March in the Vegie Patch

summer vegie patchMy favourite comment from a workshopee is this “I’m surprised at all the flowers – I thought you were all about the vegetables.” (There were of course vegetables enough to feed a small army amongst all those flowers). I don’t blame her for thinking that – my summer vegie patch does look more like a flower garden than a vegie patch. There are so many bees out there, it sounds like an airport. Which is of course, the point of all those flowers, making them as important as the vegetables.

Permaculture teaches us to provide at least three reasons for everything we do in the garden.

The flower justification list goes like this
1. I love flowers. Putting myself first like this makes it sound like I was born in the USA, but my point here is that pleasure and joy are as good a reason as any (don’t you agree?). Life is better when it’s beautiful.
2. To feed and nurture all those beneficial insects on whom my garden so relies.
3. To provide mulch for the next lot of plantings. As the flowers and greencrops finish they are chopped up and mixed with other garden ‘waste’ to make a mixed mulch to cover the soil.
4. To provide biomass for compost piles.
5. To put a smile on your face when you arrive at my place.
6. To inspire the children. Friends bought their grandchildren over the other weekend. One of the girls (a delightfully curious 7 year old) stood in front of the garden, made a grand sweeping gesture with her arms and said tell me the names of all your flowers. It made my week.

(May I take this moment to please thank the kind lady who dropped me off those gorgeous Inca marigolds – what a delight they are!)

How are your brassicas (and other winter crops) growing?

  • Another lot of brocolli, cabbage and cauli can be transplanted and more tray or direct sown. Once transplanted, liquid feed weekly to grow them fast before the cold hits. Give them a fortnightly squirt of Kiwicare Caterpillar Killer to stop the cabbage whites decimating your seedlings.
  • Rootcrops (carrots, parsnip, turnip, beetroot) can all be direct sown, and if you are counting on eating them through winter then best you boogie.
  • Coriander and rocket can be direct sown. Don’t buy a 6 pack and transplant them – they’ll shoot off to seed on the next hot day. Spend $3.50 on a pack of seed with 50 potential plants in it and sprinkle a few seed each month directly in the garden until they elf seed of their own accord.
  • Parsley, celery, kale and silverbeet are the backbone of my winter kitchen and all need to be transplanted out this month. It’s too late to sow them now and get a winter crop,  so if you don’t have the seedlings raised then go buy them. All of these will respond well to regular liquid feeds.
  • Winter greencrops like oats, wheat, lupin and mustard should all be going in this month. Oats and wheat are magic for heavy soils – those big root systems open them up, and at the other end of their life they make the best mulch.
  • Vary the saladings you grow to better suit the cooler weather. If miners lettuce and cornsalad aren’t already established self seeders in your patch then throw some of this seed about too.
  • Sow lots of flowers. This is really important to be sure the bees are well fed through winter and spring.

Collect some cow do’s

I have it on my list this month to raid the paddocks next door for cow do’s. I love the soil a few months after cow manure’s been applied – it’s just gorgeous, and gross feeders like celery, saladings and brassicas think so too. If I lived by a beach it’d be seaweed I’d be gathering and using instead – the big fat juicy bits. Make a cow do liquid feed and grow the biggest brocolli in the neighbourhood. (We act coy, but the truth is vegetable gardeners are a competitive, envious bunch)


  1. Hi Kath,
    Could you please expand on how to process the cow poo after you’ve gathered it. Does it need to fester for a while before putting on the veggie patch if so does it need to be added to water? Or do you just chuck it onto the soil in it’s original form!?

    • Hi Elise

      Choose either of these
      Have an ongoing ‘dung’ heap as all the gardeners of old did down the back of the garden somewhere so you’ve always got rotten manure at your finger tips. Rotten manure can be used straight on the garden around hungry vege seedlings. This is my top pick and a fab habit to get into.
      Use fresh manure in your bed preparation – ie where seedlings wont be planted for 3 or 4 or more weeks. A good way to prepare spring beds is to cover a bed in manure then mulch it and let it sit through winter – wonderful spring soil!!
      Make a liquid manure with it
      Put fresh manure in a bucket of water and soak for a week then use, if you dont have rotten manure available.
      happy gardening

  2. Hi Kath
    I would like to send you a copy of our book The Grower’s Cookbook by Dennis Greville and Jill Brewis, with a view to you mentioning it on your website. See:
    It’s such a perfect fit for what you do, and I can give you a very generous split on whatever is sold through your website, as well as doing the distribution from here. There’s no risk or upfront payment required by you.
    Let me know what you think.
    Kind regards

    • Hi Linda
      Thanks for your message!
      Sounds all good, and I’m happy to do this but would like to check out the book first.
      kind regards, Kath

  3. Are Phacelia and Buckwheat more suitable as summer greencrops or can these be planted all year round too?
    Thanks so much for your wonderful advice each month it makes such a difference to my own garden but also the schools and community gardens I work in.

    • You are welcome! Yes, phacelia and buckwheat are warmer weather greencrops. They both have a quick turn around so you could get one in if sown now. My favourite winter greencrops are barley, oats, wheat, lupin, broadbean and mustard, all can be sown from now on. Happy gardening

  4. Hi Kath, Cow manure is great but you might like to share with your readers that the manure from llama and alpaca can be used straight onto the garden with no need to age. Their metabolism means that their manure is already well processed. Plus the boys make shared poo piles so you don’t have to traipse over the paddock

    • Thanks Judy! Yes alpaca manure is great – probably hard to access for most people though. And it’s fab the way they have a toliet spot, if only cows did that!

  5. Kate Bowden says:

    Hi Kath,
    My vege garden also looks like a flower patch… we eat a lot of the flowers too and make tea. I was wondering if you use Neem oil at all and what you think of it?

    • Hi Kate

      Pleased to meet another flower child!

      I love Neem. It’s my go to spray when sucking insects reproduce a bit too rapidly for my liking. Of course with all those flowers around the beneficial insect population is huge – meaning nature is taking care of most problems, but when the climate flips out and the insects breed – thats when the Neem comes out. Here’s some good info for you

      best Kath

  6. Hi Kath
    What can I do for scale and sooty mould on my lime, lemon and orange trees? They all have flowers, fruit n new growth simultaneously.

    • Hi Kathryn

      Neem is your best friend! Spray fortnightly to catch the new generations until the aphids (causing the sooty mould) and scale give up. If your citrus are dense and twiggy give them a light prune to cut out the twiggy bits and let light and air in. If you haven’t already them give them a feed with a nice layer of compost, rok solid or rotten manure or seaweed and mulch well.
      best Kath