STEVE’S SEASONAL GROWING TIPS APRIL 2017

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STEVE’S SEASONAL GROWING TIPS APRIL 2017
11th April, 2017

What an awesome beginning to autumn it’s been. Everything is looking really green, the mushrooms are just everywhere and the temperature is just right for autumn planting.

Now is a good time to get the garden stuffed full of yummy veg for the winter by taking advantage of the temperature and all this rain. Once the cold weather proper gets underway not a lot grows (except things like onions and broadbeans), so it’s important to get both seeds and advanced seedlings into the garden now. The trick is to get everything to be pretty much (but not quite) full size by the time the cold weather arrives so the garden can act like a big outside fridge. The cool weather slows growth (but doesn’t stop it completely in a lot of vegetables) and you won’t have the problem of plants going to seed like you do in the heat of summer.

Contrary to what some people say, the winter months can be incredibly productive. At the moment I have been quite busy in the garden cleaning up beds from summer, even though my pumpkins are still trailing all over the place, and preparing beds for garlic. Each bed has been weeded, had as much compost as I can spare – approx. 2 barrow loads per bed – forked through and I’ve also put several handfuls of crushed volcanic rock dust and some powdered agricultural clay on to the soil top and watered it in. The rock dust and the clay improve the water holding capacity of the soil and add vital micronutrients.

Once I have prepped the garlic beds, I leave them for a few weeks because it helps improve soil structure and allows weeds to pop up that I can clear so the beds are really weed free. With all the rain we’ve had, and the organic matter I have added, the soil should be able to store a fair amount of water over winter. Especially once I plant the garlic and mulch it heavily.

At this time of the year I also do a few things to make sure my family and I have lots of greens over winter.

From seed I plant, in prepared beds, lots of leafy greens and radishes – lettuces, Asian veg like bok choy, Chinese cabbage and Chinese broccoli, mesclun mixes, coriander and one of my personal favourites, and in some years the best leafy green for winter, mâche. Also called corn salad, mâche is a small, dark green, rosette shaped plant with a beautiful flavour that grows throughout the winter months.

At this time of the year I also buy in lots of advanced seedlings, primarily because the nurseries do a far, far better job than I at getting things like kale, broccoli, cauliflower and cabbages to an advanced stage*. These advanced seedlings also offer a good opportunity for a trick to maximise your growing space.

I often plant fast-growing things in between the slower growing ones. The soil in between rows of something like kale or broccoli is perfect for things like coriander, which can grow in about 6–8 weeks, mâche, spring onions and radishes. By the time you have harvested all of the fast-growing plants, the slower ones are much closer to maturity.

Despite some pretty monumental failures in the past – due in part to poor timing, massive winds ripping trellising apart, autumn droughts and whatever else outdoor growing can throw at me – this is also a good time to get some different types of peas and broad beans into the ground. Peas are a great crop: they put nitrogen into the soil, have edible shoots and flowers and kids love snacking on them while wandering around the garden. Some of my favourites are ‘Greenfeast’, ‘Yukomo Giant’ and of course sugar snaps**. Be warned though. Peas rarely make it to the kitchen.

*You can buy local seedlings direct from growers this autumn at the Co-op.

**The Co-op Little Shop also sells peas and other seeds.

Steve Fleischmann

Local gardening guru Steve Fleischmann shares his wealth of knowledge about food growing in his hands-on Grow Your Own workshops every first Friday of the month at the Katoomba Organic Community Gardens.

 

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