What to sow in August (Cool-Temperate climate)

August garden

Late winter in my garden…

One more month of winter and relative calm in the garden to finish of some winter projects like my new garden/potting shed, the recycled wash station for my vegetables and yes, I’ve found another spot I can squeeze in and build one more raised vegetable bed. Once the warmer weather of Spring arrives there’ll be no more time for such projects as everything (including the lawn and the weeds) starts growing at a breakneck speed.

potato chitting

I’m chitting my potatoes in egg cartons before planting them out

Late August in Melbourne is a great time to plant your first potato crop of the year (you can plant more potatoes right through to the end of December for successive crops). It’s also time to plant Jerusalem and Globe artichokes, shallots, onion seedlings, asparagus and rhubarb crowns.  You can sow into punnets for planting out in late September the seeds of; broccoli, cabbage, cauliflower, silverbeet, rainbow chard, kale, celery, leeks, lettuce, mizuna, mibuna, spinach, bok choy, pak choy, wombok cabbage and any other Asian greens. August is also time to sow directly into the garden the seeds of; delicious sugar snap peas, snow peas, broad beans, turnips and swedes.

growing broadbeans

Broad beans…I love them!

If you have a very warm spot, such as a greenhouse, and are impatient for spring to arrive, you could start sowing into punnets the seeds of tomatoes, capsicum, cucumber, pumpkin and eggplant for planting out mid Spring. They will need to be planted out into your warmest spot in the garden or they’ll just sit there until the soil warms up in late Spring. If you’re in a colder area wait until next month with these seeds.

If you have asparagus growing in your garden, keep a close eye on them…your first asparagus spears for the season should be popping up soon…Enjoy!

August seed sowing

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The big chill…frost protection in the garden.

frost damage on capsicum

Although surviving to mid-winter in the protected environment of the poly tunnel, overnight temperatures of -5ºC were too low for these capsicum plants as they finally succumbed to frost.

We recently experienced three consecutive nights where the temperature dropped below 0ºC, yes winter is here and with it comes frost. While frost is welcomed by some plants in my garden such as kale, broccoli, carrots, parsnips and cabbages, which taste much better after a frost and also by our apple trees and berry plants, which need a period of cold weather to set good fruit the following season. Other plants, such as the last of our warm season vegetables and our more temperate, sub-tropical plants can suffer if not protected from frost.

frost damage on arrowroot

Typical blackened, droopy foliage of a frost damaged plant… in this case Arrowroot.

When temperatures drop below 0ºC the water inside a plants cells freezes and expands causing the cell walls to rupture, creating droopy often blackened looking foliage. Young plants and those with large soft leaves are more susceptible to frost damage. Plants which are classified as frost hardy have adapted to cope with frost by having small, tough, leathery or dense foliage which is more resistant to damage from frost; while other plants are protected by being deciduous and dormant during winter.

frost damage on pineapple sage

The foliage on this Pineapple sage planted in a frost pocket had no chance surviving three nights in a row below freezing, but will bounce back from new growth produced in spring.

To minimise the damage frost can do in your garden there are some measures you can take. Frost often settles in low lying areas, so don’t plant frost prone plants at the bottom of a slope or uphill from a thick hedge or wall which can trap cold air coming down the hill and create a frost pocket. Here in Melbourne, a north facing brick or stone wall can act as a thermal mass, radiating warmth for frost sensitive plants planted near it. A large body of water can also act as a thermal mass, so having a large pond or dam can provide some protection for plants nearby.

frost damage on chilli

Even the chillies in the poly tunnel got chilly!

Large plants can be protected by covering them with hessian, horticultural fleece, old sheets or weed matting on nights when frosts are likely. Small plants or seedlings can be protected by placing an empty pot plant over them at night, but make sure to remove any covers during the day. If it’s too late and frosts have already damaged your plants don’t be tempted to cut the unsightly and damaged foliage off straight away. The damaged foliage can protect the rest of the leaves and any new growth underneath from further frosts, potentially saving the plant. Prune frost damaged plants once there is no more risk of frosts (which here in Melbourne may not be until mid spring). After a frosty night, wetting the foliage of plants with a hose early in the morning, before the sun is out, can slow the thawing process and therefore minimise frost damage too.

frost damage

Ginger Lily damaged by frost.

Winter in the garden

 

SAM_3701

Photo credit: Mieke Florisson

Working outdoors as a gardener I know winter has arrived when… I arrive at work at 8am in so many layers of clothing that I can hardly move my arms…and my colleagues who work in the office complain how cold it is (although they have little blow heaters placed under their desks to warm their feet)…and no one says ‘it must be so nice to work outside all day!’… and I’ve lost all feeling in my nose, toes and fingers by the time I’ve walked up the hill to unlock the garden shed and gather my tools. That said, I love working outdoors and experiencing the changing weather with each season…it helps me feel connected with nature.

securing bird netting

Hammering some clouts around my garden bed edges for securing bird netting

Although things are growing more slowly in the garden now, there is still plenty to do. If you haven’t done so already, you can safely remove your insect exclusion nets from your brassicas as the cabbage white butterflies disappear with the onset of the colder weather. The fine mesh of the insect netting can restrict light and air circulation so is best removed for the winter months. If you have problems with birds or possums attacking your vegetable seedlings you can replace the insect netting with bird netting as I’ve done. The larger mesh size of the bird netting will allow more sunlight to reach your seedlings and improve air circulation which can help prevent disease. Leave your framework of hoops in place and drape the bird netting over them, you can secure the netting by hooking it over some clouts nailed along your garden bed edges. If you keep your netting secured tightly over the hoops and don’t leave any gaps along the bottom of the nets, birds won’t get tangled or trapped.

netted garden beds

Some of the beds in my vegetable garden in the front yard

In winter I also like to remove any thick mulch from around my vegetables. The straw mulch is much needed during the warmer months to help retain moisture in the soil, but during winter the straw not only makes a perfect breeding ground for slugs, it also keeps what little sunshine there is from warming up the soil.

organic snail pellets

 

Although I don’t normally promote or advertise any products on my blog, if slugs and snails are eating your young seedlings, I recommend using Protect-us snail pellets which are the only snail pellets I’ve been able to find that are registered for use in organically certified vegetable crops here in Australia and are safe for wildlife and pets. It uses elemental iron which forms  an iron salt when consumed and causes the snails and slugs to stop feeding and hence leads to their death. Uneaten pellets break down in the soil and add iron nutrients which can be used by the vegetables you grow. You can buy Protect-us pellets online or ask your local garden centre to stock it for you.