Pip Monthly Garden Guides

Here are our monthly Australian garden guides, for all the tips and tricks you need to get your garden pumping, depending on which climate zone you’re in, click on the month below to jump to the relevant guide.

JanuaryFebruary | MarchApril May June |

 July | August September October | November | December

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januarybanner

Cool Temperate

What to sow: Succession and replacement planting of your summer vegies, including:
Carrots, beetroot, radish, turnip, lettuce (chill the seed in the fridge for a few days before planting, and plant on the shady side of sweet corn or climbing beans or sunflowers), Asian greens (eg rocket, mizuna, mibuna, mustard, cress), silver beet, spring onions, bush beans, and if you’re in a warm spot, seedlings of late zucchini, cucumber, small pumpkins like golden nugget, sweetcorn and even tomatoes. Yes, tomatoes! and Early plantings of long season vegies that will grow into autumn and winter, including:
Leeks, parsnips, celery, celeriac, brussel sprouts. Other brassicas too (like broccoli, cabbage, cauliflower) can be planted in seed trays to grow on as seedlings to be planted in the coming months. Brussel sprouts need the longest growing season of this tribe, so it’s a good idea to plant them as seedlings this month. Keeping potatoes like kennebecs can go in now too.

What to do: Give your fruit trees (especially citrus) a deep watering and mulch well with compost, or mixed layers of animal manure and straw. As you pick the last of your summer berries, consider giving them a summer prune to tidy up and trim back over-vigorous shoots. Nectarines and peaches can also be summer pruned as soon as you’ve finished picking. Any big pruning cuts will heal more quickly in warm weather, and decrease the risk of disease organisms attacking the tree. Cut back artichokes as they finish flowering. You can carefully dig out the young suckers around the base of older plants to get more plants to give away or expand your patch. Give them all, old and new plants, a good feed and watering to get them going for the next phase of growth. Check for scale on your lemons and olives. They can be suffocated with a spray of white oil, or a home-made alternative. Preserve any abundance of berries or stonefruit – there’s plenty about this time of year!

Tropical

What to sow:

seeds for snake beans, wing beans, mung beans, peanuts, Asian greens, Komatsuna mustard, okra and rosella and marigolds, cuttings of cassava, Aibika, sweet leaf, corms for taro, both the purple fleck and the small white sweet upland taro, and cocoyam, push cuttings of sweet potatoes into a mound of soil for good drainage, plantlets of celery top taro into wet spots under a downpipe or similar, rhizomes for ginger, turmeric, galangal, Temulawak and chines keys in a shady spot

What to do:

Divide up clumps of day lilies and replant, mulch any uncovered ground, fertilise regularly with weak liquid fertiliser as it’s washed away by the heavy rain, harvest and preserve eggplant, okra, capsicum, mangoes and lychees while they are in season.

 

Mediterranean

What to sow:

What to do:

februarybanner

 

Cool Temperate

What to sow:

Leeks, parsnips, celery, celeriac, Florence fennel, brussel sprouts and other brassicas (like broccoli, cabbage, cauliflower). You don’t have to panic or rush though, most of these things can be comfortably planted well into March. Brussel sprouts need the longest growing season of this tribe, so it’s a good idea to plant them as seedlings this month. Carrots, beetroot, radish, turnip (hakurei are awesome!), Asian greens (eg rocket, mizuna, mibuna, mustard, cress), silver beet, spring onions.

What to do:

Keep your fruit trees well watered and mulched as they ripen fruit like plums, apples, pears and quinces. Cabbage white butterflies will quickly find your new brassica seedlings. Keep a close eye out for little green grubs on the underside of leaves, and squish on sight. Keep tying up your tomatoes, if you’re that way inclined, and break off any lower leaves that are all yellowed and curled up. Once fruit is developing and starting to ripen, try to keep the watering even to prevent blossom end rot. Don’t be afraid to snip a few leaves off the zucchini’s or sunflowers or pumpkins if they are bullying and shading their neighbours. They’ll keep producing new leaves to replace what you remove, and the new growth will be more resistant to mildew.

Tropical

What to sow:

Separate clumps of garlic chives and onion chives and plant them out. seeds for snake beans, wing beans, mung beans, peanuts, Asian greens, Komatsuna mustard, okra and rosella and marigolds, cuttings of cassava, Aibika, sweet leaf, corms for taro, both the purple fleck and the small white sweet upland taro, and cocoyam, push cuttings of sweet potatoes into a mound of soil for good drainage, plantlets of celery top taro into wet spots under a downpipe or similar, rhizomes for ginger, turmeric, galangal, Temulawak and chines keys in a shady spot

What to do: 

Thin out the banana suckers. These can be removed and composted or removed and planted elsewhere. Prune the mulberry tree. In the tropics mulberry do not grow into big sturdy trees with regular fruiting cycles. Mulberry in the tropics stays as a shrub which fruits on the new growth after pruning. Cut it back to the same height each time rather in the same manner as pollarding. Harvest early rosella to make a jam. The young leaves can be harvested during the growing season and added to salads for a tart flavour burst. You can also harvest eggplant, okra, capsicum, coconuts, sweet potato leaves and chives.

Mediterranean

What to sow:

Celery, Asian greens, beetroot, cabbage, cauliflower, celeriac, celery, endive, kale, kohlrabi, leeks, lettuce, onions, radish, silverbeet, swede, turnip, rocket, watercress, Asian greens, beetroot, beans, carrots.

What to do: 

Harvest and preserve peaches, plums, nectarines, beans, potatoes and sweet potatoes , grapes, tomatoes , seed of parsley, lettuces, carrots and coriander. Summer prune fruit trees after harvest, give a deep soaking and mulch with lucerne. Top up mulch in the garden generally (preferably after rain if we get any), give low-water areas an occasional deep soak if there has been no rain for a long time. Feed citrus and roses. Dead-head flowers and trim perennials like geraniums. Adjust shade as needed.

marchbanner

Cool Temperate

What to sow:

Its still a good time to plant brassicas, as seedlings. Its also still a good time for vegies that need a long growing season, or that can manage winter, like leeks, parsnips, celery, Florence fennel, carrots, beetroot, turnips, silverbeet. A truly Autumn / Winter group of vegies to consider planting, later in March, are broad beans and peas, and English spinach. Plant seed rather than seedlings, as you’ll have access to a greater range of varieties, and will get stronger plants. English spinach often bolts to seed when stressed, so definitely don’t buy seedling punnets of this one. It loves lime too, so sprinkle some lime and rake in a week or two before planting if you’ve had trouble with this one in the past. You can also scatter coriander seed around when planting peas.

What to do: 

Clean up mildewy or dried up leaves, and as you pull out finished summer vegies and weeds, chop them up and make compost. Make a nice big heap, and water it well as you build it, for best results. Try to keep on top of the weeds and grass around the place so that they don’t set new seed. If you haven’t time for a thorough weeding session, at least break or cut off any developing flower or seed stems, and throw them to your chooks to eat any seeds, or into a bucket of water to become sludge before they’re used in compost. Young brassicas are still vulnerable to the cabbage white butterfly. Take direct action (squishing the grubs)!

Tropical

What to sow: 

You can try a few tomatoes and hope for the best. The Pink Thai egg tomato and tropic do best. Heat tolerant greens and tropical fruit trees can also be planted now.

What to do:

Harvests available this month include bananas, longan, passionfruit, soursop, corn, pumpkin, limes, dragon fruit, chillies, coconuts, pumpkin fruits, shoot and leaves. Turn in any green manure before it flowers and plant green manure crops in areas ready for the winter vegetables but not being planted now. Continue to work on swales and drainage as there could be a lot more rain yet.

Mediterranean

What to sow: 

Asian greens, beetroot, beans, broad beans, carrots, broccoli, cabbage, cauliflower, celeriac, celery, endive, horseradish, kale, kohlrabi, leeks, lettuce, onions, radish, rocket, silverbeet, spinach, swede, turnip, watercress.

What to do: 

Watch out for any decent rain and use the opportunity for fertilising the productive garden and then planting natives and perennials, especially in the outer zones of the garden that may not have had as much attention yet. With shorter days and less intense heat, shading can be removed (except for any last hot spikes). Give citrus a feed while there’s still enough warmth for them to use it, especially if they are potted. Melons and pumpkins – watch for vines dying back, knock on melons to see if they sound hollow. Cut pumpkins with plenty of stalk and let them cure for a few weeks before using or storing over winter. Don’t lift them by the stalk in case it breaks and damages the pumpkin!

aprilbanner

Cool Temperate

What to sow:

Hard neck garlic (the ones that have a flower stalk) can be planted this month, and also into May. Soft neck garlic is usually planted in May – June. Its best to break up the heads into individual cloves the night before or morning of planting, as the cloves loose vitality once they’re all separated. Plant with the flat bit down and the pointy bit up, so that the pointy bit is just below soil surface. You can still plant brassicas such as broccoli and cauliflower. Best to go with seedlings at this stage rather than seed. See if you can find some of the groovy broccoli varieties such as romanesco (lime green fractal looking) or purple sprouting (lots and lots of lovely purple side shoots for many months). Broad beans and peas can go in as seed, as well as English Spinach. Good old spring onions can always be planted, and now is a good time for non-keeping salad onions such as red or white varieties. Winter lettuce, Asian greens, and silver beet planted now will keep you in fresh greens in winter and early spring.

What to do: 

As you clear summer crops such as zucchini, tomato and sweet corn, rake up any mulch that was on those beds and compost it. This will diminish the habitat for slugs and snails that would otherwise overwinter in the mulch. If you haven’t already done so, pick your pumpkins this month before the frosts come. Always leave a bit of stalk attached, and the pumpkin will extract the last bit of goodness from the stalk as it dries off. Try to resist carrying big pumpkins around by the stalk, as it might break off and leave a vulnerable spot where disease can get in. And the pumpkin might fall on a vulnerable big toe! After harvest, let the pumpkins sit somewhere sunny and out of the weather for a few days to help the skin cure. Then store in a cool, dry, dark spot.

Tropical

What to sow:

April is a transition period from the wet season to the dry season and so planting directly is risky if there is a large downpour that will wash away your work. You can try raising seedlings of kale, lettuces, tomatoes and onions, or try your luck direct sowing other plants like carrots and beans.

What to do: 

The weeds have not stopped growing vigorously so keep on top of them. Fertilise trees and perennial plants with trace elements to build the soil up for the dry season and replace micronutrients leached by the heavy water inundation. Start looking at trees which will need to be pruned at the end of the wet season. Pruning now will not cause the flush of new growth which follows pruning during the wet season when almost everything is in active growth.

Mediterranean

What to sow:

Artichoke & asparagus crowns, beetroot, broad beans, carrots, broccoli, Brussels sprout, cabbage, cauliflower, celeriac, celery, endive, kale, kohlrabi, leeks, lettuce, onions, radish, rocket, silverbeet, spinach, swede, turnip, watercress.

What to do: 

Composting – it’s always the right time for composting, but spent summer veg and falling leaves add to the mix, along with any peels or offcuts from fruit being preserved or dried. Spread mature compost around fruit trees, dig it into veg beds and use a small amount to make compost tea for liquid plant feeds. Water compost in well, especially if soil has become water repellent over a long dry summer. Move pot plants if necessary to catch sun now that it is travelling in a lower, shorter arc. Prune apricot trees in April during fine weather – paint any large wounds to prevent fungal infection. Order bare-rooted deciduous trees for winter planting and get the soil ready now. Start thinking about green manure to rake into empty garden beds after rain.

maybanner

 

Cool Temperate

What to sow: 

Garlic, brassicas such as broccoli and cauliflower, broad beans, peas (sugar snaps, snow peas or podding peas, either climbing or bush varieties), silver beet, English spinach, winter lettuces, and spring and salad onions and shallots.

What to do: 

Late outbreaks of aphids can strike in the variable Autumn weather. Watch out for grey ones on brassicas, especially where broccoli or cabbage heads are forming, and black ones on chives, young garlic or spring onions. A small outbreak can be dealt with by jetting them off with a hose, or dosing with slightly soapy water then massaging them off with gloved hands. More severe outbreaks can be given a targeted spray of pyrethrum – but don’t squirt this around everywhere, just use it as a non-residual knockdown. Now is the time to plant green manures for winter digging in. Any mildewy leaves of late season zucchinis or cucumbers can go in the compost – the fungi and other organisms there will sort out (ie eat!) the mildew.

Tropical

What to sow:

There is still time to plant all the Asian greens including the mustard leaves like komatsuna, , Chinese cabbage, basil, beans of all sorts except those that require really cold weather like broad beans, beetroot, broccoli, cabbage, capsicum and chilli, carrot, cauliflower in a cold part of the garden, celery, chives, coriander, cucumber, dill, eggplant, endive and radicchio, English spinach, fennel, Mediterranean herbs, Jerusalem artichoke in a tub, kale, kohlrabi, leek, all the different lettuces, melons, okra, onion, parsley, peas and snow peas, pumpkin, radish including daikon, rocket, silverbeet, spring onion, sweet corn, tomato, zucchini and squash.

What to do: 

The weeds are still growing so keep harvesting for composting, especially around asparagus plants which can do well in the tropics if cared for and given a good feed twice a year. Mark the locations of ginger, turmeric, and Javanese turmeric, sand ginger and Chinese keys before the vegetation dies off. This allows you to protect the area and harvest rhizomes as required. Remove the vegetation as it dies down; keep the area clean and well mulched. The rhizomes can be harvested and processed for storage or they can be left in the ground and harvested as required.

Mediterranean

What to sow:

Artichoke & asparagus crowns, beetroot, broad beans, carrots, broccoli, Brussels sprout, cabbage, cauliflower, celeriac, celery, endive, kale, leeks, lettuce, radish, rocket, silverbeet, spinach, swede, turnip, watercress. Seed potatoes and garlic cloves. Strawberry runners.

What to do: 

Collect falling leaves for mulch or compost. Cut back on irrigation. Shift compost and start digging it into soil ready for winter planting of deciduous trees. Plant green manure. Have a cup of tea on the porch and enjoy the mellow sunshine through the autumn leaves.

junebanner

Cool Temperate

What to sow:

As we approach the shortest day, our focus for planting in the garden shifts from annual vegies to perennials. Rhubarb, asparagus, Jerusalem artichokes, globe artichokes, chives, garlic chives, horseradish, potato onions and shallots can all be lifted, divided and replanted in the next two months. Fruit and berries are also perennials of course, and deciduous trees and cane fruit are best planted bare rooted in their winter dormancy. Some annuals are still well equipped to germinate and grow (slowly) in cold winter soil. Spring onions, radishes, broad beans, peas and English spinach are still good for filling gaps.

What to do:

When planting fruit trees and berries in winter, it’s a good idea not to put too much food – eg compost or manure – in the planting hole. We want the new plants to send their roots out widely, seeking moisture and nutrients. And compost can act like a big sponge, soaking up and holding water in the hole and leading to a lack of oxygen for the growing roots. The enemy of young fruit trees (besides whipper snippers) is grass. So DO use copious amounts of compost, old manure, spoiled hay, or any other good feeding mulch material on the surface around newly planted trees and berries. Just be careful not to mulch too closely to trunks and stems to avoid collar rot.

Tropical

What to sow:

basil, beans of all sorts except those that require really cold weather like broad beans, beetroot, broccoli, cabbage, capsicum and chilli, carrot, cauliflower in a cold part of the garden, celery, chives, coriander, cucumber, dill, eggplant, endive and radicchio, English spinach, fennel, Mediterranean herbs, Jerusalem artichoke in a tub, kale, kohlrabi, leek, all the different lettuces, melons, okra, onion, parsley, peas and snow peas, pumpkin, radish including daikon, rocket, silverbeet, spring onion, sweet corn, tomato, zucchini and squash.

What to do: 

Any other jobs not done yet – pruning, path clearing, digging and fertilising holes for future plantings, replacing edging which has come adrift. Fertilise the fruit trees except those in flower.

Mediterranean

What to sow: 

Artichoke suckers, asparagus crowns, broad beans, carrots, broccoli, Brussels sprout, cabbage, cauliflower, celeriac, celery, kale, leeks, lettuce, radish, rocket, silverbeet, spinach, swede, turnip, watercress. Seed potatoes and garlic cloves. Strawberry runners.

What to do: 

Our soil is cooling now, so it’s time to stop planting evergreens and instead prepare soil for winter planting of deciduous bare-rooted fruit trees and perennials such as asparagus, artichokes, rhubarb, berries etc. The cooler temperatures mean that deciduous plants will become fully dormant while evergreens will slow their growth, being less able to take up and use nutrients in the cooler conditions. Adjust fertilising regimes accordingly. Hold off on additions of strong manures, blood and bone etc until spring except where planting hungry vegetables. Nurture leafy greens with liquid fertilisers (weed tea, worm wee, seaweed and fish solutions etc) which can be watered over the whole plant for a foliar feed as well as going to the roots – thus ensuring maximum absorption. Find and use whatever warmth you have – e.g. sit seedling trays on a hot water service or in a warm protected nook to aid germination, use cloches to get seedlings started, place compost bins (regularly aerated for maximum heat generation) in greenhouses or vegetable beds to add to the warmth of the microclimate and speed up growth of surrounding plants. Move potted plants to warm (and where necessary drier) locations. If you live in a low-lying or frosty spot, protect any vulnerable plants by covering them on clear nights, and don’t prune off frost-damaged parts of plants until frost risk has passed, as they protect the healthy parts below.

julybanner

Cool Temperate

What to sow: 

Its cold, really cold, and frosty this month, even though we’ve passed the midwinter shortest day. Amazing how things still grow (even weeds like chickweed) and thrive in these conditions. Brassicas and parsnips get sweeter after a good frost as some of their starches get converted to sugars to protect the plant cells from extreme cold. Its still great timing to source, or divide and share, perennials such as rhubarb, asparagus, Jerusalem artichokes, globe artichokes, chives, garlic chives, horseradish, potato onions and shallots. And when you’re thinking about berries and fruit to plant, don’t forget that cane fruit like raspberries, currants, gooseberries and brambles (like silvan berries and logan berries) are easy peasy to propagate. If you know someone with any of these, chances are they’d be happy to share some cuttings, suckers or thinnings from their berry patch. In the annual veg camp, the same guys as last month are still good to go: spring onions, radishes, broad beans, peas and English spinach. You can start preparing beds for potatoes too, and begin planting them towards the end of the month if your soil is reasonably well drained.

What to do: 

It’s a good time to clean and tidy your strawberry beds, and make an assessment about whether to keep your plants or get a new batch. After around 4 years of growth, most strawberries get an aphid-bourne virus which doesn’t affect their leaf growth, but reduces their fruit productivity. So if your plants are just a few years old, by all means snip off the runners and give them to friends, family or the school garden. But if your patch has been there for 4 years or more, it’s not a bad idea to remove all the plants completely, refresh the soil with some yummy compost, and plant new certified virus free plants that are sold quite cheaply bare rooted from nurseries at this time. Check your brassicas, especially broccoli and Brussels sprouts, for infestations of grey aphids. These yucky little creatures can explode in numbers very quickly in a few mild weather days, and often do so just as your about to harvest your precious winter food.

Tropical

What to sow:

The Mediterranean herbs love this weather so plant in full sun. Plant Surinam spinach and Okinawa spinach in the shade of a north side fence.

What to do: 

Fertilise fruit trees with potash to improve fruiting and plant strength. Harvest okra (tiny, perfect for salads), tomatoes, pumpkins, bananas, peas, beans, soursop and pawpaw.

Mediterranean

What to sow: 

Cold soil now means slower vegetable growth. Most deciduous trees are now dormant and leafless, ready for winter pruning, planting or transplanting. In frost-prone areas, it’s time to take a break from planting out and instead peruse the seed and plant catalogues with spring in mind. If you have a sheltered spot or are nearer the coast where the nights don’t get quite so chilly, it’s still worth putting in a few potatoes, onions and garlic, and green manuring any vacant vegetable beds.

What to do: 

If you have planted early potatoes, they can now be hilled up as they grow, leaving a few pairs of leaves protruding on each plant. Leeks can be similarly backfilled as they grow, to produce long, white stems. Those leafy greens that are already established will benefit from continuing with fortnightly liquid fertilisers – and check the soil moisture, as in spite of the cold, there may not have been enough rain yet to keep vegetables well watered. Early planted peas are producing well now – pick daily to keep them coming, and provide support as they grow taller. Lemons, mandarins, Tahitian limes and late navel oranges are now in abundance. Apart from eating them fresh and adding to juices for a Vitamin C boost, it’s time for making marmalade, cordial, lemon curd and lemon delicious pudding.

augustbanner

Cool Temperate

What to sow:

Potatoes, peas, broad beans, Jerusalem artichokes, rhubarb divisions, chive divisions, oca (a tuberous oxalis relative that grows like a potato). And all the leafy greens: lettuce, rocket, Asian greens, celery and English spinach. In raised beds and warm spots start with succession sowings of carrot and beetroot, and turnips if you must! You can plant seedlings of brassicas such as cauliflower, cabbage, broccoli – they will grow ok, but I much prefer to plant them in autumn and be eating them now.

What to do: 

Keep your garlic and other onion family plants weeded: the slim leaves don’t compete well with swamping layers of chickweed, stickyweed or other weeds that will start to grow fast now that thedays are lengthening. Finish winter pruning of apple and pear trees. Your pruned branches might be useful as pea sticks, to support new plantings of bush peas or even climbing peas if your pruned branches are tall enough for a tepee.

Tropical

What to sow:

Still time to plant the last crop of lettuce, endive, Chinese cabbage and other fast growing greens. Radishes and carrots still have time to crop before the weather heats up. Check your seed supplies and order what is needed. Now is the time to order asparagus, onion bulbs, turmeric, galangal and ginger rhizomes and water chestnut bulbs. Horseradish can also be ordered now and planted out.

What to do: 

Maintain mulch and monitor soil moisture levels. Water fruit trees regularly to maintain moisture levels. Brassicas are coming to the end of their life.

Mediterranean

What to sow: 

Asparagus and rhubarb can be divided and transplanted this month. Keep planting successive crops of all types of peas, and pick them daily to keep them producing heavily. Green manure crops should be dug in before they flower and set seed – unless you’ve decided to keep those broad beans for eating after all!

What to do:

Get in before the spring weeds take off – pull them out or sheet mulch over them before they have a chance to seed through your patch. Add organic matter to the soil ready for planting spring vegetables, citrus and other evergreen trees and vines; and start your first spring vegetable seeds in trays or punnets with bottom heat, and/or in cold frames or cloches depending on your local conditions. Germination for summer vegetables usually starts when soil temperature is between 15 and 20 degrees, and we’re still a long way off that! All winter pruning of stone fruit trees should be done at the beginning of a fine spell, so the wounds have a few days to dry out well and resist fungal infection. Peaches and apricots can also be sprayed (e.g. with Bordeaux mix or copper hydroxide) as the flower buds begin to swell, to help prevent leaf curl and shothole in susceptible varieties. Deciduous trees can also be grafted this month.

septemberbanner

Cool Temperate

What to sow:

Loads of leafy greens and roots like carrots, parsnip, beetroot, turnips and swedes can all be sown now. Also celery and silverbeet (or rainbow chard – pretty!) seedlings, brassicas like broccoli and cabbage, leeks, and the ubiquitous spring onions and radish. Peas and broad beans can still go in, and will catch up quickly to autumn-sown ones, although the peas might be prone to slug attack. Chunky things too like potatoes, Jerusalem artichokes, rhubarb and asparagus crowns. You can sow seed of globe artichokes, but be aware that you’ll get a whole range of flower bud colour, size, spikiness and edibility from a single seed packet. If you really want a particular artichoke flower shape, best to find an example at a friend’s place, and beg a few suckers from that plant which will be clones of the parent plant. This month is the exciting start of planting seeds of summer vegies in pots on a windowsill or greenhouse: tomatoes, pumpkin, zucchini, capsicum, sweetcorn.

What to do: 

As we approach the equinox the days are nearly as long as the nights, and the soil is starting to warm up. With the burst of growth in spring it’s a good time to feed everything. Plants need major nutrients from the soil, as well as sunlight and carbon dioxide absorbed through their leaves. The complex web of life in healthy soil is constantly breaking down old organic matter, even minerals, to restock the storage “shelves” in clay and humus particles in the soil, and thus make the nutrients available to plants. So consider when you think about fertiliser that you’re feeding the soil and the plants. Try to use organic fertilisers and compost, animal manures and worm castings, rock dust and seaweed products, worm wee and compost tea, to give the soil life as balanced a menu as possible.

Tropical

What to sow:

There is still time to plant the last crop of just about everything. Be aware that some crops will be lost if there is an early wet season. Pumpkin planted now will likely provide for Christmas dinner. Jap does well in this climate. Plant into a heap of compost or well-rotted manure in a corner or out of the way. They require little care, but do need to be out of the way of lawnmowers and foot traffic. Plant and look after asparagus, turmeric, galangal and ginger rhizomes, and water chestnut bulbs. This is the vulnerable time. It is a little early for ginger and turmeric to be growing.

What to do: 

Trim and use as mulch any plants looking straggly as they will be putting on their spring growth when the weather warms and humidity starts rising. Bag any fruit susceptible to fruit flies. Fertilise fruit trees with potash for sweet fruit and strong tissue.

Mediterranean

What to sow:

It’s still cool enough for broccoli, kale, Asian greens and all your favourite brassicas, along with parsley, coriander, rocket and lettuces. Loose leaf types allow you to pick the outside leaves while they keep on growing. The same goes for spinach and silverbeet including rainbow chard. It’s also warming up enough to start planting beans (both bush and climbing types). Year-round veg like beetroot and carrots are good to go. Protected seedling trays are currently the best place for tomato, chilli, capsicum, and eggplant – pot them on when they have a couple of sets of true leaves, then gradually harden them up into open garden conditions and finally plant out when the soil has warmed. For faster progress you could keep them in large pots which will warm faster – and then put a succession crop in the garden a bit later.

What to do: 

Dig in remaining green manure crops, whip out weeds before they set seed (especially grasses), hot compost old mulch from the vegie garden to break the pest cycle and help the soil to absorb spring sunshine – re-mulch later, after the spring veg are planted and big enough to not be swamped. Look out for ladybirds and their eggs, especially if you’re spraying sap-sucking pests – give the ladybirds a chance to multiply and eat them! Catch and squash caterpillars or feed them to a friendly chook or magpie.

octoberbanner

Cool Temperate

What to sow:

Tomatoes: Cool temperate gardeners are obsessed with tomatoes in October. There is no need to rush your planting, especially if your seedlings are happy in their pots. The best time to plant is when the soil has warmed up a bit (look for self sown tomato or sunflower seedlings emerging), and when the risk of a late frost is nearly nil. In a cold, frosty area, choose varieties like cherry tomatoes or yellow taxi that are early or short season varieties, to ensure they’ll ripen. If you’re in a warm spot, then go for it (you probably have already) and enter the race to tomato glory by Christmas! Beans: Around about now we stop planting peas or broad beans, and swap over to beans as the legume of choice. Beans growing up a tepee can be surrounded by plantings of zucchini or pumpkin that will spread out below them. It’s always nice to poke a few sunflower seeds into the soil in the centre of tepee too – they will grow up and out the spokes, getting support, and the beans can happily twine around the big sunflower stems. Sweet corn: Another summer staple that can go in as the soil warms up – remember to plant it in blocks (around 3 x 3 plants is minimum) rather than a long skinny line. The pollen is heavy and wind-borne, and a block design helps maximise the chance of pollination. Capsicum, chilli and basil: These all enjoy the warmer months, so they can go in soon. If you have a warm spot, you can tryeggplant, rockmelon and even watermelon, for fun!

What to do: 

The weeds tend to make a surge of growth in spring, and all the overwintered brassicas, rocket, silverbeet, celery and leeks get all feisty and send up flower stalks. This means that you have a large amount of biomass for compost fodder, just when it’s a great time to use up the last of your old compost around new plantings of pumpkins, zucchinis, sweet corn and friends. Conveniently this will clear out space to build new heaps that will process quickly in the warmer days. Feed everything that you’re planting with a combination of slow release food such as compost, manure and mulch. Also apply an occasional dose of liquid fertiliser – such as comfrey or compost tea, fish emulsion, or seaweed solution. Mulch will help slow down weeds and feed the soil ecology, but we don’t usually rush to put it on until November when the soil has definitely warmed up.

Tropical

What to sow: 

Rocket, mustard, tatsoi and Miners lettuce: Plant seeds at regular intervals to keep the crops coming. These will all tolerate the build-up to the wet season. Darwin lettuce is a more traditional option that does well at this time of the year. The French Sorrel is still growing well but needs regular watering. Prepare for Christmas: Start preparing now by planting according to the proposed menu. Asparagus, turmeric, galangal and ginger rhizomes, and water chestnut bulbs: The summer growing crops can still be planted. Those already in the ground from last year may not be sprouting yet as that is determined by the heat and humidity.

What to do: 

Prune trees along the footpath and weed the area. Clear any overgrowth or overhanging plants along the fence line. Cut the sweet leaf to ground level so that fresh growth is generated. This encourages a bushier growth habit and so a thicker privacy screen. Maintain fertiliser routines. Water well before applying fertiliser.

Mediterranean

What to sow: 

Broccoli, spinach and tomato: Seeds sown last month in trays are ready to be planted out into garden beds now if they have several sets of leaves – late afternoon is best so they can settle in overnight. Chili, eggplant and capsicum: These need more warmth to germinate and may not have their second set of leaves yet, so timing depends on how they are progressing. Move trays and pots gradually into full sun so they can harden up before planting out. Leek, kale, lettuce, radish and silverbeet: Seed-raising mix can be re-used for the next round of sowing. Bear in mind when planning your beds that the leafy greens will prefer semi-shade as the weather warms up – ideally aim for morning sun or plant something taller such as tomatoes, capsicum, eggplant, corn or trellised crops such as climbing beans to the west of these beds to protect them from the afternoon sun through summer. Beetroot, beans, pumpkins and squash, corn/maize, melons and cucumbers: Sow direct and keep some seed for succession planting over the next few months. Sow the corn either in a block (rather than a row – for better pollination) or in a patch shared with squash and beans for the traditional ‘three sisters’ planting guild to integrate your crops, maximise diversity and ensure mutual benefit. Note that all these are big seeds (a good clue to their suitability for direct sowing) and they like to be planted deeper than tiny seeds, in a hole/furrow at least 2-3 times their own depth. 

What to do: 

Thin out stone fruit as they set to improve fruit quality and protect branches from breaking later. Mulch garden beds to retain moisture and moderate temperature. Check drip irrigation to ensure it’s working effectively, and extend it to new plantings. Use weeds to feed chooks, make salads, compost or weed tea. Replace weeds with seeds of the plants you do want (let the weeds show you where things want to grow!). Provide wind shelter for sensitive plants and new seedlings that can dry out quickly.

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Cool Temperate

What to sow:

Pretty much all the summer vegies are good to go now that November is underway and the soil has warmed up well. As you clear out broad beans and peas, in go hungry things like sweet corn, zucchini, pumpkin, cucumber – they’ll all appreciate the nitrogen enriched legacy of the legumes. Garlic will be coming out soon, if not already, and you can use the space to start sequential plantings of lettuce, rocket, Asian greens, carrots, beetroot, celery, silver beet, leeks, and salad onions. Keeping potatoes such as Kennebecs are often planted around now, just as the first “bandicooted” harvest of early Spring planted pinkeyes are coming out. And beans beans beans: bush beans and climbers of all colours, shapes and stripes can go in. Be aware that climbing beans usually take much longer to germinate and appear, so don’t despair if they seem to have forgotten to wake up. They need a good watering at the time of planting, but then nothing more until they emerge.

What to do:

If you’re inclined to exert control and create order in your vegie patch, you can start pinching the lateral shoots out of climbing tomato plants as they grow. Climbing toms should be tied up to a stake or woven around a vertical string or encouraged to weave through a mesh trellis. If you’re more of a ‘laisser faire’ gardener you can just let a tomato jungle develop. The down side of this is that some fruit will end up sitting on the ground, and may be attached by slugs or earwigs. For fruit growers, thin out crowded clusters of apples and pears for larger fruit. Garlic planted in April / May is usually ready to harvest in November or early December. If you have planted hardneck garlic, which gets a flower stalk, you will notice curly whimsical stalks with a little bump near the end (scapes) emerging this month. Scapes are delicious chopped and stir fried, or brushed with oil and grilled, or made into a heavenly pesto. To check if garic bulbs are ready to harvest, pull a big one up and slice it through the middle horizontally. Check to see if the cloves have fully segmented. The aim is to leave it in the ground as long as possible, but before the outer papery layers of skin around the whole head start to crack and let soil in. Once you’re ready to pull the lot, try to wait till there has been a dry spell. Spread the harvested bulbs out in an airy spot out of the rain (we use our veranda) and turn them over each day for a week or so. Then strip a few leaves off to get nice clean heads. Now plait or bundle up your bounty, and hang somewhere dry and cool (not cold) for keeping.

Tropical

What to sow: 

Plant capsicum and eggplant to get them established before the strong winds and rain of the wet season. Snake beans grow well in the wet season. There are climbing and dwarf varieties. Harvest the beans when they are still slim and short. They can be a little tough if left to grow to full size. Pigeon peas are another legume that grows well in the wet season. The branches can be pruned lightly at regular intervals to provide some protection for seedlings. Pigeon peas are a small leguminous tree and produces pods which contain a number of small beans. It is widely used as a vegetable, a dried bean and a dhal in many parts of the tropical world. Each tree produces a prodigious crop of pods. Plant cuttings of sweet leaf to ensure a regular supply of leaves and tips. The tips are a replacement for asparagus in the hot weather. Okra and rosella can be planted now. Seeds sown in situ and plants grown in pots and transplanted both work well.

What to do:

November is the official start of the cyclone season so spend some time looking around the yard and house and develop a plan of attack should there be a cyclone. I am always quite happy to have the plan but not use it. I used to have a store of tinned food but don’t bother since the garden is well established. I have plants which will provide food even after a cyclone. Sweet potatoes, cassava and West Indian arrowroot will provide starchy vegetables.

Mediterranean

What to sow:

Sow direct pumpkins, zucchini, cucumbers and melons and hedge your bets in case of bug attack by nurturing a few in pots.

Basil seedlings are nearly ready to go out around the tomatoes, which got a head start and are now setting their first fruit. Eggplant and chilli seedlings can also be planted out. Last year’s capsicum plants are scruffy but starting to put on new spring growth. Capsicum, eggplant and chilli can all fruit for several years in good conditions. Now is a good time to trim back old woody growth to where the new leaves are emerging. Gypsum provides calcium to help prevent blossom end rot. Consistent watering is important for the same reason. Bush beans are starting to crop and succession planting will ensure a continuous supply throughout summer. Climbing beans take a little longer to start fruiting but continue over a longer period. Sow direct. Beans are well suited to container growing if space is limited. Citrus trees, passionfruit vines and other subtropicals such as avocadoes and mangoes can be planted now, ensuring that soil is well prepared with organic matter and excellent drainage. They will benefit from initial shelter against hot sun and strong winds – particularly avocado and mango.

What to do:

Take tip cuttings to propagate herbs such as rosemary, perennial basil, sage, thyme. Grow flowers such as daisies, fuchsias and salvias from cuttings. Grow mint, lemon balm and lemon thyme by layering (plants put down new roots as they grow along the ground, so pin them down and mulch around them, then cut off from parent plant when rooted). Weed out grasses before their dry seeds blow through the garden. Deadhead flowers to keep them coming. Enjoy the shady spots (and create more of them). Train grapevines, passionfruit etc to grow where you want them! Tie up main branches regularly and trim off extra side growth. Water deeply (e.g. one patch of the garden each day of the week), especially prior to hot weather. Have shadecloth or old curtains ready to protect plants at the onset of sudden hot weather.

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Cool Temperate

What to sow:

You can plant just about anything in December! As you harvest garlic and leeks, use the space for sequential plantings of lettuce, rocket, adian greens, carrots, beetroot, celery, silver beet, more leeks, salad onions. We tend not to plant the cabbage tribe (brassicas like broccoli and cauliflower) in high summer, since they taste pretty flabby in warm weather, get attacked by cabbage white moths, and we want the space for things that wont grow so well in winter. If your broad beans and peas are just finished, use that nitrogen enriched space to plant hungry things like sweet corn, zucchini, cucumber, pumpkin and even more tomatoes. Yes really! Small varieties like cherry tomatoes, pickling cucumbers, and golden nugget pumpkins, will complete their growing and ripening more quickly than huge voluptuous varieties like Brandywine tomatoes or Queensland Blue pumpkins. So go for the littler ones in later December plantings. Potatoes can still go in too – try ‘keeper’ varieities like Kennebecs to be harvested before next winter.

What to do:

Its berry time! Instagram and facebook feeds in cool temperate regions abound with photos of luscious raspberries, strawberries, currants and brambles such as logan berries. A truly delicious time! Excess berries can be made into beautiful cordials or vinegars, or frozen to be used after the memory of summer fades. Zucchinis are coming on soon, and the late peas and broad beans provide a green feast for garden snacking. Asparagus spears can still be picked – but for young plants let them grow after Christmas to send up a leafy ferny stalk that will send nutrients down to the roots, helping the plant grow strong.

Mildews can affect new growth on apple trees, roses, and other perennials, as well as cucurbits and any late peas. For small infestations, just pick or snip off the affected leaves. Often the new growth will be more resistant to the problem. For larger outbreaks in perennials such as apple trees, consider if you can open up the canopy a bit to increase air flow. Or start investigating varieties that are not so susceptible to fungal problems. For the vegies that are mildew affected, a ruthless approach is good. Cut off leaves that are mildewy. And keep doing that. Sacrifice the last few morsels of yield to pull out a plant that is badly affected, and use the space to plant a new seedling that might be more resistant.

Keeping up with weeding can be a challenge as the Christmas craziness accelerates this month. Remember that mulch is your friend, both for keeping the soil cool, and suppressing (or at least slowing down) weeds. If the weeds seem a bit out of control, try just picking a small area, say one section of a garden bed, and get that weeded thoroughly then covered with a good mulch layer. Then when you next get a chance, tackle another small portion.

 

Tropical

What to sow:

Not a lot of planting in the garden this month. The weather is heating up and scorches new plants. There is enough to do in the general garden without looking after seedlings in this period of disruption and fun that is Christmas and New Year.

What to do:

There is lots to harvest in the tropical garden this month, including mangoes, bananas, pineapple, pawpaw, water apple, saba nut and grenadillas. Feed all fallen fruit to chooks, pigs, worms, etc. Any which become infested with fruit fly can be solarised. Put the fruit in a watertight black plastic bag and seal the opening. Lay it out in the full sun for a week or two. This will kill the larvae and the fruit can be buried, composted or added to the worm farm.

 

Mediterranean

What to sow: 

Make the most of the heat with fast-growing vegetables like climbing beans, melons, pumpkins and zucchini, as well as repeat plantings of tomato and corn. Use taller climbing vegetables like tomatoes and cucumber on tall frames, teepees or arches of steel mesh to partially shade leafy greens like lettuces and silverbeet. Although coriander and baby spinach are still tempting, they are inclined to bolt to seed in the heat, so more frequent small plantings and longer shade periods help to maximise success. All this warmth along with the moisture we supply supports a plethora of insects, some useful and others less so. Spiders and birds amongst the fruit trees help to keep them in balance, as do lizards. Make sure these helpers have a cool drink at hand. If you have evergreen fruit trees and vines that still need to be planted out, take care to prepare the soil, water well and shelter them while they settle in. Those planted now won’t have such a well prepared root system as spring-planted trees, so will be more vulnerable to heatwaves.

What to do:

Summer vegies are getting moving now – check zucchinis, beans and tomatoes daily. While vine-ripened tomatoes are a beautiful thing, rats think so too – picking when they start to colour and ripening on a kitchen bench can prevent those visitors from settling in for the season. Cape gooseberries are ripe when their lantern-shaped cases are papery-dry and the berry inside is fat and golden. The plants can be cut back mid-season when they have become leggy and unattractive, and with a deep watering they will start to bush out and produce again.

The stone fruits are also ripening – sequence will depend on specific varieties, but cherries are now being picked, we have apricots and the peaches will be along soon. Jackie French observes that most native fruits are more sour than introduced fruits and that this might explain why native birds like to start eating our fruit before it is sweet enough for us to pick! So it pays to get nets up early. White bird nets are easier for birds to see than darker colours, and by either hoisting them over arched pipes or stretching them tight over the tree canopy, there are fewer loose folds for birds to get caught in. Draw the base of the net in close around the trunk, or around individual branches if the trees are too big to net as a whole. If there is a gap, birds can easily get in and then struggle to find their way back out. Nets can be tied with baling twine around the base or secured with clothes pegs (pegs do get caught up in the nets, but they are usually quite reusable there the following year). The spring strawberry crop may have slowed down now. If your plants have started putting on more runners and less fruit, sit extra pots around them to catch the runners. There’s no need to plant them into the potting mix – they will settle on the surface and start to put down roots. When the stem has toughened and darkened and roots are well established, the new plants can be mulched and cut loose from the parent. These will start to fruit well after 1-2 years, by which time the parent plant’s productivity is likely to be in decline. Many seeds are now ready for harvesting – e.g. parsley, coriander, celery, parsnip, beetroot, silverbeet, spinach. Look for dry, papery seed heads. Break them off into a paper bag and shake or rub the seed heads to release the seeds. For lettuces, the seeds are ready to harvest when the yellow flowers have finished and been replaced by dry heads topped with whitish fluff. Shake into a paper bag. Store all seeds in a cool, dry place and replant as needed – for many of these plants, germination rates are best in the first year.

Garden Guide Contributors: Nadja Osterstock of Nadja’s Garden, Christina Giudici of FIMBY and Kathleen Hosking of Solutions Focussed.