Mid Summer reaches a crescendo as the Full Waxing Moon Cycle brightens into the Mid Summer Full Moon, Tuesday, 2 Jan.3 PM (NZDT). This is the midpoint of Mid Summer and a true turning point in the gardening year. Day length, sunlight and warmth along with blossoming, growth rates and harvests all are at their peak now. The Waning Moon Cycle completes the week. Weather permitting; this could be a good week for planting and sowing a very wide variety of things.
The Moon’s Perigee occurs 11 AM the same day as the Full Moon. This is the closest approach to the Earth for the year and results in a spectacular Super Moon and very high tides. Because the Moon is at full decent in Southern Hemisphere skies it will rise as a golden orb off to the north east and remain rather low in the sky. In Northern Hemisphere skies it will soon become much whiter as it climbs high into the sky.
The longest day of the year has just passed (21-22Dec) but throughout this month, each day looses only about a minute in length off the sunrise; less near the Equator and more toward the Poles. The latest sunsets in the Southern Hemisphere (8:42PM in Auckland NZDT; and later further South) occur 1-11 January before they slowly start to wane away.
This week the Earth reaches Perihelion: when the Earth’s orbit takes it closest to the Sun for the year (3 Jan.). The Earth’s axis tilt faces most directly into the sunlight now in the Southern/Summer Hemisphere. Radiant solar energy builds to its highest levels of the year; often resulting in some of the hottest days and tropical weather with most intense stinging sunlight. Southern Hemisphere sunlight intensity is greater now than anywhere else on Earth.
As the month progresses this radiant energy deeply warms the Earth’s surface so night time temperatures tend to rise. This often produces the warmest soil temperatures of the year. Warm soil temperatures benefit greatly all variety of tropical plantings and speeds the germination and growth rate of seed and seedlings.
Full Moon is 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 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 almost all 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.
Feeding and Watering:
The days around the Full Moon also represent the time of greatest water retention for this monthly lunar cycle. The Moon moves into the constellation of Cancer (its ‘ruling sign) 3-5 Jan. this is traditionally viewed as an abundant, fertile and ‘watery’ time.
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.
Potentially a Fine Time to Plant and Sow:
Planting and sowing is often highly successful under this lunar placement. This brief moment is potentially a very good time to sow and plant a wide variety of flowers and crops, especially 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 or if outdoor conditions remain stressful, plant into containers placed in a very sheltered environment where things can be controlled and protected. This is by far the best alternative so that emerging seedlings have the opportunity to develop strongly and receive expert care. By the time they are large enough to transplant, the worst of the summery heat will have passed. The other alternative is to wait until conditions are somewhat more favourable. But by then this golden opportunity will have passed.
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 and Sow 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
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.
Beans (dwarf) S/N (climbing) N
Brussel Sprouts N/S
Cabbages (traditional & Chinese) N/S
Spring Onion N/S
Sweet Corn N
Tender subtropical and tropical species and house plants should be making strong new growth now. Continue to feed and water them generously whenever the weather remains sunny and warm.
Now is an excellent time to plant them from container-grown stock. It is also a good time to shift existing subtropical plantings provided they can be adequately watered and cared for in the weeks that follow until they become re-established. This is an excellent time to divide Bromeliads and many varieties of Orchid; also Cacti and Succulents.
Almost all subtropical species can be successfully repotted right now. Cuttings can be taken and their seed started in a sheltered glasshouse or nursery environment.
This Second Week in the Mid Summer Garden:
The Waning Moon Cycle dominates the week reaching the Last Quarter Moon (9 Jan.) and Dark of the Moon (14 Jan.). These conditions are excellent for harvesting all manner of fruits and vegetables for both immediate use and long term storage. Gather seed and drying flowers, fruits, herbs and vegetables. Plant and sow root crops plus many species of flowers and vegetables and start anything needing a period of root development before top growth begins. This week favours a wide range of general gardening activities like cultivating, feeding, mowing, mulching weeding and much more. Read on about the unusual signs in the sky that happen all week.
Weather permitting and where water is plentiful or there is the opportunity to irrigate, this is a very good planting/sowing time, 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 (17 Jan.) are very favourable for a variety of garden maintenance jobs. Once the Last Quarter Moon is reached (9 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.
The Moon appears in the early morning sky; rising before the Sun all week. It sets in the afternoon when the Moon’s gravitational pull will lock with that of the Earth. Thus liquid feeding and watering meant to produce for top growth and flowering should be applied early in the day; preferably on sunny, warm mornings. Later afternoon watering will tend to be pulled more strongly into the ground; thus would tend to refresh a dry garden by the following morning.
Signs in the Sky:
Conjunctions between Mars and Jupiter (closest between 6-8 Jan. and visible low in the predawn north eastern sky) and Mercury, Saturn, Venus, the Sun and Pluto (rising in that order around the Sun but hidden by sunlight) happen at the same time and continue throughout much of the month. The Moon passes through these conjunctions: 11-12 Jan. near Mars and Jupiter in the predawn sky; and near the solar conjunctions 15-16-17-18 Jan. around the time of the New Moon.
This entire array of conjunctions passes overhead during the daylight hours. Celestial energy will be very strong during these times. While this may prove distracting to some individuals, it is also a very positive time for planting and sowing and a creative time for design, landscaping and planning. For keenly sensitive and well balanced individuals this could be a visionary time. Potentially magic moments like these happen rarely so here is an opportunity to forward plan and used the time wisely.
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, Frangipani, most tender broad-leafed evergreens species such as Ficus, Gardenia and Murreya; Bromeliads; Palms; herbaceous tender perennials like Calathia, Epiphyllum, 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:
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.
This Third Week in the Mid Summer Garden:
The ‘Dark of the Moon’ (14 Jan.) starts the week. Then the New Moon arrives at peak ascension in Southern Hemisphere skies 17 Jan. This is the lunar beginning of Late Summer. This week is well suited for a wide variety of general gardening activities and the beginning of the next planting and sowing cycle.
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 and transition into Late Summer conditions. 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 that should go in before the 17th. Also prepare garden beds for those that produce their crops above the ground plus flowers that will be started after the New Moon (17 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 roots crops and 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 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, Liquid Feeding 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.
At the beginning of the week the Moon rises shortly before the Sun; after the New Moon (17 Jan.) the Moon rises shortly after the Sun. The gravitational extremes produced due to this conjunction will produce a strong upward pull from early in the day until late afternoon. In the evening the power of this conjunction now below the horizon will lock with Earth’s gravity producing a strong downward pull into the ground.
Thus liquid feeding and watering from early in the day until late afternoon this week will be strongly drawn upward into the plant. This will induce new flowering and new growth. Evening watering will refresh a dry garden by morning.
Watering early in the day often produces dramatic results. But be cautious about watering over foliage during the heat of the day. This can sometime boil and almost cook plants. 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.
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.
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.
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:
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. They can be stored dry at moderate temperatures and planted into the garden later or into containers. They can be refrigerated in a dry and loose state for later planting into the garden or into containers. They can be potted immediately and placed in refrigeration for best early forced colour.
Bulb species that originate in warm districts like Freesia, some Narcissus, Ornithogalum, etc. need no refrigeration and can be stored in a cool, dark, dry place and planted whenever it is convenient.
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 (14-17 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.
This Forth Week in the Mid Summer Garden:
Waxing Moon becomes the First Quarter Moon (25 Jan.) leading up to a close perigee and Super Full Moon plus a Total Lunar Eclipse (31Jan.- 1 Feb.) This begins the early days of a new planting season for Late Summer, Autumn, Winter, Spring and even next Summers’ garden and beyond. Planting and sowing could potentially be very successful this week, weather permitting as moonlight is increasing all week. Sunshine is strong and the ground is nearing its warmest. So if adequate water and shelter from drying winds and stinging sunlight can be provided, a wide variety of things can be planted and sown now.
For most of the world this will be a Blue Moon as the Full Moon and eclipse occurs on the 31st. The Moon descends out of Southern Hemisphere skies all week so becomes less powerful here and each day rises lower in the north east sky but rises high in Northern Hemisphere skies and affects their weather.
Daytime water retention has the potential to increase a little this week. The Waxing Moon pulls away from the Sun and each day lags further behind. As they both glide over-head, this produces an upward hydrological pull that is very benevolent for seed germination and rapid bud development, flowering and leafy growth. The deciding factors for potential planting and sowing include if weather conditions remain benevolent and whether whatever is planted or sown can be adequately cared-for; feed, sheltered and watered.
Think Ahead for Success:
This is an important time to think far ahead. Consider what you want to flower and harvest in the Autumn garden; and in the cooler season gardens ahead. What biennials and perennials will bloom next summer and onward? This could be an excellent time to plant or sow: all manner of annual, biennial and perennial flowers as advanced container plants, seedlings or started from seed; most container grown foliage plants and ornamental varieties; almost all subtropical species; many vegetables, especially leafy vegetables and those that produce their crops above the ground which includes the last of the tender warm season varieties.
Overcome Drought and Inclement Conditions:
Excessive drought and heat plus a host of hungry birds and insects create the greatest challenges to success. But the rewards are worth the effort. Seed will germinate very rapidly in moist and warm soil under strong summer sunlight. If there is any hope of irrigation in extremely dry areas, consider soaking the soil first. Then sow flower/ vegetable seed direct where the plants are meant to grow into narrow rows. Now surround both sides of the row with mulch. Soak again and protect with Slug and Snail bait and possibly screening against Birds. Water again only if soil becomes noticeably dry. But this time concentrate the water down the row and let it seep out through the soil underneath the protective mulch. This also works with planting seedlings but more watering will be required until they stop wilting. These ‘no dig’ mulch gardens are a classic way to overcome drought stress.
If weather remains inclement or impossibly dry and/or time is limited, often the easiest and safest way is to sow or plant into containers or flats. These can be grown on in a sheltered environment where they are easily cared-for and maintained.
Once the seedlings become established in a few weeks they will need little care other than regular watering. If they become too crowded in their container, consider transplanting each seedling into its own small pot. They can be pinched back at that time to create a bushier plant. These can be grown on successfully for many weeks in the sheltered nursery.
Later on in the season once the worst of the drought and heat have passed, and the seedlings are larger and stronger, transplant them out into their permanent positions. Keep them well watered until they stop wilting. They should very quickly anchor into the ground and will soon reach flowering and maturity.
While growing in the nursery, check seedlings daily to insure they do not dry out. Watch carefully for earliest signs of disease or predation. Birds, slugs, snails and a host of insect pests can decimate young seedlings overnight. Sometimes if the seed mix becomes too wet or air circulation is low and humidity is very high, young seedlings can suddenly collapse from damp-off fungus. Sterilizing soil with boiling water or drenching with a suitable fungicide prior to sowing the seed will control this possibility.
Regular watering and occasional liquid feeding are essential to success. If seed remains too dry or ever dries out in the period prior to seed germination, the seed germ may die and never sprout. Constant and even levels of moisture are essential from the time they are planted or sown onward.
The exception is larger seeds like:
Cucurbits (Cucumber, Pumpkin, Squash, etc.); Legumes (Beans, Peas, etc.); Sunflower and many more. These are best given either a good soak prior to planting and/or a good soak once sown directly where they are meant to grow into thoroughly moistened soil. Ideally, do not water them again until the seed sprouts. Then keep them moist thereafter.
There is a critical phase here just as the dormant seed begins to split open and the seed germ is first exposed. If excessive water gets trapped within the small slit in the splitting seed, it can rot the tender seed germ before it can get a proper start. This is especially likely if night time temperatures drop below 12C/53.6F.
Weather and time permitting, this is a very good week to plant a wide variety of vegetables. This includes all the warm weather favourites. This transitional time is also perfectly suited to sowing cool season crops that require a long season of growth, especially Brussel Sprouts and most of the Brassica Family. This gives them the maximum time to reach maturity before cool weather slows growth rates in the Autumn. This is also an excellent time to plant seedlings or sow the seed of herbs, especially perennials varieties that will reward for a long time to come.
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, Marrow, Parsley, Parsnip, Radish, Sweet Corn, Tomato and Turnip. In warm climates with a long growing season also include Cucumber, Gourd, Luffa, and Melons, Pumpkins and Squash plus more locally.
A Sweet Alliance:
For a really worthwhile special treat try planting a patch or block of Sweet Corn in a warm, sunny, sheltered corner. Sow a fast-maturing variety where the plants are meant to grow and do not transplant. There must be at least 90-110 days (3-4 months) remaining in the growing season for this to work. When it does, this will provide a golden harvest in late Autumn when Corn is “out of season”.
The secret is keeping the plants well watered and fed. Use a lot of mature compost or well aged manure and/or blood and bone plus any good form of available Nitrogen; dug into the soil prior to sowing. Feed frequently with side-dressings or enriched mulches to push the canes along while the weather remains hot, sunny and warm. Liquid feeding with a high Nitrogen fertiliser like fish emulsion is very beneficial in their early vegetative stages.
Also remember the ‘three, if not four sisters’ when planting. These include Beans, Pumpkins or Squash, Sweet Corn or Maize and Sunflowers. When planted in blocks or patches these prove very compatible companion plants producing fine harvests for immediate use and also for keeping through the Autumn and Winter months ahead.
There is still time in warmer climates to plant a final sowing of the Three/Four Sisters for a late Autumn harvest. Because Beans are legumes that produce their own Nitrogen, this helps the growth of the Corn and Pumpkins so there is less need for extra feeding. Sunflowers, especially large and robust varieties also benefit from the Nitrogen produced by the Beans; while their sturdy canes make idea poles upon which beans can climb. Once in flower, they attract Finches which will also feed on the beetles that attack Beans and caterpillars that often attack Corn and Pumpkins.
Many annual flowers can be sown or planted now for a Late Summer and big Autumn show. This is provided there remains at least 3-4 months of gardening weather in your area before the first frost. It is often well worth the effort it takes to get them established through the heat. Later on as the season cools and fades, floral colour often is a real treasure in the garden. The cooler and damper autumnal air often refrigerates blooms allowing them to last much longer. Some of the finest quality and largest blooms come from sowings made now.
Flowers to Sow from Seed or Plant as Seedlings:
Ageratum, Alyssum, Anemone, Aster, Begonia, Calceolaria, Calendula, Campanula, Candytuft, Carnation, Clarkia, Cleome, Coleus, Cosmos, Dianthus, Dimorphotheca (Veldt Daisy) Forget-Me-Not, Godetia, Iceland Poppy (plus most Poppy species), Larkspur, Linaria, Marigold, Mignonette, Nemesia, Nigella (Love-in-a-Mist), Pansy, Petunia, Phlox, Polyanthus, Poppies, Primula, Salpiglossis, Scabiosa, Snapdragon, Statice, Stock, Strawflower, Sunflower, Sweet Pea, Verbena, Wallflower, and Zinnia just to name a few.
Biennial and Perennial Seed to Sow:
Anemone, Aquilegia, Canterbury Bells, Coreopsis, Cyclamen, Dahlia, Delphinium, Fuchsia, Gaillardia, Geum, Gladioli, Gypsophila, Hemerocallis (Day Lily), Hollyhock, Hunnemania, Impatiens (perennial as well as annual varieties), Iris, Jasmine, Lunaria, Lupin, Oriental Poppy, Polyanthus, Primula, Pyrethrum, Ranunculus Sweet William, Zantedeschia and much more. This is an ideal time to transplant their seedlings (often into containers for growing-on if the garden beds are dry).
Subtropical Species to Plant Now:
Most (sub) tropical plants can be planted out into sheltered and sunny positions or shifted/transplanted into larger containers most easily in these warm conditions. When planting, dig a generous hole that is usually wider than it is deep. Work the soil to a fine or medium tilth. If the soil is at all heavy, try and lighten this with mature compost (a freely draining bark-based sort usually works best), or substitute grit, pumice, sand etc. Make sure the container plant or intended transplant has been well watered perhaps the previous day. The plant should be replanted at the same level in the ground as the plant’s root ball. If soil is heavy, plant the root ball a little higher than ground level. Then mound up soil over the root ball to protect it but also insure better drainage.
It is best to place no dry fertilizer in the bottom of the planting hole. Concentrated dry fertilizer can easily burn tender emerging roots resulting in considerable damage. A sprinkling of dry fertilizer can be spread over the soil surface after planting. It is usually best to start such dry feeding a week or two after the plant has become established.
Water the plant generously at planting time. Liquid feeding immediately after this first watering is a great way to promote strong, healthy growth and flowering without the risk of burning their roots.
Whenever a subtropical plant is being transplanted into a larger container, make sure not to over-pot them. One or two pot sizes up is adequate. This is important because their roots must have ample time to completely fill their containers prior to the return of cooler conditions. Later in the season a somewhat pot-bound subtropical plant will most easily survive the Winter, especially if it remains in a semi-dry state. But if the plant’s roots do not completely and snugly fill their container, these roots can become exposed to overly cold and wet soil that has nowhere to drain. This will chill their roots which often results in rot and plant collapse.
Subtropicals to Plant Now:
Allamanda, Begonias, Bougainvillea, Bromeliads, Croton; Echeveria, Epiphyllum, Sansevieria and most Succulents plus Cacti, Euphorbia (including Acalypha and Poinsettia) Gardenia, Hibiscus, Mandevilla, Murreya, most Orchids, Palms, Philodendrons, Plumeria (Frangipani), Saintpaulia (African Violet), Stephanotis, Strelitzia (Bird of Paradise) and many other warm weather species.
Beautiful Begonias: Tuberous Begonias:
Tuberous Begonias really come into their best displays at this time of the year. They need very bright light, partial shade or screening from scalding sun and drying winds. Often a shade or lathe house or airy glasshouse with English Whiting shading out the glaring sunlight makes the ideal location. Dappled light from deciduous trees overhead and a ‘soft’ morning sunshine position will suit them well. Soil must be enriched and drain well. Peaty soils and most potting mixes are ideal. Stake their brittle stems securely to avoid breakage once they are laden with blooms and foliage. Water moderately but regularly. Feed on sunny mornings with liquid food high in phosphorous and potassium and/or mulch with fluffy compost mixed with a little slow release plant food. Begonia tissues are delicate and easily burn if over-fed. Avoid overwatering! Those grown in containers will need more attention and care than those growing in the partially shaded (morning sun) garden.
Begonia Disease and Pests:
Watch carefully for attack by nearly invisible Mites, Psyallids and Thrip plus Powdery Mildew. These can be very destructive to emerging buds and young growth, especially during dry, extremely hot weather and in the glasshouse or sheltered environment.
Psyllids are perhaps the least invasive insects, but in the ‘right’ environment ((dry and warm) they can be devastating. These are small insects something like an almost invisible flying Cicada. There are many varieties. They lay their eggs on host plant leaves where the larvae (nymphs) hatch and begin to suck the sap from the host. In some varieties of Psyllids tender young foliage is grossly distorted and often discoloured with warty bumps that can ruin the appearance of both blooms and foliage. In more invasive species the Psyllid lerp (‘house’ of the nymph) somewhat resemble a white cone or patches of woolly scale or mealy bug. These nymphs spread quickly to make cottony colonies that are constantly sucking the life out of the host plant. Often plants eventually wither and die. Once attacks begin, the insects are hard to control or eradicate.
The first sign of Thrip is often distorted buds and foliage that discolours or mottles and fades; appears crusty or scarred or starts to distort, dry up or leaves drop prematurely. Growth tips suddenly stunt or wither and buds drop. Tiny insects, as small as the point of a pin, can be seen sometimes on the undersides of the foliage, but many times these are not visible at all. Small black spots (Thrip defecation) sometimes appear on the leaf’s surface. Thrip dislikes wet foliage and can be smothered with oily or soapy solutions and many insecticides.
With Mite infestation symptoms are very similar. The entire plant begins to lose vigour and foliage begins to fade and mottle. Close examination reveals nearly invisible webbing that can be seen amongst the foliage, especially on the backs of the leaves and near the join of leaf stems to the Begonia cane trunk. Mites also enjoy dry and warm conditions in rather still air: these conditions often occur in the glasshouse or beneath the eaves but their populations can explode outdoors in the garden during dry, hot and stressful weather conditions. Spraying over the plants with a fine mist will often better reveal their webs. Tiniest lightly coloured insects can often be seen travelling along the webs somewhat like cars on a complex series of interconnected highways. These are deadly; attack many plant species and spread quickly! Soon they can cover the plant like Humankind infesting the Earth. Treat immediately as for Thrip otherwise the infestation may ruin the plants.
Powdery Mildew and moulds create obvious grey or whitish patches almost like powder over the leaf surface. These patches grow quickly to cover entire leaves. Leaves then fade and yellow then drop prematurely. Poor air circulation and foliage remaining wet through the evening hours often promotes the spread of powdery mildew. Powdery Mildew often attacks whenever the weather remains damp and especially humid and warm. If weather remains excessively damp or the plants are subjected to excessive watering Botrytis, Grey Mould or rot may result.
To control mildew, mould and rot, hobbyist and professional growers usually elect to spray with a systemic fungicide/ insecticide before any of these problems arise which is very effective. Begonias are best sprayed at about the third or fourth leaf stage and again if necessary as first buds begin to show colour.
Organic Growers often spray plants thoroughly with soapy water. Then while the plants are still wet, dust foliage with a mix of equal parts Bicarbonate of Soda (Baking Soda) and powdered Sulphur. This is effective against pest infestation and often eliminates Powdery Mildew infections entirely. Regular misting over and under foliage is also preventative against these insect pests, especially Mites and Trip. But remember that mildew and mould are encouraged whenever foliage remains wet throughout the evening hours.
Tuberous Begonias grown outdoors with the strongest possible indirect sunlight (be careful to avoid sun scald!) combined with regular liquid feeding in enriched, evenly moist and freely draining soil creates the healthiest and robust plants that often are not attacked.
Many early planted Dahlias will be in full bloom or passing their first peak now. These can be cut back as soon as flowers fade. Cut canes back by up to one half their total length and new shoots with more buds will soon replace them. Some Growers elect to cut spent canes right back to the ground as soon as each cane finishes. This encourages the development of entirely new healthy and strong canes that will begin flowering within about 6-8 weeks. Much like Roses, generously fertilize, water-in and mulch Dahlias at the time of pruning to get the very best performance out of them.
Dahlia cane cuttings will often root or strike in a peat/sand propagating mix if kept bright, humid and constantly warm in a terrarium-type environment. Grow these cuttings in containers which are usually held on for planting-out next Spring. Or in climates experiencing mild Winter weather, they can be planted out as soon as roots develop.
Dahlia seed, especially of dwarf bedding varieties can still be sown now and will make rapid progress for Autumn flowering in 8 to 10 weeks time. The seed of the larger decorative varieties will also rocket away when sown now. In subtropical climates these plants might produce a few blooms very late in the season. Most will flower next year from the tubers produced this year. These young tubers are best dug up before the onset of Winter and stored dry with the intention of replanting them again in the Spring.
The final Dahlia tubers can also be started now. These will usually begin flowering in about 3 months and can often produce some of the finest exhibition blooms for Autumn colour, display beds and shows. Dahlias often perform at their very best during the cooler and damper days of Autumn and will continue flowering right up to the first frosts. In frost-free climates they often flower sporadically all Winter.
Pinch out top shoots of Chrysanthemums through Late Summer to make bushy plants and increase bloom. Use a systemic spray and/or dust with copper and/or lime to control blight and rust. Feed with compost mixed with blood and bone, general plant food and dolomite lime spread as a mulch around the plants. Stake tall varieties of Chrysanthemums as stems can become quite brittle. Chrysanthemum cuttings strike very easily and quickly when started now in a standard peat/sand propagating mix maintained in a terrarium-type environment. These cuttings will often produce a small head or spray of flowers in Autumn to Early Winter.
Carnation and Dianthus:
The secret to well-grown garden Carnations is to cut back old spent flower spikes quite severely; at least half their length or right down to the crown. When cutting flowers the best approach is to take a generous long stem right down to just above the crown. This encourages bushy and compact new growth and much better reblooming. If allowed to grow on naturally without pinching and pruning, plants soon become floppy, sprawling and vegetative. Sometimes the lower basal growth of these cut stems will strike when grown-on in a terrarium-type environment.
Feed the cut back plants with a well-balance liquid plant food or slow release granule. They respond very well to applications of Dolomite Lime or Garden Lime. Blooms are often improved with the addition of phosphate in a liquid form. Superphosphate granules are also acceptable but keep them away from the plant crowns as they can become corrosive as they dissolve. Maintain even watering and an airy and very bright environment. They thrive in full sunshine with excellent drainage. New growth and flowering will often commence within a month or more.
Some Dianthus perennial species will not reflower so well (if at all) this season but will then spread to make a carpet of new growth for next season’s flowering. Often there will be many more flowers the following year.
Mid Summer is an excellent time to start Carnations and Dianthus from seed. Their seed germinates much faster and more successfully in summery heat. These seedlings will be ready to plant out into the Autumn garden in 6-8 weeks. Some of them might flower in the sunny Winter glasshouse. Otherwise, these will be prized blooms for the next Late Spring and Summer,
Annual Dianthus varieties will bloom late this growing season if it is long enough; otherwise they will make a great show starting next Spring. In colder climates provide protective mulch against wintry freezing or move them indoors into the cool winter glasshouse. Most varieties will grow-on and begin flowering (in the glasshouse) in Late Winter (outdoors in mild climates) and all species will flower next Spring and Summer.
Often Carnations and Dianthus take up to 20 weeks of growth before they reach maturity. Advanced container plants or rooted cuttings can be set out now and will start flowering sometimes within a few weeks or more until stopped by wintry weather. In the glasshouse, they can be expected to bloom in succession all Winter.