Holidays and lockdowns almost over, time to get in the garden!
March is a busy month. Tomatoes are coming to an end and preserving is happening apace. I just stick with the basic recipes of tomato relish, tomato sauce and bottling tomatoes to add to cooking in the winter. There are more adventurous recipes in the latest Organic NZ magazine.
Our lettuces are getting some shade from the warm late summer sun and thriving as a result – just a piece of shadecloth pegged to the bird netting works a treat.
The kumara patch is running away, so that’s had a trim – if you cut off excess foliage, the plants put more energy into the tubers. I’ve also given them a liquid feed of fish and seaweed.
The rest of the garden gets just liquid seaweed as a tonic. It’s quite a good idea to do this on a monthly basis throughout the year.
The pile of kumara leaves went into our biomass pile which I figured was high enough to make a hot compost out of.
My pile had
- broken down wood chips as the first layer, then
- grass clippings,
- egg cartons,
- biomass (which is the remains of crops and flowers which are too big to go in the worm farm – they pile up happily for several months without attracting anything unwanted),
- rock dust and chicken manure as the activators, and finally
I watered the biomass at every layer as much of it was dry and dusty, then watered again after every soil layer. I repeated this layering 4 times, finally covering it all with black plastic.
Hopefully we’re up to somewhere near 70°C in 48 hours’ time.
48 hours later and it was steaming… if you can’t read this, it says 63.9°C. I think it would have been hotter in the middle, but I just had a kitchen temperature gauge.
I have 18 plants in the garden this year, so I’ve found 18 nodules to pot up so I can replace this year’s plants completely. You can leave strawberry plants in the ground for up to 2-3 years, but new plants will always be more vigorous and produce better. It also means I can plant them nice and early in May and they’ll start fruiting early. Plant shops don’t sell them till around the end of June. Fill your pots with potting mix and plant the nodules on the runners in them. Undo paper clips to make a little pin and pop that on the runner side – this is so they don’t accidentally disconnect from the pot. Leave the plants for at least 3 weeks and when they’re obviously rooted and shooting away, that’s time to cut the ‘umbilical cord’.
Leeks have revived themselves since their trip in the courier van and are coming along nicely – looking forward to a good crop this year.
I cut back the powdery mildew leaves of our first zucchini and have had a couple of nice zucchini from the plant since then. Just keeping it in here till the new pup starts producing.
In March we also start to plan for winter. Get out your pen and paper (and rubber!) and start planning how you’ll rotate your crops for winter. The ideal rotation is
Nitrogen-fixing – root – fruiting – leafy green
BUT, it’s very difficult to stick to this perfectly as crops all take different times to mature – and you don’t have fruiting plants in winter. Best effort is good enough!
And I’m sowing brassica seeds – broccoli, cauliflower, kale and cabbage – ready for planting out in April…
- wash and sterilise old containers in white vinegar
- sieve potting mix
- make labels with the date of sowing on the back
- use piece of dowel or similar to make indented rows
- sow seeds
- soak in diluted liquid seaweed bath to get off to a good start!
Just a reminder that heading Broccoli ‘Marathon’ and Cauliflower ‘All The Year Round’ are good varieties for a climate that has a mild winter.
The beauty shot spot this time goes to the new cucumber – just looks so healthy!
Enjoy the beginning of Autumn!
From Jan and Rob