Friday, May 15, 2009

May Planting

It’s funny how some things happen. I received an email early this week suggesting I offer some “what to do in the garden this month” tips. “That’s a good idea” I thought, but I also imagined it would be complicated so I’ll put it off until later. Then of course the second request arrived, this time with a deadline.

So here are my suggestions for garden priorities in May. Let’s just keep in mind a few things about the last month of Autumn.

· The weather has cooled considerably but the soil is still reasonably warm.

· Make sure beds for planting are thoroughly prepared so that late plantings can get started quickly. Any unnecessary stress on the plants will cause bolting or premature flowering.

· Any annual flowers or vegetables we plant now will have to grow through winter and mature as the days lengthen and temperatures rise in Spring.

· Melbourne’s winter is relatively mild, so we can bend some of the rules. Frost will be the primary consideration in many areas although I admit Ballarat might just get too cold for some of my suggestions.

What can we do?

· Rake up the leaves! Put them in the compost. (Yes I will get back to compost soon)

· Plant Onions. Spring Onions and Leeks can be planted pretty much year round. “Keeping Onions” like Gladallan White and Cream gold are ideal for planting now and through winter. Their bulbs will fatten up through spring and into the summer.

· Plant Beets. Silverbeet, Chard and Beetroot.

· Leafy vegetables. Spinach and lettuces. Spinach copes with winter quite well, lettuce require more skill and care. Open headed ‘picking’ lettuce is generally considered easier to grow than the Iceberg, heading types.

· Have you tried Winter Salad? It is also known as Corn Salad, Lambs Lettuce or Valerian. It is a very popular winter green in Europe where the winter is too cold for lettuce. Serve fresh or lightly steamed.

· Peas? Really cold weather may affect their productivity but we find that Snow Peas and Snap Peas (my favourite) will grow year round.

Any Flowering plants?

· Primulas and Primroses. Nearing the end of the planting season, but will still establish well and flower in the early spring.

· Pansy & Viola. Plant any time of year. Flowering through winter will be sporadic but they will be well established for a stunning spring display.

· Most other spring flowering varieties are the same, plant now but you will have to wait for flowers: Dianthus, Lobelia, Digitalis, Delphinium, Snapdragon and Geranium.

Don’t forget Alyssum and Chrysanthemum paludosum will give bright spots of flower at any time.

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