Just one sleep to go until the new school year. Not that anyone’s counting. Tomorrow I will remember just how short the working day is when it’s squeezed between school drop-off and pick-up and moth-holed with appointments, and I’ll remember why it is that my garden to-do list is so rarely done. For now, though, I can wander around the garden noting what needs doing and imagine that it will all happen, miraculously, in this new and so-far-unspoiled year 🙂 So here’s my to-do list.
- Prune the stone fruit (peach, plum, nectarine) and pome (apple, pear, quince) trees lightly after harvest – about 1/3 to 1/2 of the new growth off depending on vigour, remove dead/diseased/distorted/dicky bits and thin out clustered branches.
- Trim rampant pumpkin and sweet potato growth, put some sweet potato leaves in salads and dumpling fillings, and give the rest to the chooks.
- Trade lemons for goods and services, and juice the extra lemons to freeze in ice cube trays and transfer to container/ziplock bags for use through the year.
- Preserve peaches and plums.
- Freeze chillies, make chilli jam or sauce, or hang them up to dry.
- Dry excess grapes, or blend with some stone fruit and dry as fruit leather. Or make wine 🙂
- Clean up regularly under the fruit trees to reduce fungal spore load, smells, vermin and insect outbreaks.
- Make fruit salad ice blocks, for after-school treats.
- Make passata with surplus tomatoes – preserve or freeze in jars. Or sun-dry them.
- Trim overgrown herbs – dry for teas and seasonings, use strewn on the chook coop floor to absorb manure, sprinkle around veg beds to deter pests, mulch.
- Trim pigeon pea regularly for chop’n’drop mulch. (Ours is growing next to young native frangipanis and helps them to feel like they are in a rainforest.)
- Plant more mango and avocado trees in the humid subtropical patch.
- Plan autumn native planting for shelter belt areas (could be earlier than usual this year since we have had soaking summer rain).
- Keep composting excess plant trimmings, finished veg, spoiled fruit.
- Catch strawberry runners in spare pots and grow them on for planting out in late winter/early spring. You can never have too many strawberries – but you can have too many old overgrown strawberry plants.
- Keep the compost coming – replenish beds as crops or individual plants finish, and replant vegetable seedlings (see list below). Start a new compost bin under an existing tree or in the spot marked out for a new tree, while the old bin matures.
- Use the unseasonally abundant rainwater – grow water plants, fill ponds, make home brew and feed the grain mash to chooks.
- Watch sunflowers to see when seeds are ripe, to feed to chooks.
Which brings me to what to plant right now…
I’m probably not alone in thinking it’s a weird summer to be planting into. 2016 brought us over 700mm rainfall in contrast to our average of <500mm, with a generous proportion of it arriving in spring and early summer. And apart from a couple of heat spikes our summer temperatures have been generally mild so far. But this is February we’re talking about. If school is going back, we’re supposed to be preparing for scorchers, right? The Bureau outlook suggests pretty average temperatures and rainfall for February, i.e. hot and dry as usual.
So if we already have some full rainwater tanks and a relatively humid and shaded microclimate going thanks to all that early summer growth, why not go nuts planting vegetables all over again before autumn? With three caveats: (1) lean towards seedlings instead of seed so they get a head start and don’t dry out during germination; (2) give preference to those veg that can be productive in a short time (i.e. it might be too late for starting pumpkins, corn and watermelons); and (3) be vigilant about feeding the soil if you’re cropping more often and potentially leaching out nutrients through extra watering and rainfall.
My picks for Feb planting: basil, bush beans, beetroot, broccoli, cabbage, carrots (if you can keep the seed moist – seedlings don’t grow straight), cauliflower, chives, coriander (again, seed but keep moist and a bit shaded), spring onions, kale, kohlrabi, lettuces (shaded), mint (cuttings best), mustard, parsnip, radish, rocket, silverbeet, spinach (shaded and cool), swede and tomato (if you have a spot that will stay warm into winter).
I know I’ve indicated shade for a few plants above – but really afternoon shade for the whole vegetable garden is great in Feb if you can manage it. Here the grapevines have grown far enough to cast dappled shade over the raised vegetable beds during late summer, and will be cut back in autumn. They are almost too much of a good thing for the vegetables now, but the humans welcome the extra shade.
What’s happening this month?
Mum and I will be back at Organic Corner Store market on Thursdays, 9am-1pm, Feb 2 and 16, with a great range of subtropical and temperate fruit trees, plants and seeds, a few little garden-inspired watercolours from a holiday painting spree, and a diary at the ready to book home garden consultations.
I’m also looking forward to the Open Days at Joe’s Connected Garden where I’ll have a little information stall on Saturday 4th Feb – take a tour of the garden with over 400 varieties of fruit!! and pop by the stall to talk permaculture and garden design 🙂