Today, 800 million people around the globe are engaged in urban agriculture, which can produce up to 15 times more food than a rural plot of the same size, according to the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) of the United Nations. In addition, the FAO notes, urban farming “generates employment, recycles urban wastes, creates greenbelts, and strengthens cities’ resilience to climate change.”
Not only that, but doing something productive like growing some of your own food is satisfying and getting your hands into the soil can bring a glow to your cheeks, microbes to your gut and consequently a smile to your whole body!
Did you know that Australia has the longest history of food growing in the world? I recently read an eye-opening book called Dark Emu by Bruce Pascoe, about how the Aboriginal peoples of Australia were not just hunters and gatherers but also successful, innovative farmers; saving and sowing seeds, dividing roots and making extraordinarily complex fish traps way before any other civilization on earth. You may have seen Bruce Pascoe on Gardening Australia’s first show for the year, last week.
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!
Yes it is lovely to stand about and day dream while spraying water with a hose, over the leaves of hot, dry plants. I do it often but it benefits mostly me, not the plants, as water needs to soak all the way down (and out) to the root tips, which may be 20cms below the surface and at least the same out from the stem.
- Buy a rose (ie a hose fitting) that cascades like a watering can head and simply adjusts the flow by turning the head or operating a lever with your thumb. I bought mine from Bunnings. Never use a gun style or those dreadful ones that only change the shape of the jet. I think people who design watering attachments should have to be gardeners!
- For hand watering in the garden, water each plant for a few minutes. What I do is walk around the garden beds several times because it is quite hard to stand still and water one plant for very long!
- Use a sprinkler, if you are on town or dam water or have another plentiful supply. Leave it on for an hour. Reduce the frequency of your watering. The roots will grow deeper and withstand much hotter weather.
- Use a deep hay mulch, lightly shaken over the soil. The water will penetrate and not just water the roots but also keep the microbes happy where the hay meets the soil.
- For my tomatoes, which can suffer with diseases if watered overhead, I have installed a line of 13mm irrigation pipe and inserted finger drippers between each tomato plant. These have adjustable little knobs that distribute water out to the size of a spread hand, like fingers. I attach a hose once a week and leave it on for at least an hour. This way every tomato plant receives a deep watering over both sides, a good 30cms or more from the stem. As the plants mature and when the weather is cooler, they need less water. This is also good for cucumbers and zucchinis which prefer not to be watered on the leaves too much.
- Group plants together that have similar water requirements.
Side dressing time
Side dressing means a supplementary feed once the plants are well established. A good thing to do for hungry plants in our short summer season to keep them powering along before the weather changes. Now is a good time to side dress fruit producing vegetables, such as tomatoes, zucchinis, pumpkins, capsicums and eggplants (if you are clever enough to grow them here). A dose of potash, well watered-in with a watering can of fish fertiliser (preferably the one that uses carp which is a nasty pest fish in the Murray River) and seaweed extract is my recommendation.
Early February is the last chance to feed your citrus because new growth stimulated to grow later, when autumn is approaching, will result in the tips being burnt off, even if the plants are in a sheltered place, simply because of the cold on tender citrus shoots. I use poultry pellets and the carp fish fertiliser.
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.
Books of the month
Dark Emu by Bruce Pascoe
The Mix and Match Guide to Companion Planting by Josie Jeffery
Australian Herbal by Penny Woodward