|Posted on 1 August, 2016 at 18:45|
I love winter! And sadly as I write this, we don't have months left of winter, we have days! Yeah I know, right now, look outside and you can't really tell Spring is in the air - but things are starting to take shape...
Spring is definitely in the air and the soil is getting warmer. Lets talk about planting vegetables and seeds which can now go in, while many of our trees, shrubs, houseplants and perennials are beginning to demand their nutrients. Pruning is still being carried out, deciduous plants being planted, perennials divided, lawns made and the ground is being dug or prepared for later sowing or plantings.
In the vegetable garden, don't go silly and use up all your space. And remember if you live in a cool district, i.e. the Southern Tablelands, it is still too early for tomatoes, capsicums, French of climbing beans, sweetcorn or pumpkins. But leave them plenty of room. Now for potatoes, plant a row or two, either directly into the soil, or on top of the ground with a thick layer of straw and manure spread over them. Even if you decide to plant in the orthodox way, you can still place a layer of straw over the surface too. The potato tops will have no problem about penetrating it as they grow, and meanwhile weeds will be effectively suppressed.
In most well-cultivated soil, worked to a good tilth, sow seed of carrot, parsnip and beetroot. Get rid of old seed and buy new if you wish to ensure an even rapid germination. Don't forget, carrot and parsnip seed can be a bit slow or erratic in cool soil, so don't get upset if the first 'patch' are not spectacular. And as my son says, "you get what you get, and you don't get upset"! You can help this process by mixing the seed with white sand and granulated peat. This provides a light, warm, moist seedbed to give them a good start, helps to deter some weeds and makes it easier to see exactly where you have sown for weeding purposes. Good types of carrot for deep soils are Western Red, Top-weight and Zeno.
Clay, and very shallow soils are best sown with stump-rooted types such as Early Horn or other short chantenay types. Parsnips which do well include Hollow Crown or Melbourne Whiteskin. Using fresh seed in essential.
The seeds of Beetroot are much larger, about the size of a match head. It is really a tightly-packed group of seeds, which is why more than one seedling emerges at times.
Onion seed or plants, especially of the long-keepers, can go in now too. The rule about good fresh seed certainly applies here. Brown Spanish and Cream-gold are the best of all, but like all onions they need the best soil in the garden and plenty of lime. Remember that soil which is rich, but has been fertilized for previous vegetables, is best, and avoid the use of manures or fresh fertilizers such as blood and bone at this stage. With onions, it causes onion maggot, while producing onions too large and soft for good keeping. The most important soil additive for all onions and garlic is lime. So if your soil has not had any for several years, be generous.
Most of the brassicas can be sown or planted now. The earlier they can be developed, the tastier and crisper they will be. They can also be harvested long before the big caterpillars of the white butterfly start munching away. However, leafy vegetables, including silverbeet and lettuce, are great consumers of highly nitrogenous fertilizers, especially sheep, cow, goat or poultry manures, and once they start growing fast, as they will, they will need a lot of water.
When cabbages, broccoli or similar brassicas get a little dry around their roots, another terrible pest, the cabbage moth grub, will strike deep into the hearts of these plants. So keep an eye on that!
If your garden space is limited, use smaller types of brassicas. There are excellent miniature caulies, cabbages and broccoli which can successfully be closely planted and there is very little waste at harvest time. One of my favourite cabbage is still the nuttily-sweet Sugarloaf. They can be comfortably grown four to the square metre and seed sown now will produce good yields long before Christmas.