What to sow this month from seed: broad beans, garlic, lettuce, onion, silver beet, peas, kale and spinach
What to plant this month from seedlings: broccoli, cauliflower, cabbage, kale, spinach, lettuce, silver beet
This month we need to focus on tree health and keeping our plants warm in our winter garden.
June will mark the shortest day of the year, which means a lot less sun for our gardens. The growth of our vegetables will slow down dramatically. Bear this in mind when sowing and planting this month.
You won’t see any real growth changes until the soil warms up, closer to spring, especially if you are in colder, southern areas of NZ.
If your area is prone to frosts, keep your lettuce under cover and choose cold hardy varieties such as cos lettuce.
Keep Your Plants Warm and Your Soil Protected.
Keeping your soil covered with mulch or a green manure crop will stop the rough winter weather eroding it and keeps those nutrients locked in and the soil organisms happy.
Choosing a homemade mulch first helps keep costs down in the garden. Shredded leaves are always a fantastic option. Plants around your garden that need to be pruned or trimmed? Chop up the trimmings to make instant mulch. Grass clippings work wonderfully as well, as do pine needles and chopped seaweed.
Store bought mulches can be good too if you’re not into homemade, or you have too much space to cover. Pea straw is my favourite bought mulch when it self seeds you get delicious pea shoots all over the garden.
I also use hay or straw as I use a deep mulching method. This involves laying down layers of thick mulch every few weeks. As the layers break down they’ll feed the soil.
Weed seeds in the hay will keep being smothered by the new layers of mulch laid over top. You can read about deep mulching here.
Green Manure Crops
Green manure crops are seeds that will create a cover over your soil so it’s not left bare in winter. This keeps the micro-organisms and bacteria under your soil fed and happy. It also suppresses weed growth and helps keep the nutrients in your soil.
Some green manure seeds also provide nitrogen as some are ‘nitrogen fixers’. Seeds such as blue lupin, Lucerne and broad beans are nitrogen-fixing which means they take up nitrogen from the soil and ‘fix’ it in these small nodules at the end of their roots. Come spring, you can chop down this cover crop and let it break down back into the soil. The nitrogen from these little nodules will then be released back into the soil in a form that other plants can then take up and absorb.
Any spent plants you’re not using for mulch you can add to the compost! When spring comes you’ll need all the compost you can get so you can use the time over winter to get it going.
Chopped spent plants, dried leaves, grass clippings, food scraps, shredded paper, vacuum dust, pet hair…this can all go in the compost. Every time you add in some fresh ‘green’ stuff (food, green leaves, grass clippings..) add in some ‘browns’ too (dead leaves, shredded paper, straw…)
I’ve recently purchased a compost turner like this and it’s been brilliant. It’s a quick and easy way to aerate and flip your compost and you’ll notice it breaking down a lot quicker than if you just let it sit. A turn once a week is plenty.
Now that the focus isn’t all on planting vegetables, it’s a good time to take care of your fruit trees, especially the deciduous ones.
If your trees suffered from fungal diseases such as curly leaf, blackspot or oozing wounds, now is the time to treat them. Fungal spores can harbour over winter and reinfect your trees next season. Spraying your infected trees with a copper spray (following the diluting instructions exactly!) and once again at the end of winter before the new buds burst can help tackle these problems.
Never mix copper with any other fungicide sprays. As with any fungicides, take care when using it and wear appropriate protection and be cautious with any runoff. Copper, for example, is toxic to fish.
If bugs such as thrips were a big issue you can also spray a horticultural oil on your tree which will smother the eggs that are hiding in the trees crevices.
Clear underneath your trees too and get rid of any decaying, fallen leaves. More than just fungal infections can hide there, like thrips for example. Once you have cleared under your trees, give them a good helping of compost and organic matter (aged manure, chopped seaweed, leaf mould…).
Protect your vulnerable trees from frosts, such as young citrus or avocado. You can easily make a frost cover enclosure by hammering in a few wooden stakes and wrapping frost cloth around it when you know it will be a cold night. In the evening, check if there are clouds in the sky. If it’s a clear night, it will be a be a frosty, clear morning too.
It’s a good time now to plant fruit trees too.
You can prune your roses towards the end of this month for an extra beautiful display come spring. Cut back any dead wood, all the way back to healthy wood (which you will see by the green stem and white pith inside) and remove any suckers growing from the root stock.
Give your roses a feed, rich in potassium by blitzing up the peels of bananas with water and making a nutrient packed mush. Add this around your roses and mulch them.
Any rose cuttings can be popped into the ground and they’ll grow roots to provide you with some free plants! Read more about growing roses from cuttings here.
Plant Garlic (if you haven’t yet done so)
Planting your garlic on the shortest day of the year is tradition so by all means, plant it then.
This year I have planted some early April and I am planting a second lot in June as well.
Feed your vegetables
Give your vegetables a monthly fertiliser boost with a liquid fertiliser to keep them strong in winter. They don’t need it as often as in summer as the growth is so slow, but it will help promote stronger roots and defences against winter bugs and pathogens.
Stay warm, and happy gardening!