STEVE’S SEASONAL GROWING TIPS MAY 2017

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STEVE’S SEASONAL GROWING TIPS MAY 2017
9th May, 2017

It’s very easy in autumn, as the weather cools and the obvious seasonal changes occur, to settle into an “I don’t need to do anything until spring” mindset, break out the gluhwein and sit by the fire. Yet there is a lot we can do in the garden now that will both provide us with something to eat over winter and set us up nicely for spring – gardeners should always be thinking a couple of seasons ahead.

Last year I realised I still had some garlic (I think they were Italian White and Italian Purple varieties) so I planted them quite late, late May from memory, and they ended up being my largest and best garlic last year. So if you still haven’t planted garlic, put them in and see how they go. They will mature later but that’s fine. If you have a large amount of tiny garlic cloves, they can be planted and harvested like a spring onion with a garlic flavour – much easier than peeling them!

At the moment I am planting mesclun mixes to provide us with some sorts of leafy greens over winter. The great thing about mesclun is it usually has things like mizuna – which I love because it is so versatile in the kitchen. It can be used in salads or Asian-style soups; it’s related to the more common “Asian” vegetables and has a similar taste, but it needs much less cooking time.

Normally by now I would have a couple of beds full of leafy greens and Asian veg but with all the rain we had early in the season a lot of my seedlings were decimated by snails. Some are finally coming along but I fear it may be a bit late for them to grow to maturity.
However, radishes are a good year-round planting for the mountains – especially given that their leaves are edible. I tend to plant a lot of daikon and French Breakfast radishes, but there is a huge selection of different varieties of radishes that can be used for pickles, salads, stews and roasting… and they are so, so very easy to grow.

Going into winter is also a good time to be making lots of compost because giving the compost several months of maturing only improves it – and there is a plethora of available materials at the moment: autumn leaves, spent tomato plants and pumpkin vines. A friend of mine cuts a couple of lawns each week and he leaves the grass beside my driveway. I let it dry out and break down and use it in my compost piles and bins.

Alternatively, sowing a green manure mix now is a good way to help build up organic matter content in the soil. You can buy green manure mixes from several of the seed companies or you can make one up using peas, radishes, beans and mustards – anything that can fix nitrogen and develop a large amount of organic mass. They get chopped up and left on a bed before they flower and go to seed (to avoid creating a problem with weeds). The organic matter breaks down and feeds the soil fauna, holds moisture and adds nitrogen which assists with leaf growth.

So there’s plenty you can do to enjoy a great winter season in your garden!

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 – next one is on Friday 3rd June 9.00am – 12.00pm.

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