May Garden Calendar – Getting Ready for Winter

May is the month that sorts the gardeners out, and the month that heralds the completion of one of nature’s cycles; a time when autumn leaves crunch underfoot. Don’t burn off the leaves-this leads to major air pollution problems around city areas. Instead, use the leaves as surface mulch on garden beds, or compost them for later use. An easy method is to bung them all into a large garbage bag, and plonk them out of the way for a few months.

JOBS TO DO NOW

  • If you love orchids, consider the miniature cymbidium orchids, which are the same as ordinary orchids but have smaller leaves and more petite flowers. All can be planted in partly shaded rockeries in orchid compost (never in straight soil). Orchids will be sending out their flower spikes now, so sprinkle some snail bait around. When using these, spread them out thinly and never in heaps as this may attract dogs; snail baits are poisonous to dogs and cats, so always scatter them sparingly and keep the packet locked out of your pets’ (and kids’) reach.
  • Set the lawn mower up a notch to let the grass thicken for winter.
  • Garden shrubs and trees can be moved from now until August, when bud burst occurs. Dig up as much of the roots as possible and water in with a solution of plant hormone growth stimulant (kelp) such as Plant Hormone after planting.
  • Cut back chrysanthemums and lift dahlia bulbs.
  • As the vegies finish and die off for winter, dig in plenty of manure and leave fallow or plant a green manure crop to improve the soil. Try ‘Clever Clover’, which is available from the CSIRO in Canberra.

INDOOR PLANTS

  • As winter approaches, ease off with the watering of indoor plants. Plants like to be kept a little drier in winter, as excess water chills their roots. Leave repotting and fertilising until spring, and keep plants away from heaters or airconditioning vents.
  • Small (match head-sized), fluffy white blobs on plants indicates the presence of mealy bug. There is no effective longterm treatment for this pest and it is best to quickly get rid of affected plants before the pest spreads.


TIME TO PLANT

  • It is really too late to plant tropical things like bougainvillea and frangipani unless you live in the tropics, but you can still sneak in winter-flowering jewels such as luculia, flowering quinces, camellias, hardenbergia and many grevilleas, as well as some violas, pansies, alyssum, Livingstone daisies, lobelia, English daisies, calendulas, dianthus, anemones, primulus, ranunculus, poppies, stocks, sweet peas, snapdragons, larkspurs, cornflowers, foxgloves and cinerarias.
  • In the vegetable garden plant cauliflower, lettuce, spinach, radish and broad beans (not in tropical areas).

Reference:  Donald Burke

How to Make Seedling Pots from Newspaper

The lovely Willi Galloway from eHow shows us how to create newspaper seedling pots from old newspapers. Try to only use black and white newspaper as they don’t have the chemicals which are found in coloured newspaper. Always use a good quality compost (preferable organically certified) when potting up your seeds or seedlings for the best results.

Composting – Making Soil Improver from Rubbish

This is a great old document from the CSIRO on composting. It is written for the home gardener but also has some great scientific information like the right carbon to nitrogen ratios(C/N ratio) for compost.

Composting – Making soil improver from rubbish
Rubbish is one product our society makes very well. We make mountains and oceans of it. We dump it in holes and in the sea, bury it and burn it. But when we run out of holes, when the sea can not take any more, and when we get sick of smoke in our eyes, what do we do then?
One answer given by those who are concerned about our soils and food production system is: “Compost it and return it to the soil”. They are, of course, referring to the many organic materials that we throw away or burn – lawn clippings, leaves, weeds, sawdust, paper, kitchen scraps, seaweed, etc. The compost heap can convert this bulky “rubbish” into a soil improver and fertiliser. This booklet is about the science and art of making compost, and has a bit of philosophy too.

To view this booklet below you will need to have Adobe Acrobat Reader installed from www.adobe.com

Composting – Making Soil Improver from Rubbish

Assessing your garden

There are few places on earth where plants will not grow. Evolution has enabled them to come to terms with extremes of
temperature and soil , rainfall and exposure. As a result, there are very few places where at least some plant species are not at home, while for most soils and situations there can be an embarrassment of riches.
For gardeners, the lesson must be to ‘swim with the tide’, choosing plants that are attuned to the conditions they can provide. Of course, there is plenty that can be done about poor soil , excessive exposure and so on. Nevertheless,
why try to grow moisture-loving plants in dry, sandy soil when there are so many others adapted to just such a habitat?

The first step is to assess exactly what your garden has to offer. This will provide a sensible basis for choosing plants and for putting worthwhile improvements in hand.

Sun and shade
Although a sunny garden would be most people’s choice, there are plenty of attractive shade-loving plants. The choice is widest for beds overshadowed by walls or buildings, yet open to the sky, but narrows when the area is in the perpetual shadow cast by a large tree.

Position and aspect
Gardens in hollows or valleys often get an undue share of frost. This will mean that you will have to begin planting somewhat later in spring, and some tender plants will need protection. Before planning your garden, also try to
assess which parts of the garden receive the most sun and which are exposed to any chill winds.

Exposure
This is a common problem on hillsides and by the sea . However, practical steps can be taken to reduce the effects of wind.

Soil
Practically an y soil can be improved by adding humus (manure or compost, for example) and fertilizer. Acid soils can be
sweetened with lime ; clay can be broken down over a few seasons. however, poor drainage is a difficult problem to overcome, especially if the plot is surrounded by other gardens.

Weeds
These simply indicate neglect, not a particular category of garden – in fact, lush weed growth usually indicates fertile soil. Nowadays, there are simple and effective ways of destroying weeds.

DESIGN DETAILS

In one sense, a garden is well designed if it pleases the person who has created it. There are no absolutes in aesthetics, only what satisfies the individual eye, and the making of a garden is an intensely personal matter. However, individual taste aside, today’s preference is for less formal planting, for gentle curves that lure the eye to a striking focal point, and for an absence of excessive detail and geometric precision. Even so, when it comes to practicalities, there are a few ground rules about design to consider.

Patios
Ideally, a patio should be alongside the house, but this is pointless if it will be in the shade for much of the day. Choose a spot that receives plenty of sun, even if it is set away from the house. Then lay a path that provides easy access.

Utility corner
The compost heap and garden shed are usually consigned to the farthest corner of the garden, necessitating long journeys to dispose of mowings or to collect tools . A more central site will sa ve you a lot of time and effort. A screen of climber-covered trellis can easily be used to disguise the unitilty corner if you prefer.

Greenhouse
Abundant light is essential, and shelter from cold winds is a bonus. If this means placing the greenhouse in a prominent position, consider the attractive hexagonal designs and also the multi-faceted domed structures.

Paths
Good drainage and ample width are both essential. Lay the path with its surface a little above ground level and preferably with a minimum width of 1m. A narrow path looks mean and is awkward when you are trying to manoeuvre an overladen barrow on it.

Steps
A gentle slope is more convenient than steps if you are pushing a mower. However, steps are unavoidable on a sharp gradient. Steps should be -designed so that the height of each is no more than about 15cm. For steps of this height, a tread depth of 30-38cm is suitable, but this can be increased if the height of the riser is reduced.

Fences and screens
It is a pity to enclose your garden with a tall barrier, unless this is essential for privacy. A low timber or wire fence is often adequate, or a low wall topped with a trellis . A flowering hedge makes an attractive but effective screen. If a taller fence is required, there are many choices, depending on whether you want privacy or wind control. The style of the fence or wall should harmonize with that of the house.

Reference: Outdoor Garden Manual
Knowing Your Garden

An Experiment in Back Yard Sustainability

Peak Moment 51: Tour Scott McGuire’s “White Sage Gardens” in the back yard of his rental home — a demonstration site for suburban sustainability. He ponders, “How might a household produce and preserve a significant portion of its own food supply?” Composting, a water-conserving greenhouse, and seed-saving are all facets of this beautiful work in progress.

How to Pot a Rhododendron

At this time of year many of us think about rhododendrons. Although the different types flower for a long period, it is in May that they really make an impact on gardens across the land. But rhododendrons must have lime-free soil and that can make them tricky for some of us that garden on neutral or limey soils. Planting in the garden is a waste of time and money. If you want, you can make a raised bed and fill that with acid soil but digging a hole in your garden and filling it with acid (ericaceous) compost only works for a while. The water from the surrounding soil will drain in and spread the lime and although you can acidify soil with sulphur chips you really are making life hard for yourself.
By far the best way to grow rhododendrons in these circumstances is to put them in pot. Rhododendrons have compact, fibrous roots and grow well in containers. But before you rush out and plant one in your favourite container, consider a few basics. Choose a dwarf rhododendron — many can get huge but there are lots of compact varieties, such as the ‘Bow Bells’ I chose, or all the Yakushimanum varieties (‘Yaks’). Then think about the pot. It should not be made of concrete or contain lime and must have straight sides so that, when the time comes, you can get the roots out of the pot to move it into the next size. It must also have drainage holes but if it has a saucer which can be topped up with water in summer, that is of benefit. You must use a lime-free compost. There are many brands of lime-free, or ericaceous compost but most are loam-free. Most are not, in my opinion, good for long-lasting plants and I prefer to use lime-free John Innes compost, possibly mixed with some fine bark.