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This week in the Garden for May

This First Week of Late Autumn in the Garden:

The last month of Autumn begins with the Waning Moon reaching ‘Dark of the Moon (3 May); Perigee (it’s closest approach to Earth for the month) 6 May, followed by the New Moon 7 May. The Moon is strongly descending (moving to the North) in the Southern Hemisphere skies.
 
This New Moon represents the lunar beginning of Late Autumn. It occurs on the (sidereal cusp of Aries, semi-barren fire sign and Taurus, a benevolent semi fertile earth sign). Both these signs often tend to attract mild and pleasant weather. The greatest intensity of the New Moon energy is focused on the other side of the Northern Hemisphere where extreme weather events are more likely. Here in New Zealand conditions should remain much less volatile.  Predominantly light westerly winds often pushing northerly should bring relatively mild temperatures for much of the month. Occasional cooler southwest pulses are possible, especially in exposed southern latitudes,  that could bring a brief Antarctica blast and frosts around or up to a few days after the Full Moon (22 May). But overall this looks like a potentially lovely month of Late Autumn weather. Enjoy!
 
Feeding and Watering:
The Waning Moon shifts ever closer toward the Sun’s position this week as the two sweep across the daytime sky. Celestial and gravitational extremes and tides will increase and reach their peak around 8 May.
 
Consequently, liquid feeding and watering will be pulled upward mostly strongly with the rising Sun and into the early afternoon hours. This will result in good rates of top growth, flowering and fruiting. Afternoon and evening watering will be pulled downward so will refresh a dry garden by the following morning.
 
A Time to Complete Outdoor Work:
Attempt to complete all outdoor garden jobs as quickly as possible, especially in colder climates, before the changing season makes this difficult. Those who intend to plant shrubs, trees and vines over the Winter months should consider digging, composting and fertilizing their planting holes now while the soil is workable and the climate benevolent for this sort of physical effort. The same applies to garden beds, especially larger bulb, cut flower and vegetable gardens where planting and sowing will happen at a later date. This way the hard work is done and the soil has time to ‘cure’ over a longer period of time which almost always produces a better quality soil, thus a better botanical result.
 
This is an excellent time to clean and tidy the garden. Clear beds of faded displays, weed thoroughly and eliminate unwanted vegetation; add compost, fertilizers, then turn the soil. If the land is meant to remain fallow until Spring, leave it somewhat rough to ‘cure’ in the wintry weather. Sow green manure crops over the rough ground and leave them to grow until Late Winter. Then dig them into the soil.
 
Mow lawns, feed and seed them, too; and feed all manner of Autumn, Winter and Spring flowering perennials, shrubs and trees to stimulate bud growth and strengthen them.
 
This week is also an excellent time to lay foundations and paving; set fence posts and build all manner of things for the garden and home. Organize tools and sharpen them in preparation for autumnal and Winter pruning.
 
Where Winter and Spring flowers and vegetables are to be planted, mix the compost and fertilisers into the soil and allow the land to sit for upward of a week or more before replanting. This composting and feeding should be generous to replenish what has been used by the previous crops and plantings over the warmer months. Add extra Lime and drainage materials (sand, river gravel, small bark chips, etc.) into the top layer of the garden soil. This will help offset the effects of poorer drainage during extended periods of wet wintry weather. A generous soaking will help activate and dissolve the additives into the soil. Plant could start as early as next week.
 
Compost everything that came off the land. Anything diseased should be burned and the ashes recycled into the compost pile. If the plant material is healthy, it can be recycled into the compost heap. Alternatively, chop the faded plants into small sections and spread them as mulch around the garden. It is often really easy to chop them where they stand with hedge clippers a section at a time and let the pieces drop to be left where they lie. This creates green manure mulch that most closely returns to the land exactly what the plants removed from it to while they were growing.
 
An Emphasis on Root Development:
Strong root development occurs during the Waning Moon Cycle and ‘Dark of the Moon’ phase.
 
These are good days to sow seed of root crop vegetables. The next opportunity occurs around the Full Moon (22 May) onward until the end of the month. But by then the days are colder and shorter so germination and growth will be slower. Planting and sowing root crops now makes more sense.
 
Continue planting bulbs and any plant species with deep and spreading root systems or tap roots.
 
Many newly planted brambles, canes; perennials; shrubs, trees and vines plus seedlings may appear to make little growth above the ground. But beneath the soil, their root systems will continue to advance in preparation of strong growth during the next growing cycle/season.
 
Vegetables to Plant or Sow Now
 
Vegetables to plant or sow include:
Beet, Carrot, Fennel, Garlic, Leeks, Mustard, Onion, Parsnip, Peas, Potato, Radish, Shallot, Swede and Turnip. Also included here are things like Artichoke and Asparagus plus Rhubarb that depend on their extensive root systems to produce quality harvests.
 
Within the cold frame, glasshouse or very sheltered (subtropical) garden, more tender varieties can be started. Beans, Beets, Cucumbers, Melons, Pepino, Squash Taro, and Tomatoes are all likely candidates. But their growing environment must remain very airy and sheltered, sunny and warm with frost-free Winter protection in the months ahead.
 
Leafy Vegetables and all those that produce their crops above the ground can also be sown. This gives their seed a week to germinate before the beneficial aspects of the Waxing Moon Cycle begin next week. Where environmental conditions appear favourable and daily care is possible, it is also possible to transplant their seedlings. Only attempt this if there will be minimal root damage and disturbance otherwise celestial extremes may result in plant injury resulting in collapse or set-back. There will be easier times ahead throughout the remainder of the month. But when started now, they get an extra week to establish and will tend to develop stronger root systems prior to putting on much extra top growth. This often proves to be helpful when Winter vegetables are subjected to cold and damp conditions where a strong root system helps promote and sustain healthy growth.
 
Leafy Vegetables to sow or transplant include:
Broad Beans, Broccoli, Cabbages, most Chinese Greens (Bok Choy, Chinese Cabbages, etc.), Cress, Coriander (Cilantro), Endive, Herbs, Lettuce (often best under glass or in raised beds), Mustard, Parsley, Peas, Silverbeet and Spinach.
 
Flowers to Start Now:
Usually the ‘Dark of the Moon’ phase is not considered the best time to transplant anything delicate. But this particular Moon phase provides an acceptable time to sow seed or transplant. Because transplanting during the Full Waning Moon Cycle can be stressful for anything tender, stick to advanced seedlings or container plants where minimum root damage or disturbance will occur. Be sure that environmental conditions appear benevolent and after-care can be assured. If climatic conditions appear doubtful or extreme, delay planting and wait a while as there will be more opportunities to accomplish this later in the month. This could be a good time to purchase plants and seeds for planting in the remaining weeks of this month.
 
Be aware that in colder climates all newly planted seedlings and young plants will need protection from frost and freezing. In climates experiencing hard frosts and ground freezing, all these seeds and seedlings are best started in a cold frame or glasshouse. While in mild climates, most of these can be successfully started in a sunny and very sheltered environment outdoors. Most all of them will germinate faster with bottom heat. Advanced seedlings transplanted now could start blooming quite soon while seed started now will probably not flower before Spring or later.
 
Annual, Biennial And Perennial Flowers To Plant Or Sow include such garden favourites as:
Alyssum, Aquilegia, Arctotis, Bellis Perennis (English Daisy), Candytuft, Cornflower, Canterbury Bells, Carnation, Coneflower, Delphinium, Dianthus, Feverfew (Tanacetum), Digitalis (Foxglove), Gaillardia, Godetia, Gypsophila, Hellebores (Winter Rose), Hollyhock (Althea), Honesty (Lunaria), Iceland Poppy, Larkspur, Limnanthes, Linaria, Livingstone Daisy, Lobelia, Lupin, Mignonette, Myosotis (Forget-Me-Not), Nemesia, Nemophila, Nigella, Painted Daisy, Pansy, Penstemon, Polyanthus, Poppies (most species), Primula, Scabiosa, Snapdragon, Statice, Stock, Sweet Pea, Viola, Virginia Stock, Wallflower and more locally.
 
Advanced Container Seedlings:
Continue to transplant advanced container-grown seedlings of favourite garden flowers.

Including:
Aquilegia (Granny Bonnets), Arctotis, Bellis perennis (English Daisy), Canterbury Bells, Carnation, Cineraria, Cyclamen, Delphinium, Dianthus, Feverfew (Tanacetum), Forget-Me-Not (Myosotis),  Foxglove (Digitalis) , Gaillardia (Indian Blanket), Hollyhock (Althaea), Iceland Poppy (most Poppy species), Larkspur, Limnanthes Sea Foam/Meadow Foam), Livingstone Daisy, Lupin, Nemesia, Primula and Polyanthus, Ranunculus, Snapdragon (Antirrhinum), Strawflower (Helichrysum), Stock (Matthiola) , Sweet Pea (Lathyrus), Wallflower (Erysimum), Wildflower mixes and much more.
 
These plants will provide “instant” colour for the cooler months ahead. To prolong the display, it is possible to sow seed or transplant smaller seedlings in between these more advanced plants.
 
Flowers for Mild Climates:
In mild climates with minimal Winter frosts (preferably none) it is possible to plant the following seed or seedlings:  Ageratum, Calceolaria, Cineraria, Cosmos, Cyclamen, Gazania, Impatiens, French Marigold (most other Marigold species in frost-free locations only), Primula obconica, Schizanthus, Sweet Pea, Zinnia and much more. In frost-free ‘Winter-less’ climates almost all flowers that bloom in either Spring and/or Autumn will thrive. Wherever Winters remain nearly frost-free, dry and sunny, consider Petunias as an ideal bedding or container plant. Be aware that cold, wet weather will ruin their flowers. All these species can be successful grown in a bright and sunny glasshouse and sometimes in a protected sun-facing veranda. In mild climates these could be planted out into the garden in two months’ time or can be held over in the cold frame or nursery for planting-out in Late Winter or Early Spring.
 
Protect all seed and seedlings from predation by Slugs, Snails, Birds and Vermin!
 
Ornamental Brambles and Canes, Shrubs, Trees, and Vines both deciduous and evergreen can be planted from containers. Be sure to water immediately upon planting to ensure that they get a good start and a prolonged period of root development. Generous mulch will maintain a more constant ground temperature and balanced moisture content. Stake anything tall and/or exposed to potentially extreme winds. Make sure to mist foliage daily if weather conditions remain dry and/or windy.
 
Because of the strong celestial extremes this week, avoid wrenching and transplanting anything where significant root damage and trauma will occur. This could kill the plant unless expert after-care can be provided. Postpone this sort of procedure until after the New Moon (7 May) and throughout the remainder of the month.
 
Spring Flowering Bulbs:
This is another brilliant month to plant all Spring-flowering bulbs outdoors in garden beds where they are meant to flower. Early-flowering bulbs (Aconite, Crocus, Rock Tulips, etc.) should be planted without delay so they will have enough time to develop an adequate root system. The only exception might be in the very warmest (sub) tropical corners where ground temperatures may still be well above 60F/15.6C. In those warmest climates, either maintain your bulbs in a cool, dry location or continue to refrigerate these bulbs a while longer until temperatures fall just a little more. Anemone and Ranunculus will sprout more successfully once ground temperatures have dropped below 15C/59F.
 
The best natural test for when it is safe to start planting bulbs outdoors is wherever night air temperatures are dropping consistently below 12C/53.6F and/or the autumnal leaves are at least beginning to change colour, this is an ideal time to begin planting them.
 
Because Spring-flowering bulbs are dormant, they can be planted at almost any time of the month and over many months, provided that appropriate environmental conditions can be met. But traditionally, the Waning Moon Cycle (reducing moonlight with Moon appearing in the early morning sky) is the most ‘ideal’ time to plant a wide assortment of bulbs, corms, roots and tubers. This is when Professional Growers often start them to promote bigger bulb size, multiplication and strongest root development. This results in a healthy, robust and vigorous plant.
 
When grown for larger flowers rather than bulb quality and size, a Waxing Moon Cycle (increasing evening Moon light) is often considered to be the ‘ideal’ time for planting.
 
Late Autumn’s climate is particularly well-suited to this sort of bulb and root planting at almost any time of the month. This way the bulbs have time to establish a strong root system before the onset of Winter. This root system then supports much more dramatic and vigorous Spring growth and flowering. As Autumn advances, extreme weather events become more common in temperate and cooler climates. This means that planting soil is liable to remain moist, encouraging some growth and mostly root development.
 
Spring flowering bulbs usually prefer a bright and sunny location sheltered from strong winds and pelting hail or rain. Almost all of them perform best in well draining soils that have been enriched with a good general garden fertilizer or bulb food mixed into the top 6-8in/15-20cm of soil. If soil is heavy, it is often best to mix peat and sand into the land to lighten it. Most bulbs will not perform well in heavy clay or wherever water pools on the land. Many varieties of Spring-flowering bulbs are well suited to banks and hillsides, meadows and raised beds.
 
When naturalizing bulbs consider a site that can be allowed to dry out over the Summer months. Also remember that the foliage of these bulbs must be allowed to die off naturally without being cut off or disturbed if the bulbs are to mature sufficiently to bloom in successive years. In garden beds that will be used and watered throughout the warmer months an effective way around this problem is to plant hardy flowers in between the bulbs. Calendula, Candytuft, Centaurea, Forget-Me-Not, Snapdragon, Stock and Wallflower plus many more can be planted to start blooming before, with or after the Spring bulb flowers. They will continue to grow and flower for many weeks after the bulbs have finished and will hide their dying foliage.
 
Once the bulb foliage has died away and the annual flowers are finished, the entire bed can be dug up; the bulbs harvested and stored; then the beds replanted for the warm season
 
Bulbs in Pots:
Spring-flowering bulbs thrive in pots. The pots can either be placed in refrigeration or in a very cool, damp and shaded position outdoors, such as underneath the coolest shady side of an outbuilding, beneath shrubbery or a wall to simulate wintry conditions. Wherever freezing weather is severe, the pots can be watered-in thoroughly, buried in sand which is covered with mulch. Just leave them there at least until roots begin to appear outside the pot’s drainage holes and sprouts begin to show some movement. Then they can be brought into more light and moderately cool temperatures for flowering.
 
Crocus and Hyacinths planted in pots and refrigerated now can be forced into flower by Mid Winter. Paper White Narcissus and other ‘warm’ weather Mediterranean species can be forced into bloom even sooner as they need no prior refrigeration. But most Spring-flowering bulbs do require a significant period of cold conditions that simulate Winter prior to flowering. This can be accomplished by placing the dry bulbs in open boxes or mesh bags in the refrigerator. Never allow them to freeze!  Also they can be potted and placed in refrigeration which allows the development of a more substantial root system which produces better blooms.
 
Alternatively, pot the bulbs and then place these pots in a cool, dark, moist and shady place outdoors. Perhaps under shrubbery or on the shady side of a wall where they will remain very cool but never freeze. Once roots begin to show through the pots’ drainage holes, they can be brought into a bright but cool situation to grow on for early flowering.
 
In climates that experience Winter freezing pots of bulbs meant for early forcing are often buried in trenches covered over with sand or mulch. This way the bulbs can grow strong roots and shoots in a very natural environment. Then after the appropriate number of chilling weeks has past, the pots are unearthed and moved indoors for early flowering.
 
Chilling Times for Bulbs:
Bulbs can also be chilled dry. Place them in mesh bags (Onion bags) so that they can breathe. Avoid paper or plastic that could sweat and trigger the bulbs into premature growth or induce rot. Store these bulbs in refrigeration at approximately 4C/39+F degrees. Attempt to maintain as even a temperature as possible.
 
Crocus, Hyacinths and some Minor Bulbs (Anemone blanda, Chionodoxa, Galanthus, Muscari, Scilla, etc.) need as little as 8 to 10 weeks of cold before bringing into a bright, cool and sheltered spot for early flowering.  Most Narcissus ‘Daffodils’ need 8 to 12 weeks of cold and dark while Tulips can be successfully forced after 12 to 16 weeks.
 
If these bulbs do not get the required length of cold they need, their buds may fail to develop properly (Tulip ‘blasting’); may flower on very short stems; or flowers may be deformed, short and stumpy.
 
Bulbs are best chilled on their own. Never chill them with Apples, Pineapple or other fruits that exude ethylene gases that can sometimes ruin your bulbs! Ideal chilling temperature is around 4C/39+F. Never let them freeze! Master Growers fine tune this temperature slightly higher or lower to induce faster flowering or slower bud development.
 
Bulbs, Corms and Roots to plant now included:
Achimenes (tropical gardens or warm glasshouse only), Allium, Amaryllis belladonna, Calochortus (Mariposa Lily), Camassia, Chionodoxa (Glory of the Snow), Dipidax, Eranthis (Winter Aconite), Erythronium (Dog’s Tooth Violet), Eucharis Lily (warm climate or glasshouse), Freesia, Galanthus (Snow Drop),  Haemanthus (Blood Flower), Hyacinth, Hypoxis (Star Grass), Iris (Bearded, Dutch, Siberian and species), Leucojum (Snowflake), Lycoris (Spider Lily), Moraea,  Muscari (Grape Hyacinth), Narcissus, Nerine (last chance), Notholirion, Ornithogalum, Oxalis hybrids, Ranunculus, Scilla (Wood Hyacinth), Sparaxis, Tritonia, Tulip, Veltheimia, Zantedeschia and more locally.
 
Lilies:
Plant Lily bulbs now through Winter. The earlier they are planted, the longer they have to become established so the more successful will be the result. In cold climates, be sure and mulch the ground against deep freezing that could kill the dormant bulbs. They can also be started in containers in a frost-free and sunny position for earlier blooms.
 
Lily bulbs are quite delicate and dry out quickly. When digging them up, it is best to replant them immediately. Alternatively, place them in a box, container or flat and bury them in peat, old potting mix, etc. so that they do not dry out.
 
In milder climates where growth never really stops for very long, early planted Lily bulbs usually bloom sooner than those planted at a later date. Bulbs can be held for a sustained period in cool refrigeration (never freezing) provided they are protected in peat, sand, sphagnum or soil kept barely moist. This will retard the emergence of the growing shoot. Planting bulbs of the same or similar variety in succession can greatly extend the season of bloom.
 
Planting sites for Lilies should be sunny or in partial shade with morning sun preferred or lightly dappled light as opposed to scalding sun, especially hot sun in the afternoon. Lilies quite like having their roots shaded to keep them cool with their heads shining in the sun. Planting on the shady side of a low shrub, low fence or wall or within a ground cover bed is often very effective.
 
Good air circulation and a freely draining acidic soil are essential as Lily bulbs rot if allowed to stand in wet ground. Avoid lime around Lilies! Avoid heavy, wet soils and hot spots. Most varieties are great in containers! Asiatic, Longiflorum and Regale (Christmas) Lilies are very easily grown. Asiatic and Longiflorum types produce blooms even in small pots.  But Oriental, Regale and most other larger Lilies need deeper soil and a good root-run so are best planted in larger containers or tubs where their roots can spread. Once planted in tubs it is best to leave them undisturbed for at least a couple of years before repotting.
 
Iris:
In mild and many temperate climates most Iris can be planted as bulbs or their roots or tubers dug, divided and transplanted. This is especially true of bulbous Iris like Dutch, English and Spanish plus species like I. reticulata. These all prefer quite freely draining soils. Also plant or transplant fibrous Japanese, Siberian and similar perennial Iris species and their many varieties. Japanese Water Iris and Louisiana Iris can also be divided Late Winter or Early Spring. They all need damp soil that remains fairly acid. In colder climates experiencing significant freezing wait until early Spring.
 
Bearded Iris can also be shifted wherever Winter weather is no too severe. These are traditionally divided and replanted directly after flowering finishes in Late Spring or Summer. But Autumn is also an acceptable time, especially when planting selected varieties from established containers.
 
Replant healthy tubers with a strong eye facing in the direction where new growth is intended at somewhat higher than ground level or on a small mound. Water must drain away from the tubers or they will rot. Bearded Iris prefers a limy soil. Do not allow the tubers to be over-shadowed by other growth as this will also result in rotting.
 
Bearded Irises often perform best in a bed of their own placed in a position sheltered from windy extremes but with very good air flow and full sunshine. When attempting to grow Bearded Irises in partial shade increase drainage and air flow and/or consider growing them in very freely draining large containers or tubs.
 
Mature Bearded Iris tubers can be dug and potted. Leave them outdoors in a sunny and warm position for the remainder of the month to become established in their pots. Then make sure they are either mulched over with peat or sand or shifted to someplace where they do not deeply freeze over the Winter. Alternatively, place the pots either in refrigeration just like Spring-flowering bulbs or in a cool cellar for at least two months The Tubers must be kept cold enough to remain dormant. After two or more months of chilling, bring them out into an airy, cool and sunny position. Water very lightly and with any luck Iris shoots will begin growing and then flowering in the weeks that follow.
 
Warm Season Bulb Care:
Tender Summer-flowering bulbs, corms, rhizomes, roots and tubers should be lifted and stored without delay so they are not damaged by cold and damp conditions. This is not necessary in ‘winterless’ climates that remain dry throughout the Winter months but elsewhere this lifting is essential. This includes Acidanthera, Achimenes, all special hybrid Caladiums, Dahlias, Gladioli, Gloxinia, Tuberous Begonias, Zantedeschia and many more. They can be stored in their pots in a dry state. Alternatively, place in an airy, cool, dry, frost-free spot out of direct sun in mesh bags or open boxes filled with dry peat, old potting mix, sawdust or dry sphagnum until ready to replant in the Spring.
 
Autumn Flower Beds:
This is a turning point for Autumn flower gardens. In colder climates the first hard frost will take them out. So that will be the time to either remove the spent plants to the compost pile or cut them down with hedge clippers and leave the clippings to rot as a green manure mulch.
 
In milder climates Autumn gardens could still be glowing with autumnal radiance. These ‘sunset’ gardens also can look particularly memorable on cloudy, damp days with a background of vivid Autumn foliage. To keep them glowing and growing strongly continue dead-head combined with a light cut-back and trim as stems begin to fade or finish.
 
A comprehensive foliage feeding and spray can do wonders to prolong or rejuvenate an Autumn floral display. There are several ways to do this. Organic Gardeners can apply soapy water mixed into Copper powder plus Epsom salts. A complete balanced systematic liquid foliar fertiliser is ideal for quick results. Add to this liquid fertiliser a good quality systemic fungicide/insecticide. Liquid feeding into the plants’ roots is also a successful approach to stimulate additional growth and flowering. This will both feed and protect the plants to enhance late flowering and prevent encroachment from disease and insect predation to provide the longest possible flowering and harvest season.
 
Keep garden beds clean and tidy removing fading plants, debris, and young weeds that have not yet seeded to the compost pile. Remain alert to stress-related problems and quickly remove and burn anything decayed, diseased, dying, half-eaten or rotting before it can affect and damage what remains. This also helps prevent problems from next year’s garden before they spread over the Winter ahead.
 
Perennial Care:
Chrysanthemums should still be shining and will often continue until hard frost. Remove faded blooms and liquid feed weekly to encourage side buds to develop. Once they finish, their canes can be cut to near the ground. Plants can be divided at this time or later in the season right through Early Spring.
 
Hellebores will be sprouting new foliage and buds on the early flowering varieties. Make sure these shoots do not get smothered by the cascade of autumnal foliage. Also bait them as a precaution against damage by Slugs and Snails.
 
Divide and plant most Perennials. Usually the younger, outer growth will make the best divisions that will grow the most rapidly to produce new clumps. The inner, older parts of the plant are sometimes disguarded but many times if these are replanted they will revive to produce fresh and strong regrowth and flowering.
 
Almost all perennial species can be cut back, dug, divided and replanted. This will allow them to become re-established before new growth resumes in the Spring. In cold climates with severe freezing this can wait until Spring. The main exceptions are perennial Phlox paniculata and Shasta Daisy that perform much better if divided in Late Winter of Early Spring.
 
Warm season perennials will quickly fade and finish flowering now. As they do, cut them back. In cold climates experiencing repeated ground freezing and thaw, be sure to surround each newly transplanted perennial with generous mulch. At this early stage, place a ring of mulch around each plant but leave its crown completely uncovered. After the first significant ground freeze sets in much later in the Autumn, then cover the plant and leave it that way until severe freezing finishes.
 
Groundcovers:
This is the last opportunity to start preparing ground and planting groundcovers in all but the mildest climates. Wherever frosts are minimal this can continue for most of the Winter, whenever weather permits.
 
When grown as a permanent planting, make a good job of this so it will last for years. First till the soil thoroughly, removing all weeds. If possible let the cultivated earth rest and settle for a couple of weeks and then cultivate again to eliminate any emerging weed seedlings. In potentially very weedy ground, repeat this several times to ‘sterilize’ the ground of weeds before attempting to plant perennial groundcovers. Also feed generously before planting and add organic matter, especially compost to permanently enrich the soil. If soil is very heavy, whiten it with Gypsum Lime and water this in lightly before planting to help open the land for better drainage. Once planted, keep beds moist if weather remains dry until any signs of wilting have stopped. Watch carefully for the first year, just to be sure that the groundcovers have rooted deeply enough to sustain themselves over the long-term.
 
Houseplants:
Tender House plants should now be indoors or in their glasshouse positions before temperatures fall too severely. If they are still outdoors in exposed positions move tender container plants to sheltered, sunny, warm sites immediately Most house plants and (sub) tropical species prefer temperatures to remain above 12C/53.6F or more to maintain plant health and steady growth. Once temperatures fall below this level these plants tend to enter dormancy or may even begin to rot and die.
 
As air temperatures drop, the soil temperature in exposed containers can drop to near freezing. Roots often chill and damage if the soil is moist, eventually root rot results and plant collapse often follows. Vulnerable pots can be double potted i.e. one pot slipped within another and the space between them filled with peat, sand, soil, etc. This makes effective insulation against wind chill.
 
Some flowering plants that are naturally Winter flowering outdoors in subtropical climates also are often used as indoor plants. These prefer conditions that remain constantly cooler yet still frost-free. The most popular of these include: potted Chrysanthemum, Cineraria, Cyclamen, Cymbidium Orchid, forced Hyacinths and Narcissus that are beginning to shoot, Kalanchoe, Primula obconica, Poinsettia, Zygocactus, Zygopetalum Orchid and a few less common ornamental container plants.
 
These cool weather classics should be kept in an airy, bright if not quite sunny spot with mildly warm days but cool nights. The cool evenings are essential to their long-term performance. They are all best suited to the cool glasshouse or unheated sun room. Many people wish to enjoy them in heated rooms. But temperatures should not exceed 72F/22C degrees. During the evening hours these plants should be moved to an unheated room or possibly placed on a small table or windowsill next to a window with a closed curtain over them to insure that they remain cool (but never freezing).
 
Being naturally Winter flowering plants, they also perform brilliantly in mild and sunny subtropical climates with beautiful Autumn and Winter weather. Sometimes they can be grown next to sunny doorways or on covered verandas that remain frost free.
 
Continue to feed and water them all regularly but lightly. This is best done on mild and sunny days rather than in the evening. Once conditions cool down, these plants metabolize and grow more slowly so need a little less feeding. Water lightly but regularly and never let their soil completely dry out. Never allow water to remain in the saucer for more than an hour. Excessive watering can prove fatal, especially if plant roots remain wet on very cool nights.
 
Subtropicals:
In very mild climates it is still possible to plant sub tropical species successfully provided that the ground remains moist and warm. The planting location should be in a sheltered microclimate that experiences mild Winter weather with little significant freezing and/or only light frosts or none at all. Make sure the soil is very free-draining and that water never pools around the plant. Because growth and root development slow as the season cools it is best to only transplant carefully from established container-grown specimens.  Be careful to avoid much root disturbance at planting as the remaining growing season is short for tender species.
 
Weekly light liquid feeding combined with light watering will encourage quick and strong root development before the cooler weather arrives. Be sure to firmly stake any planting that might be lashed about by windy weather. Bougainvillea and other vines plus Palms are particularly vulnerable to root damage if their root ball twists about in the weeks after planting.
 
Subtropical species can also be potted or repotted, but often it is best to leave a potted specimen pot bound now and repot it once Spring weather returns. Because there is only a short time to develop new roots before growth is halted by cooler nights, be very careful to not over-pot tender (sub) tropical species or plant them into sites that might remain overly wet in Winter. Avoid going up more than one pot size. Cold wet soil surrounding exposed tender roots is a recipe for root rot and plant collapse.
 
If in doubt, especially in border-line climatic zones, simply shelter the subtropical plant in its container in a very airy, bright, sunny and mild to warm environment where it can rest in a semi-dormant position until warm Spring conditions return in a few months. Subtropical species usually survive wintry conditions much more successfully if they remain somewhat pot-bound rather than surrounded by cold wet soil. Most subtropical species make little if any growth during the cooler Winter months and usually survive well when allowed to dry out a little between watering.
 
Of greatest importance is to maintain warm soil around their roots. This can be accomplished by ‘double’ potting one pot within another with the space between them filled with granulated bark, coconut fibre, peat, pumice, sand or soil. Some Gardeners wrap plant pots and sometimes nearly the entire plant in hessian to protect them like a winter coat. It also helps to cluster a number of pots together which retains more heat amongst the pots and helps protect against potential chilling drafts or freezing of the container soil.
 
Lawns:
In milder climate zones there is still time to start a new lawn. This is a good time to lay turf provided the weather is sufficiently damp or artificial irrigation can supplement any lack in natural rainfall. Sow lawn seed quickly before cold weather slows germination! Even so, germination will certainly be much slower than it would have been a month ago and new grass blades could be damaged in climates where heavy frost is imminent.  Some Gardeners in most climate zones scatter lawn seed through existing lawns now with the hope that the seed will germinate later in the year when conditions become more benevolent for sprouting. This sort of seeding usually works quite well provided the seed is coated to repel hungry birds and rodents.
 
Now is also a good time to feed, seed and generally refurbish an existing lawn. If a really fine exhibition lawn is the plan, it is worth going to a bit of trouble to get the drainage perfect and the soil as loamy and rich as possible. A dusting of Gypsum will help improve poor drainage and help to loosen clay soil. Lightly forking over the lawn or going over it with an aerating spike roller will open up almost any soil. Existing lawns can be further improved with a thin layer of screened top soil well raked in to which blood and bone, lawn fertilizer and then seed is applied. Keep the entire area evenly moist especially if regular rains fail.
 
A mossy lawn can be improved with a dusting of Lime. This helps elevate soil pH. A soil pH of 6.5-7.2 is ideal. In very acid soils it is sometimes helpful to add a very fine layer of screened limestone rock into the soil surface or substitute Dolomite Lime. Mosses can also be controlled with dry or liquid applications of Iron Sulphate, Ferrous Ammonium Sulphate and Copper Sulphate. These ingredients are often used in weed and feed lawn applications. While sometimes effective, they may stain concrete or pathway surfaces as well as hands and clothing. They also do not address the issue of poor soil fertility which is usually at the root cause of excessive moss and weed problems.
 
Rake leaves from lawns to avoid smothering the grass. Do not allow them to cake and compact over lawn grass.
 
Those Lovely Autumn Leaves:
Colourful Autumn foliage usually reaches a peak this month. In coldest districts many trees are already bare. The changing Autumn leaf display is Nature’s way of providing a most colourful parting celebration in honour of the warm season now passing. It is also a ‘red flag’ to signals that the mild season is ending and to make haste before the arrival of Winter weather ahead.
 
One of the joys of a tree and shrub garden is the vivid autumnal foliage display that can be achieved with a little careful planning. Those wishing to plant a variety of species for autumnal colour tones should be making regular visits to selected local nurseries now. This is the best time to select exactly the right tones for your special Autumn garden display. Also watch for shrubbery and vines with decorative berries and blooms plus Autumn flowering perennials that can be planted to create an enchanting Autumn garden
 
Fallen Leaves: 
Fallen leaves from many types of deciduous trees make excellent enriching mulch in shrub, tree and woodland gardens. But they can prove disastrous if they are allowed to bury smaller plantings. Make sure to keep fallen leaves picked up out of garden beds filled with annuals and low growing perennials as they could kill off valuable plantings. Even in mild climates, be aware that autumnal debris and wet leaves can quickly collect in the crowns of plants like Bromeliads and Palms resulting in crown rot.
 
Crushed leaves make a brilliant compost and also valuable mulch. Leaves from many deciduous species are the best and very mineral enriched. They need to be worked in around plantings or mixed in with other compostable debris. When crushed through a lawn mower or shredder these break down quickly to create beautiful quality humus that is within a good pH range.
 
Heavy tannin leaves from broad leafed evergreens like Camellia, Holly, Magnolia, and Rhododendron; many Australia, New Zealand and South African native species as well as Oaks do not break down quickly. In fact, because of their waxy outer coating they can remain intact for years. But when thoroughly pulverized in a shredder or with the lawn mower, this breaks their waxy outer coating and allows bacteria to enter their internal structure and break them down. If these are added to the compost pile make sure that they are well worked in with other wettable materials so that they break down faster. The compost produced is fluffy and light with an acidic pH.
 
When crushed tannin leaves are used as mulch, spread somewhat thinly or mix with compost or soil. If crushed tannin-rich leaves are allowed to cake and pack together to any great depth, they can become much like a shingle roof and quickly knit together. This makes them impervious to water which then stops them from breaking down and decaying back into the soil. It can also seal out valuable moisture from penetrating into the soil as it should.
 
Another use for high tannin leaves is as Winter frost protective mulch. Evergreen Magnolia, Oak, Osmanthus, Rhododendron and other coarse and large intact leaves once dried tend to remain rather light and fluffy so do not pack down. These are very effective when used as a freeze and frost protective mulch. They are allowed to remain whole and are spread over tender plantings once the ground has thoroughly cooled. Periodically, lift and fluff-up these leaves, especially after heavy rains or snowfall so that they do not pack and smother plantings. Dried fluffy leave mulches are Natures best solution to protecting the ground and valuable plantings from Winter freezing. That is exactly what they do naturally in woodlands settings.
 
Fruit Care:
An abundance of Autumn fruits continue to ripen all month. Continue to clean-up and tidy around all fruit trees, orchards and vineyards. Remove all decayed and spoilt fruit and mow/mulch fallen leaves. Compost all this material. Wherever there has been disease or insect predation, make a special effort to eliminate all excessive debris that might harbour invasive problems that could spring to life early next season. Burn anything that shows the slight predation in an attempt to control the problem for the future.  Spray with a solution of powdered copper and spraying oil or a suitable (systemic) fungicide/insecticide to eliminate fungus and insect problems now rather than waiting until next Spring. But plan to spray again then, too! This is the best way to control difficult predative problems.
 
Brambles and cane fruits can be cut back now or over the winter months. This applies to Summer-fruited varieties. Remove all the canes that have finished fruiting but leave all this season’s new canes. These will produce next year’s crop. Autumn fruited varieties are cut back after all fruit has been harvested.
 
In cold climates experiencing severe freezing, their crowns should be mulch as an insurance against the possibility of wintry frost damage.
 
Strawberries can be planted all month in mild/ temperate and subtropical climates.
 
Citrus can be planted all month in mild and subtropical locations experiencing little if any freezing Winter weather..
 
As soon as deciduous fruiting species lose their leaves, they can be shifted wherever necessary and new stock can be planted from bare root or container-grown plants.
 
Fertilizing:
Late Autumn is a brilliant time to enrich the land to replenish all that has been removed through the growth of warm season plantings. Compost is by far the best additive. Aged manure is also highly beneficial. Dust vegetable plots with a good quality general plant food (10-10-10, 20-20-20, etc.) and let this weather-in for at least a week or two before replanting. The addition of blood and bone will reactivate soil that has become overly dry and parched through excessive Summer heat. Its bacterial action will rejuvenate almost any soil but should not be considered as a balanced or complete plant food but rather an additive that enhances the impact of other more balanced fertilizers.
 
Wherever soil appears green, mossy or sour the addition of Lime or Dolomite Lime will do wonders to ‘sweeten’ the soil and bring it back into productivity. Wherever water pools on the ground and does not drain away within a short period of time, generously whiten the ground with Gypsum then water it in only very lightly. Do not allow the milky Gypsum liquid to run off. Slowly the colloidal action of Gypsum will improve drainage that will make the land much more productive in the future. Be patient as this takes months to become effective.
 
Feed most broad-leafed Evergreens, especially those developing buds or beginning to come into flowering.
 
This includes:
Andromeda, Azalea, Boronia, Camellias, Daphne, Holly, Luculia, Osmanthus, Pieris, Rhododendron and Vireya plus many others.
 
These are ideally fed with mature, rich compost mixed with “acid” fertiliser spread as a mulch from just off the trunk out to the drip-line. Add one half to one cup of fertilizer to one bucket of compost and mix thoroughly. Spread this mix evenly but lightly all around the plants but never touching the trunk.
 
Citrus and Spring flowering ornamental shrubs, trees and vines can also be feed. Use the same ratio of fertilizer to compost but substitute a special Citrus fertiliser for all Citrus species and/or a good quality balanced general garden fertilizer mixed with the compost in a similar manner for most all other ornamentals.
 
Some Gardeners also feed deciduous fruit trees now with a sprinkling of a fertilizer high in Potassium. Greensand is a valuable organic source of iron, potassium and magnesium. Ashes from untreated wood are also high in potassium. This is used to fortify the trees in preparation for their Winter dormancy.
 
Pruning:
It’s an acceptable time to lightly prune, shape and trim conifers, hedges; plus many shrubs, trees and vines. Deciduous species should not be touched until all their leaves have fallen. Also avoid much pruning on species that are in flower now or laden with buds that will bloom later in the Winter or in the Spring.
 
Pruning anytime during the Waning Moon cycle will tend to limit new growth. This is most pronounced during the “Dark of the Moon’ cycle (3-7 May) including the time around the New Moon (7 May). Anything pruned then will stay pruned for much longer and can sometimes result in more die-back than expected and can even kill the entire plant! This will be especially true of this month’s fairly powerful New Moon.
 
But be cautious of how much vegetation is removed! Easy does it, or there may be more die-back than intended. This is the time to lightly shape things in preparation for Winter. The growing season is almost over so new growth will be reduced and slower to refurbish.  Thus if a hedge or shrub is butchered or left uneven now, it will most likely remain this way all Winter, or might outright die. Take the time to make a good job of this pruning so that hedges and shrubs will look most ornamental all Winter and Spring. To help avoid further unwanted die-back, paint all exposed cuts bigger than 2.5cm/1inch.
 
It is important to wait to prune deciduous species until all leaves have dropped!  They are particularly vulnerable to damage when pruned severely at this time. Their growth has full matured and they are now losing their leaves in preparation for Winter. Sap is being drawn back from the plant tops into the root system in preparation for Winter. Any open wound or cut that is left unsealed invites air to enter the capillaries. As the sap is drawn back down out of the branches and into the roots, air can also be drawn in resulting in extra die-back. This can be a silent killer. The true extent of any damage is usually not revealed until the following Spring.
 
One way around this problem is to not prune too closely; always leaving a little extra stump. This way if further die-back were too occur than was intended, there is still a ‘margin of error’ to protect internal growth that was not meant to be pruned away.  Be sure and cover all pruning wounds immediately with a protective sealant such as tree paint or wax sealant! Also be aware that pruning any species that flowers in Late Autumn, Winter or Early Spring will remove at least some of the developing flower buds which will limit the next display. This will not damage the plants’ ability to re-grow; just its next flowering display.
 
Eliminating Unwanted Vegetation:
This autumnal ‘Dark of the Moon’ die-back phenomenon can be used to great advantage when attempting to eliminate many types of brush, scrub, weed trees or other noxious vegetation. First, severely cut back the plant. Then roughen the cut surface and immediately cover the cut with kerosene and salt (an old Pioneer method).  Alternatively, brush or pour on a concentrated dose of an appropriate herbicide directly over the roughened cut surface. Using this method often the unwanted plant can be eliminated entirely.    


This Second Week of Late Autumn in the Garden:

week one - week two - week three - week four

maydir2012-09-230x153The New Moon (sidereal Taurus) has recently passed (7 May). This represents the lunar beginning of Late Autumn.  The Moon Waxes all week as it reaches its peak ascent in Northern Hemisphere skies 10 May then slowly begins to ascend and rise higher again in Southern Hemisphere skies. This lunar placement should encourage a moderate westerly air flow and continued mild conditions, especially in temperate and warmer regions of New Zealand. The greatest chance of extreme weather should stay in the Northern Hemisphere this week.
 
An ascending and waxing Moon should produce some benevolent conditions for gardening. It is time to set our focus and motivation to complete quickly all those demanding garden jobs still unfinished before the colder and more severe weather sets in!
 
Late Autumn classically is a cooler seasonal turning point leading toward the beginning of Winter. In colder districts, leaves will be falling fast and early signs of wintery conditions soon will begin arriving.  While Gardeners in milder climate zones could get a bonus week or two (maybe more) of milder ‘Indian Summer” Late Autumn conditions to complete last-minute jobs and make final Winter preparations. But by the fourth week of May near the time of the Full Moon (22 May) be prepared for another swing in the winds toward colder conditions. This will be most strongly felt in southern latitudes and those regions exposed to the Antarctic southwesterly wind flow.

Planting Time:
This week starts a good period for planting a wide range of flowers and vegetables as well as all sorts of container grow groundcovers, perennials, shrubs, trees and vines. In mild climates these can be planted or sown direct into garden beds. But wherever colder and frosty conditions are likely to occur in the foreseeable future, best results come from planting and sowing with protection in mind.
 
Continue planting seedlings and sowing seeds of hardy Annuals, Biennials and Perennials for the Spring and Summer garden displays and beyond. Winter flower seedlings should be in place as soon as possible. Seed will germinate much faster now with bottom heat or when sheltered against the evening chill with a cloche of cold frame, glasshouse or sheltered nursery environment. Because the season is rapidly waning, most of these seedlings produced from seed sown now will take until Early Spring before they are ready to transplant unless they are artificially heated or their climatic environment remains unusually mild.
 
Annual, Biennial and Perennial Flowers to plant or sow include such garden favourites as:
Alyssum, Aquilegia, Arctotis, Bellis Perennis (English Daisy), Candytuft, Cornflower, Canterbury Bells, Carnation, Coneflower, Delphinium, Dianthus, Feverfew (Tanacetum), Digitalis (Foxglove), Gaillardia, Godetia, Gypsophila, Hellebores (Winter Rose), Hollyhock (Althea), Honesty (Lunaria), Iceland Poppy, Larkspur, Limnanthes, Linaria, Livingstone Daisy, Lobelia, Lupin, Mignonette, Myosotis (Forget-Me-Not), Nemesia, Nemophila, Nigella, Painted Daisy, Pansy, Penstemon, Polyanthus, Poppies (most species), Primula, Scabiosa, Snapdragon, Statice, Stock, Sweet Pea, Viola, Virginia Stock, Wallflower and more locally.
 
Advanced Container Seedlings:
Continue to transplant advanced container-grown seedlings of favourite garden flowers.  including: Aquilegia (Granny Bonnets), Arctotis, Bellis perennis (English Daisy), Canterbury Bells, Carnation, Cineraria, Cyclamen, Delphinium, Dianthus, Feverfew (Tanacetum), Forget-Me-Not (Myosotis),  Foxglove (Digitalis) , Gaillardia (Indian Blanket), Hollyhock (Althaea), Iceland Poppy (most Poppy species), Larkspur, Limnanthes Sea Foam/Meadow Foam), Livingstone Daisy, Lupin, Nemesia, Primula and Polyanthus, Ranunculus, Snapdragon (Antirrhinum), Strawflower (Helichrysum), Stock (Matthiola) , Sweet Pea (Lathyrus), Wallflower (Erysimum), Wildflower mixes and much more. These plants will provide “instant” colour for the cooler months ahead. To prolong the display, it is possible to sow seed or transplant smaller seedlings in between these more advanced plants.
 
Flowers for Mild Climates
 
In mild climates with minimal Winter frosts (preferably none) it is possible to plant the following seed or seedlings: 
Ageratum, Calceolaria, Cineraria, Cosmos, Cyclamen, Gazania, Impatiens, French Marigold (most other Marigold species in frost-free locations only), Primula obconica, Schizanthus, Sweet Pea, Zinnia and much more. In frost-free ‘Winter-less’ climates almost all flowers that bloom in either Spring and/or Autumn will thrive. Wherever Winters remain nearly frost-free, dry and sunny, consider Petunias as an ideal bedding or container plant. Be aware that cold, wet weather will ruin their flowers. All these species can be successful grown in a bright and sunny glasshouse and sometimes in a protected sun-facing veranda. In mild climates these could be planted out into the garden in two months’ time or can be held over in the cold frame or nursery for planting-out in Late Winter or Early Spring.
 
Protect all seed and seedlings from predation by Slugs, Snails, Birds and Vermin!
 
Perennials:
Perennials can be planted from containers. Established Perennials can be cut back severely as they finish. Most can be lifted and divided now through Early Spring. The biggest exceptions are perennial Phlox and Shasta Daisy that are usually best divided and transplanted in Spring. Replant clumps or individual roots immediately or as soon as possible.
 
Enrich the new planting site with compost. To protect the newly planted perennials wherever cold or dry weather is likely to follow through the winter, mulch around the plants. A mixture of mineral rich Autumn leaves mixed with well-aged manure and/or mature compost makes an ideal organic mulch In very cold climates where ground freezing is imminent, add an additional layer of fluffy mulch around the plants once the ground has frozen to protect them from Winter extremes. Dry hay or straw and tannin rich leaves like Magnolia, Oak or Pine all are examples of ‘fluffy’ mulches that will retain warm without flattening down and smothering the dormant perennials.
 
Vegetables to Plant or Sow Now:
Leafy Vegetables and all those that produce their crops above the ground can best be sown and transplanted as seedlings this week and next.
 
Leafy Vegetables to Sow or Transplant include:
Broad Beans, Broccoli, Cabbages, most Chinese Greens (Bok Choy, Chinese Cabbages, etc.), Cress, Coriander (Cilantro), Endive, Herbs, Lettuce (often best under glass or in raised beds), Mustard, Parsley, Peas, Silverbeet and Spinach.
 
Transplant hardy advanced seedlings for Winter & Spring Vegetable beds where the season is short.  Where soil remains warm for a longer period, seed of similar species may be sown to extend the harvest over a longer season. All seed will germinate much faster when sheltered with cloches or started in a cold frame or glasshouse. In the coldest climates, planting seedlings and sowing under glass is the only option for winter harvests
 
Because the New Moon occurred in sidereal Taurus, a classic placement for root crops, it might also be possible to sow the seeds of root crop vegetables. While they may not prove to be the largest possible, most likely they will still prove to be successful provided environmental conditions remain benevolent.
 
Root Vegetables to Plant or Sow include:
Beet (mild climates), Carrot, Fennel, Garlic, Leeks, Mustard, Onion, Parsnip, Potato, Radish, Shallot, Swede and Turnip. Also included here are things like Artichoke and Asparagus plus Rhubarb that depend on their extensive root systems to produce quality harvests.
 
Within the cold frame, glasshouse or very sheltered (subtropical) garden, more tender varieties can be started. Beans, Beets, Cucumbers, Melons, Pepino, Squash Taro, and Tomatoes are all likely candidates. But their growing environment must remain very airy and sheltered, sunny and warm with frost-free Winter protection in the months ahead.
 
Late Autumn is a great time to plant Shallots and Garlic cloves. They are so hardy that they can be planted almost any time throughout the Late Autumn and Winter. The very best celestial time is from the Full Moon onward through to the New Moon for the next several months. Now is an excellent time to prepare the ground in advance of their planting. Make sure the site is fully sunny with good air circulation. The soil must drain well and should be enriched with compost, aged manure and a good balanced (20-20-20) plant food. In their early stages of growth, these bulb vegetables need ample nitrogen in order to produce abundant foliage that will support the growing bulb. Blood and Bone or a commercial fertiliser high in Nitrogen is often applied at the time the beds are first dug. More nitrogen is side-dressed amongst the bulb shoots or along the rows once growth emerges
 
Spring Bulbs:
The full range of Spring bulbs can be planted in all districts. Anemone, bulbous Iris, Freesia, Ranunculus and many others can be planted in succession over several weeks to extend their flowering season. Dormant bulbs can be most successfully planted for the remainder of this month and into the weeks ahead.
 
This is an excellent time to plant some in pots. It is especially important to plant and/or refrigerate spring bulbs meant for Winter forcing as soon as possible. In subtropical climates, many types of hybrid Narcissus, Hyacinths and Tulips should be refrigerated for at least 8-10 weeks or longer prior to planting outdoors or in containers.
 
An excellent time to plant bulbs for exhibition blooms is occurring now and especially in the days around the Full Moon (22 May). When planting for bulb multiplication, the best time to plant is after the Full Moon on a Waning Moon right up until the New Moon.
 
Refrigerated bulbs can be planted even later than this; almost up to the last weeks of Winter.
 
For a broader discussion of Spring Flowering bulbs see this month’s ‘First Week In the Late Autumn Garden’.
 
Planting Hedges, Shrubs, Trees and Vines:
Most container-grown conifers, hardy hedges, shrubs, trees and vines, plus many species native to Australia, the Mediterranean, New Zealand, South Africa,  Tasmania and colder regions of Asia, Europe, North and South American will establish quickly when planted now. The very best time starts right now with the Waxing Moon Cycle and into the first week of the Waning Moon Cycle that continues through almost the end of the month.
 
Be sure to dig a generous planting hole that is broad as well as deep. Mix in plenty of well-aged manure or mature compost. Do not add a great deal (if any) of chemical fertilizer into the planting hole as this could burn emerging roots. Set the plant to rest at the same depth in the ground as the top of the root ball. Securely stake all specimens at the time of planting. Back-fill the planting hole and water generously immediately after planting. With very large trees, it is often helpful to partially fill the hole with soil, and then water this in before completely filling the hole. This helps eliminate air pockets that might later dry out emerging roots or create a home for rodents or vermin that might predate on the new planting.
 
Be sure to securely stake anything that could potentially whip about in windy weather. Do this at the time of planting. A plant left to rock backwards and forwards in windy sites can actually be lifted right out of the ground. At the very least, new tender roots emerging from the root ball will possibly be sheared off making it difficult for the plant to settle into its new location. The damaged roots invite bacterial and fungal infections that might even kill the plant outright. Take the time to do it right.
 
Late Autumn starts the best time of the year to plant hardy hedges. Before planting, dig soil deeply and enrich with well-aged manure and/or compost. Small hedge plants are often planted in a single row trench as close as 15cm/6inches. Larger specimen plants are usually planted up to 60cm/2ft. apart. When closely planted, a solid hedge is created much faster. But in years that follow, the stronger hedge plants in the row may overtake the weaker ones which may die away. Water well, stake if the hedge is exposed to strong winds.
 
Summer Bulbs:
Canna roots, Dahlia and Tuberous Begonia tubers, Tuberose bulbs, Gladioli corms and all other tender warm weather flowering bulbs should be lifted as soon as they finish. This is essential to their survival wherever Winter frosts are severe enough to freeze the ground.
 
In mild climates experiencing only light frosts and no severe freezing, there is the option to simply cut back withered foliage and leave them where they are.  But a single week of perpetual wintry rain and/or hail will often prove sufficient to rot them.
 
In border-line climate zones, at least mulch over them with fluffy Autumn leaves, spoilt hay or straw.
 
All soft and tender roots and tubers are best stored in lightly moistened or dry peat, potting soil, sand, sawdust or a similar medium and placed in an airy, cool, dark frost-free place until they are ready to start again in Early Spring. Bulbs and Corms should be stored in a similar medium but kept drier. Store these in an airy, dark, dry, frost-free spot until Spring.
 
Feeding:
Azalea, Daphne, Camellias, Luculia, Osmanthus, Pieris, Rhododendron plus Vireya can be composted, mulched and fed with an acid-rich food before heavy blooming begins. All other ornamental shrubs, trees and vines can also be composted and/or mulched with crushed Autumn leaves, well-aged manure or mature compost. Acid pH Pine needles or chipper/mower-crushed Magnolia or Oak leaves make good mulches.
 
Some Gardeners consider feeding this late in the season in cooler climates to be optional. But especially in (nearly) frost-free climates, this feeding will encourage near-immediate blooming and encourage better bud formation. In cold climates this feeding encourages bud formation and introduces valuable salts into plant tissues that helps make them somewhat more freeze-resistant.. The best fertilisers to apply now are those high in Potassium and Phosphorous but with very little Nitrogen. This will enrich and strength the root system and bud formation while discouraging new leafy growth that might be Winter damaged.
 
Pruning:
Summer flowering shrubs like Bougainvillea, Buddleia, Erica, Hibiscus, Hydrangea, Lagerstroemia (Crepe Myrtle) and many Autumn flowering shrubs like Cassia can be pruned as soon as all flowering has finished. Wait to prune deciduous species until all foliage has fallen.
 
Pruning of subtropical species can also be postponed until Late Winter/Early Spring wherever strong frosts are possible. This way, any frost damaged growth can be pruned away once sunlight and warmth return.
 
Now is the best time of this month to prune for bushy and improved regrowth during the Waxing Moon Cycle.
 
Houseplants and Subtropicals:
Move all frost-tender plants, house plants and Orchids to their sheltered, sunny and warm Winter positions now. If they have been outdoors all Summer and Autumn make sure to examine them closely for evidence of disease and pest infestation. The wise Gardener usually gives them all a comprehensive foliage spray and soil drench prior to bringing them into the glasshouse or indoors. This insures that nothing predative follows them indoors where it could rapidly spread and become extremely difficult to eradicate. Among the worst predators that often find their way indoors are Mites, Psyllids and Thrip. All of these are nearly impossible to see without magnification. They often are controlled by their surrounding environment outdoors as the season becomes cooler and damper. But as soon as they come indoors to a dry and warm environment they rapidly multiply to potentially devastating proportions. It is best to use a preventative spray against these pests prior to bringing anything indoors.
 
Reduce food and water on tender tropicals in containers once weather cools and as they are brought indoors. Maintain moderate but regular watering and feeding on Cymbidium and other cool season Orchids to induce flower budding. The same applies to Kalanchoe, Primula Obconica, Poinsettia and Zygocactus. Maintain cool but sunny positions. They do best in unheated rooms and hybrid Poinsettia especially must have no artificial lighting after dark.
 
Autumn Foliage Garden:
At the local nursery select deciduous trees with just the right autumnal colour shades before their last foliage drops. This is an excellent time to plant all deciduous shrubs, trees and vines transplanted from containers. Wait until all foliage has dropped and the plant is completely dormant before shifting/transplanting bare root specimens.
 
Garden Maintenance:
Continue foliar feeding, spraying, dead-heading Late Autumn garden displays in mild districts. Keep beds clean and tidy, removing debris that might encourage rot and blights.
 
Clear faded gardens, turn soil & leave exposed to “sterilize" in sunlight. Then add lime, drainage materials (if winter planting), compost & aged manure before replanting.
 
Fruit Care:
Harvest late Apples, Feijoa, Guava, Kiwifruit, Nashi and Pears, Persimmon, Tamarillo and more locally. Only perfect and undamaged fruits should be stored for long-term keeping in a cool, airy place out of direct sun. The rest should be used immediately, bottled, transformed into jams, jellies, pickles, etc, or dried.
 
Clean, tidy and spray orchard trees with a copper base or systemic insecticide/fungicide to insure healthy crops next season.


This Third Week in the Late Autumn Garden:

week one - week two - week three - week four

maydir2012-14-230x153This week the Moon reaches its Full Wax Cycle as it ascends into Southern Hemisphere skies. As the Moon’s gravitational tide sweeps forward it is liable to bring light westerly winds that later shift more northerly and push subtropical air ahead of it resulting in mild to moderately humid, sometimes damp and warm weather, especially over the northern parts of New Zealand.
 
Then the Full Moon (22 May) and peak ascending Moon (24 May) could result in a colder pulse of Antarctic air. Colder exposed regions, especially in the alpine and Southern districts should be alert and prepare now for the possibility of a wintry blast and/or frost. But El Nino’s contribution of warm ocean waters may be a moderating factor that could allow mild autumnal conditions to hang on a while longer.
 
Traditionally, the first strong or ‘killing’ frosts often occur during this time. This is most common in colder climates with shorter growing seasons; higher elevations and sheltered valleys where cold air tends to ‘pool’. These first frosty nights are often followed by mild or moderate perhaps even very warm days that sometimes continue for a couple of weeks just prior to the advent of true wintry weather (Winter Solstice arrives 21June). This climatic event is called ‘Indian Summer’ in most western nations. In ‘old’ Europe these warm days are called ‘Saint Martin’s Summer’ amongst many other names. In China this is the time of ‘Qiu Laohu’ or ‘A Little Tiger in Autumn’ and in Brazil, ‘Veranico de Maio’ or ‘Little Summer in May’. This has already happened in the very coldest corners of the country but most of New Zealand has had a long moderate Autumn due to the exceptionally warmth brought on by the now fading El Nino.
 
Whatever one calls this little blessing of warm weather, in any language this is Nature’s gentle guidance that the seasons are changing and now is the best time to prepare before the advent of much colder weather. Celebrate each passing day by completing a few more of those overdue garden duties.
 
This third week in the Late Autumn garden is likely to be very much like last week. For detailed discussions on a variety of relevant garden topics please see:
This Second Week in the Late Autumn Garden.
 
A Great Time to Plant:
A Full Waxing Moon and moderate weather could make this a wonderful week for planting and sowing a wide range of annuals, biennials and perennials;  container-grown ground covers, shrubs, trees and vines; broad-leafed evergreens, conifers and hedging; plus Citrus and subtropical species in the warmest districts.
 
This week the Moon passes in front of sidereal Leo and Virgo. Both are technically barren signs but with a Full Waxing Moon this will be an excellent week for sowing fields of grain, wildflowers, planting all manner of fruit and nut trees plus almost anything that prefers a sunny and warm position.
 
While all week should be relatively benevolent, the very best days could well be 20-21 May, while the near Full Moon passes in front of sidereal Libra. This is the best time of the month to plant beautiful things, particularly flowers, flowerings shrubs, trees and vines. It is an excellent time to plant and sow all crops that produce their harvests above ground. Protective cloches or bottom heat will speed germination and enhance faster growth of young seedlings.
 
Also sow the seed of root crops this week. Make sure to keep the seed bed moist, protected and warm with an effort to get the seed to germinate quickly around the Full Moon (22 May). This way the emerging seedlings will be able to take full advantage of the Waning Moon Cycle to follow when celestial and gravitational forces will pull their young roots deeply into the ground.
 
What to Plant and Sow
 
Flowers:
For a full discussion and lists of what to sow and plant please see; This Second Week in the Late Autumn Garden.
 
Vegetables:
 
In the Vegetable garden continue planting bulb and root vegetables plus seedlings of:
Beets, Broad Beans, Broccoli, Cabbages, Cauliflower, Chives, Cress, Garlic, Lettuce, Mustard, Onions, Parsley, Peas, Potato,  Radish, Shallot, Spinach, Swedes, Turnip and others locally.
 
They will do best when sheltered from frost and freezing weather. They all do better when sown direct where they are meant to grow. But most seedlings, even difficult root crops can be successfully transplant from containers provided there is no root damage or major root disturbance during transplanting. Gently shift them into their new position and water in thoroughly. If they transplant successfully new growth should soon be obvious and continuous. Many more tender crops can be successfully started in the glasshouse or bright and warm nursery shelter.
 
Garlic Cloves and Shallot Bulbs can be planted now. Choose an enriched, sunny and very well drained site. Bulbs need not be planted very deeply but often do best when planted into raised beds, rows or hills which helps ensure perfect drainage and better airy flow. They can also be grown in larger containers or tubs. Chives are also easily started now from seed or seedlings. They thrive in similar conditions to Garlic, Onions and Shallots but will grow in even relatively small containers. This makes them ideal for a sunny kitchen windowsill.
 
Divide and replant Horse Radish, Rhubarb, and in mild climates also bare-root or young Strawberry plants.
 
Spring-Flowering Bulbs:
Spring Flowering Bulbs can be planted in all districts. When planting bulbs outdoors in the garden, this job is best completed by the end of the month especially in colder climates. In mild climates conditions will cool sufficiently to start planting into outdoor garden beds now and onward through June. Subtropical Northern gardens that are planting refrigerated bulbs might not put them into the ground until July or August. Minor bulbs like Anemone, Ranunculus, Freesia, Sparaxis and Tritonia plus all pre-cooled refrigerated bulbs (Hyacinth, Narcissus, Tulip, etc.) can be planted from now onward until almost Spring.
 
Spring-Flowering Annuals, Biennials and Perennials can be planted in beds, borders or containers on their own or in between Spring-Flowering Bulbs. This will add a new design and colour dimension and also lengthen the colour display to extend throughout Late Winter, Spring and sometimes into the Early Summer garden.
 
Lilies:
Lily bulbs are planted now through Winter. Choose a sunny or partly shaded spot protected from severe winds and scorching hot sunshine. Lilies will survive in a variety of average to rich soils that drain well and are somewhat acid. Avoid Lime with Lilies!
 
Many species thrive in pots. Oriental and Regale Lilies are large plants that root up the stem above the bulb so must be planted more deeply nearer the bottom of the pot or deeper in ground. They thrive in larger containers, troughs and tubs. Asiatic and Longiflorum Lilies tend to spread horizontally or produce clusters of bulbils just above the mature bulb or amongst the foliage on the flowering stem. This allows these varieties to be planted closer to the surface nearer to the top of the container. They also thrive in rather small pots. That makes them great subjects for decorative conservatory displays or growing on a sunny windowsill.
 
Summer Bulbs:
Continue to dig and store all tender warm-season flowering bulb and root species that might be damaged by freezing.
 
This includes:
Acidanthera, Caladium, Canna, Dahlia, Gladioli, Elephant Ear (Alocassia & Calocasia), Tuberose, Tuberous Begonia, plus all other tender warm season bulbs, roots and tubers. Store in flats or boxes of dry potting soil, peat, sand, sawdust, etc. in an airy, cool, darkish, dry, frost-free position until ready for Spring planting.
 
Perennials:
Autumn flowering Perennials are cut back as they finish. These and most other Perennial species can be dug, divided and transplanted successfully now. Replant strong, healthy outer growth shoots and clumps. Old inner roots are often disguarded but sometimes rejuvenate when replanted in enriched fresh soil. Wherever Winters are severe with significant ground freezing, delay lifting and transplanting until weather warms a little in Early Spring.
 
Pelargonium:
The plant commonly called a garden “Geranium”, botanically known as Pelargonium makes a bright and dependable show throughout the warmer months in the garden. There are a wide range of dwarf hybrids, shrubby hedging varieties, trailing varieties and dramatic climbers. In mild climates receiving only occasional Winter frosts, these half hardy perennials can remain in the garden.
 
But in colder climates the first real freeze would kill them. Now is a great time for the plants to be pulled up whole from the garden and potted for protection in the glass house, sunny windowsill or sunroom so that Winter frosts cannot kill them.  It is always best to give them a good ‘clean and tidy’ before they come indoors. Remove all damaged or diseased foliage even if it means taking off almost all their leaves. Also spray them with a systemic fungicide/insecticide to prevent any infestation contaminating the indoor growing space.
 
Cuttings can be started in the warm glasshouse or with bottom heat. These will produce fresh, robust blooming plants by spring. Alternatively, the entire plant can be dug or pulled up, roots and all. Then hang the Pelargonium plant upside down in a root cellar or similar cool somewhat damp environment for the Winter. The plant will go dormant and loose all its leaves but the stems should retain their life much like a tuberous root. These bare shoots can be revived and cuttings can be made from the parent plant in Late Winter through Early Spring. These can be started in small pots. Sometimes, these bare shoot cuttings will strike when started in warm soil within a garden bed outdoors in the Spring. This is a great way to retain a lot of Pelargonium plants for the garden when indoor growing space is limited.
 
Houseplants and Indoor Winter Colour:
This is nearing the last chance to bring tender house plants indoors or in to their glasshouse positions before temperatures fall too severely. If they are still outdoors in exposed positions move tender container plants to sheltered, sunny, warm sites immediately. Most house plants and (sub) tropical species prefer temperatures to remain above 12C/53.6F or more to maintain plant health and steady growth. Once temperatures fall below this level these plants tend to enter dormancy or may even begin to rot and die.
 
As air temperatures drop, the soil temperature in exposed containers can drop to near freezing. Roots often chill and damage if the soil is moist, eventually root rot results and plant collapse often follows. Vulnerable pots can be double potted i.e. one pot slipped within another and the space between them filled with peat, sand, soil, etc. This makes effective insulation against wind chill.
 
Some plants that are naturally Winter flowering outdoors in subtropical climates make great indoor flowers for Winter colour. These prefer conditions that remain constantly cool but always frost-free. The most popular of these include: potted Chrysanthemum, Cineraria, Cyclamen, Cymbidium Orchid, forced Hyacinths and Narcissus that are beginning to shoot, Kalanchoe, Primula obconica, Poinsettia, Zygocactus, Zygopetalum Orchid and a few less common ornamental container plants.
 
These cool weather classics should be kept in an airy, bright if not quite sunny spot with mildly warm days but cool nights. The cool evenings are essential to their long-term performance. They are all best suited to the cool glasshouse or unheated sun room. Many people wish to enjoy them in heated rooms. But temperatures should not exceed 72F/22C degrees during the day.  At night these plants should be moved to an unheated room or possibly placed on a small table or windowsill next to a window with a closed curtain over them to insure that they remain cool (but never freezing).
 
Being naturally Winter flowering plants, they also perform brilliantly outdoors in mild and sunny subtropical climates with beautiful Autumn and Winter weather. Sometimes they can be grown next to a sheltered sunny doorway or on a covered veranda that remains frost free. Most of them prefer rather cool and dry conditions. Cold wintry rains sometimes ruin their beauty.
 
They are best liquid fed and watered into their saucers regularly but lightly on sunny warm days, allowing the pots to draw up moisture for a few hours. Then tip out the remaining liquid from the saucer. Never let them stand in water for very long or they may chill and rot. Avoid watering over foliage and flowers or directly into their crowns to avoid fungal diseases and rots. The best fertilizers are those with a higher percentage of phosphorous and potassium and lower in nitrogen.
 
Excessive watering especially combined with insufficient light and too high indoor temperatures often result in plant collapse and rot. If leaves begin to yellow or wilt but the soil appears moist, most likely the plant is beginning to rot. The reaction of the Novice Gardener is to immediately water again, and soon watch the plant die. Don’t do this!
 
Instead, immediately dust with a fungicide powder or spray a systemic fungicide into the crown of the plant. Move it to a more airy, brighter but cool location and don’t give the plant any more water until the soil has almost dried out. Then start watering again (a tablespoon or two only) including a liquid fertilizer and from then on only very lightly when the plant’s leaves just begin to soften and almost wilt.  Sometimes this will be sufficient for the plant to recover.
 
To avert this sort of crisis: when in doubt how much to water these sorts of plants, wait for the plant to start to droop a little and almost begin to wilt before watering and then only a tablespoon or two at a time. A drier plant will survive much better than one in wet soil. Once you determine how much water it takes to maintain plant health, the results can produce the most rewarding Winter blooms when colour is so greatly appreciated.
 
Strawberries:
Strawberries can be planted in mild and warm subtropical and temperate climates almost all Autumn and Winter for a great Late Spring and Summer feast!  These plants also make great groundcovers in full sun to partial shade. But overcrowded or shades plants produce limited and often poor quality fruit. To get the very best out of Strawberries be sure to plant them in a very airy and open environment in full sunshine with plenty of space between plants.
 
Make sure their soil has been generously composted, fertilized and probably limed prior to planting. Strawberries prefer a neutral pH of 7.0. So in many New Zealand garden situations where volcanic soils predominate, liming the ground is often beneficial. There are fertilizers especially made for Strawberries. But a good garden fertilizer in the ratio of 5-10-5 is usually sufficient. They do enjoy constant feeding. This is best dug into the soil at least a week or two prior to planting. Later in the season, more fertilizer can be side dressed between the plants or in between their rows.
 
Strawberry plants are fairly short lived. New plants are the most productive. These plants can be established from transplanted runners taken off mature plants. Bare root bundles of plants can be purchased from a Grower or nursery. Nurseries also sell small plants already established in containers. These transplant very easily.
 
While it has become fashionable to grow strawberries in a hanging basket or special strawberry pots, the results often amount to a mere handful of berries. This is because Strawberries have a fairly expansive root system and are heavy feeders. When grown in small or even medium sized containers they start making bushy growth, blooms and some early fruiting. But their root system notoriously outgrows their pot just about the time when their fruit should produce abundant crops so they suddenly fail as fruits become nutty and small or rot. Consequently, they perform much better when given an open run in the garden. Plus at least a dozen plants are needed to produce much of an impressive harvest.
 
For best results be sure each plant is raised up on a berm, small mound of soil or planted on a slope or raised bed. Strawberries must have perfect drainage. When planting new Strawberries, it is wise to place the crown of the plant just a little high in the soil. This way as the soil settles and the roots draw the plant into the ground, the crown will remain higher than the surrounding soil so water will drain away from the crown. When water collects around the crown this often results in rot. This week is particularly well suited to planting a fabulous a Strawberry bed!
 
Green Manure Crops:
This is a perfect week to plant/sow green manure crops to improve the soil. Green manure crops can be a variety of fast growing Winter-hardy plants that can be grown/sown now and ploughed into the soil in Late Winter to rot into the ground and boost soil fertility. Green Manure (cover) crops are very beneficial to improve enrichment and texture of large land areas, grain fields and heavy or impoverished land. They are especially important for productive vegetable gardens.
 
Even where Winter crops are being grown in an active vegetable garden, it is often advantageous to reserve at least one block of the vegetable garden for a green manure crop. Because green manure crops largely contribute additional Nitrogen to the soil, the land reserved for green manuring is often the site where a heavy Nitrogen feeding crop (Broccoli, Cauliflower, Cucumber, Melon, Onions, Pumpkins, etc.) is intended to be grown next Spring and Summer.
 
Some of the easiest and fastest to grow include:
Alfalfa, Barley, Cattle Brassica, Buckwheat, Clover, Cow Peas, Cress, Lupin, Mustard, Oats, Rye (grain and grass), Wheat, etc.
 
First roughly cultivated, roughen or turn the soil and then broadcast the cover crop seed. This is allowed to grow until Late Winter. Then the cover crop vegetation is cut down and cultivated or ploughed back in to decompose and enrich the soil. The land is allowed to ‘cure’ for a month or more. Then the topsoil is cultivated and planting or sowing can begin for Spring and Summer crops.
 
This week is particularly well suited to the sowing of green manure crop seeds.
 
Improve the Soil Now!
This is the best time to improve the soil for future crops and flower beds. This soil improvement could encompass a large part of the garden or whatever patch can be spared, especially if it has been unproductive over the past growing season(s) or has been planted through the warm months with crops that were heavy feeders.
 
Gardeners who do not intend to plant or sow over Winter should turn the soil roughly. Then spread compost or well aged manure, lime, and/or fertiliser. This compost and fertilizer mix can be left exposed and rough for bacterial action to slowly break it down all Winter. Then the land is cultivated for future crops in Late winter or early Spring.
 
In colder climates experiencing severe freezing, either wait until Early Spring to spread compost/manure or dig it in thoroughly now so it can break down deeper in the soil below the freezing ground level. Let the land stand rather rough to “cure” through wintery weather before preparing the land again for next Spring and Summer plantings. Exposure to wintry conditions will eliminate many pathogens and helps break down heavy soil into a finer quality earth.
 
In milder climates where Winter crops or floral displays will be planted, simply dig the compost and fertilizer into the soil now and work the soil to a fine tilth. Then generously water the prepared ground and let it stand to cure for at least a week or two. Then it will be acceptable to replant.
 
Lawns:
New lawns should be sown without delay and old ones fed and over-sown quickly before cold weather slows seed germination and growth. This is especially important in mild climates to produce a verdant Winter lawn. In colder climates it would be good to fertilize now but delay sowing until Spring. A well fed lawn often better withstands wintry stress. Some Gardeners in colder climates prefer to over sow existing lawns now with seed and vigorously rake in the seed, with the understanding that it will probably not germinate until Spring. The only disadvantage to this can be hungry birds so be sure to use coated seed.
 
Fertilizing:
Feed Azalea, Camellia, Daphne, Gardenia, Holly, Mahonia, Pieris, Osmanthus, and Rhododendron with an Acid pH Plant Fertilizer. Mix one cup fertilizer with one bucket or more of well-aged manure/compost.  Spread to the drip line as mulch. Mulch should not drift up against the stem or trunk.
 
Spring flowering ornamental shrubs, trees and vines can also be fed and mulched but substitute the acid fertilizer for one cup of a complete balanced General Garden Fertilizer mixed with mature compost or well-aged manure.
 
Fungal Rot, Slugs and Snails:
Cool, damp weather and decreasing sunlight breeds fungal rots and encourages Slugs and Snails. As they glide across foliage and bite into leaves, they can spread fungal spores and soon the fungus and rot becomes rampant. The Wise Gardener anticipates this natural seasonal decline and plans ahead. Spray vulnerable plantings with a solution of powdered copper or a broad spectrum fungicide before problems begin. Prevention always beats futile attempts at cure once the crisis is here. 
 
Place baits around vulnerable plants and especially seedlings prior to planting. Spread more baits regularly or use traps and watch carefully for damage. At the first signs of damage act quickly and save the newly planted garden! Otherwise, the entire crop may be wiped out almost overnight. With older plantings increasing damage may be the sign that it is time to clear things away and replant.
 
Harvest Time:
The early part of the week while the Full Waxing Moon transits sidereal Leo (barren, fire) and Virgo (barren, earth) is classically a good time to harvest fields of grain, hay and silage plus things intended for drying.  If weather remains too damp or humid, be patient and wait until water retention begins to reduce from May 24th onward until the New Moon (5 June). New Moon produces the lowest water retention so somewhere in the times ahead should provide a few more opportunities for harvesting.
 
The final Harvest Moon of Autumn arrives 22 May in sidereal Scorpio, a classically damp water sign famous for fostering fungus, mould and rot. Full Moon also brings full water retention so as the week progresses toward Full Moon this becomes an ideal time to harvest for immediate use. This high water retention produces crispy, crunchy, succulent Carrots, Cucumbers, Lettuce and other salad greens; juicy fruits and tangy Tomatoes. It is an ideal time to harvest Grapes and other fruits for juice and wine; also for jam, jelly, pickles and preserves.
 
But by the end of the week, harvesting fields of grain, silage and softer vegetables like late Tomato may be at risk unless they can be thoroughly air dried and kept very well ventilated or used immediately. Weather permitting it would be much better to harvest these early in the week or wait for a dry spell next week onward.
 
This high water retention probably won’t be detrimental for the harvesting of many root crops and vegetables with touch skins. Dig Jerusalem Artichoke, Kumara and Sweet Potato, Onions, Peanut, Potato, Pumpkin, Shallot and Yam wherever they might rot if left in the ground any longer. Harvest Marrow, Pumpkins, Squash as soon as fruits separate from the vine. Cucumber can be harvested at almost any stage until they begin to become seedy and yellow. Luffa can be eaten while green and small but mature ones are ready to harvest once the vines begin to wither and the fruits turn dry and papery. Air-dry these for at least a couple of days and store in a cool, dark, draft-free, dry and frost-free position. Soon their papery skins will easily fall away revealing the valuable ‘sponge’ within.  Use Jerusalem Artichoke fairly quickly or store in a peat/sand mix as they do not keep for long once dug, but will easily tolerate frozen ground when well-mulched.
 
Gourd, Pumpkin, Squash and Marrow can be harvested as soon as their connective stem separates from the withered vine. If the connective stem remains attached to the fruit once the vine withers, leave this connective stem attached and move them to an airy, cool, dry, frost-free place for Winter storage. These are often the fruits that keep the longest. Any damaged fruits or those that lose their connective stem should be used first as these will not keep nearly as long.
 
Late Apples, Feijoa, Guava, Kiwi Fruit, Mandarin, Nashi and Hybrid Pear, Pepino, Persimmon, Tamarillo; Filbert, Pecan, Walnuts and anything else left to ripen outdoors may need protection from hungry birds, Rodents and Possums. These fruits and nuts can be picked when nearly ripe and brought indoors to fully cure.
 
If frost does appear imminent, harvest the last warm season tender vegetables, especially those that are meant to be bottled, preserved or stored for Winter before cold, wet weather ruins them.
 
Green Tomatoes can be individually wrapped in a sheet of newspaper and stored as a single layer in boxes to ripen. They often ripen as well on a windowsill or bright, warm shelf. Bell Peppers (Capsicum) can often be treated the same way. Chilli Pepper plants can be pulled up, roots intact but leaves removed and hung upside down in an airy, dry position away from bright sunlight. Alternatively, the fruits can be picked and strung of a strong thread. Many vegetables can also be dried and stored in air-tight jars or in seasoned brine or oil.


This Fourth Week in the Late Autumn Garden:

week one - week two - week three - week four

maydir2012-06-230x153This is the last week of Autumn on the calendar. The final autumnal Harvest Full Moon (22 May) represents the midpoint of Late Autumn. The Moon has just passed its apogee (farthest position in its orbit away from the Earth) and ascends to its highest point in the sky 24 May. So this will be a somewhat small but bright and white Harvest Full Moon that climbs quite high in the sky.  

Technically this is a seasonal turning point leading toward the beginning of Winter. Winter officially arrives with the Winter Solstice (21 June).  The Waning Moon Cycle dominates the remainder of the month. As the Moon beings to turn and then descend in Southern Hemisphere skies (21-24-26 May) this is a likely time for its gravitational pull to drag up a wave of Antarctic air that could produce a wintry pulse.
 
Alpine and colder climates zones and those exposed to southwesterly air flows should prepare for colder weather and possible frost. The strength (if any) of the cold pulse could be moderated by the remnant effects of El Nino. This has produced superheated Australian dry high pressure air combining with warm ocean waters that are bathing much of New Zealand in mild subtropical air. This may moderate the cold spell that should be short for all but the most exposed locations.
 
Then as the Moon continues to sweep northward in the final days of the month, winds should begin to shift more westerly and a milder time could follow into next month.
 
Early signs of wintery conditions will have already arrived in coldest districts, while Gardeners in milder climates could get a bonus week or two of milder Late Autumn conditions to complete last-minute jobs and make final Winter preparations. But by the third week of June be prepared for a wintry blast. The real advent of the Winter season astronomically arrives with the Winter solstice in the third week of next month. The Winter Solstice represents the shortest day of the year, so in the weeks ahead the days will definitely grow cooler, darker and shorter.
 
At this transitional moment at the end of the growing season, now is an appropriate time to give thanks and reflect on the beauty and bounty of the growing season now passing.  For all its extremes, New Zealand is blessed with a benevolent climate. Make the most of this opportunity to create a garden paradise wherever you live and help make this a more beautiful and greener world that works in harmony with Nature.
 
Even in milder climates, it will be obvious that the warm season is quickly fading. Make the most of every fine day to catch up with the backlog of garden duties before wintry conditions make this a chore rather than a pleasure. This is the last big planting month for Autumn gardening plus advanced preparations for Winter and Early Spring garden beds in the temperate and cooler climates. In very mild climates (somewhat limited) planting can continue all Winter but growth rates will be much slower than they are now.
 
Be Prepared!
Wise Gardeners will know to prepare for early frosts in all but the most sheltered spots. Make the most of every lovely Autumn day.  But prepare for frosts and wintry conditions. They may not happen overnight but they will happen! Remember to move all those tender container plants to sheltered or warm sites to avoid root damage from cold air temperatures. Have frost cloths or freeze-protection devices in place or at the ready.
 
Wherever frost will be persistent and severe, bring frost-tender plants indoors. Even indoors, shelter and shield all tender houseplants from colder nights and chilling drafts. Move them away from exposed glass and shelter them on the inside of a protective curtain which is closed at night to ward off drafts. Also raise plants up off the floor to help eliminate drafts. Alternatively, double pot them or wrap them in some form of insulation to keep chilling drafts from damaging sensitive roots. Reduce feeding and watering of all tropical houseplants as nights get colder.
 
In colder climates the weather may already be wintry with frosts arriving and the growing season now nearly ended.  While in temperate climates these are often the final days of Autumn colour and occasional warmth. There are treasured blooms still, but the final flowers are fading. Already there is chill mixing in the air which will soon bring frost as it already has in more exposed locations.
 
Final Autumn Colour:
In the warm (sub) tropical garden, Autumn colour often becomes its most vivid now. Some deciduous species may be already bare, as they are in cooler and some temperate regions. Autumn cool season flowers like Chrysanthemum are obvious and the cool season flowers like Alyssum, Calendula, Dianthus, Nasturtium, Pansy and Viola,  Polyanthus and Primula and more are growing stronger by the day. While the final beautiful warm season flowers like Asters, Impatiens, Marigolds, Morning Glories, Salvias and Zinnias are fading. Nights are cooling; days are still often bright, mild and pleasant. 
 
Wherever the season is benevolent this produces remarkable Spring-like growth in lawns. Well-planned lower beds often look refreshed and lovely. Cycads and especially Palms and Tree ferns often put on some of their best new fronds. Autumn Flowering Cherry (Prunus autumnalis), bush Honeysuckle, Luculia, Osmanthus and many varieties of Sasanqua Camellia provide gentle fragrance and shrub colour along with the final blossoms of Cassia, Gardenia and Jasmine. Vivid orange cascades of trumpet-flowering Pyrostegia vines begin to create blazing electric accents sometimes rivaled by late Bougainvillea or splashes of vivid Vireya Rhododendron.
 
Early-flowering Cymbidium Orchids along with Paphiopedilum (Slipper) Orchids, Zygopetalum and many more produce exotic flowering colour. So do Kalanchoe, Poinsettia, Primula Obconica and Zygocactus. Early flowering Azalea, Camellia japonica, Cassia, Lasiandra and early Paper White Narcissus adds colourful contrasts to autumnal foliage colours. And beneath it all are Autumn Crocus (Colchicum), Crocus sativa, the Saffron Crocus; Sternbergia, the Autumn Daffodil; late Nerines and if one looks closely the shoots of Spring-flowering Crocus, Ipheon (Spring Star), Hyacinth, Muscari (Grape Hyacinth) plus many varieties of Narcissus and Tulips are beginning to peep through the leaf litter and soil.
 
The Fabled Fifth Season:
When viewed collectively, in a benevolent season there are flowering plants representing all four seasons of the year all surrounded by the fluttering ornamental colour of falling leaves. They all wrap together for just a short period of time to create a sort of limbo-time often known as the ‘Fifth Season’. In extremely cold climates this time may not exist at all or be so faint that observant Gardeners might catch the odd Spring-flowering Chamomeles (Japanese Quince), Forsythia or perhaps even a Lilac or fruit tree pop out the odd Autumn blossom. Yet in mild or ‘winterless’ subtropical gardens, the Fifth Season becomes a very distinct wonderland merging Autumn into Winter, where all of Nature appears to celebrate the glory of the growing year in a finale of colour and fragrance.
 
Flowers to Plant of Sow Now:
 
Sow or plant:
Aquilegia, Arctotis, Calendula, Candytuft, Canterbury Bells, Carnation, Cornflower, Coneflowers, Delphinium, Dianthus, English Daisy (Bellis perennis),  Forget-Me-Not (Myosotis), Gaillardia, Gypsophila, Hollyhock (Althaea), Larkspur, Nigella (Love-in-a-Mist), Ornamental Kale, Pansy and Viola, Polyanthus and Primula, Snapdragon, Stock (Matthiola) and Virginia Stock (Malcolmia), Sweet Pea and many more in milder climates. 
 
All seed will germinate best in sunny, warm positions in soil that drains well. Seed may rot if sown into cold, shaded or wet soil. In frosty climates start these in containers sheltered in a sunny, warm position, preferably in a cold frame, glasshouse, sun room or sunny windowsill. They all germinate much faster with bottom heat or in a heated glasshouse and grow healthier and stronger in sheltered positions with strong sunlight and protection from evening chill.
 
Pansy and Viola can be transplanted from container-grown stock for Late Autumn, Winter and Spring colour. This is an ideal time to do this in climates experiencing a mild Winter. In colder climates, mulch around these new plantings now, then once the soil cools to nearly freezing cover them further with a fluffy mulch or frost cloth to protect them against severe freezing
 
The Full Moon brings the highest water retention for the month. So should frost arrive while the plants are filled with sap and water, great damage could occur to tender tissues so make sure they are protected. The Waning Moon cycle can produce celestial extremes so plant all (delicate) seedlings with care; avoid any significant root damage. Water in lightly and watch over the next few days to insure that the seedlings neither dry out and wilt or become overly wet which will lead to rot.
 
It’s Time to Clear it Away:
Even the finest warm season garden beds are passing. As soon as flowers fade and crops finish, begin clearing beds. The debris from healthy garden plants can either be cut up and mulched back into the bed from where they grew, or removed to become compost. Diseased materials should be burnt. Alternatively, lime it heavily and place it in a heated compost pile. Remove all weeds and place them in a separate compost pile or use them as sheet compost beneath dense shrubbery or trees where the weeds cannot grow successfully.
 
Once the beds are cleared spread; compost and/or well-aged manure; a good balanced general garden fertilizer; and possibly add Lime and/or a specialty fertilizer to the beds depending on what it to be planted in the near-future.  Dig this in and allow it to ‘cure’ and settle for at least a week before replanting. Beds that will not be planted until Spring can be left fallow in a rough state to decompose or sown in cover crops
 
Spring Bulbs and Their Companions:
Spring Flowering Bulbs can still be planted outdoors in all locations, but hurry. Early Flowering Spring Bulbs (Crocus, Dwarf Narcissus, Minor Bulbs, Rock Tulips) should already be planted, but will still perform well when planted into Early Winter provided the site remains sufficiently cold for long enough. Late-flowering bulbs, especially Darwin, Triumph and Single Late Tulips, can still be planted for a few weeks yet. Refrigerated bulbs can be planted throughout most of the Winter. But non-refrigerated bulbs like Tulips need at least 12-14 weeks of cold soil temperatures to develop successfully prior to flowering in the Spring. That is why they need to be planted in outdoor beds as soon as possible.
 
In (sub) tropical gardens, refrigerated bulbs can be planted into garden beds as soon as ground temperatures become sufficiently cool (12C/53.6F). Alternatively, they can remain in refrigeration for no more than 22 weeks; 16 weeks is optimum. Once planted the early flowering Narcissus and Tulips will usually begin flowering in 4-6 weeks. Late season Darwin and Single Hybrid Tulips can begin flowering 8-10 weeks after planting.
 
When planting Spring Bulbs, also consider planting between them with any of a wide range of Annual, Biennial and Perennial plants for Late Winter, Spring and Early Summer displays. These will prolong the season of colour in the garden bed. Such plantings can be used most effectively to create a lovely foil of background colour that further highlights the flowering bulbs. Alyssum, Aubrieta, Calendula, Forget-Me-Not, Pansy and Viola, Stock and Wallflower are all classics for this purpose.
 
They can also be used to hide withering bulb foliage after the Spring flowering bulbs finish blooming. Coreopsis, Gypsophila, Larkspur, Poppies, Silene, Sweet William and many other Mid Spring flowering somewhat taller plants also are ideal to keep the display blooming. They are very compatible when inter-planted with the lower growing Annuals flowers. This keeps the garden beds glowing with colour while distracting the eye from withering bulb foliage and can provide a garden full of colour at least until Late Spring or Early Summer.
 
This late in the season it is best to plant advanced seedlings from containers or punnets. Seed will possibly take too long to bloom with the Spring-flowering bulbs, but would provide attractive foliage and later blooms after the early flowers have finished. For a Winter flowering garden advanced colour pots are by far the best alternative if one can afford the expense. These will provide ‘instant’ colour that will be cherished all Winter and well into the Spring season.
 
Refrigerated Spring Bulbs should be checked regularly for premature root development, fungal infection and rot. Make sure refrigeration temperatures remain very cool but always above freezing; about 4-6C/39.2-42.8F are near ideal. Continue planting bulbs in pots.
 
Lilies:
Continue planting Lilies.
 
For full details see; This First week in the Late Autumn Garden
 
Vegetables to Plant or Sow Now:
Vegetables to plant or sow include: Broad Beans, Cabbages, Carrot, Cress, Fennel, Garlic, Leeks, Mustard, Onion, Parsnip, Radish, Shallot, Spinach, Swede and Turnip. Also included here are things like Artichoke and Asparagus plus Rhubarb that depend on their extensive root systems to produce quality harvests. In mild, sheltered spots outdoors try: Beets, Broccoli, Endive and Lettuce, Peas, Potatoes and a lot more under glass.
 
Within the heated glasshouse or very sheltered (subtropical) garden, more tender varieties can be started including: Beans, Summer Beet varieties, Cucumbers, Melons, Pepino, Squash Taro, and Tomatoes and more locally. But their growing environment must remain very airy and sheltered, sunny and warm with frost-free Winter protection in the months ahead. These crops grow much better when sown into open soil beds in the glasshouse with full sunshine. They may need some additional hours of artificial heating and lighting as the days cool and shorten.
 
Guard Against Pests:
Guard against hungry Birds, Possums, Rodents, Slugs, Snails and chilling drafts and cold winds that can do almost as much damage as early frost. Now that the warm season is truly on the decline, such problems will become much more obvious and potentially destructive. Being forewarned is being forearmed.
 
Late Apples, Banana, the last Feijoas and Guavas, Kiwi fruit, Mandarin, Hybrid and Nashi Pear, Pepino, Quince, Persimmon, Tamarillo and other tender fruits should be protected from hungry birds. Nearly-ripe fruits can be picked and brought indoors into an airy, cool, dry room out of direct sun where they will usually reach full maturity.
 
Harvest Time:
The final autumnal Harvest Moon arrives 22 May in sidereal Scorpio. Full Moon also brings full water retention so as the week progresses toward Full Moon this becomes an ideal time to harvest for immediate use. This high water retention produces crispy, crunchy, succulent Carrots, Cucumbers, Lettuce and other salad greens; juicy fruits and tangy Tomatoes. It is an ideal time to harvest Grapes and other fruits for juice and wine; also for jam, jelly, pickles and preserves.
 
Water retention begins to reduce from May 24th onward as the Moon Wanes until the New Moon (5 June). New Moon produces the lowest water retention. So in the times ahead up until the New Moon is the best time to harvest for long term storage and drying of fruits and vegetables plus the last flowers and herbs.
 
This high water retention early in the week probably won’t be detrimental for the harvesting of many root crops and vegetables with touch skins. Dig Jerusalem Artichoke, Kumara and Sweet Potato, Onions, Peanut, Potato, Pumpkin, Shallot and Yam wherever they might rot if left in the ground any longer.
 
Harvest Marrow, Pumpkins, Squash as soon as fruits separate from the vine. Cucumber can be harvested at almost any stage until they begin to become seedy and yellow. Luffa can be eaten while green and small but mature ones are ready to harvest once the vines begin to wither and the fruits turn dry and papery. Air-dry these for at least a couple of days and store in a cool, dark, draft-free, dry and frost-free position. Soon their papery skins will easily fall away revealing the valuable ‘sponge’ within.  Use Jerusalem Artichoke fairly quickly or store in a peat/sand mix as they do not keep for long once dug, but will easily tolerate frozen ground when well-mulched.
 
Gourd, Pumpkin, Squash and Marrow can be harvested as soon as their connective stem separates from the withered vine. If the connective stem remains attached to the fruit once the vine withers, leave this connective stem attached and move them to an airy, cool, dry, frost-free place for Winter storage. These are often the fruits that keep the longest. Any damaged fruits or those that lose their connective stem should be used first as these will not keep nearly as long.
 
If frost does appear imminent, harvest the last warm season tender vegetables, especially those that are meant to be bottled, preserved or stored for Winter before cold, wet weather ruins them.
 
Green Tomatoes can be individually wrapped in a sheet of newspaper and stored as a single layer in boxes to ripen. They often ripen as well on a windowsill or bright, warm shelf. Bell Peppers (Capsicum) can often be treated the same way. Chilli Pepper plants can be pulled up, roots intact but leaves removed and hung upside down in an airy, dry position away from bright sunlight. Alternatively, the fruits can be picked and strung of a strong thread. Many vegetables can also be dried and stored in air-tight jars or in seasoned brine or oil.
 

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 
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