Weather permitting; this week could be promising for gardening with every day offering the opportunity to do something different. The beginning of the week brings the final day in the Full Waxing Moon Cycle that will be especially good for planting flowers, ornamentals, fruits and nuts plus all hardy vegetable crops. The Full Moon (8 August) marks the lunar midpoint of Late Winter as we head toward Early Spring. Some very good planting days potentially lie ahead in the Waning Moon Cycle through the end of the week.
The Waning Moon Cycle enhances root development. It is the ideal time to plant anything needing a strong root system. This includes all bare-root and container-grown deciduous and evergreen groundcovers, shrubs, trees and vines including native plantings and landscapes in extreme locations (coastal, dry). Plant or sow hardy flowers and vegetables, especially root crops and those with a tap root or extensive root system; also hardy bulbs, roots and tubers.
The weather could be a challenge as the Full Moon is now descending in Southern Hemisphere skies. As it shifts northward, the lunar gravitational tide is liable to draw up a fetch of Antarctic air and turbulence. Winter is not over yet! Inclement wintry weather may still persist especially in the coldest exposed regions for some time to come. Even in warm districts, late cold snaps and wintry storms are common near the end of Winter and can quickly reduce precious early blooms to pulp if left unprotected. Be prepared to protect sensitive plants from the ravages of inclement Late Winter weather.
A small partial eclipse of the moon starts 3:50 AM (NZST) 8 August and the Umbra (darkest shadow) covers the top left corner of the Moon by 6:20 AM.
Be Guided by Nature’s Signs:
This week will be important to watch for Nature’s ‘signs’. The calendar would suggest that wintry conditions should persist. With the Moon shifting north and descending away from the Southern Hemisphere this could even see weather conditions worsen this week and into next. If the worst doesn’t occur, this suggests that the season is continuing to warm. The next New Moon (22 August) is the astronomical lunar transition into Early Spring. If the weather appears to continue to moderate, Birds begin mating and nesting and buds begin to noticeably swell or blossom these are sure signs that most likely we are heading for an Early Spring.
A Time of Preparation:
Choose your activities wisely to suit the weather. Late Winter is an important time of preparation for the growing season ahead. The most successful Spring gardens are often early planted and prepared during the Winter months. Late Winter being one of the most important times to plant and prepare before flowering and growth begins. This way everything has a chance to become established before true Spring weather arrives. Much can be accomplished when the weather is benevolent. Alternatively, sometimes the easiest days for transplanting seedlings into their final flowering position is during cloudy and damp weather. But avoid planting anything tender or potentially vulnerable (especially seedlings) if chilling or damaging winds, heavy frost or freezing might soon ensue as this might exhaust the young plants, causing them to collapse.
Weather can be a good excuse to rest, but those days are also a great opportunity to accomplish other essential tasks. Inventory and purchase necessary supplies now for when you will need them later. Included here are drainage materials like pumice and sand for potting and seeding, fertilisers, machinery, potting soils, seeds, sprays, stakes, tools, twine, etc.
Dreaming, planning and research are important activities also very well suited to inclement weather. A classic garden almost never ‘just happens’; there is almost always a basic plan that stands as the foundation upon which all other planting is built. This is the time to research how to best grow any new additions to the garden and also explore the reasons why something failed so it doesn’t happen again. Scan through garden books, internet sites, magazines and pictures to pick up inspirational and practical ideas to apply to this year’s garden. Be sure to record what you like in a diary or journal so those inspirational moments are remembered and can become creative ideas in your garden.
Get Out There Whenever You Can!
soil is warming and/or workable, cultivate and remove all weeds. For special exhibition flower and vegetable beds, spread compost and aged manure, and mix in General Garden Fertilizer into all beds meant for later plantings of Spring/Summer flowers and vegetables. Hardy native groundcovers, shrubs and trees may require much less enriching depending on the quality of soil into which they are being planted.
When attempting to build better garden soil, the total volume of soil additives (compost; aged-manures; buckets of soil enriched with fertilizers and/or general plant foods, Lime, Sulphur, etc.) should amount upwards of 2-3 buckets total per square meter to beds in preparation for Spring flowers and especially vegetables. As a general rule one cup of fertilizer is the maximum allowable per standard size bucket of compost or earth. Clay or heavy loam soil can be lightened with the addition of pumice, sand and Gypsum Lime.
Whenever possible, dig deeply; and mix all these soil enriching additives evenly from top to bottom throughout the soil. Then leave the bed(s) to “cure” for at least one week before planting.
Green manure cover crops are dug in now, too. Usually the green crop is cut down into small pieces before being turned under the soil. On larger acreages a plough is used and the soil is left rough to cure for at least several weeks before the surface is prepared for planting.
Whenever Lime or Gypsum is being added to the soil, it is best to spread this separately from other fertilisers, especially General Garden Fertiliser and any sort of Phosphate. Lime can interact with Phosphates transforming them into inert or solid compounds that can remain unavailable to the plants growing there. So as a general precaution when spreading either fertiliser or Lime over the soil, allow at least a week between spreading either of them and water them in thoroughly.
If the land is being dug deeply or not, cultivate garden beds frequently to maintain aeration. Even well-mulched ‘no-dig’ beds should be gone over carefully. Fluff up the mulch and cultivate-in the most rotted parts back into the ground to help replenish the soil.
Remove weeds as soon as they germinate. Weeds that grew slowly over the Winter months are famous for rocketing ahead very suddenly now that Spring is on the way. Any weed that reaches maturity will quickly produce hundreds of off spring that can plague the garden throughout the growing season ahead. Being extra diligent now can eliminate many hours of back-breaking weeding later.
A Great Time for Seed Sowing:
Seed for the gardens ahead can be best sown under cover. Commercial Growers and those wishing to get an impressive head start on the season should be raising a wide range of Late Spring, Summer and Autumn bedding plants, flowers, perennials and vegetables now. A heated glasshouse with bottom heat (heating cables) is best. Home Gardeners can do the same thing with cloches, cold frames, portable glasshouses, indoors in the sunroom, or a very sheltered corner outdoors.
For best success, it is essential to sow all seed into consistently warm soil in full sunlight into an enriched soil mix that is very free draining but also with some moisture retention. Sowing seed into a thin layer of fine sand scattered over the seed raising mix helps insure that seed does not rot should it ever become overly chilly and damp. Seed and seedlings must be sheltered completely from chilling drafts but also demand good air circulation to avoid fungus and rot. Light liquid feeding with every watering insures maximum growth.
Some Commercial Growers also add a (systemic) insecticide and fungicide to the water to insure strongest plant health. Organic powdered Copper and/or Sulphur will work almost as well to help control troublesome bacteria blights and fungal infections like Damp-Off fungus.
Of greatest importance is full sunlight or its equivalent. This will keep seedlings healthy and stocky. Once a young seedling stretches to reach the light, it is permanently weakened and may collapse or will possibly not transplant very well later. Stretched seedlings seldom grow into healthy and strong plants.
Established hardy bedding plants can be set out wherever the danger of heavy frost or freezing has passed. Otherwise be prepared to cover the bed with protective frost cloth or clear plastic to shelter the young plants.
What to Plant and Sow
Acrolinium, Alyssum, Aquilegia, Arctotis, Aster, Calendula, California Poppy, Calliopsis, Carnation ,Canterbury Bells, Coneflower, Coreopsis, Cornflower, Delphinium Dianthus, Feverfew, Gaillardia, Godetia, Gypsophilla, Hollyhock, Larkspur, Linaria, Linum, Lobelia, Lunaria, Mignonette, Nasturtium, Nemesia, Nigella, Rudbeckia, Pansy, Phlox, Polyanthus, Poppies, Scabiosa, Snapdragon, Statice, Strawflower, Sunflower, Sweat Pea, Rudbeckia, Tanacetum, Viola, Violet, Viscaria Wildflower (most mixes and species) and hundreds more.
Tender Summer Flowers:
Summer flowering varieties can be started now with bottom heat in the glasshouse, sunroom, and sunny windowsill, under glass or cold frame or very sheltered corner outdoors (cloches or evening protection advisable).
Tender Flowers to Start Now:
Ageratum, Amaranthus, Balsam, all varieties of Begonias, Dahlia, Celosia, Cleome, Coleus, Cosmos, Geranium, Gerbera, Gloxinia, tender Herbs like Basil and Coriander (Cilantro), Impatiens, Kochia, Marigold, Ornamental Peppers, Petunia, Salpiglossis, Salvia, Swam Plant, Tithonia, Zinnia and many more.
Vegetables to Plant:
This is a good time to plant Broccoli, Cabbages, Cauliflower, early Potato and Peas. Also start Garlic, all sorts of Onions, plus Shallots. Many other hardy vegetables can be started now like: Beets, Carrot, Celery, Cress, Parsnip, Silverbeet, Spinach and most tender warm-season crops under glass with extra bottom heat.
Sow the seed of exhibition root crops all week. Plant and sow leafy vegetables and those that produce their crops above the ground early in the week up until the Full Moon (8 August).
Vegetables to Plant and Sow:
Asparagus (crowns & seed), Beets, Broad Beans, Broccoli, Cabbages, Cauliflower, Chinese Cabbage and Green Vegetables, Cress, Endive, Garlic, Gooseberry, hardy Herbs (assorted), Kohlrabi, Leaf Lettuce (assorted), Mustard, Onions, Parsley, Parsnip, Peas, Potato, Radish, Rhubarb (crowns & seed), Salsify, Shallot, Silverbeet, Spinach, Swede and Turnip.
This is an excellent time to sow hardy salad plants and especially Peas. Hardy Herbs (Marjoram, Mint, Oregano, Sage, etc.) can be divided and replanted or started from seed.
Tender Vegetables to Start:
Capsicum, Choko, Eggplant, Heading Lettuce, Herbs (Basil, Dill, etc.), Kumara, Marrow, Melons, Hot Peppers, Pumpkin, Squash, Sweet Potato, Tomato, Yam and others.
These must remain in sunny and warm positions at all times. Bottom heat is strongly advisable. Do not attempt to sow these outdoors until the soil is thoroughly warmed and they have attained a more substantial size.
This is an ideal time to divide and transplant established and new perennials. This gives them plenty of time to develop an adequate root system before the rigours of the growing season ahead.
Perennials that can be divided, planted and/or transplanted now include:
Japanese Anemone, Asters, Chrysanthemum, Hostas, Shasta and Michaelmas Daisy, Japanese Iris, Hemerocallis (Daylily), Perennial Phlox, Rudbeckia, Solidago and most perennials. This is an ideal time to plant literally hundreds of different varieties of perennials and many groundcovers, too.
Perennial plants can be started from container plants or from seed. They can also be started from cuttings or by divided established plants.
Perennials to establish now include:
Agapanthus, Amaryllis, Asters, Begonia, Billbergia, Boltonia, Canna, Chrysanthemum, Crinum, Dahlia, Delphinium, Echinacea (Cone Flowers), Eryngium (Sea Holly), Eucomis (Pineapple Lily), Gaillardia, Gazania, Geum, Hedychium (Ginger), Hemerocallis (Day Lily), Hosta, Hymenocallis, Japanese Iris, Kniphofia (Red Hot Poker), Lilies, Monarda, Montbretia, Nepeta, Nerine, Penstemon, Physostegia, Solidago (Goldenrod), Sprekelia, Streptocarpus, Tuberose, Zantedeschia, Zephyranthes (Rain Lilies) and many more species.
This is one of the best times to divide Phlox paniculata, and all forms of Chrysanthemum and Daisy, especially Shasta Daisy.
Bulbs, Corms, Roots and Tubers:
Tuberous Begonias could be started now (and throughout the Spring) in light, fluffy potting soil or sand/peat mix in a bright, constantly warm and humid spot out of cold drafts. It is best to allow the tubers to start sprouting first before planting them out in containers or the garden. While it is possible to just set them out in a protected spot much like starting Potatoes, they sprout faster when placed in slightly moist peat, potting mix, sphagnum or vermiculite in flats or small pots. Warm air and soil hastens growth. If a glasshouse or sunroom is unavailable, a bright morning sun window sill is often an ideal spot. Once sprouted let them grow on in individual containers or in flats for later transplanting once weather is thoroughly warm. Later once new growth and shoots are well established 5cm/2inch high or a little more, they can be potted-on or planted in beds outdoors or place in the glasshouse for a showy summer display. Tuberous Begonias originate from warm climates so dislike chilling drafts and cold, damp soil so plant them outdoors only once all danger of frost has passed and weather is mild.
Divide and/or (re)plant:
Agapanthus, Canna, Dahlia, Gladioli, Hippeastrum, Nerine, Tuberose, Vallota, Zantedeschia/Arum/Calla, Zephyranthes and many others. See week One and Two for discussions and lists of more things to plant now.
Spring flowering bulbs in pots should be well advanced now. Keep in a bright, cool, sheltered spot and maintain even but light watering. Avoid overwatering that could result in leggy growth or even rotting. Never allow freezing or frost to contact the plants especially as they reach budding and flowering stages. Do not let pots dry out but always keep them on the dry side to keep growth compact! Feed occasionally with a liquid plant food, or very lightly with each watering, or sprinkle a small amount of slow release around the potting soil. Bulbs produce bigger blooms when supplied with additional Phosphorous and become stronger and multiply with extra Potassium. This is very important while in active growth and especially right after flowering to stimulate regrowth of the bulb for next year’s flowering.
Anemone and Ranunculus can respond dramatically to liquid feeding. Commercial Growers feed lightly with a special flowering liquid fertiliser high in Phosphorous and Potash at each watering. When grown in pots, liquid feed into the saucer. When liquid feeding outdoors, water around each plant rather into their crowns which could result in crown rot. Morning to early afternoon feeding/watering on mild, sunny days is the most effective. Avoid cloudy, damp or cold days and late afternoon or early evening feeding and watering as this may not be pulled up into the plant satisfactorily and might even result in rot. Fertiliser used to feed African Violet, Azalea, Roses or Tomato is usually a reasonable choice when feeding bulbs. Once buds start to appear liquid fertilise at least once a week. This will make larger more double blooms on longer stems and increases the flowering period.
Perfect drainage is essential for top quality Anemone and Ranunculus flowers and healthy, large plants. Avoid heavy wet soils and over watering. Remember that these are hybrids of wildflowers native to the Mediterranean meadow regions with nearly arid climates. Grow in full sun with very good air flow. One of Anemone’s common names is ‘Wind Poppy’ and they do well in airy, open positions. They notoriously fail in close, damp, humid situations with poor air circulation or any shading and are often damaged or lost during extended periods of persistent wet weather.
In cool and moderate climates with a prolonged Spring season, it is possible to still plant Anemone and Ranunculus now for a later Spring display.
After flowering finishes, let the plants naturally fade, wither and dry off; then harvest and store their dried corms and tuberous roots in boxes, flats, paper bags or dry sand/soil until it is time for Autumn replanting. It is also acceptable to leave them in their pots in a completely dry state stored somewhere rather cool and dark until ready to repot for new growth in the Autumn.
Orchids that appear to be over-crowded, weak or fail to flower can be divided and repotted now. Feed Orchids regularly; especially Cymbidium, Dendrobium, Oncidium and all others entering a bud stage using a special Orchid ‘flowering’ formula high in both Phosphorous and Potassium.
Coastal Sites and Difficult Plantings:
This is the best time to tackle difficult planting sites in all climates experiencing damp or wet Winter and Spring weather . Coastal plantings and those in extremely dry and windy sites can be planted now while conditions remain cool and damp. With any luck there will be at least a couple months ahead of relatively benevolent conditions. Planting now takes advantage of this. This will insure stronger root development which will be better able to withstand Summer drought and winds. Make sure that soil is deeply dug and enriched; everything is well-watered-in at planting and thoroughly staked and/or protected from dry and windy extremes. The best time for planting is a day or so ahead of anticipated rainfall. Avoid planting, pruning or working the land while it is raining or the ground is saturated with water. This often results in compacted soil that can transform into something like brick once it dries out. Pruning during wet weather is a classic way to quickly spread disease and fungus from one plant to another.
Complete the planting of all deciduous species as soon as possible. Most important are deciduous bare-root Roses, ornamental and fruiting shrubs, trees and vines plus all bare-root brambles and cane fruits. These species all need time to develop a strong enough root system to sustain them once Spring growth begins. Container-grown species can be planted well into Spring and even Summer provided adequate watering can sustain them. But right now is one of the finest times of the year for successful (trans) planting of most all hardy deciduous species.
Broad-Leafed and Native Plantings:
Also continue planting species native to Australia, the Mediterranean, New Zealand South Africa and West Coast North America; also Azaleas, Camellias, Conifers, Daphne, Pieris japonica, Rhododendrons most hardy evergreens both broad-leaf and needle-leafed; hardy annuals and perennials for Spring, Summer and Autumn flowering. Start planting Citrus in mild climates. All of these species that are already established can be feed as well.
This is a great time to prune broadleaf evergreens, conifers, hedges; fruit, nut and ornamental shrubs, trees, and vines. Almost anything can be pruned to shape now or even cut back severely. When cut back during the Full Waxing Moon Cycle (7-8 August) bushy new growth is enhanced. Pruning during the Early Waning Moon Cycle (9-15 August) tends to result in new growth that is somewhat reduced and stays dense and tight.
Avoid heavy pruning of Spring flowering species laden with flower buds. If possible allow them to flower and then prune them back. Whenever it is necessary to prune these shrubs consider bringing branches indoors for an early floral display. When kept in a bright and cool room, buds will begin to open quite quickly and can provide cheery colour that is especially welcome on a cold wintry day.
Fruit trees & especially Grape vines should be pruned without delay before sap begins to rise. Once buds begin to swell and especially once flowering or leafing-out begins, avoid excessive pruning of mature wood, especially on Grapes and Kiwi Fruit. This can result in rising sap ‘bleeding’ through fresh cuts that can sometimes prove detrimental to the future crop and/or health of the plant.
The best way to avoid the need for spraying for most insect pests is to encourage the birds to keep your garden clean. In mild districts birds begin nesting now. Encourage them to stay in your garden with regular feeding. This is especially important during inclement weather. Also provide a convenient and safe water source. Over their breeding season birds will hunt out and consume great volumes of garden insects that would otherwise damage your garden and spread diseases and fungal attacks.
Provide groves of sheltering shrubs and trees or wild thickets with enough twiggy undergrowth to discourage predators. If you prefer native birds then be sure to plant nectar-rich native shrubs and trees. Alternatively, provide cat-proof nesting boxes, with feeding stations and water nearby. Avoid laying Slug and Snail pellets in open areas where Birds might pick them up. Also quickly remove Snail carcasses as these will also be toxic to Birds and their young; plus cherished pets!
Slug and Snail Fest:
Full Moon starts the breeding season for Slugs and Snails. This is one of the most important times of the season to guard tender emerging shoots and Winter flowers from Slug and Snail attack. This is an essential time to start placing baits as adult populations will start breeding now. Place baits around paved areas and stone walls, near dense shrubs, under inverted flower pots or boards laid against a wall, and especially within the strap-like foliage of Agapanthus, Flax and similar plant varieties where they often breed and raise their young. Put them anywhere Slugs and Snails are likely to breed and congregate but in spots difficult for Birds and pets to access.
The best opportunity to eliminate the bulk of mature adults is just as the first warm rains bring them out of hibernation. The most ideal time of the year is during the bright nights around this Full Moon (8 August). Each of the Spring Full Moons are also excellent times when all of them are mating. Be thorough and try to eliminate all the mature breeding pairs before they can start a new generation. If rain is not forecast 7-9 August and you wish to eliminate as many mature breeding Slugs and Snails as possible be sure to lightly water the garden shortly before sunset. Then generously scatter fresh baits. The wet garden will encourage them to glide outward and begin mating and hopefully encounter the fresh baits.
Right now these mature adults are large enough to consume the baits. They are easy targets. But any that are not killed now and breed will produce legions of tiny young that are far too small to eat the baits. Instead they will go immediately for your most treasured garden plants, especially your flowers and seedlings. “Timing is everything” and this is one of those times!
Sow and feed lawns in sheltered and sunny spots wherever ground is warming and workable. Dichondra plugs can be started now. Before sowing lawn seed it is best to heavily rake over the established lawn to remove dead thatch. Level uneven patches with top soil mixed with sand.
Aerate soggy lawns with a garden fork. Liberally dust poorly draining land with Gypsum Lime and lightly water this in to improve drainage. Sow and feed lawns with any commercial lawn fertiliser, blood and bone and/or screened compost. If soil is hard or sour (green and mossy) aerating with a garden fork and dusting with Lime or Gypsum will greatly help to maintain adequate drainage. Many Gardeners apply the Gypsum Lime first then the Lawn Fertiliser about a week later so that when aerating with a garden fork or roller these soil additive nutrients will be driven deeper into the soil.
This Third Week in the Late Winter Garden:
The Full Waning Moon Cycle dominates this week. Last Quarter Moon arrives 15 August and Dark of the Moon 18 August. The Moon reaches its closest and gravitationally power perigee position 18-19 August. It is fully descended in Southern Hemisphere skies with its greatest gravitational force focused over the Northern Hemisphere. These are definitely not optimum planting conditions for anything tender. Only hardy things are planted during the last week of the Moon cycle. But this is an excellent time to plant anything needing a sustained period of root development: all deciduous and dormant bramble and cane fruits, groundcovers, shrubs, trees, vines; conifers and most broad-leafed evergreens, Roses and bulbs, corms, roots and tubers.
Some Gardeners insist that Potatoes are best started during this week leading up to the New Moon. The ‘Dark of the Moon’ phase is when lunar gravitational forces are at their most extreme. These extremes can prove beneficial when attempting to germinate ‘difficult’ seeds. This is the busy time of advance preparations for the great growing season about to blossom.
General gardening activities are favoured this week: cultivating, feeding, spraying, weeding; building, laying paving and rock work; inventorying and purchasing plants, seeds and supplies; sharpening tools; planning and researching for the growing season ahead. Liquid feeding and watering works extremely well at this time when applied as the Moon/Sun conjunction are rising and sweeping overhead and into early afternoon. Later afternoon feeding and watering will be drawn strongly into the ground and plants’ root system.
Continue Preparations for the Busy Season Ahead:
Full Waning Moon Cycles and Dark of the Moon are often unpredictable times. This is especially true in the transition between Late Winter and Early Spring. Weather extremes are common and lunar gravitational extremes are a certainty. Perigee Moon combined with peak Northern Hemisphere lunar ascension happens 18 August. Fortunately, the greatest lunar gravitational extremes occur on the opposite side of the world from New Zealand this month.
So if the weather should become inclement, this is often an ideal opportunity to take a little time off and dream of your future gardens. Read and research about things you might like to grow. Search for pictures of gardens and plantings that inspire you. Perhaps make some designs or sketches and record all the relevant information in your garden diary and calendar.
Purchase necessary equipment, fertilisers and sprays. Included here are drainage materials like pumice and sand for potting and seeding, potting soils, sprays, stakes, tools, twine, etc.
Visit your local garden centre or do a nursery crawl and buy bulbs and seeds; annuals, perennials, fruiting and ornamental shrubs, trees and vines for later planting.
Whenever the weather is benevolent, ‘Dark of the Moon’ lunar gravitational extremes make this an excellent time for all manner of building projects; laying foundations, paving and rockwork; setting posts and building fences of stone or wood. It would be an excellent time to spread bark, compost, gravel, mulch, sand or soil and build new garden beds or refurbish old ones. Lowered water retention makes this a great time to gather and store brush; cut, split and stack firewood.
If the climate permits, this is a great time for general gardening activities like cultivating and weeding as well as fertilizing and perhaps liming garden beds and lawns.
- Make and turn compost piles; clear land of brush and unwanted vegetation
- spray for disease, fungus and pests
- liquid feed
- aerate soil/lawns and mow to keep them short
- generally clean and tidy around the garden
- fix and sharpen tools
- Clip, prune and shape a wide range of ground covers, hedges, shrubs, trees, vines; brambles and canes; and especially Roses.
If possible, avoid pruning Spring-flowering species until after flowering. It won’t hurt them to be cut back now but it will remove their beautiful blossoms. Lightly cut, trim and tidy to correct and shape plants, shrubs and trees. Anything pruned back now tends to stay shapely for longer.
Take care of all these essential but often time-consuming jobs now. This will allow much more valuable time to focus on planting and sowing in the weeks ahead when conditions will greatly improve.
A New Season is Dawning:
Signs of Spring can be seen in many sheltered places that trap the sunlight and warmth. Plants and many creatures in Nature can sense the returning sunlight. A New Season is dawning! Give attention to cleaning-up and planting these sunny and warm areas first. It will be most comfortable to work in such sheltered spots. Plus new growth and successful results should be much more rapid than in shaded cooler soils. This will inspire you to make ever greater achievements as the new season begins to blossom.
What to Plant:
Waning Moon Cycles are all about root development and planting hardy dormant things needing time to develop a strong root system. This includes all bare-root and container-grown deciduous and evergreen hardy groundcovers, shrubs, trees and vines including native plantings and landscapes in extreme locations (coastal, dry). Also plant dormant Roses, dormant fruit and nut shrubs and trees; brambles and canes.
Plant or sow hardy flowers and vegetables, especially root crops and those with a tap root or extensive root system; also hardy bulbs, roots and tubers. If the weather looks good and the long range forecast appears promising, this would be an acceptable time to plant quite a wide range of dormant and hardy plantings for the growing season ahead. But avoid planting anything tender during these ‘extreme’ times.
Planting this week at times could be challenging. Weather permitting, acceptable planting days include 15-17 August (Moon in sidereal Aries and then Taurus) and 20-21 August (sidereal Cancer). This is a good time to plant anything dormant and hardy that has an extensive root system or tap root and needs a period of strong root development to become established before top growth begins. This includes dormant and hardy things like bulbs, many root crop vegetables and extensive rooted vegetables including Peas and a variety of container-grown hardy groundcovers and perennials This makes a great time to plant all deciduous and bare root species like fruiting shrubs, trees and Roses. Avoid planting anything sensitive or tender like flimsy young seedlings unless near ideal conditions can be maintained.
18 August the Moon enters its Dark of the Moon phase. Once the Balsamic (late Crescent) Moon is seen in the early morning sky this indicates that lunar extremes are about to increase. Moon enters sidereal Gemini then: potentially a difficult planting time. Once the Moon shifts into sidereal Cancer, this is potentially a very fertile sign but in this ‘Dark of the Moon’ position could result in blight or rot leading to plant collapse so be careful! Not the best days for planting. Plant only hardy things then: dormant bulbs, corms, roots and tubers; also hardy shrubs and trees that can be well cared-for and where there will be no root damage at transplanting. Be vigilant to shelter and water these as needed for Celestial/weather extremes often cause anything delicate or tender to collapse or wilt if weather becomes dry or windy.
If possible, try to complete the Winter planting of bare root deciduous fruit, nut and ornamental shrubs, trees, Roses, brambles and canes. Alternatively, dig holes for these plants now and complete the planting once conditions become more favourable next week. Add well aged manure or compost to the planting hole. Wherever soil is clay or very heavy loam, spread Gypsum Lime over the soil that has been removed and also more into the planting hole. Leave it to weather in the rain for at least several weeks before planting and mixing the soil back into the hole. This will greatly improve drainage and plant health. A tiny handful of general garden fertilizer can be sprinkled over the soil taken out of the hole. This can be mixed through that soil now. Avoid placing chemical fertilizer in the bottom of the planting hole. This is an easy way to burn the emerging tender young roots and kill the entire plant with “kindness”.
Dormant Shift and Transplanting Establish Specimens:
There is still time to shift and transplant established specimens. Matter of fact, this time of year often proves to be the most successful as sap is beginning to rise and soon Spring’s flush will bring them to life quickly.
But next week is a much better time to shift and transplant than during ‘Dark of the Moon’ extremes. Now is the time to prune back whatever will be shifted in preparation for transplanting next week. Plants shift much easier while dormant than once they begin active growth so waste no time in accomplishing this job as soon as possible before new growth begins. Sometimes established specimens can withstand transplanting once new growth starts but this often causes severe stress and new tender growth is sometimes lost (usually it is best removed at the time of shifting). Container-grown specimens of all sorts will transplant with little if any root damage so can be planted now through Spring.
Stick to shifting dormant hardy things: anything deciduous and most broad leafed evergreens native to Australia, The Mediterranean, New Zealand, South Africa and the West Coast of the Americas. Avoid shifting subtropical species this early in the season other than hardy Palms. Even then, it is best to wait another couple of months until the ground and weather have warmed. It is possible to plant Citrus and other hardier subtropical species from established containers. But avoid extensive root damage as the plants are still dormant and often can’t refurbish their root system quickly enough to survive a traumatic shifting this early in the season.
Flower and Vegetable Seed and Seedlings:
A limited range of hardy seed(lings) can be started now under cover or in sheltered corners. Expert Growers sometimes elect to sow seed, especially of varieties that are difficult to germinate (like Sweet Peas), during the ‘Dark of the Moon’ phase. This way they use the celestial extremes to stimulate germination. Then once the Waxing Moon cycle starts next week, their emerging seedlings can take full advantage of the improving growing conditions ahead.
Because of the celestial extremes, only plant or sow when conditions appear to be ideal or can be controlled in a situation like a glasshouse environment. When planting seedlings outdoors this week choose to plant those in individual pots or punnets where there will be a minimum of root damage. Otherwise, use these days to plan and prepare containers with seed raising mix ready for sowing next week once the New Moon begins the Early Spring Planting Cycle.
Flowers to Plant and sow:
Acrolinium, Alyssum, Arctotis, Aster, Calendula, California Poppy, Carnation, Coneflower, Cornflower, Dianthus, Gaillardia, Godetia, Hollyhock, Larkspur, Nigella, Rudbeckia, Phlox, Poppies, Strawflower, Sunflower, Sweat Pea, Viscaria and hundreds more.
Vegetables to Plant and Sow:
Asparagus (crowns & seed), Beets, Broad Beans, Broccoli, Cabbages, Cauliflower, Chinese Cabbage and Green Vegetables, Cress, Endive, Garlic, Gooseberry, Herbs (assorted), Kohlrabi, Leaf Lettuce (assorted), Mustard, Parsley, Parsnip, Peas, Potato, Radish, Rhubarb (seed), Salsify, Shallot, Silverbeet, Spinach, Swede and Turnip.
This is an acceptable time to sow hardy salad plants; and a good time to sow Peas. But make sure weather conditions remain dry and mild or seed may rot.
Potatoes can be planted or sprouted for later planting. Kumara and Yam can be started in a hot bed for planting out once weather conditions become consistently warmer.
Tender Summer Flowers can be started under glass, cloches or a very sheltered, sunny and warm corner outdoors. Now is time to start such annuals as: Ageratum, Begonias, Dahlia, Celosia, Cleome, Coleus, Geranium, Gerbera, Gloxinia, tender Herbs like Basil and Coriander (Cilantro), Impatiens, Petunia, Tithonia, Zinnia and many more.
Tender Vegetables to Start Under Glass:
Capsicum, Choko, Eggplant, Heading Lettuce, Marrow, Melons, Pumpkin, Squash, Tomato and others.
All of this planting and sowing is best done before the ‘Dark of the Moon’ extremes. Planting and seed sowing can continue thereafter but make sure that conditions are ideal. When sown during this deeply Waning Moon Cycle, root development is often more extensive while better top growth comes on later after the New Moon as moonlight increases each evening.
Do not attempt to plant or sow tender varieties direct into open soil this early without cold protection! The classic is Tomato. Attempting to plant Tomatoes outdoors this early without significant protection against the cold and wet weather that is bound to be ahead almost always results in disaster. They are tender tropical plants so must be sheltered and remain relatively dry and warm. Otherwise, wait until conditions become thoroughly warm to plant them out.
Whenever sowing seed, be very careful to sow seed thinly in individual containers for later transplanting. Overcrowded seedlings will produce weak plants with many casualties. Planting in individual containers has a distinct advantage. Some flowers and vegetables produce tap roots or sensitive root systems. This makes them difficult to transplant. Planting into individual containers allows each plant the opportunity to grow on without interference. Once each plant is well established then it can be carefully slipped out from its own established container with an intact root ball. This insures there is much less chance of root damage or disturbance when transplanted later once the weather thoroughly warms.
Bulbs, Corms, Roots and Tubers to Plant:
Amaryllis, Arum, Agapanthus, Anemone (coronaria, Japanese and species), Canna, Chrysanthemum roots (also divide established clumps), Crinum, Cyclamen, Dahlia, Freesia, Galtonia, Gladioli, Hedychium (Gingers), Herbertia (Blue Tiger Flower), Hemerocallis (Day Lily), Hippeastrum, Hymenocallis (Ismene), Japanese Iris, Nerines, Sandersonia, Tuberose, Tuberous Begonia, Tulbaghia, Valotta (Scarborough Lily), Watsonia, Zantedeschia and Zephyranthes (Rain Lily) and many more.
All of these ‘bulbs’ will be dormant now, so they are easily planted provided the weather is mild enough and the soil is sufficiently warmed. Otherwise, start these in small pots of enriched and freely draining potting mix in a very bright and warm environment, preferably a glasshouse. Water only very lightly until new growth becomes obvious. It is better to keep them rather dry and under-fed this early in the season. Over watering often results in rot and over-feeding produces leggy, soft growth that is often later too unhealthy to produce quality plants once transplanted outdoors.
Cultivate, weed and feed around emerging shoots of established bulbs and spring plantings to insure rapid, healthy growth. These can be given a sprinkling of bulb food or all-purpose general fertilizer lightly placed around each plant. Be sure to blow or wash away any fertilizer that falls into the central crown or bulb shoot heart so that chemical burning will not occur.
Dahlia tubers started now will begin flowering by Early Summer. In mild climates, Dahlias can be planted directly into their flowering position. Otherwise, wherever severe frosts are still possible, start tubers in boxes, flats, pots either in the glasshouse or indoors and transplant to the garden once weather settles. Once strong stems emerge, these can be cut back and started just like Chrysanthemum to create new plants. Established clumps of tubers can be cut/split apart. These will look like a cluster of potato-like tubers attached around the dried old stem of last years’ stalk. Once divided and split apart from the main stem, each single potato-like tuber should have an end ‘neck’ (where the tuber was once attached to the stem). This is where a small red-purple ‘eye’ shoot will soon emerge that will create a new Dahlia plant that will flower this Summer.
Dahlias are of tropical American origin. Choose a warm, sunny, sheltered position with rich, loamy soil. Mulch and water each Dahlia generously when first planting the tubers. Once shoots appear remove all but the strongest three or four. Pinch out the central growing tip when 15-20cm/6-8inches tall. This will produce more bushy and compact growth and a better quantity of flowering.
If Dahlias are being grown for exhibition flowers, pinch out all but the strongest main shoot. Stake this securely and train it upward. Allow only one to three of the top buds to develop. Once the strongest bud begins to mature, pinch out the others so that all the growth goes into creating one spectacular bloom. Some hybrid varieties can assume the size of a dinner plate when grown this way. After the main flower head finishes, cut it off and often side shoots will emerge that will produce somewhat smaller blooms.
Dahlias, especially large-flowering varieties, must be staked against wind and to secure their brittle stems from flopping with excessive flowering and leafy growth. . Never leave this to chance as Dahlia canes are very brittle and often break with the heavy weight of flowering! They can be allowed to sprawl but results are far less spectacular and flowers are often attacked by Slugs and Snails. Feed little and often with a soluble plant food, compost, aged manure or a granulated plant food mixed with blood and bone. Overfeeding into dry soil can cause burning. Overwatering, especially early in the season into cold ground can result in tuber rot.
Dahlia seed started now in a very bright, sheltered and consistently warm spot either in the glasshouse, indoors or even outside (if warm enough) will produce blooms this Summer and might result in your own special hybrid!
Cultivate garden beds. In open beds, weed and turn the soil in preparation for Spring planting. It is important to keep doing this now so that the soil can aerate, cure and settle before planting. This is a type of soil ‘sterilization’ that helps eliminate disease and fungus spores by exposure to sunlight. Deep, thorough digging encourages drought resistant roots and healthy, strong growth for the very best results. Small weeds can often be recultivated back into the soil as a green manure. Noxious, fast-spreading weed should be eliminated as they are encountered. Weeding continuously now eliminates all weeds before they can produce seed; otherwise weeds will be a much worse problem for the entire growing season! Also fertilize fruit trees, cane fruits and ornamentals shrubs, trees and vines. This will give them a much better start just as sap is beginning to rise and new growth emerges.
Brambles and Cane Fruits, Citrus, all Pip and Stone fruits, Grapes and possibly even Strawberry plants with powdered Copper or other fungicide.
Prune lightly Feijoa, Passion Fruit and Tamarillo now. This is nearing the final time to prune back Grape and many other fruiting shrubs and trees without the risk of sap bleeding.
Conifers, Broad-leafed Evergreens, many ornamental shrubs and most plant species native to Australia, the Mediterranean, New Zealand and South Africa can be lightly pruned and shaped. The exceptions are those that produce flower buds at their growing tips like Camellia, Daphne, Leucadendron, Pieris japonica, Protea and Rhododendron, etc. There is no problem pruning these also, especially if they need corrective shaping, but some Spring flowers will be removed. Anything pruned now will tend to stay in shape longer with less regrowth.
heavy pruning during the ‘Dark of the Moon’ phase as celestial extremes may cause more to die-back than was expected. Wait until next week and begin pruning after the New Moon (22 August) if the intension with pruning is to encourage abundant and bushy regrowth. Heavy pruning now is often used to eliminate brush and scrub, old stock wood or weed trees.
Lawns can be fed with commercial Lawn Fertilizer, blood and bone or screened compost or aged manure. If soil is hard or sour (green and mossy) aerate with a garden fork and dust with Lime. Applying Gypsum Lime now will help to open the soil and allow better drainage in the months ahead. It is best to disperse fertilizer and Lime separately at least a week apart. This helps prevent the possibility of the two chemically interacting that can sometimes produce inert and useless chemical compounds. Always water in each application of soil additives and let the cultivated land to rest and ‘cure’ for at least a week before adding anything else or sowing seed.
Bait Against Predation:
Guard against Slug and Snail damage to emerging shoots of Spring blooms and Winter flowers. Eliminating these ‘pests’ now is essential in order to produce quality blooms later.