This story was originally published on Sage Journal
We’re in mid-spring! Now is usually a time of the perfect combination of spring growing conditions — sunshine, rain and warmer days. Make sure you have your young trees well staked, as spring is also a time of high winds.
It’s tomato planting time, along with many of our summer crops like zucchini, cucumbers, capsicums and chillies. There’s still the potential for cold snaps, so keep frost covers and cloches handy.
LABOUR DAY GARDENING
Labour weekend is traditionally a time for garden maintenance, makeovers and when summer vegetable seedlings and flowers are planted out in the garden.
Tomatoes are traditionally planted outside on Labour Day. Other crops perfect to plant on this weekend are chillies, eggplant, capsicum, courgettes and sweetcorn.
Give your gardens a boost with liquid feed. You can easily make your own fermented fertiliser teas to regularly feed your vegetables, fruit trees, annuals and perennials through spring.
ATTRACT THE BIRDS
To help with pest control, attract birds into the garden. Put out an apple, a handful of oats or grains to encourage the birds to come in and hunt for slugs and snails around the garden.
Fill bird baths with fresh water, especially when it’s hot and dry. Grow sunflowers, parsley and Florence fennel, and let them go to seed to give the birds a welcome treat in the summer.
Save eggshells and leave to dry for a week or two under your sink or in the garage.
When they are dry they’ll be brittle enough to crush over plants that are getting attacked by slugs and snails, like vegetable seedlings, ligularia reniformis (‘tractor seats’), rengarenga lilies and hellebores.
THE EDIBLE GARDEN
- Harvest broccoli while the florets in the centre head are still tightly closed (when they start to open you’ve left them a bit long).
- Continually pick lettuces and salad leaves so they don’t go bitter and tough.
- Don’t let celery go woody - pick a few stalks at a time if you can’t eat a whole one.
- Celeriac, Florence fennel and globe artichokes should be ready around now.
- Asparagus is in its prime this month. Eat as fresh as possible.
- Check your strawberries! You may have some sneaky ones ready now.
IN THE VEGETABLE GARDEN
Because of the warmer weather in mid spring, many seeds can go straight into the ground over the next few weeks. It’s a good idea to stagger the planting of your seeds so you get a longer and staggered harvest.
Some of the things you can sow right now:
INDOOR — capsicum, cucumber, chilli, eggplant, tomato, zucchini, melons
OUTSIDE — (Watch out for late frosts. If in cooler areas, wait a few more weeks) — Beans, peas, carrots, radish, beetroot, spinach, lettuce, cauliflower, pumpkin, silverbeet, sweetcorn
Transplant seedlings into the garden from inside as the weather warms. They should be ready when they are showing at least two sets of leaves.
Add some colourful blooms in and around your veggie patch to brighten things up and encourage bees and other beneficial insects. (See list of bee-friendly flowers in The Picking Garden section below)
HERBS, HERBS, HERBS
Plant basil, coriander, chives and chervil in warm, frost-free areas. Cut back sage, thyme and mint to encourage fresh new growth for the summer harvest. With basil and coriander, pinch out the centre growth to encourage the plant to bush out. Always plant coriander and parsley (and lettuces) in part shade to protect them from the afternoon sun - this will help slow down their chances of bolting.
ROOTS — beetroot, carrots, radish, celeriac
BRASSICAS — cabbage, pak choi, broccoli, cauliflower
SALAD GREENS — lettuces, mizuna, rocket, spinach, silverbeet
OTHER — spring onions, globe artichokes, peas, celery, leeks, onions, beans, courgettes, tomatoes, chillies, eggplant, capsicum, cucumber, pumpkin, sweetcorn, florence fennel
TUBERS — Jerusalem artichokes, kumara, potatoes
HERBS — basil, coriander, chives, chervil, dill
FRUIT — citrus, passionfruit, tamarillo, rhubarb, melons
IN THE ORCHARD
Plant passionfruit, tamarillos and citrus.
MULCH FRUIT TREES
Mulch the bases of your fruit trees. This will help with spring weed control, boosting nutrients, moisture retention and keep the soil temperature cool enough when the summer months approach. Use: leaves, wood/bark chips, pea hay/straw.
Feeding helps to encourage fruiting and flowering. Sprinkle blood & bone around the outer edge of branches, and mulch the base of trees - helping shallow roots get nutrients and stay protected.
THE PICKING GARDEN
BULBS — dahlias, gladioli, calla lily
ANNUALS — cosmos, sweet peas, sunflowers, poppies, marigolds, nasturtiums, nemesia, snapdragons, zinnia
PERENNIALS — lavender, geranium, daisies, aster, ageratum, calendula, alyssum, lobelia, alstroemeria, heuchera
FOR BEES & BENEFICIAL INSECTS — alyssum, borage, calendula, cleome, cornflower, cosmos, echinacea, echium, foxgloves, geranium, globe thistle (echinops), lavender, marigolds, nasturtiums, phacelia, pineapple sage, salvia, sea holly (eryngium), rosemary.
Hint: Bees love flowers with simple, open flat shapes or clusters of tiny flowers (rather than full, ruffled flowers) so they can feed easily.
An old-fashioned beauty, which looks elegant through summer but is hardy and vigorous growing in nature.
Low maintenance and easy to propagate, this big bloomer should be planted and transplanted now (or in autumn) - just in time for flowering in summer. Plant in a shady or semi-shady spot (they will cope in the sun, but the flowers will suffer if it’s too hot).
Fun fact: Many types of hydrangeas will change the colour of their blooms depending on the acidity of soil they’re in. (Though white flowering hydrangeas will usually stay white, no matter what the soil type.) Acid = blue. Alkaline = pink / red.
This story was originally published on Sage Journal, a new online magazine for the garden curious.