Its the middle of winter and its cold, unpleasant and grey, gardening is the first thing on my mind.
Right now in my garden, things are pretty slow growing, which creates an abundance of time for me. Planting has reduced to some peas and carrots, and the last thing I transplanted was some beetroot and silverbeet, oh and some mini cabbage I spotted at a seedling stall. The kale and silverbeet aren’t too fussed about regrowing after harvest, the cauliflower and broccoli are tight like clenched hands on a frosty morning and the “weeds” aren’t bothering anyone. It is a very pleasant time to be in the garden, on a sunnys winter day. There is minimal wind and the whole package has a highly relaxed vibe… is that because spring isn’t too far away?
Winter is the time to relax and rest for me now. Everything slows, including my speed to get to the garden in the morning. Though my physical pace may have reduced, its all mental this time of year. As far as planting and transplanting go, my list is very small and Im more focused on soil prep and planning. This is my first attempt at a season plan, thanks greatly to a fellow grower and my lovely partner, both of them women.
Soil preparations are very important this time round as last year I had limited success with the fruiting crops, tomatoes, eggplants and capsicums. For success as a business I must improve on this, as a gardener I am determined to create a better environment for the plants to grow closer to their genetic potential. I am a big fan of soil testing, and have the soil tested each year. I believe this is the best way to understand, in detail, whats going on underground. Remineralising and balancing the soil is key to plant health and nutrition, and to long term viability of harvesting quality produce from the soil. With healthy soil comes healthy plants and with healthy plants comes much less pest and disease attack, so essentially Im taking the prevention over cure approach. This coincides with plant nutrition and if I can grow, eat and sell nutrient dense food I have kicked a huge personal goal from well outside the 50m mark.
In short, my latest activites have been applying amendments to beds, planting green manures (cover crops), covering old beds with plastic and composting, lots of composting.
Composting is becoming more and more of a focus of mine, though my back wishes I would look at buying it. Its hard work, calculated and very rewarding. It is a high quality input in the garden and for my seed raising mix, all made from “waste”. I wont go into composting but I will say how important diversity of ingredients are. I use all sorts of things like fish offal, manures, seaweed, lawn clippings, garden waste and various “weeds” and sawdust and straw from locally produced round bails. I focus on hot compsoting, and get a bit bummed out if its not sitting over 55 degrees. Ok, I am little obsessed about it, but as a every gardener knows, any compost is great for the garden. I really do enjoy composting mainly because I know exactly whats in it, and observing its positive effects on the plants.
Second to composting is planning. Planning can seem daunting, but after I was convinced to start, it soon became very addictive and exciting. I have progressed from scrap bits of paper to full spreadsheets and planting schedules, thanks to my partner Nat. A plan helps me ‘see’ the coming season, short falls and ensures a good succession of all the crops I want to grow. I would recommend it to those who have been putting it off. Make yourself a cuppa (though easy on the espressos) and start jotting down what you want to eat from the garden and when it grows. Before long a picture starts forming and if your anything like me you’ll find yourself looking at seed racks in all the nurserys, hardware stores and even some grocery stores! Honestly, I think I have more seeds than the local nursery. I figure if it doesn’t go to plan then I have plenty of options to recover with. Once I ventured into world of crop varieties my seed purchases increased 10 fold. But that is another factor for me in the garden, that’s to keep it interesting with uncommon varieties and utilising early, mid and late varieties. Enough on that as Im giving away trade secrets.
Right now we are enjoying plenty of broccoli, cauliflower and pumpkin. Kale and silverbeet are our leafy greens, and leeks being our winter onion variety. The sweet peas have just matured with plenty of pods behind them and the english spinach should be pickable in the next few days.
I hope you and your compost are warm and enjoying some winter soup.