16 February 2018
After such an intensely hot January, February has been dominated so far by rain. I can’t recall this much rain ever in what is usually the hottest and driest period of the gardener’s year.
Anyway, we’re now entering the New Moon and First Quarter phases which are great for green leafy vegetables and crops which grow their seeds inside them.
Preparing soil for planting
When preparing the ground for any new crop, remember to aerate it with a fork first, then always replace the nutrients that the last crop would have taken out. We add well-composted chicken manure and volcanic rock dust at about a handful per square metre and fork it in. Then use a rake to smooth it out before sowing seed. Heathy soil will result in healthy plants.
Firstly, we’re putting in a crop of mesclun. Although lettuce is still our main crop, mesclun gives us variety to add to our salads. Mesclun also has the benefit of being a ‘cut and come again’ crop. You can buy ready-made seed mixes or make up your own combinations, depending on what you like. My mix is made up of kale, pak choi, rocket, mizuna, mustard, tat soi, beetroot, chard and amaranth. These all grow quickly and you can start harvesting after a few weeks.
The second crop we’re sowing are dwarf green beans for a late autumn harvest. The seed germinates quickly and reliably in the warm moist soil. They’re self-supporting so there’s no need to stake them. I’m also going to save seed from this crop for next year.
After putting hoops over the seeds and netting them to keep out the birds and dogs and rabbits, we put a layer of frost cloth over the centre of the hoops. This will both protect the seeds from the midday sun and keep the heavy rain we’re experiencing from compacting the soil. This cloth is readily available from garden centres and can be re-used in winter to keep the frost off your crops.
Fruit and nuts
With the warm weather and the high amount of moisture, the subtropicals and nuts are thriving. Usually my feijoas are small bullets during February but they’re sizing up really nicely. We live in hope that we don’t get the guava moth which other parts of the country now have.
The walnuts and chestnuts are huge this year and the trees are heavily laden. It seems that as the weather becomes more extreme, some crops will thrive some years and then do poorly in others. Keeping our trees as heathy as possible as well as having a diversity of crops seems to be the way of the future!
From Rob, Jan and the Team at OEG!