The Waxing Moon Cycle reaches its First Quarter Moon (sidereal Virgo) on 12 July. Jupiter conjuncts the Moon near the western horizon on the evening of 9 July. The remainder of the week augments into the Full Waxing Moon Cycle with an ascending Moon in Southern Hemisphere skies. This can be a benevolent time for planting, weather permitting. Most favored are the planting of hardy annual and perennial flowers and vegetables that produce their crops above the ground. Also plant or shift all deciduous brambles and canes; fruit and nut shrubs and trees; most hardy ornamental shrubs, trees and vines; conifers and hardy broad leafed evergreens; most hardy species native to Australia, the Mediterranean/Middle East, New Zealand, South Africa and the temperate zone Americas and especially Western North America.
Continue to plant or shift and transplant a wide range of bare-root and container-grown ornamental brambles and canes, fruit trees, deciduous shrubs and trees, vines; hardy species native to Australia, the Mediterranean, New Zealand, North America and South Africa. Also dig and shift or plant from containers: Azaleas, Camellias, Daphne, Pieris japonica, Osmanthus, Rhododendrons, Roses and many other hardy ornamentals.
Whenever the ground is workable, this is a wonderful time for planting Roses!
Start vegetables that produce their crops above ground including all leafy vegetables all week. Advanced seedlings and container-grown transplants have a much better chance of survival than anything soft and tender. The vegetable site must be very sunny and warm with good air circulation but sheltered from chilling drafts and cold winds. Soil should be well-enriched with compost and appropriate fertiliser plus have excellent drainage.
Vegetables to Plant include most hardy leafy (Brassica Family) vegetables also start:
Cabbages, Chinese Cabbages and Green Vegetables, Cress, and Mustard. With protection from freezing start Broccoli and Cauliflower plus Celery; continue to sow succession crops of Lettuce (all varieties) and Spinach. Sow the seed of most hardy Herbs, especially Parsley. Continue to sow Broad Beans and Peas in sheltered, sunny, warm corners.
Because wintry conditions will slow germination and growth it is also possible to plant and sow hardy root crops including: Asparagus Crowns, Beets (mild climates), Carrots (mild climates only), Chives, Garlic, Horseradish, Jerusalem Artichoke, Kohlrabi, Onions, Parsnip, Potatoes, Radish, Rhubarb, Shallots, Swedes and Turnips.
When starting root vegetables intended for exhibition or highest quality from seed, the trick is to sow into enriched and very free-draining soil. Sand is often added and deeply dug beneath where the seed will be sown. Sow the seed so it will germinate near the time of the Full Moon (20 July) when outdoor light is at its greatest. Dependent upon how warm the seed bed can be maintained, most seed takes 7 to 10 days or longer to germinate. So sowing this week might not be too early. This will quickly produce a couple of true leaves to support the seedling. Then as the Moonlight wanes away the tiny developing tap root will be pulled deeply into the earth during the Waning Moon Cycle. During the months to come this long tap root can expand into a vegetable of exception quality.
Vegetables to Sow Under Cover for later transplanting once weather warms in Spring include:
Cape Gooseberry, Capsicums and all Peppers, Cucumber, Egg Plant, Marrow and Squash, Melons, Pumpkins, Tomatoes and most subtropical vegetables like Kumara, Sweet Potato and Taro. Many herbs can be started, too. Conditions must remain relatively draft-free but with adequate air circulation and constantly warm, especially during chilling overnight hours. Bright light, preferably strong sun light, is essential. If seedlings stretch and become ‘leggy’ they will probably always remain weak and later may falter. Keeping soil mixes on the drier side and growing light brighter helps insure short, stocky plants that will rocket away once Spring weather arrives.
Easiest Flowers to Start
North (mild climate):
- Hardy flowers can be planted as seedlings or sown from seeds all week.
- Advanced seedlings and container-grown plants will be the easiest to establish.
- Smaller and tender seedlings may need protection form inclement weather.
- Everything will need protection from predation by Birds, Slugs and Snails.
Aquilegia, Alyssum, Anemone (seed),Bellis perennis (English Daisy), Calendula, Candytuft, Carnation, Delphinium, Dianthus, Digitalis (Foxglove), Forget-Me-Not, Godetia, Gypsophila, Hollyhock, Honesty (Lunaria), Kochia, Larkspur, Linaria, Linum, Lobelia, Matricaria, Mignonette, Pansy, Shirley Poppy (all Poppies), Statice, Sweet Pea, Tanacetum, Viola, Violets and more locally.
South (cold climate):
All of the above but only attempt sowing seed under shelter, cold frames, glass/glasshouse or cloches with extra drainage and preferably bottom heat.
Warm Season Flowers to Start Now:
Somewhere warm; under cloches; within a sheltered cold frame; in the conservatory, glasshouse, sun room or perhaps a sunny windowsill, start annuals and perennial flowers for the Spring and Summer garden. Choose the very brightest and sheltered plus warmest spots. Seed will germinate much faster when warmed with bottom heat. When started now, these seedlings will be ready for planting out in 6-8 weeks or longer, once the danger of frost has passed.
Included here are:
Antirrhinums (Snap Dragons), Arctotis, Aster, Dianthus, Didiscus (Blue Lace Flower), Calliopsis, Florist Carnation and Pinks, Chrysanthemum, Coreopsis, Cornflower, Delphinium, Dimorphotheca, Gaillardia, Lobelia, Marigold, Pansy and Viola, Petunia, Phlox, Rhodanthe, Scabiosa, Statice, Stock, Strawflower, Tulip Poppy, Verbena, Virginia Stock, Wallflower and much more.
If conditions can be maintained in a constantly warm environment sow or plant:
Achimenes, Caladium, Calla and ornamental Zantedeschia, Canna, Fibrous Begonias, Cyclamen, Gloxinia, Tuberous Begonias, Tuberose and much more.
Flowers and Vegetables need Special Care:
Winter is a challenging time, especially for anything living outside. Consequently, to get the best results, give your flowers and vegetables extra care during these colder times. In mild climates, outdoor flower displays and vegetable beds will need granular fertiliser or liquid feeding. Liquid feeding often produces the most spectacular results if applied at the ‘right’ time. Choose a mild and sunny day, preferably when the Sun and/or Moon are rising toward the mid heaven and just beyond: between 10AM - 2 or 3 PM is best this week In a heated glasshouse, this time can be extended from 9 AM to 4 PM. Try and avoid excessive watering over foliage late in the day. There must be time for foliage to dry off before nightfall in order to avoid fungal diseases and rots.
It is often wise to add a systemic fungicide or combination of liquefied powdered Copper mixed with the liquid fertiliser to insure against fungal attack. Adding powdered Lime to this mixture can be very helpful but be certain that the plants to which this mix is being applied are not pH sensitive to Lime (Azalea, Bellis perennis, Daphne, Pansy and Primula are pH sensitive to Lime). It is important to keep plants growing both healthy and strong during this challenging wintry period. Even if they do not produce a riot of colour yet, a healthy plant will ultimately reward you, where a neglected plant may not make it to flowering at all.
Watch for the tell-tale holes left by Slugs and Snails. Hunt them out and eliminate them now before they begin causing real damage in the garden. Continue to dead-head all garden bed flowers, especially Cyclamen, Kalanchoe, hybrid Pansy and Polyanthus; Primula Obconica, Snapdragon and others. This forces plant energy into producing new blooms instead of seed. Your reward will be larger flowers of better quality and greater quantity over a much longer season.
Cultivate and Weed:
As laborious as it may be, it is important to continue cultivating and weeding all garden beds before anything can go to seed. Also feed garden beds lightly but frequently while cultivating. This Cultivation will allow air, frost and ultraviolet sunlight to penetrate the ground. This will break down the soil while also sterilizing it of fungal spores, pathogens and pests. Cultivation also keeps the soil from becoming compacted and sour. Even a poorer quality soil will improve overtime if properly cultivated and cared for.
Container-grown Cineraria, Cyclamen, Kalanchoe, Primula Obconica and forced Spring-flowering bulbs such as Daffodils, Hyacinths and Tulips should be liquid feed lightly but regularly to keep them flowering longer. This will help to produce larger blooms and strong growth of Spring-flowering bulbs and more new buds on potted colour.
overwatering! This will result in rampant, soft growth or rot and plant collapse. Maintain them in bright, cool positions either in unheated (but never freezing cold) rooms or outdoors in very sheltered corners that remain fairly dry and frost-free plus out of chilling drafts. In heated rooms, they are sometimes successfully grown on bright windowsills where a curtain can enclose them each evening in cooler air. In such positions, guard against freezing temperatures that may creep indoors and chill the pot! Avoid excessive heat with these winter-flowering treasures or they may quickly collapse.
Gladioli corms and many other tender summer-flowering bulbs, roots and tubers can be ordered or purchased now.
In climates not likely to experience any severe ground freezing plant or prolonged chilling wintry rains:
Canna, Dahlia, Japanese Iris, Gladioli, Hippeastrum, Lilies, Tigridia, Tuberose and other semi-hardy summer flowers.
The planting site must be in a very sheltered, sunny and warm position with enriched, freely draining soil. Otherwise, either store these tender items in a moderately cool and dry state for later planting. They can also be started in small containers grown on in a benevolent environment for transplanting out into the garden once the weather moderates sufficiently.
This Third Week in the Mid Winter Garden:
The Full Waxing Moon conjuncts Mars 15 July and Saturn 16 July as it ascends very high in Southern Hemisphere skies. This brings the longest moonlight of the year as well as the Full Moon (sidereal Capricorn) 19-20 July. This is the peak of Mid Winter. The Moon begins to descend in Southern Hemisphere skies (from 18 July) and continues to move away to the North until 30 July. As the Moon reaches its peak in Southern Hemisphere skies (17-18
-19 July) its gravitational pull is quite strong. Then as the Moon turns and sweeps northward its gravitational pull is likely to drag a strong south or south-westerly Antarctic air flow with it that can result in wintry blasts, freezes and frosts, especially for traditionally exposed locations.
What can be accomplished now in the Mid Winter garden is largely dependent upon the weather and the climate zone. In the colder climate zones and wherever wintry weather is persistently snowy or wet, far less can be accomplished outdoors. But between inclement spells and wherever the climate is benevolent and milder, Mid Winter can be a busy time. This is especially true in mild temperate and subtropical zones.
A Turning Point:
This Full Moon is the turning point when the seasonal trend starts heading toward Spring. Greatest Moonlight combined with slightly longer day length will trigger signs of Spring from now onward. The gravitational power of this strongly ascended Full Moon will also be excellent for liquid feeding all existing plantings right throughout the day all week.
Traditionally, the Full Moon also is the turning point between the Waxing and Waning Moon Cycles. The peak Moon ascension in Southern Hemisphere skies combined with these other ‘turning points’ makes this week potentially a very good one for planting and sowing all hardy annual and perennial flowers as well as a variety of hardy vegetables. Water retention will remain high.
For successful germination, keep soil as warm as possible; very well-drained; sheltered from chill winds, frost and freezing. Bright light, preferably strong sun light, is essential!
Seed will be very slow to germinate outdoors in cold conditions and may well rot in cold, wet soil. Germination will be much faster and more successful under glass with bottom heat; in a cold frame or glasshouse; beneath a cloche or on a sunny, warm window sill indoors.
Plant or Sow These Hardy Flower Seedlings and Seeds Now
North (mild climate):
Aquilegia, Alyssum, Anemone (seed),Bellis perennis (English Daisy), Calendula, Candytuft, Carnation, Delphinium, Dianthus, Digitalis (Foxglove), Forget-Me-Not, Godetia, Gypsophila, Hollyhock, Honesty (Lunaria), Kochia, Larkspur, Linaria, Linum, Lobelia, Matricaria, Mignonette, Pansy, Statice, Sweet Pea, Tanacetum, Viola, Violets.
South (cold climate):
All of the above but only attempt sowing seed under shelter; cold frames; glass/glasshouse or cloches with extra drainage and preferably bottom heat.
A wide variety of hardy perennial plants can also be planted from containers or divided and shifted now wherever climatic conditions permit. This is best accomplished in mild climates with limited frosts or ground freezing. In colder climates where severe frosts may freeze the soil, wait a while until the weather warms closer to spring.
Many of these perennials can also be started from seed.
Perennials that can be sown, shifted or transplanted throughout the month include:
Achillea, Aconitum, Agapanthus, Alstroemaria, Anchusa, Anemone japonica, Aquilegia, Arabis, Arctotis, Asters, Astilbe, Aubrieta, Billbergia, Boltonia, Bocconia (Plume Poppy), Campanulas, Canna, Carnations, Centranthus, Chrysanthemum and Marguerite, Cistus, Clivia, Coreopsis, Delphinium, Dianthus, Dicentra (Bleeding Heart), Dictamnus, Dimorphotheca (Veldt Daisy), Doronicum (Leopard Bane), Echinacea (Coneflower), Echinops, Erigeron, Felicia, Gaillardia, Gazania, Geranium, gerbera, Geum, Gypsophila, Heleniums (Sunflowers), Heliopsis (False Sunflower), Heliotrope, Helleborus (Winter Rose), Hemerocallis (Day Lily), Heuchera (Coral Bells), Hosta, Iberis, Inula (Horse Heal), Iris (most varieties), Kniphofia (varieties not in flower now shift best), Lupin, Lychnis, Lythrum, Michaelmas Daisy, Monarda Bee Balm), Montbretia, Nepeta (Cat Mint), Oenothera (Prairie Primrose), Pelargonium, Penstemon, Peony, Petasites (Butterbur), Phlox (wait until early spring for P. paniculata), Polyanthus, Poppies, Potentilla, Primula, Pyrethrum, Physalis (Lantern Flower), Rudbeckia, Salvias, Saxifraga, Scabiosa, Schizostylis (Kaffir Lily),Sildacea (Checkerbloom), Solidago (Goldenrod), Statice, Sternbergia (Autumn Daffodil), Thalictrum, Verbascum, Verbena, Veronica and many more.
Perennials usually need average to enriched soil that drains well but always retains some content of moisture. Many grow well in large pots and tubs. As a general rule, the larger the container, the better, as perennials soon outgrow smaller containers. This means they will require much more watering later on in the season when they are advanced in size. Just one missed watering on a hot day can often destroy their buds and ruin months of care. But this is much less likely to happen when planted in large tubs with a substantial area of soil that will naturally retain more moisture.
This ability of perennials to survive in containers is especially helpful wherever garden soil is heavy or poorly draining or garden space is limited. Whenever possible, allow their roots to grow through the drainage holes of the tub into the ground beneath it. The tub will shade the soil underneath it which will remain moist. This proves the perennials with good drainage as well as ample moisture so they should thrive and also avoid crown rot.
Many perennials need full sunshine but will tolerate partial shade especially if they are kept a bit drier. Growing them in containers placed over open ground often accomplished the extra drainage they need. Gaillardia and Gazania are classic examples of perennials that demand perfect drainage and strong sunshine to thrive. When planted into ground that could even occasionally become wet and/or partly shaded they often rot. But when grown in tubs with generous drainage holes they can tolerate much more wet weather as the excess water drains away. Plus because they drain perfectly they can tolerate some shade and soon cascade over the sides of their container and still produce a blaze of colour as if in full sunshine.
Start sowing seed of vegetables that produce their crops above ground including all leafy vegetables very early in the week. They will respond best if planted or sown before the Full Moon (20 July). But because of the power of this Full Moon, mostly likely anything planted or sown this week will have a good chance to be successful. If attempting to plant anything outdoors, advanced seedlings have a much better chance of survival than anything flimsy. Most seedlings purchased from a garden centre will have been grown in the protective shelter of a warm glasshouse environment and/or have been very sheltered. Give these at least a week to acclimatize outdoors in a fairly sheltered spot near to where they will be eventually planted. This will give them the opportunity to ‘harden-off’ to true outdoor conditions before being transplanted into the garden and thus probably eliminate the potential shock that could see them collapse.
Also sow the seed for root crop vegetables all week. If planted very early in the week, there is more chance that they will sprout right at the Full Moon. This gives them the longest possible time to develop a long and strong tap root during the Waning Moon Cycle that follows. Traditionally root crop vegetables are planted or sown after the Full Moon (20July) and until the New Moon (3 August), so keep on planting and sowing throughout the remainder of the month.
Plant hardy root crops like:
Chives, Garlic, Shallots, Onions, Kohlrabi (actually an enlarged stem rather than a root), Radish, Swedes and Turnips; also Asparagus crowns. These vegetables must be planted in a very sunny site with good air circulation and excellent drainage.
Vegetables to Plant Now Include:
Asparagus; Broad Bean, Cabbages, Carrot, Cauliflower, Celery, Cress, heading Lettuce (in mild climates) and leaf Lettuce (frost-free or under glass) plus Mustard; Chives, Garlic, hardy Herbs and all varieties of Mint, Horse Radish, Jerusalem Artichoke, Onions of all varieties, Radish, Shallots, Rhubarb, Spinach (mild climates), Swedes, Turnips and Peas. Sprout Potatoes now to ensure an early harvest
Tender Vegetables to Sow Under Cover for later transplanting once weather warms in Spring include:
Cape Gooseberry, Capsicums and all Peppers, Cucumber, Egg Plant, Marrow and Squash, Melons, Pumpkins, Tomatoes and most subtropical vegetables like Kumara and Taro.
It is only worth attempting to sow tender warm weather vegetable seeds if you have a very bright and sunny, consistently warm position like a heated glasshouse or indoor position with strong artificial lighting to supplement the rather dim natural sun light. These seeds will germinate quickly if temperatures remain above 70F/21C. But unless lighting is very strong, they will quickly draw upwards, stretch and become so weakened that they will never become strong plants. To be successful these young seedlings must remain stocky.
Root Crop Secrets:
For the finest root crops deeply dig in a good balanced General Plant Food (20-20-20) and make sure the ground has been enriched especially with extra Potassium (Sulphate of Potash or untreated wood ashes). Add extra drainage materials like river gravel or sand, pumice or granulated bark wherever land is heavy or poorly drained. Adding copious drainage materials, especially washed sand, worked deeply into the ground can greatly increase the quality and size of many root crop vegetables. If the ground is just too heavy to realistically lighten, consider raising the beds on mounds or mounded rows of earth; plant on sloping sites or within landscape boxes placed over the open ground to improve drainage. This drainage and sunshine is especially important with vegetable bulbs like Chives, Garlic, Onion and Shallot.
Keep Feeding Regularly!
Vegetable crops already established in the garden should get a side dressing of fertiliser to keep them growing strongly. Liquid feeding this week can be very beneficial! Cultivate lightly but frequently throughout the vegetable beds.
Shrub and Tree Planting:
Now through early Spring is the best time to plant or transplant a wide range of bare-root and container-grown ornamental brambles and canes, fruit trees, deciduous shrubs, trees and vines; hardy species native to Australia, the Mediterranean, New Zealand and South Africa. This is also a classic time to plant from containers or dig and shift: Azaleas, Camellias, Daphne, Pieris Japonica, Osmanthus, Rhododendrons, Roses and many other hardy ornamentals.
This is an excellent time to start planting Roses! Especially in mild and temperate regions that experience little if any ground freezing.
- Make sure that planting holes are generously wide as well as deep.
- Partially file the planting hole with mature compost and/or well-aged manure.
- Dig this thoroughly into the existing soil.
- Avoid over feeding or adding too much compost which can adversely affect the Rose bush from becoming well established.
- Roses prefer loamy soil like pasture land and often do well in rather heavy soil, even clay soils provided they drain well.
In very poor soil it is permissible to put a very small handful of Rose Fertiliser into the planting hole and possibly a small amount of Lime in acid soils with a low pH. But dig and mix this in well before planting. Water this in well and, if possible, leave the land to ‘cure’ for upwards of a week before planting. Make sure that a layer of fresh, unfertilised soil at least 1inch/2.5cm deep covers the chemically fertilised ground beneath at planting time. If chemical fertilisers come in contact with emerging, tender roots this might result in burning. Be warned! Chemical root burn is a classic cause of failure in newly-planted Rose bushes! Always plant bare-root Roses with the graft exposed above the ground, and then water in well.
Roses can be grown successfully in containers. But much like perennials, these should be large pots or tubs that will retain a balance of moisture at all times. Roses are easily started in planter bags and small containers. There they will grow-on happily for several months. But once they gain enough size to begin blooming their root system becomes so extensive that they require significant watering; often at least once a day plus a lot of liquid feeding! This is not only hard work for the Gardener who literally becomes a slave to their watering requirements, but it begins to put undue stress on the Rose that usually results in blight or disease. Plus miss watering on just one dry and hot day and there go all the leaves and buds that too months to produce. Do yourself and favour and grow Roses in the ground.
Spring is on the Way!
Because the days are already beginning to lengthen and sunlight intensifying, plants will begin to sense this. The added benefit of this week’s intense ascending Full Moon further enhances this. Soon early signs of Spring will begin to show in sheltered corners, especially in the warmest regions.
Watch for the first simple white blossoms of Japanese Plum Prunus salicina, and the very showy and sweetly fragrant Prunus mume, the Japanese Apricot or Chinese Plum also known as Ume (Oo’-may) and the delicate double, fluffy pink or white blooms of the flowering Almonds Prunus triloba and Prunus glandulosa. Magnolia stellata and other species; early Aconite and Crocus; Galanthus (Snowdrop), Leucojum (Snowflake) and early Narcissus all start now in warmer corners. These are the true heralds that mark the real beginning of Spring in Living Earth time.
See the ‘Fourth Week in the Mid Winter Garden’ entry ‘Bring Springtime Indoors Now’ to discover a list of shrubbery flowers that could be cut and forced into early bloom indoors. A vase full of early Spring blossom is a great way to brighten the dreariest wintry day.
Complete the pruning of deciduous fruit and nut trees and vines as soon as possible.
the temptation to become complacent and trust the calendar. The Moon placement in August and September this year suggests an early arrival of Spring weather. Once sap begins to rise, it can bleed from the open cuts. This can be particularly damaging to Grape and Kiwi Fruit vines and sometimes to Prunus species (Apricot, Almond, Cherry and Plum) and selected ornamental shrubbery. Seal all wounds 1inch/2.5cm or larger with tree paint to help stop this bleeding and to keep borer away from the open cut.
Continue pruning conifers, hedges and non-spring-flowering ornamentals, also fruit trees and cane and bramble fruits and fruit vines. Thin out diseased and weaken growth to allow more air and sunlight to reach the centre of shrubs and trees. Make a good job of symmetrically shaping hedges and all other pruned species as they will remain in this shape until Spring growth fills them out. Avoid cutting off too much growth that might expose the sensitive interior or crown of the plant to freezing.
Give houseplants very little water or food now until weather warms in Spring unless indoor temperatures remain above 15 C/59F degrees at all times. Guard carefully that tender houseplants are not exposed to chilling drafts which can push through thin glass, around window and door frames plus along floors. Plants can be double potted to avoid this chill. Simply put the plant pot inside a larger (possibly decorative) container.
Forced Spring-flowering bulb pots should be ready to bring indoors for early colour. Many may already be in bloom. Keep them lightly moist and liquid fed. Place them in bright light but in cool positions. If they remain in warm rooms, especially in the evening hours, they will quickly finish flowering. Once they do finish blooming, keep liquid feeding and grow-on the foliage until it naturally begins to yellow-off and wither. It is this foliage that will produce the energy and food for next year’s bloom. If they can be placed outdoors in a frost-free and sunny location to grow-on this would be even better.
Mid Winter is a great time to plant Lilies. Most varieties are excellent in containers; especially the Asiatic and Longiflorum (Christmas Lilies) plus all dwarf and most LA (Longiflorum-Asiatic hybrids) plus OT (Oriental-Trumpet) hybrids. Asiatic, Longiflorum and dwarf varieties can be planted into fairly small containers and quite near the surface. But most larger and taller LA, OT and all Oriental hybrids produce bulbils and roots above as well as below the bulb and up the stem. So these should be planted deeper in the soil and into deeper and larger containers or tubs. This is especially important for Regale Lilies and all Oriental Hybrids.
Lilies most enjoy having their bulb base in shade but their blooms and stems in full sunshine or morning sunshine with at least a little shade during the hottest part of the day. Darker shaded flowers or delicate varieties often fade or scorch if exposed to excessive heat and sunlight. But in most parts of New Zealand Lilies thrive best in strong light, acid soils (avoid Lime in any form!) and perfect drainage.
The Waning Moon Cycle dominates the remainder of the month. The Moon continues to descend in Southern Hemisphere skies until the afternoon of 30 July. Weather permitting, this is a good week for planting anything dormant and hardy: hardy annual and perennial flowers, especially those with a tap root or needing a period of root development; hardy root crop vegetables; deciduous brambles and canes; fruit and nut shrubs and trees; most hardy ornamental shrubs, trees and vines; Roses; conifers and hardy broad leafed evergreens; most hardy species native to Australia, the Mediterranean/Middle East, New Zealand, South Africa and temperate North America.
Last Quarter ‘Dark of the Moon’ arrives 30-31 July. This occurs in the constellation of sidereal Gemini, a barren air sign. These celestial conditions often bring New Zealand quite changeable conditions with a predominant (north/south shifting) westerly flow. This often results in cold and wintry weather with the threat of severe frosts in exposed southern and western districts and a more moderated climate further north. At dusk, Mars and Saturn feature to the northeast. To the west Jupiter becomes the evening star with Mercury and Venus just beginning to climb out of the Sun’s glare at sunset.
Times like these are often well suited to designing, planning and researching future gardens. Inclement weather is an excellent opportunity for reading and writing. Buy or order necessary equipment, fertilisers and sprays; bulbs and seeds; annuals, perennials, fruiting and ornamental shrubs, trees and vines for later planting. Weather permitting these ‘Dark of the Moon’ celestial extremes makes this an excellent time for laying foundations and paving; setting posts and building fences. Lowered water retention makes this an excellent time to gather and cut (fire) wood. Because the garden is basically dormant, this can be a good time to explore and travel, perhaps to warmer destinations or a holiday in the snow.
As the Sun begins its slow journey back toward the Southern Hemisphere, the days start to become a little longer and sunlight slowly intensifies. Humankind is often the last to know, but Birds are already pairing and preparing for the advent of Spring. Plants also begin to sense this subtle change long before us. Plant sap begins to rise and new growth begins to stir in mild climates and sheltered corners.
Buds begin to swell and early blossoms emerge in the most sheltered corners. This is an excellent time to cut bare branches from early Spring-flowering shrubs and trees. First cut 1-2m/3-6ft healthy robust canes from the top or sunny side of the plant. Do this on a sunny and warm day. Choose branches with lots of fat, round flower buds (thin pointed buds are leaf buds). Submerge these branches in warm water for a few hours. Then re-cut each stem on a slant, or split the cut end of each stem (1-2in/2.5-5cm) or smash the end with a hammer. This helps the woody stem draw up water. Place the stems in a container of deep water like a bucket or deep vase. Put this into a cool spot out of sunlight and cover with a plastic bag or mist regularly if relative humidity is low. Change water frequently and/or put a teaspoon of bleach in the water to keep it pure. Adding a small amount of liquid fertiliser to the clean water will promote better flower bud development. When buds begin to open in 1-6 weeks bring out into the sunlight in a cool, bright room and enjoy a lovely vase of Early Spring blossom!
Many spring-flowering ornamental shrubs and trees can be easily forced into early bloom.
Almond, Apple, Azalea, Cherry, Crab Apple, Forsythia, Japanese Flowering Quince (Chaenomeles), Pear, Plum, Pussy Willow, Rhododendron, Winter Sweet (Chimonanthus), Witch Hazel and almost any other Spring-flowering shrub or tree.
Complete the pruning of deciduous fruit and nut trees and vines as soon as possible. Once sap begins to rise, it can bleed from the open cuts. This can be particularly damaging to Grape and Kiwi Fruit vines and sometimes to Prunus species (Apricot, Almond, Cherry and Plum). Seal all wounds 1inch/2.5cm or larger with tree paint to help stop this bleeding and to keep borer away from the open cut.
In colder climates there is still plenty of time to complete Winter pruning. But this year the Winter season could be somewhat milder and shorter than normal. Whenever weather permits, try and accomplish a little bit more just in case we are Blessed with an early Spring.
The Waning Moon Cycle is an ideal time to plant or sow for root development. It is an excellent time to plant or pot dormant bulbs, especially Lilies and pre-cooled Spring Flowering bulbs. The very best days are when the Moon passes through sidereal Capricorn 20-22 July and especially Taurus 28-30 July.
Bare root or container-grown deciduous and ornamental Fruit and Nut Trees; Citrus (mild climates); Brambles and Cane fruits; fruiting and ornamental shrubs and vines like Grape and Kiwi Fruit; hardy Broad-Leafed Evergreens, and Conifers; dormant bulbs such as Chives, Garlic, Onions and Shallot, Lilies and pre-refrigerated Spring Flowering bulbs; Roses; dormant roots such as Asparagus, Horseradish and Rhubarb.
Mid Winter represents the deepest dormancy for bare-root and deciduous species so they are most reliably re-established with little chance of loss. But because celestial forces increase all week, be cautious that everything is well watered-in and that there is minimal damage to the plants’ branch structure and its root system. Stake anything vulnerable to whipping about in wintry winds. If dry and/or windy weather persists be sure to water around all newly planted specimens to keep them from drying out.
Wherever conditions remain moderate to subtropical, this is also an acceptable time to plant from containers a wide variety of hardy species native to Australia, the Mediterranean, New Zealand and South Africa. Many of these prefer quite well-drained soil and most prefer a sunny or partly sunny position. Also plant Azalea, Camellia, Daphne, Holly, Pieris japonica, Osmanthus, Rhododendron and cold tolerant annuals and perennials.
Be sure to stake at planting time anything that might otherwise whip about in the Winter winds! Always water in deeply and thoroughly at the time of planting to eliminate air pockets in the soil and insure the plants root system is thoroughly moist. After that keep the surrounding soil moist should rains fail or weather remain very windy. But avoid over-watering in cold conditions and never plant into sodden or soggy wet soil. Many of these plant varieties prefer rather dry-moist situations and often rot in flooded soil. Best planting days occur early in the week.
Celestial extremes increase approaching the New Moon (3 August). Avoid shifting already established plantings or anything tender during the celestial extremes in the final days of the month. When shifting established plantings there will be inevitable and possibly extreme root damage and disturbance plus removal of some top growth when they are shifted. If they must be moved this week insure that they receive the best after care. Best days for shifting are early in the week. If possible, wait to shift established plantings until after the New Moon (3 August).
In vegetable gardens and flower beds that have been planted with Winter cover crops (Barley, Lupin, Mustard, Rye, Wheat, etc.) now is the earliest time to start digging in these ‘green manure’ crops to enrich soil. Many Gardeners also dust the ground with Dolomite/Lime and possibly soil additives such as: Blood and Bone; General Garden Fertiliser; Super Phosphate, etc. depending upon what crops or flowers will be grown next. Dig these in deeply but leave the soil rather rough. Leave the ground to stand for several weeks before planting. This will allow soil aeration and time for the green manure crops to decay and the soil additives to break down so their nutrient value can seep into the surrounding soil.
Protect delicate plantings outdoors from chilling and icy winds, freezing and hail. Burlap shelters stop wind even better than most commercial windbreak. Damage from heavy frost can be controlled by overlaying sensitive plantings with evergreen boughs; books or loose piles of hay, straw or leaves. Even cardboard sheets and books of newspaper work provided they can be pinned into place so as not to blow about in windy weather. For solitary plants a simple cardboard box inverted over the plant will offer good protection. Old bed sheets, light blankets and commercial frost cloth also effectively protect against heavy frosts. All of these are most effective when they are lifted slightly above the plant to create a dead air space. Regularly ‘fluff-up organic mulches like leaves and straw to keep them from packing down. Support sheets or frost cloth on low stakes or drape over a frame or loose array of bare branches placed amongst the sensitive plantings. Avoid plastic as a frost protection unless it can be suspended above the plants and not touch them, otherwise the condensation collecting beneath the plastic will freeze and transfer the frost through the plastic and damage the plants.
In milder temperate climates experiencing infrequent or lighter frosts and freezes, another method of freeze and frost protection is to spray all sensitive plants periodically with a systemic liquid fertiliser high in organic chemical salts. Once the fertiliser salts absorb into the plant tissues, this will lower the freezing point of all liquid in the plant sap which can prove very beneficial on very cold evenings. This is most effective when combined with frost cloth or other frost protection.
Gardeners near the coast should remember that sea salt spray can also be damaging. Even when temperatures remain above freezing, salt carried by strong winds can expose plants to rarefied air that is extremely chilling and can actually desiccate foliage as dramatically as severe freezing. The best method of protection is to create cloth or hessian wind shelters that will absorb salt spray as well as provide essential wind protection. Regularly hose off all plantings exposed to salt-laden winds. This will remove most of the salt that can draw moisture out of the foliage. Be generous and thorough so that all excessive salt is removed and drains away rather than collecting within the soil.
Spray Citrus (use Copper/Citrus/Lime-Sulphur Sprays) and deciduous Fruit Trees (use Commercial Fruit Tree Spray, Copper; Lime-Sulphur) plus Roses (Copper, Lime-Sulphur or Commercial Rose Spray) and optionally Fruiting Vines (use Copper-based products, Commercial Fruit Tree Spray) when weather remains dry. Lime Sulphur is often applied now as a spray to eliminate lichen from deciduous shrubs, trees and vines.
These pests often spread fungus and rots. Be prepared to spray susceptible plantings to protect everything from diseases especially during inclement wetter wintry times.
predation; and it isn’t in colder climates. But in milder climate zones, especially when temperatures moderate and weather becomes wet, Snails and especially Slugs often emerge and quickly do incredible damage.
colonies live within piles of organic debris, old wood piles, under paving and stones or walls. They often live within bushy, dense and leafy plantings such as evergreen perennials.
often create colonies within the shelter of strap-like leaves like Agapanthus, Hemerocallis, and Flax. To help eliminate this potentially devastating problem, excellent Slug traps can be made by simply inverting flower pots, empty seedling punnets, damp boards, books of newspaper or sheets of cardboard leaned closely against a host plant or wall in the garden or simply left in a strategic spot in the affected garden area. Every few days, lift up the trap(s) and eliminate anything inhabiting inside. They can be crushed or dropped into a solution of salty water. If a bird feeder is nearby but far enough away from vulnerable garden beds, the Slugs and Snails can be left there during sunny days if birds are feeding.
Remember to lay baits nearby tender plantings like shoots of emerging bulbs and perennials plus Orchids, especially Cymbidium, Dendrobium and Slipper Orchids that are developing bud spikes. Dropping baits directly into the centres of these leaves habitated by Slugs and Snails will often kill off many. But be aware when using poisonous baits that it is essential to collect corpses every day before Birds and Hedgehogs or pets can eat them.
Cultivate lightly for better drainage and continue to clean up around all Fruit Trees and Fruiting Vines as well as garden beds and borders. Whenever weather permits, lightly cultivate all garden beds. This will aerate the soil and expose the ground to sunlight which will help eliminate disease and fungus spores. Remove all weeds before they can mature and seed. Thorough weeding now will make gardening much easier once Spring arrives.
Aerate lawns with a garden fork if frequent rains have compressed the soil. This is especially important if water pools or sits for any period of time on the lawn. Lawns can also be fed if grass is yellowing. This can be a special lawn fertiliser or substitute Garden Lime. Wherever drainage is poor this is an excellent time to generously dust the lawn with Gypsum Lime. Water this in to the consistency of milk and then let it settle into the soil. In the months to come the Gypsum will open the soil and allow better drainage.
Citrus may need to have their branches staked if they are heavily laden with fruit. Any newly planted shrub, tree and vine must be staked to avoid potential roots damage from whipping about in wintry winds.
While cultivating, consider spreading small but frequent applications of a General Garden Fertilizer plus compost mixed in the proportion of one cup of fertiliser to one standard bucket of compost. Alternate the next application a week or later with a cup of Lime (Dolomite) mixed into a standard bucket of compost. This can be dug in lightly or simply leave it on the soil and allow the wintry weather to do the rest. This enriched compost mulch can be spread around most plants which will help maintain growth and plant health in cold weather.
Blueberry, Azalea, Camellia, Daphne, Gardenia, Luculia, Pieris, Osmanthus, Rhododendron species, etc.
Winter flowers, emerging bulbs and cool-season vegetables can be top-dressed with a similar mix of compost mixed and General Garden Fertiliser or Slow Release Plant Food. As spring-flowering bulb shoots emerge, they can also be side-dressed with special Bulb Fertilizer which will encourage stronger growth, better blooms and multiplication of bulbs for the years ahead. They can also be liquid fed on sunny, mild days.
Prepare garden beds for future planting. Whenever soil is workable, new land and/or fallow beds can be turned and enriched with compost, green-manure, well-aged manure, Lime, General Garden Fertiliser mixed in with Blood and Bone, etc. once enriched and turned, the land can be left in a rough state. Let it stand to “cure” for at least a week or more before considering any sort of planting. Many Gardeners will leave the land in an enriched but rough state until weather improves for later Spring planting.
Houseplants and tender (sub) tropical species should be kept rather dry, sunny, warm and underfed now. Guard against frost, freezing and wind chill. Remember that frigid air can creep through uninsulated walls and windows or draft along the floor. It can also descend like an icy waterfall through glass or plastic in a glass or tunnel house. Keeping air moving with a simple fan will help eliminate the potential damage of chilling drafts.
watering on cloudy cold days. Tender plants survive cold temperatures much better when soil remains rather dry.
In heated glasshouses and/or with soil heating cables start cuttings for the Late Spring and Summer gardens.
Begonias, Carnations, Chrysanthemums, Dianthus, Daisies (Ox-Eye, Pyrethrum, Shasta, etc.), Fuchsias, most Herbs, Pelargonium (Geraniums), Phlox, Salvia, Senecio, Succulents and Cacti, and most perennials.