As expected, March this year was far drier than average in Adelaide and a couple of degrees warmer than usual, both by day and by night, setting the scene for a warmer and drier than usual autumn and perhaps even winter. It’s lovely weather for being out in the garden, but it’s not quite what our usual crops and planting calendars are adapted to! While the Barossa Valley received a sudden drenching early in the month, here in the city we just looked on in wonder as all the water sailed on by.
Below you can see a bit of what’s happening around here. (May I emphasise that these are the relatively tidy bits of the garden and that there are plenty of works in progress – not quite enough progress, usually!) Pomegranates are just reaching ripeness – ours are edible now but the arils will keep darkening over the next month or two and the flavour will deepen. I usually smash into them with a cleaver and then pick the segments apart in a bowl of water to avoid getting juice everywhere. As a bonus, the bitter yellow pith tends to float, making it easy to scoop off.
Limes, chilies and mandarins are all holding well on the plants, available to use as we need them. The mandarin trees have been tricked into giving us two crops this year – as you can see, some have been ripe for ages while the winter crop is still months away. The chili plants are now two years old and have given us a big crop this year. I normally freeze most of them, but this time there are plans for sauce-making.
The two-year-old passionfruit vine has now fully overgrown the skeleton of the old, finished vine covering our fence and is bearing well – just waiting for them to ripen at last!
All the citrus would like a feed more often than I get to them (ideally a little balanced fertiliser every month), but the Lisbon lemon keeps on producing great big juicy lemons almost constantly, thanks to its frequent water supply (grouped with the vegetable beds) and adjacent compost bin.
Stone fruit trees except the apricot and cherry have been pruned in summer. The apricot is now beginning to colour up for autumn, a sign that it is approaching dormancy. I’ll give it until the end of this month and then get to with the loppers. (Home pruning tutorials have been popular this year and I’m available to visit if you would like one in your garden too.)
With fewer hours of winter chill on the horizon, if you are planning to plant stone fruits this winter it’s worth considering which varieties to choose. Look for those that require less than 500 hours of chill if you are on the Adelaide plains, and even more so if you are close to the sea, which exerts a moderating effect on temperatures. In the Hills and South-East there is still scope to grow cooler temperate varieties, but fruit set may still be more patchy than it has been in the past. Wholesale nurseries can advise or refer you to charts listing the chill requirements of different fruit varieties.
Most pumpkins are getting ready to pick and store – see Tino’s quick video summary of when and how on Gardening Australia here.
What to plant next… Don’t be in a rush to get your native plants into the ground this autumn. Easter is usually a great time to start, but without decent rains to prepare the soil, I’d be inclined to wait until a bit later as long as they don’t become rootbound waiting in pots. Instead, start taking hardwood cuttings from perennial herbs to raise in pots over the cooler months and plant out in spring. This is a great way to create a fragrant and productive hedge or border from next to nothing. The Herb Society of SA has a propagating day next Sunday and a salvia sale at the end of the month.
Annual vegetables and herbs – I’d normally put a few broad beans in now but I’ll let the garden cool off a bit first. I’ll do the same for the onion family – onions, leeks and garlic – all the onions can be started from seed now and then planted out when the soil is ready, but plant garlic cloves directly in the soil around Anzac Day. It’s six of one and half a dozen of the other with peas and beans right now – pop a few of each in to hedge your bets, then switch to successive crops of peas as the weather gets cooler. Brassicas such as broccoli, cabbage and cauli can all be sown in punnets or planted out as seedlings, but be sure to protect them from cabbage moths.
I’m going to give my raised veg beds a bit of renovation after the pumpkins and tomatoes finally come out, to patch up some cracks that are leaking soil and water, then replenish the nutrients with compost, manure and blood-and-bone, and get planting my leafy greens – lettuces, kale, radiccio, endive, spinach and rocket. Self-sown parsley is starting to pop up. Coriander seeds should go in too – a few every month for a regular supply. I should plant out some more mint cuttings into a few sunny pots to keep the supply going as its regular patch gets more shaded over winter.
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.