The winter solstice has passed already. Jasmine is beginning to flower. Magpies are singing and collecting nesting material. We’re just getting used to winter again, but already see these signs of spring’s approach!
June in Adelaide has continued to be a little warmer and drier than our long-term average, although with much of our rain coming in gentle showers, it has at least had a chance to soak in thoroughly. As a result, gardens are looking healthy and soils well recovered from summer.
Herbs such as parsley and coriander are doing well now. Beetroot, carrots and radishes are fattening up nicely, and celery and leafy greens are prolific. Warrigal greens (New Zealand spinach) are absolutely booming. Citrus fruits are well into their season, with limes finishing, lemons continuing to ripen, and emperor mandarins taking over from the earlier imperials as lunchbox fillers.
Various combinations of spinach / silverbeet / Warrigal greens with other leafies such as beetroot tops and purple mustard leaves are a staple here, combined with fetta or other cheeses in spanakopita, savoury crumbles or salads served alongside soup and crusty bread. To combat colds and flu, a daily juice of oranges, carrots, celery tops and a little ginger and beetroot packs a serious antioxidant punch.
If you’re direct seeding, go for broad beans, beetroot, carrots (although they’ll be slow now), coriander, potatoes (whole or segments with an ‘eye’ – let the segments dry overnight after cutting), radish, spinach, rocket, parsley and peas. Remember to sow at about twice the depth of the seed’s length. (So broad beans go in a deep hole, rocket almost at the surface). Spinach and beetroot seeds germinate better if they are soaked in lukewarm water first.
In seedlings, plant out broccoli, cabbage and most brassicas (with protection from cabbage moths – e.g. an old net curtain or Vegenet over the bed), lettuces, endive, radicchio, swede, tatsoi, turnips and corn salad. Put out beer traps for slugs and snails, or don the gumboots and raincoat for a snail stomp on wet nights.
Here’s a reminder of how to plant bare-rooted fruit and nut trees in case you missed it last month: 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. Plant while they are still dormant (before buds burst). For evergreen trees, wait until spring.
Winter pruning of deciduous trees can be done as soon as their leaves have fallen, as long as there are a few days of fine weather to follow pruning and allow cuts to dry out. Winter pruning is great for establishing the shape of fruit trees in their first three years, renovating old trees that need major branches removed, and stimulating new growth. But most fruit trees won’t fruit on that regrowth in its first summer. If your aim is to generate more fruiting wood at a reachable height on a mature tree, then leaning towards more summer pruning might be your answer – although winter pruning provides a great view of the tree’s structure.
‘Weeds’ – add dandelion leaves to salads, nettles to compost or weed tea, and use soursob-pulling for, um, the health benefits of squatting, perhaps? Tender thistles and fresh grass are perfect chook snacks.
Featured Permaculture principle: Design from Patterns to Details
This principle is particularly relevant if you are starting a new garden or have just moved to a new property. The natural patterns of the landscape (e.g. water and nutrient flows, wind tunnels, sun paths, natural seed banks, sheep tracks) provide useful starting points for considering a layout that works in harmony with the environment. Then the annual rhythm of the seasons provides a pattern for tasks in establishing and maintaining the garden.
Putting the two of these together, we can come up with a series of basic steps that proceed season by season to get the access, infrastructure and initial planting (pioneer plants and slow-growing trees) in place. Then come the details of annual plants, crop rotation, layering the garden and ongoing soil improvement. The details never end and the patterns increase in complexity over time, but those key patterns established from the start always have a strong influence on the functionality of the garden.