Expert advice on
what to do for your garden this week.
Onion plants can have their tops bent over to assist bulb
Crops sown in autumn will be almost ready for pulling. If
harvested in hot, settled weather, they should be well
ripened and suitable for long storage. Thick-stemmed bulbs
will probably not keep well, so keep aside for immediate use.
Liquid manure assists most crops.
Make your own by tying a sack filled with sheep, horse, cow
or poultry manure and suspending it in water for a few days.
One kilogram of fresh manure to five litres of water is a
Excellent liquid manure can also be made with soot (0.5kg to
five litres of water), or seaweed. The latter is good for
silverbeet, asparagus and cabbages.
Nitrate of soda and sulphate of ammonia (2 Tbsp to 20 litres
of water) promotes leafy growth in salad crops and any winter
greens not growing as fast as they should.
Early potatoes can be lifted as foliage yellows. Once
potatoes are well matured, a combination of rain and warm
soil could prompt new growth, spoiling the crop's quality and
Radishes do not keep well in the ground so successive sowings
are needed for regular crops.
The plants like a well-drained, free soil with plenty of
humus. Keep it moist and prevent the radishes turning tough
and stringy, running to seed or tasting too strong.
Sow seed 1cm deep in rows 30cm apart. Water if necessary and
Brussels sprouts may need to be staked to prevent those in
exposed positions twisting in the wind.
Spring cabbages are best when harvested early.
Select a good strain of seed and make one sowing at the end
of January and another two weeks later. Choose a sheltered
spot in semi shade for the seed bed. Enrich the soil with
some sieved compost.
Sow thinly in shallow, 1cm-deep drills and cover firmly.
Transplant the seedlings when big enough to handle.
Cabbage aphis and white butterfly caterpillars are ready to
attack at this time of the year. Protect seedlings with
insecticide spray and/or derris dust.
Celery should have any off-shoots removed from the base
before the plants are earthed up. Tie the stalks together to
prevent soil entering the hearts.
Draw up about 10cm of soil at first, then, if growth is rapid
after a fortnight or so, draw up another 10cm.
Strawberry plants can be cultivated from rooting runners
appearing now. Use only the first on any vine and, after it
has established roots, set it out in rich soil in early
March. A strong plant will then develop to bear a fruit crop
Strawberries like plenty of compost, leaf mould and maybe
some very old manure.
Superphosphate applied when planting will supply the
phosphates important to full growth.
Do not use lime, as strawberries prefer a slightly acid soil.
Lilium candidum, the Christmas or Madonna lily, will have
finished flowering by the end of this month. Cut the old
flower stems off at ground level and destroy to prevent the
spread of botrytis.
Lilium candidum has no resting period. Fresh growth develops
from the bulbs as soon as the flowering period is over, so if
bulbs are to be divided or shifted, the work is best done
Lilies like a deep, reasonably rich, well-drained soil. Set
the top of the bulb no more than 5cm below the surface.
Multiply bulbs by detaching scales and inserting them upright
in boxes of sandy soil with the tip of each scale just below
Keep the boxes moist, preferably in a cold frame, and plant
the scales out when they have rooted. Plants propagated this
way may flower in the second season.
Peonies and pyrethrums become dormant after flowering so now
is a good time to lift and split them if they have become
overcrowded or more plants are required.
Water if the weather is dry and mulch with garden compost to
Shrubs flowering on the previous year's shoots will benefit
from pruning now. They include Weigela florida, mock orange
(Philadelphus coronarius), rambler roses and Kerria japonica
or Japanese rose.
Remove as many flower-bearing shoots as possible, without
spoiling the shape of the shrub. In good soil, vigorous
growth will be made between now and autumn, forming next
spring's flowering shoots.
Violas and pansies may be straggling now and producing
smaller flowers. Cut to just a few centimetres above the
ground to encourage new shoots.
These will provide cuttings and rooted pieces for replanting
Tulips and hyacinths can be lifted and cleaned when they have
completed their growth. Lay the bulbs in shallow trays in a
dry, cool, airy place. Do not expose them to full sunshine.
Anemones and ranunculi can be lifted and stored for a month
or two, until planting space is available.
Many gardeners rely on raising fresh stocks each year from
seed saved from the best blooms or bought from a reliable
source. For winter blooms, plant some anemone bulbs now in a
Narcissi, crocuses, snowdrops and many other spring-flowering
bulbs may suffer if kept out of the soil for any length of
time. Lift only when overcrowding makes this necessary and
replant without delay.