Spring has really morphed into summer now as temperatures increase and days get longer. The garden is going great guns
With the warmer weather comes the need to be ever more vigilant in the vegie patch. Daily watering is needed in many areas and the everyday wander with the hose or watering can is a good time to check for pest infestations and to pull up weeds. Be ready to squash small caterpillars and eggs. Check for slugs, snails, various vegetable bugs (often called stinkbugs) and grasshoppers, which may also be about. Early spring plantings may be flowering (especially tomatoes) or even producing a harvest such as cucumbers, so take your basket with you.
If you’ve resolved that this summer your vegie patch is to provide something for each meal, now’s the time to make sure you get planting. Sow seeds or plant seedlings each week to ensure there’s something to harvest over the weeks ahead. Leafy greens and herbs do well in raised garden beds and make a quick and refreshing base for any salad. Grow cherry tomatoes and beans (such as snake beans) and plant cucumbers up a teepee or along a trellis. Keep the harvest coming with sweet potatoes and stands of sweetcorn. For something completely different, plant loofahs (see page 12 for details).
The heady spring perfume of orange and other citrus blossom gives way to a mass of small fruits as the season progresses. Keep trees well watered to encourage the fruit to hang on. If the tree has produced an excess of fruit, or if the weather turns cold or windy, expect some of the tiny fruits to be discarded. Other fruit crops are also forming now, including stone fruit and pome fruits such as apples and pears. Thin fruit clusters to encourage larger fruit to develop. To do this, just remove one or two fruit from each cluster.
We tend to think of fruit as being produced by trees, but watermelons are a good way to cover the bare earth and produce a refreshing summer fruit crop. Plant now for fruit in late summer. Also put in a crop of rosellas (hibiscus), especially if you are partial to homemade rosella jam or wish to make hibiscus tea (see page 18). Attend to fruit trees that have finished their harvest, such as guava and mango, which can be given a light prune. Also clear away fallen fruits to remove breeding places for fruit fly. Apply fertiliser for fruiting plants (for example, an organic citrus food) along with homemade compost and one of the seaweed products on avocado, citrus, pawpaw and other summer crops. Watch out for aphids, caterpillars and grasshoppers on most plants. Many of these pests can be squashed as a quick and safe way to get rid of them.
Compost & soil
Make sure bare ground is well covered with organic mulch. As the mulch breaks down it nourishes the soil, but as we move into the warmest time of the year a layer of mulch also keeps the soil cool and helps retain spring moisture. As well, it makes it harder for weeds to germinate. If anything does grow in the mulch (including peas, which may germinate in pea-straw mulches), simply pull out the young plants and lay them on top of the mulch to break down.
The rains that should be coming soon quickly deplete soils of their nutrients. Protect the soil from leaching by covering it with compost and mulch. Using your homemade compost on the garden now also frees up space in the compost heap for spring and summer prunings. Chop up or mulch pruned materials as you add them to the compost pile. Smaller pieces break down faster than big chunks. If you have dense, shrubby plantings, you can also lay prunings directly onto the ground as you go.
Originally in Good Organic Gardening, Volume 5, No. 4