This week in the Garden for March 2018

This First Week in the Early Autumn Garden:

week one - week two - week three - week four
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The Full Waxing Moon Cycle becomes a golden Harvest Full Moon rising in the north eastern sky 2 March. This is the Equinox Full Moon representing the transition of Summer into Autumn in the Southern Hemisphere. A most productive Waning Moon cycle completes the week. This is potentially an excellent time to plant or sow: all hardy flowers and vegetables for Autumn, Winter and Spring; field grains and seeds of all sorts, especially beautiful flowers and lawns; plus a variety of ground covers, shrubs, trees and vines; plant subtropical species and repot houseplants; start planting Spring-Flowering bulbs and force some under refrigeration for earlier blooms.
The Harvest Moon is classically an ideal time to harvest fields of grain and hay. But because water retention is high, make sure these harvests are allowed to thoroughly dry out before they are stored otherwise they may mould, rot or even combust.
Water retention reaches its peak around the Full Moon because lunar and solar gravitational forces are in opposition that creates a balance. This creates high tides in oceans and in Nature. High water retention is the best time to harvest fruits and vegetables for immediate use and for making jam, jelly, juice and wine; also almost any sort of crisp, juicy and succulent produce.
The lunar extremes will make an excellent time to liquid feed and water from early morning until fairly late in the afternoon. This will stimulate top growth, flowering and fruiting. Early evening watering will refresh a dry garden. High water retention throughout Nature means that it is possible to liquid feed and water pretty much all day with good success. Sunny and warm days are usually best and accomplishing this earlier in the day gives the best opportunity to promote upward absorption for maximum top growth and flowering. Watering later in the day will tend to keep the garden wet for longer overnight and thus refresh foliage in a dry garden.
As the Moon wanes for the remainder of the week onward until the New Moon (17-18 March), this becomes an ideal time to start root crops and plant bulbs, corms and tubers. It signals the start of planting season for many species of Broad-leafed Evergreens, Conifers, Native species plus a wide variety of shrubs, trees and some vines. Benevolent weather conditions combined with ample soil moisture or access to irrigation dictates when to start planting.
Traditionally, the Autumnal Equinox Full Moon represents the beginning of the transitional slide into cooler, Autumnal conditions. Days are growing shorter and Nature will be sensing the changes that soon will become more obvious as the season advances into the cooler months. So in the coldest regions, Gardeners should be aware that the warmer weather of the season soon may begin to fade away after this.
But the Moon is ascending in Southern Hemisphere skies until the evening of 11 March. Because the tropical zones remain steamy and warm, as the ascending Moon tide pushes deeper into the Southern Hemisphere its lunar gravitational pull will likely draw pleasantly warm air into temperate and subtropical climate zones in the Southern Hemisphere. So pleasantly mild to warm conditions and relatively benevolent weather may well continue until the Equinox New Moon 17-18 March or even past the Autumnal Equinox (21 March), the true beginning of Autumn.
A Busy Time in the Garden:
This is one of the busiest times in the garden year. Early Autumn is a major time of transition when the glorious Summer season begins to fade away and wise Gardeners begin to prepare for the cooler months ahead. Early Autumn is often a time to clean and clear away Summer displays and set one’s sights on the future.
It is a great time to sow seed, plant annuals, perennials, shrubs, trees, vines and cool-weather plants for the later Autumn, Winter and Spring flower, shrub and vegetable gardens provided the ground can be kept moist.
To Be or Not To Be:
Most Late Summer and some Early Autumn gardens will be reaching or passing their peak during this time. Some Gardeners elect to strip the beds back now. This provides more time with good weather on their side to prepare for the cool season ahead. Those who wish to create impressive Winter gardens should start planting them now.
Others will choose to keep the Summer displays and vegetable harvests going for as long as possible. As the season wanes, plants weaken and age. To get the most out of them and perpetuate the show, give them a boost now. Dead-head faded blooms; cut back spent stems; harvest vegetables frequently; remove and burn anything showing signs of disease or pest predation. Keep everything well irrigated but reduce water slightly as nights become cooler.
Garden plants will benefit from a dry/granular side dressing of a good general plant fertilizer (20-20-20 type ratio) mixed with blood and bone and/or compost. Also apply a comprehensive fungal/insecticidal spray that includes a foliar systemic feeding (chose a mineral ratio lower in Nitrogen and higher in Phosphorous and Potassium). It is one of the most important sprays of the season and will add precious weeks of healthy colour and boost late season vegetable harvests.
Safest spray is a Copper solution and/or an organic preparation using fish emulsion plus trace minerals and liquid soap. This is especially helpful for vegetables. For flowering plants best results come from combining a liquid systemic (Rose or Tomato) spray blended with a good well-balanced liquid plant food. Add a few squirts of liquid dish soap and/or fish emulsion to help it adhere to the foliage surfaces. Always spray over wet foliage and preferably later in the afternoon once strong sunlight is off the plants. Allow sufficient time for the foliage to dry before nightfall. Should it rain within 12 hours after spraying, it would be best to do it all again.
A Great Time for Planting and Sowing and Planning Ahead:
Now is an excellent time to sow and plant a vast array of Annual, Biennial and Perennial flowers and most hardy vegetables for the Winter and Spring garden. Tender warm season annuals should only be attempted in mild climates with a very long growing season or frost-free Winters.
This is a great time to plan ahead on what is best to plant and sow this month. With a bit of forethought it might be possible to plant and sow at exactly the ‘right’ moment. Since there is a lot to be said for proper timing, getting things right can markedly improve positive results.
Plant a wide range of colourful annual seedlings and/or sow their seed for late Autumn, Winter and Spring flowering. Advanced seedlings planted now will be in bloom almost right away. Those sown from seed will take 8-10 weeks or longer to reach maturity. In mild climates experiencing little if any frost or freezing these often will start flowering through the Winter. In colder climates flowering may be delayed until Spring. Wherever severe freezing is experienced, tender seedlings will need protection in the shelter of a cold frame or glasshouse or with mulching against freezing in the garden.
Almost all hardy flowers and vegetables can be sown and planted right now with care. The very ‘best’ time to plant annual flowers and vegetables with tap-roots is right now around the Full Moon and the following 7-10 day interval toward the next New Moon (17-18 March). Seeds that are difficult to germinate are often started around the ‘Dark of the Moon’ (15-17 March).
If the idea is to produce lots of leafy top growth with shallower roots (as opposed to tap-rooted flowers) the best time will be from the New Moon (17-18 March.) onward through Full Moon (31 March to 1 April).
Easiest Annuals to Plant or Sow now:
Ageratum, Alyssum, Calendula, Calliopsis, Candytuft, Cleome, Cornflower, Cosmos, Dianthus, Everlasting Daisies (Rhodanthe, Xeranthemum, etc.), Gypsophila, Impatiens (frost-free climate or glasshouse only), Larkspur, Limnanthes (Meadow Foam), Linaria, Linum (Annual Flax), Livingston Daisy, Lobelia, Lupin, Marigold (especially French and dwarf varieties; African varieties in mild climates), Mignonette, Nemesia, Nemophila (Baby Blue Eyes), Nigella (Love-in-a-Mist), Painted Daisy (Tanacetum coccinium), Pansy, Penstemon, Phacelia, Poppies (Iceland, Shirley and species),Poor Man’s Orchid (Schizanthus), Primula, Scabiosa, Snapdragon (Antirrhinum), Statice, Stock, Strawflowers (Helichrysum), Sweet Peas (Lathyrus), Viola, Virginia Stock, Wildflower mixes, Zinnia (mild climates) and more locally.
Only attempt sowing these from seed in climates that will experience at least 8-10 weeks or longer of frost-free conditions. Otherwise, plant to shelter these in the cold frame, glasshouse or conservatory.
Many of these Annuals, Biennials and Perennials, especially lovely classics like Calceolaria, Cineraria, Cyclamen, Kalanchoe, and Primula species like P. obconica, Sweat Peas and many more actually perform much better when sown now in the cool glasshouse for Winter and Spring flowers.
Sweet Peas:
This is one of the best times to plant hardy Sweet Peas in all but the coldest climates. Even there in cold climates, they are often sown under glass for cool season flowers. Sweet Peas grow well in large containers and tubs but thrive when given an open root run in the ground. They need very bright light or strong sunshine, good air circulation and moderate temperatures to perform at their best. Cold rain and sodden soil or severe frosts will ruin them.
Sow Joe Pye Weed (Eutrochium / Eupatorium) and most hardy annual, biennial and perennial Wildflowers. A few may bloom this Late Autumn or Winter, but most will mature in Spring and many more will enhance the next Summer and Autumn garden.
Biennial & Perennial Plants:
Advanced Biennials, Perennials in containers and their seedlings can be planted now to become established before Winter for next Spring & Summer flowering.
Start these Biennials and Perennials Now:
Aquilegia, Arctotis, Bellis perennis (English Daisy), Canterbury Bells, Carnation, Coneflower, Delphinium, Dianthus, Feverfew (Tanacetum parthenium ), Forget-Me-Not (Mysotis), Foxglove (Digitalis), Gaillardia, Gypsophila, Hollyhock (Althea), Honesty (Lunaria), Lobelia (spiking varieties), Lupin, Painted Daisy (Tanacetum coccinium), Penstemon, Polyanthus, Poppy (Oriental), Primula, Scabiosa, Statice, Sweet peas (Lathyrus), Sweet William, Viola and much more locally.
Root Divisions:
Most perennials can be increased easily by taking root divisions made as soon as the plants begin to die back. Some also can be started from cuttings, while most all are easily started from seed.
This is how to take root divisions from perennials that have a clumping, spreading root system. First dig up at least one section of the plant once it has become dormant. With a sharp knife or secateurs remove a small section of the crown with roots attached. If this contains a fleshy rhizome, dust the exposed cut with powdered charcoal or sulphur to protect against rotting. This is a crown root division.
Transfer this to a small pot and plant it so that the roots dangle down and outward and the crown is at or just below the soil surface. Water thoroughly and place in a bright cold frame, sheltered nursery or glasshouse. There the plant can develop in a most protected and sheltered environment to ensure extra strength and vigour before they are exposed to the extremes and rigours of the garden.
Another method is to cut away separate sections of root and grow root cutting divisions. Choose healthy and strong roots. Cut them off just below where they attach to the crown of the plant. Place these facing upward in a small pot. They can also be started by lining them up in rows within a seedling flat or larger container. Bury each root in potting soil so that the top of the root rests just below the soil surface. Water thoroughly and add additional soil if the root tip becomes too exposed as the soil settles. Then grow these on just the same as with a crown root division.
Some perennials especially many spiking flowers have either a very delicate root system or a tap root. This makes them difficult to transplant if any root damage or major disturbance occurs at the time of transplanting.
To take root cutting divisions from these, either split the tap root length-wise into several sections or cut it horizontally across the tap root into a number of pieces much like cutting up a Carrot. Be sure to carefully notice that the top of each division or section is facing upward when placed into its container and then lightly cover it with potting mix. The tip of each root section should remain level with the top of the soil or be just slightly covered. With any luck, new shoots will emerge from the top of each root division. But if the root cutting division is turned upside down, mostly they will rot.
If by chance a root cutting division does get misplaced, as they do, and it is impossible to tell the bottom from the top, simply place it on its side and barely cover it with soil. The root will do the rest and make new shoots wherever it should.
When taking cuttings from plants with very sensitive roots or tap rooted cuttings, it is best to start each of them in individual containers. This way they can grow on with no root disturbance. Later when it comes time for transplanting, the entire root ball can be easily slipped out of its pot and placed into its final position in the garden efficiently and quickly without trauma.
An alternative method for those without a cold frame or sheltered nursery is to create a protected and sheltered seed bed in the garden. Then start the root cuttings within this sheltered environment. Cover them beneath clear glass jars, a commercial cloche or underneath a strong plastic bag, pinned down at its edges over the cuttings or root divisions. This creates a mini cold frame/glasshouse. Remove this once all danger of frost has passed in the Spring. That way perennials that are difficult to transplant can actually be started and develop in their final garden positions where they are meant to flower.
Continue to plant and sow all the cool season vegetables for Late Autumn, Winter and Early Spring harvests. The Full Waxing Moon Cycle that finishes early this week favours all vegetables grown for leafy top growth and harvests above the ground. The Waning Moon Cycle that continues until the New Moon (17-18 March) is particularly well suited to plant growth and sowing seed of root crops and all plants with extensive root systems and tap roots. During the Full Waxing Moon cycle (1-2 March & 25-31 March) almost everything can be successfully planted as leafy crops and above-ground harvest will flourish and root crop seed sown then will germinate and begin growing as the Moon becomes Full and then begins to wane which takes advantage of the entire Waning Moon Cycle.
Vegetables to Plant:
Plant and sow all vegetable Winter “greens” like: Broccoli, Brussel Sprouts, Cabbages (Chinese and traditional varieties), Cauliflower, Cress, Endive, Lettuces (best under glass unless mild climates), Mustard, New Zealand Spinach (Tetragonia), Parsley, Peas, Silver beet, Spinach; also Onions (especially Spring Onions), Swedes, Turnips; plus Broad Beans (cool gardens only).
Also start:
Beet Root, Carrots, Chicory, Dwarf Beans (warm spots), Kohlrabi, Leeks, Parsnip, Peas, Radish, Salsify, Shallot (cool climates) and much more. For best and deepest root development sow early in the week around the Full Moon then continue through the Waning Moon Cycle.
Bulbs, Corms, Roots and Tubers:
All Spring-flowering bulbs, corms, roots and tubers can be started most successfully from now through to nearly Mid Winter. The best time starts this week, especially in colder climate zones. In warmer climates Gardeners should wait to plant the traditional Spring-Flowering Bulbs a while longer as the ground is probably still too warm.
But this is a good time to plant some types of ‘Jonquils’ Narcissus Paper White, Soleil D’ Or and others that originate from mild climates. Also start all South African bulbs like: Babiana, Colchicum (includes European species), Crocosmia, Freesia, dwarf Gladioli nana, Ixia, Lachenalia, Nerine, Tritonia, Tulbaghia, Watsonia and many others. It is also a good week to pop traditional Daffodils/Narcissus, Hyacinths and Tulip bulbs into refrigeration with the intention to force early blooms later in the Winter.
Container Planting:
Weather permitting, almost anything can be transplanted from containers this week.
This is a very good time to plant: Conifers, broad-leafed evergreens, groundcovers, hardy brambles, hedges, shrubs, trees, and vines plus a wide variety of plants native to Australia, the Mediterranean, New Zealand and South Africa. Most will need extra watering until regular rainfall returns. If there is not time to complete such plants, that is no problem as these are the earliest days of a very long planting season ahead for all this sort of planting.
Farewell the Past and Prepare for the Future:
The Equinox Full Moon triggers gardens that peaked earlier in Summer to begin to fade and wither. Now is a golden opportunity to farewell their beauty and productivity and remove these fading Summer displays; then clean and tidy the beds. If the removed garden plants appear healthy, their remains can be composted. Alternatively, cut them down where they stand into small pieces with hedge clippers and allow these clippings to remain as ‘soft’ mulch or dig them in as green manure to replenish the land. This is the most natural and organic way to recycle exactly what was taken out of the soil and put it right back into the land from where it came.
In established perennial flower borders only the faded and withering go now in an on-going process of cutting back and replanting. In annual flower beds and block vegetable gardens the removal of one crop or flower species in favour of the next is more straight forward.
If the land is to rest and remain fallow through the colder months, it can be turned and left rough to ‘weather’. A better idea in open beds would be to make a generous sowing of cover crop seed like Barley, Buckwheat, Oats, Lupin, Mustard, Peas, Rye or other leafy or legume fast-growing crops. Simply broadcast the seed over the rough ground and let the planting cover and grow over the fallow garden through most of the cooler months. Then cut it down in Late Winter and dig this in as ‘green’ manure to enrich the ground.
Alternatively, while good weather makes this task easier, clear the land and then dust over it with soil additives (compost, fertilizer, lime, mulch etc.). Then roughly dig this into the soil and leave it to enrich the earth over the Winter months. This way the land will be nearly ready to plant once the Spring planting cycle returns.
Wherever fresh crops are planned for the cooler months, feed and turn the soil as soon as possible. Feed with compost, general plant food mixed with blood and bone, and dolomite lime. Add extra drainage material for Winter gardens in regions that are classically wet during the colder and darker months. Dig in lightly, water well, let stand 1 or 2 weeks to ‘ripen’ and sterilise in the sun before replanting.
Those planting an Autumn, Winter and/or Early Spring garden should consider adding extra drainage material (bark, river gravel, pumice, vermiculite, etc.) and/or raise beds to cope with periods of sustained cool and wet weather. In climates where considerable freezing is likely, better results are achieved when things are planted on low, spreading mounds rather than higher raised beds. This is because mounds connect better to their surrounding soil and are easily mulched. High raised beds chill much faster so their soil can more deeply freeze plus they are harder to mulch in order to stop deep ground freezing.
Dig in generous quantities of blood and bone, mature compost and/or humus, dolomite lime, fertilizer, plus well-aged manure. Winter gardens often demand more feeding because the less favourable conditions reduce anaerobic and plant metabolism making it more difficult for plants to draw minerals from the soil. Acid rain in urban areas can be combated with a generous dusting of Dolomite Lime. If soil becomes green and mossy during the Winter, apply another application and water it in lightly.
For poorly draining soil or soggy lawns now is the ideal time to generously whiten the ground with Gypsum Lime. This is sometimes sold as ‘Clay Breaker’. Water-in this dry white powder only lightly to the consistency of whole milk then let this liquid Lime seep into the soil. If the liquid Lime starts to run off the land stop watering and/or add more Gypsum to replace what washed away. The liquid Lime must penetrate deeply into the soil in order for it to work its magic.
Gypsum is a neutral pH Lime that can be used effectively on all soils. Its colloidal properties slowly act upon the mineral particles transforming them into small pellets or soil clumps. Over time 9several months or more) this colloidal action will dramatically open the soil to improve aeration and drainage. It is very effective on heavy clay and soggy soils.
Since the land must be enriched and turned before fresh planting, this is an excellent time to eliminate troublesome weeds from the garden. First remove all the existing weeds. Then turn the soil and leave it. Simply make sure that the ground remains moist and plant nothing in it.
Cooler and damper Autumn conditions are ideal for the germination of seeds, including weeds. Fairly soon all those weed seedlings will spring up and ‘green’ the newly turned soil. Now choose a dry, preferably breezy and sunny day to either hoe or cultivate all those weed seedlings back into the land. In particularly weedy sites, repeat this process several times until no more weed seeds emerge. Now the ground is generally ‘sterile’ of weeds which makes an ideal time to sow and plant flower beds and vegetable crops.
New Lawns:
This is an ideal time to establish a new lawn or improve an existing one. Follow a similar cultivation regiment when starting a new lawn as when starting a garden bed. Take the time to thoroughly cultivate the soil and eliminate all persistent weeds first before sowing the lawn seed. There still remain ahead many weeks for good lawn seed germination and the final result will look much more effective if all weeds are eliminated first.
On existing lawns continue to rake and remove old dead thatching. If persistent broad-leafed weeds are present, these can be easily eliminated with applications of Ammonia Nitrate or Sulphate of Ammonia which is applied evenly over a thoroughly moist lawn, but much heavier directly on the weeds. As the fertiliser breaks down this will chemically burn them away while releasing valuable Nitrogen that will feed the lawn. There are also excellent ‘weed and feed’ products that can eliminate most broad-leafed weeds in a single application.
Another way to eliminate these broad-leafed weeds in an established lawn is to first over-sow the lawn with fresh seed. Allow the lawn to grow quite tall. The crowns of broad-leafed weeds will have to stretch through the taller grasses to reach the light. Then on a cloudy day mow the lawn quite short. The cloud cover helps keep the exposed lawn grasses from scalding in the sunlight. Make sure mower blades are sharpened so as to not pull out the young emerging grass seedlings with this first cutting. This short cutting will remove almost every broad leafed weed to its base which will severely weaken them. Repeat this process several times and most broad leafed weed will be eliminated without the need to apply chemical fertilisers or dangerous and toxic herbicides.
Wherever significant green algae or mosses are present in the lawn, this is a sure indication that the lawn pH has become rather acid. This can hamper the development of healthy lawn. To eliminate algae and mosses generously dust with Iron Sulphate, Garden Lime or alternatively Dolomite/Dolomag Lime which is longer, but slower, acting. Whenever Gypsum Lime is applied to heavy soils, the Gypsum will slightly raise soil pH toward a neutral 7.0 and at the same time significantly open and separate the soil particles for improved drainage and better plus deeper grass root penetration for improved drought resistance. This will help eliminate algae and moss at the same time.
Lawn grasses demand a lot of feeding for them to remain at their best. This can be organically applied with blood and bone and/or screened compost; or alternatively with a good quality lawn fertiliser. It is best to apply the fertiliser over thoroughly moist lawn and soil or else chemical burning is likely. Also plan to apply lawn fertiliser at least a few days ahead of reseeding the established lawn to avoid the possibility of caustic chemical burning to emerging lawn seedling roots. (Re) seeding & feeding existing lawns or establishing new ones is ideally carried out from now on throughout the Autumn months. The only exceptions might be in the coldest and driest climatic situations.
Autumn is an excellent time to start a compost pile or add to an existing heap. Coarsely chopped garden plants and Autumn leaves make excellent compost. The more chopped and desiccated the botanical material, the faster it can potentially decompose. Thus putting sticks and coarse, heavy tannin leaves like Holly, Karaka, Oak, Magnolia, etc through a shredder will greatly speed the process. Alternatively smaller sticks and the course leaves can be placed in a large pile and run over repeatedly with a lawn mower. Push the mower around in a circle with the blower facing inwards into the leaf pile. This will quickly reduce the course material to well-shredded mulch which will decompose quickly in the compost pile or could be directly returned to the garden as enriching mulch.
Autumnal Colour:
In the coldest regions, Autumn colour will begin to appear. These colour changes will become much more apparent as Autumn conditions develop a little later in the season. But this is the time to start planning and purchasing autumnal-colouring deciduous species with exactly the right colour tone for your garden. If the season remains dry in your region, hold these plants on near a convenient water source and keep them going. As soon as soil remains moist and days become consistently cool, start planting these container grown ornamental shrubs, trees, vines along with New Zealand, South African and Mediterranean natives.
House Plants and Subtropicals:
In milder climates, give (sub) tropical plants, tender container tropical species and houseplants, especially those experiencing a Summer ‘holiday’ outdoors a late feeding. This will stimulate some of the last substantial new growth before the current growing season fades and these tender species return to dormancy. Be sure to reduce both feeding and water gradually as temperatures fall and sunlight fades. Avoid feeding or watering on cold cloudy days.
The night time minimum temperature is one of the most critical factors in determining continued growth and flowering. Most tender (sub) tropical species prefer minimum evening temperatures of 20C/68F or more. That time is almost surely nearly over. They will tolerate short spells with minimums of around 15C/59 or even lower. But tender tropicals and houseplants in containers should come inside once temperatures consistently drop below 12C/53.6 degrees. When planted in the ground or where pots are well-insulated, they can tolerate much cooler conditions without damage but new growth still slows or stops. Avoid exposure to unusually early frost or freezing!
In cooler climates, now is the time to start moving tender tropicals in containers and houseplants to their warm winter positions before cold nights can cause damage. Remember that just a few night temperatures falling below 12C/53.6F can result in dormancy and possibly even damage to the most tender tropical species, especially if their surrounding soil is chilling and wet. But if they are brought into bright and consistently warmer conditions before temperatures drop too far, they will continue putting on new growth and flowering for a much longer time than if they were left outdoors in chilly weather.
While weather remains bright, mild and pleasant, take cuttings of Coleus, Fibrous Begonias, Impatiens, Pelargoniums and other frost tender species to strike for Winter colour indoors and for potentially planting-out next spring.
Mature plants can also be dug, cut back, and repotted for later indoor display. Especially in colder climates some of the finest specimens for indoor display in the conservatory, glasshouse or sunroom can now be created from what is growing outdoors today. In all but the coldest locations, there is still time to re-establish these plants in new containers. Wherever possible, once repotted, allow them to remain outdoors or in a very sheltered position where they can be fed, monitored and sprayed to eliminate any disease and pest threat. This will allow them to grow quickly and strengthen for best performance once they are brought indoors for the Winter.

This Second Week in the Early Autumn Garden:

week one - week two - week three - week four
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The Waning Moon Cycle deepens into its Last Quarter (10 March). This cycle favours root development so is excellent for the planting of bulbs, corms, roots and tubers; all root crop vegetables plus anything with a tap root or needing a period of root development before top growth commences. Weather permitting; continue planting most hardy flowers and vegetables throughout the week, especially container-grown groundcovers, perennials, shrubs, trees, vines, palms and most all subtropical species. All general gardening activities are favoured.
Water retention will continue to diminish all week. Harvest for immediate use most of the week as vegetables with remain crisp and fruits juicy and tasty from their recent highest water retention. This is still as good time to harvest for jam and jelly, juice and wine. Later in the week and next week, harvest fields of grain; gather fruits and vegetables for long term storage; for producing aromatic jams, jellies, pickles and preserves and also for drying which includes flowers and herbs.
Peak Moon ascension occurs 11 March just after it reaches its Last Quarter. Thus the Moon will have risen prior to the Sun each morning and set before sunset. This means that the strongest lunar gravitational pull upward will occur during the day, when it will combine with that of the Sun. Best time to liquid feed and water will be during the morning and early afternoon hours to promote top growth and flowering. Watering later in the day will help to refresh a dry garden by the following morning as water will be pulled more strongly downward into the roots and soil. But avoid heavy liquid feeding into containers later in the day as it will mostly not be pulled upward as strongly into the plant.
Planting Time is Here!
Autumn is the ideal time to plant a wide variety of dormant flowering bulbs. These can be planted almost any time throughout Autumn with relative assurance of success.
Some will flower almost immediately in Autumn and Early Winter like:
Amaryllis belladonna (Naked Lady); Colchicum (Autumn Crocus); Crocus sativus (Saffron Crocus); Fothergilla and Nerine (Spider lilies); Sternbergia (Yellow Autumn Crocus). Most others start flowering in Late Winter onward into the warmer Spring months.
Many of the most beautiful and fragrant Spring-flowering bulbs can be ‘forced’ into much earlier flowering in pots for treasured Winter blooms.
Planting dormant bulbs during the Waning Moon cycle (finishes 17 March) tends to stimulate root development first before top growth begins. In colder climate zones the very ‘best’ time to plant dormant bulbs is right around and following the next autumnal Full Moon (31March-1 April). Then continue planting bulbs throughout the following Waning Moon cycle. In warmer temperate climates the best time starts at the end of this month and continues into April and May; and much later for pre-cooled bulbs
When to start planting Spring-flowering bulbs depends on your garden plan and location. Planting all the bulbs at once creates the potential of a mass display of late Winter and Spring colour. Sometimes staggering the bulb planting over several weeks or months can produce colour over a longer season of bloom.
In cool and temperate climate zones and cooler garden situations, now starts the ideal time for planting. This gives them the opportunity to develop a strong root system before colder weather slows their growth until early Spring. These bulbs usually produce beautiful blooms plus because their bulbs have a strong root system, they have enough energy to multiply and put on an even better display in the years that follow.
Avoid planting out cool season Spring-flowering bulbs wherever the garden beds are continually wettened and remain very warm, otherwise the bulbs may sprout prematurely, remain stunted or the buds may not open as they should.
In mild climates where the Summer garden season has a long way to go before the warm season displays finish and cold weather returns, the planting of Spring-flowering bulbs can be delayed until next month or even later if gardens are full of colour.
Usually, the best quality and largest bulbs are those secured at the earliest possible date. If it is not botanically wise to plant them so early, they can be stored for later planting. Simply store them in mesh bags, open flats or trays; or boxes. Avoid closed paper or plastic bags if possible because they can sweat or attract moisture that may cause premature bulb germination or rotting. Place them in an airy and darkish location where they can remain cool and dry. Once the garden beds are cleared and weather begins to cool then start planting. If the bulbs are properly stored, they can remain out of the ground for several months without damage.
Forcing Bulbs for Early Colour and Display:
‘Forced’ Spring-flowering bulbs are really a treasure especially in such colder climates where Winter colour is scarce. Spring-Flowering bulbs intended for forcing in containers to produce much earlier blooms should be started in pots as soon as possible. These pots are placed in refrigeration or alternatively, place the pots in a cool, damp, shaded position outdoors or in a cellar where they can start developing a strong root system now. Bulbs started now might begin blooming in late Autumn or early Winter when colour and fragrance are so very much appreciated.
Forced bulbs don’t necessarily have to be planted or potted yet. They can be held back in mesh bags stored in constant cool (but never freezing) refrigeration. Many Professional Bulb Growers consider +4C/39F to be an ideal storage temperature to sustain the bulbs. The vegetable crisper or back of lower shelves in the refrigerator will often work nicely as a storage site. Here the bulbs remain in refrigeration for at least 8 to 10 weeks and no longer than 22 weeks before they must be planted or potted.
Sometimes because of special display requirements or climate aberrations, it is handy to hold the bulbs back for later flowering. To do this store them in an airy, dark, dry location at about 16-17C/60.8-62.6F. Examine them frequently and turn them much like one would do with dry onions. Some of the hardiest varieties of bulbs can be stored this way for several months. Then place them in refrigeration for at least 8-14 weeks. Afterwards they can be planted or potted and will usually begin flowering 6-8 weeks later.
More bulbs can be planted in succession as the season advances. When planted in groups of pots every ten days to two weeks, a continuous supply of early forced blooms can be enjoyed for many months to follow.
In very mild climates where Summer persists well into Autumn with little if any wintery chill, it is often wise to leave such bulbs in refrigeration until the ground temperature drops significantly in a couple of months. Then plant them out either all at once for a massed display or over several weeks for a succession of Spring blooms.
The disadvantage to this method is that the longer bulbs remain in cool, dry storage, the less time they ultimately have to produce an adequate root system to support the development of next year’s bulbs. But if the bulbs are meant for display and are being treated much like annual flowers, this method allows greater flexibility. The other factor is that the longer the bulbs remain in chilled storage, the faster they tend to come into bloom once planted. That is up to their maximum period of chilling; after that they deteriorate rapidly and may not flower at all.
Bulbs to Plant Now:
Here are a variety of bulbs that could be planted now: Achimenes, Alliums (Ornamental Onions), Amaryllis belladonna (Naked Lady), Anemone, Babiana Baboon Flower), Brodiaea, Brunsvigia, Calochortus (Mariposa Tulip), Camassia, Chionodoxa (Glory of the Snow),Colchicum (Autumn Crocus), Crocus (Autumnal Saffron and Spring-flowering), Daffodil, Dipidax, Eranthus (Winter Aconite), Erythronium (Dog’s Tooth Violet), Eucharis Lily (warmth and glasshouse), Freesia, Fritillaria, Galanthus (Snow Drop), Hyacinth, Hypoxis (Star Grass), Iris, Ixia (Corn Lily), Jonquil, Lachenalia (Soldier Boys), Leucojum (Snowflake), Lycoris (Spider Lily), Moraea, Muscari (Grape Hyacinth), Narcissus, Nerine (Spider Lily), Notholirion, Ornithogalum (Arab Eyes, Star of Bethlehem, etc.), Oxalis hybrids, Ranunculus, Scillas)Wood Hyacinth) Sparaxis, Sternbergia (Yellow Autumn Crocus), Streptanthera (Harlequin Flower), Tritonia, Tulip, Valotta (Scarborough Lily) Veltheimia (Cape or Forest Lily), Watsonia, Zephyranthes (Rain Lily) and more locally
Crinum, Lily & Nerine bulb clumps that have become over-crowded can be dug and divided as soon as leafy tops die down then replant immediately. Lilies, especially, prefer not to be disturbed once established. Their succulent scale-like bulbs dry out quickly when exposed to drying air and/or sunlight. Whenever they cannot be immediately replanted, store them in damp peat, moist (never wet!) potting mix, or surrounded in sphagnum moss placed in a plastic bag with air holes for circulation or boxes or containers that will retain even moisture around the bulbs until they are replanted.
Continue to dig and store Acidanthera, Canna, Dahlia, Gladioli, Tuberous Begonia, Tuberose and other tender Summer bulbs as they fade and finish. Store in lightly moist peat, potting mix soil or sphagnum in a cool, dark, dry place for the Winter months. In very mild climates that experience only light frosts and fairly dry and sunny Winter weather, these plants can remain in the ground. But be aware that a period of persistent cold rain can rot them quickly unless their surrounding soil drains very thoroughly.
What to Plant and Sow
Annual, Biennial & Perennial Flowers:
Continue to plant and sow most hardy annual, biennial and perennial flowers for the Winter and Spring garden. Seedlings can be transplanted with care to avoid significant root damage and disturbance. In mild climates, fast flowering varieties may bloom in the Autumn and Winter garden.
Seed sown now should rocket away very quickly provided strong sunlight and warmth plus even soil moisture are present. Be prepared to water daily if conditions remain too dry and warm or windy.
In climates that will experience severe Winter cold, do not attempt to plant or sow tender annual flowers outdoors. Hardiest annuals, biennials and perennials can be transplanted from container-grown seedlings into garden beds provided these can be given protection from Winter freezing. Otherwise sow their seed into containers and grow them on in the glasshouse or cold frame for transplanting in early Spring.
Easiest Annuals* to Plant or Sow Now:
Ageratum, Alyssum, Calendula, Calliopsis, Candytuft, Cleome, Cornflower, Cosmos, Dianthus, Everlasting Daisies (Rhodanthe, Xeranthemum, etc.), Gypsophila, Impatiens, Larkspur, Limnanthes (Meadow Foam), Linaria, Linum (Annual Flax), Livingston Daisy, Lobelia, Lupin, Marigold (especially French and dwarf varieties; African varieties in mild climates), Mignonette, Nemesia, Nemophila (Baby Blue Eyes), Nigella (Love-in-a-Mist), Painted Daisy (Tanacetum coccinium), Pansy, Penstemon, Phacelia, Poppies (Iceland, Shirley and species),Poor Man’s Orchid (Schizanthus), Primula, Scabiosa, Snapdragon (Antirrhinum), Statice, Stock, Strawflowers (Helichrysum), Sweet Peas (Lathyrus), Viola, Virginia Stock, Wildflower mixes, Zinnia and more locally.
*This list contains some half-hardy biennial and perennial species that are commonly grown as annual plantings.
Many of these annuals, biennials and perennials, especially lovely classics like Calceolaria, Cineraria, Cyclamen, Kalanchoe, and Primula species like P. obconica, Stock, Sweat Peas, Violet and many more can be sown now in the cool glasshouse for Winter and Spring flowers.
Biennials and Perennials:
Advanced Biennial and perennial plants in containers and advanced seedlings can be planted now to become established before the onset of Winter. Most of these will bloom next Spring & Summer: Aquilegia, Arctotis, Bellis perennis (English Daisy), Canterbury Bells, Carnation, Coneflower, Delphinium, Dianthus, Feverfew (Tanacetum parthenium ), Forget-Me-Not (Mysotis), Foxglove (Digitalis), Gaillardia, Gypsophila, Hollyhock (Althea), Honesty (Lunaria), Lobelia (spiking varieties), Lupin, Painted Daisy (Tanacetum coccinium), Penstemon, Polyanthus, Poppy (Oriental), Primula, Scabiosa, Statice, Sweet peas (Lathyrus), Sweet William, Viola and more locally.
While the Moon drifts in front of constellation (sidereal) Sagittarius (10-12 March) this is traditionally considered the ‘best’ time to plant from established containers or sow the seed of spiking flowers.
Spiking Flowers include:
Acanthus, Alcea (Hollyhock), Antirrhinum (Snapdragon), Campanula, Centaurea (Cornflower), Delphinium and Larkspur, Dicentra (Bleeding Heart), Linaria, perennial Lobelias, Primula malacoides and candelabra types, Salvias, Stock, Verbascum (Mullein), Veronica, Wallflower, and many more.
Continue to plant and sow all the cool season vegetables for Late Autumn, Winter and Early Spring harvests. The Waning Moon Cycle is particularly well suited to plant growth and sowing seed of root crops and all plants with extensive root systems and tap roots. But because the New Moon is not far off (9 March) it is also possible to sow the seed of many leafy vegetables whose seed will germinate near enough to the next Waxing Moon Cycle that it will get a head start on the next top-growth cycle.
Vegetables to Planted Now:
Beet Root, Broad Beans (cool climates), Broccoli, Brussel Sprouts, Cabbages (Chinese and traditional), Carrots, Cauliflower, Chicory, Cress, Dwarf Beans(warm spots),Endive, Kohlrabi, Leeks, Lettuce species (best under glass), Mustard, Onions & Spring Onions, Parsley, Parsnip, Peas, Radish, Salsify, Shallot (cool climates),Spinach, Swede, Turnip and more locally.
Shrub, Trees and Vines, Palms and Subtropicals:
Hardy conifers, brambles, hedges, shrubs, trees, and vines of most sorts can be successfully transplanted from established containers. This is provided there is ample moisture in the ground and regular after-care can be provided until these plantings become established.
In mild climates and sheltered gardens, this is a very good month to plant and transplant subtropical plants and palms. Air and soil temperatures remain high. So if soil moisture is adequate, transplanting should be easy. Be sure to securely stake anything that might whip about in windy weather.
Container grown subtropicals and palms can still be repotted. In colder climates where the plants will soon be brought into the conservatory, glasshouse or sunroom, it is advisable to repot only one pot size larger. Make sure that the mix is freely draining. Do the upmost to insure as little root damage as possible. These transplants have only a limited time to establish a root system to fill the extra pot space. If they do not do this before they go dormant once cold weather arrives, these new roots will be vulnerable to chill and possible rotting should the new soil ever become overly wet.
Feed Citrus now to strengthen them as small fruits begin to mature. Make sure that ground is moist before applying special Citrus Fertiliser then water this in thoroughly. If the climate remains dry, irrigate deeply and liberally at least once a week. If trees become drought-stressed, developing young fruits can harden and become nutty. Later when Autumnal and Winter rainfall returns, these hardened fruits often split open and are ruined because their outer skins have become too hardened to expand properly as they should. The best Citrus fruits develop on trees that receive abundant and regular irrigation and/or rainfall where the excess water can quickly drain away.
Watch for predation by Aphids, Borer, Caterpillar, Mealy Bug and Scale insects and spray immediately to protect ripening fruits. The appearance of Black Sooty Mould on the leaves is a sure sign that the trees are under attack by insects that are secreting ‘honey dew’ sap which quickly becomes the breeding ground for the Sooty Mould.
The Return of Dormancy:
As the days shorten, this alerts Nature to prepare for the cooler, damper, darker days ahead. Most deciduous plants begin to transition toward dormancy. The transition is slow at first. Growth rates diminish and then stop while stems ‘harden-off’ and mature. Leaves on deciduous species begin to slowly fade. Especially during the next several Waning Moon cycles, valuable sugars and minerals contained in the green chlorophyll in the leaves’ sap begin streaming back into the protective stems, trunk and root system of the plants. The colourful pigments that remain within the leaf cellulose begin to show often as yellowing. Eventually, as all the chlorophyll disappears the remaining leaf pigments create those classic autumnal foliage displays.
At the same time, buds begin to become much more obvious and swell on Autumn, Winter and Spring-flowering shrubs, trees and vines. Usually around the Autumnal Equinox the first blossoms begin to open on the early Autumn-flowering shrubs like Sasanqua Camellia and soon other Autumn-flowering shrubs like Acacia, Banksia, Cassia, Erica, Gordonia, Japanese and Species Camellias, Luculia, Mahonia, Poinsettia, Stenocarpus (Fire Wheel Tree) and so many more cool season favourites will follow. Keep all these species lightly but regularly fed and well watered to encourage their development.
Drying Time:
Continue drying and gathering flowers and petals for potpourri; grasses, herbs, medicinal plants and vegetables for Winter use. The best time for this starts now and continues through the Dark of the Moon Cycle (15-17 March) leading up to the New Moon (17-18 March) and for a couple of day thereafter. Water retention in plants is at its lowest during that time. This makes them dry faster with less chance for mould or rot. Volatile natural oil content is highest then as well, especially if the weather has been dry, warm and sunny in the days leading up to the harvest.
Some species can continue to be harvested into next month or longer but soon the best times will finish as the growing season fades and conditions become cooler and damper.
Obviously, choose a dry period with relatively low humidity. If weather is damp, very humid and rainy delay the harvest if at all possible. Herbs just entering early to mid bloom are often the most aromatic. Petals should come from fresh new blooms near the top and sunny side of the plant. In a well-planned garden, many of these will be at their peak now. Fully mature and older blooms will often produce dull colours or fade to brown with little if any scent. The same applies for herbs. These are best gathered as they reach their peak.
There are two schools of thought in harvesting. With many aromatic herbs and most flowers and fruits the best time to harvest is in the morning once they have thoroughly dried of dew. The other ‘best’ time to harvest is later in the afternoon following a dry, sunny and warm day. This is ideal to harvest herbs and plants with high oil content. The traditionally most ideal time is when the Waning Moon is placed in front of a ‘fire sign’ constellation (Sagittarius = 10-12 March) (this month also Leo = 28-30 March) and as the New Moon approaches (17-18 March). This is when water retention is at its lowest and volatile oil content is at its highest.
Flowers and herbs should be dried quickly on screens or in open boxes in an airy, bright (but not sunny) environment. Flowers and foliage can also be pressed between the pages of a book or beneath sheets of newspaper or paper towelling held firmly in place to press them flat.
Some flowers and herbs can be gathered as bunches and hung upside down to dry.
Flowers meant to be used in dried floral arrangements and floral art are often laid into boxes and covered very carefully with a mix of silica powder and sand. Allow these to dry in an airy, warm spot until crisp. Then remove; spray lacquer to keep dampness out and either store in boxes for later use or create special arrangements and designs.
Another very effective approach is to preserve harvest flowers and foliage in Glycerine. Use one part Glycerine to two parts very warm water (135F/57C). Buds, leaves and petals can be completely submerged in the solution. Stem flowers can be submerged or stood upright in a bath or bucket filled with the Glycerine solution. Coloured dye can be added to enhance their colour. The plant material can be left in the solution for several days; sometimes longer, until there is the desired colour change. Then wash off any excess, leave them to dry and they are ready to use. The advantage to Glycerine is that the results should be bright, flexible and often almost glossy. The disadvantage is that the Glycerine may later begin to weep and stain furnishings or wood during humid weather.
Drying flowers and vegetation including herbs has the disadvantage that the dried material often absorbs humidity from the air later on once dried. This often leads to mildew and mould thus ruining all the effort that has gone into preserving them. This can be overcome by lacquering the blooms and vegetation. Some people choose to place dried arrangements within bell jars or glass cases with a desiccant gel added to absorb excess water. Herbs should be sealed in jars possibly with a desiccant gel sachet added to keep them crispy dry and aromatic.
House Plant Care:
Remember to start moving tender tropicals and all houseplants to their sunny and warm winter positions. Wherever Winter frosts are imminent, this will be a bright indoors position in a sunny window or with strong artificial lighting or a conservatory or sunroom. Before bringing them indoors check them for disease or pests. Give them a good protective spray just in case and a liquid feeding as well. Also reduce their watering to avoid chilling that might lead to rot or plant collapse.
There is still time to repot houseplants but best to repot only into the next size up. If in doubt leave them somewhat pot bound. Avoid over-potting this late in the season. The plants may not have enough time to completely fill their new container with roots before colder weather sends them into dormancy. A tender houseplant surrounded by cold, damp soil over the Winter months is a classic formula for root rot.
Outdoor garden plants that are going to be brought indoors for the Winter like Begonias, Coleus, hybrid Impatiens or Pelargoniums should be dug now and repotted into fairly smallish pots. Shake off most of their garden soil. Examine carefully to make sure that no worms are hiding amongst their roots as these are very damaging when trapped in a container plant. Repot into fresh potting mix, water well, then set in a draft-free, bright light or morning sun location for a few days until they adjust to their new surroundings. Then grow them on in a little less sunshine than they were used to getting outside. This prepares them for the darker indoor environment ahead. Before finally bringing them indoors, always give each a thorough protective spray to eliminate the possibility of bringing in disease or pests into the house. One of the most common, notorious and nearly invisible pests are Spider Mites. If ever they get indoors they can ruin everything growing inside and they are really hard to eradicate!
Continue taking cuttings of softwood tender plants like Begonias, Carnation, Coleus, Fuchsia, Impatiens and many more tender treasures like Bougainvillea, Citrus, Frangipani, Gardenia, Hibiscus, Poinsettia, Roses and much more. Provided the weather (especially night time temperatures) remains warm, these will strike quickly in sand and peat mix or houseplant potting mix. Hardy ones can survive in the cold frame. Tender ones come indoors for Winter or go into the glasshouse and can be planting-out next Spring.

This Third Week in the Early Autumn Garden:

week one - week two - week three - week four
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The Full Waning Moon Cycle, Dark of the Moon (15-17 March), Equinox New Moon (18 March) and the Autumnal Equinox (20-21 March) all happen this week Plant hardy things, especially bulbs, dormant corms, roots and tubers. With care hardy container grown groundcovers, perennials, shrubs, trees, vines and most subtropical species can be planted. This is an ideal week for all general gardening activities.
The Autumnal Equinox arrives 20 March 2018 16:15 UTC or 21 March 5:15AM NZDT. This represents the true celestial beginning of Autumn in the Southern Hemisphere and the start of Spring for the Northern Hemisphere. On this date days and nights are roughly of equal length. The Sun rises most closely to solar east and sets in solar west. Take note of these positions as they can be very helpful when aligning plantings. This is also the best time to realign sundials to read most accurately.
After this date and for the next six months, the Sun is situated over the Northern Hemisphere so our days will progressively become shorter than the nights. Early Autumn cooler conditions will soon follow, especially in colder districts. Sunlight shifts to a longer angle and shadows lengthen as the Southern Hemisphere declines into the Earth’s shadowed side.
Great Time for General Gardening Activities:
This Dark of the Moon (15-17 March) is traditionally seen as a time of fading and withering of Summer flowers and ushers in the start of Autumn blooms and maturation of harvests. It is a time to dry, gather and store fruits, herbs and vegetables for long-term keeping. It the ‘best’ time to eliminate brush, scrub and other unwanted vegetation. Heavy pruning now can be used to keep plants cut back for longer, but can also be used in combination with herbicides or a mixture of kerosene and salt to kill noxious vegetation. Clip and lightly prune to keep conifers, hedges, shrubbery and trees shapely for longer. Mow lawns and start preparations for new lawns and repairing established lawns.
It is a good time to lay foundations and pour concrete plus set brick work and paving stones; build rock gardens and dig pools; set fence posts and build structures; dig and move earth plus cut and stack wood for Winter. This is an excellent time to cultivate, open new ground and weed. Also this is a fine time to fertilize and liquid feed; spread manure and spray to eliminate disease and pests but be cautious to avoid chemical burn to tender tissues.
Extra care must be taken to maintain optimum conditions when planting or sowing anything during the final days of the Moon Cycle, known as the ‘Dark of the Moon’. Celestial/gravitational forces are at their most extreme during this time. This may cause undue stress upon tender and vulnerable species, especially transplanted seedlings. But these lunar extremes can be used to advantage when attempting to germinate ‘difficult’ or ‘temperamental’ seeds often with heavy coats or shells. Sowing is much preferred to transplanting during such times. This may not be the best time to transplant anything delicate. Wait until after the New Moon to do that.
The Autumnal Equinox New Moon (17-18 March) brings new beginnings. This is the New Moon occurring closest to the Autumnal Equinox (20-21 March) so signifies the lunar arrival of Autumn. Even if it feels like Summer, the wise Gardener knows that now is the time to prepare for the true transition into Autumnal.
Due to gravitational extremes produced by the Moon and Sun’s conjunctive alignment, water retention reaches its lowest point for the month at the New Moon and for several days thereafter. This is an ideal time to harvest fruits and vegetables for long-term storage. It is also a great time to harvest fields of grain and cut hay.
In areas with traditionally colder climates and places exposed to colder winds, start making plans and appropriate preparations for much cooler evenings which are bound to follow. While in mild climates and sheltered spots there is still a summery feel to the days which may last for some time yet.
Autumnal Planting Time Begins in Earnest!
This Autumnal New Moon starts one of the most glorious times of the year. Some of the best planting times of the year usually arrive with this New Moon and continue through the end of the month into next month! Mild days, cooler nights, and soon consistently damper weather will create ideal gardening conditions especially in milder and sheltered districts. Almost anything that a Gardener would want to plant can be started this week. Make the most of this pleasurable weather while it lasts!
What to Plant and Sow:
See Weeks One, Two and Three for lists of what to plant and sow this month.
Care with Pruning!
Diminishing sunlight of shorter days and cooler nights combines with lunar gravitational extremes to trigger the natural descending autumnal sap flow in plants. This is especially strong in deciduous plant species. Its’ effects can easily be seen as the leaves of these plants transform from green to vivid colors before dropping for Winter dormancy.
During this time the sap flow back into the plants root system can become quite extreme. If a branch is cut back at this time, air can be pulled into freshly cut branches as the sap descends back into the roots. If the cut is large and left unprotected, this can kill off more than one intended. Thus large cuts should be immediately sealed to avoid excessive die-back. If a large branch were removed close to a main stem or trunk, the die back can be devastating.
This technique was often used by pioneers in earlier times to naturally eliminate brush and scrub without the use of herbicides. So if the idea is to eliminate vegetation, now is the time to cut it back severely.
As well as clearing land of unwanted vegetation, Early Autumn remains an excellent time to lightly cut back, prune, shape and trim brambles and canes, conifers, hedges, shrubs, trees and vines. Because the season is nearing an end, what is pruned and trimmed now often will stay shapely for longer. Traditionally, if the lawn is mowed during this time the grass often remains shorter for longer. But a round of warm autumnal rain can easily ruin this idea.
In most cases a trim is preferred over a massive cut-back. This is important in any location that is very dry now and/or later on might receive severe freezing weather. Tender shrubs like Bougainvillea and Hibiscus need some vegetative protection to shelter their crowns from freezing. Plus Bougainvillea will flower on last year’s wood, so cutting all of this off now will reduce or eliminate Spring flowering.
Pruning now is especially important on Summer-flowering species as they finish. Hardy Buddleia and Hydrangea can be reduced by half their height or more without serious damage. Most Conifers and hedges benefit from a clip and shaping now. This will often be all that is needed until next Spring.
Fruit tree new growth can also be reduced by 1/3 or more without risking the next flowering and harvest. But warning, hurry with this! Once foliage on all deciduous species begins to lose its’ colour or begins to yellow, avoid any heavy pruning until they have completely lost their leaves and are fully dormant. Also be sure to immediately seal all fresh cuts. Leave a small stump whenever a large branch is being removed from near a central leader to avoid unwanted die-back. This stump can be removed later once the trees are completely dormant.
Severe pruning on all Late Autumn, Winter and Spring-flowering shrubs, trees and vines is acceptable to eliminate dead or diseased branches. But these species all will have flower buds developing at branch tips in preparation for their next flowering. Any serious pruning now probably won’t hurt the shrub but would eliminate these blooms.
If the idea is to revive a near-dead shrub by cutting it back, wait to do the heaviest part of the cut-back until the sap is once again flowing upward in Early Spring. Ironically, the same severe pruning that might kill the shrub if done now during the Autumnal ‘Dark of the Moon’ can be used to revive and rejuvenate it when accomplished in the Spring.
Many Gardeners choose to only prune or trim unusually wayward growth on such plantings now. But keep in mind that a more corrective pruning can occur just as flowering begins in Late Winter/Early Spring. An added bonus is that these trimmings can be brought indoors to create treasured floral arrangements when they will be most enjoyed.
Houseplants and all frost-tender species should be sheltered from cool nights now or brought inside for Winter. In mild districts there is still more time remaining outdoors. But remember that once temperatures fall below 12C/53.6F degrees many tender (sub) tropical will begin to enter dormancy. Once temperatures fall any lower, if the plants and soil remain damp or wet, chilling and even rot and subsequent plant collapse may follow. If the plants and especially their root systems can remain sheltered and warm, late season growth will continue.
Before bringing plants indoors, give them a thorough examination. Remove any damaged or dead foliage; cut back weak growth or anything that appears in any way diseased. Then give them a good watering and comprehensive spray against disease and pests. Make sure they are placed in a position indoors that is as close as is possible to the microclimate that they enjoyed outdoors. This will help reduce the shock of relocation which helps eliminate the possibility of disease or plant collapse. Be prepared to spray immediately at the first sign of pests that often attack soon after they come indoors. Spider Mite is often the hardest to see but the fastest killer of almost everything.
Cultivate Now:
This starts the busiest time in the Autumn garden. As weather conditions slowly become cooler and damper this encourages weedier gardens. It would be easy to turn one’s back and walk away, especially if the gardens are fading and there are no plans to plant for Winter. This would be a big mistake.
‘One weed seeding means nine years of weeding’ is an old Gardeners phrase with a wise observation that possibly should read ‘eternal’ weeding. If weeds can get a foothold and go to seed, which they do so quickly, the Spring garden could be a nightmare.
Lesson learnt:
Cultivate and turn the soil, if one plans to plant for the cool months or not. The good Gardener will turn the land several times. Then leave it for the weeds to germinate. While these new weeds are very small, cultivate them back into the ground on a dry sunny day. After several light cultivations, most weed seed will have been eliminated from the garden bed. The alternative is to cover the open beds with generous mulch that will suppress weeds while enriching the soil ahead of the next planting.
This week starts some of the best times for major lawn care. Continue or start sowing and top-dressing lawns. Early and Mid Autumn is the very best time of year to start a new lawn or reseed and old one. Damper conditions combined with warm soil guarantees speedy germination of seed and ideal weather for rapid growth. This allows the new grass to become well-established before the advent of wintry conditions.
Old established lawns that receive a lot of traffic may be looking a bit tattered or even bare. They can be brought back to life quite easily in just a few weeks. First lightly and systematically fork over the lawn, especially bare spots or wherever the ground appears to be very hard. If the weather remains dry, it is often best to water the lawn the day before. This will make the task of forking much easier.
Immediately after forking, while the ground is loose, grass seed can be added and raked into the land. Then keep the lawn moist and seed germination will be rapid.
Alternatively, to make a top quality lawn, after forking dust over the land with blood and bone, lime or Gypsum (if drainage is poor) and a good quality lawn food. Water this in and let these soil additives cure in the soil for at least a few days. A thin top dressing of weed-free top soil or mature compost can be added over the top of the lawn and raked in roughly so that the established lawn grass pokes through. Then apply a generous covering of lawn seed. Rake this in well so that the seed is lightly covered. Water this in generously and keep the land moist. One or two good soaks should be enough to allow water to penetrate deeply into the soil. Once the land is deeply moist, only light watering will be necessary to keep it that way. Never let the ground dry out or the germinating lawn seedlings will be lost.
If birds are a problem, chose a seed with a protective bird repellent added. Or whiten the ground with lime after the seed has been applied and is watered in. Any birds that hunt out the lawn seed will get a beak full of lime rather than seed. This should put them off for at least the few days it will take for the seed to germinate under these ideal conditions.
Feeding Time:
Flower buds are developing on all Late Autumn, Winter and Spring-flowering shrub and tree species, plus some vines. Many biennials, perennials plus established bulbs are in active growth and Autumn annual flower gardens are blooming. So this is an ideal time to feed them all.
Use a special flowering formula or any good quality plant food high in Phosphorous and Potassium to encourage development of flower buds.
A good general mix is one cup of general garden fertilizer (in the ratio of something like 10-10-10) mixed into one bucket of mature compost or well aged manure.
To develop more buds and blooms add a generous handful of super phosphate or rock phosphate to this mix.
For fruiting species add extra Sulphate of Potash or green sand to the mix to encourage strong root health. Potash also helps develop deeper and more vivid colour hues, especially vibrant blue and purple shades. Spread this liberally from just off the stem/trunk (avoid this mix drifting up on the trunk) and outward to the drip line.
Feeding Acid Loving Plants:
Some plants require a low (acid) pH for good plant health.
This includes:
Azalea, Boronia, Camellia, Ceanothus, Cinquefoil (Potentilla), Cornus (Dogwood), Daphne, Erica (Heather), Gaultheria (Wintergreen), Gardenia, Hydrangea (blue-flowering), Kalmia (Mountain Laurel), Murraya (Orange Jasmine) Pieris (Lily-of-the-Valley shrub), Leptospermum (Tea Tree), Leucothoe (Dog Hobble/Sweet Bells), Photinia, Rhododendron, Rosemary and other shrubbery and tree species.
To successfully feed acid loving plants give them the same compost and fertilizer ratio mix as described earlier. But substitute a special ‘acid based’ (low pH) fertiliser especially made for these shrubs. This is often commercially sold as ‘Azalea, Camellia, and Rhododendron Food’. Alternatively, add a small amount (one handful) of Flowers of Sulphur dust to the general plant food or dust this over the ground and water in well.
Never apply Lime to acid-loving plants. This can so alter the soil pH that the plants die or become diseased and weak. If poor drainage is a problem, dust with Gypsum, an inert form of lime with a neutral pH of 7.0.
Always Water First Before Feeding:
Whenever applying fertilisers around any sort of planting, make sure that the ground is well irrigated ahead of time, usually a day or two earlier. This insures that the plants involved have adequate reserves of water already present in their tissues. For fastest results then generously water in the fertilizer and mulch mix.
Avoid applying any fertilizer to dry soil and drought-stressed plants. Otherwise as soon as the dry fertiliser becomes liquid through rainfall or watering, the chemical salts involved may be drawn up into the plant tissues so quickly and in such high concentrations as to cause chemical burning. This often is most pronounced at the tender growing tips and buds which can make them drop prematurely.
Regular irrigation or a good rainfall soaking once a week is important to healthy bud development.
How to Keep Gardens Productive:
It is possible to prolong flower displays on Late Summer and Autumn flower beds plus increase the harvest potential of many vegetable crops. This is especially important wherever Winter weather prohibits gardening or it is important to maintain floral displays or produce the greatest possible vegetable harvests.
Make sure the beds remain deeply moist. This is especially important while weather remains sunny and warm. On average a garden bed must have the very minimum of 2.5cm/1inch of rainfall per week to maintain active growth. More might be required if weather remains unusually dry, hot and/or windy. A single deep soaking usually does more good than frequent light sprinkling. Irrigating with rainwater is usually much more productive than using city ‘treated’ water. Rainwater is often mineral rich so acts almost like a liquid fertilizer. Treated water may refresh a dry garden but can contain additives that discourage beneficial growth unless additional fertilizers are added to enrich it.
Ironically, once weather begins to cool and night time temperatures fall below 12C degrees; attempt to keep the garden drier. This will help maintain a higher ground temperature that will contribute to continuous flowering and maturation of vegetable harvests. Often one cold rain near the end of the season is all that is needed to trigger dormancy. If the garden can be sheltered from that, drier and sunnier weather often follows and the garden will reward with extra weeks of productivity.
Continue a regular feeding program with a fertilizer mix as suggested earlier. Once a season may be enough for flower beds but once a month would be more likely for productive vegetable harvests. This can be supplemented with foliar feeding. Bud and flower production responds dramatically to foliar feeding as this brings valuable nutrients to exactly where they are needed; when they are needed for brilliant results.
Increase dry and/or foliar feeding as the season advances, using a ‘flowering and fruiting’ formula that has a higher ratio of Phosphate and Potassium than Nitrogen. This will stimulate greater bud, flower, fruit and vegetable production.
Watch the weather forecasts. If an early frost appears likely, consider applying a comprehensive foliar feeding starting at least a day or two prior to the cold snap. The added fertilizer salts will lower the freezing point of sap water and often significantly reduce or eliminate early frost damage in plant tissues. Often a warm ‘Indian Summer’ follows those first cold nights. If the garden has been foliar fed prior to this warm spell it often will thrive right up until truly cold weather arrives.
Dead-head regularly, trimming back faded and spent flowers and flowering stems. Often a gentle cut-back will stimulate a new flush of growth and flowering. The same applies to many vegetable crops. Cutting back over-worked growth will often result in fresh new stems capable of producing later harvests. Always harvest mature vegetables promptly. This relieves a great deal of stress from the plant that can stimulate further production. Always remove spent growth and old vegetables; never allowing them to rot in the garden where they might introduce blight or fungal rots to maturing vegetables or infect the final blooms on flowers.
Spray mature plantings at first signs of trouble or pull them out before the problem spreads. The ‘best’ sprays for food crops are almost always organically based ones: oil and soap sprays; garlic and pepper water; copper and sulphur powders, baking soda and whole milk, etc. To significantly boost plant health, add a foliage-fertilising plant food when spraying for disease and pests. This will feed as well as protect maturing plants. Also guard that mature plantings showing any signs of disease do not contaminate emerging or freshly planted crops and flowers otherwise the cool season plantings could be ruined while still vulnerable and young.
Anything hopelessly predated or tired should be removed and burnt or composted at high temperatures. Recycle everything one way or another but refrain from placing anything diseased or infected in what would otherwise be ‘clean’ and fresh compost. This will just spread the problem. Burning eliminates diseases and pests. The ashes (and untreated wood ashes in general) are a rich source of Potassium (Potash) but are highly alkaline. They are best applied to freshly cultivated land that will sit idle for a while or composted separately until they ‘mature’ and their alkalinity subsides. Applying mature wood ashes to Hydrangeas is an excellent way to turn them pink.
Homemade compost is often the most beneficial soil additive. This is especially so whenever the composted materials come off your own land. That is because everything that went into creating the garden has now been recycled back into the same land again. Anything else that can be added to that basic compost further increases the compost’s potential benefit to the land.
Autumn leaves, ‘healthy’ dead flowers & vegetables, along with kitchen scraps and these (untreated) wood ashes should be recycled through the compost pile whenever possible. Autumn leaves are a rich source of fiber and minerals. These make some of the finest compost. They can also be applied directly to the garden beds as mulch which will slowly break down and feed the soil. Hard, high-tannin leaves (Holly, Karaka, Magnolia, Oak, etc.) should be mechanically shredded first before being spread over garden beds. Running them over with a lawnmower is a most effective way of shredding them. Avoid such deep applications that they compress and pack down as this will create an impenetrable mat that will shed water and not decompose as they should.
Harvest Season:
Fruits and vegetables are in abundance now. The time around the New Moon is also the time of the month with the lowest water retention. This is traditionally regarded as the ‘best’ time to harvest fruits and vegetables, flowers and herbs for drying, bottling and preserving plus long term storage.
This is an excellent time to harvest herbs for Winter seasoning; petals for potpourri. Choose a dry period with relatively low humidity. Herbs just entering early to mid bloom are often the most aromatic. Petals should come from fresh new blooms near the top and sunny side of the plant. In a well-planned garden, many of these will be at their peak now. Fully mature and older blooms will often produce dull colours or fade to brown with little if any scent. The same applies for herbs. These are best gathered as they reach their peak.
Best time to harvest is often later in the afternoon following a dry and sunny day. This is especially true of aromatic herbs and those used for their medicinal or oil content. Delicate flowers meant for preserving are often best harvested just as they open in the morning as soon as all the dew has dried off of them.
The most preferable time starts during the Waning Moon Cycle to around the New Moon and if weather remains dry and warm, a few days afterward The traditionally most ideal time is when the Waning Moon is placed in front of a ‘fire sign’ constellation (Aries, Leo, or Sagittarius). (Moon enters sidereal Aries 20-21 March). This is when water retention is at its lowest and volatile oil content is at its highest.
Flowers and herbs should be dried quickly on screens or in open boxes in an airy, bright (but not sunny) environment. Flowers and foliage can also be pressed between the pages of a book or beneath sheets of newspaper or paper towelling held firmly in place to press them flat.
Some flowers and herbs can be gathered as bunches and hung upside down to dry. Flowers meant to be used in dried floral arrangements and floral art are often laid into boxes and covered very carefully with a mix of silica powder and sand. Allow these to dry in an airy, warm spot until crisp. Then remove; spray lacquer to keep dampness out and either store in boxes for later use or create special arrangements and designs.
Another very effective approach is to preserve harvest flowers and foliage in Glycerine. Use one part Glycerine to two parts very warm water (135F/57C). Buds, leaves and petals can be completely submerged in the solution. Stem flowers can be submerged or stood upright in a bath or bucket filled with the Glycerine solution. Coloured dye can be added to enhance their colour. Leave the plant material in the solution for several days; sometimes longer, until there is the desired colour change. Then wash off any excess, leave them to dry and they are ready to use. The advantage to Glycerine is that the results should be bright, flexible and often almost glossy. The disadvantage is that the Glycerine may later begin to weep and stain furnishings or wood during humid weather.
A Nursery Visit Could Bring Bargains:
It is time for a nursery visit. As the season fades, many nurseries are eager to sell-off stock so they will not have to hold it through the Winter months ahead. This is especially true in colder districts with shorter growing seasons.
Gardeners in these cooler and Alpine regions should start planning to purchase species with just the right Autumn tones for their landscape scheme. In these cooler regions, Autumn colour is just beginning to show. While in milder climates autumnal colour is still some distance away and should last into June on some species. Autumnal tones often vary within a single species due to slight genetic variations and sometimes due to soil and climate factors. When planning a garden for autumnal tones, it is always best to see them first hand in full colour from a local nursery to be most certain that these bright colours will match.
Bulb Planting Continues:
Continue planting Spring Flowering bulbs in all districts. In mild climates where conditions may remain summery and warm, place the dormant bulbs in mesh bags or open boxes. Store these in an airy, cool, dry environment until the season cools off and planting conditions improve.
Alternatively, in mild ‘winterless’ climates, or if the bulbs are to be forced for really early blooms, refrigerate these bulbs now at about 4C/39-40F or just above freezing (never frozen!). After 10-14 weeks (and no longer than 22 weeks) in refrigeration and once outdoor conditions cool sufficiently these bulbs are ready for planting.
Bulbs being forced for early blooms can be either potted now and kept in refrigeration or placed in the coolest, damp, dark position outdoors to encourage root development without excessive top growth. Once roots begin to show through the drainage holes in their pots, they are ready to bring out into a bright but cool spot to grow on for early flowering. Alternatively, refrigerate the bulbs ‘dry’ now in mesh bags and then pot them later after 10-14 + weeks. Lovely early Spring blooms will follow in 6-8 weeks.

This Forth Week in the Early Autumn Garden:

week one - week two - week three - week four
Moon-Full-WunderPhoto-230x153 The Waxing Moon Cycle enhances the entire week. First Quarter Moon (near perigee) arrives 25 March. The second and final large Blue ‘Harvest’ Moon of 2018 happens 31 March for most of the world but just slips into 1 April over New Zealand. Weather permitting; this could be a wonderful week for planting and sowing plus a great opportunity to prepare for the lovely Mid Autumn season ahead. Plant and sow flowers, leafy vegetables and those that produce their crops above the ground; plant almost anything grown in containers such as hardy groundcovers, hedges, fruiting and ornamental shrubs, trees and vines plus citrus and subtropicals in mild climates. It is a great time to refurbish the lawn or start a new one. All general gardening activities are also favoured.
Planting and Sowing Time:
This Early Autumn Waxing Moon Cycle leading to the Blue Harvest Moon could be a benevolent special ‘gift’ in the Early Autumn season. It is an excellent time to plant a wide variety of annual flower seedlings and sow their seed. For instant colour choose advanced seedlings or colour pots for an immediate splash of autumnal colour. Seed sowing should concentrate on flowers for the Late Autumn, Winter and Spring gardens.
Easiest Annuals* to Plant or Sow Now Include:
Ageratum, Alyssum, Calendula, Calliopsis, Candytuft, Cleome, Cornflower, Cosmos, Dianthus, Everlasting Daisies (Rhodanthe, Xeranthemum, etc.), Gypsophila, Impatiens, Larkspur, Limnanthes (Meadow Foam), Linaria, Linum (Annual Flax), Livingston Daisy, Lobelia, Lupin, Marigold (especially French and dwarf varieties; African varieties in mild climates), Mignonette, Nemesia, Nemophila (Baby Blue Eyes), Nigella (Love-in-a-Mist), Painted Daisy (Tanacetum coccinium), Pansy, Penstemon, Phacelia, Poppies (Iceland, Shirley and species),Poor Man’s Orchid (Schizanthus), Primula, Scabiosa, Snapdragon (Antirrhinum), Statice, Stock, Strawflowers (Helichrysum), Sweet Peas (Lathyrus), Viola, Virginia Stock, Wildflower mixes, Zinnia and more locally.
* This list contains some half-hardy biennial and perennial species that are commonly grown as annual plantings.
Many of these annuals, biennials and perennials, especially lovely classics like Calceolaria, Carnation, Cineraria, Cyclamen, Dianthus, Iceland Poppy, Kalanchoe, Primula species like P. obconica, Schizanthus, Snapdragon, Statice, Stock, Sweat Peas, Violet and many more can be sown now in the cool glasshouse for Winter and Spring flowers. This provides welcome floral colour under glass when these species would not bloom or possibly even survive outdoors.
Biennials and Perennials:
Advanced Biennial and perennial plants in containers and advanced seedlings can be planted now to become established before the onset of Winter. Most of these will bloom next Spring & Summer: Aquilegia, Arctotis, Bellis perennis (English Daisy), Campanula species and Canterbury Bells, Carnation, Coneflower, Delphinium, Dianthus, Feverfew (Tanacetum parthenium ), Forget-Me-Not (Mysotis), Foxglove (Digitalis), Gaillardia, Gypsophila, Hollyhock (Althea), Honesty (Lunaria), Lobelia (spiking varieties), Lupin, Painted Daisy (Tanacetum coccinium), Penstemon, Polyanthus, Poppy (Iceland, Oriental and annual varieties), Primula, Scabiosa, Snapdragon, Statice, Sweet peas (Lathyrus), Sweet William, Viola and more locally.
In milder climates or with the advantage of a glasshouse or cold frame, all these species can also be sown from seed. Since most will germinate quickly but advance slowly, they will need a protective environment to get them safely through their first Winter.
Perennial Planting:
Autumn is an ideal time to plant hardy Perennial species. This gives them plenty of time to become established before the rigours of Spring growth and flowering. Planting and sowing conditions should remain quite good for the next several weeks.
Now is the time to purchase established plants or start their seed. Beds and containers can be started now and plantings can be made provided there is little if any root disturbance and plants can be regularly cared for and watered during these transitional days.
Perennials to Plant:
Agapanthus, Alcea (Hollyhock), Althaea (Marshmallow), Alstroemeria, Aster (Belgium, Michaelmas, New England Asters), Bergenia, Canna, Dicentra (Bleeding Heart), Gazania, Gerbera, Geum, Incarvillea (Pride of China), Iris, Nierembergia (Cup Flower, often grown as an annual), Oriental Poppies (most all Poppy species), Polyanthus (Primrose), Primula, Pulmonaria (Lungwort), Pyrethrum (Painted Daisy), Rudbeckia (Black/Brown-Eyed Susan), Salvia, Sanguinaria (Blood Root), Sedum, Strelitzia, Streptocarpus (Cape Primrose), Tradescantia (Day Flowers), Verbena, Violet, Zantedeschia (Arum/Calla Lily) and much more.
Continue to plant and sow all the cool season vegetables for Late Autumn, Winter and Early Spring harvests. The Waxing Moon Cycle is particularly well suited to plant growth and sowing seed of many leafy vegetables and all those that produce their crops above the ground. Seed should germinate quickly in these near ideal conditions. Seedlings will almost surely require near-daily watering until they become established.
It is possible to sow the seed of hardy root crop vegetables now, too. When planted now, they will make strong top growth rather than bulbs that will develop later. But the tops of some of them like Beet Root, Kohlrabi, Onion and Shallot can be harvested as a green vegetable during their early stages of growth. This will encourage faster root development.
The very best root crop vegetables should be seeded starting around 23 March onward. This way they should germinate around the Full Moon (31 March-1 April) and so take full advantage of the Waning Moon Cycle that follows. This is how most exhibition root crop vegetables are started. Continue sowing root crop vegetables through to around the first half of April.
Vegetables to Plant or Sow:
Beetroot, Broad Beans (cool climates), Borecole (Kale), Broccoli, Brussel Sprouts, Cabbages (Chinese and traditional), Carrot, Cauliflower, Chinese Leafy Greens, Cress, Dwarf Beans (warm spots),Endive, Herbs, Kohlrabi, Leeks, Lettuce (best under glass), Mustard, Onions & Spring Onions, Parsley, Parsnip, Peas, Potato (mild climates, free drainage), Radish, Salsify, Shallot, Silverbeet, Spinach, Swedes, Turnips and more, especially under glass or in frost-free, mild, sheltered climates.
In colder climates, stick to the hardiest species or plant under glass.
In a past age, when the Moon shifted in front of its ruling constellation of (sidereal) Cancer (26-27 March), this was traditionally considered the ‘best’ time to plant or sow all manner of disc-shaped, globe and round flowers and vegetables like Cabbages, Cauliflower, Onion, Potato, Radish, Swede and Turnip.
Disc, Globe and Round Flowers include:
Allium, Calendula, Dianthus, Eryngium (Sea Holly), Godetia (milder climates),Livingstone Daisy, Marigolds (milder climates), Nemesia, Pansy & Viola, Primula Cowslip and Polyanthus varieties, Poppies, Pyrethrum, Ranunculus, Scabiosa (milder climates), Sunflowers (milder climates), most Spring-flowering bulbs and most other bulbs of all sorts plus so much more including all cream and white flowers; plus anything with a translucent quality.
Moon in (Sidereal) Cancer represents a superb ‘growing’ sign. It is a brilliant time to plant, sow and transplant flowers, fruits, grains, nut trees, vines, leafy crops, vegetables that produce their crops above the ground, plus ‘round’ vegetables: Brassica Family plants like Broccoli, Brussel Sprouts, Cabbages and Cauliflower; heading lettuce; and many root crops.
Because this month’s Cancer Moon placement occurs in the strongly Full Waxing Moon Cycle, the sowing of seed for all root crops vegetables is greatly enhanced. Root crop vegetable seed can continue to be sown until the next New Moon (16 April).
Strawberries can be planted from established containers. Since these are often hard to find in the Autumn garden center, consider starting new plants from rooted runners taken off mature plants already established in the garden. These can either be planted direct into their permanent garden position or shifted into containers meant for later transplanting. Either way they will require continual feeding and watering to encourage rapid and strong growth. Once they become established and/or the weather becomes consistently damper, they will largely look after themselves.
Strawberries can be planted all through the Autumn and even Winter in mild climates experiencing only light frosts. There is still time to anchor down runners from the past season’s mature Strawberry plants. Simply pin down a runner so that it rests firmly over roughened soil. Roots will soon form. Once they do, clip the young runner plantlet away from its parent and immediately replant it on a mound of enriched earth or into a container. Next Summer this plant will produce a crop of succulent berries.
Shrubs, Trees, Vines and Subtropicals:
As soon as days become cool and the soil remains consistently moist, start planting container grown ornamental shrubs, trees, vines plus brambles and canes and also most native species originating from Australia, the Mediterranean, New Zealand, South Africa and cooler regions of South America. This week is an excellent time to purchase such plants plus perhaps start digging the holes and preparing the soil in readiness for planting. If weather conditions remain benevolent, planting can commence onward for some time to come.
At this early stage in the autumnal growing season, shrubs, trees and vines are best transplanted from established containers. Included here are Citrus, Feijoa and most subtropical species plus Palms in mild and subtropical regions. This is assuming that the weather is benevolent and/or regular irrigation can be applied to assist in their establishment.
At this benevolent moment in the growing season almost anything can be transplanted or successfully shifted with care. Greatest success will occur with the least amount of root damage or disturbance.
New lawns can be started now with ‘ease’. In all but the very coldest climates, Autumn is an ideal time to start or renew the lawn. The exception being wherever droughty conditions persist. Even there, the site can be cultivated; weeds can be removed and the land fed in advanced preparation to sowing the seed once autumnal rains return. Old lawns should be heavily raked to remove old runners and weeds. If the land is compacted and hard, consider a generous application of Gypsum Lime now. Over the next several months, this will open the soil to improve aeration and drainage thus improving the quality of the lawn. Fill holes and dips with sand or weed-free soil then evenly broadcast fertiliser. Water this in well and let the land stand for at least a week; then broadcast lawn seed and water in well. The critical factor as to when to sow is often sufficient rainfall or watering. Once lawn seed is sown, make sure to maintain even moisture through regular irrigation if regular rainfall fails to materialise.
Autumn starts an ideal planting time for sowing wildflower seed. This includes harvesting mature seed and more importantly, sowing fresh seed for the next Spring wildflower display. Choose an airy, open sunny situation with well draining soil. The soil does not need to be overly fertile and rich which could encourage great vegetative growth at the expense of flower quality. Unless a speciality bog/wetland wildflower mix is being sown, avoid sowing in heavy, soggy soils that drain poorly. Most commercial wildflower mixes contain species and varieties gathered from upland meadows so few prefer heavy wet land.
Should the planned wildflower site be poorly draining, now is the time to spread a generous dusting of Gypsum over the land. Water this in lightly to the consistency of whole milk. Then let it settle into the soil. Avoid letting it run off. While it takes a while for its colloidal action to open the land, by Spring, the site should drain much more freely.
Wildflowers will accommodate a variety of soils. But going to a bit of trouble to improve the land prior to sowing will greatly improve the final outcome. For best results, cultivate the site as if starting a new lawn. Weed seeds are encouraged to germinate then these are cultivated down on a sunny, dry day and allowed to rot in as green manure. Very weedy ground can be watered and weed-cultivated several times prior to sowing the wildflower seed. This will eliminate most all of the adverse weed competition which will result in a much more successful display, and a lot less weeding!
Then broadcast the wildflower seed and lightly rake it in. Water generously then keep the site moist. Early flowering varieties will spring up quickly. Some of these may even begin to flower later in the Autumn; or more likely will bloom sometime in Late Winter and Spring. While many of the Summer flowering seeds may come up now but remain small throughout the cooler months. Other seed will lay dormant throughout the Winter and pop up in Spring. No special care or maintenance will be needed other than removing aggressive, large and sprawling weeds or possibly invasive, spreading grasses. Get these out early before anything can go to seed.
Plan to allow the wildflower patch to grow-on naturally until all flowering is finished and the spent plants go to seed and wither away.
Dedicated Wildflower Growers often gather seed from the finest specimens for replanting/ re-sowing. This will soon result in wildflower ‘hybrids’ that are ideally suited to your special microclimate.
Once all seed collecting has been completed, the dried and withered wildflower area is cut or mowed down and allowed to dry out in the sunshine. If there has been no disease or insect predation, allow the cut wildflower stems to drop where they grew in the field. This will replenish the minerals that were removed from the soil to grow the flowers. After a few weeks, cultivate again lightly as before. Broadcast the saved or newly purchased wildflower seed; generously irrigate and new seedlings should emerge soon for the next flowering!
The best site for purchasing wildflower seed in New Zealand is www.wildflowerworld.co.nz Wildflower World sells a wide variety of wildflower mixes suited to specific sites and height requirements. These produce a broad range of varieties so at least a few will succeed even in the worst locations. Once you discover which varieties thrive in your site, it is possible to buy separate varieties to create a much greater impact.
Wildflower Connoisseurs often buy a number of separate varieties that can be planted in individual or overlapping patches and are sometimes over-sown with a complimentary variety that produce earlier or later flowering. In this way, startling colour variations can be created that change and shift colour through a long season much like a living aurora blossoming upon the earth.
All Spring-Flowering bulbs can be planted throughout the remainder of the month and for several months to come. For more details see Week Three ‘Bulbs: Planting Time is Here!’
While dormant bulbs can be started almost any time, the very ‘best’ time in the near future is as the Moon shifts in front of constellation Cancer (26-27 March) onward to the Mid Autumn ‘Harvest’ Full Moon (31March-1 April) and well into the Waning Moon cycle next month. This will tend to stimulate root development first before top growth begins.
Tender Bulbs:
The warm season needed to grow many tender bulbs is beginning to fade away or finish. As it does, the foliage of most tender bulbs begins to fade and wither. Usually it is best to allow the foliage to die and dry off naturally before cutting it off and digging them up.
In frost-free/frost protected climatic situations with dry and sunny Winters, these can be left in the ground to go dormant. But wherever ground freezing, heavy frosts and/or wintry wet weather is imminent, they must be dug and stored to avoid losses through rotting that would almost certainly occur if they were left in the cold, damp ground.
Once dug, wash the dirt off the bulbs, corms or roots. Let them air dry in an airy, dry shaded environment. Once thoroughly dry, store these in boxes or flats of dry peat, old potting mix, sand, untreated sawdust etc. in an airy, cool and dark position.
Dahlias often come into their finest flowering now and through the Autumn months. Acidanthera, Canna, Alocassia, Tuberous Begonias, Tuberose and a few other species often keep on shining for a long time yet. For best results keep them well fed and a bit under watered as conditions cool down.
Tender Bulbs Include:
Acidanthera (Fragrant or Abyssinian Gladioli), Alocassia & Calocasia/Elephant Ear), Caladium, Calla and decorative Zantedeschia, Canna, Crinum, Dahlia, Eucomis (Pineapple Lily), Gladioli, Gloriosa Lily, Scadoxus, Tigridia, Tuberous Begonia, Tuberose and other tender bulbs, corms, roots and tubers.
Timing is Everything:
Plan to make the most of this important planting and sowing time. The most successful approach is to plant and sow in synchronization with the appropriate Moon cycle to best insure the finest results. Nature is very forgiving, so planting and sowing can be successfully achieved at almost any time, provided proper care is taken. But like most things in life, it is possible to do things the easy way or another way. Unfortunately, the ‘hard’ way may appear to be more convenient at the time, but the results might prove to be rather poor or at worst a dismal failure.
Plant and sow species that produce crops above ground and most flowers from around the New Moon and during the following Waxing Moon Cycle (Moon appears in the evening sky and grows brighter each evening through to the Full Moon ).
They can also be planted or sown for up to one week later into the Waning Moon Cycle (the period after Full Moon when Moonlight diminishes each night).
When plants are started in the Waning cycle these sowings usually will produce more roots first and less top growth which will come on later. This is very helpful in droughty positions.
Root crop vegetables and flowering species with extensive root systems or tap roots are best planted in the week leading up to the Full Moon and thereafter through the Waning Moon Cycle (light diminishing; Crescent Moon in the early morning sky).
The final week of the Moon Cycle, known as the ‘Dark of the Moon’ is when celestial/gravitational forces increase to their most extreme at the New Moon. This stress can result in high evaporation leading to drying and withering of anything tender and vulnerable, especially newly transplanted seedlings. It is an excellent time for construction projects, laying foundations and paving, mowing plus a wide variety of general gardening activities and planting dormant things that need some time before they germinate.
This includes many seeds with hard coats and tap-rooted species. These are often sown from seed where they are meant to flower and grow as their succulent and tender (tap) roots are notoriously difficult to successfully transplant.

Included here are such favourites as:
Acanthus, Bells of Ireland (warm spots), Delphinium, Echium, Hollyhock, Larkspur, Lupin, Sweet Pea and Verbascum plus many others including almost anything with an extensive root system including all tap-rooted vegetables.
Pruning & Cutting Back:
Waxing Moon Cycle in Early Autumn is an ideal time to cut back, prune and trim a wide variety of garden plants, ground covers, conifers and some broad leafed evergreens plus most shrubs, trees and vines.
Usually anything cut back properly at this time will eventually respond very well with abundant and strong new growth. That response may be immediate on flowering annuals, ground covers and fast growing species. But because the season is fading, most likely much of this new growth will occur next Spring onward.
Be warned that what works now won’t work later. Pruning now brings brilliant results. But everything changes in just a few weeks time especially from the Last Quarter Moon (10 April) onward through the New Moon (16 April). Sap will be flowing downward into the root system. Celestial/lunar gravitational forces will be at their greatest. This combination creates such powerful extremes that pruning then can result in severe die-back or death of the shrub. This is when pruning is used to eliminate noxious vegetation and strongly reduce growth. Pruning for improved growth during much of Late Autumn (May) also can be dodgy, so get the job done now if possible.
Deciduous and broad-leafed evergreen Fruit trees can be pruned after all fruit is removed. Do not remove all new growth or next year’s crop will be reduced. But this season’s rampant growth can be thinned or considerably cut back to within a few inches/centimetres without compromising the next fruit crop. Cutting off 2/3rd of the new growth is not excessive. This will encourage the remaining 1/3 to produce more abundant flowering clusters.
Stop cutting back all deciduous species as soon as leaves begin to yellow or change to early autumnal tones. Once this happens, plant sap is receding into the root system in preparation for Winter dormancy. Cutting back during that transitional interval is acceptable only if every cut is immediately sealed with protective tree paint. Otherwise, if the fresh cuts remain exposed there is the chance that air may be drawn into the wound. This could result in more die-back than was intended.
Once the plants are completely bare of vegetation later in the season, this signifies that dormancy has been reached. Now pruning can resume throughout the wintry dormant period. Winter is one of the best and safest times to prune back many species.
Most conifers, hedges, shrubs, trees and vines can also be given a light trimming now. Clipping and pruning right now during the Waxing Moon Cycle tends to result in bushy and stronger new growth. So this can be very helpful when attempting to control and reshape older and woody shrubbery. Shaping plantings now gives the opportunity for limited regrowth so that everything looks tidy and trimmed to excellent shape before the onset of wintry dormancy.
Be aware that most Autumn, Winter and Spring-flowering broad leafed evergreen and deciduous shrubs, trees and vines have already set their buds in preparation for later flowering. Anything removed now will not hurt the plant but will reduce its ability to flower in the season ahead.
Cut Back warm season flower displays, vegetable crops and wildflower beds as they begin to finish and the season fades. Clear them away to the compost pile. Alternatively, if the plant material appears to be healthy, the plants can be cut down from top to bottom into small pieces using hedge clippers. These small pieces can be left where they fall as a ‘soft’ mulch and allowed to rot on the ground or can be dug in as green manure. This helps return back into the soil exactly what the plants removed which replenishes the land for future crops. Often a dusting of fertiliser and/or Lime is spread over these clippings as a further source of enrichment.
The exception to ‘soft’ mulching is wherever disease or predation is obvious in the garden. Then remove the affected material and burn it. Alternatively, place it in a black plastic bag left out in hot sunshine for several days/weeks until the material is fully composted. Or place it in a compost bin or heap that heats up sufficiently to eliminate all disease and pathogens. Be aware that the compost pile must become quite hot; almost too hot to touch, in order to kill most virulent garden diseases and pathogens. Fire is by far the most effective and safest method to permanently eliminate these problems from our environment.
Pests and Predation:
Avoid the spread of blights & pests if at all possible. These can winter-over causing trouble again next Spring. Keep garden, Rose & vegetable beds; fruiting shrubs and trees, plus brambles, canes and vines in a clean & tidy condition. At the first sign of insect predation or bacterial, fungal trouble cut and prune back to healthy growth and remove & burn all affected material. Spray or otherwise treat the affected area immediately to eliminate the problem. Usually once a problem is spotted, it is already much further advanced than what can be visibly seen. Every day postponed in treated the problem quantum leaps its spread and the difficulty involved to permanently eliminating it. Act immediately and decisively.
As mentioned before, some Gardeners, mostly those in ‘fire-ban’ areas, place the diseased materials in a black heavy-duty garbage bag, tie it securely and place it in a sunny and hot position for at least a week or longer to ‘cook’ and kill any pathogens. But the Gardener is still left to deal with a toxic mess rotting in a bag. This ‘bagging’ technique can be effective sometimes but is not nearly as final and reliable as burning. Plus the end product of burning is (wood) ash, organic Potash which is invaluable in the compost pile and garden. There is nothing environmentally friendly about a plastic bag filled with rotten debris.
Avoid placing diseased materials in an active but ‘cool’ compost pile as the problem will simply perk along and arise later. Never bag such noxious materials and dump them or send them to the municipal dump as this simply spreads the problem further afield.
Once the affected area has been cleaned and tidied, spray everything immediately with an appropriate product to eliminate the problem. Watch in the coming weeks for any signs of re-emergence and be prepared to spray again.
This is the right time to take cuttings and root divisions. Keep them bright, moist and warm. Water retention will increase through the end of the month. This will slow evaporation from within foliage and insure a much better chance of success. Most of these cuttings will survive much better if they are grown on in the cold frame, glasshouse or sheltered nursery through the ensuing Winter months. An easy way on a small scale is to insert each cutting into a pot filled with an appropriate growing medium. Place the pot inside a plastic bag with a drainage hole in the bottom that is then drawn up around and over the top of the cuttings. This creates a small terrarium that maintains high relative humidity and more even heat retention. Cuttings usually strike quite quickly under this method. Plan to plant these out next Spring and through the warmer months.
Lawns should be fed to strengthen them ahead of the autumnal growth burst and to prepare them for the onset of Winter.
Conifers and Broad-Leafed Evergreens including:
Azaleas, Camellias, Citrus, Daphne, Feijoa, Guava, Luculia, Osmanthus, Rhododendrons, most broad-leafed evergreen natives from Australia, the Mediterranean, New Zealand and South Africa may need protective (compost) mulch against ensuing cold plus definitely a comprehensive feeding that is higher in phosphate and potash than nitrogen: 5-10-10; 2-4-5, etc. This will encourage the formation of healthy strong buds and a strengthened root system while producing stocky, tight new foliage and reducing excessive soft top growth.
Brambles and cane fruit; flowering and fruiting shrubs, trees and vines can also have a lighter feeding plus compost mulch. This should favour a higher ratio of Potassium and possibly Phosphorous and lower levels of Nitrogen. This will enrich and strengthen their root stock while not encouraging soft new growth at a time when most of them are naturally entering dormancy.
Flower and Vegetable beds and containers of anything that is presently in active growth should be regularly feed so that plant health and productivity will remain high for longer. Also generously feed vacant garden beds that will either be resting for the cooler season or will soon be replanted for later floral displays and vegetable harvests. In regions that stay quite wet over the Winter months, a generous dusting of Lime helps balance soil pH and reduces mossy or ‘sour’ soil problems.
Continue to apply compost and dry/granular fertilizers frequently but lightly and regularly throughout the Autumn months. Many species are now developing and expanding flowering buds in advance of their next flowering. Very best and fastest results come when granular fertilizer is broadcast over pre-dampened ground and then watered in at least lightly. Then re-watered again a few days later during a mild and sunny day when the Moon is rising overhead. This will insure rapid absorption of fertilizer minerals as the sap and mineral-enriched water is drawn up into the plant with the rising Moon tide.
Systemic foliar feeding is also highly effective when applied thoroughly at this time of the growing season.

About us

dale-john 01-100x66 Dale Harvey and John Newton met in Melbourne Aust. in 1981. Since then they both men have supported each others careers while also building and maintaining their own. Read about how they were able to turn their joint careers into one and creating a dream of a better world starting in their own local community.

Media & Publications

host daffodils-100x66The following articles are a small part of the many published editorials on or about both Dale Harvey and John Newton.

Plus the property affectionately nick named by the people of New Zealand, as the
"Quarter Acre” Paradise gardens.

Awards & Credits

HOPE Trust-100x66This is a collection of Appreciation Certificates, Local and Overseas Awards with Acknowledgments presented to Dale Harvey and John Newton over the many years of their joint careers.
Plus the Launch and Registration
of The H.O.P.E. Trust
The Healing of Planet Earth.

Contact Us

Quarter Acrea Paradise
23 Vine Street
Mangere East 2024
Auckland New Zealand

Text: 0274720700
Tel: +61 9 276 4827
Email: info@daleharvey.com