It’s mid-spring and everything in the veggie patch and orchard is erupting with flowers and delicious fruits. It’s a great time to be growing and harvesting
COOL & TEMPERATE
In all but the coldest areas, plant summer crops now, including corn, beans, cucumber, tomato, zucchini, squash and pumpkin. As they grow, tie tomato stems to tall stakes and train climbing beans and cucumbers onto a tepee or trellis. Use soft ties to avoid damaging stems. Make the most of the good growing times ahead with succession planting. Every few weeks, sow more seeds or plant a few more seedlings of leafy greens such as lettuce and English spinach (best in cooler zones) to keep a continuous harvest happening. To help shade crops as the heat intensifies, sow a row of sunflowers along the western side of the vegie patch — or use this space for a block of corn or a trellis of beans.
If your family enjoys corn straight off the cob, grow your own sweetcorn crop. Sow seeds directly into the soil. For best results with this wind-pollinated plant, sow corn in blocks at least a metre square rather than in long rows. Also plant beans now. Snake beans do well in hot climates but perform best when trained onto a support such as a trellis. Borlotti beans provide colourful seeds, which can be eaten fresh or stored as dry beans. Any climbing vegetable can also be used for instant shade over leafy greens.
COOL & TEMPERATE
The flowers on fruit trees may herald a bumper crop but only if all the mechanisms are in place for pollination. Many fruit trees require another variety to provide the pollen (this is called cross-pollination). Without cross-pollination, fruit may fail to set. For a long-term solution, plant pollinating varieties, but for a short-term option bring in cut branches of flowers to act as instant pollinators. Simply place them in buckets of water under fruit trees; the bees will do the rest. If bees are in short supply, fruit set will be poor. Attract bees to the garden with flowering herbs such as basil and borage along with flowers including daisies and lavender. For a ready supply of pollinators — as well as other benefits — consider installing a beehive.
As soon as there’s ripe fruit ready for harvest, the local wildlife are onto it. Pick fruiting crops regularly to try to beat the birds or use exclusion bags around individual fruit clusters. Bird netting (stretched tight) or fruit cages are the only sure ways to keep birds, possums and wallabies away from edible plants. If you are using bird netting, check it regularly for trapped animals, including bats and reptiles as well as birds. Control fruit fly by using eco-friendly fruit-fly baits. Renew them regularly. This is also a good time to make new plantings but, if conditions are likely to become waterlogged through the wet season, plant fruit trees into slightly raised beds to allow better drainage.
Compost & soil
COOL & TEMPERATE
Repot plants that have been in a container for a while. Select a pot that’s just slightly larger than the current container. For best growing results in containers, check that the mix you are buying meets the Australian Standard (look for the ticks on the bag). Potting mixes are sold for general purposes but may also be customised for specific plants or garden use. Specialised potting mixes include those for vegetables as well as for propagation of cuttings or raising seed. Organic products are also available. Top off containers with a fine layer of compost or organic mulch.
Grow living groundcovers using prostrate plants — including nasturtium, sweet potato or pumpkins — to cover the soil with a green alternative to mulch. Even grass helps protect soils from the erosion caused by heavy downpours and is an ideal companion for orchards. For a dense cover over the soil, select plants that form roots as they grow such as sweet potato (shoots or sprouted tubers can be planted now). Groundcover plants also help to keep soils cool and discourage weed growth. Zucchini is an efficient smotherer of weeds.
Originally in Good Organic Gardening, Volume 7, Issue 3