With the holiday season fast approaching, now is the time to get your garden looking great for all the upcoming celebrations!
The very last of the peas and broadbeans will have finished in the garden. Snip off the vines to leave the nitrogen-rich root systems in the ground as a slow-release fertiliser. The ground should be perfect for planting leafy crops such as lettuce, and mustard greens such as rocket, tatsoi and mizuna. These mustard greens are delicious in summer salads but are also members of the brassica family, so watch out for the white cabbage moth!
Choose a semi-shaded spot that has just held peas or green manure to plant out lettuce for summer salads. Lettuce hates the heat and will not germinate in temperatures over 30ºC, so selecting the right spot in the garden is essential. If you only have a sunny spot, try planting some wild rocket, sometimes called roquette or arugula. This is very tolerant of dry, poor soils, which only increase the nutty, pepper flavour — and it does grow like wild!
It’s a great time to plant water chestnuts and they can certainly make a great gift. Simply line the bottom of a wide-based water-holding container with your best compost, about 20cm deep. If you want a large-scale production an old bath is ideal, planting one corm per metre square. For a gift, one corm in a plastic box about 80cm × 30cm and at least 30cm deep is ideal. Plant the corms 5cm deep and ensure they are sodden but not covered with water. When the rush-like growth reaches 10cm long you can flood the container so that just the tips of the leaves show above the water.
The cherries are ripe and the pear and cherry slug is out and about. They are dark green, slimy, worm-like creatures about a centimetre long and strip the leaves of their victims. One solution is to squash them with your fingers (children love this) but it is hard to reach them all! After a heavy dew or rain, stand up-wind from your tree and literally throw fine wood ash or dolomite over the tree. This dries out their slimy little bodies.
Plant your passionfruit vine now. Add plenty of organic matter to the soil before planting and, as explained last issue, bury some dead meat such as a piece of liver at the base. It’s also a good time to plant pawpaw.
Apply liquid fertiliser such as Seasol to pawpaw and mango trees. Prune fig trees to a compact shape to improve fruiting for next season. Look for black spot on mangoes and apply copper spray if there is any. Do the same if you find the fungal infection anthracnose on fruit trees.
The grass is growing apace and all those lawn clippings are invaluable for your compost. Clippings are very high in nitrogen, so you will need to balance them with brown or high-carbon material. Straw and shredded paper are ideal to use. You will need three times as much straw or paper as lawn clippings to keep the compost cooking. Layer them together and give them a light sprinkle of water to make the most of this great resource.
The weather is so unpredictable at this time of year. It can be unusually wet and then suddenly dry. Check your compost regularly to assess its moisture levels. Remember wet compost is smelly while dry compost just sits there and fails to de-compose. Keep it moist, not wet, and cover it with a tarpaulin if heavy rain is expected.
Compost all your prunings and lawn clippings. Turn the compost regularly and make sure it doesn’t become too wet from the rains or overheated.
Cool & Temperate
Summer is upon us and soon the sun will be really beating down. It’s the time to get everything mulched well to insulate the soil. Choose pale-coloured mulches to reflect the heat, such as pea straw, lucerne or sugar cane mulch. First spread some high-nitrogen fertiliser such as blood and bone on the soil before spreading the mulch 75–100cm deep. This will help the straw/paper to slowly break down without robbing your plants of nutrients.
Make sure water drainage is adequate. If not, add wetting agent and loosen soil. If it’s a clay soil, add gypsum.