First published  May 2015 (Viv Kershaw), updated May 2016 (Viv Kershaw)

Autumn is a great time of the year to germinate seeds and establish new seedlings. There is still time to get these jobs done or re-done as the soil is still warm. The plants should get off to a good start as long as they get enough water.

Red peppers still ripening
Red peppers still ripening

It has been a good season for the summer and autumn vegetables as late plantings of tomatoes and beans have produced good fruit. Eggplants and peppers are still producing fruit and look set to continue for a few more weeks. New cabbage, broccoli, cauliflower and kale plants have got off to a good start. The white butterflies should have disappeared by the end of May so the plants should develop without caterpillar damage.


Red and yellow silver beet after a good picking
Red and yellow silver beet after a good picking

The silverbeet that I grew from seed in January is now producing loads of large tender leaves and the lettuces have been good although we had to eat them fast before they went to seed! The next lot of lettuces are now looking good and it is nice not to have to worry about the hot sun on them.


Jobs to do in my Ocean Grove garden this month:

  • Remove the old pumpkin plants and rejuvenate the area where they were growing by adding organic fertiliser, compost and mulch.
  • Give the citrus trees a good dressing of manure and compost.
  • Install supports for the peas and stake the broad beans.
  • Sow some more peas and broad beans.
  • Move the mints and other herbs that are in pots to a warmer position for the winter months.
  • After we get some decent rain, fertilise the new native plants with slow release fertiliser and mulch them well.
  • Sow seeds of onions and leeks into punnets and put them in the greenhouse to get them started.

Learners Corner

Young broad bean plants with their supports
Young broad bean plants with their supports

If you sowed peas or broad beans last month, they should be coming up by now. As they grow they will need some form of support (see the April notes). When they are about 20cm tall you will need to tie broad beans to their support with a soft tie or twine. Then as they grow add more ties. Don’t strangle the plants by tying the ties too tightly. Climbing peas should not need tying to their supports as they have their own way of doing it but you may need to persuade them to get them started on their climb. Dwarf peas will not need any support. They produce peas earlier than the climbing variety but have a much shorter season.

If you have some space left for planting, or a large plastic pot, you could plant some spring onions or leeks. A punnet of either will provide you with a supply over quite a few weeks. If you have not already done so, add some organic fertiliser to the soil prior to planting and water it in. It is best to do this a week before planting to get it to integrate with the soil. Make a shallow trench where you want the onions/leeks to go. Tip the seedlings out of the punnet and spread them apart gently. Lay them along the trench with the roots in the centre of the trench and the green leaves resting on the soil. Cover up the roots by knocking the soil back into the trench and firming it down. It is fine to leave the plants lying down, as they will gradually start standing up over the next week. Just water them with a weak Seasol solution after planting and water them every 2 days for a week or two (unless it rains).

For the Experienced Gardener

As the soil is now cooling down rapidly, watch you do not leave it too late to sow vegetable seeds in the open. However May should be fine for planting out seedlings. A good soak with a Seasol solution should get them off to a good start. Once the weather cools down and the heat goes out of the soil, you will find you better germination if you start them in a warm spot such as a sunny windowsill or a greenhouse.

Garlic likes a weed-free environment
Garlic likes a weed-free environment

This is the best month to plant garlic and shallots. It is recommended that you buy the bulbs from a plant nursery to avoid disease problems. Just separate the bulbs into separate cloves and plant 10cm apart, pointy end up with the tip just below the surface. In a week or so they should start to grow. Garlic likes a rich soil so sprinkle some blood and bone and/or Dynamic Lifter around them. Do not let them dry out and keep them clear of weeds. Black aphids can be a problem in warm weather so, if we get some nice days, be on the lookout.

Seeds to sow this month

Asian greens, broad beans, broccoli, carrots, endive, kale, lettuce, parsnip, peas, rocket, spring onions, watercress, borage, chervil, coriander, parsley.

Seedlings to plant out this month

Asian greens, broccoli, fennel, garlic, kale, lettuce, onions, rocket, silverbeet, spinach, spring onions, coriander, parsley.

The War Zone

The dry autumn has favoured the aphids. In my garden we have green aphids on the lettuces, black aphids on the onions and grey on the broccoli. Fortunately they wash off easily and do no harm if accidentally eaten. It is good to see the ladybird numbers starting to increase as this means the aphids will soon disappear.

Broccoli growing under a veggie net
Broccoli growing under a veggie net

The really good news is that we can expect to see the last of the cabbage white butterflies by the end of the month. If your pak choy and broccoli became caterpillar food, it is not too late to plant some more. The butterflies seem to go for pak choy in preference to any of the other brassicas so pak choy can be used as a decoy. Kale seems to be their least favourite food but they will lay their eggs on it if nothing else is available.

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