In keeping with recent trends, Adelaide has had a warm May, with the nights especially remaining warmer than usual. Hence warmth has remained in the soil and plants that I might usually have replaced by now have just kept on producing. We’re now coming to the end of the basil and chillies, and the rocket is really so enormous and peppery that the only reason not to pull it out is that it’s about to self-seed and start the next crop for winter. Chillies, both red and green, are going into ziplock bags in the freezer, as can kaffir lime leaves when giving the tree a tidy-up. All set for winter Thai curries then! Mandarins, oranges, limes and lemons are plentiful and a few late-ripening passionfruit and silk bananas are still turning up. Hens are on strike though, so eggs are scarce – luckily bananas make a good substitute to bind cake mix.
As the days are finally cooling down it’s tempting to rug up inside with a teapot, but gardening really is more warming. It’s time to think about planting bare-rooted deciduous fruit trees, and transplanting existing trees once they are fully dormant. Soil preparations make for a warming workout: prepare the hole wider than it is deep, loosen the soil below, add plenty of gypsum for drainage and do a drainage test – especially if you’re on clay soil, and even more so if you’re planting trees that are sensitive to wet feet. Add good compost – but particularly to the backfill soil and around and beyond the drip-line of the tree, where most of the feeder roots will grow.
Native trees can now be planted on revegetation sites, but may need strong protection from browsing kangaroos, sheep, deer, rabbits and hares as well as wind. Weed mats or regular weeding will also help them get off to a strong start.
Peas have begun cropping, and successive plantings will keep them coming over the cooler months. We’ve now had some good late May rain, so out with the soursobs and in with some cool season vegies to replace them, e.g. Artichoke suckers, asparagus crowns, broad beans, carrot seeds, broccoli, cabbage, cauliflower, celeriac, celery, kale, leeks, lettuce, radish, rocket, silverbeet, spinach, swede, turnip and watercress, seed potatoes, garlic cloves and strawberry runners. Replenish soil with well-rotted compost, manures, blood and bone etc as we go, aerate beds gently by lifting with a fork without overturning the soil, and add gypsum to break up heavy clay, including an annual dose around fruit trees, watered in with a good soak. Flowering bulbs could also be added here.
Old mulch can now be composted along with the autumn leaves. If slaters have been breeding in mulch and presenting a threat to seedlings, then consider moving old mulch out to a lower-intensity zone (e.g. orchard) or letting chooks pick through it before composting. Bare dark soil will absorb more warmth from winter sun – but re-mulch in spring before the soil has a chance to dry out.
Featured Permaculture principle: Produce no Waste
Winter can bring a surplus of orange peels, which are slow to break down in compost and become a bit of a nuisance. So, if you are planting out tender young seedlings, try putting half-orange shells down on the garden bed surface, with a little gap under one side. It’s a tempting shelter for slugs and millipedes, so you can gather them up and dispose of them early in the morning (to chooks or green bin). Another option is to dry the orange peels in front of the fire/heater or in a cooling oven after cooking, and when fully dry, use them as aromatic kindling. If you’re composting them anyway, just break them up into tiny pieces first, make sure they are mixed in well with other ingredients and that they don’t make up a large proportion of the mix.