The Monarch Rescue Centre
- Mark’s monarch rescue mission has resulted in a branch of about 100 suspended chrysalises which resembles a shish kebab. It moves around warm positions in the house but alas the successful emergence of healthy butterflies is at an all-time low. I don’t think even Mark is sufficiently obsessed to set up a long term rehabilitation and care centre for disabled and deformed butterflies, though he admits he has certainly thought about it.
- You can still plant broad beans in the garden, along with garlic and shallots but generally, veg gardeners are now looking forward and preparing for spring plantings. If you have a favoured position, you can get the first sowing of carrot seed in but make sure you cover the row with a board or narrow strip of nova roof in order to keep heavy rain from compacting the finely tilled soil and washing the fine seed away.
- • Potatoes will be coming into the garden centres. You need sheltered, frost free positions that get maximum warmth for really early crops, which tends to mean coastal area only. But anybody can be preparing now by chitting the taties – putting them in a single layer in a darkened location to encourage sprouting. Not all potatoes are the same and if you keep track of the different varieties, it is fun to buy a pick and mix selection to compare later. We are disappointed to find hollow centres in most of our large Agria this year (an otherwise splendid potato) which did not occur in any of the other varieties in the same location.
- The great winter pruning operation should be starting. Deciduous trees, shrubs and climbers are generally winter pruned. Some, like rampant climbing roses and wisterias, need pruning to keep them under control. Some, like hydrangeas, apple trees, forsythia and many clematis or roses are pruned to maximise flowering and to keep a tidier plant. Some are only pruned occasionally as required, to remove twin trunks in a deciduous tree for example. In a small garden it is probably just as easy to work your way around the garden. In a big garden, it may be easier to work by genus – wisterias today, fruit trees or roses next week.
- Winter is also the time to do a clean up spray on deciduous plants. Lime sulphur will clean up lichens and mosses and is widely used, as is copper at winter strength.
- We are somewhat proudly still eating fresh green beans and corn on the cob harvested most days from the late plantings. The corn has lost its autumn sweetness but it is still fresh corn. The bean plants defoliated at the first hint of frost but the beans are still reasonably tender and good. They are a triumph of successional planting through spring and summer. Mark and dogs are almost getting a possum a night from the avocado trees. Apparently these critters love them just as much as humans. Even the dogs have developed a taste for avocado snacks.