With the weather cooling down, it's time to give your garden a little TLC. Here are some top tips from the experts about what needs to be done in your garden this May.
All the summer vegetables, like squash and tomatoes, will be looking very sad, possibly with mildew and rust on their leaves. Pull them out but do not add them to the compost if they are diseased. Any remnant fruit can be made into chutney or preserved in brine to savour over the winter. There is just time to feed your asparagus with nutritious mulch, such as mushroom compost or well-rotted manure.
The dark colour of such mulches will store the heat of the last of the autumn sunshine. Now is the last chance to plant your garlic out. Buy some Australian garlic at the greengrocer or select from the many cultivars available from nurseries and mail-order garden companies. Never plant imported garlic as it will have been treated with toxins by the quarantine department. Plant the cloves pointy end up about 6–7cm deep and about 20cm apart.
Get your skates on and plant those tomatoes and eggplants if you haven’t already. Eggplant may need staking in windy areas, so add a stake at planting that does not interfere with the existing root ball. Check your seed packet or nursery to see if you are planting determinate or indeterminate tomatoes.
Determinate tomatoes are called that as their growth will stop after a “determined” amount of growth has occurred. These are largely cultivars that are grown commercially. They are short and bushy and need no support. Indeterminate tomatoes are mainly old-fashioned cultivars and will keep growing until the weather stops them. These are best grown as vines on a trellis.
Feed you fruit trees to ensure good growth in spring. As for asparagus, dark-coloured nutritious mulches will both feed the plants and keep the soil warm for as long as possible.
Citrus fruit will be ripening. The best crops are from trees that have little root competition — but don’t get out the spade. All citrus have roots that grow very close to the surface of the soil, so do not dig! Instead, hand-weed gently around the base of your tree to remove any weeds that will rob your citrus of precious soil nutrients. Good mulch will conserve water as well as
All the detritus of autumn — leaves, spent annuals and prunings — can be chopped/shredded and added to the compost. However, take care not to incorporate plants with moulds, mildews or rust on their leaves. These will only breed and multiply in the compost.
Give your heap a good turn so that all the materials are well mixed together. This should prepare the heap for the onslaught of the final autumn clean-up next month.
The dry season is just that — dry — so check your compost is kept moist so it can continue to “cook”. The heap should be moist but not wet, otherwise many of the nutrients will be leached away.
Scatter any old seed together with some cheap pea and bean seed to grow as a green manure on a fallow vegetable or garden bed. Specialised mixes are also available. The seeds will sprout and form plenty of organic matter to be dug in during spring.
Keep feeding your soil to make the most of this productive time in the garden. Side-dressings of blood and bone will keep plants growing. Every two weeks, water with some seaweed solution or worm wee to keep everything in tip-top condition.