September In the Vegie Patch

September’s plate is refreshingly green – saladings, celery, parsley, silverbeet, kale, cabbage, nettle, fennel, cabbage, brussels, broccoli and if you are lucky asparagus too. All these cleansing greens come just at the right time to clean our bodies out of stews and puds. (Think of it like doing an oil change on your car) Fresh picked, raw plant foods are so nourishing – get into them. If you’ve lost the spring in your step then have a feed of raw greens once a day.

Plant and sow like there is no tomorrow! Keep rolling your beds over. As soon as they empty, refill to keep your garden growing. Focus on what you eat (avoid plant seduction at all costs – walk away from the seedling stand!), and of course, work to your crop rotation plan. Need help getting to grips with crop rotation? Then join me on November 9th for The Abundant Vegie Patch.

Spring planting can have extra zeal to it, whereby you find yourself forgetting to leave room for summer crops. If you are dreaming of tomatoes, zucchinis and corn make sure the outgoing spring crops are finished in time. Check how long from seed to harvest before you plant. Vege like bok choy, kale and mesclun are ready a month after transplant, and will provide a load of meals until such time as you need to remove them. At this point they go from being your food to the compost piles food.

To help you get your timing right and create a bountiful spring garden whilst getting ready for summer abundance join me in my next workshop Spring in the Vegie Patch.

If I was short on time and space my top crops right now would be quick turn around ones that can be direct sown like mesclun mix, coriander, radish, rocket, salads, bok choy or kale. Carrots and beetroot take longer from seed to harvest but take up small space for a lot of harvest so make sure to fit them in.

Plant out: Broccoli, cabbage, bok choy, silverbeet, parsley, salads, spinach, onions, celery
Direct sow: carrots, beetroot, radish, parsnip, red onions, mesclun, bok choy, coriander, rocket and peas.
Tray sow: salads, parsley, chervil and lots of companion flowers.
If you have a greenhouse (or cloches) then you can be sowing tomatoes, zuchinnis, cucumbers and dwarf beans. Treat your greenhouse like your garden and rotate crops around.

Christmas spuds

potatoes chittingKeep the kiwi Christmas tradition alive and get some seed potatoes sprouting. Its a proud moment providing fresh new spuds for the family table. (Besides which digging up some spuds is easier than making a pud!) I like to encourage stocky sprouts – the kinds you get from leaving your seed potatoes in the light. Spuds left in the dark grow thin weedy sprouts that knock off easily. Everyone has there own style, some prefer the long weedy sprouts that grow in the dark. The truth is they both work.

If you are short on space then grow your christmas spuds in a bucket. Simply drill holes in the bottom of your chosen container, cover the bottom with some lovely mature compost and some comfrey leaves if you have them (cut the leaves don’t pull them or the stub on the bottom will regrow). Lay seed potatoes a top at 30cm spacings and cover with more compost. Give a light water and a dusting of mulch. When the leaves are about 30cm high top up with more organic matter. Don’t bury all of the leaves – leave the tips poking out. If you don’t have enough compost never fear potatoes will happily grow in most things – straw, hay, grass clippings, leaves, rotten sawdust … make a brew of whatever you have lying around and pile it on. Carry on piling up until you reach the top.

Garlic

How are your garlics growing? They should have good size shoots on them by now. If you want nice fat bulbs then you need to keep them weed free. Removing small weeds is easy with a long handled straker or hoe. Let them grow big at your peril! Removing established weeds from your garlic crop is time consuming and can dislodge the bulbs. Once weeded choose your mulch carefully. I like a light airy mulch like rotten sawdust or chopped up bracken fern. Garlic rots easily at the point the stem meets the bulb, and is prone to fungus so avoid thick, wet mulches like hay and grass clippings.

Pests

Hard to believe that aphids and whitefly are already around and about. This lovely mild winter has come at a price. Lots of nitrogen fertiliser will encourage sap suckers to gorge on your plants, so be mindful when feeding this spring to choose mature compost, rotten poo and mineral fertilisers above artificial fert and fresh manure. Get in some sticky yellow traps and hang them up now (especially if you have a greenhouse.) These work best out of the wind at the tops of affected plants. As soon as you see the proof on the trap then spray with Neem. Do this fortnightly until there is no more evidence. Its like getting the weeds when they are small – quite brainy.

Miners lettuce looking green in the spring garden