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This week in the Garden for September

This First Week in the Early Spring Garden:

week one - week two - week three - week four
sepdir2012-13-230x153Calendar and meteorological Spring begins in the Southern Hemisphere. The astronomical ‘true’ beginning of Spring arrives with the Vernal Equinox 22-23 September (exact date and time is dependent upon geographical location). In milder climate zones signs of the new growing season are already obvious, no matter what the weather. While in the coldest regions, even though true warm weather is yet to arrive, buds are swelling, days are lengthening and there is a sense of renewed life in the air.

It is an excellent time for feeding, sowing and transplanting all flowers and to plant a wide variety of brambles and canes, groundcovers, perennials, shrubs, trees and all manner of vines; plus all vegetables that produce crops above the ground. Alert! Bait for Snails and Slugs now! More on this subject can be found in the section ‘Disease and Pests’.

The Early Spring Equinox Full Moon arrives 6 September as it descends in Southern Hemisphere. This Full Moon is transitional and represents the mid-point of Early Spring in milder climates and the abatement of Late Winter in the coldest climates. The Full Moon also brings the month’s greatest water retention for both animals and plants. It occurs in the (sidereal) constellation of Aquarius, a semi-barren air sign. Aquarius often brings good weather.

An Important Transitional Planting Week:
Weather permitting; this is a very good time to start planning and planting the flower and vegetable gardens for Late Spring and Summer blooms and harvests. The Moon is Fully Waxing (1-6 Sept.) to Full Moon (6 Sept.) then starts Waning. This provides the opportunity to plant a very wide range of brambles and canes; annual and perennial flowers; groundcovers and container-grown plants; shrubs, trees, vines; both fruiting, leafy and root crop vegetables; plus sub-tropical species in the milder climates.

The determining factor here in the climate. If deciduous Magnolias are in bloom and especially once they are finishing and beginning to leaf-out along with other deciduous shrubs and trees, this begins the earliest days to start planting somewhat ‘tender’ things in the open. But be aware that a rouge late freeze or frost is still possible, especially in districts exposed to Antarctic winds. Once the last deciduous trees begin to leaf-out, especially the Oaks, your climate is relatively safe to plant outdoors for Late Spring and Early Summer. In many places that will not happen until later next month. To be safe, plant or sow hardy things first. Anything tender should be started under cloches, glass or other protective shelter (preferably with bottom heat) to insure against the possibility of a late cold/wet snap.

When planting and sowing, be sure to anticipate changeable weather and insure that everything remains in the very brightest light and well protected against chilling drafts or cold, pelting hail and rain. The best results will surely happen when planting and sowing under-cover with bright light and added warmth. With careful attention to detail and regular care, this is an ideal time to plant, sow and transplant almost anything. Seed and seedlings often establish quickly now for a spectacular show in the Late Spring, and Autumn Summer gardens.

In colder climates stick to hardy things and keep them sheltered from the cold. But in mild districts, sheltered corners or with protection start planting ‘hardy’ Summer flowers. The time around the Full Moon is an ideal moment to plant all manner of round things: circular, disc and globe-shaped flowers, flowering and vegetable bulbs of all sorts and all variety of ‘luminous’ things.

Flowering Hardy Annuals, Biennials and Perennials to Plant and Sow:
There is still time to plant or transplant flowers for the Spring garden. For ‘instant’ colour, advanced seedlings and colour pots may begin blooming almost immediately.

The hardiest seed and seedlings of annual flowers will establish quickly now for a spectacular show in the Late Spring, while others will bloom in the Summer and Autumn garden. Seeds can take 2 to 3 months or more to reach maturity. Some of these will reach their full potential in Late Spring but most will bloom in the Early Summer garden and onward. In colder climates stick to hardy things and many of these should only be attempted in a bright glasshouse environment. But in mild districts, sheltered corners or with protection start planting Summer flowers.

Hardy and Reliable Flowers to Plant or Sow include:
Ageratum, Alyssum, Arctotis, Aster, Amaranthus, Bellis Perennis (English Daisy), California Poppy, Calendula, Carnation, Chrysanthemum (annual and paludosum plus perennial species), Cleome, Cornflower, Coreopsis, Cosmos, Dahlia, Dianthus, Gaillardia, Gazania, Gypsophila, Lobelia, Linaria, Linum, Mysotis (Forget-Me-Not), Nasturtium, Rudbeckia, Scabiosa, Snapdragon, Statice, Stock, Sunflower, Viscaria, Wallflower, most Wildflower mixes and there are many more.

Half-Hardy “Tender’ Summer Flowers to Plant or Sowing Under Cover or in Protected Warm Corners:
Amaranthus(Globe, Leaf and Plume) China Aster, Balsam, Begonias, Blue Lace Flower, Calliopsis, Celosia/Cockscomb, Clarkia, Coleus, Dianthus, Gaillardia, Gazania, Geranium, Gerbera, Gloxinia, Gourds, Helichrysum (Strawflower), Hyacinth Bean Vine, Impatiens, Kochia, Lily seed, Luffa, Marigold, Mignonette, Molucella (Bells of Ireland); Mina Lobata, Moon Flower and Morning Glory Vines; Nicotiana, (Edible and Ornamental) Peppers, Petunia, Phlox, Salpiglossis, Salvia, Schizanthus, Swan River Daisy, Tigridia (Mexican shell Flower), Verbena, Viscaria, Zinnia plus hundreds more and most Summer vegetables.

Herbs:
Herbs can be sown, planted and divided. Almost all varieties can be sown from seed now. Keep tropical species like Basil very sunny and warm to avoid cold damage and rot of tender seedlings. If in doubt about which are hardy and which are tropical the best solution is to give all Herbs full sunlight, mild to warm conditions and very free draining soil that remains only lightly moist.

Remember that icy drafts and pelting rain, hail and wind often do more damage than cold nights! For successful seed germination and growth of seedlings, all of these ‘tender’ Summer flowers as well as most vegetables demand warm temperatures both day and night. Exposure to a single cold night can ruin them so take no chances!

Feeding:
Liquid feed budding flowers, container plants or anything you wish to grow vigorously. Everything will rocket away now if properly feed. The wise Gardener knows that the best time for liquid feeding is usually a humid, mild and sunny morning through to early afternoon. This week is most unusual in that the very best intake of liquid fertilizer and/or water upward into the plant occurs with the rising Sun onward almost all day. Then the Moon’s upward draw kicks in as the Sun begins to set in the West. Full Moon represents the highest water retention for the month through Nature.

When preparing for liquid feeding, it is often best to lightly water the plants first. This is especially important if the surrounding soil is dry. Alternatively, apply liquid fertilizers after rain when a mild and sunny day is to follow. This allows the plant to up-take fresh water first prior to absorbing the liquid fertilizer. The extra water intake helps protect the plant from damage that could potentially be caused by the fertilizer salts if the liquid feeding were perhaps too concentrated. Avoid feeding or watering during chilling, cloudy, cool weather. Plant metabolism is slower under this condition so uptake of fertilizer and liquids is much reduced then.

Dry fertilizers can be applied at almost any time. But the key factor is that the ground should already be moist prior to their application otherwise chemical burning might occur. While it is not essential to water-in applications of dry fertilizer, it does release their minerals immediately into the soil and that means faster results. Almost anything coming into active growth now will benefit from feeding at this time in the growing season.

A Big Time for Vegetables!

Hardy Vegetables to Plant as Seedlings or Sow:
Concentrate on hardy crops first like: Artichoke, Beets, Carrot, Cauliflower, Celery, Chicory, Chinese Green Vegetables, Cress, Endive, Gooseberry, Kohlrabi, Leeks, Lettuce, Mustard, Spring Onions, Parsley and Herbs, Parsnip, Peas, Potato, Radish, Rhubarb, Salsify, Spinach, Turnip and more.

Root Crops:
Seed of root crops like Carrot and Parsnip can be sown to greatest advantage now. The idea here is to get the seed to germinate around the Full Moon (6 September) onward as the Moon Wanes. Gravitational forces begin to increase, and night time lunar light diminishes. This causes the tiny roots to be pulled deeply downward where they will eventually expand into a strong tap root. Also sow or transplant anything with an extensive root system or tap root during this Waning Moon Cycle up until the beginning of the Dark of the Moon. 7-17 September offer the best opportunities.

For really impressive root crops, provide a deeply worked soil free from clods and stones. Enriching the soil with fine compost and Potassium fertilizers is usually very beneficial. Make sure that the soil is fluffy, light and drains extremely well. Adding fine sand often does wonders to make roots penetrate most deeply. If soil is at all heavy, dig in a generous layer of Gypsum Lime. Most root crops do not perform well in clay soils. Root crops perform very well in raised beds and also deep, large barrels or tubs.

Tender Summer Vegetables:
All the treasured Summer warm season vegetables can be sown or started from seedlings now. For most Gardeners, these are best grown in pots in a glasshouse or protected nursery.

Caution!
Avoid the impulse to plant out tender Summer vegetable seedlings in exposed locations this early! Those purchased from the local nursery have been grown in a warm glasshouse or artificially sheltered environment. They are very tender and will need time to adjust and harden-off to outdoor conditions before they can be safely planted into the exposed garden. The only exception are Gardeners in (sub) tropical, sunny and warm garden beds where the climate is settled and soil temperatures remain at least 15C/59F or higher. This means that night time temperatures must consistently remain above 12C/59F and preferably much higher. Planting into black plastic laid over the soil or under cloches or within a warm cold frame or tunnel house will give good results until the weather truly settles.

There is absolutely no advantage to planting out tender Summer vegetables too early into cold, wet soil. A single chilling evening will set them back if not kill them outright. The Experienced Gardener can advise you that such plantings almost always falter or eventually die and are almost always overtaken by later plantings and sowings that were started in thoroughly warm soil once the season has settled. Now that you have been warned, here are the best tender Summer vegetables to start now and secrets to their success.

Tender Summer Vegetables to Plant or Sow:
Beans, Capsicum, Choko, Cucumber, Eggplant, edible Gourd, Kumara, Luffa, Marrow, Melon, Okra, Pepino, Peppers, Pumpkins, Squash, Sweet Corn, Taro, Tomato, Yam and many more.

A number of tender Summer vegetables have delicate root systems that make them difficult to shift and transplant. This includes everything with a tap root (Carrots, Parsnip, Salsify, etc.), almost all vines, plus Beans, Okra and Sweet Corn. These are almost always the most successful when started from seed sown directly where the vegetables are intended to grow. But soil outdoors will really only become warm enough for this next month. That is when many Gardeners will sow their ‘main crop’ Summer vegetables. There are secrets to getting a head start.

Secrets to Successful Summer Vegetables:
To achieve the earliest possible harvests, which is especially important in regions with short Summer warmth, now is an excellent time to start these in an airy, fully sunny (or artificial ultraviolet lamps), warm environment (temperatures 21-27C/69.8-80.6F).

Start tender Vegetables in small pots and transplant them later just as their root system completely fills their container but before the roots can become too pot bound. As soon as roots begin to protrude out the drains holes in the pot, they could potentially be transplanted. Alternatively, carefully slip one’s hand over the top of the pot with the young seedlings resting between the fingers. Overturn the pot while holding it firmly and give it a slight tap on a hard surface. This will loosen the root ball from its container. The entire plant and its root ball should slip out easily into your hand along with the wayward roots protruding through the drainage holes. Once all roots have been pulled back into the pot, make sure the pot fits over the root ball and gently return it to an upright position. The seedling and its root ball should easily slip back into place in the pot. This method allows the plant to continue to grow onward and provided several weeks in which to find a suitable time to transplant them into their final growing position.

Sow only one to three (or just a few more) seeds in each small pot or any type of container with good drainage and smooth sides; this allows for easy shifting to their final transplanting position with a minimum of root disturbance. Place these pots in a very bright, humid and warm position.

To help avoid damaging damp-off fungus, it is sometimes helpful to first flood the soil in each container with near boiling water. Let this drain away and allow the soil to cool. Then sow the seeds or plant the seedlings. Water once deeply and thoroughly then keep the soil only modestly moist. Provide as much air circulation as possible without ever chilling the soil through exposure to cold outdoor air.

Large seeds like Beans, Peas, Pumpkins and Squash, Sunflowers and others are very easy to sprout. But these seeds often perish if the seeds are watered just as they split to reveal the delicate seed germ inside that will ultimately become the plant. If this seed germ becomes excessively wet and at all chilled, it will die and rot before it ever raises its head into the light. The secret here is to generously water the soil just prior to planting and not again until the seeds germinate. Should the soil become excessive dry before the seedling emerges above the soil, provide something like a teaspoon of water dribbled down the inside of the container wall; never over the seeds themselves. This way there is much less chance that water will settle within the emerging splitting seed.

Keep these seeds (and all tender Summer vegetables) very warm to speed germination. Bottom heat is very helpful. Some Gardeners choose to germinate these seeds in damp cotton wool or paper towels in a covered container placed in a very warm spot, possibly over a water heater or high up in a heated room where temperatures remain the highest. Check them daily and as soon as the seeds first begin to sprout, transplant them carefully into their individual small pots.

Brightest light is essential over the seedling pots to avoid seedling-stretch. When young seedlings stretch toward the light, this results in long, unhealthy and weak stems that will usually ultimately fail. To produce healthy, productive plants they must remain short and stocky in growth. While almost any seed will germinate, without sufficiently strong light, similar to ultraviolet-enriched sunlight, they quickly stretch out toward whatever light source there is and are often ruined beyond repair.

Once all seeds have sprouted and have achieved 1-3inches/2.5-7.5cm. thin out to the strongest one or two plants per container and grow these on. Feed and water lightly and regularly. Make sure that air circulation remains good, light remains strong and temperatures are constantly warm. When the weather settles (most likely next month), these seedling pots will be moved first to a sheltered outdoor nursery setting or bright and protected corner outdoors to acclimatize to outdoor living.

The Secrets of Exposure:
The Experienced Garden will warn you to very carefully introduce these seedlings to strong outdoor air and sunlight. It doesn’t matter if the seedlings have been purchased from a local nursery or grown yourself; they have been started under very protected conditions. This means that their tissues are as tender as ours after the long Winter season. It is easy for our skin to burn in the Spring sunshine or chill if we go outdoors under-clothed into cold, damp and windy conditions and exactly the same thing happens to them. Only difference is that you are likely to recover and they aren’t; meaning potentially weeks of effort and time have been lost.

At this critical transitional moment, tender seedling tissue can be destroyed in just a few hours of inclement conditions. To avoid this, ‘acclimatize’ all seedlings to their eventual life outdoors. Start with only a few hours of ‘soft’ morning sunlight followed by dappled shade or indirect sunlight for the remainder of the day. Bring them indoors or cover them every evening. Avoid chilling or drying drafts even for a short time! Never place them in a windy location. As the young seedlings adjust, cautiously move them into ever-brighter outdoor conditions. Once they are full acclimatized (in one to two weeks), they can be very carefully and safely transplanted into their final growing positions outdoors. Another way is to place them beneath cloches or frost cloth which is left over them as a protective screen for a week or (much) more.

One of the classic mistakes to make is to purchase seedlings at the local nursery with the intent of planting them outdoors the same day. Or decide to take seedlings grown indoors outside for an afternoon of bright sun on a warm Spring afternoon, especially if it were to become windy. Certain death usually follows. Gently does it!

Tomatoes:
Tomato plants can also be started in small pots in a similar manner. As they grow, carefully transplant them into somewhat larger containers. As they become more substantial plant them somewhat deeper in the soil with each transplanting. This will encourage further rooting up the growing stem. They can be grown on this way for months. Many Gardeners place them in a warm glasshouse, sunroom or very sunny window. Alternatively, consider putting their pots in the sunniest corner next to the house; out of chilling drafts. Possibly they can be covered with a cloche or plastic bag to shelter them in the cool evening hours. They can be grown on like this for months before being successfully transplanted into their final position in the Summer garden.

Garden Centres make a fortune from inexperienced Gardeners buying advanced Tomato plants and them placing them outdoors in the garden. Without a great deal of care and luck this equates to certain death from chilling exposure. So they’ll be heading back to the garden centre later on to buy more replacement Tomatoes. Certainly there are great advantages to buying advanced Tomato plants. But keep them sheltered and warm in a glasshouse or well-protected cloche for at least another month or six weeks until the night time temperatures remain above 12-15C.

Kumara, Sweet Potato, Potatoes & Yam:
Kumara, Sweet Potato, Yam (includes New Zealand’s Andes Yam) can be sprouted successfully now and so can Potatoes for later plantings. In warm and sheltered gardens continue planting Potatoes for early harvests. Also start the first plantings of Kumara and Yam. But only attempt this in subtropical climates with caution as soil must remain warm to avoid rotting.

Gourds:
Gourds are garden jewels grown for their decorative ornamental fruits. Gourds are natives of tropical origin, mostly from the tropical American regions and some larger fruiting varieties are native to the Pacific Ring and Islands tropical regions. They were once a staple food amongst indigenous people of these regions.

Being related to Pumpkins, small Gourd varieties were often harvested once dried and stored in great quantities. Their deliciously edible seeds, much like Pumpkin seeds, remained fresh within their hardened outer shells for many months; sometimes many hundreds of years! These Gourds were the world’s first known ‘fast food’. Even today in many cultures, Gourds are eaten while fruits are quite young being cooled much like Squash.

Gourds are great for floral art or a child’s garden (of any age). The smaller varieties are often brightly coloured and very decorative while the larger varieties are usually shades of green to beige. They play a significant part in most traditional western autumnal harvest displays along with Corn, Pumpkins and Winter Squash. Large gourds are valuable for a variety of utilitarian uses from baskets to bird houses, bowls and boxes; containers, cooking pots, dippers and ladles and even musical instruments plus many other creative uses. The softer shelled Luffa is highly prized as a vegetable sponge.

The handsome flowering plants have large, palmate usually furry or lightly prickly or somewhat rough leaves on vines that race upwards to create fast growing almost ‘instant’ arbours and privacy screens. The vines somewhat resemble Cucumber and Pumpkin in habit as they are all closely related. During warm Summer months they produce an abundance of yellow or white flowers amongst the dense foliage. Yellow flowers species produce big star-shaped sunny blooms that are edible; opening with the sunlight and closing in the evening or after pollination, often by Bees. White flower species produce rounder and smaller star blooms usually on long stems that are often pollinated by insects like moths at night and also usually only last one day.

If pollination is successful, ornamental green fruits begin to swell and soon grow to hang like ornaments amongst the vines. In late Summer and Autumn, the vines begin to wither as the fruits transform from green to a variety of colourful, often shiny ornamental fruits mostly in shades of deep green, orange, yellow and white often with unusually markings, stripes or warty growths. Once harvested, they last for months and sometimes many years.

The larger ‘bottle’ varieties (Lagunaria) are a distinctively different tropical species from the smaller ornamental colourful Gourds (Cucurbita). Lagunaria Gourds are larger, tender tropical perennial vines that take much longer to grow and mature useable fruits. They demand long Summers and tropical warmth, especially warm soil. Where climates are cool or seasons are short, they are often grown in the ground within a glasshouse much like the production of commercial Tomatoes. Lagunaria Gourds have almost velvety leaves with a distinctive musky odour.

Start sowing seed now in warm gardens. For most Gardeners, now is the time to start them in individual containers in the warm glasshouse or similar environment They demand heat, moisture, rich soil and the same cultural conditions as their close relatives, the Cucumber, Melons and Pumpkins.

Once the season has advanced and is settled and warm, very carefully transplant each seedling pot into its permanent position next to a strong trellis or support. Better results almost always occur with very sunny positions in warm soil. In cool climates, plant seedlings or sow seed direct into holes cut into a sheet of black plastic or weed mat that has been securely staked over a well cultivated and fertilized garden bed.

All Gourd species make dramatic and very fast growing natural screen vines that can cover a large area. When adequate space is available, plants can be allowed to sprawl and spread over the ground. Okra, Indian or Sweet Corn and Sunflowers are often grown amongst them. Provided the Late Summer and especially the Autumn climate remains dry, the Cucurbit species fruits will naturally dry on the ground where they can be easily gathered and harvested once they mature and the vines wither. Much like the Cucurbita species, the Lagunaria species can be harvested as a vegetable while fruits remain furry, small, tender and young very much like Squash. Or they can be harvested once they are fully mature and have turned hard, smooth and soft green to beige. In tropical regions, the short-lived perennial vines can continue to sprawl for more than a year.

Summer Flowering Bulbs, Rhizomes, Roots, Tubers:
This time of the season is particularly well suited to planting bulbs for strong, robust growth, better flowering and larger, exhibitions blooms plus bulb multiplication. Caladiums, Canna roots, Japanese and most Species Iris, Tuberous Begonias and Most Summer-flowering treasures benefit from being started early. This is especially true of Caladiums, Canna, Japanese and some species Iris, Tuberose, Tuberous Begonias and many others. When started now the plants have the maximum growing season to expand and multiply for highest quality and quantity of blooms and new growth.

Bulbs, Corms, Roots and Tubers to plant:
Acidanthera, Amaryllis belladonna, Caladium, Canna, Dahlia, Galtonia, Gladioli, Gloxinia, Hippeastrum (Amaryllis), Hedychium (Gingers), Japanese Iris, Nerine, Tigridia, Tuberose, Tuberous Begonias, Water Lilies, Zantedeschia and many more Summer treasures.

Tuberous Begonias, Caladiums, Dahlia, Gloxinia, Hippeastrum, Tuberose and others are often started in seedling flats or small pots for transplanting on later once growth begins and the season warms. Use a light, fluffy potting mix (peat and sand is often ideal). Keep the mix only lightly moist as wet soil often results in rotting. Place them in a very bright, draft-free and warm environment. Once plants become established and the weather becomes settled and warm outdoors, they can be shifted into larger containers, tubs or garden beds for exotic summer colour.

Gladioli:
Plant a new batch of Gladioli every few weeks for a succession spectacular Summer colour. They need well-drained soil that has been enriched with compost and a 5-10-10 fertilized sprinkled below the corms in the bottom of the planting hole. Then add a lay of unfertilized soil above that to avoid root burning. Plant them 8’ apart in groups of 10 or more for a good show. Gladioli respond well to additional Potash feeding as bud spike develop and need full sunshine and protection from winds. It is advisable to stake Gladioli. Their top-heavy unprotected blooms are notorious victims of Summer storms. Areas that experience Gladioli Rust or are attacked by Thrip should plant early. Those in drier climates can succession plant from Late Winter or as soon as frosts have passed into Early Summer.

Dahlia:
Dahlia tubers intended for an Early Summer display can be started now. These are often grown in a glasshouse, warm cold frame or bright sunroom in pots small enough to just accommodate the entire tuber. Water only lightly. Once shoots develop these can be cut and struck as cuttings to increase stock of special hybrid varieties. Often these cuttings will produce a few blooms this first season. Once the weather moderates and all danger of frost has passed, the established clump can be carefully slipped out of its pot and planted in a sheltered, sunny spot in well-draining soil enriched with compost. Staking is essential for good quality plants as stems are very brittle. They usually perform well without staking at first, but once blooms begin to develop, the plants become top-heavy and often are ruined during stormy weather. Dahlias can be allowed to sprawl and spread but blooms are usually smaller and often are eaten by Slugs and Snails or smashed into the ground during heavy rain events.

When planted now they will begin flowering in 90-110 days and will have the time to make considerable root and tuber development. This is the ideal time to plant them for multiplication of stock. Early planted Dahlias can have their spent canes cut back severely (often removed to the ground) after their first flowering and will reward with new canes and lovely Late Summer and Autumn blooms.

Dahlias intended for Autumn exhibition are kept dormant and dry until the first days of Early Summer. The finest blooms often come from Dahlias that bloom in the cooler and damper days of Autumn. For the largest exhibition blooms, stake them at planting time and allow only one or two canes to develop. Pinch out most side shoots and allow only a couple of buds to develop on each cane. As the buds begin to mature eliminate all but the largest central bud. With any luck this will produce a remarkable exhibition bloom. Otherwise, plant as normal and let the tubers develop several strong canes. These should be somehow supported to protect the developing canes. Blooming should begin in Early Autumn and can continue until frost. Autumn flowering Dahlias are one of the true treasures of a well planned Autumn garden.

Vines, Flowering and Fruiting:
In mild climates where danger of freezing has passed, this is an excellent time to plant Passion Fruit Vines. They are easily started from seed in very similar conditions as are necessary to produce top quality Tomatoes. When starting them as small plants, provide similar conditions to Tomatoes: sunny and warm; sheltered from cold winds and chilling drafts; deeply dug and well-enriched soil that drains freely but retains moisture. Purchasing established vines grown in containers from the local nursery will save at least a year or two in time so are definitely worth their cost.

Grape and Kiwi Fruit Vines are often planted while they are bare-root and dormant. There is still time to do this. Or plant them from established container plants. Make sure their soil is very free-draining, in full sunshine and very warm with good air circulation.

In mild climates outdoors or into containers in the warm glasshouse start Choko, Dolichos lablab (Hyacinth Bean), Gourd, Ipomoea (Annual Morning Glory and Moon Flower), Luffa (Vegetable Sponge), Mina Lobata (Spanish Flag), Phaseolus caracalla (Snail Flower), Pyrostegia (Flame Vine), Rhodochiton (Purple Bell Vine), Summer-flowering Sweet Pea and other (subtropical) vines. For those that want something fast and spectacular consider Cobea scandens (Cathedral Vine) with great drapes of bell-shaped flowers that open soft lime green and gently transform to mauve then purple before dropping. Caution, this is a rampant vine that can spread quickly and seeds prolifically. But it will scramble up a trellis or even a brick wall and cascade over fences, shrubbery or trees. It is often used to smother weed trees or cover unsightly buildings, sheds and walls.

Most all of these vines need sheltered, sunny and warm positions for success. They are at least somewhat sensitive to root disturbance. So consider their permanent placement carefully. Most can be started in small containers or pots and later transplanted into their permanent positions with care to not damage or adversely disturb their roots.

House Plants:
As soon as the weather warms and the increasing day length brings additional sunlight into house plants, this becomes a good time to start repotting them. But refrain from this until conditions remain settled, warm and sunny. In unheated rooms, repotting is reliant upon the warming of outdoor conditions. While in artificially heated and permanently lit environments, repotting has little to do with what happens outdoors. But the increasing light and warmth outside will help stimulate new growth on indoor plants.

Also gradually increase food and watering of house plants. Best times to feed and water are mild and sunny days, especially in the morning to early afternoon hours and while the Moon and/or Sun is rising in the east or passing overhead. Allow excess fertilized water to remain in the plant saucer no longer than about an hour; then pour it off and allow the plant’s root system to drain and dry out slightly before nightfall. Avoid feeding or watering on cloudy, cold days or if there could be any chance for the plant(s) to be exposed to chilling drafts while damp.

Repotting:
Repot hardy outdoor plants and start new containers now to take advantage of the season. This should only be attempted where conditions are becoming warmer and settled and the danger of freezing has passed. In colder areas, repot only within glasshouse or similarly sheltered environments.

Container gardening increases the variety and quality of what can be grown in almost any location. Most plants can be grown in containers and many respond better in pots than when planted in the ground!

In partial-shaded gardens or where soil drains poorly consider planting into pots partially submerged into the soil possibly between other (foliage) plants. This gives more elevation to the garden and increases what can be grown in an otherwise difficult environment.

Containers can be of almost any size both large and small or consider creating an entire raised bed as a single container. To create more elevation and interest encourage roots to grow through the drainage holes of containers, anchoring them into the moist soil beneath the container or pots. There they will find extra moisture and additional food.

Once such container plantings become established this will improve their drainage and keep the plant roots a little warmer in Summer. This will allow sun-loving plants to grow successfully in less light and plants needing drier soil conditions to thrive when grown above rather damp or wet locations with little extra care. This can create a much more exciting and interesting garden with more elevation and even in awkward and small spaces.

In warm climates, especially (sub) tropical zones where mild and settled Spring weather has arrived, begin (trans) planting sub-tropical Citrus and other broad-leafed fruiting shrubs and trees; Palms; ornamental shrubs, trees, and vines. Caution! Climatic conditions must remain bright to sunny, sheltered and consistently warm, especially the soil. Many transplanting failures of tender subtropical species occur from attempting to (trans) plant too early into cold, wet soil. Existing subtropical species can be fed and pruned now.

Disease and Pests:
Alert! Slugs and Snails become active now as the weather moderates and especially during damp, mild or rainy evenings. This is their breeding time. Most active breeding occurs leading up to the Full Moon each month of Spring starting now with the Full Moon (6 Sept.). Almost every mature Slug and Snail that wintered-over will be out breeding. Spread bates immediately to eliminate the entire adult population before they can lay their eggs and regenerate. Don’t allow them to breed. If they do their young will soon hatch in massive numbers and can quickly consume your garden. Act immediately and save your garden!

Spring brings abundant flowers but also disease and pests to the Garden. As the weather warms and more subtropical winds return, be especially alert for outbreaks of Ants, Aphids, Caterpillar, Mite, Thrip, Whitefly and much more on fruit and ornamental shrubs, trees, vines plus most flowers and vegetables of all sorts.

Use a commercial preparation immediately to eliminate the problem or it will spread quickly as the weather warms. Comprehensive systemic sprays are by far the most effective. Experienced Gardeners often elect to spray the entire garden now and again in a couple of weeks at this time of the year. This protects all new and tender plantings from attack and the second spraying eliminates most anything surviving the first spray.

The benefit of this sort of comprehensive spraying is that disease and pests cannot become established early in the season. Much like inoculating a child against communicable diseases, a systemic spray protects the garden from whatever will most surely arrive on the warmer winds. If disease and pests are eliminated from the start, the garden gets a much better start. This often allows the garden to develop healthy, pest-free and strong for nearly the entire growing season.

Organic Gardeners may resort to frequently spraying with soapy water mixed with a small amount of cooking oil or Neem oil. A mixture of whole milk, baking soda and liquid soap (dish-washing or washing-up soap) or cooking oil creates an organic solution that is also useful against many fungal diseases like powdery mildew and botrytis. The juice of crushed Garlic and/or Cheyenne Peppers can also be added to ward of insect attack. It is especially effective in controlling Aphids. These are healthy and natural solutions to control some diseases and insect pests but these ‘soft’ sprays must be frequently reapplied.

 


This Second Week in the Early Spring Garden:

week one - week two - week three - week four
sepdir2012-05-230x153A Waning Moon Cycle fills the entire week deepening into its Last Quarter Moon (13 September) as the Full Waning Moon Cycle begins. This is potentially a very fine week for gardening. Emphasis is more on root development this week. It is an ideal time to plant or sow seed of all root crop vegetables; plant anything needing a period of root development before to growth begins. This includes almost anything hardy transplanted from containers or shifted from in-ground plantings such as; groundcovers, perennials, shrubs, trees and vines; Roses and all remaining bare-root deciduous plantings.

Planting:
Weather permitting; a lot can be accomplished this week. Anything dormant and hardy can be planted with care now. Start with the sunniest and warmest positions first and plan to plant cooler, partly shaded sites once they are again sunlit and warm.

A wide variety of hardy plants can be started from seed or transplanted. This Moon phase is excellent for starting things with extensive root systems; those that develop a tap root and those meant to eventually be transplanted into a coastal or dry and hot location. This includes many hardy Annuals like: Aquilegia, Arctotis, California Poppy, Coreopsis, Gaillardia, Gypsophila, Snapdragon, Strawflower, and Veldt daisy.

These flowers can either be sown direct where they are meant to grow, or into containers that can be very carefully transplanted into their permanent positions in 6-8 weeks time. When transplanting these take special care to not disturb their fragile root system as any root damage at all will set back part of the plant. Always water-in these transplants immediately and maintain regular watering until they become well established. Most things will do much better in a protected (nursery) environment.

Continue sowing seed of tender warm season flowers and vegetables. Tender plantings, especially all warm season ‘Summer’ flowers and vegetables will need protection against evening cold. Even though daytime temperatures might be climbing, these tropical natives demand more ground heat and higher air temperatures and will be set back or killed outright if not protected each evening for at least another 4-6 weeks. Minimum air and soil temperatures for such tender sowings should remain above 12-15C/53.6-59F or higher. While seedlings may survive colder temperatures, the plants are often stunted by the cold.

Vegetables:
All hardy vegetables and especially root crop vegetables can be planted or sown this week. This also includes vegetables with hard seed coats like Peas. It is permissible to start seed of leafy vegetables, too. If the seed is sown now, it should all have germinated by the arrival of the Equinox New Moon (20 September) when leafy top growth is favoured.

Tender Vegetables to Plant or Sow:
Beans, Capsicum and Chill Peppers, Cucumbers, Eggplant, Gourd (edible and ornamental), Luffa, Marrow, Melons, Pumpkin, Squash, Zucchini, Sweet Corn, Tobacco, Tomatoes , Zucchini and more locally.

These are best sown into individual pots maintained in very bright and warm conditions, preferably in the glasshouse. Don’t plant or sow any of these outdoors without protective cloches or other sheltering from cold temperatures unless the site is extremely sheltered.

Hardy Vegetables for Outdoors Planting or Sowing:
Asparagus crowns (hurry), Globe Artichoke, Beets, Cabbages, Cape Gooseberry, Carrot, Celery, Chicory, Chinese Cabbages and Greens, Choko, Cress, Endive, Herbs, Horseradish, Kohlrabi, Leeks, Lettuce, Mustard, Onions, Parsnip, Potatoes, Radish, Rhubarb seed and crowns, Salsify, Silverbeet, Spinach and more.

Onions:
Onions for a main crop should go in now either as seed, seedlings or Onion sets.

Soil should be enriched with manure compost or well-aged manure and a well-balanced complete General Garden fertiliser. Both Onions prefer a slightly acid pH soil 5.5-6.5. Onions can tolerate the addition of Dolomite lime to the soil.

Potatoes:
Potatoes should go in now and onward for some time ahead. They prefer similar soil and environmental conditions to Onions with one giant exception. Avoid all forms of Lime with Potatoes! Fresh Lime contacting Potato tubers or high soil pH is the primary cause of Potato scab disease and can also produce plants with poor health and smaller crops.

Herbs - Culinary and Medicinal:
Continue to plant all hardy herbs and medicinal plants. Most of these require well draining soil with some limited enrichment. Too rich a soil often produces abundant leafy growth with less volatile oil. The exception here is dry, very sunny and warm sites. Most herbs in such locations thrive and produce exceptional quality provided they can be occasionally watered during droughty periods.

Tender herbs like Basil should be planted or sown into containers that are maintained in a very sunny and warm environment as they quickly collapse if ever exposed to chilling conditions. They can be planted outdoors when the climate has sufficiently warmed enough to plant out Tomatoes and Sweet Corn.

Perennials:
Early Spring is an ideal time to divide established clumps or perennials and replant them or start new perennials from containers.

Easiest perennials include:
Asters (Belgian, Michaelmas and species), Astilbe, Carnations, Chrysanthemums, Delphinium, Dianthus, Echinacea, Helenium (Sneeze Weeds), Hemerocallis, Japanese Anemone, Perennial Phlox (P. paniculata and species), Kniphofia (Red Hot Poker), Shasta Daisy, Solidago (Goldenrod) and many more.

Flowers to Sow or Plant include:
Ageratum, Alyssum, Aquilegia, Arctotis, Amaranthus, Aster, Balsam, Begonias, Blue Lace Flower, Boronia, California Poppy, Calendula, Calliopsis, Carnation, Canterbury Bells, Celosia, Chrysanthemum, Clarkia, Cleome, Cockscomb, Coleus, Coneflower, Cornflower, Coreopsis, Cosmos, Dahlia seed, Delphinium crowns and seed, Dianthus, Dimorphotheca, Feverfew, Gaillardia, Gazania, Geranium, Gerbera, Globe Amaranthus, Gloxinia, Gourds, Gypsophila, Honesty(Lunaria), Impatiens, Kochia, Linum, Marigolds, Mignonette, Nasturtium, Ornamental Peppers and Basil, Petunia, Phlox, Phacelia, Portulaca, Rudbeckia, Salpiglossis, Salvia, Snapdragon, Statice, Strawflowers, Sunflowers, Swan River Daisy, Verbena, Viscaria, Virginia Stock, Wallflower, Zinnia and many more available in seed or seedlings at your local nursery.

Bulbs, Corms, Roots and Tubers to Start Now:
This is an excellent time to cut-up, divide or split dormant bulbs, corms, roots and tubers of all sorts as well as plant new ones or sows their seed in a warm glasshouse.

Achimenes, Acidanthera, Agapanthus, Amaryllis belladonna, Arum/ Zantedeschia, Caladium, Canna, Crinum, Dahlia, Eucomis (Pineapple Lily), Galtonia (Cape Hyacinth), Gladioli, Gloriosa Lily, Hedychium (Ginger), Herbertia (Blue Tiger Lily), Hippeastrum (Amaryllis), Hymenocallis (Ismene), Lilies, Ranunculus (cool climates), Sprekelia (Jacobean Lily),Tigridia, Tuberose, Tuberous Begonia, Tulbaghia, Urceolina (Pentlandia), Zephyranthes (Rain Lilies) and other tender Summer species.

Feeding:
Feeding now is quite important throughout the garden. As the garden awakens, it needs food in order to start the growing season in healthy and strong condition. Healthy growth has much to do with healthy soil. If the soil is in excellent condition, most likely so is the garden. If the soil is lacking minerals or is chemically or pH unbalanced, poorer results will follow. Now is an excellent time to improve your soil and improve your results. Gardens that are well fed produce healthier plants that often need less care, maintenance or spraying.

If lush new growth and flowering are the idea, then almost everything needs a good feeding now to stimulate the finest budding, flowering and new growth. Compost and well rotted manure are by far the best and most balanced ways to feed. Many gardens mix in with this a granular or slow release fertilizer. Usually about one handful of fertilizer to one standard bucket of compost is the strongest fertilizer advisable. ‘Little and often’ is definitely the safest way to feed.

Most important plants to feed now include anything flowering or about to flower or beginning its Spring flush of new growth including:
Brambles and Cane Fruits; Citrus; Fruit and Nut Trees; Roses; ornamental shrubs, trees, vines; Conifers and Broad-leafed Evergreens; most all Sub-tropical plants; Perennials; Vegetable crops Advancing Annual flowers plus seedlings plus Spring and Summer-flowering Bulbs.

Bulbs:
When bulb shoots begin to emerge above the soil, this alerts Gardeners that the growing season is beginning. As a reward for this natural signal, all emerging bulb shoots should be fertilized, not on, but around each shoot, with a good quality bulb food. This should be plant food with a balanced ratio of minerals but somewhat higher in phosphorous and potassium a little more than nitrogen i.e. 4-10-6 or a balance 10-10-10. Often a commercial Rose or Tomato Fertilizer will make an acceptable substitute for bulb food.

Shrubs, Trees & Vines:
All emerging growth and most flowering plants can be fed at the same time. This includes a wide variety of deciduous and evergreen shrubs and trees: all fruit trees plus fruiting brambles, canes and shrubs; broad-leafed evergreens like Camellia, Daphne, Gardenia, Pieris Japonica, Rhododendrons and many more; deciduous ornamental shrubs such as Chaenomeles (Japanese Flowering Quinces), Chimonanthus(Winter Sweet), Forsythia, Magnolias, Roses and hundreds more.

Feeding and preparing bare ground:
Where the intention is to grow exhibition flowers; brambles or canes, fruits and vegetables; shrubs, trees or vines, dig deeply to a generous spades depth. Turn the land several times to break it down. If the soil looks to be in good condition it may be possible to plant right away but if in doubt, then allow it to stand rather roughly in the weather for at least a week before planting.

Fertilisers are often added when the land is first turned. This most often is a good quality balanced General Garden Fertiliser (10-10-10; 20-20-20, etc.). Other important soil additives might include generous applications of well-aged compost or rotted manures or pellets, some add blood and bone, and most would add a dusting of Lime: Dolomag, Dolomite or Gypsum. There are a variety of commercially prepared specialty granulated fertilisers and slow release products also available. Apply fertilisers by dusted over the land at roughly the rate of one handful per square meter/yard. Some chemical fertilizers can combine adversely with Lime. So add fertilizers and Lime at different times; perhaps a week or more apart.

Once applied these additives can be raked or dug into the soil or watered in if rain is not imminent. A thorough watering-in gets these additives working immediately.

After adding any application of fertiliser or Lime to freshly turned land, it is best to leave the land to ‘cure’ for a week. If heavier applications are added then let the land ‘cure’ for a few more weeks before attempting to plant into a ‘hot’ soil.

In established gardens abundant with Spring flowering and growth, Spring cultivation is much more ‘scratching around’ in between what is growing to remove weeds and rotting debris while also loosening the soil. Follow this with a generous application of compost mulch enriched with whatever fertilisers are felt to be necessary. Inert slow release fertilizers are often ideal as they break down gradually. Add no more than one cup of commercial fertiliser/Lime to one bucket of dry compost and mix thoroughly before spreading between the plants. To avoid burning never let this enriched compost mulch drift up against plant stems or ever remain in the plant crown of foliage. Blow, wash or whisk any fertilizer away so it can dissolve in the soil rather than in the plant.

A Second Feeding:
Be prepared to feed again a little later in the growing season. Wherever the intention is to grow lovely flowers or prolific fruits and vegetables it is usually helpful to add a second application of fertilizer over the first balanced fertilizer that was applied before planting. This second application should have a higher ratio of phosphorous and potassium (potash) such as 10-20-20; 5-54-10; etc. Root crops need extra potassium so they appreciate fertilizers with a ratio such as 5-10-45, etc. All good garden centres carry various fertilizers and should be able to assist Gardeners with all their fertilizer needs.

Organic Feeding:
Organic Gardeners always sing the praises of generous applications of mature compost and/or well aged manure. These are essential additives for any successful garden. Compost and manures replenish and enrich the soil with organic material. This is essential as it gives back to the Living Earth what was taken out of it by growing the last crop. Adding mineral-enriched fertilizers and Lime over the top of the compost or manure further boosts their quality thus produces much better gardening results.

Be aware that some Experienced Gardeners will advise that it is best to spread chemical fertilizers and Lime separately about a week apart. This way there is less possibility that the Lime will interact with the other chemicals which could render them inert and therefore unavailable for the plants to use in the soil.

Liquid feeding:
Liquid feeding is a brilliant way to stimulate quick results. By far the most successful method is to liquid feed on bright or sunny, mild or warm mornings onward through early afternoon. Avoid liquid feeding and watering on cloudy, cool or cold days if at all possible. Absorption is often poor or slow and cold, damp plants are vulnerable to disease and rot.

The Moon’s placement can have a bearing on how quickly and successfully liquid fertiliser and water are drawn upward into the plant. When the Moon is rising in the east and passing overhead, its gravitational pull upwards (creates high tide) draws liquid fertilizer and water most rapidly upward into plant tissues. When the Moon’s orbit takes it below the horizon, especially when it is on the underside of the Planet, both liquid food and water are pulled into the ground, potting soil or root system rather than upward into the plant. This is because the gravitational attraction of the Moon now combines with that of the Earth. This creates a strong downward pull.

Pulling fertilizer and water downward is of little use for container plants. But pulling fertilizer and water deeply into the ground can be helpful for root crops or to encourage deeper and stronger root development which ultimately creates a healthy and more productive plant. This can improve flowering and fruiting in the times ahead. It also helps wet the ground deeper down which can be useful during droughty periods.

Preparation:
This week and next can be difficult for planting but might be a great time for planning and preparation. Preparation now is really important. Having a plan and at least a basic idea of what you wish to achieve makes gardening that much easier and more enjoyable. Plus the results are almost always much more impressive.

Be sure you have all the necessary equipment on hand and in good working order.

This includes:
  • Bulbs, plants and seeds
  • Fertilizers, sprays/sprayer, buckets; various soils and additives
  • Mechanical equipment and a variety of tools
  • Gloves, Hat, Sunscreen; proper clothing and foot wear.
Work out a plan of what you want to achieve or grow and how to best go about it. Start small and easy then progress to more elaborate plans. It is often better to focus on the completion of one task before moving on for the next. But the Master Gardener has often learned to juggle numerous jobs all around the garden at the same time. This doesn’t all happen in a day, but by completing a few steps along the way each day, your plans will soon start to take shape and become reality before your eyes. Very much like completing a puzzle, the pieces begin to fit together in the months that follow and soon begin to produce rewards that can last perhaps for years to come.

Start with the Soil:
Wherever garden soil has become compacted, hard or sour (green and mossy) from wintry rains, now is the time to aerate the ground using a garden fork. Then dust over with Dolomite Lime (neutral pH 7). Dolomite can be safely used around almost any garden plants, groundcovers, shrubs, trees or vines. Both Dolomite and granular fertilizers can be mixed with mature compost and spread as mulch around the garden.

Prepare garden beds for Spring and Summer flowers and vegetables. Dig deeply and remove all weeds. Then dust over the ground with a good well-balanced General Garden Fertiliser (20-20-20; 10-10-10, etc.) add a generous layer of mature compost and/or well-aged manure, possibly leaf mould, etc. Dig and mix these additives in lightly and let the prepared ground “cure” for at least one week before planting.

Ground can be broken for new garden beds as soon as the soil is workable. To determine if the soil is ready to dig or plough, simply dig down with a garden fork or spade and lift. If the fork cuts cleanly through the soil and it lifts up and away freely and easily breaks apart when dumped, the land is ready to turn. If the soil is hard to lift or penetrate; is very heavy and sticky and either sticks to the fork or falls away from the spade as a heavy or sodden mass, wait a while longer.

Heavy clay or poorly draining sodden loam can be improved by adding round river gravel or fluffy, light compost to which is given a generous dusting of Gypsum Lime.

Gypsum Lime has a neutral pH so can be applied safely to any soil. Once the soil is whitened with the Gypsum, only lightly water it in to the consistency of whole milk and let it penetrate into the earth without running-off. Alternatively, spread Gypsum just before a good rain and let Nature do the rest. Gypsums’ colloidal chemical action is slow but over several months time can transform even a heavy clay soil into small pellets that will allow much improved penetration of air, roots and water.

Where mature vegetable beds have been planted in cover crops, these can be cut down and dug or ploughed under to replenish the soil. Fresh open ground can be generously covered with a spread of mature compost or well-aged manure. A generous dusting of Lime can also be applied at the same time. This is especially important on land with low pH (acid) soil if good vegetable crops are intended to grow there.

As mentioned earlier, freshly dug open land should also be fertilized now with a good quality general plant food. Broadcast this generously; covering the growing soil completely but to no depth. This can be dug in lightly (more deeply for root crops); watered in; or left on top of the soil with the intension that rainfall will do the rest. For most flower and vegetable beds where a variety of crops or plants are intended to grow, choose a fertilizer with a balanced mineral ratio like: 20-20-20; 10-10-10, etc.

Birds:
Birds are nesting now. While some Gardeners find them destructive, they are still an essential and often helpful part of Nature, especially when their activities are controlled and trained. Many Birds eat insect pests plus Slugs and Snails that damage your garden. Encourage the Birds to stay with regular feeding in a designated spot away from tempting crops. Make sure the feeder is well off the ground and has no vegetation underneath it or other places for Cats to hide nearby.

To encourage Birds to eat Aphids, Beetles and Caterpillars (which are basically protein) in your garden, place a feeder somewhere near the susceptible plants and fill it with high protein seeds like Millet and Sunflower seeds or a good quality Canary or Finch seed mix. The Birds will first eat the seed and when that has disappeared, they will start to hunt for more protein nearby. This way they will eventually clean your garden of insects. If at first they don’t get the hint, feed them regularly for a few days, then cut down on their rations so they are forced to hunt for more.

Sheltering groves of shrubs, trees and vines that will protect Birds from predators will further encourage them to stay and breed in your garden. Also make sure that they have a safe and secure source of clean, fresh water for bathing and drinking. Breeding birds are constantly hunting for protein to feed their young. By welcoming them to hunt for pests in your garden, this often naturally eliminates the need to spray for pests.

Common sense must prevail to outsmart hungry Birds from tempting crops like Blueberries; all bramble and cane fruits; many tree fruits; Strawberries and the delectable new growth of such vegetable delights as tender lettuce and young Pea shoots. These crops may need covering to save them. Or grow them in an open area far away from feeding stations so that the Birds are kept distracted at a distance. Another ‘natural’ solution is to raise a Cat or a small colony of Cats that are fed and live somewhat nearby the ‘garden of temptation’. Birds will seldom hunt near any place that might put them in harms’ way from a predatory Cat. Otherwise a few unfortunate casualties will soon warn the rest and your crops will remain safe!

House Plants:
Most glasshouse specimens and house plants can be repotted now to increase growth. This is especially true once temperatures remain above 15C/59F degrees. Orchids, especially the Late Winter and Early Spring bloomers that are crowded can be divided and repotted as soon as they finish flowering and most Ferns before abundant new growth begins.

As the weather warms, slowly increase watering and light but regular feeding of houseplants and all (sub) tropical species growing in the glasshouse. It is always best to water during bright, sunny and warm days, preferably early enough in the day for plants to dry-off before nightfall. (Sub) tropical species growing outdoors can be fed and watered more but refrain from lifting and transplanting them until air and ground temperatures are averaging above 21C/69.8F degrees.

Hippeastrum:
These remarkable Lilies are amongst the most beautiful and often flamboyant of Summer-flowering bulbs. Now starts the time to purchase new Hippeastrum bulbs and re-pot dormant existing Hippeastrum bulbs now before they come into new season bud and growth. Start a few pots into growth every two weeks to produce these exotic Lily flowers over several months.

Hippeastrums enjoy being slightly pot-bound. With proper care, they will often put on a spectacular show when grown in quite a small pot. But they can also be grown quite successfully in larger containers. If the soil consistency is right, larger containers provide the extra room essential for the Hippeastrum bulb’s roots to spread out. This often results in larger bulbs and bulb multiplication. In (sub) tropical climates with light and sand soils, Hippeastrums thrive in open ground and multiply so quickly that they can almost become weeds!

These bulbs are semi-epiphytic so they must have a very light and porous soil mix that allows ample air to circulate around their roots. Use a light, free draining potting mix with added slow release fertiliser but no strong manures and avoid all fresh bark or bark-compost soil mixes. They resent heavy, wet soils and any water-retentive soils that might lead to overwatering. This can result in crown rot or blight.

Plant so that at least one third of the bulb remains above the soil line. When planting or repotting be careful not to damage their succulent and fleshy live roots. Old dried up roots can be removed. Allow the roots to dangle and spread out freely in their new pot; then cautiously back-fill fresh soil all around them. Shake the pot lightly to insure fresh soil settles in closely around all these roots so they cannot dry out. Once (re)potted, water once and not again until new growth and budding are obvious.

Hippeastrum bulbs are normally repotted annually or at least every second year in Late Winter. Hippeastrum bulbs that are resting dormant in their pots from last year that do not require repotting can be given their first very light watering. Just a tablespoon of water placed around the base of the bulb is all they need. Add a little plant food and water again only once leaves and/or bud spikes appear. But avoid over watering!

Hippeastrums are tender tropical bulbs that require constantly warm temperatures of around 21C/69.9F. Grow in a bright, sunny and warm position indoors or in a sheltered, frost-free spot outside in very mild climates and sheltered positions.

If the bulbs are allowed to remain in cold, damp and very humid conditions or ever remain overly wet, the bulbs are prone to develop red blotch disease, a rotting fungal infection that will turn the buds, leaves and stems blood red and often leads to deformity of new growth or complete collapse of the bulb. Sometimes immersing the bulbs in very warm water will kill the fungal spores. But usually the best treatment is to immediately place the affected bulb(s) in a much drier, less humid, sunnier and much warmer position with increased air flow. When their growing environment is uplifted in this way, sometimes the bulbs will out-grow the red blotch disease and bounce back with new flowering and growth.

Cuttings:
Now is an excellent time to take root and stem cuttings of Carnation, Chrysanthemum, Dahlia, Fish Geranium (Pelargonium), and Fuchsia, Impatiens, most herbaceous perennials, hardy indoor plants and many more. (Sub) tropical species can also be struck from cuttings provided they remain in the warm glasshouse and are struck in warm soil with bottom heat. Dip in hormone powder, dibble into a hole made in sand/peat mix and place in a bright, warm, humid spot.

Water retention in plant tissues is quite high as a result of the Full Moon (6 Sept.). This will make it easier to maintain turgor pressure in the cuttings so that they don’t wilt and die. But watch them carefully in the times ahead as water retention will begin to drop and become rather low with the approach of the New Moon (20 September.). So make sure all cuttings remain in a bright, damp, humid, terrarium-type environment. This will insure the greatest possibility of success.

By far the most successful way to strike cuttings quickly is within a propagation box or with bottom heat within a glasshouse. Cold frames work effectively for hardier type cuttings. An easy method for those at home is to put the cuttings in a pot that is then placed within a plastic bag. Draw the bag up and over the cuttings then loosely tie it.

This creates an impromptu terrarium environment that allows some necessary air flow. Place the potted cuttings inside the bag in a very bright (but never hotly sunny!) spot out of chilling drafts that remains constantly warm, especially during the evening hours. Check regularly to insure the soil remains moist but never excessively wet or with water standing in the bottom of the bag. With any luck your cuttings will spring into new growth within a couple of weeks.

Pest Alert:
Continue to guard against Slugs and Snails. This is especially problematic when the bulbs are grown in the garden. Slugs and Snails find the tender, young emerging bud shoots delectable. Often they can ruin the internal flower buds in the course of a single evening’s feeding. Be sure to bait all Hippeastrum bulbs now before the flower buds emerge! The same applies for almost every location in the garden both inside and outdoors as this is Slug and Snail breeding season.
 


This Third Week in the Early Spring Garden:

week one - week two - week three - week four
sepdir2012-02-230x153The perigee Moon is fully waning in its Last Quarter. Then becomes even more extreme with the arrival of the Dark of the Moon phase 18 September. The week ends with the arrival of the New Moon, the Lunar beginning of Spring, 20 September.
This is a great week for wide variety of general gardening activities in preparation for the great gardening season about to blossom ahead. You’ll find heaps of ideas to explore within the heading to follow entitled ‘A Change of Pace’.

Focus on planting hardy and leafy things plus all root crops, tap-rooted perennials and anything needing a period of root development before top growth begins. This should be a good week for planting dormant hardy things like broad-leafed evergreens and conifers; deciduous and ornamental shrubs, trees and vines; fruit trees; groundcovers; hardy ferns; Roses and more.

Because of the approaching benevolent Spring conditions almost anything hardy can be started with care. Best planting days are likely to be 16-17 Sept. while the Moon is in the fertile water sign of (sidereal) Cancer. Whenever the weather is fine try and accomplish something in the garden.

There could be days this week when it might be difficult to plant anything tender or temperamental like flimsy young seedlings. If conditions appear inclement, or vulnerable transplants begin to wilt, put off planting any more until next week or take greatest care and precautions when you do. There are many other things to do instead.

The ‘Dark of the Moon’ phase (18-20 September) occurs in the barren fire sign of Leo and barren earth sign of (sidereal) Virgo. Both are relatively benevolent in this Spring position, Leo often brings bright, drier, mild often settled weather. Virgo is the classic harvest sign that often brings benevolent weather. Conditions permitting, this can be an acceptable time to plant bulbs and sow seed of root crops, hardy flowers and vegetables like Peas. This is an acceptable time to plant or sow hardy things that demand sunshine and warmth to flourish.

But be cautious about planting anything tender or temperamental during these barren signs when celestial and gravitational forces will be increase to extreme as the Equinox New Moon approaches (20 September). This week is potentially the most difficult time for planting anything tender or temperamental; although because of the generally benevolent Spring conditions almost anything hardy can be started with care. Best planting days are likely to be Monday-Tuesday 26-27 Sept. while the Moon is in the fertile water sign of (sidereal) Cancer. These could be the best days this week for planting anything hardy and leafy plus all root crops and tap-rooted perennials. This should be a fairly good week for planting dormant hardy things like fruit trees or ornamental shrubbery. If conditions appear inclement, or vulnerable transplants begin to wilt, put off planting or take greatest care and precautions when you do.

A Change of Pace:
Last Quarter Moon and ‘Dark of the Moon’ is a time to change the pace. It is the time to finish old projects, clean up and prepare for what will happen next. This is a great week for many other gardening activities. Now is an ideal time to plan for the weeks ahead. Research what you intend to plant or sow before you start. Buy all the materials and products you will need now. Organize the garden shed, inventory and sharpen tools. Design your garden beds and plan out a strategy to set your plan into action through the weeks and months ahead. This is a time of ‘preparation’ (see discussion of this top later in this weeks’ article).

This is a good time to work with the land; reshaping contours and setting boulders, driftwood, seating, statuary, etc. in place and create rock work. Landscape the land now; lay foundations and paving; spread gravel, mulch and sand; set fence posts and build fences. Dig and create a pond, pool or cascade waterfall; perhaps put in a fountain. Create a cold frame or glasshouse; perhaps start that gazebo or summer house. This is the ideal time to build almost anything.

It is also a good time to cut and lay aside firewood. Mow lawns to keep them short for a little longer. Clip, pinch or prune back a wide variety of things where the intention is to reduce or eliminate new growth. But don’t cut things back too hard this week unless the idea is to eliminate them as regrowth is often a little slower to recover when lunar gravitational forces are extreme.

This is an excellent time to clear land of unwanted vegetation and feed the land with compost and mulch. It is also an ideal time to start or turn a compost heap or spread manure. Cultivating the ground now allows sunlight and air into the soil. Even ‘no dig’ mulch gardens should have their mulch lifted and stirred. This is very important to good soil health, which greatly affects the success of your garden. It is also an excellent way to eliminate diseases and fungal spores by exposing them to ultraviolet light and often uncovers pests and predators before they can spread out into the garden beds. This is also a great week to spray almost anything and everything.

A Transitional Moment:
During such changing times with ever-shifting seasons, the Wise Gardener knows to watch Nature’s signals rather than the calendar dates for planting and various other activities. Become aware of the rhythmic celestial cycles of the Moon to guide what and when to plant and successfully perform various gardening activities. Watch the natural progression of plant growth within each season to guide your course as to when it is ‘safe’ to plant.

Avoid being fooled by ‘early’ Spring growth into thinking that the season has settled. Climate change and ‘global warming’ does not necessarily guarantee an uninterrupted earlier season. Rather, it is inclined to result in more turbulence in the climate. This often results in abrupt changes, catastrophic weather events or unexpected situations like unseasonable cold as easily as early season warmth. This year is no exception so remain alert. The wise Gardener knows to start sowing seeds in much protected corners as the first Spring flowers and leaves begin to emerge. Refrain from planting-out anything frost tender before all the deciduous trees (often the Oaks) come into leaf.

Planting:
As mentioned earlier, this Moon phase can make planting anything tender or temperamental a bit challenging. But with care, a lot can still be accomplished. Even if you elect to delay planting and sowing tender things until the more favourable conditions next week, now is a time to plan and prepare for that eventuality. Continue planting dormant hardy things like broad-leafed evergreens and conifers; deciduous and ornamental shrubs, trees and vines; fruit trees; groundcovers; hardy ferns; Roses and almost any hardened-off container plant.

In a protected (nursery) environment, a wide variety of hardy plants can be started from seed or transplanted. This Moon phase is acceptable for starting things with extensive root systems; those that develop a tap root and those meant to eventually be transplanted into a coastal or dry and hot location. This includes hardy perennials, shrubs, trees and vines that can be later transplanted from containers. Also many Annuals like: Aquilegia, Arctotis, California Poppy, Coreopsis, Gaillardia, Gypsophila, Snapdragon, Strawflower, and Veldt daisy.

These flowers can either be sown direct where they are meant to grow, or into containers that can be very carefully transplanted into their permanent positions in 6-8 weeks time. When transplanting these take special care to not disturb their fragile root system as any root damage at all will set back part of the plant. Always water-in these transplants immediately and maintain regular watering until they become well established.

Continue sowing seed of tender warm season flowers and vegetables. Tender plantings, especially all warm season ‘Summer’ flowers and vegetables will need protection against evening cold. Even though daytime temperatures might be climbing, these tropical natives demand more ground heat and higher air temperatures and will be set back or killed outright if not protected each evening for at least another 4-6 weeks. Minimum air and soil temperatures for such tender sowings should remain above 12-15C/53.6-59F or higher. While seedlings may survive colder temperatures, the plants are often stunted by the cold.

Vegetables:
All hardy vegetables and especially root crop vegetables can be planted or sown this week. This also includes vegetables with hard seed coats like Peas. It is permissible to start seed of leafy vegetables so they will germinate with the New Moon (20 Sept.)

Vegetables to Plant or Sow:
Among the easiest ‘tender’ Summer Vegetables to start now from seed would include: Beans, Capsicum and Chill Peppers, Cucumbers, Eggplant, Gourd (edible and ornamental), Luffa, Marrow, Melons, Pumpkin, Squash, Zucchini, Tobacco, Tomatoes , Zucchini and more locally. Avoid open-ground sowings or plantings without cloches or protective shelter!

Hardy Vegetables to plant or Sow Outdoors include:
Asparagus crowns (hurry), Globe Artichoke, Beets, Cabbages, Cape Gooseberry, Carrot, Celery, Chicory, Chinese Cabbages and Greens, Choko, Cress, Endive, Herbs, Horseradish, Kohlrabi, Leeks, Lettuce, Mustard, Onions, Parsnip, Potatoes, Radish, Rhubarb seed and crowns, Salsify, Silverbeet, Spinach and more.

Main crop Onion sets or advanced seedlings and ‘seed’ Potatoes should go in now. Soil should be enriched with manure compost or well-aged manure and a well-balanced complete General Garden fertiliser. Both Onions and Potatoes prefer a slightly acid pH soil 5.5-6.5. Onions can tolerate the addition of Dolomite lime to the soil.

Be sure to avoid all forms of Lime with Potatoes! Fresh Lime contacting Potato tubers or high soil pH is the primary cause of Potato scab disease and can also produce plants with poor health and smaller crops.

Herbs, Medicinal & Perennials:
Continue to plant all hardy herbs and medicinal plants. Also plant perennials from containers and divide and replant establish clumps in the garden.

Easy Perennials to Start Now:
Asters (Belgian, Michaelmas and species), Astilbe, Carnations, Chrysanthemums, Delphinium, Dianthus, Echinacea, Helenium (Sneeze Weeds), Hemerocallis, Japanese Anemone, Perennial Phlox (P. paniculata and species), Kniphofia (Red Hot Poker), Shasta Daisy, Solidago (Goldenrod) and many more.

Flowers to Sow or Plant include:
Ageratum, Alyssum, Aquilegia, Arctotis, Amaranthus, Aster, Balsam, Begonias, Blue Lace Flower, Boronia, California Poppy, Calendula, Calliopsis, Carnation, Canterbury Bells, Celosia, Chrysanthemum, Clarkia, Cleome, Cockscomb, Coleus, Coneflower, Cornflower, Coreopsis, Cosmos, Dahlia seed, Delphinium crowns and seed, Dianthus, Dimorphotheca, Feverfew, Gaillardia, Gazania, Geranium, Gerbera, Globe Amaranthus, Gloxinia, Gourds, Gypsophila, Honesty(Lunaria), Impatiens, Kochia, Linum, Marigolds, Mignonette, Nasturtium, Ornamental Peppers and Basil, Petunia, Phlox, Phacelia, Portulaca, Rudbeckia, Salpiglossis, Salvia, Snapdragon, Statice, Strawflowers, Sunflowers, Swan River Daisy, Verbena, Viscaria, Virginia Stock, Wallflower, Zinnia and many more available in seed or seedlings at your local nursery.

Bulbs, Corms, Roots and Tubers to Start Now:
This is an good time to start planting these. But only the hardier ones can be planted outdoors in mild climates where freezing has past and soil is workable. The more tender ones should be started in containers kept in a sunny and warm environment where they can grow on. These can be set out later once the weather becomes mild and settled. Very tender species such as Achimenes, Caladium, Gloxinia and Tuberous Begonias are traditionally started in flats or small pots in a glasshouse environment to give them the early start thet require to be at their most spectacular later. Use a light, fluffy potting mix kept warm and lightly moist.

Dahlia can be started this way, too, if they are meant for early flowering or for taking cuttings.
Gladioli are planted in groups every few weeks for a succession spectacular Summer colour. Areas that experience Gladioli Rust should plant early. Those in drier climates can succession plant from Late Winter or as soon as frosts have passed into Early Summer.

Start Now:
Achimenes, Acidanthera, Agapanthus, Amaryllis belladonna, Arum/ Zantedeschia, Caladium, Canna, Crinum, Dahlia, Eucomis (Pineapple Lily), Galtonia (Cape Hyacinth), Gladioli, Gloriosa Lily, Hedychium (Ginger), Herbertia (Blue Tiger Lily), Hippeastrum (Amaryllis), Hymenocallis (Ismene), Lilies, Ranunculus (cool climates), Sprekelia (Jacobean Lily),Tigridia, Tuberose, Tuberous Begonia, Tulbaghia, Urceolina (Pentlandia), Zephyranthes (Rain Lilies) and other tender Summer species.

Anything dormant and hardy can be planted with care now. Start with the sunniest and warmest positions first and plan to plant cooler, partly shaded site once they are again sunlit and warm.

This is also an excellent time to cut-up, divide or split dormant bulbs, corms, roots and tubers of all sorts.

Dormant Planting:
Whenever conditions appear favourable, planting of anything dormant and hardy should continue in earnest this week. These are the final days to complete the 'Winter’ planting of bare-root and balled & burlapped Roses; shrubs, trees and vines also brambles and cane fruits; tree ferns and some hardy ferns; Conifers and Broad leafed Evergreens. Attempt to get them all planted before buds swell and burst open. These late plantings may need a little extra attention, especially with watering as they first bud-out and probably through their first season of growth.

After this seasonal turning point it will become more difficult to establish bare-root transplants due to seasonal extremes. Once they leaf-out, roots must be established or the plant will die. So from then on, most transplanting will be from well-established container-grown specimens rather than bare root. Container-grown specimens can still be planted for some time yet.

Be sure to securely stake anything vulnerable to lashing about in the Equinox winds to come. New emerging roots can easily be ripped and torn if the plant rocks about in the wind. Mulch very generously to insure the new transplant doesn’t dry out in the weather that follows the winds.

Care for the Land First:
Cultivate, feed and weed now. Opening the soil through cultivation allows sunlight and air into the soil. Even ‘no dig’ mulch gardens should have their mulch lifted and stirred. This is very important to good soil health, which greatly affects the success of your garden. It is also an excellent way to eliminate diseases and fungal spores by exposing them to ultraviolet light and often uncovers pests and predators before they can spread out into the garden beds.

In bare ground, especially where the intention is to grow exhibition flowers; brambles or canes, fruits and vegetables; shrubs, trees or vines, dig deeply to a generous spades depth. Turn the land several times to break it down. If the soil looks to be in good condition it may be possible to plant right away but if in doubt, then allow it to stand rather roughly in the weather for at least a week before planting.

Fertilisers are often added when the land is first turned. This most often is a good quality balanced General Garden Fertiliser (10-10-10; 20-20-20, etc.). Other important soil additives might include generous applications of well-aged compost or rotted manures or pellets, some add blood and bone, and most would add a dusting of Lime: Dolomag, Dolomite or Gypsum. There are a variety of commercially prepared specialty granulated fertilisers and slow release products also available. Apply fertilisers by dusted over the land at roughly the rate of one handful per square meter/yard. Some chemical fertilizers can combine adversely with Lime. So add fertilizers and Lime at different times; perhaps a week or more apart.

Once applied these additives can be raked or dug into the soil or watered in if rain is not imminent. A thorough watering-in gets these additives working immediately.

After adding any application of fertiliser or Lime to freshly turned land, it is best to leave the land to ‘cure’ for a week. If heavier applications are added then let the land ‘cure’ for a few more weeks before attempting to plant into a ‘hot’ soil.

In established gardens abundant with Spring flowering and growth, Spring cultivation is much more ‘scratching around’ in between what is growing to remove weeds and rotting debris while also loosening the soil. Follow this with a generous application of compost mulch enriched with whatever fertilisers are felt to be necessary. Inert slow release fertilizers are often ideal as they break down gradually. Add no more than one cup of commercial fertiliser/Lime to one bucket of dry compost and mix thoroughly before spreading between the plants. To avoid burning never let this enriched compost mulch drift up against plant stems or ever remain in the plant crown of foliage. Blow, wash or whisk any fertilizer away so it can dissolve in the soil rather than in the plant.

Feeding:
Feeding now is quite important throughout the garden. As the garden awakens, it needs food in order to start the growing season in healthy and strong condition. Healthy growth has much to do with healthy soil. If the soil is in excellent condition, most likely so is the garden. If the soil is lacking minerals or is chemically or pH unbalanced, poorer results will follow. Now is an excellent time to improve your soil and improve your results. Gardens that are well fed produce healthier plants that often need less care, maintenance or spraying.

Most Important Plants to Feed Now:

Included here is anything flowering or about to flower or beginning its Spring flush of new growth including:
  • Brambles and Cane Fruits
  • Citrus
  • Fruit and Nut Trees
  • Roses
  • Most ornamental shrubs, trees, vines
  • Conifers and Broad-leafed Evergreens
  • Almost all Sub-tropical plants
  • Perennials
  • Vegetable crops
  • Advancing Annual flowers plus seedlings
  • Spring and Summer-flowering Bulbs.
Lawns:
Lawns need generous attention now for best performance over the long Summer months. Continue to reseed established lawns and start new ones. First rake over the lawn roughly and smooth out its levels, then apply the seed and cover this lightly with a layer of screened topsoil and fine compost. Heavy, poorly draining land should be generously dusted with Gypsum Lime.

Follow this with a dusting of Dolomag (Dolomite Lime plus Magnesium), Dolomite or garden Lime and commercial Lawn Fertiliser and/or blood and bone. Dust one or more of these over the cultivated and freshly seeded land will help to keep the birds off. Water this in well if rains don’t come quickly and keep things moist if nature doesn’t. Wherever Birds are a problem, it is sometimes best to rake-in the seed combined with the fertiliser(s) first. Consider bird scares or covering the open seeded soil with bird netting or mulch. Wheat or Pea Straw is very effective mulch over fresh lawn seed.

Houseplants:
Start feeding and watering more frequently now, especially in sunny, warm rooms where night temperatures remain above 12C/53.6F degrees. Be especially careful about over-watering if there is a risk of a cold night to follow or damage may occur. Re-potting can commence as soon as conditions become warm enough for increased watering and feeding.

Cuttings:
Many hardy things strike easily from cuttings now and this will become even easier as the season becomes brighter and warmer. Try such favourites as: Cactus and Succulents, Carnation, Chrysanthemum, Dahlia, Euryops Daisy, Fuchsia, Geranium, Hibiscus, Impatiens, Marguerite Daisy, Pelargonium, and most herbaceous perennials and herbs, plus many sorts of ground covers. Also try clippings and prunings from many deciduous, ornamental and fruiting species, broad leafed evergreens, conifers, hedges, etc. Conditions will continue to improve all month so use this opportunity as almost anything hardy will strike.

Even small bits can grow from Succulents but for most things take a 10-15cm/4-6inch cutting. Also try pieces of root with an ‘eye’ (a swollen bud) or select a root cutting taken just off the central crown from near the ground. Place with the ground tip facing upwards and buried just below the soil surface. Root cuttings work really well with many Groundcovers, Herbs and Perennials and some shrubs, trees and vines.

The freshly cut ends of new cuttings can be dipped into hormone, then dibbled into sand or sand/peat mix and placed in a warm, shaded but very bright, humid spot. Misting foliage will increase strike rate but keep Cacti and Succulents rather dry.

Spraying:
Disease, pests and weeds all can become a problem at any point from now onward throughout the growing season. The well-maintained garden has less likelihood of needing intensive and/or toxic spraying than one that is out of balance. As a general rule, it is always best to spray with something that is organic and mild rather than a harsh chemical. There are times that such things may be necessary but it is best to make this a last resort.

Nevertheless, any garden exposed to stressful weather extremes can become predated upon by disease and pests. Now is the time to eradicate all such problems before they can become established and spread to ruin your Spring and Summer garden.

Stone Fruits:
Stone fruits (Almond, Apricot, Cherry, Nectarine, Peach, and Plum) should be sprayed with a copper-based or appropriate fungicide to control Curly Leaf and Bladder Plum and possibly Rust fungus. Spray before flowering begins or after petals fall. The spraying can be repeated two weeks later if this disease has been a problem. Spraying early before leaf development is best as this eliminates excessive leaf-drop which often occurs with later spraying when the trees are in full leaf.

Citrus:
Citrus can get the same copper-based spray. They would also benefit from a spraying with a Summer spraying oil to control fungus and insect pests. But never spray Citrus trees laden with fruit with anything toxic! Spraying kerosene into Borer holes will also kill them outright and not contaminate the fruit.

Whenever electing to use a toxic and systemic spray over Citrus crops, wait until after the crop has been harvested and early or late in the day to avoid poisoning the Bees. Less toxic Confidor is a better alternative. Organic Gardeners might try soapy water mixed with spraying oil and the juice of crushed Garlic and Cheyenne Pepper. Common Fly Spray or Insect Spray is very effective against white fly.

Pip Fruits:
Pip fruits (Apple, Nashi, Pear, etc) can be sprayed to control coddling moth and other caterpillars before flowering. Yates Success Ultra is especially made to control this problem. Confidor also is effective and can be used up until young fruits develop. These trees also benefit from a copper spray, oil spray or other fungicide to control a variety of diseases. The organic alternatives include pheromone traps and encouraging Birds that feed on protein i.e. caterpillars and insects. These same birds enjoy Finch seed mixes and Sunflower seed, both are very high in protein. So placing a Bird feeding station near vulnerable trees can attract the Birds to eradicate most predators.

Roses:
Roses can be sprayed just as new shoots emerge. Shield was once the finest all-purpose Rose spray especially designed to control all the many things that attack Roses. This has now been replaced with the Shield Rose Gun or a combination spray of Confidor (controls insect pests) and Yates Greenguard (comprehensive fungicide) to provide systemic control of most diseases and pests that attack Roses.

Copper based sprays are effective against fungus and blights. When mixing the spray add a generous squirt of liquid dish soap at the last to the spray mixture. This will produce an oily spray which will spread and stick better plus will help deter insects.

Slugs and Snails:
Slugs and Snails become active now as the weather moderates and especially during damp, mild or rainy evenings. Spring begins breeding time for them. The mature adults that survived the Winter started their first round of breeding during the Full Moon (6 Sept.) and will continue each month of Spring. Starting with the Equinox (22-23Sept.) onward to the next Full Moon (17 Sept.) almost every Slug and Snail will be out breeding. Startin now and onward is an ideal time to bait and eliminate the entire adult population before they can lay any more eggs for a new generation. Start baiting now and attempt to eliminate all Mature adults. Once babies hatch they are so small that they often do not consume the baits, but can quickly consume everything else in the entire garden!

Pruning:
Spring is an important time for pruning especially on all Autumn/Winter flowering shrubs, trees and vining species just as soon as they finish flowering. Rising sap associated with the Spring flush of renewed life will stimulate lots of bushy new growth. This will eventually mature to produce luxuriant foliage and/or prolific flowering for next year. Some hardy Summer-flowering species are best pruned now, too. In climates where a late heavy frost is still possible, make this a lighter pruning at first. But heavier pruning can begin in milder climates. Be sure the immediately paint all larger cuts to avoid sap bleeding or attack by Borer. With an old and tired shrub, heavy pruning now will either kill the shrub outright or often stimulates new growth that can bring the shrub back to life again. This is the very best time of the entire year to rejuvenate older shrubbery, trees and vines.

Do not prune dormant deciduous species like grape vines and many fruit tree now:
Next pruning time for them is after flowering once foliage has leafed out. Sap is rising and they are now coming into bud or leaf. This sap flow is especially strong while lunar gravitational forces are extreme right now around the New Moon. Strongly flowing sap can bleed from open pruned cuts. Once sap begins to seep from the fresh wound, it is very hard to stop and can continue for days. This often greatly weakens the plant so will set it back and can even kill it. Wherever pruning is unavoidable make sure to seal all substantial cuts immediately.

Passion Fruit Vines:
Passion Fruit Vines are pruned back as soon as all danger of frost has passed. This is an ideal time to prune so that strong new growth is stimulated that will bear the new crop. Remove anything looking diseased, old and tired. Vines can be cut back substantially; up to 1/3 of all existing growth or even ½ on older vines that need refurbishing. These vines are fairly short-lived: between 4-7 years. So if your vine is large and well established, consider planting a new vine nearby this season.

Prune and Shape the Following Flowering Species:
Abelia, Abutilon, Buddleia, Camellias (especially Sasanqua and all other species as soon as they finish flowering), Cassia, Fuchsia, Hakea, Lantana, Lasiandra, Luculia and many more.

Sub-Tropicals:
Sub-Tropicals can be trimmed back once all danger of frost has passed. This includes: Alocassia (Elephant Ears), Bougainvillea, Hibiscus, Poinsettia, Stephanotis, Taro and most foliage plants. Eliminate all diseased, weak and winter-damaged growth. Get things into shape now in anticipation of new growth. If the leaves look tatty, they will never recover so take them off and let new growth replace them.
 


This Forth Week in the Early Spring Garden:

week one - week two - week three - week four
sepdir2012-08-230x153The Moon Waxes all week bringing improving planting conditions. The Spring/Vernal Equinox arrives in New Zealand 8:02 AM Saturday 23 September (Friday 22 Sept. 20:02UTC). This is the day the Sun finally crosses over the Equator into the Southern Hemisphere. It is the astronomical ‘true’ beginning of Spring (and Autumn in the Northern Hemisphere). Day length and the Sun’s intensity will noticeably increase for the next 3 months. The busiest time of the gardening year has arrived. In the times ahead it will be possible to plant everything for the Late Spring through to the Late Autumn garden and plantings that will last for many years into the future. Read on to learn secrets for successful planting and sowing.

Daylight Savings time starts in New Zealand 2 AM Sunday morning 24 September. So clocks are set an hour ahead Sunday morning i.e. 2 AM becomes 3 AM. This is a Blessing for (urban) Gardeners and all those who enjoy having extra time each evening to enjoy Nature and be outdoors.

This years’ Vernal Equinox event occurs with the Moon just beginning to ascend in Southern Hemisphere skies in the sidereal constellation of Virgo on the day it transitions into Libra. Traditionally Virgo is considered to be a barren earth ‘harvest’ sign noted for relatively moderate and sometimes wet weather. It is a very beneficial sign for growing bulbs, corms, rhizomes, roots, tubers and flowers of all sorts; plus all root crop vegetables and general root development. Its darker side is that during damp, humid and very wet spells this placement often results in disease and rots. Libra brings the best days to plant beautiful things. It is a benevolent planting sign and often brings airy, fine weather. This is a very good placement for the season ahead.

A Time to Check Your Bearings:
The day of the Equinox is also the time that the Sun rises in solar ‘true’ East. Later in the day the Sun sets in solar true West. This is often a little different in placement from the magnetic directional points seen on a compass. Take the time to mark these spots in your landscape as they are important to know when gardening. By surveying as exact as possible a 90 degree angle between the Sun rising in the East and setting in the West, it is quite easy to determine solar ‘true’ North and South. Mark those spots as well. It is important to know these quadrants because they so profoundly affect your garden and home; this is the week to mark their ‘true’ position for posterity.

Sundials are reset and calibrated for their Celestial ‘true’ position at this time while the Sun is travelling near exactly East-West. Usually the sundial pointer is positioned for true North at 12 noon on the day of the Spring Equinox. For those Gardeners intent on actually using this natural time-piece, most accurately, make sure the sundial is anchored firmly upon truly level foundations. Also secure the actual dial itself to its pillar or support. Otherwise, over time it will get knocked out of place and will be hard to precisely reset correctly.

Early Spring Waxing Moon Cycle sweeps over the Southern Hemisphere this week. This is usually fortuitous as it brings more light into the garden. The Moon reaches its First Quarter (10 Sept.) and peak ascent 11 September in Southern Hemisphere skies and then swings northward. As it ascends this often pushes humid and milder Spring air with it. But then as it turns the strong gravitational pull of the Moon can draw up an Antarctic pulse. This has the potential to draw with it cooler southwest winds that often bring late frosts or snow and gales or turbulence to exposed regions. So remain alert for sudden and volatile weather changes in this transitional time in the ebb and flow between rising Spring and waning Winter.

Days are rapidly growing brighter, longer and warmer as we approach the true beginning of Spring known as the Vernal Equinox (2 AM NZST 23 September). This is the time when days and nights are of almost exactly equal length. Then for the next three months the days will get progressively brighter and longer. This will trigger new Spring growth to rocket away.

Spring Planting Begins:
Planting conditions should continue to improve for the remainder of the week as well as for the rest of the month. This Waxing Moon Cycle is an excellent week to start most types of flowers, herbs; field crops and grain; anything leafy plus all vegetables that produce their crops above the ground. Just watch the weather for sudden changes as early warmth can suddenly swing to colder weather near the end of the month as the Moon reaches full ascension and turns north.

23-25 September is particularly good for planting and sowing all manner of beautiful things (Moon sidereal Libra). Make the most of every good planting opportunity while these bountiful and productive days are with us. Be sure to provide protective shelter and warmth (bottom heat is especially beneficial) plus very bright light to insure quick germination and growth of seeds and tender seedlings.

Summer warm weather flowers, fruits and vegetables can be started now from seed or seedlings. They will need the most care and protection. Planting or sowing into pots in a warm glasshouse, or sunroom is still best. Avoid planting out anything tender until all danger of frost and chilling have passed. Several weeks can be gained on the season with clever screening to trap sunlight and warmth while insulating against cold nights. Using black plastic and weed mat over the ground will raise soil temperatures; covering the plastic with a thin layer of darkly covered stones will further insulate and hold in the heat. Make sure that all cold winds are screened out. Adding a temporary cloche or tunnel house over this will create almost instant subtropical summery conditions.

Secrets for Success in Planting and Sowing:
An essential secret to creating the finest Summer and Autumn garden is getting an early start. This is the best time to start seed for Late Spring, Summer and Autumn gardens and beyond. Cuttings and seed started now will be ready to transplant into their garden positions in 6-8 weeks time. That is exactly when weather should become warm enough for them to thrive. This gives them the maximum growing season to become the very finest garden plants.

Another secret is growing them in the correct environment from the start. It is essential that anything tender started now remains very warm and sheltered without any chilling drafts. Extra heating is essential! Most warm-weather ‘tender’ seed will not germinate at all unless air and soil temperatures remain above 15C/59 degrees both day and night. 18C/64.4F is a more acceptable lowest limit provided all other conditions remain ideal. Much better germination occurs at 69.8F-75.2F/21-24C or higher. That is when seed ‘hits the ground running’ and germinates in days. Bottom heating cables are ideal for this purpose.

Obviously, a glasshouse is the preferred option for successful germination this early. However, this can be accomplished in a variety of locations with botanical heating cables or germination pads placed beneath the seedling flats or pots. Some Gardeners place punnets or small pots above a source of warmth like a water heater or elevated in a room that always stays warm. Seed is often over sown with the understanding that within a few weeks after germination the seedlings will be thinned or transplanted into separate containers.

Greatest successful usually comes when seed is sown into containers or flats in a protected and warm nursery environment and transplant them outdoors later. Starting seed in the glasshouse, sunroom, sunny windowsill or very sheltered corner outdoors gives the best chance of success. If outside sowing is the only option, choose a spot facing directly into the sunshine that is highly sheltered. Most ideal would be the inner corner of a brick, concrete or stone wall with containers and pots placed above a paved surface that is black or dark in colour. This will maximize stored solar heat. Cover tender plantings and sowings with cloches, frost cloth, glass or anything else that will allow maximum sunlight and warmth to be trapped near the soil surface. Surround the container area with a protective border of boards, brick, polystyrene, stones or any other form of insulation that fits snugly up against the seedling containers. This will help to maintain an elevated temperature through the chilly evening hours.

While a heated glasshouse gives the best opportunity for success, a home-made terrarium will often do almost as well. A terrarium of sorts can be made on a smaller scale. Consider starting seed into a pot, small flat or tray that is placed within a clear or translucent plastic bag. Draw the sides of the bag up and loosely tied over the container. Place this in a very bright but never hotly sunny position that remains warm. Either open the top of the bag during the day or lower its sides to allow good air flow and maximum sunlight. Then draw up the sides and close the bag to seal in humidity and warmth at night. Seed will germinate quickly this way.

Sunny window sills also work very well for germinating small pots or punnets of seed. The secret here is to provide maximum sunlight and minimum chill or draft in the evening. A single night of chilling can rot tender seedlings. Placing the container within a plastic bag, as suggested before, often shelters the seedlings from chilling.

An essential secret is light. Provide the brightest possible light for at least 8-12 hours every day. Special plant lights can be used very effectively when placed directly over the seedlings. But nothing beats real sunlight and lots of it. If young seedlings ever stretch due to inadequate light, they often become so weakened that they never recover. Attempt to keep your emerging seedlings dwarf, stocky and strong. This will create the finest possible mature plants.

Take great care to avoid over-watering young seedlings. Thoroughly water the container first before sowing seed or placing cuttings into the soil. If the soil is not already sterilized and there is the possibility of damp-off fungus spreading in a poorly ventilated environment, consider first drenching the soil with boiling water to sterilise it. Then sow seed over the damp soil or insert the cuttings. Scatter a thin layer of screened soil over the top of the seeds or around the cuttings. Gently water or mist over the top of this layer being careful not to wash away the seed or dislodge each cutting. Now don’t water again unless the soil appears a bit dry. Even then a gentle misting is much better than a soaking. The idea is to keep the soil damp but never wet. Wet soil promotes fungal infection and rot.

Seedlings, just like children, must not be over-fed. Many seedlings are killed with too much ‘kindness’. A small quantity of slow release fertilizer can be added to the seed raising mix at the time of sowing. The same applies to potting mix used for cuttings. When watering-in cuttings or seed, it is permissible to us a diluted strength liquid plant food. But more is much worse than less! It is very easy for soil to become saturated with chemical salts from any fertilizer. Even organic fertilizers like fish emulsion and seaweed extracts can burden the fresh soil with overly enriched organic matter. The result can easily toxify the soil. As tender new roots emerge, they are burned and the cuttings and seeds fail. The secret here is ‘easy does it’! Always use dilute strength fertilizers and no more than once a week. Be sure to apply any liquid fertilizer over soil that has already been dampened with water to avoid any possibility of chemical burning. Rainwater that is not pH extreme, has natural minerals within it that work as a near perfect fertilizer for emerging seedlings and young cuttings.

The advantage to such early planting is that flowers and vegetables can potentially mature much earlier than those started from seed later in the garden once the weather becomes fully settled. The challenge is keeping them growing healthy and strong in these early stages. But the rewards are often worth the effort, as early flowers, fresh herbs and vegetable crops provide faster results over a longer period of time. To insure a continuous display of flowers, fresh herbs and vegetables plan to plant or sow more seed outdoors either into containers or directly into the ground where they are meant to grow once the weather settles and warms. This will extend the season for much longer.

Vegetables:
Hardy cool season vegetables are the most reliable and easiest to establish now. All of them can be planted or sown outdoors in almost all locations. They all demand a sunny location; enriched, well draining soils and preferably some place that is sheltered from chilling, drying or extreme winds. Many do well in large containers and tubs. A few of the leafy ones like Lettuce, Spinach and Silverbeet will tolerate partial shade. P.S. Snails and Slugs consider all of them to be breakfast, lunch and dinner. You have been warned.

Hardy Vegetables to Plant or Sow Outdoors:
Asparagus crowns (hurry), Globe Artichoke, Beets, Cabbages, Cape Gooseberry, Carrot, Celery, Chicory, Chinese Cabbages and Greens, Choko, Cress, Endive, Herbs, Horseradish, Kohlrabi, Leeks, Lettuce, Mustard, Onions, Parsnip, Potatoes, Radish, Rhubarb seed and crowns, Salsify, Silverbeet, Spinach and more.

Summer Vegetables:
Summer vegetables demand very bright light and warm temperatures for optimum growth. This is best accomplished in a glasshouse or its equivalent. Their seeds can be easily sprouted in small pots on a sunny, warm windowsill. Grow them on and then acclimatize them to planting outdoors once weather sufficiently warms. But for now, avoid open-ground sowings or plantings without cloches or protective shelter!

Summer Vegetables to Start Now:
Beans, Capsicum and Chill Peppers, Cucumbers, Eggplant, Gourd (edible and ornamental), Luffa, Marrow, Melons, Pumpkin, Squash, Zucchini, Tobacco, Tomatoes, Zucchini and more locally.

Flowers:
The same conditions apply to successful germination and growth of warm season flowers. Sowing seed is the most economical and rewards with a much wider range of possibilities than commercially raised seedlings. But seedlings are often stronger, once hardened-off, so can tolerate more extremes. A single chilling rain can be enough to rot seed or a few hours of cold drafts will see them collapse just like a frost so be sure to pamper and shelter them to produce top results.

Flowers to Plant or Sow:
Ageratum, Alyssum, Aquilegia, Arctotis, Amaranthus, Aster, Balsam, Begonias, Blue Lace Flower, Boronia, California Poppy, Calendula, Calliopsis, Carnation, Canterbury Bells, Celosia, Chrysanthemum, Clarkia, Cleome, Cockscomb, Coleus, Coneflower, Cornflower, Coreopsis, Cosmos, Dahlia seed, Delphinium crowns and seed, Dianthus, Dimorphotheca, Feverfew, Gaillardia, Gazania, Geranium, Gerbera, Globe Amaranthus, Gloxinia, Gourds, Gypsophila, Honesty(Lunaria), Impatiens, Kochia, Linum, Marigolds, Mignonette, Nasturtium, Ornamental Peppers and Basil, Petunia, Phlox, Phacelia, Portulaca, Rudbeckia, Salpiglossis, Salvia, Snapdragon, Statice, Strawflowers, Sunflowers, Swan River Daisy, Verbena, Viscaria, Virginia Stock, Wallflower, Zinnia and many more available in seed or seedlings at your local nursery.

Tender Summer Flowers:
Under cover sow tender treasures like: Celosia, Coleus, Gourds, Impatiens, Luffa, Marigold, Petunia, Phlox, Salvia, Verbena, Zinnia and hundreds more.

Herbs:
Continue to plant all hardy herbs and medicinal plants. Most culinary herbs can be transplanted from containers directly into their growing positions. Most of them thrive in containers. Bigger pots usually work best over the longer term. Seeds can be sown in punnets or small pots in a mild, sheltered and sunny position inside or outdoors. Once well established, carefully transplant them into their final growing positions.

The following list of tender/tropical herbs needs to be started from cuttings or seed in a sunny and warm position. Warmth, especially overnight is essential to seed germination and to keep cuttings from rotting. Some are very resilient and survive quite well outdoors in milder climates; but a single cold night is enough to ruin the tenderest of them, especially their seed or young seedlings.

Tender Herbs to plant or sow now:
Aloe Vera, Basil, Brahmi (Bacopa), Chilli, Cilantro (Coriander), Cinnamon, Cloves, Galangal, Garlic Chives, Ginger, Kaffir Lime, Lemongrass, Mint, Nutmeg, Oregano, Parsley, Pepper, Rosemary, Stevia, Thyme, Turmeric, Vanilla.

Perennials to Divide and/or Plant:
This is an ideal time to divide and replant established clumps of dormant perennials into the garden or grow them on in containers. New perennial plants establish quickly when transplanted from containers now.

Perennials to Plant or Sow:
Asters (Belgian, Michaelmas and species), Astilbe, Carnations, Chrysanthemums, Delphinium, Dianthus, Echinacea, Helenium (Sneeze Weeds), Hemerocallis, Japanese Anemone, Perennial Phlox (P. paniculata and species), Kniphofia (Red Hot Poker), Shasta Daisy, Solidago (Goldenrod) and hundreds more.

Summer Flowering Bulbs, Rhizomes, Roots, Tubers:
This is an excellent time to start planting these Summer treasures. Many of the most tender (Achimenes, Caladium, Gloxinia, Tuberous Begonia and others) should be started in small pots that are grown-on in a sunny, sheltered and warm spot. They can be set out later once the weather becomes mild and settled. This time of the season is particularly well suited to planting bulbs for strong, robust growth, flowering and larger, exhibitions blooms plus bulb multiplication. The best time to start setting them out will begin once the ground thoroughly warms next month onward. The ‘nature’ sign is to plant once most trees (especially Pin Oak) have leafed out. That is when the ground should be warm enough for this.

Summer Bulbs, Rhizomes, root and Tubers to Start Now:
Achimenes, Acidanthera, Amaryllis belladonna, Caladium, Canna, Dahlia, Gladioli, Gloxinia, Hippeastrum (Amaryllis), Hedychium (Gingers), Nerine, Tigridia, Tuberose, Tuberous Begonias, Zantedeschia and many more Summer treasures.

Tender flowers like Tuberous Begonias, Caladiums, and Gloxinia, even Dahlia and Tuberose are often started in seedling flats or small pots for transplanting on later once growth begins and the season warms. Use a light, fluffy potting mix kept warm and lightly moist.

Gladioli:
Gladioli are planted in groups every few weeks for a succession spectacular Summer colour. Areas that experience Gladioli Rust should plant early. Those in drier climates can succession plant from Late Winter or as soon as frosts have passed into Early Summer. In cold or excessively wet gardens, consider covering the newly planted Gladioli bed with a sheet of clear plastic or polycarbonate sheeting. This will heat of the land and keep it drier. Once shoots begin to appear, either elevate the plastic sheeting to keep shoots from bending or remove it and let them rocket away.

Sub-Tropicals:
In the milder and ‘winterless’ subtropical districts and in the very warmest growing positions (only!), is now possible to plant into well prepared open ground. The site must be protected from icy winds and late frosts, hail and driving rain. Air and soil temperatures should remain above 15-21C/59-69.8F for the best chance of success.

This is the earliest ‘safe’ time to plant Bougainvillea, Bromeliads, Citrus, Cycads, Gardenia, Palms, Poinsettia, Stromanthe, Vireya Rhododendron and most hardy sub-tropicals. This is best done from established containers with as little root disturbance as possible. Container grown specimens are easily established provided they are placed into bright, warm conditions.

Because the season is still very cool, subtropical metabolism is slow. So any major damage to their root system could easily result in enough shock to kill them outright. For this reason, avoid wrenching, lifting and replanting/transplanting established sub tropical specimens until the weather is settled, warm and (hopefully) humid and moist.

Most all of these prefer free-draining soil, good air circulation and a sheltered, sunny and warm growing position. Almost all subtropical species (other than those native to arid zones) appreciate moist mulch and light feeding now to stimulate strong new growth and flowering. Liquid feeding at this time of year usually works best an fastest.

Planting & Sowing Time!

Deciduous and Dormant Plantings:
Continue planting or transplanting all deciduous fruit and nut trees, fruiting and ornamental shrubs; brambles and cane fruit, Roses, conifers and hedging plantings. With care, almost anything hardy can be planted right now with some assurance of success. The same applies to Fruiting Brambles and Canes, Conifers and Broad-leafed Evergreens. Stake everything that could potential whip about in the wind. By planting now, there should be enough time for them to become well established before dry summery conditions arrive. Make sure that these new plantings remain well-watered on a regular basis this first season.

Slug and Snail Alert!
Here they come. The Full Moon is not far off (6 Oct.). Almost every mature adult that survived the Winter will be out breeding by then. This is the time to make a massive baiting in an attempt to catch them all before they can breed. Start baiting now and continue through the Full Moon date. Guard tender emerging shoots of Spring flowering bulbs, annual and perennial flowers from the ravages of Slugs and Snails. Lay baits or create traps to capture and eliminate them all. While it sounds harsh, this becomes a battle of the fittest and the Slugs and Snails usually win without a concerted effort at this early stage of the season. Eliminating most of them now, means a much improved garden for the rest of the growing season.

Feeding:
Citrus trees can be fed, pruned (especially Lemons) and planted in sheltered sites. Broadcast food lightly and evenly beneath the spread of branches. Avoid over-feeding which can burn tender new growth and fruits. Little and often accompanied with a thorough watering keeps Citrus at their peak for flowering, growth and potential fruit crops ahead.

Roses and most ornamental shrubs, trees and vines also benefit from compost or manure mulch and possibly a sprinkle of fertilizer spread over the top or mixed into the mulch. The same applies to fruiting brambles and canes, fruiting shrubs, trees and vines plus Strawberries.

Broad-leafed Evergreens, Conifers and hedging also need fertilizing and mulching now. This stimulates new growth and starts conserving moisture that will be essential to get them through the drier months ahead.

Sub-Tropical species and Houseplants can also be feed and mulched now wherever the climate has sufficiently warmed enough to stimulate new growth. Feed and mulch with compost, aged manure, blood and bone and/or slow release food for better flowering and growth in the warm months ahead.

Pruning:
The Waxing Moon Cycle is an excellent time for pruning if the intention is to produce bushy and dense new growth. Now is the best time for a significant cut-back with an entire warm season ahead for healthy and strong regrowth. Once new growth commences be prepared to thin and trim excessive waterspouts emerging at the ends of pruned branches.

Conifers, Hedges and Ornamental Shrubs, Trees and Vines can be pruned to shape. Attempt to eliminate all disease, misshapened, weak or winter-damaged growth. Avoid heavy pruning of Spring flowering species laden with flower buds. It does not hurt the plant to prune these to shape, but could remove much of this year’s flower buds.

Late Winter and Spring Flowering Trees like:
Acacia, Deciduous Magnolia, ornamental Prunus; shrubs such as Bush Honeysuckle, Camellia, Chimonanthus, Chamomeles, Daphne, Forsythia, Luculia and vines like Caroline Jasmine, Hardenbergia plus hundreds more are best pruned and fed right after flowering.

Sub-Tropical species:
Bougainvillea, Hibiscus, Jacaranda, Stephanotis and many (sub) tropical hedges, shrubs, trees and vines can be pruned and shaped to remove weak or winter-killed stems and to stimulate healthy, strong regrowth for better flowering.

Mature and Older Shrubs and Trees can be refurbished now. This is one of the best times of the year to give many shrubs a strong cut back with minimal chance of killing or ruining the shrub. Eliminate all diseased, old and weak growth. Cut it all completely off as close to new living wood as possible.

If a shrub just isn’t performing as it should, especially if it appears to be old and tired, this is the time to cut it back drastically. Yes, it might kill it. But at least all there will be left to bury, cover over or remove is a stump. Then you can plant something fresh in its place.

Most likely a severe cut back now (especially if it is accompanied with a generous compost or aged manure mulch and a few handfuls of commercial plant food well watered in) will likely result in an emergence of new growth. Often this is almost an explosion of fresh new shoots that within a year or two will produce a vibrant new shrub!

Lawns:
Lawn grasses can be resown and feed with commercial Lawn Fertiliser, blood and bone and/or screened compost. New Lawns are often started now. Once again, clay and heavy soil that does not drain well often can be lightened to improve drainage by dusting with Gypsum. Where moss is obvious this is a sure sign that the soil pH is low (too acid). Dust over the ground with Dolomite or Dolomag Lime. Heavy concentrations of weeds can be reduced and nearly eliminated with applications of Sulphate of Ammonia or any number of herbicides. The Nitrate salts will desiccate broad leafed weeds and as it breaks down the Nitrogen released will result in dramatic grass greening.

Dichondra:
Dichondra plugs can also be planted in milder climates to create a very special green carpet lawn. Now is also a great time to start Dichondra from seed. Buying enough Dichondra plugs to create a carpet lawn can be expensive but Dichondra seed is not. Sow the seed broadly and evenly in boxes, seedling flats or alternatively in small containers or pots. Make sure that the soil is a freely draining rather light potting mix. Seed germinates faster with soil conditions 20C/68F or a little higher and will be up in 7-10 days. They can sometimes be transplanted in 8-10 weeks or longer. Dichondra seedlings can be grown on in their containers for a considerable period. They transplant easily provided the soil remains moist and at least moderately warm. Once established they will spread quickly to make a lovely deep green carpet.

Chamomile, English Daisy (Bellis perennis) and Low Field Wildflower Lawns can also be successfully sown now, too. Both Chamomile and English Daisy are easily germinated from seed in a similar manner Dichondra. They are then transplanted into their final position. Alternatively, if the soil is sufficiently warmed, their seed can be broadcast over the area where they are mean to grow just the same as with seeding a lawn.

The growing area should be well-prepared ahead of time. The soil must be loose and open; should be fertilized ahead of sowing; plus freed of any invasive weeds. A light covering of sand over the soil often help helps with germination. The seed can be raked in or covered with a thin layer of compost or mulch (fine bark chips; pea or wheat straw, etc.) Once seed is covered and sown, water it in gently so that the seeds settle firmly into the soil. In larger areas, sowing the seed just before a good rainfall will work as well.

Some Wildflower mixes can be somewhat erratic to germinate but early-flowering varieties in the mix usually germinate fairly rapidly. If successful, you can expect a good groundcover and/or potential early flowering to begin within 10-14 weeks, dependent upon local environmental conditions.
 

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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