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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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.

Tasks to do in April

Tasks I intend to complete this month include:
1. Liquid Manure: With the colder soil in winter, plants do not absorb nutrients from the soil as readily as they do in warm weather. Plants such as broccoli, cabbage, cauliflower, leafy greens will all benefit from the addition of liquid manure. This provides much needed nutrients in a readily available form boosting growth rates and ensuring a tastier product. Liquid manure is easily made by soaking a cloth bag of poultry manure in a tub of water for 2-3 weeks. Remember to always dilute the liquid manure 1 part to 10 parts water – it should have the colour of weak tea before using each week on your winter vegies.
2. Asparagus: When the leafy growth has turned yellow, it should be pruned off to ground level and then the crowns need to be fed with blood & bone, manure and compost as these plants are gross feeders. Then the plants need to be covered by a layer of straw, grass clippings and/or autumn leaves to protect the crowns from frosts. Lime should also be added to increase the soil pH.


3. Brambleberries: These berry canes are very vigorous growers and an effort is needed to keep them contained. Long canes which are in contact with the soil will produce roots and start to produce another plant and the canes which are underneath will die off creating a mass of dead tangled canes under the productive canes. Every 2-3 years we trim the canes completely away from one side of the trellis, this reduces the crop slightly the next season but is essential to allow control of the plants. The next year the other side of the trellis is pruned off, then the canes are allowed to grow for the next 2 years except for trimming off any canes which come into contact with the ground.
4. Raspberries: Old raspberry canes need to be trimmed off but it is essential to leave the new canes intact as they will produce the next year’s crop. Apply lime, manure and compost to keep the plants vigorous and productive.

5. Mulch and Manure: As the other summer crops, such as the sweet corn, finish; these beds will be covered with a layer of manure, compost, some lime and a layer of autumn leaves. This will act to revitalize the soil as well as suppressing weed growth.
6. Clean up: Collect all fallen fruit from under fruit trees and prune away any mummified fruits. This prevents the carry over of disease causing organisms. Trim away long grass from under trees and, if possible, allow poultry access to the area around the trees to clean up grubs and other pests from the soil. Adding grease bands to apple trees will act to capture codling moth grubs as they move down into the soil for the winter. Don’t forget the importance of collecting any fruit which has formed on ornamental trees such as Japonica – these fruits can act as an over-wintering site for the dreaded fruit fly which appears to have arrived in several gardens in Wooragee this summer.
7. Tidy the herb garden by pruning back the chives, oregano and sage. Plant coriander now (it tends to rush up to seed in the hot weather). Coriander repels aphids so plant near broccoli.
8. Pick and store your pumpkins:
SIGNS OF PUMPKIN RIPENESS
Look out for signs that the plant is ‘dying off’. This includes the leaves turning paler and then browning at the edges
Give the pumpkin a little ‘knock’, like knocking gently on a door. If it sounds hollow, it’s a good indication that the pumpkin is ripe.
The colour of the skin gives another indication of ripeness. If the fruit has developed a rich colour and is becoming covered in ‘warts,’ the pumpkin is ready to harvest.
Smell the neck of the pumpkin (where the fruit meets the stalk). If it smells ‘pumpkiny’, that’s a good sign it’s ready to pick.
HARVESTING AND STORING PUMPKIN
When you harvest a pumpkin, always leave a length of the stalk attached – like a handle – but don’t carry it by the stalk as it could rip the top of the pumpkin.
Check the pumpkin for damage as only unblemished pumpkins should be stored.
Harden the pumpkins in the sun for a week before storing in a cool, dry place.
Always store pumpkins on their side, to prevent moisture collecting.
Pumpkin

What to Plant in the Vegie Patch in March

Autumn has arrived and the time has come for the vegie gardener’s big challenge – when is it time to pull out the tomatoes, basil, squash, zucchini, beans etc. and replace them with winter treats!! As the days shorten and the nights get cooler, the productivity of these plants drops markedly and we need to prepare room for our winter veggies to make sure there is always something fresh to serve for winter meals – what could be nicer than a pot of soup made from your homegrown carrots, celery, dried beans and bottled tomatoes?
It is now time to plant some coriander seeds and you could also try some mint and lemon balm but be very careful of these plants and ensure they are adequately contained – it is staggering how far they can spread if left to their own devices!!
Tasty vegetables such as Chinese cabbage, spinach,tatsoi, rocket,silverbeet, broccoli, spring onions, leeks, lettuces, carrots, beetroot and parsnip can all be planted now.
An extensive planting of carrots now will provide carrots for the entire winter and also the early spring.carrots
Other crops, such as lettuce, spinach tatsoi etc. are better planted as successive, regular small crops to ensure a regular supply and avoid a glut!
Broad beans can also be planted now. I like to plant one crop for household use and then another bed full of broad beans to use as a green manure crop.
broad beans

Coping with the cabbage glut

A few months ago, I picked up a pile of seed packets for various cabbages, cauliflower and broccoli varieties. They were all close to or past their “plant before” dates. What to do? It seemed such a waste!
So I collected up some plant boxes, some seed raising mix and planted them all – “Nothing will come of this” I thought!! Famous last words indeed. I swear, every last seed emerged and grew vigorously!!!
What to do now! These seeds have done me the honour of growing so, of course, they all had to be planted out in the garden. Mmmmmmm!
There are only so many cabbages you can give to family and friends and only so much sauerkraut one couple can consume, so a delicious recipe was needed to take care of the 20+ cabbages still growing in the garden.
Here is what we devised and it is very delicious and extremely adaptable and uses a lot of cabbage.
Ingredients:
1/2 a red onion, diced
1 rasher of bacon, chopped
1 teaspoon turmeric
1 teaspoon smoked paprika
3-4 cups of roughly chopped cabbage
2 cups cooked potato, pumpkin or sweet potato or a mixture of these.
Method:
Heat a wok, add 2 tablespoons of grape-seed oil.
Add the onion and bacon, fry until soft.
Add the spices and heat until aromatic.
Add the cabbage and cook for 5 minutes
Add the cooked vegetables.
Heat through and serve.

This meal can be served as a stand alone meal or with added chick peas or accompanied by grilled chicken breast, lamb chops or steak.
Other variations include adding broccoli, kale, capsicum, char grilled capsicum etc.