Free plants for your herb garden – the main garden tasks
Boost your herb garden with new plants for free
Perennial grasses can become long and tired after a few years. Fortunately, it’s easy to take cuttings and propagate replacements for many herbs we use regularly. Mint, rosemary and thyme are among the easiest perennial herbs to propagate for fresh new plants.
Mint is a prolific spreader, so taking cuttings is a breeze.
Simply cut the sprigs from the mother plant and place them in a glass of water. After a few weeks the stems will have formed roots and can then be planted out in the garden. Mint plants can also be divided. Soak the plant thoroughly with water, dig it up and with a sharp knife or spade (depending on the size of the root mass), cut into three or four sections. Cut off any excess growth and replant immediately.
Rosemary takes a few more steps but it’s worth it.
Rosemary propagates best from cuttings. Using a knife or secateurs, cut 10 cm lengths of healthy shoots. Remove the lower leaves and cut the stem cleanly under a leaf node.
If desired, dip the ends in a rooting hormone gel or powder to improve the success rate. Prick the stems into seed trays of potting soil and mist them with water.
Depending on conditions, root formation can take up to eight weeks.
Thyme is very slow to grow from seed, so take cuttings instead.
In addition, some thymes are not always realized from seeds. Cuttings, dividing large clumps (at least two years old) of creeping wild thyme, or layering produce clones of the parent plants.
Take softwood cuttings (5-8cm in length) from new growth in spring, remove leaves and plant in standard seed mix pots.
To propagate by layering, poke the longer stems of mature plants into loose soil. Roots often form at leaf nodes and the stem can then be cut from the parent and planted separately.
To propagate creeping thymes by division, cut the stems with aerial roots and place them in pots.
For upright thymes, dig up a mature clump in the spring, remove some of the top growth, and use a sharp knife to cut the clump into pieces.
Mint needs moist soil to grow well, but thyme and rosemary both prefer well-drained soil in which to put down their roots.
End of season vegetable garden review
Now that winter is fast approaching, take the time to take stock of your vegetable garden for the past year. How did it work?
- Were your flower beds big enough to grow anything you wanted?
- Are they well placed?
- Did you try a new crop that did particularly well (or not)?
- How did your irrigation system or water supply hold up in the very dry summer?
- Did you manage to make enough compost?
- Did you have all the right tools for the job?
These are just a few of the many questions that, if asked now, can really help you with your planning and maintenance schedule ahead of spring and summer.
Make plans now and prepare to make improvements and adjustments before the new growing season arrives.
While you’re at it, sharpen all your tools, get your lawn mower and chipper serviced, and tidy up your garden shed and potting area.
Prepare a patch for shallots and plant them now
These little sweet onion relatives are easy to grow and relatively straightforward. Shallots multiply – just like garlic – around the mother clove forming up to eight bulbs.
For planting, prepare a bed that receives full sun with rich, loose soil. Plant cloves with their tips protruding slightly above the surface of the soil. Space them at least 15cm apart to allow the space to expand.
Water the plants occasionally, build up soil around them as they grow, and keep their bed as weed-free as possible.
Depending on where you live, shallots planted now can be harvested in early spring. You can also wait until spring for planting – this is best for cold regions – and this will result in a mid to late summer harvest.
Shallots are ready to sprout when the leaves have yellowed and begun to die back. To harvest, carefully dig up the bulbs (don’t pull them out of the ground) and let them dry out for up to a week, then separate the bulbs and store them in a cool, dry place. Save the best bulbs to replant them next year.
Read more: Shallot Growing Tips and Variety Guide
Sow a bowl of microgreens
As temperatures drop, the growth rate of lettuce leaves also decreases, but that only means waiting an extra week and moving your container to a warmer (or sheltered) location.
Microgreens to grow now include mizuna, bok choi, mustard, “Rainbow Lights” beets, arugula, kale, and peas. My favorite microgreens this time of year are ‘Tasty Tendrils’ peas which form piles of curly tendrils with the same delicious taste as regular peas. The best thing about them is that if you don’t cut them too low, you can harvest multiple times. Order microgreen seed packs and starter kits from Kings Seeds.
Anemones and Buttercups Survival Guide
These are some of my favorite spring flowers, but anemones and ranunculus were the bulbs I found the most difficult to grow. To be clear, I’m not talking about the Japanese anemones that bloom in the fall. They are beautiful too but have rogue tendencies – forming large clumps that crowd out neighboring plants and are difficult to remove as each root fragment sprouts.
I mean spring-flowering anemones grown from bulbs that look like parched, dried-out animal droppings. I used to plant bulbs every year – but usually only about half survived to bloom and sometimes none. But my success rate improved once I started chilling and pre-germinating the bulbs. The same technique works for claw-like buttercup tubers.
When purchased, bulbs and tubers are completely dormant – tough, dry and dead looking. They need to “wake up” before they can germinate and flower reliably.
Break dormancy by wrapping in sawdust or moist potting soil and refrigerate for up to six weeks until shoots and roots begin to grow.
Choose a planting site that receives at least 4-5 hours of winter sun each day and, very importantly, has free-draining loamy soil with a slightly acidic pH. Heavy clay soils may require a mix of gypsum or pumice to help improve aeration and drainage.
Plant at a depth of 50mm and about 80mm apart in clumps. A general purpose slow release garden fertilizer (not too high in nitrogen) or a specific bulb fertilizer lightly mixed into the soil surface will promote their growth.
Read more: New Zealand bulbs: guide to growing anemones and buttercups
Gardening under the moon
Sow and transplant Asian greens and other leafy vegetables on May 13, the last day of the fertile period. From May 14 to 17, harvest, weed and cultivate. Turn over the compost heap. On May 18 and 19, sow the root crops. Trim and spray if necessary.
Gardening by maramataka
Naumai ki te ngahuru pōtiki (late autumn). We are at the end of the harvest season. Long-term annual crops should now be out of the field and the process applied to their storage is complete. As we head towards Matariki, make sure the remaining tasks in the māra are completed, then we can seek rest for the short days as we head into the hōtoke or cold period.
Remember that the more northern regions have a milder climate, so their rest period is shorter but based on day length rather than temperature. The new moon falls on the 1st of the month and the full moon on the 16th. But we end the Pākeha calendar month on another new moon (the 30th), which means we have a month dedicated to and influenced by this phase (Whiro) and why we should recognize the influence of the moon on our energy levels. Rest after the harvest work. Dr. Nick Roskruge