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ALL ABOUT VEGETABLES AND MORE !

Okay lets start from the beginning, lets say spring to be precise. September brings enormous activity in the garden. During this article, I will give a few helpful tips to help you make the most of your garden, lasting all the way up until next winter!

Start mulching to suppress young weeds. However, keep the ground clear, to warm up, where tomatoes are to be grown. Plant potatoes in order to take advantage of moist conditions over the next few months. Make plenty of liquid manure, this can be used as a substitute, on a fortnightly basis instead of water. This is also the time of year to control slugs and snails. Crunching them out of existence at night under torchlight will reduce the population massively over a couple of weeks and, if the job is done properly, these pests will provide few worries for the rest of the season. Keep children and pets in mind, toxic baits can be laid.

Plant or sow globe artichoke, asparagus, beetroot, board bean, broccoli and summer cabbage. For those who live in cooler districts, if using a glass house, this is also the right time to plant capsicum, cucumber, egg plant, melon and pumpkin. At the moment, fruit trees are very popular. Gooseberry bushes should be continuously tip-pruned to help control American gooseberry mildew. Apple trees showing signs of powdery mildew must also be tip-pruned and all prunings destroyed. Place hessian or cardboard codlin moth grub-traps around the trunks of apple, pear and quince trees. Graft chilled, retarded scions on to actively growing wood this month. This is also the time to mulch around all fruit and berry plants with old hay or straw. Spray stone fruit trees for brown-rot, control with Mancozeb at full bloom, petal fall and as the withered remains of blossoms are detaching from the immature fruit (commonly called shuckfall). Old, congested lemon trees can safely be pruned now by removing all old, twiggy growth. Water heavily afterwards and spray with oil emulsion for scale control. Feed citrus with old manure, blood and bone or enriched mulching materials. Keep main stems clear. Late-prune over-vigorous plum trees to control growth. Peach aphids will keep pace with attempts to grow. Pyrethrum will provide good relief until ladybirds move in next month. Also apply weak liquid manure around strawberry plants and mulch with clean straw. Woolly aphids attacking apple trees can be wiped out with cottonwool, soaked in methylated spirit.

Now, the thought of crop rotation to some may sound confusing, but if you want to take full advantage of your vegetable garden, this is the most effective way to keep soil fertile. Also, one advantage to crop rotation is it will prevent the build-up of pests and diseases. This ensures that the same type of plant is never grown in the same piece of ground for three or more years. All plant groups have their own special cycle of parasites, pests and diseases. They gradually build up during the growing season and, if the same plants are mistakenly planted in the same place the following year, these pests etc. already have a foothold as they lie waiting in the soil. Some soil diseases, once they have been allowed to become established, can take years to be successfully eradicated. Rotation constantly shatters the growth cycle of harmful organisms and pests. The longer the period between related plants being replanted in the same place, the more effective the system will be. Here is a simple four-year rotation system, which is suitable for both large and small gardens. It is based upon keeping together plants which are either related or which are natural companions and like the same soil conditions. To start with, divide the vegetable garden into four roughly equal beds, with narrow paths between.

In bed number one: (for the sake of this article, lets say last year this bed has grown acid-loving plants such as tomatoes, capsicums and egg plants.) The ground should be limed, preferably as the last tomatoes are being harvested. In autumn, or after the harvest, sow lime-lovers such as broad beans and early peas. Later, sow maincrop peas and, as the soil warms up, bush and climbing beans. As the broad beans, then later the peas and other beans are being harvested, the vacant spaces are filled with brassicas such as broccoli, sprouts, summer and winter cabbage and cauliflowers. After the beans and peas are harvested, their haulm is cut off at the ground to leave the nitrogen-rich roots waiting to feed the hungry leaf crops.

In bed number two: (which grew the pea/bean tribe the previous year, followed by brassicas.) As the last of the winter/spring brassicas are being harvested, the main root-crops go in. These are carrots, parsnips, beetroot, onions, salsify and, if enough room, potatoes. Swedes and turnips can also be sown, even though they are closely related to the cabbage tribe. This bed was limed two years ago, and the soil is still sweet enough to grow lime-lovers such as onions and garlic.Most of the rootcrops, especially carrots, parsnips and swedes, can be left in the ground for winter pulling, but the bed should be clear by late spring. A good dressing of animal manure can be applied to be weathered-in as the rows are cleared.

Bed number three: is for the good companions, such as sweetcorn, cucumbers, pumpkins, winter squash and zucchinis. These are all planted or sown at the start of the warmest period and will thrive in the well-rotted manure which has been worked into the soil. If early-bearing winter squash such as Golden Nugget are included with long-keeping varieties such as Supermarket or pumpkin Crown Prince, a continuous supply for over a year is certain. Cucumbers, such as the climbing Burpless, can be planted adjacent to the sweetcorn stalks and encouraged to grow up them to increase yield and save room, long after the cobs have been harvested. After the bed has been cleared in late autumn, it can be sown with ryecorn, annual lupins or old pea and bean seeds, for a green-manure crop for digging-in at the end of winter.

Bed number four: has not been limed for three years, so the slightly acid soil will be perfect for tomatoes, capsicum and egg plants. Last year's green-manure has just been dug-in, so the soil will be fertile, without excessive nitrogen. Too much fertilizer when tomatoes are still without flowers will mean late crops and delayed ripening. As the tomatoes and other plants no longer bear heavily, the ground between them can be covered with lime or dolomite, ready for next season's crop of peas, beans and brassicas.

Other plants such as silverbeet and lettuce can be included in any of the sweet-soil beds and rotated as room allows. Strawberries can be grown on the fringes of any of the beds, to be replaced and moved on every three years.


So there you have it, following these quick and easy steps will provide you with results all-year round in the garden. Happy gardening and I hope your garden this spring and summer will bring you enjoyment and full of vegetables!