This week in the Garden for October

This First Week in the Mid Spring Garden:

week one - week two - week three - week four
octdir2012-03-230x153Full Moon 6th October (8AM, NZDST) represents the Midpoint of Mid Spring and often starts some of Spring’s finest days. This week brings the Full Waxing Moon Cycle and finishes with the beginning of the Waning Moon Cycle. Weather permitting; this should be a great week for planting and sowing plus most general gardening activities. The week opens with the Full Waxing Moon in (sidereal) Capricorn, a semi-fertile earth sign. This is a very good time to plant and sow almost anything and especially seedlings, weather permitting. Water retention will be at its highest for the month. So this is an excellent time to liquid feed and water plus harvest fruits and vegetables for immediate use, juice and succulence. This Moon is known in the Southern Hemisphere as the ‘Germination’ Moon as it is one of the best times of the year to germinate almost any type of seed. The Full Moon is strongly descended and positioned just over the other side of the Equator. So it will rise low to the northeast in Southern Hemisphere skies but should be a beautiful and large Moon to watch. This lunar position makes its gravitational pull on New Zealand less powerful but greater for the Northern Hemisphere where weather extremes will be likely.

This is the first entire month of milder Spring weather. The Earth’s axis has shifted so that the Sun’s radiant light now shines much more directly onto the Southern Hemisphere. This means daylight hours are increasing and sunlight is stronger. So in the eternal ebb and flow of seasonal change traditionally warm weather overtakes the cold sometime this month. This does not guarantee that there will be no more cold days or chilly winds. Matter of fact, next weeks’ Perigee Moon almost guarantees extreme weather events for some locations. But even in the coldest climates, frosts and severe cold will begin to subside. All of Nature will sense the seasonal change and will respond with remarkable flowering and growth.

Planting This Week:
The Full Waxing Moon Cycle and Full Moon dominates the week as the Moon continues to descend in Southern Hemisphere skies lowering its gravitational power. This could produce the best days for planting and sowing just about everything. This includes all container-grown plants, flowers, bulbs, corms, roots and tubers plus and most all vegetables, especially those that produce their crops above the ground. Also sow root crop vegetables and anything needing a sustained period of root development.

This is a great time to plant all manner of container grown shrubs, trees and vines. If established plantings need to be wrenched and transplanted this is an excellent time to do this.

Full Moon stimulates Mid Spring flowers to reach full bloom. As the Waning Moon Cycle develops the last of the Late Winter and Early Spring blooms will fade away. Shrubs, trees and vines are all leafing out and many are in full flower now.

Weather permitting, the days around this Full Moon and following in the Waning Moon Cycle onward toward the New Moon (20 October) are quite good times to sow seed of tap rooted plants or those with an extensive root system. This sowing time includes many flowering annuals and perennial flowers plus a variety of ornamental groundcovers, shrubs, trees and vines that need to develop an extensive root system before successful top-growth begins. Anything that is considered ‘difficult’ to transplant is often sown from seed now directly wherever the plants are meant to grow.

Flower seed and seedlings to plant and sow now include:
Ageratum, Alyssum, Amaranthus, Arctotis, Aster (excellent time to sow), Balsam, Basil, Begonias, Bells of Ireland, Boronia, California Poppy, Calendula, Calliopsis, Canterbury Bells, Carnation, Celosia, Clarkia, Cleome, Chrysanthemum, Coleus, Coneflower, Cornflower, Coreopsis, Cosmos, Cyclamen, Dahlia, Delphinium, Dianthus, Blue Lace Flower, all everlasting flowers, Feverfew, Forget-Me-Not, Freesia, Gaillardia, Gazania, Geranium (Pelargoniums) plus true Geraniums, Gerbera, Geum, Globe Amaranthus, Gloxinia, Godetia, Gypsophila, Honesty (Lunaria),Impatiens, Kochia, Larkspur, Linum, Linaria, Marigold, Nasturtium, Ornamental Peppers, Petunia, Phlox, Portulaca, Rudbeckia, Salpiglossis, Salvia, Schizanthus, Snapdragon, Statice, Strawflower, Sturts Desert Pea, Sunflower, Swan River Daisy, Sweet William, Tithonia, Thunbergia, Verbena, Viscaria, Zinnia and much more locally.

Delphinium crowns can still be planted, especially from containers. Established crowns will often flower by very Late Spring and Early Summer onward. Good quality hybrid Delphiniums purchased from a reputable Grower can produce gigantic towering spikes. There are also varieties with medium sized blooms that suit the mixed garden border. Broader bush varieties are often used for bedding and grow well in larger containers.

Delphinium seedlings can also be planted and their seed sown now. Seedlings, especially of the medium and smaller varieties, will often produce flower spikes in Summer and Autumn. Seed sown now may bloom in late Summer and Autumn and much better as the crowns mature next Spring and Summer.

Delphiniums need very free draining but consistently moist soil in full sun or a partly shaded position sheltered from strong winds. Cooler sites suit them best. In climates with very warm Summer weather or subtropical climates, they often do best in partial shade or in sites where the crowns are lightly shaded by other low-growing vegetation. This allows their spikes to rise up into the sunshine but their roots to remain in cooler, shaded soil. Strong stems demand bright sunshine. Partly shaded sites can produce good growth and nice flowering but stems are softer and thinner. This means that they often snap or twist in heavy rain and wind, which classically seems to happen just as they finally begin to flower! Lesson learnt: always securely stake tall varieties of Delphiniums at several strategic points up their stem.

Delphiniums are heavy feeders so need frequent feeding for giant spikes. They respond well to frequent light applications of Tomato/ Strawberry fertilizer or a good balanced General Plant Food. Delphiniums prefer soils that have been enriched with lime (they resent strongly acid soils) and they thrive in well-composted land.

P.S. Slugs and Snails consider fresh young Delphinium crowns and seedlings as dessert!

Winter and Early Spring vegetable crops should be producing good harvests. Keep them cultivated, well fed and maintained to prolong their productivity for as long as possible

Continue sowing seed for exhibition root crops. See Week 2 Vegetables for details on how it’s done.

Full water retention around the Full Moon is a great time to harvest fruits and vegetables for immediate use; also for making jam, juice.

Vegetables to Plant or Sow Now:
Artichoke, Beans*, Beet, Cabbages, Carrot*, Cauliflower, Cucumber*, Egg Plant, Endive, Gourd*, Leek, Luffa*, Melons*, Onions, Parsley, Parsnip*, Peas*, Potatoes, Pumpkin*, Radish, Rhubarb, Squash*, Sweet Corn*, Taro, Tomato, Turnip*, Yams, Vegetable Marrow* and more in local climates.

All Vegetables marked with an (*) are very difficult to transplant because their roots are extremely delicate and sensitive. Use greatest care when transplanting from established individual containers. Alternatively, sow their seed directly into the position where they are intended to grow once soil is warm enough for Tomato seed to germinate outdoors. They almost always perform best when sown from seed this way.

Vegetable Bolting:
This is an excellent week to sow anything that might be liable to ‘bolt’ i.e. rocket upward into flower and seed without first producing quality crops. This often happens with specific vegetables at this time of year when days are long and temperatures are warming. That is because these plants have a genetic ‘time clock’ that is triggered into flowering whenever these conditions persist. Planting during the Waning Moon Cycle tends to slow this process. Examples of vegetables prone to bolting that could be planted or sown now include: Beets, Cabbages, Carrot, Cauliflower, Lettuces, Radish, Spinach and Turnip amongst others.

Summer Bulbs, Corms, Rhizomes and Tubers to start now:
Achimenes, Acidanthera, Agapanthus, Arum, Caladium, Calla, Canna, Crinum, Dahlia, Eucomis (Pineapple Lily), Galtonia (Cape Hyacinth), Gladioli, Gloriosa Lily, Gloxinia, Hedychium (Edible and Ornamental Gingers), Hemerocallis, Hippeastrum (Amaryllis), Hymenocallis (Ismene), Ranunculus (cold climates), Tuberose, Tuberous Begonias, Zantedeschia (Arum/Calla) and more.

Repot last year’s potted Achimenes, Caladium, Hippeastrum (Amaryllis), Gloxinia, and Tuberous Begonias. These have been resting in dormancy in a cool, dry place. Now they should be showing signs of emerging new growth. Repot them into new potting mix enriched with a slow release fertiliser. If the bulb or tuber appears to have outgrown its present pot size, now is the time to move it up to the next size.

Hippeastrum bulbs are planted with 1/3 of the top showing above the soil. They can be fully buried in very sandy soil in (sub) tropical positions.

The other tuberous rooted plants are placed 1-2.5cm/1/2-1inch below the soil surface. Place pots in a bright and constantly warm (not hot) environment. Water-in the freshly planted pots only very lightly at first and maintain in a dry-moist state until shoots emerge. Then slowly increase watering and feeding.

Divide and replant Dahlia tubers and purchase new stock. Roundish, single, thick tubers or smaller clusters of tuberous roots, each showing a healthy shoot will produce just a few strong stems with the best individual blooms for exhibition. Seed can also be started now in sunny, warm environment similar to what would germinate Tomato seed.

Tubers remaining as large clumps will produce masses of bushy foliage and many more slightly smaller flowers. In mild climates experiencing limited frosts and no ground freezing, plus where wintery weather is dry or the site drains freely, Dahlias can remain in the ground permanently.

But over time the mass of tubers will begin to deteriorate in quality growth. Whenever this occurs, either dig up the entire tuber mass and eliminate all but the best healthy tubers, or remove all the spindly and thinnest stems; allowing only a select few of the finest and strongest canes to produce the best flowers of higher quality.

Plant Dahlia tubers 10-15cm/4-6in deep in porous, well-enriched earth and stake against wind at planting time. Feed soil liberally. Dahlias love commercial Tomato/Strawberry/Vegetable Fertilizer almost as much as rich compost but: easy-does-it! Their surface feeding roots are easily damaged by harsh chemical mineral salts. ‘Little and often’ is the best approach when feeding Dahlias using any form of commercial chemical fertiliser.

Dahlias are also well suited to larger containers or tubs if they can be regularly fed and watered. Small tubers with an ‘eye’ attached can easily be started in small pots. Once they gain greater strength these are later transplanted into the garden.

An alternative way to reproduce Dahlias is from cuttings. The first of these can begin now (and even earlier if they were started in a glasshouse). Once a tuber makes one or more strong shoot(s) of 6inches/15cm or longer, this can be cut. Plunge the cut end into hormone gel or powder, and then drop this into a pre-made hole created with a dibble stick (‘drop’ rather than push to keep the hormone intact on the cut stem).

Place these cuttings into a pot or flat of soil (houseplant or seed raising mix is ideal). Set this in a very bright (but not hotly sunny), humid and warm environment like a glasshouse. Bottom heat speeds the formation of roots. Alternatively, a single pot can easily be placed inside a clear or translucent plastic bag which is then drawn up over the cuttings in the pot. This creates a mini glasshouse environment when placed in a bright, sheltered and warm environment.

Usually cuttings will strike within a few weeks. Then they can be hardened-off and later transplanted out into the garden. Often such cuttings, when taken this early in the season, will produce at least a few blooms the first year.

Continue to repot houseplants; increasing food and water as weather warms. If plants appear to be pot bound, either break them up into smaller clumps or gently tease out their roots and repot them in the next size pot. As a general rule it is best to void placing small houseplants into overly large containers. This can result in root rot, if ever the soil becomes too cold and moist. House plants usually are easiest to place and actually respond better when maintained in rather small containers compared to their over-all proportions.

Now is an excellent time to complete the pruning of Autumn/Winter/Early Spring flowering shrubs (Azalea, Camellias, Cassia, Chimonanthus (Winter Sweet), Chaenomeles (Japanese Flowering Quince), Forsythia, Gordonia, Honeysuckle (winter-flowering bush varieties), Lasiandra, Luculia, Poinsettia, Sasanqua Camellia, Spirea, etc.). Also include Broad-leafed Evergreens, Conifers, deciduous and evergreen Fruiting shrubs and trees. Remove all diseased and weak growth and prune to maintain the shrubs’ shape.
  • Anything pruned during the Waning Moon Cycle tends to stay pruned back longer and remains shapelier. So this is an excellent time for a light clip and shaping or a good trim to balance and contour new growth.
  • Pruning now before or just as new Spring foliage emerges will take advantage of a full season of healthy new growth that will stay compact.
  • If the idea is to prune for abundant bushy new growth, wait to prune until after the New Moon (31 October).
  • Compost, feed and mulch at the same time to produce the very finest new growth. This will translate into much better flowering next year.

Sub-Tropicals to Prune and Shape:
This is also a very good time to prune lightly all warm season flowering shrubs, trees and vines. Remove all diseased, weak and winter-damaged growth from: Abelia, Albizzia(Mimosa), Banksia, Bougainvillea, Bouvardia, Buddleia, Campsis(Trumpet Vines), Clerodendrum, Cuphea, Duranta (Sky Flower), Epacris, Erica, Fuchsia, Eucalyptus, Gardenia, Hakea (Pincushion), Hibiscus, Jacobinia, Jasmine (most species), Lagerstroemia (Crepe Myrtle), Lagunaria (Pyramid Tree), Lantana, Leonotis (Lion Flower), Mandevilla vine, Nerium (Oleander), Pandorea vine, Passiflora (Passion Fruit vine), Pimelia, Plumbago, Polygonum, Podranea (Port St. John Climber), Stephanotis, Strelitzia (Bird of Paradise), Trachelospermum (Chinese Star Jasmine) etc.

Refrain from removing all healthy strong tip growth on Gardenia and Nerium (Oleander) as this will remove developing flower buds but more will form on side shoots.

Bougainvillea tends to flower most heavily on last year’s mature lateral (side) shoots. Removing long water shoots will keep the sprawling vines in bounds. But always leave at least a few sets of leaves and/or lateral shoots on each branch otherwise the colourful flowering bracts will all be removed. The alternative is to wait until later in the season once the Spring and Early Summer flush of colour has passed. That is a great time to do some heavy pruning.

All Citrus can be planted, pruned, and sprayed to eliminate disease and insect pests plus non-fruiting weak growth. Plus this is a good time to lightly feed Citrus to boost their spring flowering and new growth. All Citrus should be generously mulched against potential summer and autumn drought. Plus irrigation could be planned and possibly installed now for periods of dry and hot weather ahead.

Mid Spring is a brilliant time to feed almost everything. Most importantly feed all fruiting brambles and cane fruits; fruiting and ornamental shrubs, trees and vines; all garden beds that are about to be planted or sown in flowers or vegetables; houseplants and subtropical species plus most anything grown in a container. Make sure the ground around them has been well watered prior to feeding. This will reduce the possibility of fertilizer salt burning. Feeding now will encourage healthy strong growth and flowering. This is an excellent time to spread compost as mulch beneath all in-ground plantings. Refrain from any heavy pruning at this time but eliminate all diseased and weak growth so as to encourage stronger (new) growth to develop better crops.

Lawn care:
This is an excellent time to feed, repair, weed and sow lawns both new and old. Heavily rake and remove dead thatch and weed. Broadcast seed and fertiliser. This can be mixed with screened compost or topsoil and raked in to smooth contours and fill holes. With ample warmth and water new growth will be spectacular!

Be aware that with potentially extreme/dry Summer weather fast approaching, artificial watering most likely will be necessary to keep the young grass from burning up in the heat. If any part of the lawn starts showing dry and withered or yellowing patches, this is usually a sign that drought stress is beginning. Urination from Cats and Dogs can also create small burnt patches, especially in drier lawns. If it starts in one area, the remaining lawns will surely soon be affected. The best approach is to start watering immediately and regularly until rainfall makes this unnecessary.

If dead spots or withering patches begin during damp, humid or excessively wet weather, this is often a sign of fungal infections. This sometimes occurs in very lush lawns or those overcrowded with weeds. A ‘weed and feed’ application and/or fungal spray should be applied as soon as possible to check its spread.

Also attempt to provide increased sunlight and ventilation plus improved drainage to the affected part of the lawn. Mowing quite short and removing the clippings far away from the lawn also can remove some of the problem and allow more sterilizing sunlight to reach the ground and help eliminate fungal spores. Keep the lawn regularly fed to maximize its strength and this will help overcome infection and disease.

Grass grubs and an assortment of insects can also attack lawn. These often produce yellow patches or rings in the lawn. At first signs of invasion, water the lawn and apply a suitable insecticidal drench or spray.

New growth on Roses should be fed on now to encourage the very best blooms. Be prepared to spray for blights, disease and pests as weather warms. It is best to do this immediately before the problems spread. Wise Gardeners and Professional Rose Growers who want the best exhibition Roses anticipate these problems and start a preventative spraying program to eliminate them before they can even start.

Spray with a systemic spray that comprehensively eliminates disease, fungal infections and all insect pests. Include a fixative to help the spray stick to the foliage and improve penetration into the leaf. This can be a specially prepared commercial product like Sprayfix or add a few squirts of liquid dish soap or couple teaspoons of fish emulsion as a fixative. A liquid fertilizer can also be added to the solution as a foliar feed at the same time. Remember to guard tender Rose buds from the ravages of Slugs and Snails!

Spring Flower Gardens:
Flowers should be looking fabulous now in a well-planned garden. Remove faded blooms and liquid feed to maintain displays of spring flowers, especially in pots.

Beds can be fed-on with compost mixed with a small part of a General Garden Fertilizer, a Rose or Vegetable Fertilizer (something with a fairly balanced NPK ratio).

To make this feeding go farther and last longer, add approximately one cup of this dry fertilizer to one bucket of (semi) dry compost; alternatively add up to one small bucket of the dry fertilizer to one heaping wheelbarrow load of compost; mix well and spread lightly throughout the garden beds.

Thoroughly water-in this feeding mix in immediately. Watch that the compost and fertilizer mix is not allowed to drift up against tender plant stems and is hosed or brushed out of plant crowns and off leafs and flowers to avoid burning which can later result in plant rot.

Green and or mossy soil surface of the ground suggests that the soil has become too acidic (low pH). Dust over the ground with Garden Lime or Dolomite to elevate the soil pH and improve plant health.

Broad leafed weeds infesting the garden beds could either indicate a high pH (limy ‘sweet’ soil)...or a very lazy Gardener. The addition of a fertilizer specially formulated for ‘Acid’-Loving plants will help lower soil pH. So will a light dusting of powdered Sulphur. Unfortunately, there is yet to be found a comprehensive way to eliminate chronic laziness.

Most garden beds require about 2.5cm/1 inch of rainfall each week for ideal growth and flowering. If rain fall is less than this, regularly water with a sprinkler that closely simulates natural rainfall. Each bed should be watered continuously for one to two hours at least once a week. This may need to be more frequent if weather becomes extremely dry, sunny, warm and windy.

Water Tanks:
Nothing rivals natural rainfall to maintain and revive a healthy garden. Most rainfall is mineral rich and usually pH balanced for the optimum growth that it maintains. Under some conditions rainfall can become contaminated due to various types of pollution (usually commercial, industrial and urban or occasionally volcanic activity). But even then, water that has been allowed to stand in a water tank often will naturally precipitate out such pollutants.

Irrigating the garden and/or container plants with rainwater usually naturally feeds as well as revives garden beds and plants. Because ‘purified’ city “drinking’ water almost always has been treated with one or more chemicals that eliminate all potential pathogens and precipitate out all minerals, it is much less effective for garden use. Treated water may revive a dry garden, but it will do next to nothing when it comes to making it grow. Matter of fact, in well-balanced ‘organic’ gardens, treated city water can often be used as a mild fungicide/insecticide to control many common garden infestations!

Consider investing in substantial water tanks. It is the ecologically and environmentally friendly thing to do. Your garden will become much more productive and in the event of a natural calamity, these tanks might become a priceless commodity.

Disease and Pests:
They’re back! Wintry chill may have killed off some of last season’s problems, but a simple shift in the winds has brought bring them right back. The advent of humid, mild and pleasant weather suits the flourishing and growth of disease, fungus and insects as much as it does for us. Remain attentive to the arrival of disease and pests. The recent spread of storms sweeping in from the West has already bombarded many regions with pathogens and pests. Sometimes it takes weeks to notice them but by then they are well established. Wise Gardeners often comprehensively spray everything that is traditionally attacked or damaged now or even earlier in the season before the problem(s) ever begin.

Usually this is a systemic spray that protects vulnerable plants from predation. Think of this much like Humanity does about preventative injections proven to build resistance against debilitating diseases. A comprehensive systemic spray throughout the garden now will accomplish much the same thing. If the garden is healthy, protected and strong, whenever any vulnerable plant is attacked, it can resist invasion. Often this one comprehensive systemic spray early in the season is all that is needed for most of the year!

Most bacterial diseases, fungal infections and insects are communal, very much like Humanity. When the Spring winds blow these invaders into the garden, much like early pioneers, they look for a suitable place to settle into a new home and begin to breed. If your garden is protected against invasion, these ‘early settlers’ will either die with the first few bites they take or will move on the “greener pastures” possibly across the fence. There they will stay and breed their colonies. If you are fortunate, they will leave your garden alone. The few stragglers who turn up later on can much more easily be eliminated with a spot spray.

Whenever a plant is attacked, either spray at once or eliminate these plants immediately so that the problem cannot spread. Once a problem is recognized, it is usually already bigger than what is obvious. Anything diseased with bacteria, fungus or attacked by insect predated should be burnt. Fire heat is high enough to kill all pathogens. Placing diseased or infested plant material in the compost or dump only shifts the problem to a new location, but guaranteed it will return. Placing the same materials in a plastic garbage bag left out in the hot sun, will eliminate some common garden problems, but not all of them. Additionally, this creates a slimy, toxic mess that is then transferred to an environmental waste sorting facility or community dump where the problem(s) can now potentially spread even farther. Fire is one of Nature’s finest natural sterilants.

This Second Week in the Mid Spring Garden:

week one - week two - week three - week four
octdir2012-10-230x153 The Waning Moon Cycle fills the entire week with the Last Quarter Moon arriving 13 October. The Moon begins to ascend in Southern Hemisphere skies near the end of the week. These conditions favour root development. This is an ideal time to plant bulbs, corms, roots and tubers plus anything with a tap root. Sow root crops; establish almost anything that can be transplanted from a container.

Best Garden Jobs to Tackle This Week:
11-12 Oct. the Moon moves into sidereal Gemini (barren air sign) which is excellent for general building and construction, cultivation, feeding, general garden maintenance, landscaping, pruning and spraying. Mowing lawns now tends to keep them shorter for longer. Pruning and shaping shrubs, trees and vines now tends to keep them in shape for longer. These two days may possibly be the most difficult times this week to plant anything tender.

What to Plant and Sow

Summer Bulbs, Corms, Rhizomes and Tubers to Plant:
Achimenes, Acidanthera, Agapanthus, Alocassia, Amaryllis, Arum, Caladium, Calla, Calocasia, Canna, Crinum, Dahlia, Eucomis (Pineapple Lily), Galtonia (Cape Hyacinth), Gladioli, Gloriosa Lily, Gloxinia, Hedychium (Edible and Ornamental Gingers), Hemerocallis, Hippeastrum (Amaryllis),Hymenocallis (Ismene), Ranunculus (cold climates), Taro, Tigridia (Shell Flower), Tuberose, Tuberous Begonias, Zantedeschia (Arum/Calla) and more.

All these dormant ‘bulbs’ can be started continuously for some time to come. Some like Gladioli, Tigridia, Hippeastrum and Tuberose can be planted in succession over many weeks to extend their flowering season. But wherever rust is a problem, especially in humid subtropical climates, Gladioli should be started without delay as later plantings will almost certainly be affected. This has almost ruined the growing of Gladioli in hot, humid subtropical gardens.

In cooler and temperate climates most subtropical ‘tender’ bulbs are best started now to give them the longest possible flowering season. Gardeners with the blessing of a glasshouse probably have started their plants last month or even earlier in containers. Once these plants become large enough to handle and the climate appears stable in their locality, they can begin to be planted out but only in sheltered and very warm positions. Patience is the key because conditions will definitely improve next month.

Annuals, Biennials, Perennials, plus Rhizomous and Tuberous Rooted plants can all be planted with care provided there is little is any root disturbance and they can be regularly watered. All of these can also be started more successfully from seed. This is an ideal time to start biennials and many species of perennials for next years’ flowering.

Easy ones to try include:
Canterbury Bells, Cyclamen, Delphinium, Gerbera, Geum, Gloxinia, Lunaria and hundreds more. These are best sown into individual pots, punnets or seedling flats filled with free draining seed raising mix enriched with a dusting of Dolomite Lime and a little slow release food. Soil must remain lightly moist but never soggy and wet. Keep them in a very bright spot (but never in scorching sunshine) that remains constantly warm and away from all chilling drafts. Germination usually occurs within one to two weeks but can be erratic. Seedlings will be ready to transplant into larger pots or their permanent growing positions within 4-8 weeks. Usually they are ready to transplant once their roots begin to emerge from the drainage holes in their container.

This week is a fine time to plant or sow all root crops and anything with an extensive root system like Asparagus. Many leafy crop vegetables are started now too as they are less likely to bolt. Leafy vegetables and those that produce their crops above the ground are traditionally sown or planted after the New Moon (20 Oct.) until the Full Moon (4 November).

Now is also an appropriate time to prepare for major planting later in the month onward into next month. In gardens with soil already prepared, seed can be sown all week. But it is often best to sow much of this in containers and grow the seedlings on in a sheltered spot rather than risk potentially damaging inclement weather events out in the open. Seed and seedlings planted into open ground will almost certainly benefit from cloches or sheltering against chilling winds and damaging weather.

Vegetable to Plant:
Asparagus seed, Artichoke, Beans*, Beet, Cabbages, Capsicum*, Carrots, Cauliflower, Celery, Chicory, Chinese Green Vegetables, Choko*, Cress, Cucumber*, Eggplant*, Endive, Gourd*,Leeks, Lettuce, Luffa*, Marrow*, Melons*, Mustard, Okra*, Onions, Spring Onions, Parsley, Parsnip, Peas, Pumpkins*, Radish, Rhubarb, Salsify, Silver Beet, Squash*, Spinach, Sweet Corn*, Kumara*, Tobacco, Tomato*,Turnip, Zucchini* and more.

Anything marked with (*) must be sheltered from cold and are usually best started in small containers sheltered in a sunny and warm environment; then planted in their permanent positions once warmer conditions remain constantly warm.

How to Prepare for Successful Vegetable Crops:
Thorough preparation is essential for success with most vegetables. Before planting vegetables, thoroughly dig and turn the soil. Remove all weeds. Enrich with well-aged manure and/or mature compost and a dusting of a well balanced General Plant Food. This can almost whiten the ground but to no depth. If the soil is volcanic and shows any signs of green algae or moss also dust with Dolomite or Garden Lime. Dig this in lightly.

Wherever crops are meant to be sown direct from seed, it is best to water the site generously and leave it for a week or two and observe what weeds appear. Then while the weeds are still small, cultivate the soil on a sunny, warm and (optionally) windy day. Weeds will shrivel and become green manure and the bed will now be much more weed-free and in better condition to sow the crop seed without weedy competition. In newly turned land that might contain a multitude of weed seed, it is often best to repeat this process several times before planting. This will eliminate most weed seed from the top layers of soil and make direct sowing and weed elimination much easier as the season progresses.

To further eliminate weeding while holding in valuable soil moisture, the bed can be mulched with an nutrient enriching organic material like compost, crushed leaves, straw, etc. or substitute black plastic, cardboard or newspaper, etc. Place the mulch between the rows. Black plastic or Weedmat used as ‘blanket’ mulch will also help warm the soil but must be pegged down securely. This is ideal inorganic mulch for warm weather tender crops like Cucumbers, Eggplant, Gourds, Melons, Peppers, Pumpkin and Squash plus Tomatoes and many more subtropical species that demand warm soil for successful cropping.

Once seed or seedlings have been planted and watered-in well once, refrain from excessive watering until the weather thoroughly warms. By keeping soil somewhat on the drier side, it will remain warmer and roots are less likely to chill during cooler evenings. Unless soil becomes excessively dry, refrain from watering during the cooler evening hours. This can chill the plants and slow their development or even result in disease or rot. The most vulnerable are very tender crops like Beans, Cucumber, Gourd, Luffa, Melons, Okra, Pumpkins, Squash, Tomatoes, etc. These should be protected against chilling and late cold snaps with cloches, frost cloth or mulch.

If in Doubt, Wait!
Warming days are very tempting for planting out tender summer flowers and vegetables. This includes all the summertime favourites like Beans, Cucumbers and Melons, Peppers, Tomatoes and so many more. Many Novice Gardeners will also be tempted to plant or repot palms, subtropical and tropical species. In the most sheltered positions and very warmest climates plus in the glasshouse, this is permissible.

However, night time and average soil temperatures in many locations may still be too cold for safe planting out into the open. A minimum night time temperature of 12C/ 53.6F is the lower limit; much safer is 15C/59F. Anything less than this can chill and silently damage, kill or severely stunt the growth of tender plants. All it takes is a single chilling night to permanently damage or kill tender plants. So if there is any doubt: don’t do it, especially this week and next! Remember that almost all seedlings either purchased or grown at home have been sheltered in a very bright, warm environment. At this time of year young seedlings can be grown on successfully in containers for quite some time without damage. The same cannot be said once they are exposed to potentially inclement weather.

Refrain from planting out anything tender in most gardens without protection with cloches or frost cloth. This transitional time in the season is famous for rapid temperature extremes from Summer to Winter in a single day; complete with hail, pelting rains and winds that can quickly ruin sensitive plantings. Be patient! If weather appears to be at all extreme or inclement, delay planting until next week or later. Use this week to prepare for planting in the benevolent, warmer times ahead. Next month is bound to be more benevolent.

The New Moon (20 October) ushers in much more benevolent planting and sowing conditions that will develop into Late Spring in the weeks ahead. Plan and prepare now for planting then once conditions are more benevolent and warm weather more likely sustainable.

Strawberries should be flowering and some will be producing early fruits. To increase yields, Strawberry plants should be generously mulched. The name ‘Straw’ berry says it all. Apply mulch around Strawberry plants as soon as they are planted and renew mulches on second and third year plants. Straw (Barley, Pea, Rye, Wheat, etc.) is ideal; spoilt hay is also good provided it is weed-free.. Old leaves that do not pack down too tightly also work well. Many commercial growers prefer black plastic or Weedmat. Even boards, cardboard, carpet, or newspaper will do. All these help seal in valuable soil moisture and give the fruit an airy, dry surface upon which to rest so that fruit has less opportunity to rot.

For the best and biggest berries make sure all plantings have a generous helping of mature compost and/or aged manure. This should be dug in deeply prior to planting and can also be used as a side dressing or compost mulch. The plants should be side-dressed between plants and rows with a special Strawberry Fertiliser or a well-balanced General Garden Fertiliser. Strawberries also appreciate an occasional dusting with Lime or Dolomite.

Maintain an even water supply, especially during dry weather. Water early enough in the day so that plants can dry out before dusk. It is best to water while there is at least a slight breeze to insure that the plants and especially the fruits are thoroughly dry before nightfall as wet fruits invite fungal diseases and rot.

Magic Mulch:
In Nature most plants naturally mulch themselves by dropping old branches and foliage; occasionally aging fruits around their base and sometimes by snaring debris and leaves blown their way by the wind. People sometimes have a tendency to remove this so their gardens look “tidy”. This is often a big mistake as plants are doing this to protect themselves against the dry and heat of the Summer ahead. The mulch maintains an even soil temperature; retains moisture and feeds the soil as it slowly decomposes. Without this mulch many plants will ultimately become vulnerable to drought stress. They will require additional watering that will make them become much more time consuming and costly to maintain.

Mulches come in many forms. Compost is often ideal. Pulverized dry manure can work magic because both these feed while they protect. Old potting mix also works. Granulated bark is a classic as is gravel, sand, stones and large boulders. Dried grass clippings work fairly well. Crushed or fluffy leaves are much better. Acid loving plants benefit from a mulch of crushed Camellia, Magnolia, Oak and Pine foliage which have a low pH as does peat and peat moss. Garden debris cropped through a shredder is quite good. So is straw and to some degree spoilt hay. But hay can grow weeds so is often best applied beneath dense shrubbery and trees. Many weeds removed from the garden also work wonders when spread as mulch beneath the dense foliage of shrubs and trees. It is too dark for them to grow and as they decompose their greatly benefit the soil beneath the shrubs and trees. Cardboard and newspaper; carpet or carpet liner; black plastic or Weedmat; old boards or blankets can also be most effective, especially when it is essential to smother noxious and persistent weeds that might otherwise work their way through more open organic mulches.

Start now and keep building upon this mulch throughout the season ahead. The ground is deeply moist in many regions now, or at least as damp as it is possibly going to be. So this is the time to seal this valuable moisture in the ground before drying winds and heat rob this moisture from the soil.

Mulching Against the Weather Ahead:
This Summer extremes are becoming the norm rather than the exception as ‘climate changes’ increase. This can put unusual stress on garden plantings. Now is the time to prepare. Target first all vulnerable shrubs, trees and vines, also most annual and perennial plantings and vegetables. Start with a light mulch of bark, compost, dried grass clippings, fluffy leaves, mulched garden debris, straw, etc. Keep building up the layers of mulch whenever materials become available. This should be a continuous process to prepare the garden for Summer.

Wise Gardeners constantly feed all plantings with enriching organic mulch, like mature compost or well aged manure. A small quantity of an appropriate fertilizer can be mixed in to the compost to give it an extra nutrient boost. This can be scattered right over bark, hay, straw or other mulches. The compost will help maintain ‘living’ mulch that slowly breaks down and feeds the ground and plants at a continuous rate to ensure optimum growth, harvests and general plant health. This is what would naturally happen in the bush, meadow or woodland as leaves and debris fell amongst the plantings and was boosted by animal and bird droppings.

Stake securely all brittle and tall-growing plants now so that later storms will do no damage. Stakes are often best put in place early in the season before they are really needed. This eliminates the possibility of a stake damaging a mature plant’s root system if it were inserted later in the season.

This includes all newly planted taller shrubs, trees and vines, especially those exposed to strong winds. This keeps them from rocking back and forth during gusty windy weather. As they persistently rock, their roots can be broken. This can result in profound damage, disease or even the loss of the planting.

Also stake Dahlia, Delphinium, Gladioli, Sunflowers, Tomatoes; most brambles and cane fruits plus ‘lollipop’ and ‘mop-top’ standards like Abutilon, Fuchsia, Gardenia, Roses, etc. along with anything else vulnerable to wind damage.

Spring can be notoriously changeable and is famous for extremes which can include strong winds and later on Summer and Autumn cyclones. These often occur when plants are nearing maturity and are at their most vulnerable for being damaged or destroyed by strong winds. There is little that can be more demoralizing than to have spent a year or more carefully attending to some botanical treasure only to watch it smashed to the ground by a storm just as it is about to reach its glorious peak of flowering, fruiting or cropping. The Wise Gardener knows to stake now and avoid later disappointment.

Acid-loving plants are those that prefer a lower soil pH. This is usually a pH somewhere between 5.5 and 6.5. A pH of 7 is considered ‘neutral’. Amongst the acid-loving classics are: Azalea, Camellia, Clethra, many Conifers, Crepe Myrtle, Daphne, Erica, Gardenia, Heaths, Hibiscus, Holly, Hydrangea, Magnolia, Mountain Laurel, Luculia, Oaks, Pieris, Pyracantha, Rhododendron, Viburnum, Vireya, Witch Hazel; also Blueberry bushes and all Cane and Bramble Fruits. These should be fed with a commercial Acid-Balanced Fertiliser. Blueberry needs quite acidic soil (4.5-5.5) which can be achieved naturally with a mulch of Pine needles combined with a regular scattering of an Acid pH fertilizer. Peat or Peat Moss also is naturally acid mulch. Crushed leaves from any of these acid-loving species also make great organic acid mulch.

Citrus should be lightly fed with a General Garden Fertiliser or special Commercial Citrus Food. They prefer a slightly acidic pH of 6.0-7.0.

Light pruning and shaping of a wide variety of conifers, broad-leafed evergreens, shrubs, trees and vines can continue all week. Prune lightly after flowering all ornamental shrubbery to keep them shapely. Maintain a constant and continual level of liquid or granular feeding and/or composting to all plantings to induce the maximum flowering and growth potential now that the growing season is fully under way.

Things pruned back now tend to stay pruned back for longer. But be careful about how much is pruned off during the more extreme celestial ‘Dark of the Moon’ phase coming up next week 17-19 Oct.). Very severe pruning back to stumps can sometimes kill or greatly reduce new growth due to stronger gravitational/tidal forces that may result in excessive sap bleeding from exposed wounds followed by air being drawn into exposed cuts.

Disease and Pests:
They are back! The persistence of westerly winds and storm events rising off the Australian continent traditionally brings with it legions of insect pests. These mix with the local survivors that are now dining and sucking the life out of whatever they can find. As they do this they carry spores that spread diseases. Humid, warm weather and Equinox winds soon help them multiply and spread quickly as the weather warms. In particular watch Citrus and Roses but also all ornamental flowers, shrubs, trees and vines for insect attack and be prepared to spray.

For a successful garden it is essential to eliminate predacious insect pests immediately before they can spread and set up residence in the garden! Professional Gardeners often do a comprehensive systemic spray over almost everything at this time of year. When thoroughly and well applied, this will often eliminate most insect pests for the entire growing season. A healthy, well fed and highly maintained garden is much less vulnerable to attack but the reality is that nothing is ever completely safe forever. Remain vigilant and watchful. Act to eliminate disease and fungal problems plus pests immediately as soon as they are seen. Even waiting just a few days will often result in a worse problem that becomes ever more difficult to control.

This Third Week in the Mid Spring Garden:

week one - week two - week three - week four
octdir2012-09-230x153Full Waning Last Quarter Moon deepens into the Dark of the Moon (17-19 Oct.) before the New Moon (20 October). This New Moon marks the lunar beginning of Late Spring. It is the time of Diwali, the Festival of Light and victory of Light over darkness; good triumphant over evil. This should be a good gardening week ahead for root development. Sow all root crop vegetables; and plant dormant bulbs corms, rhizomes, roots and tubers especially those that produce beautiful flowers and/or exotic and lush tropical foliage. Also plant with care a variety of ornamental groundcovers, shrubs, trees and vines. Continue planting these after the New Moon and onward for the remainder of the month plus add hardy and leafy vegetables that produce their crops above the ground. In sheltered and warm gardens (only!) begin to plant out warm season vegetables with protection from potentially chilling night temperatures.

The Moon ascends in Southern Hemisphere skies all week so its gravitational power begins to increase. This often pushes ahead of it a flush of humid and warm Spring air. But be guarded against the possibility of a cool change, especially in exposed colder climates that is even more likely later next week. As the power of this Moon increases, the chance of changeable and possibly extreme weather events also increases.

Each day this week the Moon rises before the Sun and the two celestial bodies draw closer together until they rise in unison 20 October with the New Moon 8AM NZDST. Most successful liquid feeding and watering occurs when it is applied as the Moon and Sun’s gravitation pull increases as they rise and then arc overhead i.e. early morning through mid afternoon. After that most liquid food and water gets pulled into the roots and soil where it will help refresh a dry garden by the next morning. These gravitational forces reach their peak with the New Moon resulting in high tidal forces in all of Nature.

A Time for a Variety of General Gardening Activities:
Due to the increasing gravitational extremes rising during the Last Quarter Moon Cycle and especially the ‘Dark of the Moon’ this can sometimes prove a challenging time for planting, especially anything tender. If in doubt, wait to plant anything flimsy and tender until next week once conditions improve and moderate.

But this is an ideal time for many general gardening activities: composting (making and spreading); cultivating and weeding; feeding and spraying; mowing (too keep grass shorter for longer); light pruning, dead-heading and tidying plus watering. Now is an ideal time to build foundations; lay paving, spread gravel and soil or set fence posts as gravitational forces are strong and will tend to ‘anchor’ things into the ground. Use this time to repair equipment and sharpen tools and buy new equipment and tools. It is also an excellent time to plan and research; order or purchase plants, seeds and necessary supplies plus visit other gardens and get new ideas for your future gardens.

The lowered water retention in the days surrounding the New Moon makes an ideal time to collect and save seed. It is also the best time to gather and pick herbs, flowers, fruits and vegetables for drying and long-term storage.

Eliminating Noxious Vegetation and Stubborn Weeds:
The ‘Dark of the Moon’ (17-19 October) is the best time this month to attempt to eliminate hardy noxious weeds, rampant scrub, stubborn vegetation or weed trees. This isn’t always easy because Spring sap is rising, it is more difficult to eliminate noxious vegetation than it is in the Autumn when sap is retreating into the roots. Smaller weeds in active growth are easily eliminated with contact or hormone sprays. It is the larger scrub, trees and vines that make take more effort.

But the gravitational extremes created during the ‘Dark of the Moon’ phase will favour sap bleeding. When the Moon is beneath the horizon (from before dusk to nearly dawn) its gravitational field will combine with that of the Earth. This creates a strong downward pull in plants that favours root development and can also pull herbicides into freshly made cuts stumps in noxious vegetation. This can be used most effectively to help eliminate deeply rooted plants like Convolvulus, Gorse and Tobacco weed and a variety of unwanted brush and scrub.

To make this work most effectively, cut back top growth on woody noxious plants later in the day and apply a suitable herbicide liberally over the freshly cut stump(s) before nightfall. For herbaceous weeds (Chickweed, Dandelion, Dock, etc.) apply contact herbicides during dry, sunny and warm days. If a systematic herbicide like a Glyphosate is to be used, apply this over active growth almost any time this week. Organic Gardeners can substitute a mixture of kerosene and salt applied over the open cut or stump.

A common ‘mistake’ is to attempt to spray herbicide over the entire plant. Then once it is dead eliminate it. There is nothing technically wrong with this. But it means a lot more chemical spray must be used that will pollute a much bigger area. It also means that someone has got to get in there and remove great piles of dead and often dusty vegetation that is now covered in toxic herbicide reside. In no way is this good for the environmental or one’s health.

A better approach would be to cut down and remove all the vegetation first. Then allow a few weeks for growth to regenerate from the cut stumps. Spray this tender young vegetation. Herbicides are much more effective on this type of growth. Less chemical spray will be used in a more concentrated area plus there is less possibility of becoming covered in toxic chemical residue. A few weeks later go back and respray any regrowth. That should eliminate the problem.
  • Remember that applying anything poisonous that will kill a plant will also potentially do the same thing to you.
  • Avoid any physical contact with the poison through breathing or allowing it to touch your skin!
  • Dress appropriately as if you were heading to Mars.
  • Then afterward head immediately into the shower with a generous application of double soap. No drinking, eating or smoking in between.
  • All your contaminated clothing goes into the laundry with double soap and are washed separately to anything else.
  • Then wash out the machine afterwards to insure no residual poison remains in the machine to contaminate other clothing.
  • Boots, gloves, mask and sprayer are thoroughly washed.
  • No matter how “safe” any herbicidal or insecticidal product may be advertised, if it has a warning label, it isn’t safe! Most likely if you don’t follow this advice nothing much at all will happen to you now.
  • But in years to come will it matter that you killed a few insects or noxious plants if the consequence is that you lose precious years off your life? Please be sensible and prosper.

Plan and Prepare Now!
To take full advantage of the Ideal gardening conditions ahead, plan and prepare now! Gardeners could start planting with renewed confidence right after the New Moon (20 October). So now is the time to plan and gather all materials, plants and seeds needed for what will begin next week.

Next week it will be possible to plant and sow a wide range of things for the Late Spring, Summer and Autumn garden. Seedlings and advanced container plants often suit the busy City Gardener. Planting from seed takes more patience and time but rewards with a vast range of interesting species and a far greater number of plants for far less cost. For those with the space and time who want abundant flowers and large harvests, seeding is the answer and now is the time to start!

Plan and prepare for the planting of hardy and tender Early Summer-flowering Annuals, Perennials; ornamental shrubs, trees and vines before weather becomes too dry and hot. There may be a few opportunities for planting this week. But after the New Moon conditions will improve through the end of the month and throughout much of November.

Best planting days are often cloudy and damp without much wind that could dry them out. Make sure to water generously at planting time. Also provide mulch around all these fresh new plantings to protect them against dry, windy weather ahead. Watch all new plantings on a regular basis for signs of stress or wilting. Water and liquid feed regularly to maintain healthy and strong growth.

What to Plant and Sow:
While planting anything soft and tender like young seedlings could be challenging, this is still an acceptable time to plant anything dormant and/or hardy. This would include most Summer bulbs, corms, rhizomes and tubers; many hardy native shrubs transplanted from containers; Cacti and most succulent plants; hardy subtropical Bromeliads; many hardy plants carefully shifted from established containers; also seeds with hard coatings that are sometimes difficult to germinate.

The important point here is to ensure that there is no major root damage or disturbance when transplanting. Make sure that everything is well watered-in immediately and daily thereafter until it becomes obviously established in its new position. Watch everything carefully for signs of predation from disease and pests or environmental stress. Because this is Mid Spring, most plants will be “forgiving” even if planted or sown at the “wrong” time. But because this is the time of building lunar extremes, be forever careful and watchful when handling anything delicate.

Time to Sow:
Weather permitting; this is a superb time to sow seed. Provided that conditions remain bright, mild and moist, germination will probably be rapid and successful. The secret with seed is maintaining warm soil. Heating cables and/or a heated glasshouse or a warm and sunny windowsill help immensely when sowing ‘tender’ seed. Hardy outdoor seedlings and their seed can be started with less difficulty. But let the return of sunny, warm days dictate what gets planted.

Before starting, remember that best results come when there is a plan in mind. Make sure all beds, planter boxes and seed containers are prepared. Make sure the site has been baited in advance to eliminate Slugs and Snails. Insure an adequate water supply and plenty of liquid fertilizer to help establish germination and new growth.

If in doubt, prepare this week and plant and/or sow next week when the Early Waxing Moon Cycle of Late Spring favours the planting of leafy vegetables, ornamental foliage plants of all sorts, general above-ground and leafy development, plus anything that flowers and/or produces its crops above the ground.

These conditions often make transplanting easy and successful. This is also an excellent time to pinch back established seedlings and young growth to induce better branching and flowering. Pruning now will encourage improved new root development and later bushier top growth for better and more prolific cropping and flowering.

This is still a good time to sow hardy vegetable seed of root crops. Also sow for vegetables that produce their crops above the ground, especially leafy vegetables.

Vegetables to Plant With Care or Sow:
Artichoke, Asparagus seed, Beans*,Beets, Cabbages, Cape Gooseberry, Capsicum*, Carrot, Cauliflower, Celeriac, Celery, Chicory, Chinese Cabbage and most Asian leafy greens, Choko*, Cress, Cucumber*, Eggplant*, Endive, Kohlrabi, Kumara*, Leeks, Lettuce, Luffa*, Marrow*, Melons*, Mustard, Okra*,Spring Onions, Parsley and Herbs, Parsnip, Peas, Potato, Pumpkins*,Radish, Rhubarb, Salsify, Silverbeet, Spinach, Squash*,Sweet Corn*, Sweet Potato*, Tamarillo*, Taro*, Tobacco*, Tomato*, Turnip, Yam, Zucchini* and much more locally.

Anything marked (*) is a ‘tender’ Summer Vegetable i.e. varieties native to subtropical and tropical zones that demand warm condition. In most climates these are best started from seed or seedlings transplanted into pots or punnets sheltered in a very sunny and warm spot outdoors (preferably underneath a cloche) or in the glasshouse or nursery. Grow them on there with the plan to plant them out later once weather fully warms. Alternatively try planting or sowing seed under frost cloth.

Summer ‘Tender’ Vegetables include:
Artichoke, Beans, Capsicum, Choko, Cucumber, Eggplant, Kumara and Sweet Potato, Luffa, Marrow, Melon, Okra, Pumpkins, Squash, Sweet Corn (best sown direct from seed where they are meant to grow), Tamarillo, Taro, Tobacco, Tomato, Zucchini and more locally.

There is no advantage attempting to sow or transplant any of these tender Summer vegetables outdoors into cold, damp ground or anywhere where they might experience even the least chilling winds. It is a common mistake of the Novice Gardener thinking that getting an “early start” will guarantee quicker harvests. It doesn’t usually work that way. A single cold night is all it takes to chill these plants and these often never fully recover or outright die. Those seedlings planted just a few weeks later, once air and soil temperatures are much higher, almost always catch up and surpass those sacrificial seedlings planted too early. It can be done, but this will require cloches, frost cloth or some other form of protection against the odd cold day and evening.

Most of these tender crops also resent root disturbance and may fail or stunt when roots are damaged, especially when transplanting. Thus it is best to start them in individual containers, pots or punnets with only one or just a few seedlings grown in each. Once roots begin to show through the bottom drainage holes and the weather is consistently mild, they can be carefully slipped out of their container with as little root disturbance and loss of dirt as possible and planted into their final growing position.

Kumara & Sweet Potato Sprouts and Yams:
These important root crop vegetables can be planted now in the open ground wherever ground temperatures have thoroughly warmed. Kumara and Sweet Potatoes appear quite different from Yam tubers (a South American, Andes member of the Oxalis Family), but their culture is very similar and much like that of Potato. Place on mounds or raised rows of enriched, well-drained earth with plenty of space between plants. Their planting site should be airy and open; constantly sunny and warm. Kumaras are often planted over boards or sheets of black plastic, submerged in the soil. This forces their edible tuberous roots to grow horizontally just below the surface, rather than penetrating deeply into the soil where they can be difficult to harvest. Wherever Summer weather could become very dry and hot, apply a light fluffy mulch around the leafy foliage to keep the tubers from baking or scorching. Water deeply whenever conditions become dry, then let soil dry out before watering again. Yams will perform fairly well even in rather poorer soils and at lower temperatures. They also need a very long growing season. Their tubers begin forming once day length becomes shorter than nights (after the Autumnal Equinox).

Flower Gardens:
With care, plant a wide range of hardy seedlings and sow seed for the flower garden. This includes many annuals, biennials, bulbs and perennials that also start easily now from seed. All of these can be planted or sown throughout most of the remainder of this month. Protect tender species from late cold conditions with cloches or frost cloth. If in doubt start everything with bottom heat or in a very sheltered, sunny and warm position; especially protected from evening cold. Just a few cold nights can chill and ruin a tender young flower crop so treat them like the tender babies they are!

Flowers to Sow or Carefully Transplant as Seedlings:
Ageratum, Alyssum, Amaranthus, Arctotis, Aster (excellent time to sow), Balsam, Basil, Begonias, Bells of Ireland, Boronia, California Poppy, Calendula, Calliopsis, Canterbury Bells, Carnation, Celosia, Clarkia, Cleome, Chrysanthemum, Coleus, Coneflower, Cornflower, Coreopsis, Cosmos, Cyclamen, Dahlia, Delphinium, Dianthus, Blue Lace Flower, all everlasting flowers, Feverfew, Forget-Me-Not, Freesia, Gaillardia, Gazania, Geranium (Pelargoniums) plus true Geraniums, Gerbera, Geum, Globe Amaranthus, Gloxinia, Godetia, Gypsophila, Honesty (Lunaria),Impatiens, Kochia, Larkspur, Linum, Linaria, Marigold, Nasturtium, Ornamental Peppers, Petunia, Phlox, Portulaca, Rudbeckia, Salpiglossis, Salvia, Schizanthus, Snapdragon, Statice, Strawflower, Sturts Desert Pea, Sunflower, Swan River Daisy, Sweet William, Tithonia, Thunbergia, Verbena, Viscaria, Zinnia and much more locally.

Perennials can be sown from seed. Most of these will flower next year and thereafter. Alternatively, plant advanced container-grown perennials that will probably flower this growing season and then multiply into larger clumps in years-to-come.

Perennials to Carefully Plant and Sow Now:
Achillea, Agapanthus, Anemone (Coronaria, Japanese and species), Aster, Canna, Carnation, Centaurea, Clematis, Coreopsis, Dianthus, Digitalis (Foxglove), Gaillardia, Gaura, Gazania, Gerbera, Geum, Gypsophila, Helleborus (Winter Rose), Heuchera (Coral Bells), Lupin, Lychnis, Maclaeya (Plum Poppy), Meconopsis (Tibetan Blue Poppy), Myosotium (Chatham Island Forget-Me-Not), Nymphaea (Water Lily), Nierembergia, Omphalodes, Oenothera (Evening Primrose), Penstemon, Physostegia (Obedient Plant), Platycodon (Balloon Flower), Pyrethrum (Painted Daisy), Romneya (Tree Poppy), Rudbeckia (Brown Eyed Susan), Salvias, Scabiosa (Pin Cushion Flowers), Sedums, Solidago (Goldenrod), Stokesia, Strelitzia (Bird of Paradise), Streptocarpus (Cape Primrose), Thyme, Venidium, Violets, Zantedeschia and much more locally.

Polyanthus, Primulas and Violet species can be lifted, divided and replanted once their flowering finishes. While all these enjoy sunny and warm Winter positions, they often collapse if left in the same sunny spot through hot Summer climates. In such climates, plants are often moved into seedling flats or pots placed in a cool, moist, partly shady spot to grow on over the Summer. Then they are replanted into their flowering positions once weather cools in Autumn. In cooler climates simply divide, replant, feed and water-on for Summer growth. All these species are ideally suited to deciduous woodland positions that provide them Winter and early Spring sunshine and cool, dappled shade through the Summer.

Bulbs, Corms, Rhizomes, Roots, and Tubers:
These Summer flowering ‘bulbs’ can be easily planted all month: Achimenes, Acidanthera, Agapanthus, Amaryllis, Arum, Caladium, Calla, Canna, Crinum, Dahlia, Eucomis (Pineapple Lily), Galtonia (Cape Hyacinth), Gladioli, Gloriosa Lily, Gloxinia, Hedychium (Edible and Ornamental Gingers), Hemerocallis, Hippeastrum (Amaryllis), Hymenocallis (Ismene), Ranunculus (cold climates), Tigridia (Shell Flower), Tuberose, Tuberous Begonias, Zantedeschia (Arum/Calla) and more.

When planted now during the Full Waning Moon Cycle this week, they often take root quickly. Then next week as the Waxing Moon Cycle develops, these often make quick top growth and later produce excellent flowering. With adequate feeding and light watering brilliant results can come from planting now and throughout the remainder of the month.

For Northern Hemisphere Gardeners this is an excellent time to start planting Spring-flowering bulbs: all the classics like: Crocus, Daffodil (Narcissus varieties), Hyacinth, Tulips and many more. Pop some into refrigeration to force early blooms that will be treasured during cold and dreary winter days. In the Northern Hemisphere’s cooler temperate zones this is when tender Summer-flowering ‘bulbs’ (Caladium, Canna, Dahlia, Gladioli, Hippeastrum, Tuberous Begonia and the remainder listed above) are dug up for protective Winter storage. In mild Southern gardens, these bulbs may be left in the ground, provided their surrounding soil is well drained, but should be mulched against possible wintry freezes.

Back in the Southern Hemisphere gardens:
Gladioli are excellent when planted now in most areas, especially cooler and temperate zone climates. They take between 90-110 days from planting until flowering. When Gladioli are planted now, they will flower in Mid Summer when conditions are ideal for their culture. Dig soil deeply. Add to the soil mature compost and/or good quality Bulb Food or General Plant Fertilizer. Plant corms 4-6inches/10-15cm deep and be prepared to stake against winds as blooms will be top-heavy. Water deeply after planting and keep the soil evenly moist but never soggy.

In humid subtropical locations, Gladioli are often plagued with rust disease. For this reason corms are early planted (late August-September) which often avoids rust. When planted now the corms can be shucked of their outer papery skin and then soaked in a suitable systemic fungicide just prior to planting. This greatly helps reduce rust entering the flesh of the corm. Then start spraying regularly (every 10-14 days) from at least the third leaf stage to help control this problem. Choose a very airy and open site in full sunshine. Soil should be well enriched; freely draining with lime added to help prevent rust infections.

Gloxinias are closely related to African Violets and require similar care. They are sometimes difficult to find because just like African Violets they can be somewhat difficult to grow. But once you discover their rather simple growing requirements, they are so worth the effort involved. These are truly exotic treasures of the natural world.

Gloxinias are wonderful house and conservatory plants doing well in containers and especially baskets. Their ancestry originated as tropical rainforest understory groundcover type plants. Thus they require sustained humid and warm (never hot) conditions that are sometimes found in better quality home environments. Bright light is essential to keep the plants compact. They do exceptionally well when grown beneath artificial Grow Lights. Morning ‘soft’ direct sunshine is good for them but avoid any glaring or hot sunshine or leaves will scorch.

They can be planted in succession to extend the flowering period from now onward for Summer & Autumn flowers. Place the corm-like tuber just below the surface in a pot of basket. Gloxinias perform best when planted into an enriched but very porous potting mix suitable for African Violets. Water once lightly at planting and only again if the soil becomes dry. Once growth commences continue to water only sparingly as overwatering encourages rotting. All they need is to be kept just lightly moist. Water at room temperate is best and should be chlorine-free. This is easy enough to accomplish by letting the water stand in a container overnight. Rainwater is ideal.

Place in a very bright (never hotly sunny) warm position with good air circulation. Soon small velvety leaves will appear. Once they do start into active growth provide light and regular feeding with African Violet liquid food or a pinch of Tomato Fertiliser every few weeks. Place this at the inside end of the pot.

Of special importance:
Avoid any water or liquid fertilizer remaining on the foliage or flowers. Always water between the leaves or a much safer method is to water the plant from beneath into a saucer, which works the best, then drain off excess water. When water falls on the foliage, immediately blow or gently shake it off, especially out of the central crown to avoid rot or leaf spotting.

Gloxinia flowers are divinely exotic and their velvety pad foliage is equally as beautiful. This is a show pony plant worthy of its own decorative container.

Once flowering finishes, continue feeding lightly and allow its foliage to mature. It then will slowly wither and the remnants can be carefully cut away and removed. Sometimes one or more new sprouts will take their place. If not, simply set the pot aside in a moderately cool and dry place for at least 6 weeks. Then repot and start the cycle again. Gloxinia tubers can last for many years and grow in size and beauty with proper care.

Tuberous Begonias:
Tuberous Begonias are beautiful and bold aristocrats of the Summer garden. Their somewhat succulent and almost waxy blossoms often resemble Camellia blooms on dwarf, stock plants with fleshy stems and handsome ‘Angel-wing leaves. Tuberous Begonias usually thrive when started now.

Start them under similar mild, sheltered and very bright or sunny conditions as Gloxinia. Their ancestors came from Brazilian rainforest and tropical conditions. So they require consistent moderate to warm conditions and dislike chilling or cold drafts. They require a similar soil that is freely draining and peaty.

The cup-shaped and somewhat furry tubers can be first started on a mildly sunny and warm windowsill without soil. Alternatively, they are often started in smaller pots intended for later transplanting. Plant with the cup facing upwards and just barely cover over the top with fine soil. At planting either don’t water at all or just the smallest amount to avoid rotting the tubers. Emerging shoots are usually a pretty shade of pink or light green. These are quite tender and easily damaged or broken off if accidently knocked. Tuberous Begonias are much hardier once they become established. Snails and Slugs like them too! Once growth attains 1-2inches/2.5-5cm in height, start watering a little more often and liquid feeding at half strength.

Transplant the tubers once shoots are 2-6inches/5-15cm tall. For exhibition blooms the sprouted Tuberous Begonias are later transplanted into larger pots or tubs. Once weather settles, they can be planted outdoors into well-worked and enriched beds. They need a sheltered garden with bright morning sunshine; dappled sunshine through a slightly shaded canopy of shrubs or trees or when grown in very bright indirect light. They tolerate full sunshine in cooler Summer climates where they make stunning bedding plants. But if ever they become dry and hot in fully sunny locations Tuberous Begonias tend to stunt and leaves may burn, scorch or yellow. Tuberous Begonias are often at their finest in a controlled conservatory or glasshouse environment, or sheltered deck or patio outdoors.

Cyclamen are a cool season classic that often takes 6-8 months to reach maturity. Sow Cyclamen seed now for next years’ flowers in light, gravely or sandy potting mix. Deeply soak both seed & mix at planting then maintain just lightly moist in a bright or partly shaded warm spot or glasshouse. Seed often germinates best when not exposed to direct sunlight. They are often successfully started in pots placed within a plastic bag loosely closed over the top that creates a mini terrarium environment. Germination is erratic. Let the seedlings grow on until they develop several mature leaves. Then prick out the Cyclamen seedlings into individual pots and continue growing on throughout the warmer months in airy, cool, partly shaded conditions with light but regular feeding. Avoid overwatering to avoid damp-off fungus or rotting.

Mature Cyclamen that blooms over the Winter and Early Spring probably have finished blooming now, or usually will as soon as weather becomes consistently warmer. Leaves begin to yellow and wither. Reduce watering and stop feeding so that the plants can enter dormancy. If they are in pots, move these to someplace where they can stay relatively dry and at least partially shaded. Alternatively, move them to beneath the bench in a glasshouse. Their corms will usually remain dormant throughout the warm months. Once they spring back into life in Late Summer or Autumn they can be repotted, fed and lightly watered to start their growing cycle again.

As soon as weather begins to warm, start cuttings from a variety of (sub) tropical and house plants. Also many perennials like Chrysanthemum, Dahlia, Lavender and hundreds of other herbaceous plants and shrubs can be started from cuttings now. Smaller to medium length cuttings 5-8inches/12.5-20cm usually work best. Take these from the top or sunny side of the plant; alternatively from a layered side shoot.

Pinch out the tender growing tip and remove lower leaves, leaving only a couple of leaves at the top. It is often helpful to place the cut end of the cutting in hormone gel or powder and let it soak in this for a minute or two.

Then fill a 6-10inch pot15-25 cm pot with clean sand; sand/peat or pumice mix. Thoroughly wet the mixture. Using a stick or something the size of a pencil, make dibble holes in the propagating sand and gently drop (don’t push) the cutting into the hole. This way the hormone is not pushed off the base of each cutting. Then fill in with more sand and firm down against each cutting so there is thorough contact with the soil. It is permissible to lightly mist or carefully lightly water over the cuttings.

Cuttings usually strike quickly if kept bright, humid and warm. A warm glasshouse or sheltered cold frame makes the best environment. But a simple terrarium can be made by placing the pot of cuttings inside a clear plastic bag. Draw up the sides around and over the pot and loosely tie over the top. Place in a very bright, but not hot and sunny spot and maintain constant warm temperatures out of chilling drafts and maintain even soil moisture. With any luck cuttings will strike in a few weeks.

Ornamental Shrubs, Trees & Vines:
This is a good to time plant a wide variety of ornamental groundcovers, shrubs, trees and vines that are to be transplanted from established containers. Many can be shifted and transplanted now provided they can be regularly cared for and watered until they become established. Better planting conditions will continue through the remainder of the month into next month. But the critical factor here is not so much getting them planted now as insuring that they remain well cared for and watered in the drier months that follow. This requires a bit more of a commitment than the same plants established from Autumn and Winter plantings when rainfall was guaranteed.

Feed ornamental shrubs, trees, and vines to encourage new growth. Also include all brambles and cane fruit, fruiting shrubs, trees and vines. A general feeding mix would include a balanced General Garden fertiliser or Slow Release Plant Food plus blood and bone, mixed with well-aged manure or mature compost spread as a mulch around the plant to its drip-line. Mix one cup of the chemical fertiliser into one bucket of compost/manure.

Organic Gardeners can substitute a mix of equal parts: blood and bone; rock phosphate; and green stone or well-aged wood ashes.

Most fruiting and ornamental species also benefit from a dusting of Dolomite Lime. Avoid Garden Lime (with a much higher pH) on all acid-loving species which includes most Bramble and Cane Fruits, Blueberries; Azalea, Camellias, Daphne, Gardenia, Holly, Pieris and Rhododendron species.

Continue mulching everything in preparation for the dry and hot weather ahead. When artificial watering is necessary, make this deep and long but less frequent, perhaps just once a week, so as to encourage deeper rooting. Frequent shallow watering will encourage surface rooting which will make the plants increasingly more dependent on extra artificial watering as the season becomes progressively drier.

Continue to feed Citrus lightly and evenly from near the trunk outward to the drip line. Little and often suits them best. This is also an excellent time to plant Citrus. They can also be pruned now to eliminate diseased and weak or non-flowering growth. But heavy pruning will eliminate flowering and fruiting this season. However, if the pruning is intended to stimulate healthy new growth now is the right time.

Spray all Citrus now. Many problems with disease, fungus and pests start as the weather becomes more humid and warm. New emerging fruits and foliage are quite tender and vulnerable so are easily attacked. This can happen quite quickly and nearly invisibly. Such damage can disfigure and/or stunt future development of fruit as well as ruin new growth. A comprehensive spraying of the trees now can often prevent this unfortunate consequence. Special Citrus sprays are easily purchased. Organic Gardeners often prefer a simple spraying oil or even liquid soap mixed with Champion (liquid) or powdered Copper, while some choose Neem Oil. Possums can be stopped by spraying over thoroughly wet foliage with fish emulsion.

If the trees are bearing edible fruit that is nearing maturity, use an ‘organic’ contact spray to eliminate fungus and insect pests. If the trees are free from edible fruit but new flowers and young fruits are emerging, this can be one of the best times for a comprehensive systemic spray to protect the trees from damage in the coming months.

Make sure Citrus remain well watered so that fruit and new growth expand properly as they should. If new fruits are damaged or become stunted from disease or drought at this early stage of development, they often soon drop off and the crop is lost.

Holiday Gardens:
Think about holiday displays now! This a great time to start planning and planting displays for the Christmas holidays.

Southern Hemisphere Gardeners:
Sow and plant a huge range of annuals and perennials. Advanced annual seedlings planted in the weeks ahead will be in full bloom for the Christmas holiday season if started now. Often container-planted perennials will be flowering then, too. While seed sown now will either be in full growth or just producing their early blooms. For the very best effect, plant your holiday garden advanced seedlings now and sow seed of a similar or contrasting variety around them. This way there will be flowers popping up quite soon and emerging seedlings that will overtake them to continue the show well into the New Year, often until frost.

Northern Hemisphere Gardeners heading into Mid Autumn should continue to pot Spring Flowering Bulbs for Winter forcing. Also pot on Gloxinia and place these along with African Violets under agricultural lights or in strong morning or a full southern sunshine in a constantly warm position indoors, in the conservatory or glasshouse. Pot up Hippeastrum (Amaryllis), Lilium longiflorum and Asiatic Lily bulbs and grow these in the brightest positions possible. Keep them moderately warm; out of chilling drafts and avoid overwatering, especially during cloudy and colder weather.

Repot Cyclamen, Kalanchoe and Primulas, especially Primula obconica if you would like to grow them on for another season of flowering. Use an enriched but freely draining house plant or general potting mix. Keep these in a bright position, either in the cool glasshouse or indoors in at least morning sunshine or stronger light. These plants all necessitate cooler temperatures, especially during the evening hours. So place them in an unheated (but never freezing) room. Alternatively, grow them on a windowsill and close curtains over them in the evening to keep them from rotting or withering in heated rooms.

Keep Poinsettias lightly and regularly fed and watered in a very bright or sunny environment. For all but the warmest regions, they are grown indoors or in a heated glasshouse. In Southern Hemisphere blooms are finished and bracts are fading. Now is the time to trim them back. Take cuttings for new plants now and onward for the next several months. Lay the cuttings on their side out of direct sun for at least a few hours until they stop bleeding. Then start them in pumice in a bright and warm position.

Poinsettias are short-day-length plants. That means that they naturally set blooming buds and produce bright bract leaves after the Autumnal Equinox when day length becomes less than 12 hours each day. So if the plants are grown where there is artificial lighting nearby they need complete shading from all light sources each evening for at least 12 to 14 hours. Poinsettia plants intended for Christmas display need to be placed in a growing environment that meets their special lighting requirements starting now. The first bract leaves and tiny flower buds may begin to emerge from the growing tips any time from later this month or next.

This Forth Week in the Mid Spring Garden:

week one - week two - week three - week four
octdir2012-01-230x153 The Moon Waxes strongly all week. First Quarter Moon arrives 28 October shortly after the Moon begins to descend in Southern Hemisphere skies. Night time skies continue to brighten throughout the week as we head toward a perigee ‘Super’ Full Moon 4 November. Mid spring is evolving into Late Spring and all of Nature feels it coming. Plant whatever you like now for the warm season ahead is about to begin.

Daylight hours and sunlight intensity continue to increase throughout the Southern Hemisphere along with the increasing moonlight and (hopefully) added warmth. Water retention in plant tissues is increasing as the ‘Super’ Moon approaches which makes transplanting much easier and more successful. This should potentially strengthen plants and enhances a very good planting week that gets better in the times to come.

This transitional period marks the passage between Mid Spring when the tide of wintry cool air ebbs away and is overtaken by hushed moments of humid mild warmth when Late Spring air brings the first touches that hint of Summer to come. When compared to ancient Gaelic ritual ceremonies, this moment in time represents Beltane, the halfway point between the Vernal Equinox and the Summer Solstice. In Northern Hemisphere this time traditionally equates to their May Day celebrations. Certainly here in the Southern Hemisphere, this is also a time worthy of seasonal celebration.

Most importantly, this moment represents the time when the Sun begins to move over New Zealand. Light intensity greatly increases as does day length for some time to come. The air and ground temperatures finally begin to become warm enough to safely plant out tender Summer flowers and vegetable crops. The warm season is finally about to begin: a true moment for celebration!

Halloween 31 October is the ancient Gaelic festival of Samhain, marking the end of the harvest season in the Northern Hemisphere. This represents the halfway point between the Autumnal Equinox and the Winter Solstice. It was considered a brief moment in time when the door to the Otherworld opened. Often this ‘Hallowed’ or ‘holy’, sacred’ evening was around the time of the first killing frost. The morning after the frost as the rising Sun heated the cold ground; steamy vapours would silently rise upward like ghostly spirits ascending into Heaven. All sorts of celebrations arose around this seasonal event as they bid ‘good bye’ with thanks for the warm season now passing. But none of this really relates at all to what is happening here in the Southern Hemisphere. For us this is not a time to lament with the goblins and spooks but now is the time to put on your dancing shoes!

A Big Planting Week:
Okay, all romantic notions set aside briefly for a reality check. The Moon’s gravitational influence is increasing over the Southern Hemisphere this week as it ascends in our skies. This often fosters the development of milder westerly winds and can push in humid, warm weather systems that sweep in from the northwest. It looks as if the warm season is truly with us. Then on the 25-26 October the Moon turns and heads north again. As it does its gravitational pull often drags up a rogue Antarctic blast that would most likely affect colder climate regions but might briefly sweep the entire country. While Labour Day (23 October) is traditionally considered the “safe” time to plant out all tender warm weather flowers and vegetables, just keep this in mind in the days that follow and be ready to shelter tender treasures from a possible brief but rude reality check.

If weather appears to be at all extreme or inclement, delay planting until next week. The Full Moon (4 November) ushers in much more benevolent and reliable planting and sowing conditions.

With any luck this is an excellent time to plant a wide variety of flowers and vegetables that produce their crops above the ground from seed and seedlings. Also start the seed of exotic and native groundcovers, shrubs and trees; plant a huge variety of container-grown annuals, biennials and perennials; groundcovers; fruiting and ornamental shrubs, trees and vines; Roses; pond/water plants; most warm season bulbs, corms, rhizomes, roots and tubers; broad-leafed evergreens and conifers; Citrus; subtropicals in milder climates and start repotting most container plants including houseplants.


Secrets to Creating Exhibition Root Crop Vegetables:
Gardeners who plan to grow exhibition root crop vegetables and especially anyone wishing to grow the best and longest Carrots and Parsnips possible should plan to sow their seed this week. The secret is to sow their seed into specially prepared deeply dug beds or deep containers filled with an enriched mix of loam, peat and sand.

As the Moon reaches its Full Waxing phase (28Oct.- 4 Nov.) provided conditions remain favourable, their seed will begin to sprout right around the Full Moon (4 November). The Full Moon is the time of greatest light and water retention. It greatly favours strong germination and growth. This is very beneficial for the rapid development of healthy young seedlings.

Then after the Full Moon and for the following two weeks, the Moons’ orbit around the Earth once again moves it toward alignment with the Sun. As the position of the Moon and Sun move closer together this increases their gravitational pull here on Earth. This is especially true during the evening hours when the Moon and Sun move below the horizon and their gravitational pull combines with that of the Earth’s gravity creating a strong downward pull into the ground.

This pulls emerging roots downward deeply into the soil resulting in strong root development that is often greatly elongated. Eventually when these young roots expand and mature, they create exhibition root crop vegetables; especially Carrots, Cylindrical Beets and Radishes plus Parsnips and many other root crops. This natural gravitational cycle can be used to enhance the growth of all root crops and also any other plant which would benefit from strong root development before top growth begins.

Winter and Early Spring Vegetable Crops:
These crops were planted much earlier and now should be producing good harvests. In all districts and especially colder climates wherever night time air and soil temperatures remain below 12C/53.6F, concentrate on planting and sowing more of these hardy vegetables.

Hardy Vegetables to Plant or Sow:
Artichoke, Beets, Cabbages, Carrot, Cauliflower, Celery, Chicory, Cress, Endive, Gooseberry, Kohlrabi, Leeks, Lettuce, Mustard, Spring Onions, Parsley and Herbs, Parsnip, Peas, Potato, Radish, Rhubarb, Salsify, Spinach, Turnip, Yam.

These are all great vegetables to plant in all climate zones. Most of them do exceptionally well in cooler climates.

In milder climates and warm positions where air, soil and evening temperatures remain above 12C/53.6F here is a much larger list of Vegetables that could be started now.

Vegetables to Plant or Sow in Milder Climates:
Artichoke, Asparagus seed, Beans*,Beets, Cabbages, Cape Gooseberry, Capsicum*, Carrot, Cauliflower, Celeriac, Celery, Chicory, Chinese Cabbage and most Asian leafy greens, Choko*,Cress, Cucumber*,Eggplant*,Endive, Kohlrabi, Kumara*, Leeks, Lettuce, Luffa*,Marrow*,Melons*, Mustard, Okra*,Spring Onions, Parsley and Herbs, Parsnip, Peas, Potato, Pumpkins*,Radish, Rhubarb, Salsify, Silverbeet, Spinach, Squash*,Sweet Corn*, Sweet Potato*,Tamarillo*,Taro*,Tobacco*,Tomato*,Turnip, Yam, Zucchini and much more locally.

Anything marked (*) is a tender Summer Vegetable. These all need a sheltered, warm position preferably in the glasshouse or under cloches. Most are best sown from seed or (purchased) seedlings started in pots or punnets sheltered in a very sunny and warm spot outdoors; underneath a cloche, or in the glasshouse or nursery. Grow them on there with the plan to plant them out later once weather fully warms. Alternatively try planting or sowing seed under frost cloth.

Many of these tender crops resent root disturbance and may fail or stunt when roots are damaged, especially when transplanting. Thus it is best to start them in individual containers, pots or punnets with only one or just a few seedlings grown in each. Once roots begin to show through the bottom drainage holes, they can be carefully slipped out of their container with as little root disturbance and minimum loss of dirt as possible and carefully but quickly planted into their final growing position.

Vegetables Needing Strong Root Growth to Plant or Sow Now in Warm Gardens:
Artichoke, Beans*, Beet, Cabbages, Carrot*, Cauliflower, Cucumber*, Egg Plant, Endive, Gourd*, Leek, Luffa*, Melons*, Onions, Parsley, Parsnip*, Peas*, Potatoes, Pumpkin*, Radish, Rhubarb, Squash*, Sweet Corn*, Taro, Tomato, Turnip*, Yams, Vegetable Marrow* and more in local climates.

All Vegetables marked with an (*) are very difficult to transplant because their roots are extremely delicate and sensitive. Use greatest care when transplanting from established individual containers. Alternatively, sow their seed directly into the position where they are intended to grow once soil is warm enough for Tomato seed to germinate outdoors. They almost always perform best when sown from seed this way.

Plant a wide range of hardy seedlings and sow seed for the flower garden. This includes many bulbs and perennials that also can be easily started now from seed. Protect tender species from late cold conditions with cloches or frost cloth. If in doubt start everything with bottom heat or in a very sheltered, sunny and warm position; especially protected from evening cold. Just a few cold nights can chill and ruin a tender young flower crop so treat them like the tender babies they are!

Flower Seed and Seedlings to Plant and Sow Now:
Ageratum, Alyssum, Amaranthus, Arctotis, Aster (excellent time to sow), Balsam, Basil, Begonias, Bells of Ireland, Boronia, California Poppy, Calendula, Calliopsis, Canterbury Bells, Carnation, Celosia, Clarkia, Cleome, Chrysanthemum, Coleus, Coneflower, Cornflower, Coreopsis, Cosmos, Cyclamen, Dahlia, Delphinium, Dianthus, Blue Lace Flower, all everlasting flowers, Feverfew, Forget-Me-Not, Freesia, Gaillardia, Gazania, Geranium (Pelargoniums) plus true Geraniums, Gerbera, Geum, Globe Amaranthus, Gloxinia, Godetia, Gypsophila, Honesty (Lunaria),Impatiens, Kochia, Larkspur, Linum, Linaria, Marigold, Nasturtium, Ornamental Peppers, Petunia, Phlox, Portulaca, Rudbeckia, Salpiglossis, Salvia, Schizanthus, Snapdragon, Statice, Strawflower, Sturts Desert Pea, Sunflower, Swan River Daisy, Sweet William, Tithonia, Thunbergia, Verbena, Viscaria, Zinnia and much more locally.

Soil Temperature and Plant Success:
Because the Sun has now risen sufficiently high into Southern Hemisphere skies, air and soil temperatures should increase sufficiently to start planting out ‘tender’ plants in all but the coldest climates. So this is traditionally considered to be a very good time to start planting the vegetable garden for Late Spring and Summer harvests. In all but the coldest climates the soil temperature has possibly risen high enough for successful seed sowing and transplanting of most crops.

The Natural Secret:
To know when the soil temperature is warm enough to start planting out tender Summer flowers and vegetables is easy to determine for your specific garden location. Sow some Tomato seed in the open ground of the garden or into a container placed in the intended growing area. If the seed comes up quickly and survives without adverse effects, the soil is warm enough.

Another way is to watch the development of emerging foliage on the shrubs and trees. Once new season foliage has begun to advance on most shrubs and trees the soil is warm enough to plant safely. In temperate climates this is classically when the Pin Oaks begin to form new leaves. Prepared beds and planters should be ready by then. Once the Pin Oaks are nearly in full leaf the soil is warm enough for safe planting of tender crops. In subtropical climates wait until the Jacarandas begin to show signs of new season foliage or bud development. Then all subtropical fruits can be planted and sown.

Warming days are very tempting for planting out tender Summer flowers and vegetables. This includes palms, subtropical, tropical species. In the most sheltered positions and very warmest climates plus in the glasshouse, this is permissible. But be guarded as this time in the month is likely to be changeable and possibly extreme. If in doubt, refrain from planting out anything tender in most cool or colder climate gardens without protection with cloches or frost cloth. This transitional time in the season is famous for rapid temperature extremes, hail, pelting rains and winds that can quickly ruin sensitive plantings.

Tender Summer Vegetables need consistently warm air and soil temperatures for successful performance so should only be planted directly into their final growing positions in very warm and sheltered gardens. If temperatures in your region remain cool, avoid the temptation to plant-out tender vegetables too early as this is one of the greatest reasons such crops fail to perform as well as they should. If in doubt, plant and sow into containers kept in a sheltered ad sunny spot with the intention to plant outdoors once the weather is thoroughly settled.

The minimum soil temperature for successful sowing and transplanting of tender warm weather crops is (12-15C/53.4-59F). Most tender vegetables like Egg Plant and Tomatoes really want warm soil temperatures above 18C/64.4F or optimum above 211C/70F up to about 29.4C/85F. This includes Passion Fruit Vines, Tamarillo and most subtropical fruits and vegetables.

We hardly ever reach this optimum ground temperature for long in New Zealand, consequently our harvest season is much shorter than it could be were our climate more subtropical. By planting in the very warmest spots, we gain the greatest advantage. Planting through slits made in a sheet of black plastic or Weedmat pinned over the enriched earth often gets better results because the black covering heats the ground to a much higher temperature.

here is no advantage attempting to plant or sow tender plants into cold, wet conditions without adequate protection. This is a silent disaster waiting to rot them away before your eyes. If the roots of tender Summer Vegetables are ever exposed to excessive cold, they chill, then become stressed and often lose health and vigour. They will almost always be damaged beyond repair. While they may sometimes appear to recover ultimately many stressed plants fall victim to blights, disease and pest attack. Such crops seldom succeed. The secret is to keep them warm and pampered.

Gardeners working in sheltered gardens where night time temperatures seldom fall below 10-12C/50-53.6F can already plant out tender Summer flowers and vegetables. While in cold, exposed sites it would be better to wait a few more weeks. Start tender seed and seedlings in small containers sheltered in a cold frame, glasshouse or sunny and warm nursery where they can grow and develop safely and be planted out once outside temperatures thoroughly warm. Seedlings can also be sown beneath cloches. Almost all seed germination rates increase with extra bottom heat.

While some seed needs darkness to germinate (being slightly buried under soil), warm sunshine or its equivalent is essential for most germinating seed and certainly for optimum seedling growth! It is essential that the germination site is very bright and/or fully sunny or seedlings will stretch and may ultimately prove useless.

When conditions remain cloudy and colder, germination and growth is slowed. There is also the possibility of crown; root and seed rot if soil does not drain well or if the plants are subjected to chilling rain and/or winds or colder evening temperatures. Remain alert and be prepared to cover and protect everything immediately should the weather begin to turn inclement.

Summer-Flowering Bulbs, Corms, Rhizomes, Roots and Tubers to Plant:
Caladium, Canna, Dahlia, Gladioli, Gloxinia, Hippeastrum, Japanese Iris, Tuberose, Tuberous Begonia, Water Lilies and many more, especially herbaceous perennials from containers or sown from seed.

Climbers and Vines:
Climbers and vines of many species and varieties can be started now from seed and also transplanted from container-grown plants. This is an excellent time to plant Passion Fruit Vines. Grape and Kiwi Fruit vines can still be planted from established containers. Smaller plants can also be started from rooted cuttings. All these will need close attention to watering and sheltered from chilling winds or late frosts.

Climbers and Vining Plants to Start Now:
Asarina (Creeping Gloxinia), Calonycton alba (Moon Flower), Cobaea scandens (Cathedral bells), Dolichos lablab (Hyacinth Bean), Eccremocarpus scaber 'Tresco Crimson' (Crimson Glory Pea), Gloriosa Lily, Gourds, Grapes, Ipomoea (annual Morning Glory), Ipomoea x multifida (Cardinal Climber), Kiwi Fruit Vines, Lathyrus latifolia (Perennial Sweet Pea), Luffa (Vegetable Sponge), Mina lobata (Spanish Flag) Passion Fruit, Phaseolus caracalla (Snail Flower), Rhodochiton (Chinese Purple Bells), Thunbergia (Brown Eyed Susan Vine), Tropaeolum peregrinum (Canary Climber) and other subtropical vines.

Many of these vining plants are somewhat tender to chilling and cold, especially when they are young and started from seed, so insure a sheltered and warm environment. Many climbers can prove difficult to transplant if they experience any root damage. Thus transplant container-grown climbers and vines with greatest care.

When sowing their seed start just a few seeds in each individual container. Later thin to the strongest one or two plants per pot. Once roots begin to protrude slightly from the drainage hole, then transplant with care, press the root ball firmly into the soil and water-in immediately.

Shelter them from extremes until they become established. After that, they should require very little maintenance other than gentle guiding and training into the ‘right’ direction and possibly some corrective pruning to shape. Fruiting annual vines like Gourd, Luffa, and Pumpkins need to have their growing tip removed when the plants are fairly young at about 1ft/30cm. This encourages the development of lateral (side) shoots that will ultimately carry most of the fruits.

When the idea is to cover a tall trellis or pergola it is permissible to let the vines race upward and spread out naturally once they reach the top. But all this vegetative growth can sometimes reduce the number and quality of fruit produced. Extra feeding can help overcome this. When the idea is to produce exhibition large fruits of highest quality, pinch out the tip of the vine leader and encourage lateral shoots that will be allowed to carry only one or two fruits each.

House Plants:
Conservatory and house plants should be growing strongly now. Mid and Late Spring is an ideal time to repot house plants wherever conditions remain sunny and warm. Most indoor plants need repotting every year or two. This refreshes their soil and stimulates healthy new growth which will be produced through the sunny and warmer months that follow. As weather brightens and warms, increase feeding and watering of most indoor plants. Usually house plants are repotted into the next larger pot size. A good guide is to allow at least 2.5cm/1inch or more of free space all around the root ball when it is put into its new pot.

Alternatively, if the house plant is to be placed back into the same pot but with fresh soil, remove the plant and ‘tease’ the roots; shaking most of the soil from the roots. Some root pruning of dead or old roots may be necessary. If many roots are removed, some corresponding older top growth can also be pruned away to balance the roots to the foliage above.

Then place the plant back into its container at the same depth it was growing before and add fresh soil mix all around the roots; building to the top. When the pot is about half filled with soil, grasp the plant gently but securely close to its crown (where top growth meets the roots) and give its pot a gentle shake. This will cause the soil to shift and fill in completely around all roots without any air holes. Once the pot is filled with soil up to its crown, then water in well and let it stand a few minutes so that the water can drain away. If the soil settles and becomes too low, add more soil and water again, and then place the newly potted plant back into its growing position.

Subtropical ornamentals specimens, Palms, shrubs, trees and vines can be planted, shifted and transplanted wherever conditions are sheltered and remain consistently warm. Subtropicals can be easily damaged by cold temperatures especially at the time of shifting or transplanting. Transplanting into chilling ground is a classic cause of plant failure. Air and soil temperatures should remain above 15C/59F and they will shift much easier if temperatures remain above 21.1/70F. Once they become established subtropical specimens can withstand colder temperatures.

Most all subtropical specimens can now be pruned to shape. Remove all diseased, weak and winter-damaged older growth to encourage healthy new growth. Shrubby subtropical species respond well to tip pruning which creates a bushier plant. Sometimes this is a difficult decision as new buds often appear at the growing tips such as with Gardenia and Hibiscus. The decision to prune or not largely depends upon the overall health and size of the shrub. Even if the shrub tips are pruned back removing some flower buds, new buds will soon follow on lateral shoots as soon as Summer conditions arrive.

Subtropical plants respond very well to feeding now. Those in pots and tubs respond best to liquid feeding and/or a scattering of a slow release fertilizer sprinkled over the soil surface.

Most of those planted in the ground prefer a generous mulch of pulverized aged manure or mature compost. Spread this mulch outward from the trunk (not touching the trunk) toward the drip-line. The mulch can be 2.5cm/1inch deep or even more much deeper in dry or light and sandy soils. To every bucket of pulverized compost or aged manure up to one cup of blood and bone can be added. This will encourage stronger leafy growth.

Gardeners wishing to promote flowering could further enrich this mix with a generous handful of slow release plant food or a well-balanced general plant food added to each bucket of pulverized compost. Many flowering subtropical shrubs, trees and vines respond well to Rose or Tomato Fertilizer

Some subtropical species like Brunfelsia, Gardenia, Luculia, Vireya and many more, prefer acid soils so benefit from a low pH (acid) fertilizer. Once again add one generous handful per bucket of compost or manure. In this situation be certain that the pulverized compost contains no lime. Lime is often added to mushroom compost and should be avoided with acid-loving species. Other shrubs that would appreciate acid fertilizer mulch include such classics as: Azalea, Camellia, Daphne, Holly, Pieris, Rhododendrons and others.

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