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As winter comes closer, the opportunities for growing vegetables are reduced, but garlic and shallots should go in from now until early spring. Plant small sections of bulbs, pushing them down to half their depth in rich, well-cultivated soil. Keep an eye on them as growth starts, checking bulbs to make sure they have not been pushed out of the ground by developing roots. If they have, push them back in.
Winter is also the time for planting rhubarb and asparagus crowns, so prepare the ground now. Rhubarb needs very rich soil with lots of compost and manure, while asparagus, being of seaside origin, does well if a layer of seaweed is put under well-fertilised soil. Keep the beds free of weeds to reduce weeding once these perennials are in.
Compost bins and heaps need protection from winter rains, as cold heaps stop decomposing. Cover heaps with plastic stretched tightly over a frame, or with corrugated iron.
Lilies are infamous for their hatred of lime but Lilium regale and the true Christmas or Madonna lily (L. candidum) will tolerate some in the soil. L. regale likes its roots shaded from sunshine during summer and autumn months but Christmas lilies love to be baked, best achieved by planting in dry soil with the top half of the bulb above the ground. A rarity in the lily family, the Madonna is never dormant, so is best planted when it finishes flowering at Christmas. Bulbs transplanted now will take a whole season to adjust to the change. Save any scales that come off, place point-up in damp, well-drained soil and small bulblets will appear within a few months.
The tiger lily (L. lancifolium syn. L. tigrinum) is a species of lily native to eastern China, Korea and Japan. There are single and double forms in the familiar orange colour, as well as yellow, gold and pink forms. All can be grown in most soils and are very hardy. The small, black bulbils on the stems can be collected to make new bulbs. Plant in sandy soil, enriched with leaf mould and plant out after a year.
Cardiocrinum, formerly Lilium giganteum, comes from the Himalayas. It has thick, 3m straight stems with long, narrow, heavily scented flowers. Grown from seed, it takes about five years to flower.
Pansies, violas, wallflower (Cheiranthus) and the Primula group, including polyanthus and primroses, can go in now for spring bedding displays.
Plants that flower in early summer, including Sweet William, antirrhinums and Canterbury bells can also be planted now, as can Iceland poppies, scabious and stock. Carnations, if layered earlier in the autumn, will be ready for planting now in beds of well-drained soil, free of excessive organic material. Carnations respond to lime bone dust.
Strawberries are available in garden centres now and should be planted before the soil becomes too wet for cultivation. Fresh soil and fresh plantings are advisable every two or three years. Pajaro and the old favourite Red Gauntlet are reliable choices.
Raspberries, blackberries, boysenberries and other brambles crop well in the South and can be obtained in thornless forms, while cranberries and blueberries bred for New Zealand conditions are tasty additions to the home gardener’s repertoire.