There’s been frost, snow, frozen pipes, frozen plants, no wind and too much wind as well as unusually warm days and nights, through June. One thing has been constant in south eastern Tasmania; not enough rain to wet the soil beyond a few centimetres or to fill tanks and dams. Let’s hope things are different during July. Keep watering your celeriac or risk no bulbing.
Some plants love frost and others hate it. Some plants are ok if they are eased into it but this year it came hard and fast after some very balmy weather. Edible things which hate sudden, hard frosts include my Lisbon lemon tree and most other citrus, hearting lettuce, nasturtiums, and, obviously, warm weather vegetables like tomatoes, pumpkins etc. Even the Meyer lemon and the limes in tubs on my verandah had their tips burnt by that recent, very cold night or two, which has never happened before.
I was once in Japan in late autumn and saw workers wrapping special shrubs and small trees in parks with bundles of straw to keep them safe from the cold. They still looked beautiful as only the Japanese know how! I know from experience that just covering my lemon with either multiple layers of lace curtains or plastic and even surrounding it in bales of hay, stacked 2 high is not enough. I am going to do a full-scale straw wrap, Japanese style, this week before any more damage is done. It does not matter that it will exclude light as very little work is done by tender plants over winter. At least it should survive.
I grow vegetables in every season and both myself and the vegetables I grow revel in a good, hard frost. These include brassicas (broccoli, red cabbage and kales in particular), chard, oniony things, fennel, some loose leaf lettuces, sorrel, garlic, Asian greens such as bok choy, wasabi greens, mustard greens, mizuna, radishes, carrots, parsnips, swedes, celeriac and some herbs such as chervil, coriander, nettles, bay, calendula, chives and parsley. Do you need any more? Sow these in summer and early autumn…. put it in your e-diary for next year.
Every afternoon I feed my chooks organic grains that have been soaked at least 24 hours. If I have whey or something else fermented, like kefir or kombucha or yoghurt, I add a bit of that to the soaking water. In winter I include whole sunflower seeds and /or cracked corn (even polenta will do) which are warming and will sit in their crops overnight, helping to reduce cold stress. They keep laying all winter.
You know those big, horrible, black compost bins (a great breeding ground for red back spiders in Adelaide!) that people buy then hate then give away? Well, a friend and I are experimenting using them as massive bokashi bins. Bokashi is a system that breeds lots of wonderful micro-organisms without oxygen, so without turning! Every time you add some garden waste to the bin you squash it down hard and sprinkle with a bit of bokashi inoculated bran (easy and cheap at hardware shops). You never have to turn it and can add stuff whenever you like. It won’t smell yukky either. Once it is full, leave it for a month or so. Delicious. I reckon this is going to be a winner because you can put a bin anywhere in your garden, fill it at your leisure and all the goodies will leach out the bottom too. Bokashi is advertised to be used in your kitchen, for cooking scraps, using special buckets which drain, which I also do, but I reckon outside bokashi is going to be amazing. Once fully composted, dig it into your garden beds and watch your vegetables go mad!
Fermented compost update
(See May 2019 for the intro to this method that I saw being used at Government House).
So, after 2 weeks we removed the tarp as directed and white fungus was everywhere. It was so exciting. We had thought that turning the heap would be difficult because we had added a lot of very long tromboncino/pumpkin vines but already, after only 2 weeks, they had shrivelled and were almost indistinguishable from everything else. Turning was easy peasy. Following the instructions, we sprayed over more microbes, piled it all up, covered with the tarp, trampled it down and secured the tarp so it stays relatively air-free for another 2 weeks. Stay tuned….
Sow in July
Sow now in the frosty garden: Onions (Creamgold, Domenica Sweet), leeks, broad beans, tic bean green manure
Sow now in the hothouse in trays to plant out asap or outside in frost free areas: Coriander, miners’ lettuce, spring onions, Asian veg, lettuce, bok choy, sugar snap peas, lettuce,
Sow now to transplant in spring: Broccoli varieties such as summer purple- sprouting and raab , red cabbage, kales, tomatoes.
· Get started on making fermented compost or bokashi compost.
· Plant asparagus crowns, cut off old asparagus stalks and add seaweed and compost
· Divide and replant clumps of chives and other perennial onions, rhubarb, strawberries, sunchokes and mint
· Plant out deciduous trees and shrubs, bare-rooted fruit trees, cane fruits and grape vines.
· Sort your seeds for the coming season
· Get your favourite tomato seeds before they are sold out. Sow later in July.
· Sow microgreens inside, in shallow trays of compost, for an enzyme hit to keep your immune system pumped during winter. Include fenugreek.
· Sprinkle fire ash judiciously right out to the drip line of fruit trees