Once you have separated your bulbs by prizing the cloves apart from their central base and anchoring stem lay your cloves about a hand’s length apart if they are small and a bit further if they are big. Do this in a line to make a row, then space your rows at least a hand’s length apart. I like to place all my cloves on top of the bed just so that I can do a final check on spacing before I push them beneath the surface. Using a trowel, butter knife, piece of kindling or something else thin and handy make a small hole about twice the height of the clove itself and pop in your clove so that it sits comfortably fat end down with pointy end up. Do the whole row before back-tracking and softly closing the soil over your treasure trove. Cover with a layer of mulch (pea straw or chopped straw).
Rhubarb starts to go dormant around now and may benefit from a little extra protection during the colder months ahead. These large-leafed, hungry feeding plants will cease to produce leaves in many areas and fully die-back in cooler parts of the country. So its time to bed plants down for winter till spring sunshine warms the soil again. In warmer areas this can simply involve folding old leaves across the crown to protect it from any really cold spells where your garden might experience a degree or so of frost. Just anchor the leaves with a little soil. In areas where winter frosts are a given it will pay to not only fold old leaves across your rhubarb crown but to add a thick layer of straw as an additional insulating layer. This will not only protect your plant but will rot down and nourish the new shoots that will appear in spring.
Thin out bed-sown seedlings such as carrots and spinach as necessary. Its always quicker and easier to do this when they are small – less roots and less foliage to snag on seedlings that you aim to leave to grow.
Protect young seedlings from wind and heavy rain – as well as slugs and snails – with plastic juice bottle cloches. If damage is mounting up then wear a head torch after dark and patrol your garden with a pair of tweezers – an easy way to pick slugs off your plants and seedlings.
Mound soil around the base of your leeks to keep them pale and sweet. Keep soil beneath the bottom leaf so it doesn’t get inside the stems and make cleaning them difficult. Another way of doing this is to lower toilet roll centres down onto the bottom of the stems before mounding up the soil.
It can pay to sow most of your seeds into trays or punnets and then plant out when seedlings have at least a couple of pairs of leaves. This should give them a better chance of standing up to any harsh weather and slug/snail attack.
If you planted brassicas – broccoli, Brussles sprout, cabbage, cauliflower, kale – celery or beetroot a month or so back then now is a good time to spread some extra well-rotted manure, compost or a light dusting of blood and bone meal around these hungry plants to give them a boost.
Beds that are cleared and prepared for future planting can also benefit from an application of lime which is a real benefit to many of the leaf crops – spinach, cabbage, spinach, kale, broccoli and silverbeet - you’ll be planting over the coming months.
Turn your compost over every few weeks to encourage decomposition. Place an insulating layer of old carpet, folded tarpaulin or empty compost bags on the top to help keep the temperature of your heap warm.
Feed citrus, fruit trees and bushes with a rich layer of compost, sheep pellets, well-rotted manure, dolomite, seaweed, straw – whatever you have to hand spread as a mulching layer around their roots.
Feed soil in beds with a scattering of blood and bone meal – about three handfuls for every square that is a stride by a stride, or square metre. You can also give soil a dusting in between rows of seedlings and maturing plants. Once you’ve applied the bone meal simply rake into the top layer of soil and cover with a layer of mulch. This slow-release fertilliser will sustain the growth of seedlings and maturing plants for up to 4 months.
Lay boards on beds if you need to gain access, this will spread your load and stop soaked soils from being compacted.
In cooler areas keep soil warm for plantings over the next few months by laying some polythene sheeting, old carpet, unfolded cardboard boxes or empty compost bags (if beds are small). Anchor with a few boards, logs or bricks to stop sheets blowing away. This insulating layer will also help to prevent soil from becoming water-logged.
Keepany areas of empty soil warm for plantings over the next few months by laying some polythene sheeting, old carpet, unfolded cardboard boxes or empty compost bags (if beds are small). Anchor with a few boards, logs or bricks to stop sheets blowing away. This insulating layer will also help to prevent soil from becoming water-logged.
Chickens will start to lay less as the days become shorter. Keep chicken enclosures from becoming muddy during wet weather with regular applications of fresh straw, woodchips or pine needles – raked up leaves and lawn trimmings can also be added. Put a shelter in your chicken enclosure – somewhere for the birds to gather during heavy rainfall. Check your coop to see there are no leaks. Chickens may start to molt as their plumage starts to re-fill for the colder months ahead.
Check your hives are weather proof. Put up wind breaks if necessary (not in flight path) and insulate hives where heavy frosts are a frequent winter event. Put in varroa strips if you haven’t already. Might be time to remove honey supers and close down the hive so that the reduced population has less space to fill and is better equipped at fending off pests. Wasps are ferocious in their desire for protein right now and they can be seen taking bees down at hive entries and dismembering them before flying off with their haul. Make a concerted effort to locate any nests and deal with them before new queens leave to mate and then hibernate until spring. Each queen that gets away now is another nest in your vicinity next spring.