GARDENING BY THE MONTH.
High summer for most of us means increased heat and, potentially, drought conditions. Careful, controlled use of water will be paramount. Group plants together that require the same watering regime and think about installing raised beds that will use water more effectively.
Top-up mulch that may have subsided over the last few months. Organic or inorganic mulches are fine, but organic mulches will break down and help improve fertility and moisture-holding capacity.
Fast growing annuals can be sown to provide fresh autumnal colour. Nasturtium Tropaeolum majus cvs, marigold Tagetes and alyssum Lobularia are all easy to grow and provide interest in garden beds and pots until the first frost puts paid to their exuberance.
Tomatoes planted last spring should be in full production mode now. Mulch can be pushed right against the plants as tomatoes will root from their stems. More roots means stronger plants and more fruit!
Most spring bulb catalogues make their debut this month. Ordering now is fine, but delay planting until the second month of autumn in warmer districts. Tulips and daffodils can only be grown in climates with a discernable winter, but there are many bulbs that hail from South America, Africa and other tropical regions which will do very well in warmer climates. Try Cyrtanthus, Eucharis, Eucomis, hippeastrum, Ismene and Sprekelia.
This is the prime month to start sowing winter/spring annuals. Delay until next month in hot districts.
Vegetables in the cucifer group can still be sown now. Try broccoli, brussel sprouts and different varieties of kale. Direct sowing ‘oriental’ vegetables is a must as they generally resent disturbance and many of these are also crucifers. Try pack choy, bok choy, ‘Tokyo Benaka’. Many of these are in our opinion just as beautiful as flowers.
In some areas the first signs of autumn will be starting to appear, but for most, March is an extension of February. If seeds of colourful quick growing annuals were not sown in January, give the garden (and yourself) a boost and buy in some seedlings.
Now that the weather has (hopefully) started to become a little cooler, take cuttings of all those favoured plants. Take more cuttings than you think you’ll need to give away as presents when they have struck. In colder climates, cuttings taken this month may need to be placed undercover to bring them through winter.
Many salad vegetables can be sown throughout the year. But varieties that state they are ‘cut and come again’ and pickings can be had for months!
Biennials sown in December can now be transplanted to their final positions. Traditionally tulips, Myosotis and wallflowers accompany each other, but all biennials are worthy of alternative pairings with other spring bulbs and as a feature in their own right. Wallflowers and stock like a neutral to slightly alkaline soil, so if your soil is acid apply some dolomite lime.
Plant those bulbs! Tulips and daffodils (Narcissus) as well as most other spring flowering bulbs can be planted now. Improve the soil with compost or very well rotted manure. We also add some slow release food, as our soil is nutrient deficient. Take note of the sunlight hours where bulbs are being planted. Most require at least three hours of direct sun.
Broad beans can be planted now in most climates. Glorious picked young in the pod or seeds shucked when mature, we use them both ways in soups and stews. There are such a number of pea varieties available now, but for the home gardener sugar snap varieties are potentially the best. Try ‘Yukomo Giant’.
The addition of any manure that is not fresh to the soil surface will prove beneficial for all those plants that grow slowly over winter and those that will take advantage of the fertile conditions during spring.
Semi-ripe (approximately pencil thickness) cuttings taken now of perennials such as Euphorbia and Penstemon placed under cover, strike slowly over winter and will be ready to plant in the garden or pot up by mid-late spring.
If vegetable beds are not used to grow a crop over the winter months, try planting green manure. This is a crop that is dug into the ground during late winter or early spring generally before it flowers. Phacelia tanacetifolia is wonderful as if it is left to flower it attracts many beneficial insects such as hoverflies and ladybirds.
In mild areas some bulbs have already sprung into life. Narcissus x tazetta varieties and ‘paperwhites’ are wonderful and if bulbs are still available, they can be potted up, placed in a sunny position indoors and had in flower within as little as six weeks.
It's a good time to move plants that are dormant over winter or get those new bare-rooted plants in. You'll be seeing roses in your local nursery or you can buy them online.
Indoor plants will for the most part be not actively growing, but spruce them up by wiping or spraying the leaves with tepid water. Dust reduces a plants ability to capture the most light possible and even in winter this is rather important. Wait until the soil surface of most plants is quite dry before watering again.
In the vegetable garden the fruits of your earlier labour should be apparent, but if not, a range of vegetables will be available to buy as seedlings. Those in warmer climates can continue sowing salad and ‘oriental’ crops as well as radishes. In cooler climates try erecting a clear cover over a vegetable bed. This will create greenhouse conditions and may mean crops of the above throughout winter.
One might be forgiven for feeling the mid-winter doldrums, but there is nothing that lifts the spirits as much as planting something new! If the weather is inclement pot up some advanced annual colour for a display close to the house.
Now is good time to have a look at the bare bones of your garden and plan to renovate those areas of your garden that need some attention. Or start designing a new garden!
Seed catalogues are generally available now and some stores will have a new range of seeds. Fire up the internet or visit your local nursery and dream.
In frost free climates potatoes can be planted now. There are so many wonderful varieties to select, but be aware they are divided into early, mid-season and late cropping varieties.
Here comes the sun! The daylight hours are noticeably longer now, so think about preparing garden beds for planting by adding organic matter or create new beds.
Warm season flowers can be sown inside or in a glasshouse now. Dahlia, Cosmos, Nicotiana and Amaranthus all benefit from an early start.
Tomatoes, eggplant, chilli and capsicum, all members of the solanaceae can be sown indoors this month. In climates with frost, keep indoors and grow on until the last frost date in as much sun as possible, then harden off in a protected position outdoors.
It is good practice whatever the season to take note of particularly attractive plants or plant associations, but spring can bring a super abundance. Pencil and notebook at the ready! (Or your favourite technological device).
Start mulching now with your favourite material. We often use sugarcane mulch and sometimes lucerne. Any mulch that can be laid between 3-5cm thick and does not contain excessive weed seeds (ideally none) will be beneficial. Fertiliser placed on the ground before mulching will be released slowly to the plants. Choose an inorganic or organic fertiliser, but remember that some plants have differing requirements.
In frost-free areas some tomatoes can be planted out now. Hold back with eggplant, capsicum and chilli as these are not as tolerant of cooler conditions. ‘Beefsteak’ tomatoes especially need a longer growing season, so get these in!
Most houseplants will have started to grow in response to the increased light levels and can be top-dressed with new potting mix or repotted. Either wipe leaves gently to remove dust accumulation from the winter months or take outside and wash down with a watering can that has a rose fitted. Take this opportunity to do a little home gardening curation and assess what plants did well and what did not. Move plants to different positions within the home and group plants together for contrast and to increase humidity levels.
Herbaceous perennials (those that die down during winter) will have started to spring to life. Dig these up and divide, removing the older central pieces, only replanting what is young and fresh.
Add some flowers to your vegetable beds. Tagetes, both African and French varieties, and Nasturtium are particularly good at attracting beneficial insects and have edible flowers! All above ground parts of Nasturtium can be eaten, even the immature seeds can be pickled and eaten like capers!
Roses will have started to bloom in earnest. A good dose of manure and mulch around these beauties will pay dividends later. Those used for cut blooms will require regular watering to encourage continuous blooming.
In the flower garden this can be a lean month. Dutch and bearded Iris and Euphorbia can help bridge the gap.
All tomatoes, chilli, eggplant and capsicum can be planted out this month. In cooler climates, if seed was not sown earlier, buy seedlings and plant, as potentially poor results will be had if planting is any later.
Sow biennials now for spring colour in temperate and cool districts. Wallflowers Erysmium and Cheirianthus, Lunaria, Foxgloves Digitalis, stock Matthiola, Hesperis and Myosotis will all make larger plants that flower profusely if sown early.
It’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas! Decorate your home with flower arrangements made from your own garden boosted with bought flowers and with plants. Poinsettia are a perennial favourite, but any colourful foliaged plant can be used too.
Keep the watering up to vegetable beds, as many leaf crops will bolt to flower prematurely if allowed to dry out. Tomatoes are astoundingly drought tolerant, but once fruit has started to form, will need consistent watering to stop fruit splitting.