The November Garden
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