The January Garden
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.