Newspaper article The Chronicle (Toowoomba, Australia)

The Vegie Patch Gently Beckons

Newspaper article The Chronicle (Toowoomba, Australia)

The Vegie Patch Gently Beckons

Article excerpt

AUTUMN might officially start on the arbitrary date of March 1, but in reality, the season of mists and mellow fruitfulness doesnCOt really get going until April in our corner of the world.

As I write, the first cold front of the season has swept through, dumping some welcome follow-up rain and ushering in a noticeable change in temperature.

The only downside to my favourite season is that as winter draws in, ICOm running behind with some jobs in the garden. This isnCOt unusual.

I always seem to be under the horticultural pump, and ICOve come to grips with the fact that the idea of working in harmony with the seasons sounds good in theory, but inevitably leads to me being the junior partner in the relationship.

As daylight hours decrease in the run up to the winter solstice, so too does the need to get plants in the ground.

At the pointy end of my list this month are the brassicas.

By planting now, the slower growing members of the group have time to take advantage of the autumn growth flush to put on some leaves and harden them off before the cold really sets in.

The faster growers will mature in as little as six weeks, so an early April planting means delicious, healthy leaves ready to throw in a salad or stir fry by early May.

To facilitate strong growth, itCOs important to spend some time preparing.

Brassicas like soil that drains reasonably well, is packed with nutrients, and is slightly alkaline.

To keep them happy, I add lashings of compost, and some pelletised chook manure or blood and bone. A double handful per square metre wonCOt go astray.

To avoid a chemical reaction that sends precious nitrogen into the air, I add garden lime a couple of weeks before, or more realistically after, the fertiliser is applied. If your soil is naturally alkaline, you can safely skip the lime.

Salad varieties get sown in a row, and for larger growers I make shallow holes in the soil every 30 to 40 centimetres, place three seeds into each and lightly backfill.

After a good soaking, these will germinate within a week, and by the end of the second or third week, can be thinned out to one plant per position. …

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