October in the Veggie Patch

At our place we are currently enjoying loads of freshly picked asparagus, kale, rainbow chard (silverbeet), lettuces, rhubarb, cabbages and broccoli. Soon there will be broad beans, strawberries, peas and loads more!


The “to do” list:
• Sow seed and plant seedlings of all herbs now, including basil later in the month. Many herbs make excellent companion plants for your vegetables e.g. Basil and tomatoes go well together. Also garlic planted near tomatoes will help deter aphids.
• Plant seeds of beetroot, broccoli, cabbage, carrot, cauliflower, celery, Chinese cabbage, endive, kohl rabi, leeks, lettuce, parsnip, bush and climbing peas (earlier in the month), spring onions, radish, rocket, silverbeet, spinach. Seeds for frost sensitive plants such as pumpkin, tomatoes, melons, capsicum, chilli, eggplant, zucchini etc. can be planted in pots in a sunny window or other warm, protected spot – they can’t be planted out into the garden until after frosts are finished and the soil has warmed up – usually after cup day in Wooragee.
• Feed veggies with liquid fertilizer fortnightly to keep them growing especially the leafy ones. Don’t liquid feed tomatoes until the first flowers appear – we want fruit not leaves here. I use a mixture of liquid manure (home made) and Sea-sol and sometimes I add a small spoonful of trace elements.
• Pick off or brush off any caterpillars, aphids and other insect affecting your plants. This reduces chemical usage and saves water.
• Protect seedlings from slugs and snails by using home-made traps such as saucers of beer. Rows of crushed egg shells or sawdust will make it uncomfortable for snails to travel across.
snail ban
• Always use seed well before its use-by date check the packet for the sowing time in your area.
• Spray fruit trees with a preventative spray such as lime-sulphur for healthier fruit trees.
• Mulch strawberries and rhubarb now, and cut off any rhubarb heads going to seed. Mulching now prevents leaf disease later.
• Start preparing sweet potato tubers to produce the offshoots needed for this summer’s plants. Do this by burying the tubers into moist sand and keeping them in warm place until shoots appear. Snip the shoots off when 6cm long and plant into pots of rich soil and allow to continuing growing until the weather allows them to be planted into the garden.
iStock_Sweet potatoes

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Growing Your Own Vegetables – The Basics

Growing your own vegetables is an amazingly satisfying way to provide your family with the freshest, healthiest vegetables whilst saving buckets of money.
There are some fundamental guidelines which will ensure your success.
1. Grow the vegetables you and your family like to eat which are suited to your climate and to the time of year being considered.
2. Run your beds north and south. if, however, due to the shape of the and contour of your block this is not possible, at least run the rows that way.
This will ensure that the plants receive maximum sunshine.
3. Raise the beds – few plants can withstand wet feet. Beds can be edged with bricks, rocks or timber – we are currently using branches from the trees demolished in a storm last year (We planted these trees some 15 years ago as part of the re-vegetation of the creek which runs through our property – it eased the heartache of the destruction to put the timber to good use, especially as they were unsuitable for firewood)
4. Ensure that the paths are of a porous material and not concrete. Gravel, pebbles, wood shavings, saw dust or bark chips. We use the mulch produced from tree prunings.
5. Check that the pH of the soil is somewhere between 6.5 – 7. There are many kits on the market to do this. In Wooragee, our soils tend to be very acidic and you will need to add lime to each bed most years to increase the pH.
6. Practice crop rotation – do not grow vegetables from the same family in the same bed each year. A good rotation is legumes, which have the knack of fixing nitrogen from the air to their roots and so to your soil. This can be followed by one of the brassicas as they need a soil enriched by compost and animal manures and can utilise the nitrogen fixed by the previous crop. follow with a root vegetable or onions as these crops do not need a rich soil.
7. Feed your soil, maintain adequate moisture levels and keep the weeds under control – mulching with organic matter helps with all these tasks. We use autumn leaves and lawn clippings to mulch our vegie garden beds, always ensuring that each bed has a generous layer of manure and compost before being mulched.

August in the Vegie Patch

Tasks for this month

The “grass crunching” frosts we have been experiencing lately certainly make an early start in the garden an unlikely event; however, the crisp, clear weather later in the day makes gardening a pleasure.

• Plant the last of the deciduous trees & rhubarb and asparagus crowns if you have not already done so. Time is running out for this task, so this needs to be done sooner rather than later.

• Spray peach & nectarine trees at bud swell with lime-sulphur for early control of curly leaf.

• Check plants for scale – particularly a problem for citrus and olives. These plants are prone to attack by scale and the subsequent sooty mould. Sooty mould is nothing more than scale or aphid droppings gone mouldy. Get rid of the underlying disease and you get rid of the mould problem.
The best way to kill scale insects is by using white oil emulsion, or pest oil, to suffocate them.
An economical white oil can be produced with this recipe:
Pour a cup of cheap cooking oil into an empty, litre size plastic water bottle. Add half a cup of water and three to four drops of washing-up detergent. Then put the cap on and shake vigorously. The liquid will turn white – this is white oil emulsion (the detergent acts to prevent the oil/water mixture separating). This simple mixture works perfectly as a scale killer when diluted with about 40 parts of water.
Spray it under and over infested leaves, branches and trunk. It acts by sealing the edges of the little scale humps thereby suffocating the insects hiding underneath. Use the spray two or three times over the next few weeks and watch your plant’s health improve each day.

• Common problems for pear and cherry trees are the pear and cherry slug (which can rapidly skeletonise the leaves) and pear scab. Both can be controlled by spraying the foliage in late spring and early summer with a solution made by dissolving a big handful of builders’ lime in a bucket of water. Alternatively, throw fine wood ash over the leaves.

• Pruning: This month is an excellent time to prune deciduous fruit trees such as apples, pears and plums. Pruning is not essential for fruit production but it will ensure that your trees will remain a manageable size and still produce a reliable crop of acceptable size and quality with a minimum of disease


• Plant seedlings of onions, broccoli, kale, mustard greens, peas, salad greens like mizuna, mitsuba (Japanese parsley or Garden Betty) and spinach.
Peas can be planted – but coat the seeds in cooking oil in case they rot in cold soil. Dust them with white pepper after oiling if you’re worried by snails.

• At this time of year your winter vegetables will be starting to come to an end. August is a good month for you to start to decide what vegetables you are going to want to grow in spring. Some good vegetables to consider are carrots, lettuce, leeks, onions, spring onions, peas, tomatoes, melons, zucchini, pumpkins Asian vegetables and beans. Cold winter afternoons can be happily spent, by the fire, exploring seed catalogues and ordering your seeds in plenty of time for planting in later spring. When planning your spring/summer garden the important things to consider are:
1. What do we like to eat
2. How much space/time do I have
3. How much water will I have for my garden.

Happy gardening till next month
Mary

July in the Veggie Patch

Tasks to do in July

The wonderful crisp frosts these last few mornings really made getting out into the garden early in the morning a real challenge. However, it is certainly worth taking a few quick trips around your garden when the frost is thick on the ground to check out the areas where the frost is thickest and to locate those areas of your garden which are relatively well protected from the frost. This will be exceptionally useful information when you are next selecting a site for new plants.
Of course, there is nothing like some digging, raking or wheeling a few barrows full of compost around to invigorate you – it can really get the circulation going and leave you with a marvelous sense of achievement! So out of that comfy armchair and out into the vegie patch!!!

The “to do” list:
• Continue to feed brassicas, lettuces, Chinese greens etc. fortnightly with liquid manure and seaweed emulsion to keep them growing quickly
• Plant broad beans, beetroot, lettuce seeds or onions in raised beds with a cloche for winter warmth.
• Purchase your seed potatoes now and store until ready to plant. If you leave it too late, most of the interesting varieties could be sold out.
• Keep a close eye on your stone-fruit trees and spray with lime-sulphur at first signs of bud swell and again a fortnight later to prevent leaf curl. Prevention is the only cure for this problem.
• Break up clumps of chives and shallots and replant offsets – I have plenty of chives for anyone wanting to start a clump.

Kale Chips
If you have some extra Kale growing; consider baking some Kale chips as a very healthy treat for everyone.
1. With a knife or kitchen shears carefully remove the leaves from the thick stems and tear into bite size pieces. Wash and thoroughly dry kale with a salad spinner. Drizzle kale with olive oil and sprinkle with seasoning salt. Place on an oven tray covered with baking paper.
2. Bake in a moderate oven until the edges brown but are not burnt, 10 to 15 minutes. Enjoy!

Happy gardening everyone!

Planting Asparagus


July is the month for establishing perennials such as asparagus, rhubarb and globe artichokes. Perennials, which can stay in the same spot for many years (e.g. asparagus for 20 years) need to be given a separate area in the garden and appropriate soil preparation. The first step is to ensure that all perennial weeds have been thoroughly eliminated from the chosen area.
Asparagus likes deep, friable, rich soil. If you’ve got heavy, clay soil, you’ll need to mound the plants up or dig in plenty of organic matter so that it becomes nice and well drained. The same process will work for sandy soils too! Asparagus loves soil with a pH of about 6.5 to 7 so in most parts of Wooragee you will need to add lots of lime each year. Dig a deep trench, about 75cm, for the long roots – the deeper the better. Then add organic matter. Asparagus is very hungry and needs plenty of organic matter such as cow manure, sheep manure, or old chook poo. Scatter it thickly down the bottom of the trench because the plants will absolutely lap that up. Then 2/3rds fill the trench with a mixture of compost and the soil from the trench. Once the area is well fertilized, it is time to go shopping for your asparagus crowns – these are readily available in most nurseries at this time of year. To plant the crown, make a little mound, like an anthill, in the trench.
asparagus crowns planting
Sit the roots of the crown nicely on top of the mound. Plant about 40cm apart. If the roots are damaged cut them back because they are quite fleshy and will come again easily. Backfill the trench and water well, once planted, so the air pockets get away from the roots. Then in spring, little shoots will appear. Feed regularly with diluted liquid manure and/or blood and bone. Do not pick any shoots for the first couple of seasons to allow the crowns to develop a really sound root system – this will ensure a very vigorous plant for many years to come. Apart from slugs and snails in spring there are few pests and diseases that trouble this plant.
When Asparagus is about four years old the fronds will have produced good, thick, strong roots and a good plant. They will then go yellow in autumn and that’s the time to cut them back to ground level. The Asparagus bed will be bare until spring, and then spears of Asparagus will pop up all over the place.
We find that we have to protect the first spears with a cloche made from poly-pipe and plastic to protect the tender shoots from late frosts. We usually put this in place in August. Asparagus is high in potassium, great for fibre, low in salt, and a terrific, healthy vegetable to grow. There is nothing nicer than growing your own crop and taking it fresh to the table.

May/June in the Veggie Patch

These glorious sunny days we have been enjoying of late certainly encourage one out into the garden. However, the lack of decent rain in the last few weeks means that subsoil is still very dry. This has serious implications for our fruit trees in that it can have a very adverse effect on next season’s fruit production. At this time of year, fruit trees are forming the buds which will eventually develop into those beautiful spring blossoms. Dry soil now will greatly reduce the number of buds forming. A thorough deep watering of fruit trees now will pay big dividends next season by increasing the number of buds forming.
Another important task in the orchard at this time of year is the spreading of lime around the drip-line of fruit trees. Soils in Wooragee tend to be very acidic and lime needs to be added every 2-3 years as it is regularly leached from the growing area of your trees, also the drip zone of a fruit tree will be expanding as the tree grows. Fruit trees will also appreciate a feed of blood & bone and compost at this time of year. Weeds should be removed from around the trunk as these will provide homes for pests and diseases. Mulch layers should also be topped up – this will act to protect surface roots from our severe frosts – but be sure to keep the mulch clear of the trunk.
Grease traps around the tree trunk should also be refreshed now – these bands prevent insects climbing the tree to lay their eggs and also stop ants accessing the tree. Allowing your hens access to the orchard at this time of year is also a very important strategy for containing pests such as codling moth as they will scratch around the base of trees removing the pupae that are trying to over-winter in the ground below the trees.DSC01489
Remember, the best preventative is an absolutely clean, hygienic orchard. Remove any rubbish, old pots, and pieces of wood etc. which provide harbour for disease causing pests.
What to plant now: Don’t be tempted by blue sky and warm breezes. If you live in a very frosty area stick to onion seedlings and broad beans and lots of seedlings of broccoli, cabbage and cauliflower (Cauliflower may need to be grown in protective cloches in colder areas.). In less frosty areas plant seeds of radish, onions, winter lettuce, silver beet (or rainbow chard), spinach, broad beans, peas, snow peas, spring onions, parsnips, fast maturing Asian vegies like tatsoi, pak choi and mizuna. Also seedlings of beetroot, broccoli, cabbage, cauliflower, chicory, leeks, lettuce, onions and spinach can go in now.
TO DO LIST:
• Cut asparagus foliage to the ground once it turns yellow and add it to the compost. Cover crowns with a layer of manure and then straw to protect them over winter
asparagus foliage yellow
• Dust wood ash over areas where you’re going to plant broad beans, or in between the rows to help prevent brown spot
• Prune old or weak raspberry canes, black currant bushes and gooseberries
Raspberries05
• Remove dead leaves and runners from old strawberry beds and mulch plants with rotted manure or compost. Plant new strawberries in good soil and mulch with pine needles (best if available) or straw
• Pumpkins for storage must be mature and have firm thick and unbroken skins. Pumpkins are subject to injury from cold, like other warm-season plants, therefore attempt to harvest them before the first heavy frosts. Pumpkins store best, after thoroughly drying them, if placed on wooden shelves on their sides in a cool dry well aired area.
• With the hottest days long gone, we can now start planting winter lettuces, spinach, coriander etc. without the worry of them bolting to seed. Also remember that onions grown over the winter will develop much firmer and larger bulbs.
• Keep topping up the compost heap with those wonderful autumn leaves, weeds and lawn clippings and then add lots of manure or blood and bone and ash from the fires if available.
• Bare rooted fruit tree time is almost upon us, so start preparing beds for these guys now. Lots of organic matter (compost, well-rotted manure etc.), a bit of moisture and some mulch will see the soil in perfect condition by the time your trees are ready to go in!
• Top up mulch on your vegie patches, herb gardens and ornamental beds, especially important for weed suppression at this time of year. A hot tip is to mulch after watering the patch; to a depth of about 7cm. Remember to keep mulch clear of plant stems… especially young seedlings.
• Green manure crops, including oats, wheat, faba beans and field peas (or use some organic bird seed) are good to grow now… improve that dormant vegie patch, and get ready for next season’s heavy feeding plants!
• Cold wet days mean a bit of shed time and an excellent time for some maintenance on those garden tools – sharpen spades, hoe etc. and apply linseed oil to all the wooden handles. Happy gardening: Mary

Time to improve the Soil

Autumn is the time to really get working at improving your soil. Jack Frost has been visiting so it is now time to remove all those spent summer veggies and turn your thoughts to the spring growing season.
Now is the time to plant green manure crops – Tony & I have a bed of broad beans growing (from seed saved last year) which will be chopped down and allowed to rot back into the soil in spring.
The other soil improvement project we undertake at this time of year is to cover each empty bed with a layer of manure, compost,lime and then a thick layer of autumn leaves. These beds are allowed to fallow until November when we plant out our summer vegetables and, thankfully, there will be no weeds able to penetrate the layer of mulch!!!
This week’s big project has been to improve the soil around our lemon tree. This tree is nearly 20 years old but has been struggling with the recent dry autumn/summer weather.


Firstly, we added a border of rocks to hold the increased soil level. then covered the soil with a thick layer of newspaper to suffocate the Kikuyu growing under the tree and stealing all the water and nutrients. The paper was covered with layers of lucerne hay, compost, manure, autumn leaves and lastly some wood chip mulch. Over winter, these layers will slowly convert into a rich soil full of nutrients and worms to help the tree survive whatever Mother Nature wishes to throw at us next summer. The extra organic matter will help to retain soil moisture and the mulch layer will help to keep the soil cool and prevent competition from weeds.
The other, very important task for this time of year, is to establish the sites for any new, bare-rooted trees you wish to plant. It is very important to plan and prepare your site well ahead of time. This will help to ensure that your new trees are successfully established and will rocket into life in spring.
Select your site with care, taking into account the drainage, amount of sunlight and susceptibility to frost. Your new tree will be in this position for a long time! Dig a very large hole – at least twice the size of the anticipated root ball of your new tree. Now back-fill the hole with the removed soil mixed with well-rotted manure and compost. In this area, it will also pay to add some lime – soils in this area tend to be very acidic. Remember the old saying: “Dig a $50.00 hole for a $5.00 tree”. The better the preparation, the more your tree will thrive.