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Mid Summer really blossoms this week as the Full Waxing Moon Cycle brightens and strengthens into the Mid Summer Full Moon, Friday 13 Jan.1AM (NZDT). For all the remainder of world this ‘Mid Summer Night’s Dream’ Full Moon occurs on the 12th.
Since ancient times, this is a moment for celebration. This represents the midpoint of Mid Summer, a true turning point in the gardening year and a reason to give thanks for the magic of our Natural World. This Full Moon is another near-perigee Moon so will appear quite large. It occurs just after reaching peak ascension in Northern Hemisphere skies; so will appear very high and glistening white up there. In the Southern Hemisphere, this Full Moon rise will be seen low in our north eastern sky. So it’s size could be magnified and appear a golden colour deepened by summery atmospheric haze. When seen rising over sparkling ocean or almost any summery setting it should make an imposing site: a true Mid Summer Night’s Dream.
This week could potentially be one of the finest for planting and sowing, weather permitting. Sunlight and daylight hours remain at a maximum and the soil is warm. Moonlight is increasing all week which stimulates flowering and growth. The Moon moves through (sidereal) constellations Aries, Taurus, Gemini and finally Cancer (the Moon’s ruling sign) during the week. Being on a Fully Waxing Moon Cycle, these are all well suited constellations for good planting and sowing. The weather will be the deciding factor for what can actually be planted or sown and where.
Full Moon is also a time of harvest. Many things reach maturity at this time in the season. Since water retention is high, this is an excellent time to harvest fruits and vegetables for immediate use. Succulence is at its peak. This is the best time to gather fruits and vegetables for jams and jellies; juicing and for the table.
A Turning Point:
This Full Moon marks the midpoint of Mid Summer. It begins the celestial early days of a new planting season for Late Summer, Autumn, Winter, Spring and even next Summers’ garden and beyond that.
This offers the opportunity to plant or sow a wide range of flowers, fruits and vegetables; plus container-grown perennials; palms and subtropical species; cacti and succulents plus shrubs, trees and vines. As the Moon waxes this is the time to plant and sow anything that flowers or produces its crops above the ground. After the Full Moon are the finest days of the Waning Moon Cycle: a great time to plant and sow all manner of root crops and to enhance root development.
The days around the Full Moon also represent the time of greatest water retention for this monthly lunar cycle. Thus this is an excellent time to irrigate and water. Often the best method is a long and sustained soaking by using a soaker hose, sprinkler or allowing the hose to ‘drip’ over a prolonged period near the base of bramble fruits, fruit trees and fruiting vines plus garden beds and lawns if necessary. Liquid feeding or watering-in granular plant foods also is very successfully accomplished during this time of the month as the fertilizer will be retained for longer along with the accompanying liquid.
Watering in the morning through early afternoon will enhance growth and flowering. Afternoon and early evening watering will be retained for longer. This will help to refresh a dry garden.
Because this month’s Full Moon moves into the constellation of Cancer (its ‘ruling sign) the same day this is traditionally viewed as an abundant, fertile and ‘watery’ time. Planting and sowing is often highly successful under this lunar placement. This brief moment is the best time to sow and plant all root crops; anything with a tap root and any plant species with extensive root systems that need a sustained period of root development prior to establishing new top growth.
Available moisture is the critical factor. If water is abundant, successful planting and sowing is almost assured; if conditions remain droughty or dry, planting and sowing opportunities may be limited. But these conditions will enhance harvesting for immediate use and long term storage plus reaping grains and gathering hay. Plan ahead and watch weather conditions closely. If in doubt, either plant into containers placed in a very sheltered environment where things can be controlled and protected; or wait until conditions are somewhat more favourable.
Gardeners in cool to moderate temperate climates, especially those with access to irrigation, and those experiencing a (sub) tropical monsoon wet season will find this a most advantageous time to plant and sow a wide range of warm-season and Autumn-blooming annual, biennial and perennial flowers, herbs and vegetable crops; as well as a variety of (sub) tropical groundcovers, shrubs, trees and vines.
Gardeners in cooler climate zones with shorter growing seasons might consider starting the first sowings of cool season flowers and vegetables during these auspicious planting days. But if conditions are too inclement to risk it, have patience as there will be many more opportunities a little later on in the season.
Mid Summer is the last safe month for outdoor sowings of such tender warm-season Vegetables as: Cucumber, Luffa, Melons and most Pumpkins; Climbing Beans, Kumara and Sweet Potato, Sweet Corn (Valentine’s Day is the cut-off) and any other crops requiring a long growing season. The only exceptions are very warm (sub) tropical climates or in the glasshouse where more than four months of sustained warmth remain without the danger of frost or cold wet ground hampering maturation and ripening.
What to Plant Now:
This Mid Summer ‘turning point’ in the season is when a very wide variety of plants can be started from seed or planted as seedlings or advanced colour pots for near immediate use and also for much longer-term.
The following list includes a selection of annual, biennial and perennial flowering plants and vegetables to sow or transplant now into garden beds and borders. These varieties can be started whenever conditions are favourable all month.
Advanced container plants purchased from a local nursery, will either be in flower or will begin flowering soon after planting while those sown from seed will take many weeks (usually 6+ weeks) or months to reach maturity.
The ‘Key’ illustrates when various species are most likely to flower and mature if planted now as advanced seedlings now. When sown from seed this adds at least 6-8 weeks or more before they reach maturity and begin to flower
A = Autumn flowering
W = Winter flowering
S = Spring flowering
Sm = Flowering next summer
FF = for frost free gardens or glasshouse
LF = Withstands occasional light frosts
H = Hardy
Anemone (seed & tubers) A, W, S (H)
Ageratum A, W, S (LF)
Alyssum A, W, S (LF)
Aster A (FF)
Aquilegia S, Sm (H)
Begonias Fibrous A,W, S, Sm (LF)
Begonias Tuberous (seedlings or tubers only)
Calceolaria A, W, S (FF)
Campanula S, Sm (H)
Candytuft (annual) A (LF); perennial S, Sm (H)
Calendula A,W,S,Sm (LF)
Cineraria A, W, S (FF)
Coreopsis A, S, Sm (H)
Cosmos A, W, S (FF or LF)
Cyclamen (seed) S; (tubers) W, S (LF)
Dahlia (advanced seedlings or tubers) A, Sm (FF)
Delphinium S, Sm (H)
Dianthus A, S, Sm (H)
Forget-Me-Not A, W, S (LF to H)
Hollyhock S, Sm (H)
Larkspur A S, Sm(H)
Linaria A (LF)
Lupin (annual) A (LF); (perennial) S, Sm (H)
Marigold A, (FF); (hardy French) A, W, S (LF)
Mignonette A, S (LF)
Nemesia (seedlings) A; (seed) W, S (LF)
Nasturtium A (LF) S, SM (mild climates only)
Pansy (seedlings) A; seed W, S, Sm (H)
Petunia (seedlings only) A (LF) Colour wave; (LF) hybrids (FF)
Petunia (Glasshouse or Tropical) A,W,S
Iceland Poppy W, S (H)
Shirley Poppy A, W, S, Sm (LF)
Perennial Poppies S, Sm (H)
Polyanthus (seedlings) A, W, S (H) (seed) W, S (H)
Primula (seedlings) A, W, S (seed) W,S (H)
Ranunculus (seed) W, S (tubers) W, S (LF)
Scabiosa A, S, Sm (H)
Snapdragon A, W, S, Sm (LF)
Stock (seedlings) A, W, S, Sm (LF) (seed) W, S, Sm (LF)
Sunflower (Temperate climates) A (FF)
Sunflower (Sub/Tropical) A,W,S (FF)
Sweet Pea A, W, S (LF)
Verbena A, S, Sm (LF)
Viola A, W, S (H)
Wallflower W, S (LF)
Zinnia A (W if FF)
N = Nice warm districts with long summers or in the glasshouse
S = Shorter growing seasons with limited warm weather ahead
Beans (dwarf) S/N (climbing) N
Brussel Sprouts N/S
Cabbages (traditional & Chinese) N/S
Spring Onion N/S
Sweet Corn N
Most of these Flowers and Vegetables can also be sown from seed in the opposite wintry Northern Hemisphere within heated glasshouse environments. Very high light is essential to produce healthy seedlings when grown indoors. Hardy species can also be sown or transplanted outdoors in the very mildest (sub) tropical regions of the Winter Hemisphere where the danger of severe frost or freezing is passing. But be prepared to protect anything tender from late frosts! Sowing becomes much easier later in the month and throughout the months that follow. Seed usually takes 6-8 weeks or longer to mature enough for transplanting outdoors. So check your local date for the last killing frost, then count back 6-8 weeks and start sowing then.
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The Waning Moon Cycle (Moon rising later each evening and then rising in the early morning sky) dominates the week that escalates to the Last Quarter Moon (19 Jan.) This week the Moon passes through (sidereal) Leo (barren earth); Virgo (the barren earth harvest sign); then more fertile Libra (a time to plant ‘beautiful’ things as the week ends. These conditions are excellent for harvesting all manner of fruits and vegetables for both immediate use and long term storage plus for gathering seed and drying flowers, fruits, herbs and vegetables. It is a good time to plant and sow root crops or anything needed a period of root development.
First the Moon moves in front of the barren fire constellation of Leo (14-15 Jan.) and then barren earth (sidereal) Virgo (16-20 Jan.). While technically barren, this lunar placement is often quite a favourable time to sow and plant all manner of warm weather crops plus root crops; anything with a tap root and any plant species with extensive root systems that need a sustained period of root development prior to establishing new top growth. Both Leo and Virgo are excellent harvesting signs. Virgo is particularly good for harvesting grains and seeds plus hay. If weather remains airy and dry, this is an excellent time to harvest for long term storage.
Weather permitting and where water is plentiful or there is the opportunity to irrigate, this is also one of the best planting/sowing times, especially for container-grown and/or dormant bulbs, corms, rhizomes, tubers and root crops and for things needing a period of strong root development, such as sub tropical shrubs, trees and vines plus a wide variety of other container-grown species. This can be a great time to plant for a late Summer and Autumn garden plus for seasons ahead.
Whenever planting during this time of potentially extreme dry and heat, remain cautious and anticipate daily after care for all new plantings. Even though monsoonal rain may bless some areas, a single dry, hot and windy day can destroy tender and vulnerable plantings!
General Gardening Activities:
Conditions this week and up to the New Moon (28 Jan.) are very favourable for a variety of garden maintenance jobs. Once the Last Quarter Moon is reached (19 Jan.) lunar extremes can be used effectively for a variety of general gardening activities. This is an excellent time for: cultivation and weeding; feeding and watering; eliminating diseases and pests; mowing lawns to keep them short for longer; cutting firewood; setting fence posts, laying foundations and paving; composting; spreading compost, manure and mulch; pinching or pruning to keep things compact and to strengthen new growth.
Subtle Changes Are Happening:
This week represents a transitional time in the growing season. Summer heat and radiant sunlight combined with the subtle shift in day length trigger changes in Nature’s cycles. Most Late Spring and many Early Summer flowers begin to fade and set seed; while early planted vegetables reach maturity and are harvested. Lots of Winter and early Spring flowering shrubs and trees begin to develop the first hint of flower buds now. Sasanqua Camellia is amongst the first to show buds at their tips. But almost everything else is nearly invisibly doing the same thing. Thus be cautious of what is pruned off on these species from now. While pruning now is often necessary to control or correct growth and will not harm the shrub or tree at all, many tiny flower buds will be sacrificed at the same time.
What to Plant:
Subtropical species including most varieties of shrubs, trees and vines can be planted provided they can be reliably cared for in the summery weeks ahead. Bougainvillea, most tender broad-leafed evergreens species such as Ficus, Gardenia and Murreya; Bromeliads; Palms; herbaceous tender perennials like Calathia, Maranta, Spathiphyllum and most Succulent species and many others establish very quickly in the summery heat.
Houseplants of almost all sorts and especially those growing-on outdoors in sheltered corners can be (trans) planted easily now, too. This is an excellent time to divide existing plantings and purchase new ones.
Nursery stock plants including a wide variety of container-grown groundcovers, perennials and hardy brambles, shrubs, trees and vines (including most fruiting species) can also be successfully started now provided there is a concerted effort to provide adequate staking, feeding, mulching and watering.
Garden Care is Essential:
Encourage both new and established plantings with generous feeding and watering while the weather remains warm. At planting time deeply soak the ground. Check plants daily. If weather becomes dry, hot and/or windy, watering will almost certainly be required. Each day or two onward, lighter waterings will be required especially around the root ball in order to maintain a moist soil.
It is permissible to liquid feed at planting time but make sure this is fairly dilute. Strong concentrations of fertilizer salts coming into contact with bare newly-planted roots can result in damage. Usually start liquid feeding about a week after planting. Remember that light but regular (weekly) liquid feeding will produce much better results rather than heavy but infrequent feeding that could result in burning and plant damage. Established plantings can handle more granular or liquid feeding. This is usually best applied over compost mulch. This way the fertilizer absorbs into the mulch first where it can be slowly released to the plants’ root system.
Proper feeding and watering now pays great dividends. The warm Summer air and high soil temperatures combined with enriched and moist soil will almost guarantee that flowering and new growth will be spectacular. With subtropical species, usually the finest new growth for the entire year happens during these later months of Summer and Early Autumn.
Very hardy and easily grown flowers can be sown from seed or planted as seedlings at this time. Most of these are easy and successful enough that they are often planted as a children’s garden.
Flowers to Start from Seedlings or Seeds:
Ageratum, Alyssum, Anemone seed, Aster, Aquilegia, Balsam, Begonia, Calceolaria, Calendula, Campanula, Candytuft, Centaurea (Bachelor Buttons), Cineraria, Coreopsis, Cosmos, Dahlia (dwarf forms), Dianthus, Delphinium, Forget-Me-Not, Iceland Poppy, Impatiens, Larkspur, Linaria, Lupins, Marigolds, Mignonette, Nasturtium, Nemesia, Pansy, Petunia, Phlox, Polyanthus, Poppies, Primula, Salvia, Snapdragon, Sunflower, Sweet Pea, Wallflower, Zinnia and much more.
Annual, Biennial and Perennial:
Flowers of almost all sorts can be started now for Late Summer/Autumn, Winter, Spring and Summer flower gardens. The most challenging part is keeping these alive through celestial extremes and Summer heat. Try planting in small individual containers, seedling flats or large pots and baskets. There’s a better chance of success if you start these in very bright partial shade away from drying winds and glaring heat. Make sure to give them a good soak at first; then maintain even soil moisture and keep them out of all cool drafts as well as drying winds. Germination and subsequent growth should be rapid.
Once seeds have germinated and are starting to become established, move them into sunnier positions so the young plants don’t become leggy and weak. If they ever ‘stretch’ while young due to insufficient light, they often will never truly recover and may remain unhealthy and weak their entire lives.
Watch the watering!
Adding a small amount of a well-balanced liquid fertilizer to the water will help push them along at a maximum rate. This labour of love will probably be a daily chore. You can make things easier by placing the containers over open soil in a very bright morning sun position or under light sun screening where the plants can sink a few of their young roots into moist earth beneath. The moist and warm earth beneath them will further encourage maximum growth.
To keep roots from becoming too well established in the earth beneath them, lift the punnets or pots every few days to dislodge these roots. When grown in containers, it is also quite easy to carefully invert each pot and slip the entire intact root ball out of its container; then as soon as the wayward roots pull back through the drainage holes, immediately replace the root ball back into its container where these roots can safely continue to grow inside the pot again. If handled with care, this can be done several times with very little risk of damaging or setting back the plant.
While a few roots may be broken when shifting and transplanting, the plants should recover quickly if transplanted on a cloudy, damp day. To reduce plant shock, keep root damage to a minimum and always immediately water after shifting the roots in their containers.
Mid Summer is the last safe month for outdoor sowings of such Vegetables as: Cucumber, Luffa, Melons and most Pumpkins; Climbing Beans, Kumara and Sweet Potato, Sweet Corn and any other crops requiring a long growing season. The only exceptions are very warm (sub) tropical climates where more than four months of sustained warmth remain without the danger of frost or cold wet ground hampering maturation and ripening.
Vegetables to Start:
Wherever conditions are favourable, continue planting a wide range of hardy Vegetables for Late Summer, Autumn and Winter. This is an especially good week to plant and sow most root crop Vegetables. Seed sowing will almost surely be more effective than transplanting seedlings at this time unless particular attention is paid to their aftercare and almost daily watering.
Almost all of these vegetables can be sown direct where they are meant to grow or planted from seedlings provided these can be well cared for and maintained through summery drought and heat.
Cultivate, fertilise, mulch, water and weed regularly and thoroughly for top results. Often the easiest way is to sow into containers, pots or punnets which are protected in a sheltered and sunny corner. This way they can be guarded against predation from insect pests. It is also much easier to feed and water them in such a convenient area. As seedlings outgrow their containers, they can be potted-on and maintained in good growing condition until such time as there is sufficient garden space for their transplanting and/or when weather conditions favour successful transplanting.
A classic example would be Brussel Sprouts. These require a long season of growth and perform better during cooler weather. Sowing their seed into containers allows them to be grown on in a controlled environment that is protected from Cabbage Looper Caterpillars that often decimate young crops.
Vegetables Easily Planted or Sown Now:
Beans (especially dwarf varieties and climbers only where the season is long), Beets, Broccoli, Brussel Sprouts, Cabbages, Carrots, Cauliflower, Celery, Cress, Endive, Herbs, Kale, Kohlrabi, Leeks, Lettuce, Marrow, Parsley, Parsnip, Radish, Silverbeet, Sweet Corn, Swedes and Turnip, Tomato and much more locally. In warm climates with a long growing season also include Cucumber, Gourd, Luffa, and Melons, Pumpkins and Squash plus more locally.
All Vegetables to Plant Now With Care:
Asparagus seed, Artichoke, Beans, Beets, Borecole (Kale), Broccoli, Brussel Sprouts, Cabbage (Drumhead, Golden Acre and Succession), Cape Gooseberry, Capsicum, Carrot, Cauliflower, Celery, Celeriac, Chicory(1), Chinese Cabbage, Chives, Choko, Cress, Cucumber, Eggplant, Endive, Kohl Rabi, Kumara and Sweet Potato, Leeks, Lettuce, Luffa, Marrow, Melon, Mustard, Okra, Parsnip, Peanuts, Peas, Pumpkin, Radish, Rhubarb seed, Salsify, Silverbeet, Spring Onions, Soybean, Squash, Swede, Sweet Corn and Maize and Popcorn, Taro, Tobacco, Tomato, Turnip, Yams, Zucchini and more locally
Only in warm climates with a long growing season or with a glasshouse should the following be included: Climbing Beans, Choko, Cucumber, Eggplant, Gourd, Luffa, Okra, Melons, Peanuts, Pumpkins, Kumara and Sweet Potato, Soybean and Squash plus more locally.
Bulbs, Corms, Roots and Tubers:
Mid Summer is a transitional time for many of the warm season flowering varieties. This is the last month to safely plant Canna, Dahlia, Hymenocallis, Tigridia, Tuberose, etc. with any hope of getting many blooms this season. In the coldest climates with the shortest of seasons and cool, drier climates, the first plantings of Spring Flowering Bulbs can start now but wait in warmer districts. Spring Bulbs can be refrigerated now for early forced blooms or for planting into beds once the weather cools (see Week Four for more details).
Bulbs, Corms, Roots and Tubers to plant now include:
Amaryllis belladonna (best planted while bulbs remain dormant), Anemone, Arum, Babiana, Bulbinella, Canna, Colchicum (Autumn Crocus), Crocus, Cyclamen Daffodil and early Jonquil and Narcissus, Dahlia, Freesia, Galanthus (Snow Drop), Hyacinth, Hymenocallis, Iris(especially German Bearded), Ixia, Lachenalia, Leucojum (Snow Flake), Lycoris (Spider Lily), Moraea (Tulip Poppy), Muscari (Grape Hyacinth), Nerine (best planted while bulbs remain dormant) Notholirion, Ranunculus, Sparaxis, Sternbergia (Autumn Crocus/Autumn Daffodil), Tigridia, Tuberose, Tulip (colder climates) and more locally.
Disease and Pests:
Be prepared to spray for disease and pests as drought and heat will stress plant health. Maintain beds in a clean and tidy state removing debris that could harbour insect pests and blights. Keep a close eye on all plantings now. Once things pass their peak, it is often easy to neglect them. This is often when predation begins and spreads rapidly to consume whatever remains. It is best to either treat the problem immediately or remove the problem entirely before it can spread.
Many Gardeners choose a systemic preventative spray over much of the garden at this time of the year. This acts much like inoculations do for us to prevent diseases before they have the chance to start. Alternatively, consider using soapy water or ‘grey’ water when irrigating the garden. The soapy film is basically organic but creates a bitter taste plus a protective coating that discourages predation by insects that are the primary carrier of diseases.
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Last Quarter Full Waning Moon Cycle deepens into the ‘Dark of the Moon’ (25 Jan.). The Moon reaches peak ascension in Southern Hemisphere skies 25 Jan. Then the lunar beginning of Late Summer arrives with the New Moon (28 January, sidereal Capricorn). This is the start of Chinese New Year.
This is another important transitional week where early season flowers and crops fade, set seed, wither and finish as the Mid Summer tropical heat takes over. This New Moon represents the earliest stirrings of Late Summer. This is often the hottest time of the year when the Southern Hemisphere smoulders in the heat of the Sun. But days are growing shorter in length and Nature can feel the changes and is responding.
This is a great time for garden maintenance and special projects. Prepare ground now for planting and sowing all root crop vegetables. Also prepare garden beds for those that produce their crops above the ground plus flowers that will be started after the New Moon (28 Jan.); cut brush; clear, cultivate and weed land; clean and tidy the garden and surrounds; cut or pinch back and dead-head flowers and excessive growth on vegetables; prune & shape shrubs, fruit & ornamental trees; cut firewood; set fence posts and build fencing; lay foundations and paving; build almost anything; dig new ponds and clean old ones; mow lawns to keep them short longer; spread compost and manure; fertilise; spray for disease and pests; plan, research and prepare for the Autumn, Winter and Spring gardening season ahead; make tours of other gardens plus enjoy your own.
Celestial extremes rise dramatically during the final days of the Waning Moon Cycle and reach their peak at the New Moon. While some Gardeners refrain from sowing seed in this last week known as the ‘Dark of the Moon’ phase, it can be a good time to sow seed of varieties that are difficult to germinate and/or to get a ‘head start’ so that seeds will germinate earlier in the benevolent Waxing Moon cycle just ahead.
The Moon’s strong waning phase also is an acceptable time to plant and sow root crops and anything needing strong root development. The secret is to attempt this only if you can provide daily care and dedicated observation. While these celestial extremes can greatly speed germination, they can also dry out and wither tender emerging seed very quickly.
Caution! Remember, whenever climatic conditions feel at all extreme or severe, be extra careful with your planting and sowing! This is especially important when shifting and transplanting anything delicate during these celestial extremes. Tender plants can collapse or wilt quickly whenever there is any root damage. Should root damage occur, cut or pinch back all excessive growth to reduce excessive evaporation through the foliage. Make sure everything is watered thoroughly and kept damp, humid and/or moist. Guard against drying winds, heat and sun scald, fast-spreading disease or fungus and predation by insect pests.
Drying Out and Watering:
Hot summer weather can dry out garden beds, lawns and especially container plants very quickly. Check plants daily and water immediately to avoid scorch and withering. This is especially true of container plants whose roots are restricted in the pot. It is natural for plants both in containers and in the ground to wilt during very hot and sunny mid-day weather especially when they are under full sunlight. But if they remain wilted once the sunshine is off the plants for more than an hour, watering is essential or damage is likely. If foliage is very shrivelled or wilted, spray over foliage several times in the course of an hour in the hopes that it will revive. Evening watering will refresh a dry garden. Morning watering will induce new growth. Once deeply soaked continue mulching all in-ground plantings and larger pots.
The disadvantage to spraying over cup-shaped or delicate foliage or foliage with ‘furry’ or ‘hairy’ leaves like Tuberous Begonias during the heat of the day is the possibility of sun scald if beads of water are able to magnify under direct, hot sunshine. This can result in sun scald or damaging leaf spotting. The exception is Dahlia whose wilting leaves will revive quickly even when sprayed with water under direct sunlight.
The biggest problem with evening watering is that foliage needs to dry out before sundown otherwise this tends to encourage the development of black spot, downy or powdery mildew and other fungal diseases. Always attempt to complete all irrigation with at least an hour to spare before dusk. If there is no alternative to reviving a very dry garden, consider applying a systemic fungicide to the garden that will counteract the possibility of fungal development.
Some plants do not show the effects of water-stress until they are almost damaged beyond repair. This includes many broad-leafed evergreens, conifers and some Australian, Mediterranean and South African native species with leathery or ‘stiff’ foliage. Sometimes these plants show a subtle dulling in foliage colour but then just slowly dry up.
The easiest way to be alerted to their drying out is to plant an annual species or groundcover like Ajuga, Alyssum or Impatiens, Pansy or Viola, etc. in the soil held within their container or surrounding the plant in the ground. The shallow-rooted species or will dry out and wilt first, therefore bringing attention to the imminent need to water the larger plant.
Mulch all plantings that could potentially be damaged by drought and excessive heat. Be sure that the ground is thoroughly soaked prior to spreading mulch.
Brambles and cane fruit; hedges, shrubs, trees and some vines can be pruned now to maintain shape. Young plantings can be allowed to grow on but mature plantings benefit from a trim now. This is an especially good time to reduce the rampant Spring growth of many Winter and Spring-flowering species, also Fruit Trees, many vines and some broad-leafed evergreens like Camellia japonica and Osmanthus plus Conifers. Included here are many tropical species that may need a corrective prune or trim of new growth. This new growth can be reduced by almost half or at least tip-pruned to create a better shape. Tip pruning on most deciduous species, broad-leafed evergreens and some tropicals often stops new growth emerging from the tip but encourages growth energy into producing healthy and strong buds and lateral shoots for next year.
Camellias and other broad-leafed evergreens like Daphne and Rhododendrons may need to be closely examined first before pruning. Many times next season’s flower buds begin developing now, especially at growing tips. This will be guaranteed on Camellia sasanqua species as well as early-flowering Camellia japonica. Pruning once these buds develop does not damage the shrub but will reduce the next flowering later in the year. Gardeners who are growing their flowers for exhibition often use this pruning time as an opportunity to eliminate any diseased, non-flowering or weak wood. This allows more air and sunlight to strengthen the remaining branches and produce blooms of larger size and better quality.
Pruning during the ‘Dark of the Moon’ phase is famous for keeping things pruned back for longer. But celestial extremes during this time can allow air to be drawn into larger open wounds. This can kill off a little, or a lot, more growth than was intended. So whenever pruning in the week just prior to the New Moon always leave a little extra stump at the end of the pruned stem. This way if extra die-back occurs, it will not interfere with the main growing structure of the plant. Be sure to seal all larger cuts and wounds with tree paint or candle wax. This is very important to avoid attack from Borer insects and fungal infections. Plan to trim off this dried up stump in the months ahead.
Ironically, pruning right on the New Moon and following as the Moon begins to wax (grows brighter in the evening sky) often will encourage lots of leafy new growth. This is because Moon light is increasing and gravitational forces are favouring an upward pull of sap and water which encourages top growth.
Bramble and Cane fruit have their old canes pruned back after the crop is harvested. Traditional fruiting types can have old canes completely removed to just above the ground. This will encourage the development of healthy, new, strong canes for next years’ fruiting. Ever-bearing varieties can be reduced by about 1/3-1/2 their length and given a feeding. New flowering and fruiting should begin shortly thereafter.
Grapes and Kiwi fruit vines and sometimes Passion Fruits Vines can have excessive growth removed or at least pinched out at the tip. Fruits are sometimes thinned to insure a better quality crop. Continue to fertilize. Water this fertilizer in generously to keep fruits expanding and growing at their maximum.
Harvest Flowers and Herbs for Drying:
Whenever conditions remain dry and humidity is lower, this is an ideal time to harvest herbs, petals and whole flowers for drying. Water retention in plant material usually reaches its lowest in the days around the New Moon. It is often best to cut during the day or near its end when moisture content is at its lowest. There are many drying methods. Some Collectors spread them on screens, or over cardboard or absorbent paper, or hang upside down in an airy but not sunny, open environment where they are allowed to dry fully. This works well for herbs or potpourri petals.
Another way is to place whole flowers on a bed of sand or silica gel in a box and cover with more sand and silica; then place the drying box or trays in a very dry, warm environment like inside an attic or the rafters of a garage roof to bake and dry fully. They are fully dry when stems snap rather than bend. To preserve them further, they can be sprayed with lacquer. This is quite important in humid climates otherwise the dried material will absorb moisture from the air and mould.
Professional Growers often place flowers, foliage or entire stems deeply immersed in a solution of glycerine for up to 24 hours. While this is a little more costly, the results speak for themselves with brighter colour retention and a much more natural appearance. Once the stems are fully saturated and pliable, they are arranged, hung or laid in boxes or screens to full dry before being used in dried, everlasting arrangements. Glycerine acts as a natural preservative which means that further lacquer spraying is usually unnecessary for a long-lasting result.
Bulbs, Corms, Roots and Tubers:
This Moon phase is particularly well suited to dividing, planting, splitting and sowing the seed of a variety of bulbs, corms, rhizomes, roots and tubers. Most of these enjoy full or at least strong partial sunshine and soils that are very free draining. Most are quite easily started from seed sown in a grit/sandy potting mix. They usually germinate a bit erratically and will need to be coaxed on for several months before they are large enough to dibble out into seedling flats or individual pots. Flowering begins in one or more years from sowing. Most bulbs and many tubers can be cut into sections that are then started in a similar gritty soil. These often produce new plants within a year or two.
Bulbs, Corms, Roots and Tubers to Plant in Mid Summer onward include:
Amaryllis belladonna (best planted while bulbs remain dormant), Anemone, Arum, Babiana, Bulbinella, Canna, Colchicum (Autumn Crocus), Crocus, Cyclamen Daffodil and early Jonquil and Narcissus, Dahlia, Freesia, Galanthus (Snow Drop), Hyacinth, Iris(especially German Bearded), Ixia, Lachenalia, Leucojum (Snow Flake), Lycoris (Spider Lily), Moraea (Tulip Poppy), Muscari (Grape Hyacinth), Nerine (best planted while bulbs remain dormant) Notholirion, Ranunculus, Sparaxis, Sternbergia (Autumn Crocus/Autumn Daffodil), Tulip (colder climates) and more locally. Most Spring Bulbs (in cool and drier climates) can be planted now or refrigerated for forcing early blooms.
Spring Flowering Bulbs:
Spring bulbs will start arriving in local garden centres soon. A full range of Spring bulbs can be planted from now through June; even much later than that with artificial refrigeration. In cooler climates with shorter growing seasons this is a good time to start planting. Most especially into any position that will remain dry and unwatered for the remainder of the summer season.
Wherever conditions remain (sub) tropical and/or the garden beds irrigated and moist and the soil is warm, avoid planting Spring flowering bulbs for a while yet. Otherwise they might sprout prematurely and could begin to grow before they should. This often brings them up and into premature or stunted flowering while weather is inclemently wintry or, worse, they rot.
There are many ways to successfully manage Spring flowering bulbs.
Most Spring-flowering bulbs can be maintained in a healthy condition for several months without refrigeration. This works well when the bulbs are going to be planted later. Keep them in vented boxes or mesh bags placed in an airy, dark, dry and well ventilated room. Avoid direct sunlight hitting the bulbs. Avoid long-term storage in closed paper bags or unvented plastic bags with reduced airflow that could potentially retain moisture and begin to sweat.
Attempt to maintain an even temperature of 14-17C/57.2-62.6F. Make sure relative humidity remains rather low. These conditions reproduce the dormant dry autumnal climate that these bulbs would experience in their native habitat. They can remain in this state for several weeks or even months without harm or injury.
Later on once outdoor conditions become much cooler, the dry bulbs can be planted direct into the garden beds wherever wintry frosts will provide at least 3 months of sufficient chilling.
Bulbs can be placed into cold storage refrigeration. This allows the bulbs to undergo a ‘false’ winter chilling, sometimes known as ‘pre-cooling’ The bulbs can be refrigerated immediately for the earliest possible flowers or delay refrigeration to create later blooms. The bulbs can be stored in a dry state at about 4C/39.2F. Maintaining a constant, steady very cool temperature is important. Avoid freezing temperatures, even for short periods that could likely kill or damage the bulbs. If the loose bulbs remain in a very airy, cool and dry state, they should stay in suspended animation and in excellent condition. They can remain in refrigeration for 2-3 months or longer without harm. If the bulbs begin to sprout this is a message that they should be planted as soon as possible They usually will fail if left in refrigeration more than 22 weeks*.
*When the pre-cooled bulbs remain in a cool and dry state in mesh bags, they have no opportunity to begin creating the roots that are essential to producing the best and biggest quality flowers. Thus if they remain in this condition for more than a few months, some percentage of the most vulnerable species and varieties may fail; or sometimes will produce blooms of inferior quality with few roots. This weakens the bulbs so much that they rarely produce quality flowering in years ahead.
Once pre-cooled bulbs have the sufficient weeks of cooling, they can then be planted outdoors into their final growing positions in the garden. This is the secret to success in climates that do not experience a long enough period of winter cold.
Or plant these pre-cooled bulbs into containers for early flowers in a frost-free location. This pre-cooling works very well in warmer climates with a late and shorter winter season. Usually flowers begin to appear 4-6 weeks after planting. Late flowering Tulips will take a little longer.
When loose, pre-cooled bulbs are potted, these pots are watered very well once and then placed in an airy, cool, damp and dim position to encourage root development. Keep them moist but not overwatered. Once strong shoots appear the pots are brought out into a cool position with brighter light for floral displays. Their planting can be staggered several weeks apart to produce a continual display of spring flowers over several months.
Newly purchased Spring bulbs can also be potted immediately. These pots are then placed in refrigeration in similar conditions for an appropriate period simulating winter. This is about 8-10 weeks for Hyacinths and minor bulbs; 10-12 weeks for Narcissus; 12-15 weeks for Tulips. The pots can sometimes remain in refrigeration for up to 22 weeks without damage. But once sprouts begin to develop and roots are showing through the drainage holes they are ready for forcing.
Bring them out into cool, dim light and out of chilling or drying drafts. Over the next week or two, gradually bring them into brighter light. Flowering usually begins within 4-6 weeks or a little longer. This method produces the most spectacular results because the bulbs are able to develop a much more extensive and stronger root system that will ultimately support better flowering.
Commercial and Exhibition Growers often plant their bulbs into containers from the start and pre-chill them in walk-in refrigeration. This way the bulbs begin creating an extensive root system from the start and these often produce the finest quality forced flowers for the Commercial Florist and Nursery Trade.
Alternatively, in colder climates with longer winters, bulbs can be potted and then placed underground in blocks or trenches. Water the potted deeply. The trenches are then filled with sharp sand that buries the pots by at least 5cm/2inches or more. Then cover over them with spoilt hay or straw as mulch to insure the buried pots do not freeze. After the appropriate number of weeks of chilling, remove the mulch; carefully push back the sand and uplift the pots. Wash off any excess sand or soil. Place them in a cool, damp, and dim environment out of chilling or drying drafts so shoots can develop for later flowering in a few weeks. This often produces spectacular results.
Mid and Late Summer is an excellent time to harvest fruits and vegetables as they mature. Regular harvesting of vegetables tends to keep plants healthy and productive.
There is an art to harvesting. Harvest fruits and vegetables meant for long-term keeping and storage, during the Waning Moon Cycle and especially the ‘Dark of the Moon’ phase. Harvesting after a prolonged dry spell or at least a few days of dry weather is beneficial. Often harvesting later in the afternoon following a dry and sunny day produces the best results. Water retention is at its lowest at these times. Lower water retention usually allows a crop to be preserved for longer. Onions and Potatoes are an excellent example of crops that usually last much longer when harvested once they are fully matured and dry.
Fruits and vegetables gathered for immediate use and for chutney, jam, juice, and crisp succulence or pickling can be harvested at any time. But for the greatest juice content and succulence, they are best harvested during a Waxing Moon phase and especially around the Full Moon (top day) and in the few days that follow. The very finest time to harvest for these purposes is often the day after irrigation or a good rainfall; during a sunny and warm morning into early afternoon. At such times fruits and vegetables will retain their highest water content so be of greatest succulence
Disease, Pests and Overcoming Problems:
‘Dark of the Moon’ phase (25-28 Jan.) is a classic trigger for disease, fungus and rot, especially from Mid Summer through Autumn. If the weather remains very humid, moist or excessively wet and drying conditions are poor many types of blight, mildew, mould and rot can suddenly overtake susceptible plantings. If at all possible make sure all watering is completed early enough in the afternoon or early evening so that plants can dry out before nightfall. Foliage that remains wet overnight becomes the most vulnerable for attack.
Watch carefully for the signs of predation throughout the flower and vegetable garden and orchard as well as amongst groundcovers, shrubs, trees and vines. The extreme environmental stress of Mid and Late Summer weather can often take a heavy toll in the garden.
Most likely will be the obvious attack of Ants and Aphids; Beetles; Caterpillars, especially Cabbage Looper on all Brassica Family plants (Broccoli, Cabbages, etc) and Squash Borer; Mealy Bug on almost anything; Psyllids on Potato and Tomato plus White Fly on the same crops as well as on Citrus, Cucumber, Melons, Pumpkins, Squash; Borer and Scale on most anything woody like Citrus and many Fruit Trees, Grapes, Kiwi Fruit and Passion Fruit Vines; Passion Fruit Leaf Hopper often becomes active now, too.
Slugs and Snails are often a real problem during damp and warm conditions and they also spread other fungal infections, too. Whenever weather remains droughty, dry and hot, expect predation from Beetles, Caterpillars, Grasshopper and Locusts, various (White) Flies, Leaf Hoppers, Mites, Psyllids, Thrip and others.
Proper plant hygiene goes a long way to preventing these problems. Keep the garden free of decay, debris and anything diseased and/or rotting. Remove diseased and old, spent plants promptly and replace them with healthy new stock. Cultivate, inspect and weed regularly. Generous and vigorous watering at the right time often helps to wash these problems away. But whenever the problem doesn’t go away, spray immediately as attacks spread quickly now in the Summery heat.
Remove anything that is damaged and either compost it or use it immediately. Vegetables that are diseased can sometimes be composted. But use discretion here, as some types of blights, fungus, mildews, moulds, etc. can withstand composting. Then when their composted remains are spread over the soil, the pathogens are also spread and can result in more widespread disease in the times ahead.
In such a situation, it is either best to burn the diseased material or heat compost it in a black plastic bag left in the hot sunshine for a week or more. Most insects and pathogens are killed by extreme heat.
Lettuce, and other tender crops and fruits may need shading from scorching sun. This may also apply to tender ornamental flowering and foliage plants like African Violet, Caladium, Ferns, Gloxinia, Spathiphyllum, Streptocarpus, Tuberous Begonias and many others.
Place boards, cardboard, carpet underlay, straw, etc under Cucumbers, Gourds, Luffas, Melons, Pumpkins, Squash and any other fruits or vegetables lying in direct contact with the damp soil to avoid ground rot. Once one or two fruit have set on any particular runner, pinch out the runner tip. This produces the highest quality fruit of the largest size. Allowing all fruit and vegetable crops to produce maximum fruiting will create the highest possible yields, which might be advantageous for bulk harvests and stewing but the keeping ability, quality and size of each fruit and vegetable may well be diminished.