. ornamental grasses and yuccas also look great in baskets- and most tolerate lots of neglect, heat and dryness.
What to Plant in August
Useful tip: the world's most fabulous investment has to be a choko vine. Choose a sunny spot where the vine can ramble over fences or trees, then plant a choko with its top just at soil level .
You'll get maybe 100 chokos each year in return- or more. What's that, a 10,000% return per annum?
Frost free climates
Good tucker plants: Fruit trees like limes, tropical apples, avocados, grape, choko, sweet potato and passionfruit vines, seeds of amaranth, artichoke, asparagus, basil, burdock, carrots, celery, chilli, corn , celeriac, choko, collards, eggplant, gourds, kale, leeks, lettuce, mustard greens, okra, onion, parsnip, parsley, peas, pumpkin, radish, rockmelon, salsify, shallots, silverbeet, tomato, watermelon, zucchini
Plants for beauty: any ornamental shrub in the nursery! Seeds or seedlings of alyssum, Californian poppy, calendula, cleome, coleus, gerbera, helichrysum, honesty, impatiens, kangaroo paw, marigold, pansy, petunias, phlox, salvia, sunflower, Swan River daisy, torenia, zinnia,
Good tucker plants: any fruit tree, vine or shrub, bare rooted or evergreen, seeds or seedlings of baby carrots, beetroot, lettuce, parsnip, peas, radish, swede, turnips, celery, celeriac, leek, lettuce, onions, mizuna, mitsuba, seed potatoes, rocket, silverbeet, spinach. Pots of tomatoes or chilli plants can be grown on a warm sunny patio.
Plants for beauty: seeds or seedlings of alyssum, calendula, heartsease, lunaria, bellis perennis, Californian poppy, English daisy, evening primrose, Iceland poppy, love lies bleeding, primulas, pansies, polyanthus, Iceland poppies, viola. For a touch of early colour pots of petunias or impatiens should stay warm on a sunny patio.
Good tucker plants: last chance this year for bare rooted fruit trees , gooseberries, currants, grape vines. Plant seedlings of onions, cauliflower, collards, kale, mustard greens, peas, salad greens like mizuna, mitsuba, spinach, also rhubarb crowns, artichoke suckers, asparagus plants and seed potatoes. Plant early tomatoes, zucchini, melons and pumpkins in pots on a sunny windowsill to give them a head start.
Plants for beauty: seedlings of alyssum, bellis perennis, calendula, Californian poppy, Iceland poppies, lunaria, primula, pansy, stock, sweet peas
Subduing those spring urges
Spring does strange things to gardeners. Maybe its just the sap rising in the trees and the scent of blossom. It sends you out to plant things.
Don't. Plants that are placed in cold soil never do as well as those planted when the soil warms up. Tomatoes planted now will probably bear about the same time as those planted six weeks later- but the latter will be sturdier and bear longer.
Don't plant till the soil welcomes anything you put in. A cold bed and a cold welcome dismays plants as well as people.
Pests attack early plantings. Most pests start breeding at about 3C - most predators about 12C. Wait till the world is ready to recieve your bean seeds and capsicum plants- don't try to hurry spring along.
How do you know when to plant? One bit of folklore wisdom says to plant tomatoes when the soil is warm enough to sit on it with bare buttocks. In suburban areas use the back of your wrist. Another old saying is to plant corn when the peach blossom falls. I do this every year, and it works- unless of course your peach blossom happens to be frosted off.
On the other hands, there is also the 'spring flush.' This really exists- spring grown crops grow faster than ones planted later. You just have to use your judgement- get plants in early enough to catch the sprung tides- but not so early that they're stunted or frosted off.
Spring is the worst time for frost- the air seems warm but the ground is still cold, and new tender leaves and blossoms are more susceptible than plants in full leaf.S
Jobs for September
. This is the best time to browse the nursery for seedlings - planting a few punnets in spring will give you months of flowers or vegetables.
. Feed lawns now - stronger, well fed roots will help the grass stay greener longer. But don't feed lawns if they are very dry- you may do more harm than good. Wait till after rain then water fertiliser in well.
. Feed everything else too! Plants GROW in spring- and they need good tucker to grow well.
. If your mower won't work, ask the kind person at the repair shop to show you which bit is the spark plug, so that next time it fails you can take out the spark plug and just buy a new one. (Most sulky lawn mowers just have bung spark plugs!)
. Pick enormous bunches of sweet peas and inhale the scent ... or a note to plant sweet peas next year!
. If birds fly into your windows, dangle something in front of them- a stained glass parrot, a line of glass beads - anything to indicate to a fast flying bird that this isn't open space!
What to Plant:
The next three months are the main planting time for the year. You're planting the things you'll eat all summer, as well as many of the things you'll be eating through autumn winter and hopefully next spring as well. Many crops like silver beet, celery, leeks, spring onions, parsley, beetroot, carrots, parsnips, leeks, turnips, foliage turnips can all be planted in one go to see you through the year. ( If you're short of room however you can plant them over the next few months as space becomes available)
These are the 'year rounders', the crops you'll rely on as the foundation of your vegie garden all year round.
Other crops like pumpkins and watermelons are also one crop plantings- plant enough to pick and store.
Then there are the staggered croppers- beans,lettuce,peas, corn, tomatoes, zuchinni. I tend to plant a new succession when the first lot is just starting to flower.It works better than planting every two weeks, as, especially early in the season, early and late planted crops tend to catch up with each other and you end up with a glut.
Early summer can be a lean time when you're living from your garden- last years plants have gone to seed and the next lot are still too young to eat. Try some of the old peasant standbys (luckily we have a lot of peasant cultures to choose from- Australian 'backyard peasants' can have a much more varied diet any traditional peasant ever dreamed of).
. radish ( round red ones are ready in about a month and the leaves can be snipped for salads or steamed after two weeks- more will regrow) If you don't like the raw radish ( like me) try cooking them (they taste a bit like asparagus),
.Chinese mustard ( or chinese spinach or Bok Choi) can be eaten small and young, again in the same way you'd use spinach or lettuce. It's a very fast grower but resists running to seed when it gets hot.
.Tampala, or chinese spinach, is another fast grower. Use as soon as you can bear to pick the leaves, though the plant will eventually grow to about a metre tall, when you just eat the leaf tips.Tampala is very tender and delicate- much more delicate than silver beet and suits even conservative eaters.
.baby carrots, like Amsterdam Forcing. Don't thin them- just pull them as soon as they're big enough.
.Try cos lettuce- just pull off individual leaves as soon as they are big enough without pulling up the lettuce, so the rest eventually hearts. You can do the same with Prizehead Red- simply harvest a bit whenever you have a salad.Rocket also gives quick salads- but it is a bit pungent and smoky for some tastes. Try soaking in milk overnight before serving.
cutcelery- a celery used like parsley, very strongly flavoured.Seed can be sown all year round throughout Australia.
Rocket, rucca or eruca sativa can be sown all year round -it self sows with vigour. Eat the young leaves in salads - the older leaves are slightly bitter and smoky, loved by some but not me-or steam it.
purslane-an annual sown in spring in cool conditions, all year round in tropical to subtropical.Cook it or eat it raw. Cut the leaves at about 10cm high or less-soft and tender.
watercress- you can be eating this in a month, but beware of tiny snails which carry liver fluke- wash even home grown watercress in three changes of water.
silver beet- you should have your first picking in a month if you feed and water well.
chinese cabbage- don't try this in subtropical areas - it'll bolt to seed unless you grow it in a cool shaded place. In cooler areas you may be picking it two months from planting.
This is the best time for globe artichokes and asparagus. Every year I bless the time I put in asparagus and artichokes- they are wonderful delicacy, the first real sign of spring. It's ironic that in the month when fresh veg are scarcest two of the most wonderful crops appear in abundance. Don't be put off by asparagus's reputation - its almost indestructible and bears forever. Ditto artichokes. See page if you don't have any in now.
Broad beans should be cropping now. try steaming the whole small beans- like French beans- or simmering them in stock or lemon juice and olive oil. Pick the top leaves off, too, and cook them as well.
Pick brocolli every day so it doesn't toughen or go to seed- feed and water it well.
Hungry Gap Crops
This time of year used to be called the hungry season- the time when winter's crops were either finished or going to seed, and before summer crops were ready. Now that we can get golf ball tomatoes and pineapples any season of the year a lot of the old spring foods have been forgotten. Most people won't eat or harvest anything they don't recognise from the supermarket- and most of us now prefer much blander foods. (Bitter food was presumed to be a spring tonic in both European and Asian folklore).
Many traditional 'hungry gap' foods are all good, if unconventional. Try them before you reject them. If you baulk at eating prickly pear fruit, mistletoe jam or carrot tops, it's better than an elderly, well travelled tomato, that wasn't much good in the first place.
Flowers - see chapter
It may be a coincidence, but a lot of the early spring flowers are edible. Flowers are high in both vitamins (especially vitamin C ) and minerals- and advantage when a lot of the vitamins had vanished from long stored spring food.
Weeds- see chapter
While many weeds are edible most of the year round, they are only really good in early spring. After that their leaves get tough and bitter.
Many vegetables bits that we discard are as good as the main crop. Look for:
Cabbage stalks- peeled of their tough skin, steamed, and served like asparagus
Brussel sprout or brocolli leaves- shredded and stir fried (also good with sauteed apples in butter.)
Leeks that are going to seed- cut off the seed stalk, peel it, and chop into any vegetable dish
carrots going to seed- grate them down to the tough core; slice it off; then grate the rest. or add grated tough carrots to egg and wheat germ to make dog biscuits.
Celery going to seed- cut out and peel the seed head; serve it finely sliced like cucumber
.leave your cauliflower plants in the ground after you've picked them- they may produce new smaller hearts , a but like pale brocolli
. try brussel sprout leaves, shredded and stir fried like cabbage.
Eating Immature Vegetables
carrots tops- chop them finely like celery
Young celery leaves
Broad bean tips- steam them like silverbeet. This is also a good remedy if they've got aphids
globe artichoke stalks- peeled and steamed
Beetroot leaves- eat them like silverbeet- but not sugar beet leaves or golden beet leaves, which can be poisonous.
Hop or choko shoots, steamed with butter
stuffed or butter fried zuchinni or pumpkin flowers- also good dripped in batter and deep fried.
Chopped garlic leaves added to stews or salads
Chopped tiny radish leaves added to mashed potato, or dipped in batter and deep fried.
Add a few young sunflower or poppy leaves to salads (not too many unless you're also looking for a medicinal effect.)
As for the rest of the garden- try adding young citrus leaves to salads or to flavour custards; dry avocado leaves and crumble them and use them in stuffings- the flavour is rich and avocado like; pluck your bamboo shoots and boil in salted water till tender (this also helps control bamboo) pickle broom buds or hibiscus buds like capers, tap a silver birch or manna gum for its sweet sap, stew angelica or hibiscus stalks like rhubarb, bake green paw paws, slice your waterlilly stalks instead of cucumber, pickle tiny green apples or tiny citrus is a sweet pickle solution (eat them like olives), dig out bullrush roots and roast them like potatoes, make tea from mints and herbs. You'll be foraging in the best harvest traditions of our ancestors.
Stopping Plants go to Seed
. mulch heavily while the ground is still cold
.pick out the long 'hearting' stalks as soon as they form (eat them- most are tender and sweet)
. dig up left over root vegetables like carrots and beetroot before they toughen- store them wrapped in newspaper away from fruit (which will help send them to seed even out of the garden). They will gradually shrivel, but shrivelled carrots and beetroot often taste sweeter than plump ones- don't judge them till you've had a bite.
Just keep planting- the rest can wait.
Graft fruit trees just before bud burst but before the sap is flowing. The timing will vary from district to district.
Spring is pests big chance- few predators and lost of soft sappy growth. Try not to water spring crops, and don't fertilise them till the spring flush is over- and never give high nitrogen fertilizer.
.A heavy mulch now will not only slow down spring growth (no- I'm not crazy- this will both cut down on the danger of late frost and cut down pests attacks- and the plant will more than catch up later) but also slowly release the nutrients that your plant will need through the year. It also keeps down weeds competition, encouraged earthworms and stops moisture loss.
Let some vegetables go to seed and flower around your garden.This is perhaps the most important bit of spring advice there is. Flowering vegetables are one of the best ways to attract pest eating predators I know (most adult predators eat nectar from flowers- its only their offspring that are carnivorous- and most prefer the nectar from the plants their offspring will forage over for pests- in other words you vegies).
Letting vegetables go to seed will also give you a stock of home grown seed for next year- fungicide free and suited to your area.
Spring is the classic time of year for sap suckers like aphids. Make up the glue spray on page or just hose them off. If thrips are a problem in blossom hose them too- water kills thrips better than any pesticide- and next year plant low growing flowering ground covers to keep the thrips down there. (Thrips prefer to feed low down- they only start advancing in the world when the low growing winter weeds and flowers have finished.)
Seven Cool Blue and White Looks for Hot Summers
1. Plant an old watering can, jug, barrel or bird bath with blue lobelias or purple and white alyssum (sorry, birds!), or if water is scarce, the almost indestructible blue leaved succulents like 'Blue Jade' aeonium, 'Fanfare' echeveria, 'Mooonstones' pachyphytum. (Note: or can replace these by any blue leaved succulents available in good pics
2. Plant a sunny arden bed of lunaria, campanula, cynoglossom, blue salvias, delphiniums, cornflowers or nigella, or white cosmos, centranthus, malva, delphinium, gypsophila, white helichrysum. There are even packets of seeds around that give you a mix of white and blue plants. Or make a giant bed of blue and white gladioli.
3. Fill shady spots with blue and white too - white or blue torenias, or the mauve or white impatiens. Create an instant 'hedge' with pots of alternating blue and white petunias along your stairs or patio.
4. Paint your garden furniture, or even garden walls and fences cool while or blue.( A good project If you have bored kids and lots of newspaper)
5. Plant a jacaranda tree in frost free spots, or a blue wisteria to ramble along a (sturdy) fence.
6. Fill a waterproof barrel or giant pot with soil, water, and plant stunningly cool looking Japanese iris or rabbit ear iris (Iris laevigata).
7. And for total indestructibility, plant a long hedge of blue and white agapanthus, or surround the base of trees with aggies. Some of the new varieties like 'Perpetual Peace' will bloom from late spring through to autumn - far longer than the six weeks or so that the old fashioned aggies flower.
Dribbling, Dibbling, Nibbling and Pibbling......
This is a confession: I am a confirmed dibbler. I pibble and dribble a lot too.
'Dibbling' is digging small holes for seeds or bulbs, but you can 'dibble' plants too. Instead of digging up a whole new flower bed, just dig small holes in the grass and slip your plants into them, then mulch well so the grass dies.
'Dibbling' is a heck of a lot less work than digging, and it also helps keep moisture in the soil - digging really dries things out. In fact this summer is a great time to go dribbling, nibbling and pibbling too.
Dribbling...holding a hose may be okay for watering the flowers, but big trees need deep watering - and the soil may be just too hard for moisture to penetrate. This is where 'dribbling' is really great - either leave the hose on the LOWEST POSSIBLE drip over night, or, if this is illegal in your area, buy some 100 cm lengths of polypipe. Bury the ends about 30 cm deep near your trees - or along the back of your flower garden - and fill them with the hose every week or two. The water will slowly seep down deep where it's needed. Result: less water used, more water at the roots - and less hose holding.
Pibbling ..... Pibbling means 'covering with pebbles' - a great way to cut down on water this summer. Pot plants look stunning mulched with ornamental pebbles. There are a good variety at most garden centres. You can mulch garden beds with pebbles too, but remember that while large pebbles look good, it's easier to rake smaller pebbles to get rid of leaves and other debris.
Nibbling. Hot dry summers are NOT the time to be growing lettuce, but some salad crops tolerate heat and drought AND can be cut and nibbled again and again. Try heat hardy 'freckles' lettuce, or red cos lettuce - red lettuces are usually more heat hardy than green ones. Add some mitsuba, mizuna (You'll recognise them when they come up - they are in 'salad mixes' in the supermarket) and parsley plants and you'll always have something to nibble in the garden.
What to Plant in September
Frost free climates
Food garden : choko, lemon grass, sweet potato and passionfruit vines, Jerusalem artichokes, paw paw and Cape gooseberry seeds, also seeds of artichokes, asparagus, LOTS of basil (Try Thai basil and sacred basil too) beans, beetroot, capsicum, carrots, cauliflower, celery, celtuce, chicory, cucumbers, eggplant, endive, fennel, lettuce, melons, okra, parsley, peas, peanuts, pumpkin, radish, rosellas, salsify, scorzonera, sweet corn, tomatoes, turnips, salad greens like mizuna, mitsuba, spinach.
PS. Don't forget rosella seeds - they make the world's best jam and are almost impossible to buy
Plants for beauty: Seeds or seedlings of ageratum, alyssum, amaranthus, carnations, celosia, coleus, cosmos, dichondra, echinops, erigeron, gaillardia, gazania, gloxinia, gourds, hymenosporum, impatiens, nasturtiums, phlox, salvia.
Very hot and dry gardens: move a shade cloth to cover vegie and flower gardens now to shelter them from the worst of the heat, pull out tired plants that grew all winter, mulch and water twice a day if you have the energy. Concentrate on a few small bright patches of flowers rather than struggle with large areas.
Food garden: citrus, avocado, guava and banana trees, seed potatoes, sweet potatoes, choko, strawberries. Plant seeds of artichokes, asparagus, LOTS of basil, beans, beetroot, broccoli, brussel sprouts, burdock, cabbage, capsicum, carrots, cauliflower, celery, celtuce, chicory, collards, coriander, corn salad, cress, cucumbers, eggplant, endive, fennel, kale, kohl rabi, leeks, lettuce, melons, okra, parsley, peanuts , pumpkin, radish, rosellas, salsify. scorzonera, sweet corn, tomatoes, turnips, salad greens like mizuna, mitsuba, zucchini.
Food garden: Jerusalem artichokes, rhubarb, strawberries, go wild with spuds - red ones, blue ones, yellow fleshed ones - fresh spuds taste as good as fresh tomatoes. Plant seedlings of artichokes, asparagus, beans, beetroot, broccoli, Brussel sprouts, burdock, cabbage, capsicum, carrots, cauliflower, celery, celtuce, chicory, collards, corn salad, cress, cucumbers, eggplant, endive, fennel, kale, kohl rabi, leeks, lettuce, parsley, peas, , pumpkin, radish, salsify, scorzonera, spinach, sweet corn, tomatoes, turnips, salad greens like mizuna, mitsuba.
Flower garden (temperate and cold): achillea, ageratum. alstromeria, alyssum amaranthus, aster, balsam bellis perennis, bells of Ireland, brachycome, calendula, candytuft, Canterbury bells, carnation, celosia, Clarkia, cleome, coleus, coreopsis, columbines, cosmos, delphinium, dichondra, echinacea, echinops, erigeron, euphorbia, foxglove, gaillardia, gazania, globe amaranth, gloxinia, godetia, gypsophila, helichrysum, heliotrope, hellebores, honesty, lavender, marigolds, nasturtium, petunia, phlox, Flanders poppy, portulaca, rudbeckia, salpiglossis, salvia, scabious, sweet william, viola, zinnia, snapdragons.
This is the exciting time- trees are setting fruit, trees are bright with pale green leaves- it's a time to dream about the abundance in a couple of months. October is just too encouraging. The days are balmy, and you feel like you can cultivate the world.
Take a grip on yourself. Whatever you plant now you'll have to tend at Christmas. Three dozen tomatoes planted now mean a weeks bottling or freezing or saucemaking in late summer; 3 zuchinni plants will mean you're forcing them on your friends. The more you dig now the more you'll have to weed in a month's time.
Start small, and extend your plot week by week. That way you won't start more than you can tend.
Don't dig either. Sometimes I think humans have a sort of racial memory to dig- like kids digging in sandpit. Dig if you want to- but don't assume it'll make your garden any better.
Jobs for October
. MULCH! Now the weather has warmed up mulch EVERYTHING (with the possible exception of the cat).
. Mow! Even if the grass hasn't grown much the weeds need beheading.
. Deadhead bulbs - snipping the old flowers off now before they form seeds will give you more vigorous flowers next year.
. Feed summer bloomers and veg with liquid seaweed.
. Take hydrangea cuttings - cut off 30 cm pieces, trim off the lower leaves, cut the other leaves in half (to reduce moisture loss) and bury the ends about 10 cm deep. Keep in light shade till well established.
. Train climbing rose shoots so they are as horizontal as possible. If allowed to grow vertically they'll only bloom at the top, instead of putting out masses of new shoots for roses all along the branch.
. Pinch the tops out of basil plants to stop them forming flowers instead of leaves.
Jam Jar Flowers
BIG bunches need BIG vases. But small, lax-stemmed flowers like petunias, floribunda roses, a single bloom with a few green leaves - or one of those lovable tiny bunches clutched in a kid's fist - need small vases.
Many kitchen rejects make great vases for this type of bloom - old soy sauce bottles, mango pickle containers or even those little cream jugs you never do get around to filling up with cream. Even eggcups suit smaller flowers, like a nasturtiums or two or a couple of daisies.
What to plant now
The Spring flush exists. Things start to grow like they've been dreaming of it all winter. Things planted now will grow like mad.It's worth while, though, taking a close look at how much of each crop you plant.
Tomatoes. I only plant a few tomatoes at the beginning of the season- then more at Christmas and in mid February - this last planting provides vigorous bushes that survive late frosts.
Celery. Plant enough for the whole year.I find a dozen plants is plenty for stews and salads, as long as they're well fed. Don't pick the whole bunch- just the odd stalk as you need them. The more you feed and water them the more you'll get. Ditto silverbeet- a dozen vigorous plants gives us a couple of meals every week.
Carrots. I plant a year's supply now. They're slow growing, and easily swamped by weeds. Plant them thickly and pull out the tiny ones as you need them. Ditto beetroot. I don't plant turnips till late summer- hot weather ones are too strong.
Eggplant, capsicum, chilli- we make do with a couple of eggplant, a dozen capsicum and chilli every few years- but this depends on taste
Lettuce. I plant a dozen lettuce every week except in mid winter or when I forget. We go through lettuce binges, so sometimes there's a surplus that goes to seed. But nothing is ever wasted in the garden- overripe lettuce is just tomorrows mulch. If you only eat lettuce twice a week look for punnets of mixed lettuce- a variety of types like cos, mignonette etc that mature over about a six week period
Beans and cucumbers. Plant one lot now, then another as soon as this lot flowers.
Peas. Peas planted now will give pods at Christmas unless there's a heat wave. Peas won't set in hot weather. I plant ours on a trellis where dandelions shade their roots to keep them cool.In hot areas try growing climbing beans up an orange tree.(Feed them extra to make up for root competition- mulch them at least a hand's depth so they can make more roots up their stems.)
Corn. I plant a mass of corn now- the first lot of early corn I plant never ripens evenly, so there's no point staggering it till December. Then I plant a new lot every three weeks till early February. Later corn seems more likely to ripen all at once.try growing pumpkins through your corn- the young plants keep the weeds down and the old plants can ramble up the old corn stalks. Cucumbers also do well in corn, but need extra feeding or they do far worse.
Melons. Plant as many as you can, and train them up a trellis or over the fence. That way they won't be much work- you'll only have to feed and water the small section where the stalks are.
Like September, this is a month that tells you how good your garden planning was last year.
We'd have had peas if the wallaby hadn't eaten them, and young dandelion leaves if the wombat hadn't shat on them (the leaves are probably still quite edible but I don't fancy them). Keep picking the tops out of silver beet that goes to seed so they'll keep cropping till the new lot are ready. Pick brussel sprouts as soon as they form so more grow.
We feast on asparagus for three months of the year- at least twice a day. If you don't have any plant the seed now- there is a new type of the market that will give you a few spears next spring, and a lot the year after. Put in some artichoke seed too (most seed companies carry both seeds- ask at your garden centre.)
Artichokes are a type of thistle. If you don't have artichokes peel a few thistle buds- or toss in sow thistles buds that aren't prickly. (these are sometimes called dandelions- the sort you puffed at the seed heads to tell the time- but dandelions have only one flower per stalk, while sow thistles have several. the leaves are good like silver beet too, till hot weather comes and they turn bitter.)
Potatoes and Onions
Keep last winter's spuds as cold and dry as you can to stop them sprouting- an old method used to be to bury them in a pit of dry sand, then put a cover over it. If you've got them inside keep them away from fruit- fruit produces ethylene which will set the spuds sprouting.(On the other hand if you want the potatoes for planting, stick them near a case of oranges or apples.)
Early onions should be appearing mow- flat white lovely ones.Home grown onions have have a taste of their own as well as adding flavour to other things.Eat them as small as you want them- there's no need to let them get big and die off for fresh eating.
Loquats are the first spring fruit- fat yellow berry like fruit. They've gone out of fashion lately- maybe because they don't travel well (they blemish) and you can't buy them at the supermarket. Most people now don't think something's edible if you can't buy it in plastic trays.
Try kumquats. Real kumquats are small but sweet- not like the calamondins most people know as kumquats.We have to grab our kumquats from the bower birds- as soon as they finish off the kiwi fruit they're into the kumquats (then they start on the apples). (A note though- our bower bird flock hasn't increased in ten years- though the food supply has- just grow more for the birds as well.)
Don't dismiss kumquats as ornamental- many are sweet enough to eat like small mandarins- and even the sour calamondins are good peeled and cooked with honey or sugar or a sweet red wine.
Raspberries are best in spring and autumn. If they start to rot make sure you pick them every day- rots like the sugar in ripe raspberries and leaving ripe ones on the canes may infect others. Spray every day with chamomile tea too.
Rhubarb crops all year except mid winter, but spring rhubarb is best- tender, not coarse, with a better flavour. Feed your rhubarb a lot if you intend to pick it often- short stalks means it needs more nourishment.
Stew rhubarb in orange juice. The amount of sugar you add depends on taste, and the sweetness of the rhubarb- rhubarb varies.
Broad beans don't set seed in hot weather- mulch them thickly now to keep the soil cool. If they start getting spots on their leaves you've probably got a potash deficiency- throw wood ash on the plot for next year.
. Let excess or old broad beans dry in the pod- then keep them to add to soups and stews later.
.chop up vegies gone to seed and stew them into a rich vegetable stock- either have it for lunch or freeze it.A friend grates them up, adds wheat germ and bakes them into crisp dog biscuits.
. many veg like carrots and celery that have gone to seed can be eaten simply by peeling away the tough outer membrane- the centres will be soft and sweet.
Plant green manure crops that can be slashed and ready for January plantings of winter vegetables- broad beans (cut them at flowering, don't wait for pods to set) or sunflowers, buckwheat or even radish if you pull them out before the bulbs form.
Plant passionfruit vines, and chokos now, before it gets too hot- though they can be planted at any time as long as they are well established by winter, and kept mulched and watered.
Mulch strawberries and rhubarb now, and cut off any rhubarb heads going to seed. Mulching now prevents leaf disease later.
Buy young chooks now- they'll lay through till next spring.If you don't raise your own chickens try buying alternately black, white or red ones, to 'colour code' each year - or leave different colour roosters with the females each season.
If you're chooks aren't laying well check their water- fresh running water means more eggs, a stagnant puddle may keep you hens alive but they won't thrive. Hens won't lay in very hot weather either- scatter branches over the chook run for some shade- and plant some trees, preferably ones like mulberries, tree lucerne or avocados that can provide chook food.
Chooks are paranoid creatures. they can be scared of anything that flies over them and anything that chases them- from kids to foxes. Scared chooks don't lay as well. Chooks were once jungle birds, living in the broken light in the undergrowth. If you want secure, non paranoid chooks stick branches, old corn stalks etc over their run so that the light below is shifting and semi shaded. They'll feel less vulnerable no matter what is around.
No matter what pests are bugging you, try not to do anything about it for at least two weeks- see if natural predators will starts doing the job for you.
Put out codlin moth lures now to see if you need to start spraying. Put out fruit fly traps if you have any fruit or fruit like vegetables near ripening.
Look for snails. Snails love spring- the lizards that keep them in check are still sleepy. (Frogs do a good job snail killing too). Try cup of bran or old muesli, a quarter cup of derris, moistened with molasses. Place bits in an old margarine container with a gate cup out of it, so that rain won't wash the bait away. Derris makes snails and slugs froth up and die. Dogs and cats et. al. can eat this amount of derris without being rushed to the vet.
What to Plant in October
Food plants: Choko, lemon grass, sweet potato and passionfruit vines, Jerusalem artichokes, paw paw and Cape gooseberry seeds. Also the seeds of artichokes, basil, beans, beetroot, capsicum, carrots, celery, celtuce, chicory, cucumbers, eggplant, endive, fennel, tropical lettuce, melons, okra, parsley, peas, peanuts, pumpkin (not in humid areas), radish, rosellas, sweet corn, tomatoes and salad greens like mizuna and mitsuba.
Plants for beauty: Seeds or seedlings of ageratum, alyssum, amaranthus, carnations, celosia, coleus, cosmos, dichondra, echinops, erigeron, gaillardia, gazania, gloxinia, gourds, hymenosporum, impatiens, nasturtiums, phlox and salvia.
Cold and Temperate:
Food garden: Seed potatoes, sweet potatoes, choko, strawberries; seeds of artichokes, asparagus, basil, beans, beetroot, broccoli, burdock, cabbage, capsicum, carrots, cauliflower, celery, celtuce, chicory, collards, coriander, corn salad, cress, cucumbers, eggplant, endive, fennel, kale, kohl rabi, leeks, lettuce, melons, okra, parsley, peanuts, pumpkin, radish, rosellas, salsify, scorzonera, sweet corn, tomatoes, turnips, salad greens like mizuna and mitsuba, and zucchini.
Flower garden: Achillea, ageratum. alstromeria, alyssum amaranthus, aster, balsam, bellis perennis, bells of Ireland, brachycome, calendula, candytuft, Canterbury bells, carnation, celosia, clarkia, cleome, coleus, coreopsis, columbines, cosmos, delphinium, dichondra, echinacea, echinops, erigeron, euphorbia, foxglove, gaillardia, gazania, globe amaranth, gloxinia, godetia, gypsophila, helichrysum, heliotrope, hellebores, honesty, lavender, marigolds, nasturtium, petunia, phlox, Flanders poppy, portulaca, rudbeckia, salpiglossis, salvia, scabious, sweet william, viola, zinnia and snapdragons.
Summertime, and the living is easy- gardens are starting to crop, trees are hanging heavy with fruit, the chooks are laying- and the weeds are poking their heads above the lettuces and your lawn is threatening to creep through the windows and choke you in your beds.
Well, I warned you about digging a garden. Dug garden beds breed weeds. Try the no dig methods on page next time. Replant the lawn with one of the 'no mow' useful ones on page- or plant asparagus there instead.
Things grow in summer. It's easy to dig an enormous bed in spring which turns to weeds and yellow seedlings by Christmas, or plant too many seedlings too close together, not quite believing that they really will grow full size in a few months.
Jobs for this month.
. Prune spring flowering shrubs and climbers once the petals fall;
. splash out on slow release fertiliser pellets for the whole garden - great for busy people who don't have time to cosset their plants;
. this is the best month to buy hanging baskets of annuals, to enjoy them for the whole summer;
. remove all fallen and ripe fruit so you don't attract fruit fly;
. trim hedges before they get too leggy; and
. try to water often - hard baked ground repels water.
. this is THE gorgeous time for gardens. Treat your self to a weekend looking at the Open Gardens in your area, to get great ideas for yours.
Must-haves for Summer
Herbs! Every garden - or sunny kitchen window - needs summer herbs... a couple of BIG basil bushes (try purple or ruffled basil too), at least a dozen parsley plants and a pot of indestructible apple mint to chop into summer drinks and fruit salads.
Tomatoes! Invest in at least one BIG bush of cherry tomatoes, feed with soluble fertilizer once a week and enjoy the sweetness of a handful of fresh tomatoes every day.
Strawberries - home-grown, warm from the sun.
Summer colour, from a mass of heat-loving annuals - strawflowers (Helichrysums spp), portulacas, petunias, calendulas, zinnias... a garden bed or pots or baskets.
Useful tip: One gorgeously flowering potted geranium/pelargonium bought this weekend can be broken into ten or even twenty cuttings, for potted presents that should be flourishing by Christmas.
o the scent of freshly mown grass;
o the smells of a summer garden at dusk as you water the garden beds;
o birds splashing in a bird bath; and
o kids painting the garden chairs a dozen different colours.
What's In and What's Out for Summer
Out: Pastel flowers, lots of lawn, any water hungry plant.
In: Vivid blooms, lots of colour from painted walls and furniture, mellow unpainted wood, succulents, grasses and flaxes, the 'new' natives, regularly pruned and trimmed for lots of colour.
Hedges don't have to be fat! And in a small garden a fat hedge takes up too much room. Try a hedge of espaliered camellias, lillipillies or fruit trees like citrus, pears, apples, trimmed back so that only the side branches are left. Usually espaliers are against walls, but they also look great as unsupported hedges.
First put in a temporary fence of stakes, with three lengths of string tied along them.
Now choose plants with single upright trunks. Plant in line - look on the label to see how far apart. Now cut out all but three side branches on each side of each tree and tie the bottom two branches to the first length of string, the second to the second etc. By the time the string rots the branches should keep their shape.
Other skinny garden dividers:
. lattice covered with clematis, potato vine, Chinese jasmine, New Zealand maidenhair vine (Muehlenbeckia complexa) or even one of the less vigorous, small-leafed, variegated ivy varieties if you're far enough away from bushland so it won't go feral. Keep vines very, VERY well trimmed, so they never grow massive and untidy;
. long, narrow pots filled with bamboo (so it doesn't escape);
. long ponds filled with papyrus; or
. a row of skinny legged walking stick palms.
What to Plant in November
November is the time to evaluate what you've planted, and what you need to plant. Do you have enough carrots, parsnips, celery to last a year? have you put in enough tomatoes, watermelon and zuchinni? Are you continuing to put in successions of corn and beans and lettuce?
Plant more beans whenever the last lot flower,and more corn at the same time, lettuce at least every two weeks, cabbage whenever you remember. I usually stick in another lot of cucumbers and zuchinni in December in case early plantings are hit by powdery mildew. Plant them well away from the first lot, with a tall crop like corn in between if you can. Plant another large lot of corn, now, too, so you have some to store for winter.
One of the joys of gardening is growing plants that are hard to find in shops. The seeds of all of these should be available at your nursery:
. multi-coloured corn in red, blue, black, orange, and white to give away or pile in a dish on the table;
. gourds - they come in hundreds of shapes and sizes, for kids' toys, ornaments, rattles or use the big ones as storage jars or bowls!; and
. the world's largest pumpkin! Look for packets of 'giant' pumpkin seeds - and watch the kids race down each day to see how much they've grown.
Food plants: Choko, lemon grass, sweet potato and passionfruit vines, Jerusalem artichokes, paw paw and Cape gooseberry seeds. Also the seeds of artichokes, basil, beans, capsicum, carrots, celery, celtuce, chicory, eggplant, endive, fennel, tropical lettuce, melons, okra, parsley, peanuts, radish, rosellas, sweet corn, tomatoes and salad greens like mizuna and mitsuba.
Hot but not humid areas: cucumbers, melons, pumpkin, beetroot
Plants for beauty: Seeds or seedlings of ageratum, alyssum, amaranthus, carnations, celosia, coleus, cosmos, dichondra, echinops, erigeron, gaillardia, gazania, gloxinia, gourds, hymenosporum, impatiens, nasturtiums, phlox and salvia. If it's too hot or humid for annuals, treat yourself to some glorious low work foliage plants... browse your local nursery till you find the ones you adore.
Cold and Temperate:
Food garden: Seed potatoes, sweet potatoes, choko, strawberries; seeds of artichokes, asparagus, basil, beans, beetroot, broccoli, burdock, cabbage, capsicum, carrots, cauliflower, celery, celtuce, chicory, collards, coriander, corn salad, cress, cucumbers, eggplant, endive, fennel, kale, kohl rabi, leeks, lettuce, melons, okra, parsley, peanuts, pumpkin, radish, rosellas, salsify, scorzonera, sweet corn, tomatoes, turnips, salad greens, like mizuna and mitsuba, and zucchini.
Flower garden: Achillea, ageratum. alstromeria, alyssum, amaranthus, aster, balsam, bellis perennis, bells of Ireland, brachycome, calendula, candytuft, Canterbury bells, carnation, celosia, clarkia, cleome, coleus, coreopsis, columbines, cosmos, delphinium, dichondra, echinacea, echinops, erigeron, euphorbia, foxglove, gaillardia, gazania, globe amaranth, gloxinia, godetia, gypsophila, helichrysum, heliotrope, hellebores, honesty, lavender, marigolds, nasturtium, petunia, phlox, Flanders poppy, portulaca, rudbeckia, salpiglossis, salvia, scabious, sweet william, viola, zinnia and snapdragons.
An easy way to pick cherries if you're not going to store them is to climb a tree with a pair of scissors, and snip the bunches- then gather them at the bottom of the tree. (This also tells birds that the whole cherry tree territory is yours- not just the bottom branches.. Otherwise they sit at the top of the trees and sneer at you.)
. Feed lettuce, seedlings, celery and silver beet and corn with liquid manure
.Weeds are the worse problem now. Don't pull them out. Cover them with newspaper, or strips of weed mat weighed down with rocks. Feed your plants more while they die and turn to fertilizer beneath their mulch.
.Annual weeds don't even need to be mulched. Whippersnip or mow them instead- then use the residue to mulch your plants. We get young oats springing up out of the mulch- don't regard it as an enemy- turn the mulch over to suffocate it, or just keep snipping off the tops.
.Take tomato cuttings now. These are an easy way of getting successive crops, and cuttings fruit much earlier than seedlings. In frost free areas if you take a cutting from your tomatoes every time the bush is large enough you should keep yourself in year round tomatoes.
To take the cuttings take a sharp knife and cut off a lateral about four to six inches long. Remove the leaves from the lower half. Now take a pot filled with compost or find a part of the garden where tomatoes haven;'t grown for two years. Make a finger sized hole and fill with clean sand and bury your cutting about two thirds deep.Keep it moist. It should start to grow in a week or two.
An easier way to take tomato cuttings is to mulch your tomatoes just above the level of the first branches. When these have rooted into the mulch slice them off and plant them carefully, keeping the branch level as it was in the mulch and gradually training it upwards.
Even if you don't get round to cutting off the lower branches the extra roots will improve the growth of your original plant.
Start spraying fruit with chamomile tea or seaweed spray every week if you are worried about brown rot- thin them out too and keep bad ones picked off. watch for fruit fly and codlin moth(see pages )
Spray pear and cherry slug with derris or pyrethrum spray- or leave them alone if they're not killing the tree.
Stick out your fruit fly repellent- a litre of creosote a litre of kero and a packet of mothballs hung in fly prone trees at least three weeks before fruit is ripe and round tomato bushes ditto. If you can't smell it the fruit fly won't either- put them closer together.
Hang out jars of port as well to catch codlin moth. If you find them ( look for the circles on their wings) it's time to spray with derris and DIPEL and start hunting for infected fruit.
Spray chamomile tea or seaweed spray to keep off brown rot from your stone fruit- especially if you have curly leaf or reddish brown freckles on your apricot leaves- these will indicate a good year for fungi and bacterial problems
This is the month when you wished that you hadn't got carried away in spring. Large dug patches are full of weeds (well I said you should try no dig gardens); those six zuchinni plants you put in are threatening to flood the neighbourhood and the air is full of the sound of bees sipping at ripe apricots or nuzzling into young zuchinni flowers.
This is a month for minimising work. There are too many other things happening in December to concentrate on the garden. Just make sure you keep up successive planting- beans and corn in particular- and that the garden doesn't quite disappear in the undergrowth. Don't bother weeding- just cut the tips off, or bury them under mulch.
Keep up successions of corn, beans and lettuce- but otherwise wait till Christmas is over and you have a chance to breathe.
Pick everything as soon as it's ripe- or a bit before- to keep down fruit fly. Never leave fallen fruit on the ground- and fruit fly or codlin moth fruit often do fall earlier. Call in the geese or chooks or do it yourself. many pests- not just fruit fly- are attracted by the scent of overripe fruit- so keep harvesting.
What to do in December
. scoop out weed from ponds before it chokes them
. watch out for suckers or watershoots on trees and roses. Pull them off- if you snip them neatly they'll regrow
. snip off dead blooms
. water pots OFTEN- dry pots become water repellent
. drape shade cloth over salad veg in the veggie garden- it'll stop them wilting and turning bitter
. pick a few baskets of summer veg and flowers if you've been following previous garden tips!
PS Remember pets need cool water at Christmas too! Make sure their water bowls aren't in the sun and change the water often. A rock in large containers helps stop them from being knocked over. (Bryan has glued a wide sheet of plywood to the wombat's bowl to stop her knocking that over too.)
How to keep your cool in December.
. Don't fill your garden beds in a last minute panic with bloomers: they'll wilt in the heat and so will you. If you feel like a touch of Christmas colour buy a two giant baskets or pots and fill them with bloomers, for either side of the front door. Easy to water, and you get a faceful of colour.
. Feeling humid? Tall trees will shade you from the sun, but too much greenery around the house can also block breezes and add to the humidity. Sometimes a little thinning of the jungle can greatly add to summer comfort.
. dry soil can repel moisture. If your soil is still dry just under the surface after you've watered, use a wetting agent like Wettasoil so that the next lot of water can really penetrate
.raise the height of your lawn mower. Slightly longer lawns tolerate heat and dryness better than shaved lawns, and you'll still be chopping the heads off the weeds and leaving the grass neat and even.
. Water crystals expand and store water when wet. Add them to pots or even around young plants and seedlings. But do keep them out of reach of kids and pets, and make sure that the soil covers them completely, even when swollen - in dry times birds will eat them and, even though they may not be toxic, they probably are not good for their diet.
. When you are away on holiday see if a neighbour will water your garden for you; water indoor plants them cover with a plastic bag, and place in a cool spot - the bath is excellent.
. Mulch - but don't mulch dry soil in hot weather. Water well first.
. Cut dead blooms off agapanthus, roses, hydrangeas, daylilies etc to encourage them to keep blooming and to avoid a dead scrappy look at Christmas.
If you want REAL: recyclable plates this Christmas, go for:
. Banana leaves trimmed to plate shape with pinking shears.
.baskets lined with grape , nasturtium, lime or lemon leaves
. bread and cakes used to be baked in the big outer leaves of cabbages- try it! They won't taste of cabbage- and will have a gorgeous rounded shape!
PS grape, lavender, rosemary, lemon, lime and orange prunings make great skewers for kebabs...but don't try other woods in case they are poisonous!
. freeze a few rose petals, thinly sliced limes or mint leaves in ice blocks to add zest to summer drinks or cold soups.
How to Rescue a Wilted Hanging Basket
Soak the basket in a dish of water overnight, then trim of any bits that are still wilted. Now much with coconut fibre.
(diagram might be easier here!)
What to plant in December
As little as possible; more lettuce, beans, corn and zucchini; seeds of autumn and winter bloomers - but basically all planting can be left to January, when life isn't so hectic.
PS If you REALLY want to plant now, there is very little that can't be planted- see November. Just remember that seedlings that get too hot - or dry - can go to seed prematurely, and some plants like lettuce won't germinate in very hot weather. In tropical humid areas many veg planted now will be affected by root rot or mildew; this is a great time to plant shrubs and fruit trees though - if you have the energy!
.The spring weeds you pulled up and flung in a bucket of water should be decomposing now- just tip the brown water onto celery silverbeet and anything else that needs a nudge.
.Hurry tomatoes and corn along by mulching them heavily- both will form more roots on their stems under the mulch and bear earlier. Add some phosphorous rich hen manure to encourage flowering- though compost fed plants won't need it.
Gardens can bake if you go away even for a few days. Cover them up- they won't die in a few days- and while they may go yellow in a week they'll soon green up again. Staple together newspaper and drape it over a few stakes in the centre of the garden. If it rains the paper will decay, but then the garden won't need shelter anyway- or use old sheets, blankets, whatever is to hand. The sheets shouldn't get dirty as long as they don't touch the ground.
The longest I've ever left a covered garden is two weeks. Be wary when you take the top off- the longer you've left it the weaker the plants will be- you'll probably have to water every day for a week till they toughen up again.
If you want to keep watering your plants fill up every bottle you can lay your hands on; place a little hole in the top- as small as you can- and thrust it neck downwards into the soil. The water will gradually seep into the garden, watering it.
If you go away often it may be worthwhile installing a drip system and leaving it on- or placing drums around your garden what you can easily fill with a hose- or that will fill in a rain storm, and seep out slowly. One friend in a dry area connected such a drum system to the down pipe on the house- the buckets were filled even with a small shower of rain from the accumulation on the roof.
See November, but with Christmas- and picking fruit and harvesting your garden- you probably won't have time.
Concentrate on growing things, and picking things - and enjoy the bounty of your garden.