Carrots and beetroot are fattening up nicely with all the rain we’ve had this month! Some of the citrus are now so juicy that their flavour is not as intense as usual, so a few extra herbs in a juice blend help to make up the zing factor. Parsley, silverbeet and spinach are producing in abundance, and nasturtium leaves can also provide the peppery element in a salad. Brassicas such as cabbage and broccoli will be doing well if you have kept up with their feeding requirements and protected them from cabbage moths. Watch out for broccoli heads forming and don’t be tempted to leave them too long as they can flower suddenly if there are a couple of sunny days. Cut off and use the main head and then watch for side shoots for your next harvest. Keep checking peas and picking daily to maintain production.
While peas, broad beans and leafy greens can still be planted out in the garden, it’s also time to start thinking about sowing spring vegetables indoors or in a warm, sheltered location, ready for planting out from September. Solanum crops (tomatoes, capsicums, eggplants, chillies) need extra soil warmth to germinate, so use a heat pad or the top of a water heater to help them get started in their punnets or trays. Wait until the garden soil has warmed enough to pass the ‘bare bum test’ before planting seedlings out. If this takes a long time you might need to pot them up a couple of times while you wait – more on this next month.
Deciduous fruit and nut trees can still be planted out this month – get them in before their buds burst (see last month’s column for planting details).
Adelaide has had storms and strong winds regularly during July. Many gardens need checking over for damage. Ensure that chooks and pets have sturdy, dry, windproof shelter. They may also appreciate some extra warm food to help them cope with the cold and wind. Trees that have lost branches will need pruning to clean up any ragged wounds. If those sensitive to fungal infection have suffered damage, treat their wounds with an antifungal treatment as soon as possible. Citrus fruit may have fallen in storms and will need to be collected and used up quickly.
Grapevines can be pruned now that they are dormant. If they are seedless grapes, generally prune back most of the canes to 6-10 buds (nodes) to produce the coming summer’s fruit. Seeded grapes can be cut back harder (2-3 buds). Remove excess canes in between those being kept, and tie up canes as required to keep them tidy and well supported.
If citrus trees are looking a bit yellow, they are most likely having difficulty taking up nutrients while the soil is cold. Use the rainy weather to wash some gypsum into the soil around them if you’re in a clay area, as this will improve soil drainage and reduce the ‘wet feet’ effect. Add good compost over the soil surface, and start regular fertilising later this month as the soil warms up, remembering ‘little and often’ works best.
Featured Permaculture principle: Integrate rather than segregate
If we look at the home garden as a small ecosystem, it becomes obvious that all the elements must be connected in some way – either by design or happy accident. Designing to maximise connections and ensure that they are beneficial saves time and effort in the long run.
One of my garden beds (a circle of about 4 cubic metres) includes a mulberry tree, a baby mango tree and guava bush, a patch of rainbow chard, a potted curry bush, various salvias, geraniums, echeverias, some cuttings of the native shrub Templetonia retusa (cocky’s tongue), and a compost bin. This probably sounds like a random assortment, but here are some of the functions that they serve for one another. The mulberry tree shades the others in summer and then drops its leaves for mulch. The succulent echeverias and the salvias protect the border to keep foot traffic off the bed and prevent compaction of the clay soil around tree roots. The flowers attract bees and other insects for pollination and pest control. The curry bush confuses pest insects. The geraniums and compost bin provide a windbreak and sun trap to nurture the mango along. The compost bin will also add a bit of winter warmth as the compost breaks down, will gradually feed the trees as worms carry the nutrients down into the soil, and will shade the mango tree from the west in summer when the late afternoon sun is fierce. The rainbow chard brings me foraging in this bed for dinner, which reminds me to check on the other plants there.
Many thanks to the City of Marion for the ‘Unsung Heroes’ award received this week in the Environment category, and congratulations to fellow recipients Steven Hoepfner and Silvia Volonta of Wagtail Urban Farm, who share the vision of gently transforming our suburbs into diverse, liveable and productive spaces 🙂
City of Marion is also hosting a tree planting day this Sunday at Oaklands Wetlands from 2pm – all welcome.
Nadja’s Garden will be back at Organic Corner Store this Thursday with seeds for your spring planting, plenty of plants, and always happy to chat about your garden ideas and questions.
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