Hand Pollination

Plants like aubergine (egg plant), cucumber and melon can benefit from hand pollination to help them produce a good crop. In some years cucumber and melon harvest can start earlier than others – delays can come from colder springs causing an early lack of pollinating bees. If flowers appear to not develop into fruits before withering then use a soft paintbrush and hand pollinate on a warm, sunny day by dabbing gently from the centre of one open flower and onto another. The male flowers have a slim base and stalk and the female flowers have a small swelling at their base, just brush from a male to a female.
Bees are not overly drawn to aubergine (egg plant) flowers so when they appear, hand-pollinate the flowers by using a soft paintbrush and gently brushing across the centre of each flower. Each flower has male and female parts so all you are doing is making that all important momentary connection.

Plant Care

Tomatoes need regular attention. Pinch out laterals, tie in stems with strips of old stockings, thick string or dried cabbage tree leaves.

Harvest globe artichokes, cucumbers, zucchini, peas and beans to stimulate continued flowering and fruiting.

Shake heads of sweet corn once the stamens start to hang from the top male flowers to aid pollination of female flowers on the stem below.

Pick dead heads off flowers such as marigolds, calendula, zinnias and dahlias to encourage plants to produce new blooms.

Weeds are quick off the mark wherever they find bare soil so regular mulching will save time on hands and knees removing any unwanted plants that are allowed to take hold.

As newly-sown seedlings grow to about half a finger in height, thin them to recommended spacings. Continue thinning as seedlings develop until you have reached the right number of plants with appropriate growing distances between them

Keep moisture levels constant around your shallow-rooted seedlings and protect from dehydrating under midday sun by covering with shade cloth, fine mesh or mini-shade tunnels.



Plant Protection

Summer breezes can be more than just a breath of wind and every now and then they damage tender plants. For extra protection, stake and tie in climbing and tall plants such as sunflowers. Climbing beans should be encouraged to grow around supports and also tied in if necessary. Capsicums and chillies have quite brittle stems, as they start to branch it helps to tie the main stem to a bamboo cane before any weight of fruit develops.

Look out for green shield bugs (if you can’t see them you’ll know they are around by their pungent, sour smell) remove and squash, leaving corpses at base of plants. The rest of the bugs smell the dead one and drop off plants to play dead. Gather them up and dispose of them before they can escape. This is best done early morning before the sun warms them up and they become agile. Cleome are great for attracting shield bugs which can then be easily collected and squished.

Cabbage Whites are a continued threat and they’ll swoop on any brassicas (cabbage, kale, cauliflower, broccoli etc.) they come across. Eggs hatch into green caterpillars that quickly start munching through leaves. This is especially problematic with any small seedlings you may be planting right now. Any vulnerable plants can be protected from butterflies with fine netting stretched over hoops or sticks – the butterflies can then only hover about and wonder what might have been whilst you whack them with a badminton racket.

Aphids are by now regular visitors to many gardens. Be vigilant and pounce with appropriate measures - such as garlic and tomato leaf sprays - as soon as you see them. Remember, however, that you are not alone and beneficial predators such as hoverflies, praying mantis and ladybugs are in the area - ready to consume many of these sap-sucking pests.

Keep doing slug patrols and place stones and flat rocks in your beds to aid thrushes and blackbirds as they smash then eat snails.

Protect all ripening berry fruit (strawberries, raspberries, blueberries etc.) with bird mesh. Erect a frame around your plants - bamboo poles are lightweight, quick and easy - and drape mesh over it. Make sure there no gaps because the birds will find them soon enough!



Plant Food and Drink

Maturing plants are hungry and thirsty. They can very quickly become starved of nutrients so be ready to provide swift nutrition. Liquid feeds such as worm juice, liquid comfrey and liquid seaweed are ideal. Heavy feeders such as capsicum, cucumber, zucchini, aubergine, sweetcorn, tomato, melon and squash will benefit from weekly doses.

Ensure regular moisture around all plants. Keep a daily eye for signs of stress or drying out – wilting leaves and weak, bending stems – and remember that a half hour shower of rain will only dampen the soil’s surface. Test for moisture by sticking your finger into soil beside plants – this will tell you whether your watering is penetrating adequately or not. Soil should feel damp at least half a finger’s length below the surface. If you do your watering early morning or late afternoon this should help to preserve moisture in the soil for longer.

Fill plastic juice bottles with liquid feeds – seaweed, comfrey, worm juice for easy addition to watering cans.

Feed citrus trees use sheep pellets, blood and bone meal, chook manure and spread around within drip line. Most granular feeds are said to damage micro-organisms in the soil that are key for general soil health and for producing the nutrients the plants need.

Step up liquid comfrey feed to tomatoes and capsicums as they start to from fruit. Feed them weekly.



Soil Care

Deal with weeds as soon as you spot them. Use a hoe on bare ground between rows or pull by hand. If weeds are young and have not flowered you can leave them to wilt and rot down on the soil’s surface.

Loosen any hard or compacted soil between or around plants. A hoe or niwashi is ideal for gentle disrupting the top few inches of soil. This helps moisture to enter the soil when it rains or when you are watering. Don’t go too close to established plants or might damage tender roots.

Mulch Mulch all bare soil with thin layers of lawn trimmings, pea straw, compost, coffee grounds, vegetable scraps etc.This helps to prevent a hard crust from forming that can prevent adequate moisture from entering soil during rainfall or when you are hand watering.

WATCH POD TV: MULCHING

Keep topping up your compost heaps with vegetable trimmings, seaweed, horse manure (fresh stuff), straw, thin layers of lawn trimmings, coffee grounds and shredded paper. This will come in handy around late winter when you are preparing beds for spring planting.

WATCH POD TV: COMPOSTING

Livestock

Chickens

will be thirsty so make sure water troughs are regularly topped up with fresh water. Ensure you have adequate shade for your birds and some dirt for dust baths in your garden or enclosure. Give your chickens kitchen and garden scraps but make sure they get plenty of grit too – best in the form of layers pellets, crushed shells or crushed egg shells. They need this to make the shells for their eggs.

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Bees

As the threat of swarming passes hives should be pumping with loads of blossom in the landscape for bees to visit. Honey supers will start to get heavier as frames are filled with honey and become ready for harvest. Bees need water and they can’t swim so put a shallow bowl of water filled with sand or small rocks near your hive. Keep this topped up with water and they’ll appreciate an easy drink. Hunt down wasp nests during the day. If you don’t want to use poison wasp nests can be destroyed by pouring petrol into entry hole after dark when wasps are at their most dormant. All access holes are then blocked immediately, the fumes of the petrol normally kill the entire nest. – depending on size. Although it might be night time you should wear your protective bee gear all the same. If you have not done this before do it with someone who can safely show you how it is done. Alternatively consult with a professional pest control service or inform your local park ranger if appropriate.

WATCH POD TV: BEES