I find April the mellowest month of the year. The days are short enough now and the sun mild enough to really enjoy soaking up some rays, while there’s still a great range of garden snacks to graze on. While the conditions are perfect for planting, it’s also just a perfect time to pause and do nothing in the garden. By which I mean just be in the garden. Decisions about what to do in the garden seem to flow much better after that.
Snacking might include persimmons, lillypillies, autumn raspberries and mulberries, late figs, melons, pomegranates, apples, pears and nashis. Then for dinner, some eggplant, pumpkin, chillies, capsicum, basil, parsley, spring onions and salad greens, putting aside their seeds to clean, dry and store.
As the sun starts to shift towards its winter position you pick up clues about where the winter shadows will fall and where the cosy sun traps will remain. You also remember what you planted in those beds last season, and the time before that, and you choose a new family of veg to take their turn in the rotation for this season.
Re-energised after some resting and feasting, you pack away the last of the summer shade materials, cut back unwieldy vines to rediscover lost paths, prune the apricot trees and mulch or make compost.
Any empty beds have their soils replenished with compost, well-rotted manures and fertiliser. The beds with no immediate career plans get planted with green manure seeds to improve their soil.
The weeds that have sprung up since the first autumn rain are pulled out and replaced with native tubestock – shrubs, ground covers, trees, grasses – to attract birds and insects into the garden, to provide windbreaks and flowers and more mulching material in years to come.
And you sow carrot seeds, artichoke and asparagus crowns, soaked beetroot and silverbeet/rainbow chard seeds…plant seedlings of broccoli, cabbage and cauliflower…wonderful mixed bouquets of lettuces and kale… onion and spring onion sets, and garlic cloves pushed in thumb-deep.
Featured Permaculture principle: Apply self-regulation and accept feedback
It’s good to be on friendly terms with reality, isn’t it? This includes living within our means and within the planet’s limits. Sure, we can stretch the definition of a climate zone by exploiting microclimates for a wider range of plants but we’ll get a bigger harvest if we major in those that are suited to dry temperate conditions. We can go nuts pruning and compost-making when the weather is so inviting but we might pay later (as my back is reminding me, again).
Nature has ways of telling us where we’re going wrong or overdoing it. Keep too many green peaches on a branch and the branch breaks just before they ripen. Plant carrots too densely and they shade each other out. Leave broad beans in the ground too long for green manure and they become difficult to dig in and don’t add as much goodness to the soil. Leave the soil bare and weeds will arrive to fill the niche. These are not disasters, just learning opportunities.
Some gardeners are great record-keepers, writing down and learning from what they have done each season and how their garden has responded. Others talk to their plants and listen in a myriad of ways. It’s all about developing a relationship with nature where we are open to learning.