March Garden Guide

Dry summer heat has finally caught up with us. While deep-rooted trees are doing fine, some of the vegetables around here are starting to look pretty ratty after having been spoiled with frequent watering most of their lives. Speaking of ratty, those furry pests have followed the generous fruit crops this summer and are becoming a problem in many places. Best to deal with them before they settle in and multiply, by clearing up overgrown areas that provide nesting ground and disturbing their favourite highways (along fences and walls, behind stacks of wood etc.)

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Baby pumpkin on trellis

Pumpkins have rambled for miles before setting fruit, some of which now hang in inconvenient places (you know, the top of the pomegranate tree, or the neighbour’s carport…). It’s a job worth getting the garden gloves on for… untangle, unwind and relocate that overgrowth so that the pumpkins can keep growing somewhere with enough support, where they won’t get stuck between other objects as they grow, won’t sit in a puddle when it (eventually) rains again, and where they can’t wrestle precious plants and young trees to the ground with their burgeoning weight. Then trim off excess growth beyond the pumpkins. Same for melons. And give them a good drink.

Stone fruit trees are putting on some beautiful regrowth after summer pruning, and this is the wood where next summer’s luscious peaches and nectarines will come from – an extra drink and some compost and manure now will reward you with many a happy juicy breakfast in summer 2018. Apples, pears, pomegranates, persimmons and nashis are still ripening and may need netting (or some recycled onion bags) to protect the fruit from birds and rats. Fruits growing in the shade can also be protected individually, if you have the time and resources, with strawberry punnets clasped around them – but in the sun these could overheat and stew the fruit. Refer to last month’s ramble for lots of extra garden jobs to catch up on!

So do you now plant for autumn or for more summer? (If you’re thinking about supercharging your vegetable growing, look here for expert guidance.)  The days are getting shorter and it’s too late around here to start the big-ticket summer veg, but a couple more rounds of bush beans and some late basil wouldn’t hurt. Soak those beans before planting them 10cm apart in thumb holes. Apart from the beans, let’s start thinking roots and leaves.

Autumn looks like being warmer and drier than average here, so most germinating seeds (pre-soaked beans and peas can be an exception) will need very reliable moisture to get through those vital early days as the tiny embryonic plant unfurls and breaks out of its shell.

Delicate carrot seedlings

Keep carrot beds covered (e.g with hessian or shadecloth), and start other seedlings in punnets in a humid environment such as a covered tray… e.g. beetroot, broccoli, Brussels sprouts, cabbage, cauliflower, celery, chives, coriander (actually I’d opt for frequent direct seeding if you’re growing this one for its leaves), dill, endive, fennel, spring onion (unless you prefer just planting the cut-off rooty bottoms of a bunch you bought at the market), kale, kohlrabi, lettuces (lettuce seeds need some light to germinate, but part shade for to avoid sunburn during summer growth), corn salad (mache), mint (rooted cuttings are easier than seed), mizuna, mustard (these self-seed so prolifically that you only need to plant once in a lifetime), pak choi, parsnip (really fresh seed), radicchio, radish, rocket, silverbeet, spinach (in a not-too-hot spot), swede, tatsoi and – if you’re really looking forward to winter – turnip.

Garlic cloves can go into the ground now as long as it’s well watered first – pointy end up in a big thumb hole… (or save that job until Anzac Day and harvest from Remembrance Day if that’s easier to remember).

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Nadja’s Garden is at the Organic Corner Store market on the first and third Thursday of each month (March 16, April 6, April 20…).

Seeds ($4/pack), watercolour paintings (from $22) and Pip permaculture magazines ($12) are also available for collection at Warradale or free local delivery for orders over $25. Contact Nadja on 0410 636 857. For fruit trees and plants contact Sally on 0438 512 389.

Home consultations are available for planning and designing your edible garden.

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