I write the monthly garden column for the local, weekly paper, called The Classifieds. It is published in the first Classifieds for the month which was last week. I basically write what I like but it is tricky because it covers such a range of micro-climates and I am not allowed to be too controversial !!! Sometimes there is room for photos and sometimes not. Usually I include a blog address for readers to visit and sometimes a book. This time I did neither!
Here is this month’s edition…..
Spring has sprung! In southern Tasmania this means warm, sunny moments mixed with chilly winds, big tides and plenty of rain. You can almost see the sap rising in every plant. Buds are bursting on fruit trees, winter vegetables are flowering and seeds that have been lying dormant in the soil for months are now sending up tiny shoots, soon to become our next crop of food.
Saturday September 1st was Wattle Day, Australia wide. Perfect timing for these parts; aren’t the wattles amazing this year! I have them dotted about in my garden and, together with masses of mixed daffodils, they turn my garden green and gold for months. As the wattles stop flowering, do give them a prune to keep them bushy and lush.
Before bud burst on many fruit trees it is worth giving another spray of Bordeaux or Burgundy mix to help reduce curly leaf (peaches and nectarines), and brown spot (some apples, especially Granny Smiths). See Peter Cundall’s recipe in the Tip of the Month box. Letting your chooks roam about under your fruit trees really reduces coddlin moth. Their sharp eyes (and beaks!) pick out the emerging larvae from the leaf litter and bark.
If you are keen to sow out in the soil but your garden is still very wet, try sowing onto ridges. I saw this done in a delightful community garden in France and also during the wet season in Singapore. Those of you who seek symmetry will adore the effect this has as the light moves across and makes shadows during the day and thin lines of green shine bright against the dark of the valleys, as the seedlings emerge. As the plants grow and the soil dries, the ridges collapse but it is enough to stop the seeds and seedlings drowning in the next few weeks. The opposite can be done when the weather is dry, ie sowing into the valleys, as in this photo, also in France.
Flowers, geese and grass
My daphne is in glorious, fragrant flower. To keep it in good shape for next year, I feed it (and the rest of the flower garden) every 3 months or so with blood and bone from the Cradoc abattoir and sometimes some potash. The leaves that fall in autumn from the deciduous trees nearby form a beautiful mat of mulch and my geese do all the weeding for me in this area simply by mowing, not scratching.
I have had 2 grey geese sisters mowing for me since last November. They are not allowed in the vegetable garden, but have free range over the rest of my acre. They eat very little besides grass, walking softly and slowly all day long, then having a good splash and swim in the pond before a midday rest on its bank. I highly recommend having 2 females.
They sleep on the water (even when the pond is frozen over!) so need no housing. The only reason you may want to feed them some grain is if you want to be able to regularly tempt them to follow you to a different area. I don’t feed them and they are perfectly happy and healthy. I have not needed to mow where they roam at all this year.
Seedlings to plants
Raising seeds is easy. All the know-how is in the seed. Turning those new seedlings into strong, healthy plants ready to plant out into your garden can be the hardest part of vegetable gardening.
This time of the year, when you have tiny tomato seedlings and you are waiting until November for the frosts to finish, there are some important tips to success.
• Pot them up gradually, not from seedling tray to large pot in one go. Make them use up the soil they are in. This will ensure you get early flowers and not just masses of leaves. When the roots start coming out the bottom, it is time to pot them up.
• Do not rely only on bought potting mix. I buy cheap potting mix and mix in ½ to 1/3 of home-made compost, plus a dash of Steve Solomon’s recipe for organic fertiliser* I also water the young seedlings with a seaweed tonic from time to time. In France I learned about stinging nettle tea as a tonic and use this now too, whenever any plants looks a bit off colour. Stinging nettles are a fabulous tool in the garden (and the kitchen!), being packed full of silicon which strengthens cell walls and helps to reduce pest and disease attack.
• To keep growth happening through September, while the nights are often still very cold, supply tomatoes with warmth. Even a little will do, especially at night.
• Provide bright light. Weak seedlings often result from not enough strong sunlight.
• In a sheltered spot, on warm days, put them outside. A perpetually sheltered environment (such as a hot house) is a sure fire way of producing weak plants. Tough love helps the youngster to grow into a confident and happy adult. And it is good for your plants too!
Seed sowing guide
Outside (late Sept if very cold)
Tip of the month
Peter Cundall’s Burgundy mix (http://www.abc.net.au/gardening/stories/s1631445.htm)
Bordeaux and Burgundy mix fungicidal sprays were developed in France, originally as a means of controlling problems of mildew on grape vines. They are also useful as a relatively safe means of controlling leafcurl disease of peach and nectarine trees, brown rot of stonefruit, brown spot on apples, raspberry leaf rust and other fungal diseases of plant. Do not use on plants in leaf.
Into half a plastic 10 litre bucket of tepid water add 100g washing soda (from the supermarket).
*The new edition of Steve’s book “Growing Vegetables South of Australia” is available at the Cygnet Market.