This week in the Garden for August

This First Week in the Late Winter Garden:

week one - week two - week three - week four
augdir2012-02-230x153The Late Winter/Early Spring New Moon arrives 3 August. This signifies the beginning of the last month of Winter in coldest districts. While in mild subtropical climates and sheltered corners, this New Moon ushers in the embryonic beginnings of Spring and a host of early flowers. Days are getting a little longer and the Sun is returning.  While these changes are subtle for us, all of Nature will be aware that Spring is approaching. Buds begin to swell as sap rises in dormant branches and resting perennials and birds prepare for nesting.  It is time to prepare for Spring. 

This New Moon is ascending (climbing higher) in Southern Hemisphere skies until 15 August. It is in ruling constellation of (sidereal Cancer) a most benevolent position. This will further stimulate the rising of sap and emergence of Spring blossom and growth. Liquid feeding during the morning hours onward until shortly after noon will be quickly drawn upward to feed emerging buds and new blossoms both in containers and in the ground.
As the week progresses, the Waxing Crescent Moon continues to rise in the evening sky. This represents the beginning of the Late Winter/Early Spring planting cycle. Moonlight will be increasing every night until the Full Moon (18 August). Sunlight is also increasing now that the Spring Equinox is less than two months away. These are the triggers Nature has been awaiting to start the emergence of Springtime growth.
Late Winter/Early Spring Planting Cycle Begins:
Now begins an ideal time for planting and sowing all manner of flowering plants; anything producing leafy top-growth and all vegetables that produce their crops above the ground.  This is an important planting time for crops and flowers intended for Spring/Early Summer flowering and harvests.
Depending on your climate zone, this starts and excellent time through to the Full Moon (18 August) to plant all manner of flowering plants; anything producing leafy top-growth; plant and sow all vegetables that produce crops above ground; also bramble and cane fruit; ornamental and fruiting shrubs, trees, vines; plant flower seedlings and seed of all sorts but especially Annuals and hardy Perennials; also sow lawns and all sorts of fodder crops, grains and hay.
For Gardeners in mild and subtropical districts this New Moon is when the Early Spring Planting Cycle starts and the truly busy season begins! Prepare for this now and be ahead of the rest!
This is an important time for preparation.  Put Winter dreams into constructive action plans for the Spring and Summer growing season ahead. In mild and subtropical climatic zones Spring weather may arrive several weeks or more ahead of the true celestial start of Spring. While in colder climates and drafty corners, wintery conditions can persist even after the celestial arrival of Spring. But because of this year’s benevolent Moon placement and the fact that the New Moon occurs near the beginning of the month and the same next month, it is very likely we will experience and Early Spring.
Seed Secrets:
A wide range of seed can be sown for the gardens ahead under cover so the seedlings will be ready for planting-out once soil is much warmer in 6-8 weeks time. In the very warmest gardens or most sheltered corners many hardy varieties can be sown outdoors but they must be protected from chilling rains, cold drafts and freezing weather.
Stick to the hardiest varieties when planting or sowing outdoors into open ground. Seed will germinate fastest when sheltered from cold nights with protective cloches or frost cloth. Many Gardeners leave these in place until the weather has settled. By far the safest way is to sow under glass and with bottom heat and/or protection.  This is how professional Growers start the full range of warm weather varieties of both flowers and vegetables for the warm season ahead.  Seed almost always germinates much faster and most successfully in freely draining soil that remains consistently warm.
It is essential to guard that the seed and seedlings are never exposed to chilling drafts, cold temperatures, excessive wet soil or low light which will often result in disease, plant collapse or weak and useless plants. Just a few hours of chilling drafts are enough to kill a tender plant or seedling.
One of the biggest causes of failure of early germinated seed or later seedling collapse is insufficient light. Most garden plants need direct (full) sunlight and/or strong ultraviolet light to keep them healthy and strong, short and stocky. If ever due to insufficiently light, they draw upward and ‘stretch’ in an attempt to reach strong sunlight they will weaken. More than likely, these plants will ultimately fail or produce poor results.
Another problem is insufficient air circulation. Plants need moving air. Never chilling drafts or a windy environment; just freely circulating air. Air acts as a nature sterilant and also keeps the plants breathing properly. This keeps their tissues dry and greatly reduces the opportunity for blight, fungus and rot to become established. Whenever air is humid and still, fungal spores, especially of the damaging damp-off fungus, quickly multiply at ground level. The result is often rapid collapse of young seedlings.
Soil can be sterilized by baking it, pouring boiling water through it, drenching it in fungicide; even exposing it to a length period of strong sunlight. This will help eliminate fungal spores. But because fungal spores can be carried through the air, by insects, rodents or contaminated hands they can soon return.
Inadequate watering is another critical factor. Overwatering will almost certainly result in fungal attack or rot. Saturated soil also tends to remain colder which leads to root chilling and rot. It also can ‘drown’ roots by surrounding them in mucky soil, making it impossible for the plant to breathe properly. Under-watering is much easier to spot as the soil is obviously dry. If young plants ever wilt severely due to insufficient watering, their roots may callous or tissues harden or outright wither leading to stunted growth or plant collapse.
The best seed raising soil is light and peaty; often with extra sand added to insure good air circulation and good drainage while also retaining a moderately moist consistency.
What to Plant and Sow:
Plant hardy, reliable annual and perennial flowers and vegetables for the Spring and Summer and beyond. Wherever ground is workable plant a wide range of brambles and canes; fruit and nut trees and fruiting shrubs plus vines; ornamental shrubs, trees and vines; broad leafed evergreens; conifers; most hardy species native to Australia, the Mediterranean, New Zealand, South Africa and the West Coast regions of North and South America; Roses; Strawberries; Lilies and wide range of Summer-flowering bulbs (under shelter); groundcovers and just about anything else that appears to be hardy.
Flowers to Plant and Sow:
Acrolinium, Alyssum, Aquilegia, Arctotis, Aster, Calendula, California Poppy, Calliopsis, Carnation ,Canterbury Bells, Coneflower, Coreopsis, Cornflower, Delphinium Dianthus, Feverfew, Gaillardia, Godetia, Gypsophilla, Hollyhock, Larkspur, Linaria, Linum, Lobelia, Lunaria, Mignonette, Nasturtium, Nemesia, Nigella, Rudbeckia, Pansy, Phlox, Polyanthus, Poppies, Scabiosa, Snapdragon, Statice, Strawflower, Sunflower, Sweat Pea, Rudbeckia, Tanacetum, Viola, Violet, Viscaria Wildflower (most mixes and species) and hundreds more.

Until weather becomes warm and settled, plant only the hardiest varieties in open ground until certain that all danger of frost has passed. Brightest light and sustained warmth (especially in the soil) are essential for success!
Fertilize regularly to increase and induce accelerated growth rates and flowering in many garden plants like:
Anemone, Carnations, Cineraria, Delphinium, Dianthus, Iceland Poppy, Lupin, Pansy and Viola, Polyanthus, Primula, Ranunculus, Snapdragon, Stock, Violets and many more respond quickly and often quite impressively to feeding, especially foliar and liquid feeding.
They also respond, if a bit more slowly, to the spreading of bulb fertilizer around Spring annuals and bulbs. When applying dry fertilizer to stimulate flowering and growth, cultivate and water-in lightly to encourage a faster response. The fertilizer will help create stronger plants plus bulb development for next year’s blooms.
Tender Summer Flowers:
Almost all Summer flowering varieties can be started now with bottom heat in the glasshouse, sunroom, sunny windowsill, under glass or cold frame or very sheltered corner outdoors (cloches or evening protection advisable).
This includes:

Ageratum, Amaranthus, Balsam, all varieties of Begonias, Dahlia, Celosia, Cleome, Coleus, Cosmos, Geranium, Gerbera, Gloxinia, tender Herbs like Basil and Coriander (Cilantro), Impatiens, Kochia, Marigold, Ornamental Peppers, Petunia, Salpiglossis, Salvia, Swam Plant, Tithonia, Zinnia and many more.
Vegetables to Plant and Sow:
Asparagus (crowns & seed), Beets, Broad Beans, Broccoli, Cabbages, Cauliflower, Chinese Cabbage and Green Vegetables, Cress, Endive, Garlic, Gooseberry, hardy Herbs (assorted), Kohlrabi, Leaf Lettuce (assorted), Mustard, Onions, Parsley, Parsnip, Peas, Potato, Radish, Rhubarb (crowns & seed), Salsify, Shallot, Silverbeet, Spinach, Swede and Turnip.
This is an excellent time to sow hardy salad plants and especially Peas. Hardy Herbs (Marjoram, Mint, Oregano, Sage, etc.) can be divided and replanted or started from seed.
Tender Vegetables to Start:
Capsicum, Choko, Eggplant, Heading Lettuce, Herbs (Basil, Dill, etc.), Kumara, Marrow, Melons, Hot Peppers, Pumpkin, Squash, Sweet Potato, Tomato, Yam and others.
These must remain in sunny and warm positions at all times. Bottom heat is strongly advisable. Do not attempt to sow these outdoors until the soil is thoroughly warmed and they have attained a more substantial size.
In mild climates with freely draining soil they can be planted now. Or Potatoes can be sprouted now for later planting. Just set the ‘seed’ Potatoes in a seedling flat or even a bright windowsill. Let them sprout and once they do these tubers can be planted whole or cut into sections. When cut into sections, rub the exposed cuts in powdered charcoal or Flowers of Sulphur and let them ‘cure’ and dry out for at least a few hours before planting in an enriched, fully sunny and well drained vegetable plot or large container. Potatoes prefer rich soil but more importantly, perfect drainage and will often perform well in loamy land that dries out a little between rainfall and waterings. For this reason they are often planted in mounds of earth that are continually built up through their growing cycle.
Avoid lime of high pH soils with Potatoes as this encourages the development of scab diseases.
Kumara and Yam:
Kumara and Yam can be started now in a hot bed or warm glasshouse for planting out once weather conditions become warmer. These are often started from entire tuberous roots just like Potatoes or separated into pieces each containing at least one ‘eye’ shoot. These are partially immersed in a bed of peat and sand. Once sprouts appear and gain some size, they can be removed from the parent root and planted out or started in flats or small pots in a light potting mix or peat and sand. Keep these baby shoots lightly moist sunny and warm then plant them outdoors once the soil is thoroughly warmed.  These are (sub) tropical crops demanding full sunshine, perfect drainage and warm conditions. Kumara tubers can grow quite deeply into loose and open soils which could make them difficult to dig and harvest. So the shoots are often planted in raised mounds over boards or sheet metal buried beneath that force the roots to remain near the surface for easy harvesting. In colder climates with lower soil temperatures consider placing a sheet of black plastic or Weedmat beneath the seedling tubers and/or over the bed. This works almost as well as boards but also heats up the soil for better harvests. Yams can be grown in large containers or tubs as well as in the ground very much like Potatoes. Being a member of the Oxalis Family, their Clover-like foliage is quite attractive and edible much like tender Kumara and Sweet Potato greens.
Herbs can be divided and replanted or started from seed. Tender Herbs like Anise, Basil and others should be started in the glasshouse or sunny windowsill and not planted out until all danger of frost has passed. Even hardy herbs like Coriander (Cilantro), Sage, Thyme and Parsley will germinate much faster when started indoors under glass with bottom heat. Herb seedlings must be grown under strong light or preferably direct sunlight so that they don’t stretch and weaken.
A wide variety of Perennial plants can be started from container plants or from seed. They can also be started from cuttings or by divided established plants.
Perennials to establish now include:
Agapanthus, Amaryllis, Asters, Begonia, Billbergia, Boltonia, Canna, Crinum, Dahlia, Echinacea (Cone Flowers), Eryngium (Sea Holly), Eucomis (Pineapple Lily), Gaillardia, Gazania, Geum, Hedychium (Ginger), Hemerocallis (Day Lily), Hosta, Hymenocallis, Japanese Iris, Kniphofia (Red Hot Poker), Lilies, Monarda, Montbretia, Nepeta, Nerine, Penstemon, Physostegia, Solidago (Goldenrod), Sprekelia, Streptocarpus, Tuberose, Zantedeschia, Zephyranthes (Rain Lilies) and many more species.
This is one of the best times to divide Phlox paniculata, and all forms of Chrysanthemum and Daisy, especially Shasta Daisy.
Delphinium crowns or pots grown on from seed started last Summer or Autumn can now be planted for flowering later in the Spring and Summer season. Seed can also be started now for Late Spring and Summer transplanting.  Some dwarf varieties will flower this growing season. The most spectacular huge spiking varieties will probably bloom next year. Delphiniums enjoy cool to moderate climates but thrive in the warmer locations when planted in partial shade, especially morning sun or mulched to maintain a cool root-run. Plant Delphiniums in freely draining, loose soil enriched with compost, aged manure, lime and a complete food suitable for Dahlia or Tomato.
They prefer a sunny, sheltered spot for the most spectacular and stocky results. The tall-blooming varieties need staking against wind as blooms become top-heavy. This is especially important when grown in partly shaded positions as the stems are much more flimsy then and notoriously break just as the flowers begin to open. Always keep Delphiniums moist but never wet. This is especially important as bud spikes begin to develop and flowers open. Generous compost mulch, combined with frequent feeding and plenty of space between plants in a sunny spot creates big, impressive flower spikes.
Chrysanthemum divide easily at this time and cuttings strike quickly now and onward throughout the remainder of the month. Choose healthy, robust 8-10cm/3.2-5inch stems. Pinch out the tender growing tip and remove most leaves on the stem keeping only the top two. Plunge into a sand/peat mix in a large container or flat and keep them very bright (not sunny), humid, evenly moist and warm until roots form in a few weeks.  Commercial Growers use a similar method but substitute a seedling flat for rooting box or mist chamber. Then once the cuttings have developed adequate roots, the young plants are transplanted into baskets, pots or the garden once weather settles.
Another way to start Chrysanthemum cuttings is in a single pot.  First dip or dust each cutting in hormone gel/powder. Place (don’t push) each cutting into a dibble hole in a pot half filled with seed raising mix or sand/peat mix where the soil has been pre-moistened. Then fill in around each seedling with more mix and water in very lightly. Place the pot inside a plastic bag with a couple of drainage holes in its bottom. Bring up the sides of the bag to loosely cover over the pot. This creates a small terrarium. Place in a bright (but never hotly sunny) position. Keep warm and add a tiny spot of water occasionally if soil becomes dry. Cuttings should be ready to transplant within 4-6 weeks. Or simply grow them on in the same pot.
Chrysanthemum root cuttings also strike quickly now. Use the same procedure as outlined above. But this time dig up and select strong roots from around the plants’ crown. Carefully cut these roots away from the crown. When cutting way these roots, take careful notice as to the top and bottom of each root. Place these in the pot top-end-upward. Reduce their lower length if too long. Fill in over them so that the top of each root is barely covered with soil. Water in thoroughly and place them in the plastic bag and grow on as before. New Plants will emerge within a few weeks. They are ready to transplant once top growth is robust and growing strongly.
Other Cuttings to Start Now:
Many perennial herbaceous plants and herbs plus a variety of brambles and cane fruits, shrubs and trees plus vines can be reproduced in this same way especially now as new seasonal growth is about to begin. They are at their easiest to strike once sap has begun to rise in the stems and new buds are showing signs of swelling.
This is an excellent time to aerate, feed and seed lawns for the season ahead. This works best in sheltered sites and warmer climates. But some Gardeners even in colder climates often get started with this job now to capitalize on the entire growing season ahead.
Dichondra, a very good lawn substitute in sunny and mild climates, can be planted from plugs now throughout Spring or can be started in a warm place from seed.
Garden & Soil Preparation:
Prepare beds for Spring/Summer flowers and vegetables. Dig deeply, remove weeds, mix in complete plant food, compost, aged manure, etc. Let “cure” at least one week or longer before planting.
Gardens that have been planted with green manure cover crops to improve the land should have these cut down and dug in now. Blood and Bone, fertilizer and/or Lime can be added over the land and /or dug in at the same time. Leave the ground rough and allow the land to stand for at least one month before planting. Green manure combined with soil conditioners are extremely beneficial for quality vegetable crops like Corn, Okra, Pumpkins, Soybeans, Sunflowers and other heavy-feeding crops.
Fertilize fruit trees, cane fruits and ornamentals shrubs, trees and vines. Spray citrus, stone fruits, Grapes with copper or other fungicide
Spring Flowering Bulbs start to make their memorable début. Spring annual and perennial plantings around Spring flowering bulbs also should be carefully cultivated, fed and weeded. Always be extra careful working around emerging bulbs shoots as one wrong move can damage or cut off their tender emerging growth that would greatly damage or possibly kill them. Proper care and cultivation now insures healthy, rapid and strong growth without adverse competition. Be sure and lay Slug and Snail baits, too, as emerging buds and sometime foliage are a delicacy that, if eaten, destroys a lot of well-meant effort and the true glory of Spring.
Insure that excess water is draining away as it should. Add Gypsum and sand if any water is pooling after rainfall. Most bulbs need freely draining soil and will quickly root if ever water-logged.
To increase bulb multiplication, it is important to side-dress around bulbs with a good quality bulb fertilizer as shoots emerge and once again directly after flowering. A systemic liquid fertilizer can also be poured or sprayed over bulb foliage on an airy, mild and sunny day to help build up mineral content in the foliage. This will greatly benefit bulb health and increase numbers later in the season.
Summer Bulbs, Root and Tubers become available for purchase. Existing clumps can also be dug and divided. Wherever the ground is workable, many can be planted now.
Included here would be such classics as:
Arum, Canna, Crinum, Dahlia, Eucomis (Pineapple Lily), Galtonia (Cape Hyacinth), Gladioli, Hymenocallis (Ismene), Lily, Montbretia, Sprekelia (Jacobean Lily), Valotta, Zephyranthes and many more.

Others like Caladium, Hippeastrum, Tuberose, Tuberous Begonia, hybrid Zantedeschia and other tender Summer flowers can be started in small pots in a warm and bright location for transplanting out once weather thoroughly warms in a couple of months.
Dahlia tubers are best planted now for early blooms in climates where freezing is no longer a problem. The tubers will usually produce their first flowers approximately 90-100 days after planting. They can also be started in containers for later transplanting. By holding some tubers back, a succession of blooms can be obtained all season. There is no hurry, as the finest Autumn-flowering Dahlias are often planted during the first month of Summer.
Dahlias are easily multiplied by breaking off a mature tuber from the entire cluster. Most successful are firm and stocky tubers with a short ‘neck’ and at least one ‘eye’ attached. Typical clusters can contain 4 to 20 or more tubers; each potentially producing a new Dahlia plant. Alternatively, a single tuber or the entire cluster can be started in a container placed in the sunny glasshouse. Once shoots appear, cut these and strike them as cuttings in a bright, humid and warm environment. Early cuttings taken now often bloom later the first season.
Gladioli can be planted now wherever freezing weather has finished and the ground is draining well and warming. They prefer loose, open soil that is rich but always drains thoroughly. They prefer full sunshine and need protection from strong winds. Staking is often necessary as blooms often become top-heavy and snap during stormy weather right at blooming time. To induce earlier blooms, a gladioli bed can be covered with a sheet of clear plastic or polycarbonate sheeting. Weigh it down so that it does not come loose in strong winds. This will allow strong sunlight and heat to warm the soil and speed shoot development. Once shoots emerge, remove the sheeting so growth is not distorted. Early planting often helps overcome the problem of Gladioli rust. Gladioli rust can be controlled with the application of an appropriate systemic fungicide. Unfortunately, in New Zealand, most of the most effective ones have now been eliminated from public sale by government interference.
Fruiting and Ornamental Species: Brambles and Canes, Shrubs, Trees, Vines:
Complete the Winter planting of bare root deciduous fruit, nut and ornamental shrubs and trees; also Roses, fruiting brambles and canes plus vines. Container specimens of all sorts can be successfully planted now through Spring. Bare-root specimens can be planted successfully up until the time when early flower and leaf buds begin to open. Even after that they will sometimes survive transplanting but may require additional and frequent misting and watering combined with foliar feeding to get them established.
Cymbidium Orchids and many (sub) tropical Orchid species and varieties should be showing signs of buds or flowering. Give them a light but regular feeding each week with a complete soluble plant food made specifically for flowering. This will be one high in Phosphorous and Potassium with somewhat less Nitrogen.
Orchid bud spikes can be very brittle, especially during cold damp weather. Be very careful when moving them or working amongst their growth as just one sharp jolt can instantly snap off a year’s worth of flowering growth! Be sure to carefully and gently stake each spike securely as even its full weight when overloaded with flowers can cause fragile stems to bend or break.
Keep a vigilant watch and guard emerging Orchid bud spikes against attack by Caterpillar, Slugs and Snails which can disfigure blooms with a single bite. Unlike many other flowering plants, most Orchid buds emerge naked without protection of the petals as the bud itself is made of the closed petals. Thus even the slightest damage to any bud results in permanent disfigurement of the opening bloom.
Orchid plants that refuse to flower can sometimes be coaxed to produce buds or earlier flowers by liquid feeding using a formula high in Phosphorous and Potash in luke-warm water. Orchids with dark, glossy green leaves that remain non-flowering are possibly growing in too dark a position. Move the Orchid to a brighter and warmer position in stronger morning sunshine or dappled light but avoid scalding sunshine. When sunlight is too strong, leaves may be stunted, yellowish green or display obvious spots of scalding on their most exposed surfaces. When Orchid plants are too dry, hot and sunny, they often produce, small, weak foliage that slowly declines. Water only moderately on mild, sunny days preferably in the morning. This provides time for plants to dry out before falling night temperatures can chill them.
After the New Moon (15 August), start pruning to shape Conifers, hedges and ornamental shrubs, trees and vines.  Avoid heavy pruning of Spring flowering species laden with flower buds or lose their blooms. Complete pruning of fruit trees and vines (especially Grapes) before signs of new growth, otherwise rising sap can “bleed” through wounds weakening the plant.
Encourage the Birds:
Birds begin nesting now so encourage them to stay with regular feeding and shelter.  While some nest in trees many prefer the tangle of large shrubs or thick hedges, while others choose the eaves of a house, shed or special nesting boxes. Whatever site is chosen, it must be predator-proof and out of extremes of inclement weather. A regular source of food and water is essential. Many Birds are protein feeders so need access to cultivated, open beds or compost piles to find worms plus will gladly strip the garden of unwanted aphids, beetles, caterpillars and other insects. Many will be grateful for extra feeding as chicks begin to grow. Providing Finch and Sunflower seed or a mixed Bird seed will be a great help. They also enjoy fat or suet which can be mixed with seed and made into cakes or hung in mesh bags. Many will enjoy bread and Silvereyes enjoy banana. Even the common Sparrow can eat a tremendous number of insects in a single day. This insures a cleaner garden and eliminates the need for insecticidal spraying.
To encourage New Zealand native birds and introduced species to remain in your garden, plant dense groves of shrubs and trees. The thicker the tangle, the better as this protects them from predation by Cats and to some degree from rodents. Planting flowering species filled with nectar (Abutilon, Callistemon, Cherry and most New Zealand native species) will also entice them to remain in your garden. Some birds eat fruit and almost all eat insects.
Watch Your Back!
Snails also begin to breed with the milder conditions. So be prepared! Slugs and Snails can destroy emerging seedlings, shoots and an entire crop overnight. Start laying baits now in “safe” places so only Snails eat it! These pests will be become especially active during balmy and mild evenings after rain. Almost all of them are out during the evening light around the three Spring Full Moons. The next Full Moon is (18 August) is an essential time to have baits in place everywhere and catch most of the adult population before they can breed a new generation. If this opportunity is missed, legions of tiny Slugs and Snails may be an unfortunate reality for the remainder of the growing season. Be sure to hide baits from Birds and pets and pick up Slug and Snail carcasses immediately before they are eaten and so poison the unsuspecting
Ants and Aphids begin to appear as the weather moderates. Before they spread, plant cloves of Garlic nearby ant nests or wherever aphids appear on plants. The smell offends them and they will often retreat. Aphids can easily be eliminated by pinching and squashing with the fingers or sprayed with any number of insecticides as well as simple soapy water.
Fungal attack and the spread of blights, disease and rot will become widespread if conditions remain mild but excessively cloudy and damp. Spraying with an appropriate fungicide or Copper spray may be necessary.
Prune and Shape:
Roses, deciduous fruit/ornamental/nut shrubs and trees, hedges, vines plus brambles and canes are ideally pruned and shaped now before new growth begins. As much as 1/3-1/2 of old growth can be removed without significantly reducing the impeding harvest but removing too much can reduce this year’s flowering and crops. Anything likely to become diseased as the season progresses should be sprayed now to avoid contamination later in the season.
Lightly prune Feijoa, Passion Fruit and Tamarillo now. This is nearing the final time to prune back Grape and many other fruiting shrubs and trees without the risk of sap bleeding.
Conifers, Broad-leafed Evergreens and most plant species native to Australia, the Mediterranean, New Zealand and South Africa can also be pruned and shaped. The exceptions are those that produce flower buds at their growing tips like Camellia, Daphne, Leucadendron, Pieris japonica, Protea and Rhododendron, etc. There is no problem pruning these also, especially if they need corrective shaping, but some Spring flowers will be removed. Anything pruned now will tend produce abundant   and bushy new growth rather quickly.

This Second Week in the Late Winter Garden:

week one - week two - week three - week four
augdir2012-04-230x153Signs of Spring in Nature will continue to awaken as this week’s Waxing Lunar Cycle (Crescent Moon increasing in brightness and size in the evening sky) brightens to its First Quarter Moon (11 August) and then enters the Full Waxing Moon Cycle that completes the week.
Weather permitting; this could be an excellent week for planting and sowing a variety of hardy flowers and vegetables that produce crops above ground.

This is an ideal for planting and starting:
Brambles and Canes, Conifers, Hedges, Shrubs and Trees, Roses, Vines and an expanding number of annual and perennials flowers plus many vegetable crops.  This Cycle continues up to the Full Moon (18 August).
What to Plant:
Conditions will be very similar to last week, only potentially better. Continue to plant hardy annual and perennial flowers and vegetables. Also try and complete the planting of all bare root brambles and canes; fruit and nut trees and fruiting shrubs plus vines; ornamental shrubs, trees and vines; Roses; Strawberries; broad leafed evergreens; conifers; most hardy species native to Australia, the Mediterranean, New Zealand, South Africa and the West Coast regions of North and South America; Lilies and wide range of Summer-flowering bulbs (under shelter); groundcovers and a wide range of container-grown plants that are hardy. Guard everything against late freezes and damaging winds.
Flowers to plant and sow:
Plant and sow an ever-expanding range of hardy Annuals, Biennials and Perennials. Seed will need extra shelter, warmth and protection from cold nights to germinate successfully. Advanced seedlings will transplant easily now, but may need some protection should weather become inclement.
Plant and Sow:
Acrolinium, Alyssum, Arctotis, Aster, Calendula, California Poppy, Carnation, Coneflower, Cornflower, Dianthus, Gaillardia, Godetia, Hollyhock, Larkspur, Nigella, Rudbeckia, Phlox, Poppies, Strawflower, Sunflower, Sweat Pea, Viscaria and hundreds more.
Tender Summer and Autumn Flowers:
Frost tender Summer annuals and perennials can also be started from seed in a sheltered and constantly warm positions. A heated glasshouse is preferred but a sunny windowsill might do.  In the warmest climate zones this might be outdoors. In cooler subtropical and temperate climates, possibly start them in a cloche, cold frame or nursery shelter.  Whatever position is chosen must have very bright light, preferable significant hours of direct sunlight otherwise, seedlings will draw and stretch; becoming very weak and are unlikely to transplant well or produce healthy and productive plants.
Tender Summer Flowers to Sow Now include:
Ageratum, Amaranthus, Begonias, Dahlia, Celosia, Cleome, Coleus, Geranium, Gerbera, Gloxinia, tender Herbs like Basil and Coriander (Cilantro), Impatiens, Marigolds, Petunias, Rudbeckia, Salvia, Sunflowers, Tithonia, Zinnia and many more.
While many of these tender Summer flower and vegetable seedlings will be available in many garden centres and nurseries, do not be seduced to buy them unless your garden is extremely sheltered or you have protective cloches, a glasshouse or sunroom. These seedlings have been started in a heated nursery environment. They must be acclimatized and hardened-off over several weeks before they will be ready for planting outdoors. If planted out now they will almost certainly collapse soon after transplanting outdoors. It is still too early in the growing season to risk planting out warm season treasures!
Vegetables hardy enough to plant outdoors now include:
Asparagus (crowns), Horseradish (crowns), Rhubarb (crowns); Beets, Broad Beans, Broccoli, Cabbages, Carrot, Cauliflower, Celery, Celeriac, Chives, Garlic, Herbs (also divide and replant established clumps), Kohlrabi, leaf Lettuce, Mustard, Onions and Shallots, Parsley, Parsnip, Peas (excellent time to sow), Potato, Radish, Silverbeet, Swede and Turnip.  
Exhibition Root Crops:
Mid week onward would be an excellent time to sow the seed of exhibition root crops, especially Beet Root, Carrot and Parsnip, Swede and Turnip. Make sure soil is light and sandy and the seed remains only lightly moist and warm. With any luck, germination will occur somewhere around the Full Moon (18 August). This way the emerging seedlings will have full benefit of the entire Waning Moon Cycle that is critically important to establishing the longest possible length and eventually breadth of these root vegetables.
Tender Summer Vegetables:
Tender Vegetables to sow with heat and shelter include: Asparagus seed, Beans, Cape Gooseberry, Capsicum, Choko, Cucumber, Eggplant, Heading Head Lettuce, Herbs, Marrow, Melons, Okra, Pumpkin and Squash, Rhubarb (seed), Tomato and much more.
Most hardy cool-season vegetables will also germinate more quickly when started with bottom heat (heating cables) along with the tender Summer Vegetables.  For successful germination and growth, these tender seedlings must stay quite warm 20C/68F degrees or warmer air/soil temperature combined with high levels of light so that they do not stretch. If (far) less than ideals conditions are impossible to duplicate and the weather remains dull and wintry, delay sowing such tender plantings until real Spring-like conditions arrive.
When using artificial ‘gro’ lights, make sure the lamps are suspended quite close to the seed tray. This will ensure that there is a sufficiently high level of ultraviolet radiation needed to keep young seedlings growing as if they were outdoors in full sunshine. Emerging seedlings must not draw and stretch upward due to insufficient light. If they do, they will weaken and ultimately most of them will fail.
If seed of hardy or tender annuals and vegetables are sown now, seedlings will be ready in six, eight or ten weeks to transplant for Mid Spring and Summer gardens.
Predators are Waiting!
Full Moon is approaching, air is warming and damp, humid conditions are common now. These are all ideal conditions for the emergence of Slugs and Snails. Many of them will be the mature adults that have been hibernating throughout the Winter months.
Guard against Slugs and Snails now! The first warm days of Late Winter and Early Spring is when they come out of hibernation in cooler climates. Almost immediately they will begin to feed then breed. They are especially attracted to emerging shoots, young seedlings, the blooms and buds of winter-flowering annuals and perennials, plus tender foliage.     
Slug and especially Snail activity reaches a peak as the Moon Waxes to the Full Moon in Late Winter (mild climates) then each of the following Spring months Full Moon periods. Eliminating mature Slugs and Snails completely early in the season before they can breed also eliminates an entire growing season of predation. If ever they are allowed to breed and multiply, the garden is likely to be plagued with their predation nearly the entire year, so act quickly now! Baby Slugs and Snails are often hard to find and too small to be able to eat poisoned baits so they can rapidly ruin floral displays.
The lesson is to bait for Slugs and Snails now before they begin to breed. Eliminating breeding adults now reduces the infestation of hungry babies once weather warms. Hide baits or cover baits and remove carcasses daily so Birds, Hedgehogs and treasured Pets are not poisoned. Be very generous with baiting now over a wide area. The idea here is to eliminate every mature Slug and Snail as early in the season as possible.
Grafting and Pruning:
Late Winter is an ideal month to graft and prune Fruit, Nut, Ornamental Shrubs, Trees, Roses, Brambles and Canes as well as Vines.
In mild and moderate subtropical and temperate climates where early signs of Spring are obvious, this is an ideal time to prune and shape conifers and hedges in anticipation of Spring growth. This pruning can be relatively severe as there remains an entire growing season to establish beautiful and strong regrowth.
In cold climates where severe freezing is still likely, leave this job until temperatures moderate. This way tender inner growth will not be exposed to cold extremes.
Hydrangeas can be cut back to strong buds and remove damaged, diseased and weak growth.  Mulch the shrubs with aged compost/manure plus general plant food. For bluer shaded flowers soil around the shrubs must remain acidic (low pH below 6.5). To lower soil pH generously dust the surrounding soil with: Alum; Aluminium Sulphate, and/or an Acid Fertilizer or else some other form of Aluminium. Next to low soil pH, Aluminium is the most important element to create blue shades.
Red and pink shades are created by lifting soil pH. Garden Lime added around the shrubs will produce pink and red shades. Navy shades can sometimes be created by adding both Aluminium sulphate and Lime.

Spring-Flowering Bulbs: 
As Spring bulbs emerge from the soil feed with dry or liquid bulb food or slow release fertiliser around (but never into) the crown shoots. If dry fertilizer settles within the emerging foliage wash this out to avoid burning tender foliage or emerging buds. This is most important when bulbs are grown in pots to enhance bloom quality.  This feeding also helps to strengthen bulbs grown in the ground that will then ultimately increase bulb size and health for next year’s display.
Refrigerated Spring-flowering bulbs, can still be planted into pots or beds outdoors, but should be completed within the next few weeks. This works particularly well when growing Tulips in mild subtropical climates. Dependent upon variety, refrigerated Tulips usually begin flowering approximately six weeks after planting.  Staggering their planting over several weeks will produce a much longer display of these flowering treasures.
Bulb Floral Ideas:
Spring bulbs in pots can be brought indoors to encourage a succession of early blooms. There they will be protected from freezing nights, pelting rain and hail. Place in a bright position with mild days and cool nights. Regularly but only lightly water and liquid feed. Excessive feeding and watering will result to soft, tall growth that will flop and be harder to manage. Flowering lasts much longer in bright, unheated rooms that always remain quite cool, especially at night.
Once flowering finishes give them a light dressing of Bulb Fertiliser sprinkled over the top of the potting soil and/or liquid feed. Keep all fertilizers out of the crotches of leaves or else chemical burning might result. Move these pots outdoors to a sunny spot so foliage can ripen naturally and die off before storing in a cool dry place. Alternatively, pots of early flowering Crocus, Hyacinth, Narcissus, and Tulip can remain outdoors after flowering protected in sunny corners where foliage can naturally mature. Once foliage completely withers and dies away, the bulbs can be removed and stored in bags or flats. Or the bulbs can remain in a completely dried state in their pots that are stored in a cool, dry corner to remain dormant until ready to repot the following Autumn.
Bulbs to Plant:  
Acidanthera, Agapanthus, Canna, Crinum, Dahlia, Eucomis (Pineapple Lily), Galtonia (Cape Hyacinth), Gladioli, Hippeastrum (Amaryllis), Hymenocallis (Ismene), Lilies, Montbretia (Crocosmia), Nerine, Sprekelia, Tuberose,  Vallota (Scarborough Lily), Watsonia, Zantedeschia /Arum and much more.
In mild climates these are easily started now (and for several months to come) in freely-draining, warm soil outdoors. Wherever soil remains cold and soggy, leave this job until conditions have dried out and warmed up. Tender warm-season bulbs easily chill and rot in cold, wet ground.                                                                             
Alternatively, start these in small containers in a bright and warm location. Many can even be started indoors. Once weather warms sufficiently, these can be carefully transplanted out from containers into their final position in the garden.
Complete planting of Lilies as soon as possible. This gives them a long season to develop strong roots for better shoots and flowering. Guard carefully against Slug and Snail damage to emerging shoots. The entire plant and its blooms are contained within this shoot. So if it is eaten off there goes the plant.
If the bulbs are placed in refrigeration they can remain there for quite some time to retard their flowering date. This works very well with Christmas Lilies (Lilium longiflorum) if the goal is to have them flowering near the Christmas holidays. Otherwise, if planted now they most likely will bloom in Early Summer.
In mild climates, start the first outdoor beds of Gladioli. When started now in cool weather, corms take up to 100-120 days from planting to flowering. Warm Spring and Summer plantings take as little as 90 days to flower. Stagger planting for a continuous show. Earliest plantings of these spectacular tender corms can be brought into faster growth by covering the bed with a sheet of clear roofing plastic or glasshouse plastic or a cloche.                                                                      
Continue dividing established clumps of Perennials and planting new stock from containers. This is also a very good time to sow their seed. Some might bloom this Summer and Autumn; almost all will flower within a year or two. Also plant a wide variety of groundcovers.
Hardy Ferns are best planted or shifted now before new growth begins. Old foliage can be cut back at the same time. This is the best time to divide a replant them before new fiddleheads emerge and unfurl their new Spring plumage. Ferns are planted at the same depth or just a fraction deeper being sure that the crown stays above the ground. Water should drain away rather than collect around the crown which often leads to rot. Most Ferns prefer an organically rich soil that holds moisture but where the excess drains away i.e. a woodland (peaty) soil is ideal. Avoid anything heavy and mucky or planting directly into strong compost. Many hardy Ferns can tolerate considerable sunshine but usually perform best in moist and sheltered morning sun positions or dappled high shade.
Shrubs, Trees & Vines:
Continue planting and also pruning Bramble and Cane Fruits, Fruit Shrubs and Trees, and Fruiting Vines, also Ornamental Shrubs and Trees. This is also an excellent time to plant or shift: Azalea, Camellia, Conifers, Daphne, hardy Broad-Leafed Evergreens like Pieris japonica, Rhododendrons and Roses. Most hardy species native to Australia, the Mediterranean, New Zealand and South Africa can be planted now. This is also the best time to attempt to shift and transplant established plants of these species
Established plantings of these can also be fed and most can be pruned. The exceptions are Spring-flowering species. While it does not damage the plant when pruned now, their Spring flowering may be greatly reduced. If possible prune these immediately after flowering. Pruning in Spring and especially now during this Waxing Moon Cycle is an ideal time as new growth will almost certainly be forthcoming. Thus this is perhaps the never best time of the year to prune back severely. This will stimulate new growth and can often refurbish an old, tired planting or produce lush, new soft growth on older woody specimens.
Citrus & Subtropicals:
In mild climates wherever danger of severe frosts has passed and the soil is warming, workable and freely draining begin planting Citrus and hardy subtropical species provided the growing environment in sheltered and warm. This should be limited to container-grown specimens where little if any root damage will occur. Most can also be repotted, especially when grown in a sheltered glasshouse environment. If soil remains cold and damp wait a while longer yet, especially when shifting established subtropicals.
Lawns can be fed and sown wherever soil is workable. If winter rains have compacted the ground they would also benefit from aeration with a garden fork, heavy metal rake, spike aerator or similar machine or tool. This opens the land to air and evaporation while roughening the soil. Grass seed will settle into these spots and germinate quickly.

If water is settling in patches and not draining away quickly, generously spread Gypsum Lime over the area and water it in lightly. Over several months the colloidal action of the Gypsum will open the heavy soil and allow it to drain much more efficiently. Spreading Gypsum or Garden Lime over green and mossy lawns is a good way to elevate soil pH and eliminate the moss and slime.
For those who prefer a lawn substitute this is a good time to start planting plugs and sowing seed of Dichondra and Lawn Chamomile. Be sure to select not the annual herb Chamomile used to make herbal tea but the perennial Roman or Lawn Chamomile (Chamaemelum nobile). Chamomile prefers a fairly sunny and freely draining site. Dichondra will live in most soil types in sun or partial shade.
Nature’s Signs:
Nature produces signs that tell us when it is appropriate to perform various jobs in the garden. The way to know when it is safe to plant warm season crops and flower in the ground; or when the soil is warm enough to successfully plant or shift subtropical species is easy to determine.
Natures’ signal that the ground is warm enough for warm weather planting and sowing is when most deciduous trees (especially Jacaranda or Oaks) have leafed out. The classic sign for planting truly Tomato and other truly tender Summer crops into open garden beds is when the Pin Oaks leaf out.
Garden Maintenance:
Cultivate: Cultivating beds lightly but frequently not only eliminates seedling weeds but aerates the soil and exposes bacteria and fungus spores to ultraviolet sunlight radiation which quickly kills them and greatly helps to ‘sterilize’ the soil.
Compost and Feed:
This is an excellent time to compost and feed the garden. Now is an ideal time to weed and dig over the beds; adding compost, fertilizer in anticipation of future planting. Dig deeply and add compost, manures, dolomite, general foods to beds in preparation for Spring flowers & vegetables.      
Compost is by far the best soil conditioner. Commercial compost is very beneficial. Wise Gardeners make their own from whatever has come off their land. This way they are recycling everything back into the ground to replenish the soil most perfectly.
Standard Top Dressing:
Top Dressing is a layer of enriched soil spread evenly over a garden bed. Here is a simple formula to make the ‘best’ traditional top-dressing. Start with one standard bucket of dry mature compost or well aged manure.  When growing Cacti, desert plants, succulents and other species requiring perfect drainage a very freely draining old potting mix and/or sand can be substituted for the compost.
Add to this and mix well, one cup of a good quality balanced commercial General Garden Fertiliser (4-4-4; 10-10-10; 20-20-20 or similar NPK ratio).  Alternatively consider using a commercial Slow Release Fertiliser, special Bulb Food or balanced General Garden Plant Food.  The ratio does not have to be exact. When growing specialist crops and flowers it is best to tailor the NPK ratio to meet the requirements of that plant species.
This mix can be used to feed (top-dress) around emerging Spring-flowering bulbs, Winter-blooming flowers, and advancing perennials plus newly planted annuals, ground-covers, and vegetables. It is also very effective when spread as mulch around brambles and cane plus ornamental shrubs and trees. Once spread the mix can be lightly watered-in or left for rainfall to start leaching the minerals into the soil.
Lime is neutral to alkaline in pH i.e. 7.0 or higher. Lime brings essential Calcium to the soil. Lime is to a plant what milk is to a baby: Calcium to build healthy and strong tissue and bone. Lime can also be used to kill odours and is often used as a light spread over rank compost and manure piles.
Many Spring garden annuals, bulbs and perennials respond well to applications of Lime. Persistent Winter rains often lower soil pH making it acid and ‘sour’.  That can make the soil green and mossy. This can adversely affect the growth of some plant varieties and lawns.  It can even turn pink Hydrangeas blue.
  • Liverwort and mosses are commonly associated with an acid (low pH) soil.
  • Dusting over mossy, sour wet soil with Lime helps prevent fungal attack and raises soil pH thus ‘sweetening’ the soil. Lime dusting works on mossy lawns as well as flower and vegetable beds.
  • To best feed plantings in acid low pH ‘sour’ soils, add up to one cup powdered Garden Lime or Dolomag or Dolomite to one-bucket of compost/manure/fertilser mix.
  • Spread this around the garden as a top dressing. This will soon elevate soil pH and improve growth. Usually one or two buckets of this blended enriched earth can be added and mixed into each square meter of garden bed.
  • Alternatively, Lime can be dusted directly over the garden soil then watered in lightly or left for rain to drench it into the land.
Caution with Lime!  
Some plants are damaged by Lime. Avoid Lime on all acid-loving plant species like Azalea, Camellia, Daphne, Rhododendron, Blueberry and Bramble or Cane Fruits and also Lilies that naturally prefer acid pH soils. Also remember that a single dusting of lime can result in blue-flowering Hydrangeas turning pink or pale mauve.
The solution:
Add essential Calcium to strength the health of acid-loving plants, instead of Garden Lime, substitute Gypsum or Dolomite Lime. These forms of Lime have a lower average pH closer to neutral 7.0. Gypsum Lime also breaks up heavy clay soils allowing air and water to penetrate more effectively.
Not all Gardeners are prepared to spray anything toxic around the gardens or homes. Who can blame them? Such conditions can greatly stress plants as it can for us. Once plant health is compromised by stress, disease and related bacterial and fungal problems can spread quickly if conditions remain inclement into the Spring growing season. So if weather remains excessively cold and frosty, persistently cloudy and/or excessively damp and wet, be prepared to spray with a full spectrum fungicide/insecticide for all vulnerable plantings or expect some losses.
The alternative can be to use organic sprays of liquid or powdered copper mixed with spraying oil. A liquid fertilizer can be added to boost early growth and improve plant health. Garden plants suffering from blight or rust sometimes respond to light dustings of Lime. But be cautious to not apply Lime anywhere near to acid pH loving plants. Additionally, frequent light cultivation combined with feeding and extra shelter can also help.

This Third Week in the Late Winter Garden:

week one - week two - week three - week four
augdir2012-08-230x153This week could be very promising for gardening with every day offering the opportunity to do something different. The beginning of the week brings some of the finest days in the Full Waxing Moon Cycle that will be especially good for planting flowers, ornamentals, fruits and nuts plus all hardy vegetable crops. The Full Moon (18 August) marks the lunar midpoint of Late Winter as we head toward Early Spring.  Some of the best planting days in the Waning Moon Cycle dominate the end of the week and continue on for the remainder of the month. 

The Waning Moon Cycle enhances root development. It is the ideal time to plant anything needing a strong root system. This includes all bare-root and container-grown deciduous and evergreen groundcovers, shrubs, trees and vines including native plantings and landscapes in extreme locations (coastal, dry). Plant or sow hardy flowers and vegetables, especially root crops and those with a tap root or extensive root system; also hardy bulbs, roots and tubers.
The weather could be a challenge as the Moon reaches full ascension in Southern Hemisphere skies on the 14th and then starts sweeping north. As it does, the lunar gravitational tide is liable to draw up a fetch of Antarctic air and turbulence. Winter is not over yet! Inclement wintry weather may still persist especially in the coldest exposed regions for some time to come. Even in warm districts, late cold snaps and wintry storms are common near the end of Winter and can quickly reduce precious early blooms to pulp if left unprotected. Be prepared to protect sensitive plants from the ravages of inclement Late Winter weather.
Be Guided by Nature’s Signs:
This week will be important to watch for Nature’s ‘signs’. The calendar would suggest that wintry conditions should persist. The lunar placement could even see weather conditions worsen this week and into next. If the worst doesn’t occur, this suggests that the Earth is so warmed by the recent El Nino that most likely we are heading for an Early Spring.
A Time of Preparation:
Choose your activities wisely to suit the weather. Late Winter is an important time of preparation for the growing season ahead. The most successful Spring gardens are often early planted and prepared during the Winter months. Late Winter being one of the most important times to plant and prepare before flowering and growth begins. This way everything has a chance to become established before true Spring weather arrives. Much can be accomplished when the weather is benevolent. Alternatively, sometimes the easiest days for transplanting seedlings into their final flowering position is during cloudy and damp weather. But avoid planting anything tender or potentially vulnerable (especially seedlings) if chilling or damaging winds, heavy frost or freezing might soon ensue as this might exhaust the young plants, causing them to collapse.
Inclement weather can be a good excuse to rest, but those days are also a great opportunity to accomplish other essential tasks. Inventory and purchase necessary supplies now for when you will need them later. Included here are drainage materials like pumice and sand for potting and seeding, fertilisers, machinery, potting soils, seeds, sprays, stakes, tools, twine, etc.                                                          
Dreaming, planning and research are important activities also very well suited to inclement weather.  A classic garden almost never ‘just happens’; there is almost always a basic plan that stands as the foundation upon which all other planting is built. This is the time to research how to best grow any new additions to the garden and also explore the reasons why something failed so it doesn’t happen again. Scan through garden books, internet sites, magazines and pictures to pick up inspirational and practical ideas to apply to this year’s garden. Be sure to record what you like in a diary or journal so those inspirational moments are remembered and can become creative ideas in your garden.
Get Out There Whenever You Can!
Wherever soil is warming and/or workable, cultivate and remove all weeds. For special exhibition flower and vegetable beds, spread compost and aged manure, and mix in General Garden Fertilizer into all beds meant for later plantings of Spring/Summer flowers and vegetables. Hardy native groundcovers, shrubs and trees may require much less enriching depending on the quality of soil into which they are being planted.                                                                                                                     
The total volume of soil additives (compost; aged-manures; buckets of soil enriched with fertilizers and/or general plant foods, Lime, Sulphur, etc.) should amount upwards of 2-3 buckets total per square meter to beds in preparation for Spring flowers and especially vegetables. As a general rule one cup of fertilizer is the maximum allowable per standard size bucket of compost or earth. Clay or heavy loam soil can be lightened with the addition of pumice, sand and Gypsum Lime.
Whenever possible, dig deeply; and mix all these soil enriching additives evenly from top to bottom throughout the soil. Then leave the bed(s) to “cure” for at least one week before planting.
Green manure cover crops are dug in now, too. Usually the green crop is cut down into small pieces before being turned under the soil. On larger acreages a plough is used and the soil is left rough to cure for at least several weeks before the surface is prepared for planting.
Whenever Lime or Gypsum is being added to the soil, it is best to spread this separately from other fertilisers, especially General Garden Fertiliser and any sort of Phosphate. Lime can interact with Phosphates transforming them into inert or solid compounds that can remain unavailable to the plants growing there. So as a general precaution when spreading either fertiliser or Lime over the soil, allow at least a week between spreading either of them and water them in thoroughly.
If the land is being dug deeply or not, cultivate garden beds frequently to maintain aeration. Even well-mulched ‘no-dig’ beds should be gone over carefully. Fluff up the mulch and cultivate-in the most rotted parts back into the ground to help replenish the soil.
Remove weeds as soon as they germinate. Weeds that grew slowly over the Winter months are famous for rocketing ahead very suddenly now that Spring is on the way. Any weed that reaches maturity will quickly produce hundreds of off spring that can plague the garden throughout the growing season ahead. Being extra diligent now can eliminate many hours of back-breaking weeding later.
A Great Time for Seed Sowing:
Seed for the gardens ahead can be best sown under cover. Commercial Growers and those wishing to get an impressive head start on the season should be raising a wide range of Late Spring, Summer and Autumn bedding plants, flowers, perennials and vegetables now. A heated glasshouse with bottom heat (heating cables) is best. Home Gardeners can do the same thing with cloches, cold frames, portable glasshouses, indoors in the sunroom, or a very sheltered corner outdoors.
For best success, it is essential to sow all seed into consistently warm soil in full sunlight into an enriched soil mix that is very free draining but also with some moisture retention. Sowing seed into a thin layer of fine sand scattered over the seed raising mix helps insure that seed does not rot should it ever become overly chilly and damp. Seed and seedlings must be sheltered completely from chilling drafts but also demand good air circulation to avoid fungus and rot. Light liquid feeding with every watering insures maximum growth.
Some Commercial Growers also add a (systemic) insecticide and fungicide to the water to insure strongest plant health.  Organic powdered Copper and/or Sulphur will work almost as well to help control troublesome bacteria blights and fungal infections like Damp-Off fungus.
Of greatest importance is full sunlight or its equivalent. This will keep seedlings healthy and stocky. Once a young seedling stretches to reach the light, it is permanently weakened and may collapse or will possibly not transplant very well later. Stretched seedlings seldom grow into healthy and strong plants.
Established hardy bedding plants can be set out wherever the danger of heavy frost or freezing has passed. Otherwise be prepared to cover the bed with protective frost cloth or clear plastic to shelter the young plants.  
What to Plant and Sow
See Week One and Two for a large list of flowers to plant or sown now.
Vegetables to Plant:
This is a good time to plant Broccoli, Cabbages, Cauliflower, early Potato and Peas. Also start Garlic, all sorts of Onions, plus Shallots. Many other hardy vegetables can be started now like: Beets, Carrot, Celery, Cress, Parsnip, Silverbeet, Spinach and most tender warm-season crops under glass with extra bottom heat. See Week One and Two for a list of Tender Summer Vegetables to start now. Sow the seed of exhibition root crops all week. Plant and sow leafy vegetables and those that produce their crops above the ground early in the week up until the Full Moon (18 August).
This is an ideal time to divide and transplant established and new perennials. This gives them plenty of time to develop an adequate root system before the rigours of the growing season ahead.  Perennials that can be divided, planted and/or transplanted now include: Japanese Anemone, Asters, Chrysanthemum, Hostas, Shasta and Michaelmas Daisy, Japanese Iris, Hemerocallis (Daylily), Perennial Phlox, Rudbeckia, Solidago and most perennials. This is an ideal time to plant literally hundreds of different varieties of perennials and many groundcovers, too. See Week One and Two for discussion and lists of perennials that should be planted or sown now.
Bulbs, Corms, Roots and Tubers:
Tuberous Begonias could be started now (and throughout the Spring) in light, fluffy potting soil or sand/peat mix in a bright, constantly warm and humid spot out of cold drafts. It is best to allow the tubers to start sprouting first before planting them out in containers or the garden. While it is possible to just set them out in a protected spot much like starting Potatoes, they sprout faster when placed in slightly moist peat, potting mix, sphagnum or vermiculite in flats or small pots. Warm air and soil hastens growth. If a glasshouse or sunroom is unavailable, a bright morning sun window sill is often an ideal spot. Once sprouted let them grow on in individual containers or in flats for later transplanting once weather is thoroughly warm. Later once new growth and shoots are well established 5cm/2inch high or a little more, they can be potted-on or planted in beds outdoors or place in the glasshouse for a showy summer display. Tuberous Begonias dislike chilling drafts and cold, damp soil so plant them outdoors only once all danger of frost has passed and weather is mild.
Divide and/or (re)plant:
Agapanthus, Canna, Dahlia, Gladioli, Hippeastrum, Nerine, Tuberose, Vallota, Zantedeschia/Arum/Calla, Zephyranthes and many others. See week One and Two for discussions and lists of more things to plant now.
Spring flowering bulbs in pots should be well advanced now. Keep in a bright, cool, sheltered spot and maintain even but light watering. Avoid overwatering that could result in leggy growth or even rotting. Never allow freezing or frost to contact the plants especially as they reach budding and flowering stages. Do not let pots dry out but always keep them on the dry side to keep growth compact! Feed occasionally with a liquid plant food, or very lightly with each watering, or sprinkle a small amount of slow release around the potting soil. Bulbs produce bigger blooms when supplied with additional Phosphorous and become stronger and multiply with extra Potassium. This is very important while in active growth and especially right after flowering to stimulate regrowth of the bulb for next year’s flowering.

Anemone and Ranunculus:
Anemone and Ranunculus can respond dramatically to liquid feeding. Commercial Growers feed lightly with a special flowering liquid fertiliser high in Phosphorous and Potash at each watering. When grown in pots, liquid feed into the saucer. When liquid feeding outdoors, water around each plant rather into their crowns which could result in crown rot. Morning to early afternoon feeding/watering on mild, sunny days is the most effective. Avoid cloudy, damp or cold days and late afternoon or early evening feeding and watering as this may not be pulled up into the plant satisfactorily and might even result in rot. Fertiliser used to feed African Violet, Azalea, Roses or Tomato is usually a reasonable choice when feeding bulbs. Once buds start to appear liquid fertilise at least once a week. This will make larger more double blooms on longer stems and increases the flowering period.
Perfect drainage is essential for top quality Anemone and Ranunculus flowers and healthy, large plants. Avoid heavy wet soils and over watering. Remember that these are hybrids of wildflowers native to the Mediterranean meadow regions with nearly arid climates. Grow in full sun with very good air flow. One of Anemone’s common names is ‘Wind Poppy’ and they do well in airy, open positions. They notoriously fail in close, damp, humid situations with poor air circulation or any shading and are often damaged or lost during extended periods of persistent wet weather.
After flowering finishes, let the plants naturally fade, wither and dry off; then harvest and store their dried corms and tuberous roots in boxes, flats, paper bags or dry sand/soil until it is time for Autumn replanting. It is also acceptable to leave them in their pots in a completely dry state stored somewhere rather cool and dark until ready to repot for new growth in the Autumn.
Orchids that appear are over-crowded, weak or fail to flower can be divided and repotted now. Feed Orchids regularly; especially Cymbidium, Dendrobium, Oncidium and all others entering a bud stage using a special Orchid ‘flowering’ formula high in both Phosphorous and Potassium..
Coastal Sites and Difficult Plantings:
This is the best time to tackle difficult planting sites. Coastal plantings and those in extremely dry and windy sites can be planted now while conditions remain cool and damp. With any luck there will be at least a couple months ahead of relatively benevolent conditions. Planting now takes advantage of this. This will insure stronger root development which will be better able to withstand Summer drought and winds. Make sure that soil is deeply dug and enriched; everything is well-watered-in at planting and thoroughly staked and/or protected from dry and windy extremes. The best time for planting is a day or so ahead of anticipated rainfall.
Avoid planting, pruning or working the land while it is raining or the ground is saturated with water. This often results in compacted soil that can transform into something like brick once it dries out. Pruning during wet weather is a classic way to quickly spread disease and fungus from one plant to another.
Dormant Plantings:
Complete the planting of all deciduous species as soon as possible. Most important are deciduous bare-root Roses, ornamental and fruiting shrubs, trees and vines plus all bare-root brambles and cane fruits. These species all need time to develop a strong enough root system to sustain them once Spring growth begins. Container-grown species can be planted well into Spring and even Summer provided adequate watering can sustain them. But right now is one of the finest times of the year for successful (trans) planting of most all hardy deciduous species
Broad-Leafed and Native Plantings:
Also continue planting species native to Australia, the Mediterranean, New Zealand South Africa and West Coast North America; also Azaleas, Camellias, Conifers, Daphne, Pieris japonica, Rhododendrons most hardy evergreens both broad-leaf and needle-leafed; hardy annuals and perennials for Spring, Summer and Autumn flowering. Start planting Citrus in mild climates. All of these species that are already established can be feed as well.
This is a great time to prune broadleaf evergreens, conifers, hedges; fruit, nut and ornamental shrubs, trees, and vines.  Almost anything can be pruned to shape now or even cut back severely. When cut back during the Early Waning Moon Cycle (19-24 August), new growth is somewhat reduced and tends to stay dense and tight.
Avoid heavy pruning of Spring flowering species laden with flower buds. If possible allow them to flower and then prune them back. Whenever it is necessary to prune these shrubs consider bringing branches indoors for an early floral display. When kept in a bright and cool room, buds will begin to open quite quickly and can provide cheery colour that is especially welcome on a cold wintry day.
Fruit trees & especially Grape vines should be pruned without delay before sap begins to rise. Once buds begin to swell and especially once flowering or leafing-out begins, avoid excessive pruning of mature wood, especially on Grapes and Kiwi Fruit. This can result in rising sap ‘bleeding’ through fresh cuts that can sometimes prove detrimental to the future crop and/or health of the plant.
The best way to avoid the need for spraying is to encourage the birds to keep your garden clean. In mild districts birds begin nesting now. Encourage them to stay in your garden with regular feeding. This is especially important during inclement weather. Also provide a convenient and safe water source. Over their breeding season birds will hunt out and consume great volumes of garden insects that would otherwise damage your garden and spread diseases and fungal attacks.
Provide groves of sheltering shrubs and trees or wild thickets with enough twiggy undergrowth to discourage predators. If you prefer native birds then be sure to plant nectar-rich native shrubs and trees. Alternatively, provide cat-proof nesting boxes, with feeding stations and water nearby. Avoid laying Slug and Snail pellets in open areas where Birds might pick them up. Also quickly remove Snail carcasses as these will also be toxic to Birds and their young; plus cherished pets!
Slug and Snail Fest:
This Full Moon starts the breeding season for Slugs and Snails. This is one of the most important times of the season to guard tender emerging shoots and Winter flowers from Slug and Snail attack. This is an essential time to start placing baits as adult populations will start breeding now. Place baits around paved areas and stone walls, near dense shrubs, under inverted flower pots or boards laid against a wall, and especially within the strap-like foliage of Agapanthus, Flax and similar plant varieties where they often breed and raise their young. Put them anywhere Slugs and Snails are likely to breed and congregate but in spots difficult for Birds and pets to access.                                                           
The best opportunity to eliminate the bulk of mature adults is just as the first warm rains bring them out of hibernation. The most ideal time of the year is during the bright nights around this Full Moon (18 August) and each of the Spring Full Moons when all of them are mating. Be thorough and try to eliminate all the mature breeding pairs before they can start a new generation.
Right now these mature adults are large enough to consume the baits. They are easy targets. But any that are not killed now and breed will produce legions of tiny young that are far too small to eat the baits. Instead they will go immediately for your most treasured garden plants, especially your flowers and seedlings.
Sow and feed lawns in sheltered and sunny spots wherever ground is warming and workable. Dichondra plugs can be started now. Before sowing lawn seed it is best to heavily rake over the established lawn to remove dead thatch. Level uneven patches with top soil mixed with sand.
Aerate soggy lawns with a garden fork. Liberally dust poorly draining land with Gypsum Lime and lightly water this in to improve drainage. Sow and feed lawns with any commercial lawn fertiliser, blood and bone and/or screened compost. If soil is hard or sour (green and mossy) aerating with a garden fork and dusting with Lime or Gypsum will greatly help to maintain adequate drainage.  Many Gardeners apply the Gypsum Lime first then the Lawn Fertiliser about a week later so that when aerating with a garden fork or roller these soil additive nutrients will be driven deeper into the soil.

This Forth Week in the Late Winter Garden:

week one - week two - week three - week four
augdir2012-12-230x153Thank God! It’s the last calendar week of Winter and nearly the beginning of Spring! Signs of the season are everywhere!  This year the lunar beginning of Spring is impressively early with the New Moon arriving 1 September. True Celestial Spring comes a few weeks later with the Spring Equinox. In mild and subtropical climates the verdant season is already here, at least in sheltered spots. Even in the coldest regions where there remain many chilly weeks ahead, the signs of the new growing season are showing in warmer corners.
Full Waning Moon Cycle dominates the remainder of the month. Last Quarter Moon (25 August) shifts to the ‘Dark of the Moon’ phase (28 August) in sidereal Gemini. These are definitely not optimum planting conditions. Only hardy things are planted during the last week of the Moon cycle. Some Gardeners insist that Potatoes are best started during this week leading up to the New Moon. The ‘Dark of the Moon’ phase is when lunar gravitational forces are at their most extreme. These extremes can prove beneficial when attempting to germinate ‘difficult’ seeds. This is the busy time of advance preparations for the great growing season about to blossom.
Continue Preparations for the Busy Season Ahead:
Full Waning Moon Cycles and Dark of the Moon are often unpredictable times. This is especially true in the transition between Late Winter and Early Spring. Weather extremes are common and lunar gravitational extremes are a certainty.  So this is often an ideal opportunity to take a little time off and dream of your future gardens. Read and research about things you might like to grow. Search for pictures of gardens and plantings that inspire you. Perhaps make some designs or sketches and record all the relevant information in your garden diary and calendar.
Purchase necessary equipment, fertilisers and sprays. Included here are drainage materials like pumice and sand for potting and seeding, potting soils, sprays, stakes, tools, twine, etc.                                                          
Visit your local garden centre or do a nursery crawl and buy bulbs and seeds; annuals, perennials, fruiting and ornamental shrubs, trees and vines for later planting.
Whenever the weather is benevolent, ‘Dark of the Moon’ lunar gravitational extremes make this an excellent time for all manner of building projects; laying foundations, paving and rockwork; setting posts and building fences of stone or wood. It would be an excellent time to spread bark, compost, gravel, mulch, sand or soil and build new garden beds or refurbish old ones. Lowered water retention makes this a great time to gather and store brush; cut, split and stack firewood.
If the climate permits, this is a great time for general gardening activities like cultivating and weeding as well as fertilizing and perhaps liming garden beds and lawns. Make and turn compost piles; clear land of brush and unwanted vegetation; spray for disease, fungus and pests; liquid feed;  aerate soil/lawns and mow to keep them short; generally clean and tidy around the garden; fix and sharpen tools;
Clip, prune and shape a wide range of ground covers, hedges, shrubs, trees, vines; brambles and canes; and especially Roses. If possible, avoid pruning Spring-flowering species until after flowering. It won’t hurt them to be cut back now but it will remove their beautiful blossoms. Lightly cut, trim and tidy to correct and shape plants, shrubs and trees. Anything pruned back now tends to stay shapely for longer.
Take care of all these essential but often time-consuming jobs now. This will allow much more valuable time to focus on planting and sowing in the weeks ahead when conditions will greatly improve.
A New Season is Dawning:
Signs of Spring can be seen in many sheltered places that trap the sunlight and warmth. Plants and many creatures in Nature can sense the returning sunlight. A New Season is dawning!  Give attention to cleaning-up and planting these sunny and warm areas first.  It will be most comfortable to work in such sheltered spots. Plus new growth and successful results should be much more rapid than in shaded cooler soils. This will inspire you to make ever greater achievements as the new season begins to blossom.
What to Plant:
Waning Moon Cycles are all about root development and planting hardy dormant things needing time to develop a strong root system. This includes all bare-root and container-grown deciduous and evergreen hardy groundcovers, shrubs, trees and vines including native plantings and landscapes in extreme locations (coastal, dry). Also plant dormant Roses, dormant fruit and nut shrubs and trees; brambles and canes.
Plant or sow hardy flowers and vegetables, especially root crops and those with a tap root or extensive root system; also hardy bulbs, roots and tubers. If the weather looks good and the long range forecast appears promising, this would be an acceptable time to plant quite a wide range of dormant and hardy plantings for the growing season ahead. But avoid planting anything tender during these ‘extreme’ times.
Weather permitting, best planting days include 21-26 August (Moon in sidereal Pisces, Aries and then Taurus). Plant anything dormant and hardy with an extensive root system or tap root and needing a period of strong root development first before top growth begins This includes dormant and hardy things like bulbs, many root crop vegetables and extensive rooted vegetables including Peas and a variety of container-grown hardy groundcovers and perennials This makes a great time to plant all deciduous and bare root species like fruiting shrubs, trees and Roses. Avoid planting anything sensitive or tender like young seedlings unless near ideal conditions can be maintained.
27-28 August once the Balsamic (late Crescent) Moon is seen in the early morning sky this indicates that lunar extremes are about to increase. Moon enters sidereal Gemini then: potentially a difficult planting time. Then shifts 29-30th into sidereal Cancer, potentially a very fertile sign but in this ‘Dark of the Moon’ position could result in rot or plant collapse so be careful! Not the best days for planting. Plant only hardy things then: dormant bulbs, corms, roots and tubers; also hardy shrubs and trees that can be well cared-for and where there will be no root damage at transplanting. Be vigilant to shelter and water these as needed for Celestial/weather extremes often cause anything delicate or tender to collapse or wilt if weather becomes dry or windy.
Dormant Planting:
If possible, try to complete the Winter planting of bare root deciduous fruit, nut and ornamental shrubs, trees, Roses, brambles and canes. Alternatively, dig holes for these plants now. Add well aged manure or compost to the planting hole. Wherever soil is clay or very heavy loam, spread Gypsum Lime over the soil that has been removed and also more into the planting hole. Leave it to weather in the rain for at least several weeks before planting and mixing the soil back into the hole. This will greatly improve drainage and plant health. A tiny handful of general garden fertilizer can be sprinkled over the soil taken out of the hole. This can be mixed through that soil now. Avoid placing chemical fertilizer in the bottom of the planting hole. This is an easy way to burn the emerging tender young roots and kill the entire plant with “kindness”.
Dormant Shift and Transplanting Establish Specimens:
There is still time to shift and transplant established specimens. Matter of fact, this time of year often proves to be the most successful as sap is beginning to rise and soon Spring’s flush will bring them to life quickly.
But next week is a much better time to shift and transplant than during ‘Dark of the Moon’ extremes. Now is the time to prune back whatever will be shifted in preparation for transplanting next week. Plants shift much easier while dormant than once they begin active growth so waste no time in accomplishing this job as soon as possible before new growth begins. Sometimes established specimens can withstand transplanting once new growth starts but this often causes severe stress and new tender growth is sometimes lost (usually it is best removed at the time of shifting). Container-grown specimens of all sorts will transplant with little if any root damage so can be planted now through Spring.
Stick to shifting dormant hardy things:
Anything deciduous and most broad leafed evergreens native to Australia, The Mediterranean, New Zealand, South Africa and the West Coast of the Americas. Avoid shifting subtropical species this early in the season other than hardy Palms. Even then, it is best to wait another couple of months until the ground and weather have warmed. It is possible to plant Citrus and other hardier subtropical species from established containers. But avoid extensive root damage as the plants are still dormant and often can’t refurbish their root system quickly enough to survive a traumatic shifting this early in the season.
Flower and Vegetable Seed and Seedlings:
A limited range of hardy seed(lings) can be started now under cover or in sheltered corners. Expert Growers sometimes elect to sow seed, especially of varieties that are difficult to germinate (like Sweet Peas), during the ‘Dark of the Moon’ phase. This way they use the celestial extremes to stimulate germination. Then once the Waxing Moon cycle starts next week, their emerging seedlings can take full advantage of the improving growing conditions ahead.
Because of the celestial extremes, only plant or sow when conditions appear to be ideal or can be controlled in a situation like a glasshouse environment.  When planting seedlings outdoors this week choose to plant those in individual pots or punnets where there will be a minimum of root damage. Otherwise, use these days to plan and prepare containers with seed raising mix ready for sowing next week once the New Moon begins the Early Spring Planting Cycle.
Flowers to Plant and sow:
Acrolinium, Alyssum, Arctotis, Aster, Calendula, California Poppy, Carnation, Coneflower, Cornflower, Dianthus, Gaillardia, Godetia, Hollyhock, Larkspur, Nigella, Rudbeckia, Phlox, Poppies, Strawflower, Sunflower, Sweat Pea, Viscaria and hundreds more.
Vegetables to Plant and Sow:
Asparagus (crowns & seed), Beets, Broad Beans, Broccoli, Cabbages, Cauliflower, Chinese Cabbage and Green Vegetables, Cress, Endive, Garlic, Gooseberry, Herbs (assorted), Kohlrabi, Leaf Lettuce (assorted), Mustard, Parsley, Parsnip, Peas, Potato, Radish, Rhubarb (seed), Salsify, Shallot, Silverbeet, Spinach, Swede and Turnip.
  • This is an acceptable time to sow hardy salad plants; and a good time to sow Peas. But make sure weather conditions remain dry and mild or seed may rot.
  • Potatoes can be planted or sprouted for later planting. Kumara and Yam can be started in a hot bed for planting out once weather conditions become consistently warmer.
  • Tender Summer Flowers can be started under glass, cloches or a very sheltered, sunny and warm corner outdoors. Now is time to start such annuals as: Ageratum, Begonias, Dahlia, Celosia, Cleome, Coleus, Geranium, Gerbera, Gloxinia, tender Herbs like Basil and Coriander (Cilantro), Impatiens, Petunia, Tithonia, Zinnia and many more.
Tender Vegetables to Start Under Glass:
Capsicum, Choko, Eggplant, Heading Lettuce, Marrow, Melons, Pumpkin, Squash, Tomato and others.
All of this planting and sowing is best done before the ‘Dark of the Moon’ extremes later in the week (27th August onward). Planting and seed sowing can continue thereafter but make sure that conditions are ideal. When sown during this deeply Waning Moon Cycle, root development is often more extensive while better top growth comes on later after the New Moon as moonlight increases each evening.
Do not attempt to plant or sow tender varieties direct into open soil this early without cold protection! The classic is Tomato. Attempting to plant Tomatoes outdoors this early without significant protection against the cold and wet weather that is bound to be ahead almost always results in disaster. They are tender tropical plants so must be sheltered and remain relatively dry and warm. Otherwise, wait until conditions become thoroughly warm to plant them out.
Whenever sowing seed, be very careful to sow seed thinly in individual containers for later transplanting. Overcrowded seedlings will produce weak plants with many casualties. Planting in individual containers has a distinct advantage. Some flowers and vegetables produce tap roots or sensitive root systems. This makes them difficult to transplant.  Planting into individual containers allows each plant the opportunity to grow on without interference. Once each plant is well established then it can be carefully slipped out from its own established container with an intact root ball. This insures there is much less chance of root damage or disturbance when transplanted later once the weather thoroughly warms.
Bulbs, Corms, Roots and Tubers to Plant:
Amaryllis, Arum, Agapanthus, Anemone (coronaria, Japanese and species), Canna, Chrysanthemum roots (also divide established clumps), Crinum, Cyclamen, Dahlia, Freesia, Galtonia, Gladioli, Hedychium (Gingers), Herbertia (Blue Tiger Flower), Hemerocallis (Day Lily), Hippeastrum, Hymenocallis (Ismene),  Japanese Iris, Nerines, Sandersonia, Tuberose, Tuberous Begonia, Tulbaghia, Valotta (Scarborough Lily), Watsonia,  Zantedeschia and Zephyranthes (Rain Lily) and many more.
All of these ‘bulbs’ will be dormant now, so they are easily planted provided the weather is mild enough and the soil is sufficiently warmed. Otherwise, start these in small pots of enriched and freely draining potting mix in a very bright and warm environment, preferably a glasshouse. Water only very lightly until new growth becomes obvious. It is better to keep them rather dry and under-fed this early in the season. Over watering often results in rot and over-feeding produces leggy, soft growth that is often later too unhealthy to produce quality plants once transplanted outdoors.
Spring-flowering Bulbs:
Cultivate, weed and feed around emerging shoots of established bulbs and spring plantings to insure rapid, healthy growth. These can be given a sprinkling of bulb food or all-purpose general fertilizer lightly placed around each plant. Be sure to blow or wash away any fertilizer that falls into the central crown or bulb shoot heart so that chemical burning will not occur.
Dahlia tubers started now will begin flowering by Early Summer. In mild climates, Dahlias can be planted directly into their flowering position.  Otherwise, wherever severe frosts are still possible, start tubers in boxes, flats, pots either in the glasshouse or indoors and transplant to the garden once weather settles. Once strong stems emerge, these can be cut back and started just like Chrysanthemum to create new plants. Established clumps of tubers can be cut/split apart. These will look like a cluster of potato-like tubers attached around the dried old stem of last years’ stalk. Once divided and split apart from the main stem, each single potato-like tuber should have an end ‘neck’ (where the tuber was once attached to the stem). This is where a small red-purple ‘eye’ shoot will soon emerge that will create a new Dahlia plant that will flower this Summer.
Dahlias are of tropical American origin. Choose a warm, sunny, sheltered position with rich, loamy soil. Mulch and water each Dahlia generously when first planting the tubers. Once shoots appear remove all but the strongest three or four. Pinch out the central growing tip when 15-20cm/6-8inches tall. This will produce more bushy and compact growth and a better quantity of flowering.
If Dahlias are being grown for exhibition flowers, pinch out all but the strongest main shoot. Stake this securely and train it upward. Allow only one to three of the top buds to develop. Once the strongest bud begins to mature, pinch out the others so that all the growth goes into creating one spectacular bloom. Some hybrid varieties can assume the size of a dinner plate when grown this way. After the main flower head finishes, cut it off and often side shoots will emerge that will produce somewhat smaller blooms.
Dahlias, especially large-flowering varieties, must be staked against wind and to secure their brittle stems from flopping with excessive flowering and leafy growth. . Never leave this to chance as Dahlia canes are very brittle and often break with the heavy weight of flowering! They can be allowed to sprawl but results are far less spectacular and flowers are often attacked by Slugs and Snails. Feed little and often with a soluble plant food, compost, aged manure or a granulated plant food mixed with blood and bone. Overfeeding into dry soil can cause burning. Overwatering, especially early in the season into cold ground can result in tuber rot.
Dahlia seed started now in a very bright, sheltered and consistently warm spot either in the glasshouse, indoors or even outside (if warm enough) will produce blooms this Summer and might result in your own special hybrid!
Garden Maintenance:
Cultivate garden beds. In open beds, weed and turn the soil in preparation for Spring planting.  It is important to keep doing this now so that the soil can aerate, cure and settle before planting. This is a type of soil ‘sterilization’ that helps eliminate disease and fungus spores by exposure to sunlight. Deep, thorough digging encourages drought resistant roots and healthy, strong growth for the very best results. Small weeds can often be recultivated back into the soil as a green manure. Noxious, fast-spreading weed should be eliminated as they are encountered. Weeding continuously now eliminates all weeds before they can produce seed; otherwise weeds will be a much worse problem for the entire growing season!
  • Compost and fertilize fruit trees, cane fruits and ornamentals shrubs, trees and vines. This will give them a much better start just as sap is beginning to rise and new growth emerges. 
  • Spray Brambles and Cane Fruits, Citrus, all Pip and Stone fruits, Grapes and possibly even Strawberry plants with powdered Copper or other fungicide.
  • Prune lightly Feijoa, Passion Fruit and Tamarillo now. This is nearing the final time to prune back Grape and many other fruiting shrubs and trees without the risk of sap bleeding.
Conifers, Broad-leafed Evergreens, many ornamental shrubs and most plant species native to Australia, the Mediterranean, New Zealand and South Africa can be lightly pruned and shaped. The exceptions are those that produce flower buds at their growing tips like Camellia, Daphne, Leucadendron, Pieris japonica, Protea and Rhododendron, etc. There is no problem pruning these also, especially if they need corrective shaping, but some Spring flowers will be removed. Anything pruned now will tend to stay in shape longer with less regrowth.
Avoid heavy pruning during the ‘Dark of the Moon’ phase as celestial extremes may cause more to die-back than was expected. Wait until next week and begin pruning after the New Moon (1 Sept.) if the intension with pruning is to encourage abundant and bushy regrowth. Heavy pruning now is often used to eliminate brush and scrub, old stock wood or weed trees.
Lawns can be fed with commercial Lawn Fertilizer, blood and bone or screened compost or aged manure.  If soil is hard or sour (green and mossy) aerate with a garden fork and dust with Lime. Applying Gypsum Lime now will help to open the soil and allow better drainage in the months ahead. It is best to disperse fertilizer and Lime separately at least a week apart. This helps prevent the possibility of the two chemically interacting that can sometimes produce inert and useless chemical compounds. Always water in each application of soil additives and let the cultivated land to rest and ‘cure’ for at least a week before adding anything else or sowing seed.
Bait against Predation:
Guard against Slug and Snail damage to emerging shoots of Spring blooms and Winter flowers. Eliminating these ‘pests’ now is essential in order to produce quality blooms later.

About us

dale-john 01-100x66 Dale Harvey and John Newton met in Melbourne Australia in 1981. Since then they both have supported each others careers while also building and maintaining their own. Read about how they were able to turn their joint careers into one and creating a dream of a better world starting in their own local community.

Media & Publications

host daffodils-100x66The following articles are a small part of the many published editorials on or about both Dale Harvey and John Newton plus the property affectionately nick named by the people of New Zealand, as the
"Quarter Acre” Paradise gardens.

Awards & Credits

HOPE Trust-100x66This is a collection of Appreciation Certificates, Local and Overseas Awards with Acknowledgments presented to Dale Harvey and John Newton over the many years of their joint careers plus the Launch and Registration
of The H.O.P.E. Trust
The Healing of Planet Earth.

Contact Us

P.O.Box Papatoetoe Central
2156 Auckland
New Zealand
Tel: +61 9 276 4827
Fax: +61 9 276 4025
Email: info@daleharvey.com