May: Its time to…

Blue skies, purple shadows and gentle golden light make gardening in the afternoons pure pleasure.

Some of you may be grateful for a little less mowing at this time of year. Others may sniff as they put the mower for away for an indefinite period. The growth of our lawn slows down as the cooler weather approaches, almost knowing that sometimes it’s all too hard to get outside in the peak of winter. So now is the perfect time to send the mower off for its annual service. As Winters approaches, so too does the frost and the wet weather. During both of these events, its best to stay off the grass, as much as possible, to prevent damage or burn.

Its the last chance to get your spring bulbs in the ground. Position them under deciduous trees so that as the last leaf falls, the bulbs will put on their own exhibit, before bud burst again in Spring. Giving them a good dose of liquid fertiliser now will ensure a beautiful display later. 20 bulbs

Bare root stock will start to become available in nurseries. Always check the roots for any damage prior to purchasing and ensure you plant them in well prepared soil as soon as possible.

Plant winter herbs such as coriander, parsley, rosemary, thyme, sage and chervil.

Fragrant Camellias. Camellias are the shining stars of the sleepy winter garden. I love them for their evergreen foliage, stunning flowers and lack of pest and disease problems. Why not love them for their fragrance too? Not many camellias are perfumed, but take a look – and a deep breath – at these. For a tall option try ‘High Fragrance’; medium-height scented beauties include Lutchuensis, ‘Scentuous’, ‘Koto No Kaori’; and smaller selections include ‘Spring Mist’ and ‘Sweet Emily Kate’.

4_Japanese MapleTake check of the sculptural element of deciduous trees and witness the difference the defoliation makes to the surrounding landscape. The exposed trunks can be quite stunning, and now take centre stage, after the leaves have fallen. The increase in light exposure is quite phenomenal.

Continue to collect autumn leaves and add it to your compost. Ensure you spread this goodness over the garden beds in Spring which in turn will feed your plants.

Pull up any remaining tomatoes, eggplant and capsicum. Dig them up with as much soil as possible and leave them in the shed. The fruit will continue to ripen – one last chutney can still be made.

Move your outdoor furniture into a sunny spot to capture the winter sun.

Fertilise Camellias, Azaleas, Daphne and Rhodendrons with a specific Azalea and Camellia food, compost and a few handfuls of sulphate of potash. Most varieties are about to flower now, lasting through Winter and into Spring.

Fertilise cymbidium orchids. Apply the pellets once a month until flowering spikes appear.

Continue to divide herbaceous perennials before the conditions become too cold.  Share the excess with friends or repeat groupings of the plant throughout the garden.

It’s the perfect time to begin winter pruning of deciduous trees and shrubs.  Remove any dead, dying or diseased branches, not matter how big or small. I always like to spray the new cuts with Steri-prune to prevent any disease  from entering the plant. Thin out the branches to allow an increase of air flow through the tree and in turn more sunlight. Renovate your hedges by cutting back hard, to reshape and thicken.

Frosts are already starting to appear in some areas of the country. Where possible, ensure you bring tender young plants in under cover. If the frost is particularly heavy, you can also offer your garden beds a light sprinkle of water which will reduce the risk of damage caused.

Plant now…
broad beans shutterstock_96619060BROAD BEANS
Sow broad beans directly into the soil at 10cm intervals in rows 20cm apart. Ensure you water once at the time of planting, then leave them for around 3 weeks, until they begin to sprout. A high maintenance vegetable, especially at preparation time, but well worth the effort when your Spring harvest is atop of crusty bread with feta, mint, lemon, garlic and a drizzle of olive oil.

Continue to plant your garlic. Plant at a depth of around 5cm at 10cm intervals in row widths of 40cm. Always buy your garlic bulbs from a reputable organic supplier.
artichokes shutterstock_110074124ARTICHOKE

A stunning heirloom vegetable, the artichoke not only provides bold, edible flower buds, but a beautiful sculptural element to any garden bed. Carefully select the site for your artichokes, as they require a fair amount of room and will last for around 5 years. Feed with a liquid fertiliser every month and a handful of potash every fortnight during their active growth period to encourage flower bud development.

Before you sow your Broccoli, ensure you have dug some rich compost into the soil. Once sown at the correct spacing, fertilise again at around the 3 week mark. As the the broccoli develops take care not to water the ‘heads’, watering at ground level if possible. Such a generous vegetable, continuing to offer side shoots even after the main stalk has been harvested.