In all but the coolest areas, radishes sown now will not
thrive, tending to bolt to seed, even when the soil is kept
moist, and those that do mature being unacceptably sharp in
flavour. To add a little bite to salads, use nasturtium
leaves and flowers, or grow some mustard streaks (Brassica
juncea), which grow very rapidly and if to be eaten fresh
are best young.
Older plants can be used in stir-fry mixes. Onion plants can
have their tops bent over to assist bulb swelling. 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 them 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
suitable mixture. Excellent liquid manure can also be made
with seaweed and 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 the foliage yellows. Once
potatoes are well matured, a combination of rain and warm
soil could prompt new growth, spoiling the crop's quality and
storage properties. Brussels sprouts may need to be staked to
prevent those in exposed positions twisting in the wind.
Spring cabbages are best when harvested early. Make one
sowing at the end of January and another two weeks later.
Grow in a seed tray or make a seed bed in a sheltered spot in
Enrich the soil with some fine compost. Sow seed thinly in
50mm-deep drills and cover firmly. Transplant the seedlings
when big enough to handle. Cabbage aphids and white butterfly
caterpillars go on the attack at this time of year. Protect
seedlings with derris dust or spray with soapy water.
The Madonna, or true Christmas lily (Lilium candidum),
will have finished flowering by now. Cut the old flower stems
off at ground level and destroy to prevent the spread of
botrytis. Unlike almost all other lilies, L. 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 now.
Also unlike other lilies, the bulb should not be covered but
the top third left above the ground. They like hot, dry spots
and will tolerate some lime. Multiply all lily bulbs by
detaching scales and inserting them point-upwards in boxes of
sandy soil with the base of each scale just below the
surface. Keep the boxes moist and plant the scales out when
they have rooted. Plants propagated this way should flower in
the second season.
Violas and pansies may be looking straggly and producing
smaller flowers. Cut them back to new growth just above the
ground and they will spring away. Tulips and hyacinths can be
lifted and cleaned when the tops have died down. Place the
bulbs in shallow trays in a dry, cool, airy place. Never
expose them to full sunshine.
Anemones and ranunculuses can be lifted and stored for a
month or two, until planting space is available. For winter
blooms, plant some anemone bulbs now in a warm place. Like
all bulbs, narcissi, crocuses and snowdrops suffer if kept
out of the soil for any length of time. Lift only when
overcrowding makes it necessary and replant without delay.
Strawberry plants can be increased readily from the rooted
runners the plants are now producing. Use only the strongest
runner and after it has established roots, set it out in rich
soil in early March. This summer propagation allows the plant
to develop before cold weather sets in and bear a fruit crop
If planting is delayed until winter or spring, no fruit
should be allowed to develop in the first season. Being of
woodland origin, strawberries like plenty of compost, leaf
mould and well-rotted manure. Superphosphate applied when
planting will supply the phosphates important to full growth.
Do not use lime, as strawberries prefer a slightly acid soil.