Autumn Planting 2019

Anzac Day is an important gardening day in my house. It’s the traditional bulb and sweet pea planting day in the Southern Australian region. Unlike every Anzac Day in my recent memory, it didn’t rain. This concerns me, although I’m sure it was a blessing for the Anzac Day marchers. It concerns me because we continue to have a long dry spell, following on from a very hot and dry Summer. If this continues, we are facing another dry Winter. The soil is extremely dry and on the verge of hydrophobic. There is only so long I can pump water into the soil – rain is what the garden really needs.

Today I planted a bunch of seeds into seed raising mix in trays. Because the season has stayed warm right up until the end of April (it was 32 degrees last week!), I am not at all concerned that this is too late.

I planted:

  • Lettuce: Marvel of Four Seasons (Heirloom) and Australian Yellow (Heirloom);
  • Kale: Curly Green Dwarf (Heirloom);
  • Poppy: Flanders Red (for the millionth attempt – this time I’m trying to raise in trays rather than direct where I want them to grow in the hope that I will have success);
  • Broccoli: Green Sprouting (Heirloom) and Romanesco (Heirloom);
  • Cauliflower: Year Round (F1 Hybrid);
  • Leek: King Richard (Heirloom from seed saved last year).

As you can see in the image below, I make my own tags. These were made from a recycled margarine container. I have also used recycled milk jugs. I use several seed trays: the tray shown below is a mini greenhouse type within individual cells and a clear plastic cover, but I also use a recycled maxi-punnet that once held violas for planting, and another flat tray that I scavenged from somewhere. They all work just fine.

I use a standard seed-raising mix. I experimented with jiffy pellets several times to see if they improved germination time and overall results. I filled half this tray pictured with seed-raising mix and half with jiffy pellets to see which was better, and trialled it several times with different types of seeds. The seed-raising mix beat the jiffy pellets every time for germination and overall seedling health. Not exactly a double-blind, randomised controlled trial, but good enough for my purposes, given that jiffy pellets cost about five times the price of a five kilo bag of seed-raising mix.

After planting out my veggie seeds, it was time to tackle the bulbs. I love Spring flowering bulbs. My favourite are crocuses, which are quiet, stunning little flowers that poke their heads up for only a couple of days a year.

Crocus Mr. Pickwick

Unfortunately they do not last, and do not produce the showy display of their other Spring-flowering cousins, Ranunculus, Dutch Iris and Daffodils. At the Melbourne Flower and Garden Show this year I picked up some Daffs and Giant Snowflakes, and again at the Easter Fair last weekend, some more Daffs, Dutch Iris, and Anenomes. I grabbed a big bag of cheap and cheerful Ranuncs and Freesias to throw all around for fun, and then grabbed my husband to help plant the haul.

Daffodil bulb planted in the ground – see how dry the soil is!

When planting Anenomes and Ranunculus, it’s a good idea to soak the tiny corms for an hour or so beforehand. Don’t do this with the larger bulbs, or they will rot. Ranunculus and Anenomes are not true bulbs, but corms. Remember to plant Ranuncs ‘claws’ facing down.

Stunning double ranunculus from Spring 2018

Ranunculus might be cheap as old chips to buy and plant, but when they flower they can be the most stunning flower in the garden. I could cut them and bring them inside, but I just love to see them in the garden, so I leave them alone. Sometimes they do produce a second year of flowering but for the most part, I treat them as an annual and replant corms each year.

Larger bulbs like Daffodils and Iris should reward the investment of $8 or $10 in a pack of five bulbs with repeat flowering. However, they do require cold weather after their Spring flowering to really come back well. With the seasons the way they have been, I am not sure they will get the real cold they need. I am hoping that last year’s Daffs (a lovely white variety called “Ice”) will come back, but I am not going to bet on it. If they do, I will be very happy.

Another that I hope to see back is the Violet Sparaxis. Its cousin, the standard Sparaxis, or Harlequin Flower, reliably returns year-on-year. I hope this purple beauty is as kind.

Violet Sparaxis

Finally, I planted the sweet peas: a blue variety in between two climbing roses; a variety called Surprise (aptly named because I have no idea what it looks like); and my tried and trusted dwarf Bijou, planted every year and the most reliable performer. I look forward to sweet pea season every year, and Bijou always presents me with a riot of colour and perfume in September.

Sweet pea Bijou

The fun thing about planting bulbs and seeds is waiting for them to come up. The hard thing about planting bulbs and seeds is waiting for them to come up. I guess like Luke Skywalker, I will have to learn patience.

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