Kitchen Garden Guides

Tuesday, February 27, 2018

December 2017 Kitchen Garden Guide

Hot, very hot and dry. Suddenly cold. Then windy and VERY wet for days and days. Now warm again! What a couple of weeks we have had and if your body is out of kilter, think for a moment about your garden. At least you could go inside and avoid the worst of it!


Garlic: Garlic does not like to be wet once its bulbs are maturing! Now it is saturated at the worst possible time. I pulled my early garlic last week when I heard the forecast. Now I am going to check my mid season and late season garlics by digging up a couple. If you see any signs of the stem going floppy or if your soil is clay (and therefore waterlogged and devoid of oxygen) dig them immediately and lay out in a tin shed to thoroughly dry off. For good storage, garlic needs to be firm and dry. 

Once you have harvested your garlic, plant out with other lime-lovers such as broccoli and be sure to plant amongst some camouflage like marigolds and leeks and add an aphid repellant too, like nasturtiums. There is more on this, below.

Tomatoes: There may be outbreaks of diseases so check regularly, over the next couple of weeks, for yellowing leaves, general wilt, spotty or curled leaves or purple leaf veins. Pick off any affected leaves and dispose of. Some of these symptoms may mean the plants should be relaced. A dose of liquid seaweed solution could help them fight off diseases. Listen to Peter Cundall’s radio show as I bet he will be inundated with questions about too much rain in the vegie garden.

Beans: If, like me, you sowed beans only a day or 2 before the big rain, the bean seeds may rot before they germinate. If the seedlings have not emerged soon, dig in with your finger and have a look so you can re-sow quickly, while the soil is deliciously damp, if needs be. Now is the perfect time to sow beans, after rain. Do not water until they emerge.

Mildew and other fungal attacks

Usually these come towards the end of the summer, when plants like zucchinis are coming to the end but this wet then warm weather may breed up spores very quickly. I use a spray of 1 part milk to 9 parts water, thoroughly over the leaves but I have also recently heard of using carb soda to ward off mildew on gooseberries. Check out the Gardening Australia website for more on this.

Plant out in the damp soil

Sow and plant cucumbers, zucchinis, corn, sunflowers, salad greens, herbs, flowers and everything you can get your hands on. After rain is the best time to get plants going. Even though the soil is still damp, always water your seedlings in. Why? Because every tiny root hair needs to be in contact with the soil to work its magic and extract nutrients from the soil. Watering in is the only way to ensure this happens.

Camouflage, deception and more

Sow brassicas now, in pots, for next winter’s broccoli, cauliflower, red cabbage and Brussels sprouts harvest. As they emerge, keep them covered with netting to keep those pesky cabbage moths away or cut out little moth shapes from white plastic (eg icecream or yoghurt containers) and string them about to fool the moths into thinking there are already moths in that area. I have some larger broccoli plants in pots, ready to plant out (heaven only knows why I grew them this time of year!). I will dot them about amongst lettuce, herbs and tall flowers like cosmos so that the moths cannot fly overhead and immediately pick out a row of broccoli to lay their eggs on. Camouflage also works for distracting birds away from my raspberries, some of which are overhung by tree mallows and others are along one side of a large apple tree. I am a seriously lazy gardener and try to use nature as my ally.

Growing Basil ….

Unpredictable and tricky until you find what works, basil is loved by everyone! Here is what I have discovered works for me: I sow in trays in December, only the large leaf varieties such as Genovese and Lettuce Leaf which grow fast in our climate and have fabulous flavour. The seeds take a while to germinate so be patient, keep the soil damp but not wet. Once germinated, water with a weak seaweed solution until they are big enough to transplant. I put several plants into each 20cm pot with a rich potting mix and keep them in my little hot house, as they hate the cold. I like to have 6 pots, some sown early Dec. and some later. They don’t mind a bit of shade as long as it is nice and warm and if you live somewhere consistently warmer than my place they may be fine outside. Don’t overwater and do pick regularly.

December Jobs

January Jobs
Sow seeds: beans, squash, cucumbers, basil, carrots, celery, lettuce, leeks, parsley, sunflowers, radish, parsnip, pumpkin, chicory.
Sow seeds: Lots of winter veg benefit from summer sowing so they reach a good size to plant out in autumn: fennel, Brussel sprouts, red cabbage, leeks, kale, beetroot.
Plant out: corn, tomatoes, cucumbers, pumpkin, other veg seedlings, potatoes, potted herbs,
Basil: keep in greenhouse in good sized pots with rich soil and water well but allow to drain well before watering again.
Fill in spaces with flowers, comfrey, daisies, herbs and love.
Dec and Jan:
-      Mulch vegetable garden well, preferably with old hay
-      Mulch fruit trees well, preferably with bark chips
-      Feed food garden with seaweed solution for pest resistance and fish emulsion or home made brews
-      Harvest and enjoy!

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