1 September 2020

The beginning of September is the time to make sure you have the first of your seeds sown for spring planting. If, like me, you’re still enjoying winter greens, you can leave the sowing of spring leafy greens like rocket, perpetual spinach, Cos and iceberg lettuces, and Asian greens like bok choy and mizuna for another month. Otherwise all these leafy greens can be sown and planted now.

But it’s definitely time for us to sow seeds for tomatoes, chillis, capsicums and eggplant. We sterilise our old punnets before re-using with a splash of white vinegar in the washing water.

You can buy seed raising mix but we make seed raising mix by simply sieving potting mix. This certified organic potting mix by Revital is very nicely balanced, so we feel there’s no need to add anything to it.

Remember to label your seed rows and put the date on the back of the marker. Make nice rows for your seeds and firm down the sides (I’m using a pencil here, but a piece of angle iron or dowling would be better).

I get a good germination rate, so I usually only put one more seed in than I need.

Then back into the fridge go the seed packets. Using one of the labels, knock the sides of the mini trench back over the seeds and firm down gently. Then into the water bath which contains a couple of capfuls of liquid seaweed, to soak from the bottom up. Even soil moisture assists with good germination.

While you’ve got a liquid seaweed bath going, make sure you keep up a weekly soak for the potatoes you’re chitting. We’ll plant those in the Full Moon, although our Jersey Bennes are not as advanced as the others.

Speaking of liquid seaweed, our homemade brew is ready. Time to give the alliums, which can get rust as the weather warms up, a dosing. Give it a good stir, then I dilute the pure stuff 50/50. Could be less, but I can also fill the main container up with a bit more water.

And while we’re focussing on the alliums, the leeks need hilling up. Since they’re planted in troughs, I just knock the soil on the sides down over the plants. This will hopefully give us nice long white stems.

Still no asparagus available for the top half of this bed. I’m told it won’t be till October.

To finish off making preparations to feed our crops during the summer months, I’ve made some Black Gold. We have a pony club near us and very kindly, during the first week of our Alert Level 3 status, a mum from the club dropped off two bags of horse manure. I pinched a bit of the kelp out of the seaweed brew and got a sleeve of used coffee grounds from the local café and away I went. Key thing is to keep the top of the bag open so it can breathe. This will be good in a couple of months’ time.

Another job has been to nip the flowers off the strawberries. They’re still quite small plants and we want nice robust plants to produce big juicy fruit. That means allowing the plant to put all its growing energy into the root ball.

Lovely winter greens are the cabbages and this broccoflower. Our regular cauliflowers didn’t hold their tight shape. I think it’s the variety. Next year I’ll try ‘All Year Round’ which I believe does better in a warmer climate like ours. Still tasted good though!

This is our brassica bed where they’re coming out of.

What this bed indicates is the challenge of crop rotation. Last summer, we had tomatoes here, then for winter we had our brassicas, and now it’s the turn of root crops. I need to get carrots and parsnips in here during the Full Moon phase and there’s just enough room in the middle of the bed to do that. When the remaining brassicas are eaten, we’ll have room to sow beetroot and radishes which are not so time critical for sowing.

Lastly, our fruit trees. All fruit trees should be fed in spring and evergreens like citrus and feijoa, twice yearly, in spring and autumn. Firstly I cleared weeds away from the base of the tree, then added some of our freshly baked compost, and next came chicken manure and rock dust. Then the citrus got lawn clippings as mulch (they like the warmth the grass generates) and the rest of the fruit trees got wood chips as mulch. If your citrus leaves are looking a bit yellow or pale, put a cup of Epsom Salts into a bucket of water, allow it to dissolve then pour over the top of the tree, leaves and all.

We lost our avocado tree last year and I think it was because I’d got it with an online order during winter when it was too cold to plant, and it struggled to survive sitting in its bag. I have heard about a dwarf avocado, but Rob says it’s better to grow a normal size avo and just keep it pruned to 2 metres. That’s not the case with our citrus on dwarf rootstock, due to the great Flying Dragon rootstock. So here goes for the second time. This time I’m planting the avo a bit earlier to help it get established before the weather gets dry and I’m also adding a generous amount of sand in the bottom of the hole (mixed in with soil and compost), just in case it was our slightly clay soil that caused it to get too dry or too wet feet. Be very careful getting the tree out of its bag – avos don’t like root disturbance. And we’ve made a little windbreak for it too.

Fingers crossed!

Happy spring gardening…

From Jan, Rob and the Team at OEG!

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