The Full Waxing Moon ascends very high in Southern Hemisphere skies as it reaches its fullest. This brings the longest moonlight of the year as well as a very bright, small and white Full Moon (sidereal Sagittarius) 9 July. This is the peak of Mid Winter. After that date, the Moon begins to descend in Southern Hemisphere skies and continues to move away to the North until 21 July. As the Moon’s orbit pulls away to the north, its gravitational pull is likely to drag a strong south or south-westerly Antarctic air flow with it that can result in wintry blasts, freezes and frosts, especially for traditionally exposed locations.
What can be accomplished now in the Mid Winter garden is largely dependent upon the weather and the climate zone. In the colder climate zones and wherever wintry weather is persistently snowy or wet, far less can be accomplished outdoors. But between inclement spells and wherever the climate is benevolent and milder, Mid Winter can be a busy time. This is especially true in mild temperate and subtropical zones.
A Turning Point:
This Full Moon is the turning point when the seasonal trend starts heading toward Spring. Greatest Moonlight combined with slightly longer day length will trigger signs of Spring from now onward. The gravitational power of this ascended Full Moon will also be excellent for liquid feeding all existing plantings right throughout the day all week.
Traditionally, the Full Moon also is the turning point between the Waxing and Waning Moon Cycles. The peak Moon ascension in Southern Hemisphere skies combined with these other ‘turning points’ makes this week potentially a very good one for planting and sowing all hardy annual and perennial flowers as well as a variety of hardy vegetables. Water retention will remain high.
For successful germination, keep soil as warm as possible; very well-drained; sheltered from chill winds, frost and freezing. Bright light, preferably strong sun light, is essential!
Seed will be very slow to germinate outdoors in cold conditions and may well rot in cold, wet soil. Germination will be much faster and more successful under glass with bottom heat; in a cold frame or glasshouse; beneath a cloche or on a sunny, warm window sill indoors.
Plant or Sow These Hardy Flower Seedlings and Seeds Now
North (mild climate):
Aquilegia, Alyssum, Anemone (seed),Bellis perennis (English Daisy), Calendula, Candytuft, Carnation, Delphinium, Dianthus, Digitalis (Foxglove), Forget-Me-Not, Godetia, Gypsophila, Hollyhock, Honesty (Lunaria), Kochia, Larkspur, Linaria, Linum, Lobelia, Matricaria, Mignonette, Pansy, Statice, Sweet Pea, Tanacetum, Viola, Violets.
South (cold climate):
All of the above but only attempt sowing seed under shelter; cold frames; glass/glasshouse or cloches with extra drainage and preferably bottom heat.
A wide variety of hardy perennial plants can also be planted from containers or divided and shifted now wherever climatic conditions permit. This is best accomplished in mild climates with limited frosts or ground freezing. In colder climates where severe frosts may freeze the soil, wait a while until the weather warms closer to Spring or cover all plantings with protective mulch.
Many of these perennials can also be started from seed.
Perennials that can be sown, shifted or transplanted throughout the month include:
Achillea, Aconitum, Agapanthus, Alstroemaria, Anchusa, Anemone japonica, Aquilegia, Arabis, Arctotis, Asters, Astilbe, Aubrieta, Billbergia, Boltonia, Bocconia (Plume Poppy), Campanulas, Canna, Carnations, Centranthus, Chrysanthemum and Marguerite, Cistus, Clivia, Coreopsis, Delphinium, Dianthus, Dicentra (Bleeding Heart), Dictamnus, Dimorphotheca (Veldt Daisy), Doronicum (Leopard Bane), Echinacea (Coneflower), Echinops, Erigeron, Felicia, Gaillardia, Gazania, Geranium, gerbera, Geum, Gypsophila, Heleniums (Sunflowers), Heliopsis (False Sunflower), Heliotrope, Helleborus (Winter Rose), Hemerocallis (Day Lily), Heuchera (Coral Bells), Hosta, Iberis, Inula (Horse Heal), Iris (most varieties), Kniphofia (varieties not in flower now shift best), Lupin, Lychnis, Lythrum, Michaelmas Daisy, Monarda Bee Balm), Montbretia, Nepeta (Cat Mint), Oenothera (Prairie Primrose), Pelargonium, Penstemon, Peony, Petasites (Butterbur), Phlox (wait until early spring for P. paniculata), Polyanthus, Poppies, Potentilla, Primula, Pyrethrum, Physalis (Lantern Flower), Rudbeckia, Salvias, Saxifraga, Scabiosa, Schizostylis (Kaffir Lily),Sildacea (Checkerbloom), Solidago (Goldenrod), Statice, Sternbergia (Autumn Daffodil), Thalictrum, Verbascum, Verbena, Veronica and many more.
Perennials usually need average to enriched soil that drains well but always retains some content of moisture. Many grow well in large pots and tubs. As a general rule, the larger the container, the better, as perennials soon outgrow smaller containers. This means they will require much more watering later on in the season when they are advanced in size. Just one missed watering on a hot day can often destroy their buds and ruin months of care. But this is much less likely to happen when planted in large tubs with a substantial area of soil that will naturally retain more moisture.
This ability of perennials to survive in containers is especially helpful wherever garden soil is heavy or poorly draining or garden space is limited. Whenever possible, allow their roots to grow through the drainage holes of the tub into the ground beneath it. The tub will shade the soil underneath it which will remain moist. This provides the perennials with good drainage as well as ample moisture so they should thrive and also avoid crown rot.
Many perennials need full sunshine but will tolerate partial shade especially if they are kept a bit drier. Growing them in containers placed over open ground often accomplished the extra drainage they need. Gaillardia and Gazania are classic examples of perennials that demand perfect drainage and strong sunshine to thrive. When planted into ground that could even occasionally become wet and/or partly shaded they often rot. But when grown in tubs with generous drainage holes they can tolerate much more wet weather as the excess water drains away. Plus because they drain perfectly they can tolerate some shade and soon cascade over the sides of their container and still produce a blaze of colour as if in full sunshine.
Continue sowing seed of vegetables that produce their crops above ground including all leafy vegetables very early in the week. They will respond best if planted or sown before the Full Moon (9 July). But because of the benevolence of this Full Moon, most likely anything planted or sown this week will have a good chance to be successful. If attempting to plant anything outdoors, advanced seedlings have a much better chance of survival than anything flimsy. Most seedlings purchased from a garden centre will have been grown in the protective shelter of a warm glasshouse environment and/or have been very sheltered. Give these at least a week to acclimatize outdoors in a fairly sheltered spot near to where they will be eventually planted. This will give them the opportunity to ‘harden-off’ to true outdoor conditions before being transplanted into the garden and thus probably eliminate the potential shock that could see them collapse.
Seed of root crop vegetables can be sown all week. These seedlings will germinate after the Full Moon but should still have time to develop a long and strong tap root during the Waning Moon Cycle that follows. Traditionally root crop vegetables are planted or sown after the Full Moon (9 July) and until the New Moon (23 July), so keep on planting and sowing.
Plant hardy root crops like:
Chives, Garlic, Shallots, Onions, Kohlrabi (actually an enlarged stem rather than a root), Radish, Swedes and Turnips; also Asparagus crowns. These vegetables must be planted in a very sunny site with good air circulation and excellent drainage.
Vegetables to Plant Now Include:
Asparagus; Broad Bean, Cabbages, Carrot, Cauliflower, Celery, Cress, heading Lettuce (in mild climates) and leaf Lettuce (frost-free or under glass) plus Mustard; Chives, Garlic, hardy Herbs and all varieties of Mint, Horse Radish, Jerusalem Artichoke, Onions of all varieties, Radish, Shallots, Rhubarb, Spinach (mild climates), Swedes, Turnips and Peas. Sprout Potatoes now to ensure an early harvest.
Tender Vegetables to Sow Under Cover:
Most tender warm season crops can be sown now for later transplanting once weather warms in Spring. Included here are: Cape Gooseberry, Capsicums and all Peppers, Cucumber, Egg Plant, Marrow and Squash, Melons, Pumpkins, Tomatoes and most subtropical vegetables like Kumara and Taro.
It is only worth attempting to sow tender warm weather vegetable seeds if you have a very bright and sunny, consistently warm position like a heated glasshouse or indoor position with strong artificial lighting to supplement the rather dim natural sun light. These seeds will germinate quickly if temperatures remain above 70F/21C. But unless lighting is very strong, they will quickly draw upwards, stretch and become so weakened that they will never become strong plants. To be successful these young seedlings must remain stocky.
Root Crop Secrets:
For the finest root crops deeply dig in a good balanced General Plant Food (20-20-20) and make sure the ground has been enriched especially with extra Potassium (Sulphate of Potash or untreated wood ashes). Add extra drainage materials like river gravel or sand, pumice or granulated bark wherever land is heavy or poorly drained. Adding copious drainage materials, especially washed sand, worked deeply into the ground can greatly increase the quality and size of many root crop vegetables. If the ground is just too heavy to realistically lighten, consider raising the beds on mounds or mounded rows of earth; plant on sloping sites or within landscape boxes placed over the open ground to improve drainage. This drainage and sunshine is especially important with vegetable bulbs like Chives, Garlic, Onion and Shallot.
Keep Feeding Regularly!
Vegetable crops already established in the garden should get a side dressing of fertiliser to keep them growing strongly. Liquid feeding this week can be very beneficial! Cultivate lightly but frequently throughout the vegetable beds.
Shrub and Tree Planting:
Now through early Spring is the best time to plant or transplant a wide range of bare-root and container-grown ornamental brambles and canes, fruit trees, deciduous shrubs, trees and vines; hardy species native to Australia, the Mediterranean, New Zealand and South Africa.
This is also a classic time to plant from containers or dig and shift: Azaleas, Camellias, Daphne, Pieris japonica, Osmanthus, Rhododendrons, Roses and many other hardy ornamentals.
This is an excellent time to start planting Roses! Especially in mild and temperate regions that experience little if any ground freezing. Make sure that planting holes are generously wide as well as deep. Partially file the planting hole with mature compost and/or well-aged manure. Dig this thoroughly into the existing soil.
- Avoid over feeding or adding too much compost which can adversely affect the Rose bush from becoming well established. Roses prefer loamy soil like pasture land and often do well in rather heavy soil, even clay soils provided they drain well.
In very poor soil that drains well, it is permissible to put a very small handful of Rose Fertiliser into the planting hole and possibly a small amount of Lime in acid soils with a low pH. But dig and mix this in well before planting. Water this in well and, if possible, leave the land to ‘cure’ for upwards of a week before planting. Make sure that a layer of fresh, unfertilised soil at least 1inch/2.5cm deep covers the chemically fertilised ground beneath at planting time. If chemical fertilisers come in contact with emerging, tender roots this might result in burning. Be warned! Chemical root burn is a classic cause of failure in newly-planted Rose bushes! Always plant bare-root Roses with the graft exposed above the ground, and then water in well.
Roses can be grown successfully in containers. But much like perennials, these should be large pots or tubs that will retain a balance of moisture at all times. Roses are easily started in planter bags and small containers. There they will grow-on happily for several months. But once they gain enough size to begin blooming their root system becomes so extensive that they require significant watering; often at least once a day plus a lot of liquid feeding! This is not only hard work for the Gardener who literally becomes a slave to their watering requirements, but it begins to put undue stress on the Rose that usually results in blight or disease. Plus miss watering on just one dry and hot day and there go all the leaves and buds that took months to produce. Do yourself a favour and grow Roses in the ground.
Spring is on the Way!
Because the days are already beginning to very subtly lengthen and sunlight is intensifying, plants will begin to sense this. The added benefit of this week’s ascending Full Moon further enhances this. Soon early signs of Spring will begin to show in sheltered corners, especially in the warmest regions.
Watch for the first simple white blossoms of Japanese Plum Prunus salicina, and the very showy and sweetly fragrant Prunus mume, the Japanese Apricot or Chinese Plum also known as Ume (Oo’-may) and the delicate double, fluffy pink or white blooms of the flowering Almonds Prunus triloba and Prunus glandulosa. Magnolia stellata and other species; early Aconite and Crocus; Galanthus (Snowdrop), Leucojum (Snowflake) and early Narcissus all start now in warmer corners. These are the true heralds that mark the real beginning of Spring in Living Earth time.
‘Third Week in the Mid Winter Garden’ entry ‘Bring Springtime Indoors Now’ to discover a list of shrubbery flowers that could be cut and forced into early bloom indoors. A vase full of early Spring blossom is a great way to brighten the dreariest wintry day.
Complete the pruning of deciduous fruit and nut trees and vines as soon as possible.
Avoid the temptation to become complacent and trust the calendar. The Moon placement in August and September this year suggests an early arrival of Spring weather. Once sap begins to rise, it can bleed from the open cuts. This can be particularly damaging to Grape and Kiwi Fruit vines and sometimes to Prunus species (Apricot, Almond, Cherry and Plum) and selected ornamental shrubbery. Seal all wounds 1inch/2.5cm or larger with tree paint to help stop this bleeding and to keep borer away from the open cut.
Continue pruning conifers, hedges and non-spring-flowering ornamentals, also fruit trees and cane and bramble fruits and fruit vines. Thin out diseased and weaken growth to allow more air and sunlight to reach the centre of shrubs and trees. Make a good job of symmetrically shaping hedges and all other pruned species as they will remain in this shape until Spring growth fills them out. Avoid cutting off too much growth that might expose the sensitive interior or crown of the plant to freezing.
Give houseplants very little water or food now until weather warms in Spring unless indoor temperatures remain above 15 C/59F degrees at all times. Guard carefully that tender houseplants are not exposed to chilling drafts which can push through thin glass, around window and door frames plus along floors. Plants can be double potted to avoid this chill. Simply put the plant pot inside a larger (possibly decorative) container.
Forced Spring-flowering bulb pots should be ready to bring indoors for early colour. Many may already be in bloom. Keep them lightly moist and liquid fed. Place them in bright light but in cool positions. If they remain in warm rooms, especially in the evening hours, they will quickly finish flowering. Once they do finish blooming, keep liquid feeding and grow-on the foliage until it naturally begins to yellow-off and wither. It is this foliage that will produce the energy and food for next year’s bloom. If they can be placed outdoors in a frost-free and sunny location to grow-on this would be even better.
Mid Winter is a great time to plant Lilies. Most varieties are excellent in containers; especially the Asiatic and Longiflorum (Christmas Lilies) plus all dwarf and most LA (Longiflorum-Asiatic hybrids) plus OT (Oriental-Trumpet) hybrids. Asiatic, Longiflorum and dwarf varieties can be planted into fairly small containers and quite near the surface. But most larger and taller LA, OT and all Oriental hybrids produce bulbils and roots above as well as below the bulb and up the stem. So these should be planted deeper in the soil and into deeper and larger containers or tubs. This is especially important for Regale Lilies and all Oriental Hybrids.
Lilies most enjoy having their bulb base in shade but their blooms and stems in full sunshine or morning sunshine with at least a little shade during the hottest part of the day. Darker shaded flowers or delicate varieties often fade or scorch if exposed to excessive heat and sunlight. But in most parts of New Zealand Lilies thrive best in strong light, acid soils (avoid Lime in any form!) and perfect drainage.
This Third Week in the Mid Winter Garden 2017:
The Waning Moon Cycle deepens into the Last Quarter Moon and ‘Dark of the Moon’ 19 July. The Moon continues to descend in Southern Hemisphere skies. Weather permitting, this is a good week for planting anything dormant and hardy: hardy annual and perennial flowers, especially those with a tap root or needing a period of root development; hardy root crop vegetables; deciduous brambles and canes; fruit and nut shrubs and trees; most hardy ornamental shrubs, trees and vines; Roses; conifers and hardy broad leafed evergreens; most hardy species native to Australia, the Mediterranean/Middle East, New Zealand, South Africa and temperate North America.
Times like these are often well suited to designing, planning and researching future gardens. Inclement weather is an excellent opportunity for reading and writing. Buy or order necessary equipment, fertilisers and sprays; bulbs and seeds; annuals, perennials, fruiting and ornamental shrubs, trees and vines for later planting. Weather permitting these ‘Dark of the Moon’ celestial extremes makes this an excellent time for laying foundations and paving; setting posts and building fences. Lowered water retention makes this an excellent time to gather and cut (fire) wood. Because the garden is basically dormant, this can be a good time to explore and travel, perhaps to warmer destinations or a holiday in the snow.
The Sun is Returning!
As the Sun begins its slow journey back toward the Southern Hemisphere, the days start to become a little longer and sunlight slowly intensifies. Humankind is often the last to know, but Birds are already pairing and preparing for the advent of Spring. Plants also begin to sense this subtle change long before us. Plant sap begins to rise and new growth begins to stir in mild climates and sheltered corners.
Bring Springtime Indoors Now:
Buds begin to swell and early blossoms emerge in the most sheltered corners. This is an excellent time to cut bare branches from early Spring-flowering shrubs and trees. First cut 1-2m/3-6ft healthy robust canes from the top or sunny side of the plant. Do this on a sunny and warm day. Choose branches with lots of fat, round flower buds (thin pointed buds are leaf buds). Submerge these branches in warm water for a few hours. Then re-cut each stem on a slant, or split the cut end of each stem (1-2in/2.5-5cm) or smash the end with a hammer.
This helps the woody stem draw up water. Place the stems in a container of deep water like a bucket or deep vase. Put this into a cool spot out of sunlight and cover with a plastic bag or mist regularly if relative humidity is low. Change water frequently and/or put a teaspoon of bleach in the water to keep it pure. Adding a small amount of liquid fertiliser to the clean water will promote better flower bud development. When buds begin to open in 1-6 weeks bring out into the sunlight in a cool, bright room and enjoy a lovely vase of Early Spring blossom!
Many spring-flowering ornamental shrubs and trees can be easily forced into early bloom.
Almond, Apple, Azalea, Cherry, Crab Apple, Forsythia, Japanese Flowering Quince (Chaenomeles), Pear, Plum, Pussy Willow, Rhododendron, Winter Sweet (Chimonanthus), Witch Hazel and almost any other Spring-flowering shrub or tree.
Complete the pruning of deciduous fruit and nut trees and vines as soon as possible. Once sap begins to rise, it can bleed from the open cuts. This can be particularly damaging to Grape and Kiwi Fruit vines and sometimes to Prunus species (Apricot, Almond, Cherry and Plum). Seal all wounds 1inch/2.5cm or larger with tree paint to help stop this bleeding and to keep borer away from the open cut.
In colder climates there is still plenty of time to complete Winter pruning. But this year the Winter season could be somewhat milder and shorter than normal. Whenever weather permits, try and accomplish a little bit more just in case we are Blessed with an early Spring.
The Waning Moon Cycle is an ideal time to plant or sow for root development. It is an excellent time to plant or pot dormant bulbs, especially Lilies and pre-cooled Spring Flowering bulbs. Very best days are when the Moon is in front of sidereal Taurus 19-21 July.
This week is an acceptable time to plant anything completely dormant.
root or container-grown deciduous and ornamental Fruit and Nut Trees; Citrus (mild climates); Brambles and Cane fruits; fruiting and ornamental shrubs and vines like Grape and Kiwi Fruit; hardy Broad-Leafed Evergreens, and Conifers; dormant bulbs such as Chives, Garlic, Onions and Shallot, Lilies and pre-refrigerated Spring Flowering bulbs; Roses; dormant roots such as Asparagus, Horseradish and Rhubarb.
Mid Winter represents the deepest dormancy for bare-root and deciduous species so they are most reliably re-established with little chance of loss. But because celestial forces increase all week, be cautious that everything is well watered-in and that there is minimal damage to the plants’ branch structure and its root system. Stake anything vulnerable to whipping about in wintry winds. If dry and/or windy weather persists be sure to water around all newly planted specimens to keep them from drying out.
Broad-leafed Evergreens and Native Species:
Wherever conditions remain moderate to subtropical, this is also an acceptable time to plant from containers a wide variety of hardy species native to Australia, the Mediterranean, New Zealand and South Africa. Many of these prefer quite well-drained soil and most prefer a sunny or partly sunny position. Also plant Azalea, Camellia, Daphne, Holly, Pieris japonica, Osmanthus, Rhododendron and cold tolerant annuals and perennials.
Be sure to stake at planting time anything that might otherwise whip about in the Winter winds! Always water in deeply and thoroughly at the time of planting to eliminate air pockets in the soil and insure the plants root system is thoroughly moist. After that keep the surrounding soil moist should rains fail or weather remain very windy. But avoid over-watering in cold conditions and never plant into sodden or soggy wet soil. Many of these plant varieties prefer rather dry-moist situations and often rot in flooded soil. Weather permitting, good planting days occur throughout the week.
Celestial extremes slowly increase this week and especially early next week approaching the New Moon (23 July). Avoid shifting already established plantings or anything temperamental and tender during those celestial extremes. Wait to shift things like that until after the New Moon. When shifting established plantings there will be inevitable and possibly extreme root damage and disturbance plus removal of some top growth when they are shifted. If they are to be moved this week insure that they receive the best after care especially during the next couple of weeks.
Winter Cover Crops:
In vegetable gardens and flower beds that have been planted with Winter cover crops (Barley, Lupin, Mustard, Rye, Wheat, etc.) now is the earliest time to start digging in these ‘green manure’ crops to enrich soil.
Many Gardeners also dust the ground with Dolomite/Lime and possibly soil additives such as: Blood and Bone; General Garden Fertiliser; Super Phosphate, etc. depending upon what crops or flowers will be grown next. Dig these in deeply but leave the soil rather rough. Leave the ground to stand for several weeks before planting. This will allow soil aeration and time for the green manure crops to decay and the soil additives to break down so their nutrient value can seep into the surrounding soil.
Protect delicate plantings outdoors from chilling and icy winds, freezing and hail. Burlap shelters stop wind even better than most commercial windbreak. Damage from heavy frost can be controlled by overlaying sensitive plantings with evergreen boughs; books or loose piles of hay, straw or leaves. Even cardboard sheets and books of newspaper work provided they can be pinned into place so as not to blow about in windy weather. For solitary plants a simple cardboard box inverted over the plant will offer good protection. Old bed sheets, light blankets and commercial frost cloth also effectively protect against heavy frosts. All of these are most effective when they are lifted slightly above the plant to create a dead air space.
Regularly ‘fluff-up organic mulches like leaves and straw to keep them from packing down. Support sheets or frost cloth on low stakes or drape over a frame or loose array of bare branches placed amongst the sensitive plantings. Avoid plastic as a frost protection unless it can be suspended above the plants and not touch them, otherwise the condensation collecting beneath the plastic will freeze and transfer the frost through the plastic and damage the plants.
In milder temperate climates experiencing infrequent or lighter frosts and freezes, another method of freeze and frost protection is to spray all sensitive plants periodically with a systemic liquid fertiliser high in organic chemical salts. Once the fertiliser salts absorb into the plant tissues, this will lower the freezing point of all liquid in the plant sap which can prove very beneficial on very cold evenings. This is most effective when combined with frost cloth or other frost protection.
Gardeners near the coast should remember that sea salt spray can also be damaging. Even when temperatures remain above freezing, salt carried by strong winds can expose plants to rarefied air that is extremely chilling and can actually desiccate foliage as dramatically as severe freezing. The best method of protection is to create cloth or hessian wind shelters that will absorb salt spray as well as provide essential wind protection. Regularly hose off all plantings exposed to salt-laden winds. This will remove most of the salt that can draw moisture out of the foliage. Be generous and thorough so that all excessive salt is removed and drains away rather than collecting within the soil.
Lots of General Gardening to Accomplish Now:
Spray Citrus (use Copper/Citrus/Lime-Sulphur Sprays) and deciduous Fruit Trees (use Commercial Fruit Tree Spray, Copper; Lime-Sulphur) plus Roses (Copper, Lime-Sulphur or Commercial Rose Spray) and optionally Fruiting Vines (use Copper-based products, Commercial Fruit Tree Spray) when weather remains dry. Lime Sulphur is often applied now as a spray to eliminate lichen from deciduous shrubs, trees and vines.
Control Disease & Pests:
Guard tender buds and emerging shoots against Slug and Snails! These pests often spread fungus and rots. Be prepared to spray susceptible plantings to protect everything from diseases especially during inclement wetter wintry times.
Winter is not traditionally considered a time for Slug and Snail predation; and it isn’t in colder climates. But in milder climate zones, especially when temperatures moderate and weather becomes wet, Snails and especially Slugs often emerge and quickly do incredible damage.
Many Slug and Snail colonies live within piles of organic debris, old wood piles, under paving and stones or walls. They often live within bushy, dense and leafy plantings such as evergreen perennials. Slugs and Snails often create colonies within the shelter of strap-like leaves like Agapanthus, Hemerocallis, and Flax. To help eliminate this potentially devastating problem, excellent Slug traps can be made by simply inverting flower pots, empty seedling punnets, damp boards, books of newspaper or sheets of cardboard leaned closely against a host plant or wall in the garden or simply left in a strategic spot in the affected garden area. Every few days, lift up the trap(s) and eliminate anything inhabiting inside. They can be crushed or dropped into a solution of salty water. If a bird feeder is nearby but far enough away from vulnerable garden beds, the Slugs and Snails can be left there during sunny days if birds are feeding.
Remember to lay baits nearby tender plantings like shoots of emerging bulbs and perennials plus Orchids, especially Cymbidium, Dendrobium and Slipper Orchids that are developing bud spikes. Dropping baits directly into the centres of these leaves habitated by Slugs and Snails will often kill off many. But be aware when using poisonous baits that it is essential to collect corpses every day before Birds and Hedgehogs or pets can eat them.
Cultivate lightly for better drainage and continue to clean up around all Fruit Trees and Fruiting Vines as well as garden beds and borders. Whenever weather permits, lightly cultivate all garden beds. This will aerate the soil and expose the ground to sunlight which will help eliminate disease and fungus spores. Remove all weeds before they can mature and seed. Thorough weeding now will make gardening much easier once Spring arrives.
Aerate lawns with a garden fork if frequent rains have compressed the soil. This is especially important if water pools or sits for any period of time on the lawn. Lawns can also be fed if grass is yellowing. This can be a special lawn fertiliser or substitute Garden Lime. Wherever drainage is poor this is an excellent time to generously dust the lawn with Gypsum Lime. Water this in to the consistency of milk and then let it settle into the soil. In the months to come the Gypsum will open the soil and allow better drainage.
Stake against wind:
Citrus may need to have their branches staked if they are heavily laden with fruit. Any newly planted shrub, tree and vine must be staked to avoid potential roots damage from whipping about in wintry winds.
Compost and Feed:
While cultivating, consider spreading small but frequent applications of a General Garden Fertilizer plus compost mixed in the proportion of one cup of fertiliser to one standard bucket of compost. Alternate the next application a week or later with a cup of Lime (Dolomite) mixed into a standard bucket of compost. This can be dug in lightly or simply leave it on the soil and allow the wintry weather to do the rest. This enriched compost mulch can be spread around most plants which will help maintain growth and plant health in cold weather. Remember to avoid Lime applications around acid loving plants like Blueberry, Azalea, Camellia, Daphne, Gardenia, Luculia, Pieris, Osmanthus, Rhododendron species, etc.
Winter flowers, emerging bulbs and cool-season vegetables can be top-dressed with a similar mix of compost mixed and General Garden Fertiliser or Slow Release Plant Food. As spring-flowering bulb shoots emerge, they can also be side-dressed with special Bulb Fertilizer which will encourage stronger growth, better blooms and multiplication of bulbs for the years ahead. They can also be liquid fed on sunny, mild days.
Prepare garden beds for future planting. Whenever soil is workable, new land and/or fallow beds can be turned and enriched with compost, green-manure, well-aged manure, Lime, General Garden Fertiliser mixed in with Blood and Bone, etc. once enriched and turned, the land can be left in a rough state. Let it stand to “cure” for at least a week or more before considering any sort of planting. Many Gardeners will leave the land in an enriched but rough state until weather improves for later Spring planting.
Glasshouse & House Plants:
Houseplants and tender (sub) tropical species should be kept rather dry, sunny, warm and underfed now. Guard against frost, freezing and wind chill. Remember that frigid air can creep through uninsulated walls and windows or draft along the floor. It can also descend like an icy waterfall through glass or plastic in a glass or tunnel house.
Keeping air moving with a simple fan will help eliminate the potential damage of chilling drafts.
- Avoid watering on cloudy cold days. Tender plants survive cold temperatures much better when soil remains rather dry.
In heated glasshouses and/or with soil heating cables start cuttings for the Late Spring and Summer gardens.
Easy plants to strike from cuttings include:
Begonias, Carnations, Chrysanthemums, Dianthus, Daisies (Ox-Eye, Pyrethrum, Shasta, etc.), Fuchsias, most Herbs, Pelargonium (Geraniums), Phlox, Salvia, Senecio, Succulents and Cacti, and most perennials.
The week begins with the Last Quarter Full Waning ‘Dark of the Moon’ and at perigee (closest position to the Earth for the month) 22 July. Gravitational pull and tidal extremes will increase during this time. The Moon also reaches its peak ascension and turning point in Northern Hemisphere skies 22 July; so at its lowest position and least potent for the month in Southern Hemisphere skies. Thus the main power of this New Moon hits the Northern Hemisphere and somewhat spares Southern Hemisphere Gardeners. The true beginning of Late Winter arrives with the New Moon (23 July). The remainder of the week begins the Waxing Moon Cycle and starts the important Late Winter Planting Cycle.
‘Dark of the Moon’ is an ideal time to: cut fire wood; build all manner of things; set fence posts, lay foundations and rock work plus anything else that needs to ‘anchor’ itself firmly into the soil. Remove and spray unwanted brush, scrub and other unwanted vegetation. Prune and trim to keep things shapely and tidy; mow lawns to keep them short for longer.
Weather permitting, this is the time to: cultivate, weed and fertilize garden beds. Build and turn compost piles and spread mature compost and aged manures. Wherever soil looks green and mossy now is the time to dust over the land with some form of lime. Gypsum lime is neutral pH so works well around acid-loving plants like Azaleas, Daphne, and Rhododendron plus helps improve drainage. Wherever water is standing on lawns, Gypsum generously scattered over the area will help to open the land and correct this drainage problem.
Celestial extremes are strongest early in the week around the days surrounding the New Moon (23 July). Avoid shifting already established plantings or anything tender during those celestial extremes. If possible, wait to shift established plantings until after the New Moon. When shifting established plantings there will be inevitable and possibly extreme root damage and disturbance plus removal of some top growth when they are shifted. If they must be moved this week insure that they receive the best after care.
Following the passing of the New Moon (23 July) begins the Late Winter planting cycle. Weather permitting, this is the time to plant or shift a variety of dormant ornamental groundcovers, hardy annual flowers and perennials; brambles and cane fruits; Roses; bare root or container grown deciduous ornamental shrubs, trees and hardy vines plus a variety of bulbs and vegetables that produce their crops above the ground, especially leafy vegetables.; fruit and nut shrubs and trees; conifers and hardy broad leafed evergreens; most hardy species native to Australia, the Mediterranean/Middle East, New Zealand, South Africa and North and Western North America.
This week is an acceptable time to sow the seed of hardy vegetables and seeds that can be difficult to germinate like Broad Beans and Peas. After the New Moon and onward through the Full Moon plant or sow most hardy leafy (Brassica Family) vegetables including: Cabbages, Chinese Cabbages and Green Vegetables, Cress, and Mustard plus Rhubarb; and in mild climates without severe freezing plant Broccoli and Cauliflower, too.
In sheltered mild garden climates or in the glasshouse or cold frame continue to sow succession vegetables like Lettuce and Spinach. Heading Lettuces are often at their very best when sown now provided they will not be victim to rouge freezing or frosts. Parsley seed can be started, too.
All seed will start much more successfully with bottom heat or in a bright and warm glasshouse or very sheltered cold frame. Seed sown beneath sheltering cloches should also germinate successfully provided severe freezing does not occur. Avoid sowing into exposed, wet ground or seed will most likely rot. Also be aware that birds and rodents are very hungry at this time of year so will quickly devour both seed and tender seedlings if given the opportunity.
Peas can also go in now. Choose the warmest and most sheltered ground. The site must be sunny! Winter Peas will not tolerate less than full sunshine. Where ground is very cold and sodden try planting between sheets of weed mat or black plastic or significantly mound or raise the bed. Cultivate, feed and weed lightly but frequently. Some Gardeners first dig deeply, adding extra drainage materials, enrich with compost and well-aged manure, and dig these in forming an enriched trench; then plant Pea seed into the bottom of this rather deep trench. This provides a little extra soil warmth and the trench can easily be covered-over with frost cloth or evergreen boughs whenever nights become very cold. Then as the Pea shoots begin to grow, the trench is slowly back-filled around the shoots. Later in the season this will benefit the maturing Peas with a deeper and moister root-run.
Sweet Peas can also be started in exactly the same way. The largest and most productive Sweet Peas are often planted during the Autumn in mild climates experiencing no worse than minor frosts. Otherwise they are often grown in the glasshouse. But Gardeners in all but the coldest climates can successful start Sweet Pea seed outdoors now onward through Spring by using the trenching method. This ensures they will get a deeply-rooted early start for maximum growth once warmer weather arrives. Remember to guard them from Slugs, Snails and hungry Birds all of which find emerging Sweet Pea quite delectable.
Aquilegia, Alyssum, Anemone (seed/tubers),Bellis perennis (English Daisy), Calendula, Candytuft, Carnation, Delphinium, Dianthus, Digitalis (Foxglove), Forget-Me-Not, Godetia, Gypsophila, Hollyhock, Honesty (Lunaria), Kochia, Larkspur, Linaria, Linum, Lobelia, Matricaria, Mignonette, Pansy, Ranunculus (seedlings/tubers), Shirley Poppy and most other varieties, Statice, Sweet Pea, Tanacetum, Viola, Violets and more locally.
All of the above but only attempt sowing seed under shelter, cold frames, glass/glasshouse or cloches with extra drainage and preferably bottom heat.
Start annuals, perennials and vegetables for the Spring and Summer garden from seed in warm, sheltered spots indoors, in the glasshouse, sunroom or sunny window sill. Seed starts much faster with warming bottom heat. In the mildest climates, such seed might germinate in very sheltered corners outdoors but guard carefully that the seed/seedlings to not chill or become excessively wet. Seedlings started now can be planted out in about 6-8 weeks time or longer once weather warms and all danger of frost has passed.
Cultivate, weed and feed garden beds lightly but frequently. It is important to remove all weeds now before they can set seed. This will make Spring planting much easier. Cultivating frequently allows air and ultraviolet sunlight to penetrate the ground. This helps sterilize and kill off fungal spores and keeps the soil from becoming compacted and sour.
This is an ideal time to make a head start on preparing garden beds and lawns for later planting. Whenever weather permits turn soil and leave it rough to break down in the wintry weather ahead. Green manure cover crops can be dug in at this time. Compost, granular fertilisers, Lime and well-aged manure can also be spread over the land either before or after turning. Allow these to weather into the soil over the coming weeks before real planting conditions arrive.
If the land is sticky clay, heavy loam or poorly drained, add extra drainage materials like river gravel or sand, pumice or granulated bark. Round gravel or sand is much preferable to angular, sharp stones that could lock together with the clay to produce something similar to concrete. Round drainage materials will ‘roll’ in the soil; allowing air, fertiliser and water plus plant roots to move more freely through the soil.
Generously dust over this with Gypsum to help open the heavy land and improve drainage. Other ways to overcome poorly draining land include: raised beds or landscape boxes placed over the open ground; generous mounds of good soil or mounded rows of earth over the heavy land; or perhaps even transforming the planting area into a sloping site.
Top-dress around winter flowers, vegetables, emerging Bulbs and perennials with mature compost, well-aged manure and/or a General Garden Fertiliser or Slow Release Plant Food. Continue to guard against Slugs and Snails.
Dusting flowers and vegetables with Garden Lime helps prevent fungal attack. But be prepared to spray with a stronger fungicide if problems persist as problems spread quickly in cold, wet conditions. Cultivating beds lightly helps reduce moss, mould and slim that can harbor bacterial and fungal infections. Liquid feed winter flowers and vegetables on sunny mornings or side-dress with a fertiliser high in Phosphate, Potash and Lime mixed with compost. Alternatively, use a similar ratio Systemic Fertiliser. The advantage with Systemic Fertilisers is that they absorb nearly instantly into plant tissues. This produces faster results and also helps lower the freezing point of plant tissues with accordingly improves plant health.
Continue to liquid feed and dead-head outdoor potted colour or early potted flowers as well as garden beds to bring out the best blooms. Keep the plants growing strongly now for the best show. Remember that the soil in container-grown plants is much more vulnerable to freezing than the same plants grown in the ground. Never let soil freeze in these containers or plant collapse or rot may follow. If outdoor flower beds show signs of fungal attack, now is the best time to spray with a systemic fungicide or dust over plantings with powdered Copper and Lime.
Liquid feed potted colour to keep them flowering and growing strongly. Remove old blooms and pinch back flowering stems as they fade to keep the plants producing more buds and blooms. Keep most indoor potted colour in a bright, cool position and away from heaters. This is especially important for potted Cineraria, Cyclamen, Kalanchoe, Primula Obconica and forced Spring-flowering bulbs. Excessive heat will either make them flower-out too quickly or possibly result in sudden collapse.
Where plants are growing in rooms with very bright artificial lighting and central heating that constantly maintains temperatures at around 68-70F/20-21C or more day and night, a little more water and feeding can take place than in partially heated or unheated rooms. If relative humidity in these environments remains very low, consider filling the drainage dish with course sand or river gravel which is kept moist. This will produce a canopy of higher humidity around the plant.
Gladioli bulbs will be available now. The first of these can be planted provided the bed is moderately warm, sheltered and well drained. Gladioli need a deeply-dug and well-enriched soil. Dig in well-aged manure or mature compost plus a balanced General Garden fertiliser plus Garden Lime, Dolomag or Dolomite. Let this ‘cure’ in the ground for at least a week before planting the corms.
To get the earliest crop of flowers, Gladioli beds planted now can be covered over with clear plastic, cloches or frost cloth to further warm the ground and protect emerging shoots from late frosts. These Gladioli will often flower in Late Spring or Early Summer.
Dahlias and a variety of other tender Summer-flowering bulbs also become available to purchase this month. These can either be stored in a moderately cool, dry place for a few weeks before planting. Alternatively, they can be started in small containers placed in a bright, warm position. A conservatory, glasshouse or sunroom is best. Keep the soil that surrounds them only lightly moist, never wet. Allow growth to commence slowly and remain stocky and strong. Spindly, weak growth will result in poor quality plants.
To make the most of hybrid Dahlia tubers, start each tuber in a small pot placed in a very bright, warm and sunny position. Once shoots emerge and reach 6-8in/15-20cm cut them off cleanly with a knife. Immerse their cut end into hormone gel or powder and start them in small pots of seed raising mix. These small plants will usually produce blooms true to their hybrid parentage the first year.
Lily bulbs can be planted now into the ground or containers. These will start flowering from Late Spring and the Christmas season onward into Mid/Late Summer. Select strong, healthy bulbs which can be planted just a few centimeters deep if in pots. The exceptions are the larger bulbs of LA (Longiflorum/Asiatic Hybrid Crosses), OT (Oriental/Trumpet Hybrid Crosses) and Oriental hybrids. These should be planted deeper in larger containers as they have an extensive root system and some of these roots plus newly sprouting bulbils occurs up the stem above the parent bulb.
Plant Lily bulbs deeper in the ground, especially in light or sandy soils. Soil should be rich but free draining.
The same applies to container-grown Lilies. They can suffer if grown in too hot and sunny a location. Lilies need good air flow but avoid excessively windy sites, poorly draining wet soils or any place that dries out excessively or over-heats. Midday shaded sites often provide a leafy canopy overhead which also protects delicate petals from sun scorch or damage from pelting Summer rain or hail.
It is essential to protect emerging Lily shoots from the ravages of Slugs and Snails. If an emerging shoot is eaten, this can prove devastating as the entire Lily including buds and leaves are contained in deep consolidation at the top of each tender shoot. If this is eaten or damaged the Lily is unlikely to flower that year.
Mid Winter is one of the best times to plant and prune Roses. This is especially true in moderate temperate, mild and subtropical climates where there is little if any significant freezing. Gardeners in the colder climates where Roses are exposed to considerable freezing temperatures may wish to wait until Late Winter to plant bare-root Roses and remove winter-killed canes. This way there is far less chance of further winter-kill from extremely low temperatures and chilling.
Deciduous fruiting brambles and canes, shrubs and trees and most ornamental species as well as conifers and many broad leafed evergreen species can also be pruned successfully now. Fruit tree branches and canes can be reduced by 1/3 to 1/2. Thin out all damaged, diseased, overlapping and diseased growth.