March 2016

Autumn (usually) sees the last of the fruit producers like figs and quinces and olives and grapes, though this year they’ve been quite early, even summer-ready.

It’s a very busy time to renew and make anew in the garden – grafting, propagating, seeding. I think this is actually the busiest time of the year. You are trying to do lots before the winter hiatus and hibernation, whilst the soil is warm, the sun slanting and seeds and plants still receptive to it.

Cuttings can be taken for propagating herbs and other perennials this month; try and do this on a “root” day when the moon is descending and waning. Summer prune your fruit trees if you didn’t get around to it last month.

It’s also time for budding. Grafting is best done when the tree is coming out of dormancy, in early spring (but you need to collect your grafting cuttings in early winter, then store them in your frig crisper, wrapped in gladwrap or plastic…), but late summer is the best time to bud. Try and do this on a “fruit” or “flower” day when the moon is ascending and waxing.

Peter gave me a quick run down on how he approaches budding when he came to collect some cuttings from our three plums – Angelina, Damson and Coe’s Golden Drop. He wants to produce a multi-variety plum tree from his existing, mature plum. By budding (or grafting) with another variety, Peter can extend his harvest and produce different tasting/cooking/preserving fruit on the one tree. But he needs to ensure that the varieties will cross pollinate.  Find more info on pollination here ..

Basically, you take a pencil sized piece of branch with buds. Like Peter, if you are not immediately budding after taking the cutting, trim the leaves, wrap the cutting in damp newspaper and place in a plastic bag to get it home. It’s best to work as quickly as possible once you’ve taken your cutting.

Take a thin slice, starting about 1cm above and finishing 1cm below the bud you are going to use. On the piece you are budding to, check that the bark comes away from the wood easily. Using a sharp grafting knife, make a “T” incision in the bark, slightly longer than the bud piece. Don’t cut into the wood.  Gently prise the bark up from the arms of the “T” on your stock and insert the bud, sliding it upwards (you can use the leaf petiole (stalk) as a handle). Peter then wraps the join either side of the bud with white plumbers tape (it’s flexible, and will hold a bit better than the normal grafting tape) and hopes for the best. He’ll need to wait a few months to see if it has worked.

I had a little go, for the sake of demonstration only, with a plum from the backyard – and budded it onto itself! The pictures and captions may help explain it a bit more …. but do make sure your pruning knife is very sharp (not like mine), cleaned with methylated spirits to ensure good hygiene (not like mine) and try to make your cuts neat and precise (ditto, etc).  Documenting and demonstrating at the same time was harder than I thought, hence the variable picture quality. Click on the thumbnails to see slideshow, or bigger image with explanation.


Back to the Calendar and Brian Keats is warning of Weather (possible tropical cyclones in northern Australia) around the 8th and again around the 20-24th in part due to the ‘Eclipse season’ – March sees both a solar and lunar eclipse.

Don’t forget our garden Calendar and the dates for March, via the home page sidebar, or subscribe to the Calendar yourself.

Enjoy autumn’s essence, whilst it lasts. And hopefully rain to break the season.

What to Plant, When:
Guide for temperate areas in SE Australia

Refer to the Garden Notes page for an explanation of these dates and their happenings.

Leaf Days: 1-3, 9-11, 18-20, 28-30: Cabbage, bok choi, kale, celery, endive, mibuna, mizuna, orach, rocket, tat soi, leek, lettuce, mustard, silverbeet, chard, spinach, chives, garlic chives, coriander, dill, parsley

Fruit Days: 3-5, 11-13, 20-23, 30-31: Broad beans, mustard, peas,

Root Days: 5-7, 13-16, 23-25: Beetroot, carrots, celeriac, garlic, kohlrabi, garlic, leek, bunching onion, radish, daikon, turnip,

Flower Days: 7-9, 16-18, 25-28: Broccoli, cauliflower, borage, sweet peas, lupins,

Other Dates to note:

Moon Descending: 4-16, 31

Moon Ascending: 16-31

Full Moon/New Moon: 23 (and lunar eclipse at 10pm)/ 9 (and solar eclipse at 11.54am)

Nodes*: 9,22

Perigee***: 10

Apogee***: 26

Garden Tasks:

Apply soil food: 4-16, 31 (best 5-10)

Apply foliar food: 16-31 (best 16-20)

Mulch: anytime, but beware the slugs, snails and critters

Transplant seedlings, plants, cuttings: 5-7, 13-16 best, then 1-3, 9-11, 31

Graft/Bud: 16-18 best then 25-28, 20-23

Dates are a guide for these particular crops. Timing will vary from region to region (particularly with climate change) and even within a garden’s own microclimates. Of course, rainfall, weather conditions and your own schedule will influence when you garden.

# Broccoli can be grown year round, apart from the hottest months. I prefer to plant through the colder months to avoid having the broccoli forming heads when the cabbage moth butterfly is active, in late spring and summer.

* Each month there are a couple of ‘node days’ when the sun and moon are in opposition. Many biodynamic gardeners choose not to plant on these days, or at least a couple of hours either side of the node.

** Perigee is the point where the moon is closest to the earth, so the influence of the moon is strongest. Apogee is the furthest point from the earth, so the opposite occurs.