March Gardening Guide – Mediterranean climate

cheeky pumpkin

Cheeky pumpkin growing in a lime tree, with a while to go until ripe

I think we’ve reached the turning point. Time to turf out the finished summer veg (by which I mean hot compost them into nutritious garden goodness), renew the soil and get some autumn goodies going into the patch.

Here I have mountains of fruit tree prunings and bags of local horse manure waiting to form the carbon + nitrogen basis of my hot compost. The finished zucchini and tomato plants, corn husks and stalks, kitchen scraps and coffee grounds, along with some dynamic accumulators like comfrey, dandelion and borage, will help to round out the mix of nutrients, along with any hair and toenail trimmings, dust from the floors, shredded newspapers or cardboard packaging – anything that once lived, and that I can cut small enough to break down quickly! Then it’s a matter of mixing and containing all the ingredients in manageable heaps or bins, and keeping them both moist and aerated, preferably by turning a couple of times a week under a showering hose, until the whole lot is a broken-down, unsmelly, black, moist, delicious chocolate cake.

I will leave out of my compost the pumpkin vines that want another month or two to finish ripening their load, the eggplant, capsicum and chili plants that will bear again for another summer or two, the asparagus tops that haven’t yellowed yet (so they can store all the remaining goodness in their roots) and anything that’s too chunky for me to easily chop into pieces the size of a fat strawberry. I don’t like using a noisy mulcher, so some branches will be just be broken up a bit and used as chop’n’drop mulch under the native shrubs.

Planting:

Most brassicas, root vegetables and salad greens are reliable growers now, and if they have a chance to put on some good growth before the soil cools down, they will provide a greater overall yield than if planted later. Sow broccoli, cabbage, kale, and kohlrabi. If pak choi and radishes are grown between them when transplanted to their beds, these will mature for an earlier harvest and then leave room for the larger brassicas to grow. For root vegetables try beetroot, carrot, parsnip, swede and turnip. Fresh seed is by far the best, and mixing carrot seed with sand helps with more even distribution. Sow these direct rather than transplanting, for strong taproots. Early garlic can also go in this month. Seasonal salad greens include endive, lettuces (I always favour loose-leaf types that can be picked from the outside over months), mizuna, radiccio, rocket and spinach – and add colour and flavour to those salads with calendula petals and herbs such as parsley, coriander, basil and chives.

We’re reaching the end of the bean season and almost at the start of the pea season, so I have thrown in a mixture of both to hedge my bets about the early autumn weather (and thanks to the good folks of Wagtail Farm and Village Greens for that tip!) – bush (dwarf) forms of both for quick yields with little support required. Whichever doesn’t produce can be dug in as a green manure prior to my winter vegies.

Featured Permaculture principle: Obtain a yield

Sometimes gardening is about working now to achieve long-term goals; sometime it’s about just enjoying what you have or what you find! Having finished eating and preserving most of our summer fruits, we suddenly found ourselves on the receiving end of many other people’s surplus fruits – figs, peaches, bananas and more figs for example! Accepting these gifts and incorporating them into our breakfasts for several weeks was a welcome opportunity to rest up a little and get refreshed ready for the next round of planting, while saving our preserves for the cooler and less fruity months.

Visit Nadja’s Garden at Organic Corner Store market on Thursday March 3 and 17, and in the Permaculture SA tent at Womadelaide on Monday March 14. Follow on Facebook.

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This entry was posted in autumn, Food, legumes, permaculture principles, planning, planting, seeds, vegetables. Bookmark the permalink.

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