It has been a blustery summer thus far and many days that I intended to garden were instead spent visiting friends, painting my bedroom or cooking up a storm in my kitchen. Nevertheless I have enjoyed myself and my food garden is in pretty good shape.
Pear and cherry slug
If you see tiny little black ‘worms’ on the leaves of your pears, cherries, quinces and even plums and the leaves are turning brown and crisp, you have this slug. A simple control is to spray the entire tree with a mist of water then throw ash or lime all over it. Do this a couple of times and they will be desiccated. Try to stand up-wind!
Tomatoes: I have not tied up my tomatoes as they do not like wild wind ripping through their foliage. My tomatoes and lying all over the thick hay mulch and producing lots of fruit. There are several myths about tomatoes. Here are the facts: First, they are self-pollinated so do not need bees. Slight air movement is all they require and there is plenty of that! Second, the tomatoes themselves do not need the sun to ripen; they simply need warm air temperature. Mine are ripening beautifully and I am eating even the quite large Black Krim already. Third, you don’t need to bother pricking out the laterals but you can if you want more order. Fourth, if you pick them when they just begin to colour, take them inside to somewhere warm but there’s no need to put them on a sunny windowsill.
Fruit trees: Quince fruit seems to stay on despite summer wind, as do plums, apples, olives and Kentish cherries. Contrary to what you hear, citrus also seem to thrive on my verandah and in my garden despite the wind. Young trees bearing fruit will snap off in the wind so staking is necessary. I espalier my Bramley apple as the fruit are way too big and prolific for the branches. This means that the trellis takes the weight of the fruit and far fewer seem to drop off. If you live in a very windy area, I recommend you espalier the perimeter of your garden with fruit trees, all the way around. Actually this is a wonderful, practical and beautiful way to grow fruit and is common in many English and French gardens. You can find any number of shapes and patterns online.
Strawberries: Did you know that strawberries require bees to visit the flowers several times for full pollination to happen? If you have mis-shapen fruit, the reason can be that bees are not visiting enough. I suggest you plant some other bee attracting flowers nearby, or leave some things to flower and go to seed, such as fennel, globe artichokes or chicory, all of which are magnets for bees.
Sage: This deep hay method has resulted in a vast improvement of many of my herbs. Unexpectedly I have discovered a fabulous way to multiply sage plants, simply by piling damp hay over some of the long sage stems and leaving it alone! This is called layering and came about because I am a lazy gardener. I now have a small forest of my favourite, purple sage. If you don’t cook much with sage, you must start! The flavour holds well so is wonderful in slow cooking or even on the BBQ as crisp sage leaves are gorgeous. Chopped and fried in a little butter or good olive oil, then folded into pasta is a quick and easy and totally delicious meal. Put a sage leave in the pot when you are cooking rice. If you have trouble growing basil, grow sage!
Our Tasmanian soil was never meant to grow vegetables so the things we add to it and do to it cause changes that are not well documented, here at the bottom of the world. Imagine a forest floor, deep in leaf litter, old, fallen trees and tree ferns and dappled light….. now picture a cleared vegetable garden bed in full sun. Hmmmm how can we encourage the soil life, microbes and worms that once did live in our forested soil, to live there again and help make nutrients available to our vegetables?
The answer is deep hay, at least 20cms thick, all year round. I have written about this now for well over a year and, since now is the time to buy hay, I have some tips for you. Hay ain’t hay! Hay is made up of all the plants in a paddock so, watch out for cheap hay full of thistles, dock and gorse. You will curse buying it for 7 years while the weed seeds torment you and you will blame me for suggesting it!! Ask the farmer about the hay. Look at the hay, look at the weeds growing in the ditches nearby and don’t buy hay from a farmer that cannot answer your questions or a farm surrounded with thistles and bad weeds. And don’t buy hay from a farmer that uses chemicals as they also will be in the hay and end up in your vegetables. I can direct you to where I get hay. Email me at email@example.com
Zucchinis, berries and more
If you need some recipes, check out Gardeners’ Gastronomy blog.
Seeds to sow now
Asian greens (late Feb.)
Spinach & silver beet
Plant out now, yes now, or before!
Broccoli – regular, sprouting and raab
Jobs for February
Plant or move citrus
Summer prune stone fruits
Prepare beds for autumn plantings
Save seeds for next spring
Give pots and the veg. garden some seaweed and fish liquid feed in a hosable spray.