The leaves are falling and the wood burners have been stoked. Pumpkins have been harvested and are ready to eat, along with carrots and parsnips. All the health-giving brassicas are good to go.
In the vege garden
This is a great time in the garden as the first winter chills have started to kill off all those summer bugs. White cabbage butterflies and green vegetable bugs should be falling off your broccoli having taken their last chomp on your prized plants.
Replenish your vegetable beds. Rake up fallen leaves around your garden, your neighbours, your local school, kindy or even park. I put these leaves directly on my vacant vegetable beds as a weed suppressing mulch which will slowly transform into rich compost. Water them well to stop them blowing away.
If you have any garden beds that you are not going to plant with winter crops, sow a green cover crop. This is a living, growing compost. Plant seeds of oats, phacelia, mustard or lupins. You can find these at the garden centre. Come spring you dig these plants into the soil and get planting again.
Plant seedlings of cabbage, cauliflower, broccoli and leeks. I plant my garlic this month to give it a head start. I buy New Zealand grown garlic bulbs from my local Farmers market. Break up the bulb and plant the largest cloves directly into the soil, pointy end up, about 4 cm deep. Cover with rich compost and keep the area weed free. Don’t have much space? Plant your garlic bulbs under your rose bushes – they make great companions.
Most fruit has now been harvested. As the leaves fall from the trees the skeleton of the tree is exposed. This is a good time to do some pruning. Choose a warm sunny day. Use clean, sharp pruners. Remove any broken, diseased, or crossing over branches.
For any large cuts it is best to cover with some pruning paint. I just use any water based sealer I have in the garage.
May is also a good time to plant out any young strawberry plants. Prepare their bed with a layer of rich compost.
Gather up all the fallen leaves and layer with lawn mower clippings into a tall, straight sided compost heap. Cover with a tarp and remember to turn it with a fork every month.
Rose Geranium: this perennial has small pink flowers and beautiful rose scented leaves. The leaves can be used to scent teas, drinks and fingerbowls. The distilled oil is said to have insect repelling qualities. I have planted this bush next to a path so when anyone brushes by the scent is released. Grow from cuttings in a sunny, well drained spot.
Blood veined sorrel: this leafy perennial looks stunning grown along a border. The leaves are green with all the leaf veins a blood red. In winter the whole plant turns crimson. The young leaves can be eaten in salads or stir frys.
By Janet Luke