Welcome to the May newsletter. I’m looking forward to showing you a few ways I’ve been building healthy soil and retaining moisture in my garden. It’s been dry, hot and windy for months. So protecting our soil health is a big priority. Dead, dry dirt grows unhealthy stressed plants. Keeping it covered with mulch is vital.
Sustainable Gardening Tips for May
I’m sharing ways to save money and garden more sustainably with mulch without buying it. Sure, you can go to your landscape yard, nursery or hardware to buy bags or get mulch delivered in bulk. However, if you want to save money, why not consider all the potential materials you could use as mulch from your garden or neighbourhood?
Dig into my latest article How to Mulch Your Garden for Free. There’s a barrowload of creative ideas on organic vs inorganic mulches plus 5 mulching tips. Here’s a sneak peek! I hope you get some valuable insights and inspiration.
What to Plant Now in Subtropical SE QLD
May is our last month of autumn. We experience cooler days and nights, lower humidity (yay!) and fewer pest insects. Hopefully, perfect growing conditions if we get rain. It’s the ideal time to plant winter crops. Download your May Gardening Tips PDF for planting suggestions, tasks to do in the garden this month and issues to watch out for.
The Vegetables Growing Guide is a reference chart to help you grow 68 of the most popular vegetables in Australia and New Zealand climate zones. Includes information on companion planting, making compost, soil and moon planting.
What to Plant Now in other Locations
Click here for what to plant and when. Or visit Gardenate.com (USA, UK, Canada, New Zealand, Australia and South Africa)
PLANT PROFILE: Yarrow
Yarrow (Achillea millefolium) is a flowering edible and medicinal perennial herb that grows year-round in most climates. In subtropical QLD we sow in autumn.
According to a review of Yarrow’s medicinal properties, the most medicinally active part of the plant are the flowers although the leaves are also used. Yarrow has been found to intensify the medicinal action of other herbs taken with it and helps eliminate toxins from the body. Studies confirm it has analgesic properties, is an anti-inflammatory agent, is used to control bleeding, blood clots, lower blood pressure and purify blood. Yarrow is used for colds, chicken pox, circulation, cystitis, diabetes treatment and many other ailments. It’s a wonderful addition to your home pharmacy garden as a first aid plant. Yarrow is one of the 72 herbs covered in the Herb and Medicinal Plants Growing Guide.
- Seeds require light for germination and a temperature of 18–24°C (64–75°F).
- At least 3-4 hours of sun or partial shade in hot climates.
- Will do best in compost-rich, well-drained soil but is tolerant of poor soils within a pH range of 5.5–7.0.
- Regular moisture until established but will tolerate dry conditions when mature.
- Poorly drained soil and poor air circulation as these conditions can contribute to powdery mildew.
- Too much shade affects flowering.
What’s Been Happening in My Garden?
April has been a busy month as I always look forward to the start of autumn! Cooler temperatures make gardening more comfortable without high humidity. This is the best time of year for planting so many crops so I don’t waste time. I aim for a diverse variety of foods that we most love to eat. Lots of salad ingredients, leafy greens, tummy-filling root vegetables like potatoes, zucchini, pumpkins, peas and beans, broccoli, kale, cabbages, garlic, leeks, onions and of course tomatoes, eggplant and capsicum. A rainbow of fresh ingredients to pick daily including cool-season herbs like coriander and dill. I change the menu to incorporate these new flavours. Soups, curries, stir-fries, salads and roasted or marinated vegetables are a few of our favourites.
At the same time, the mature fruit trees have suffered during the past few months as it’s been so hot, dry and windy. We are working on a watering system for this small orchard area but it’s time-consuming and tricky on a sloping block. The limes and mandarins are producing well although some fruits are smaller than last year. Somehow the avocados have continued fruiting and we’re starting to pick those. The tropical nectarines and peach trees are flowering so they are getting some water to support flower development and fruit set.
We’ve had plenty of strawberry guavas but the crows, rainbow lorikeets and blue-faced honeyeaters are helping themselves to mandarins on the top of the trees that we can’t reach. I’ve gone to pick a few only to have the empty skin collapse into my hand! It’s been eaten out on the other side. We’ll get around to netting the trees but had so many garden projects, we just had to prioritise.
The new terrace garden bed is ready for planting – it’s been a long time coming. I’m excited to design this space for vegetables that need more room, perennial and annual flowers and herbs, and more dwarf fruit trees. So many plants have been patiently sitting in pots, waiting for mumma to find them a good home! I grew the pawpaws from seed. They are developing good-sized fruit. Our dwarf bananas in grow bags. They are almost mature enough to bear fruit.
The neighbour’s towering gum tree had a massive haircut for safety and to let more sunlight in on our solar panels. What a difference! The tree still provides shade, privacy, a windbreak and habitat for the birds. However, it’s not so scary gardening beneath it on windy days in drought conditions! I don’t have to worry about falling branches anymore. We ended up sharing a huge pile of eucalypt mulch. It was perfect for our verge trees and front garden hedges. I discovered muscles I’d forgotten about after barrowing 3m3 of mulch in two days! Luckily, the rain settled it all in. Now, hopefully a nice little fungal community is moving in to help feed our plants.
I’ve also been busy reinvigorating our 5 raised garden beds and repurposing an old wheelbarrow as a planter. I’ve been adding compost, nutrients, liquid fertilisers and mulch to refresh the soil. There are always little 5-minute jobs to do like staking or tying some plant up. Harvesting, pruning, sowing seeds or cuttings, transplanting and recycling kitchen scraps into our mini compost bins.
But, it’s not all about doing. I find time to sit and reflect in the garden daily, even if only for a few minutes. Some days I watch the fog lift in the early morning to uncloak the view and the fingers of sunlight dancing on the flowers. The biodiversity of birdlife and insects always amazes me. Tiny finches and willy wagtails now pest manage in the raised beds so I have very little to worry about. They sit on the garden stakes and vertical structures, making quick work of caterpillars and other bugs.
Flowers have self-sown everywhere so there’s a blaze of colour. I am grateful to the glorious cosmos, nasturtiums, marigolds, geraniums, salvias, portulacas, snapdragons, pineapple sage and many others that have valiantly persevered with so little attention or water over the past months. They deserve their space in my garden. Those that were too precious or needed watering often passed away. They still live on by donating their nutrients as mulch and compost, liquid fertilisers and seeds for the next generation. Tough times call for tough choices! The garden tells ME who wants to be here – a humbling experience.
Well, there’s much more to tell, but that’s for another time!
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If you are still taking potluck and sowing at any time, your results will likely vary! Some plants might thrive while others fail, bolt to seed, wither or seeds never germinate. Adjusting the timing can make the difference between a productive garden and a frustrating one. It may help to learn more about the benefits of moon gardening. You’ll wish you’d done it sooner!
Resources to Build Healthy Soil
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I look forward to sharing more news and ways to grow good health next month.
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Looking good. I hear you on the busy front.
I also have been blessed with being able to share tree mulch with a neighbour. It’s now becoming beautiful Hummus in my garden beds. Always something to be done and little time to do it…. hopefully this weekend I will be able to get more done. Lots of cuttings rooting on my windowsill need new homes.
Hoping seeds start coming up again soon. All my seedlings died with the scorching sun this year. I’ve then seeded the bed 3 times so far instead only for the chooks to escape and dig them all up. Project this weekend is to give them a food garden of their own. Glad I’m not alone. Re tropical peach trees do you have any clients growing them successfully in the Rockhampton region?
Awesome to hear about your tree mulch – it’s such a valuable resource to build humus. Sounds like you’ve been working hard on raising seeds and propagating. Keep up the great work.
It has been a VERY tough summer so don’t feel too bad about your seedlings. So many gardeners struggled this year. Try putting wire baskets or mesh over your seedling beds to keep your girls out. Nasturtiums are a great poultry de-wormer and forage so you might consider growing some for them.
I grow tropical peaches both in the ground and pots and they do well in our subtropical climate. I suggest you contact Daleys Fruit Trees and ask them about low chill varieties for your area and what is most suitable. They have an excellent range and have great information. Good luck.