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

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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.