Your garden, May 17th

Leave the tips above the soil when planting garlic. Photo: supplied
Leave the tips above the soil when planting garlic. Photo: supplied
Winter is a morbid time. Plant garlic to give it some flavour.


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 animal 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 perennial plants are in place.

Compost bins and heaps need protection from winter rains, as cold heaps stop decomposing. Cover heaps with plastic stretched tightly over a framework, or with sheets of corrugated iron.

This is a good time to look at starting a herb patch or rejuvenating an existing one. Thyme is easily propagated from seed or by dividing mature plants. Plants are best broken up and replanted every two to three years.

Mint, which grows well in sun or shade, should be planted in a sunken tin or bucket to prevent it spreading.

Sage can be increased from seed, propagated from cuttings of young growth in December or by dividing the roots in early autumn. Cut old plants back to encourage fresh growth.

Parsley is easily grown from seed sown in spring or in February. Fresh seed is important for a good strike. Encourage plants with a sprinkling of blood and bone if growth is slow.

Plant cabbage and cauliflower now for early summer harvest. Choose a warm, well-sheltered place and plant on raised ridges if the drainage is poor.

Earth up celery and leeks. Celery plants will have nearly finished growing, but leeks will continue until the first hard frost. Both plants will make further growth in spring before going to seed. If celery does show signs of forming seed heads (bolting), dig up the plants, wash and dry stems, cut into 2cm pieces and freeze.

Carrots, parsnips, beetroot and turnips can be lifted now and the ground dug over to gain the benefits of weathering. Store the vegetables in a heap in a well-drained part of the garden under loose soil, or in damp sand in a cellar or shed. Parsnips freeze very well peel and cut into chunks before freezing on a tray, then bag up when frozen. In districts where severe frosts are uncommon, root vegetables may be left in the soil until early spring, when signs of regrowth will signal the time to lift and use the tail end of the crop.


Rose bushes, if they are showing signs of old age, should be dug up and their roots trimmed before replanting in fresh soil on a new site or in the same position with plenty of compost, garden lime and bone dust added.

Protect the small fibrous, feeding roots while out of the ground by sitting the bush in water and do not waste time getting the rose back into the ground. The shift is best made when the soil is fairly dry, to prevent muddy soil caking to the roots when replanting.

Some top growth on rose bushes can be removed now but wait until August before more severe pruning.

Rambling roses, however, can pruned now. Remove all old, flowering wood and tie back long, new growth (canes) made last summer. Shortening them can be advantageous, as wood at the ends which fails to ripen will not produce flowers.

Crocuses, snowdrops, tulips, hyacinths and almost all other spring-flowering bulbs should all be in by now.

Any bulbs left in the ground from last season will be actively growing and soon showing through the soil. Place no fresh manure near the roots of any bulbs, and be sparing with lime.


Strawberries are available in garden centres now and should be planted before the soil becomes too wet. Fresh soil and fresh plantings are advisable every two or three years.