January Garden Guide

Happy New Year! Gardeners will appreciate the deliciousness of Adelaide’s mild Christmas and New Year break, which has offered the perfect opportunity for planting and enjoying the garden. Although we’re in for a little heat spike this weekend it shouldn’t last long, but it means it’s time to keep a close eye on fruit for sudden ripening and sunburn, and just hold off for a couple of days on planting seeds and seedlings or summer pruning until the heat has passed.

Here we have been enjoying the summer bounty of apricots, peaches, grapes, mulberries, raspberries, strawberries, cape gooseberries and Mum’s bananas, while keeping a close eye on mangoes, apples and persimmons slowly growing and ripening. In spite of the spring leaf curl it has been a very good stone fruit season so far, with apricots, peaches and nectarines all setting good numbers of fruit and filling out nicely. We did find that the apricots were susceptible to turning rather quickly in the humidity so solved that problem by gobbling them up very quickly and preserving many of them while still in peak condition.

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Now here’s an odd thing. In 2017 we adopted a rescue cat to help protect our fruit forest and chookhouse from the mice and rats that sneak in each summer and do substantial damage in spite of our best efforts to stop them. He has proved to be very adept at his job. Getting a cat was a last-resort measure, because we have always aimed to create bird habitat here. But with the removal of so many trees in our neighbourhood, and the frequent presence of uninvited visiting cats, the only birds left in the garden were noisy miners (hordes of them) and the visiting wattlebirds that drop in to eat the bees. And of course lorikeets when the summer fruits ripen.

But all of a sudden, in the few months since the cat’s arrival, we have seen far less of the other neighbourhood cats and have been inundated with new birds… crested pigeons, Murray magpies, and a beautiful pair of willy wagtails singing sweet songs. Even the honeyeaters are back. And there has been plenty of lizard action. All the birds seem well aware of the cat’s presence, and ours too, letting us get remarkably close. Many of them dive-bomb the cat or scold him, and all the birds communicate with one another about his whereabouts. In fact if I want to know where he is, I listen out for what the birds have to say. I won’t claim that he never catches a bird – we have seen a noisy miner down and heard of a rosella that had a lucky escape – but the net impact on birdlife seems to have been far more positive than we could have imagined. Still, I’m not advocating for setting more cats loose in the world. If we were close to bushland or parks, or if he hadn’t been desexed, the results could be devastating. There may still be some serious collateral damage that we don’t get to see. Just reporting our observations so far. And yes, we do have the infrastructure to keep him contained as the need arises. If only we still had native predator animals to fill this niche instead.

It has been a great month for propagating and planting out vegetables and herbs, in between those left from previous seasons.

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If you’re away on holidays, hopefully you return to find that your garden has made great strides in your absence! And over the coming month, you could plant the following…

(* = preferably sow seed direct in garden, others are fine as seedlings.)

Basil, *Beans (climbing and bush), beetroot, brussels sprouts, cabbage, carrot, cauliflower, chives, *corn (last chance this month), *cucumber (also last chance), lettuce, mint (rooted cuttings are easiest), mizuna, mustard, parsnip (use very fresh seed), radish, rocket, silverbeet (soak seeds first), spring onions, tatsoi, tomato (it’s getting late for these guys), and most herbs as seedlings or cuttings.

Look out for herbs and vegetables going to seed, and collect the seed as they dry out. We currently have parsley going to seed, and like most plants in the Apiaceae (carrot) family, it’s worth replanting while the seed is still fresh (just dried) for a good germination rate. Or if it’s in a convenient spot, just water and let it self-seed.

Once we get past the heat of February, it will be time to get moving with autumn vegetables and to think about planting out perennials and natives. So it’s never too early to start compost heaps or bins, and to plan where you might want to put in fruit trees next winter so that you can start on soil preparation well in advance.

Nadja’s Garden in 2018

Our market stall will be back at Organic Corner Store market from Thursday 1st Feb, reappearing on the first and third Thursday of each month (except Jan and July), including heirloom and organic seeds, Sally’s home-grown fruit trees and plants, edible garden design and Pet Pics Adelaide animal portraits.

Garden consultations are available to book – a few spots remain in January and will be back to regular hours in February. Rates are $55/hr on weekdays, with design packages starting from $375 for a suburban backyard.

Wishing you a happy and fruitful new year!

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