Welll, two weeks in retrospect actually –
It is definitely gearing up to be spring, and I see my productivity double around the garden from week to week now. It is a gorgeous time to get ready for the new growing season!
In my garden
I have enjoyed seeing more and more of the new life of plants burst forth on dormant perennials. Little bare patches of soil suddenly sport a bit of green, or red, as the stems and first leaves push through – specifically excited to see liquorice, marshmallow, echinacea, rhubarb, horseradish and even a few of my French tarragon come along.
The fruit trees are budding too – my pomegranate, apricot, fig, etc are all happily budding too. I acquired two new apple trees! Which is very exciting! They are dwarf ones – a red and sweetly crunchy medium apple called Little Rascal and another that is more tart in flavour, called Mischief. I’m excited to see how they go. Currently they are still “sticks in the ground”, but soon they’ll have a flush of pretty white and pink blossoms. Very tempted to go back and get two columnar standard crabapples…
I’ve managed to procure 11 bags of good horse manure – gorgeous stuff that is full of earthworms. I’m adding them to my raised vegetable gardens as I get ready to plant them all up for summer again. Already have layers of cardboard, some sticks, homemade compost, seaweed, and some of last year’s soil – now the horse manure goes on top for a week or so, and then a bokashi trench throughout the raised bed, and again a final layer of soil. That should do the trick!
In my knowledge base
I heard and discussed interesting things this past few weeks too – I learnt about watering in an arc which makes the correct charge for ions for better watering results, rather than watering straight down into the ground. Still going to see if I can find out more on this so I can understand the science around it better. Then I had a lovely discussion with my friend, about soil health, and how even organically managed soil, might not be all it is made out to be – that compost has a lot going for it, but that it isn’t all there is to building good soil, soil that will have the required minerals for the produce plants to take up and make available for consumption. Some case studies around this that I’ll delve into deeper, but it is all good food for thought.
In the nursery
It’s been go! go! go! in the nursery! Sowing new seeds, and transplanting little seedlings.
I transplanted almost all of my little tomato seedlings (germinated with their first leaves showing) into larger seedling trays with deep punnet sections for good root development. They are all doing really well, despite me starting them much earlier than normal. I’ll sow some more next week, especially of the popular varieties as I found I had long ago sold out of my tomatoes last year while people were still after some for mid to later season growing.
All the varieties of heirloom tomatoes that I grow are not the only things I’m gaga about – I got even more new chillies to try this season too! The different sizes, shapes, colours and heat levels of the peppers make me super excitable! Brand new for this year are Aji Dulce, Jamaican Yellow, and Passilla biajo. And, because they turned out to be so popular last season, I got lots of super hots in too, more Red Naga, Trinidad Moruga Scorpion, and Carolina Reaper. If you ever wondered what happened to my soaking chilli seeds experiment – more on that next week.
Sow your own
It is prime sowing time, with spring and milder weather just around the corner, and if you plant with a moon calendar, from 24 August to 6 September is best for cultivating above ground food crops. While it is still advisable to hold of for a few weeks until the soil warms up properly, if you have a greenhouse, or any warm and sheltered area like a sunny windowsill, you can start most of your herbs, and summer vegetables now. Among what feels like a million other things, I have sown cucumbers, caigua, zucchini, corn, eggplant, and even a few pumpkins in seedling trays.
A lot of herbs can be sown now too – anise hyssop, angelica, basil, borage, calendula, catnip, chamomile, chervil, chives, coriander, cress, dill, fennel, hyssop, marjoram, oregano, peppermint, rocket, rue, salad burnet, savory, sage, thyme, valerian… etc.
Unfortunately it has been a terribly good time for snails in the garden too – and I battle with them decimating every and all of my sunflowers, sweet peas, every bit of oriental lily coming out, and of course, in the nursery too – they seem to have a super liking to lettuce leaf basil (not so much cinnamon or lemon basil), and all my new spinach seedlings.
I’ve got a few things I try to help minimize their damage – egg shells and sand around new transplanted little plants. And seaweed (unrinsed) scattered about. I’ve also got beer traps (happy that Rick 3D printed me a slug trap to put it into), and I go out every few nights to do a hand pick of as many snails and slugs as I can find (lots!). I have recently heard from a friend that iron phosphate may help – something I need to investigate and try out.
We had great early spring weather, with one or two hot days already. And it is tempting, very tempting to go out and put it all to the garden. But yesterday was cold and windy and I was glad my summer veg were still under cover. Remember that it is important to check several things before deciding to plant outside – your region’s last frost date, cold pockets in your own micro-environment, sunrise and elevation, overnight minimimum temperatures (minimum of around 12C for a few nights in a row will indicate that the soil will be sufficiently warm) and the appearance of self-sown spring annuals, and breaking of dormancy in perennials. Don’t be tempted to go out too early.
Things I used out of the garden this week
A cup each of mixed greens daily for the guinea pigs, bunnies and quail – this includes fennel, dill, lemon balm, salad burnet, lettuce, kale, mizuna, viola and nasturtium flowers, and thyme or oregano.
Calendula petals and heartsease viola flowers go into salads, which are made up of rocket, salad burnet, mizuna, nz spinach, baby silverbeet leaves, freckles lettuce and chives.
Fresh Rosemary, oregano and bay leaf went into bolognaise sauce.
The kids eat Carouby peas fresh from the plant.
I picked pizza thyme for pizza.