Winter in the subtropics, its blooming marvellous!

The temps are receding these last few weeks, but how good is it to see so much variety of winter flowers blooming around the place? With vivid red pin cushion stamens of Metrosideros, yellow flowers of golden penda- still on show, various species of Bougainvillea, Plumeria, Strelitzia, Radermachera and of course the magnificent show of Camellias, also Tabebuia and Poinsettia, and the scent of Gardenia- still in the air. And the ever so, winter- warming, colour spectacle of the orange trumpet creeper- Pyrostegia venusta, hanging over the fence in full bloom, and the abundant blooming buds of Kalanchoe blossfeldiana -with variants of colours of white, pink, apricot and reds, ensures that winter in the subtropics is still an exciting horticultural spectacle indeed.

At home in the patch, and now the weather is colder and also the seed germination process slower, it certainly helps if you already have sown your herb or vegetable seeds in autumn in preparation for this winter but there is still plenty of time to catch up with planting out seedlings of tomato, capsicum, cabbage, cauliflower, spinach, leeks, onions, sweet potatoes and broccoli. Also, a good time to sow seeds of beetroot and silver beet now too. Living in the subtropics can be advantageous for planting in winter as we are generally frost free in the coastal districts, which allows us to plant some vegetables successively throughout the season, in comparison to our cool temperate zones further south or west of us. And all that compost and composted manures turned into the soil at the beginning of autumn should be working its magic by now especially after the abundant rainfall we received in May. After planting, apply seaweed tonics or worm tea- if you got some, which is extremely beneficial for plant establishment, as is also, applying a thin layer of lucerne or sugarcane mulch around the new plants for protection and especially around strawberry, as the fruit ripening now can tend to rot in the damp soil at night. As far as watering goes, its best to irrigate in the morning to prevent promoting any fungal activity or bacterial diseases that are usually prevalent in damp conditions. These days no matter how small your garden space is, you can grow vegetables in raised garden beds or containers as long there is at least 6 to 8 hours sunshine- for optimum results. I mentioned last article on the benefits of composting your kitchen scraps in a worm farm (vermicomposting) and the value of the worm castings for our sandy soils here on the coast and the benefits of straining the liquid worm tea, for use as plant tonics. I like to alternate foliar feeding with fish, seaweed and worm tonics in between the watering schedule in the mornings.

An example of the rich vermicompost created by worms that have produced castings and humus from our kitchen waste. Happy winter gardening to you all!

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