As things cool off and you start to see a lot more soil than vegetation there is still excitement to be had thanks to the Allium family’s shining star – Garlic. Traditionally planted on the shortest day (June 21st) and harvested on the longest day (December 21st). In cooler areas if you haven’t planted yours yet then you may want to get going so that bulbs can develop roots before ground hardens under frost. Countrywide you should still be able to find a sheltered spot in your garden for a range of hardy, worthwhile plants like broccoli, cauliflower, broad beans, cress, peas, mizuna and cabbage. If soil conditions are too wet try planting some coriander, garlic, lettuces, mizuna, parsley, peas, rocket or beetroot into containers so you’ll have something growing whilst you wait for conditions to improve.
Its all about hearty, healthy nutrition right now with vitamin rich broccoli, cabbage and kale dishing up flavour for winter soups, stews and tangy coleslaw. In some areas the odd late pumpkin might at last be heading for storage whilst fast-growing winter leaves like cress, mizuna, rocket and mustard add bite to salads and dishes. Parsley enjoys being picked in the cooler months and this stimulates more fresh growth. If you have been growing Jerusalem artichokes then now’s a good time to rustle around just below the soil’s surface and unearth some of the potassium-rich knobbly tubers. These are delicious roasted and they make a nourishing soup – be warned, they can, just like the weather, be a touch on the windy side. Still lots of fruit on offer too with tamarillo, citrus, kiwifruit, olives and the odd late apple.
It may seem a little premature but spring can come like a sudden rush of blood to the head and be quite dizzying so, whilst its relatively calm, work out roughly where you will plant what next season. It helps to sketch a loose plan of beds and containers in your garden. Draw the path of the sun as it moves across your garden and mark the direction of any prevailing winds that blow during the growing season. Try and allocate the different growing conditions in your garden to crops that will most benefit from them. Stick your plan on the wall or the fridge door and keep coming back to it. Have a rubber to hand and make changes and adjustments as you go. Remember fast growing salads, herbs and companion flowers will grow well alongside and in between longer lasting summer crops such as aubergine, cucumbers, sweet corn and runner beans,more
"are working beds, sowing seed or planting in winter. They will help to spread your weight and prevent damp soil from becoming compacted and heavy which makes it hard for roots to penetrate. "
Seaweed is packed with micro-nutrients and natural plant hormones, it is also full of carbohydrates which are both good for plants and the essential micro-organisms that help form a healthy soil. It is particularly good for feeding hungry plants like tomatoes and capsicums when it is made into a liquid feed. This can easily be done by the home gardener with a spare bucket, barrel or plastic bin as long as it has a lid or cover to prevent wild life from getting in. Seaweed can be collected fresh as washed up ‘beach cast’ seaweed straight from the shoreline. It is made into a liquid feed by first rinsing - to remove salt - and then packing it into a tub or barrel before covering with water and leaving to rot down for several months into a gelatinous liquid manure that works wonders on the likes of tomatoes. Get some started now and you’ll have a supply of free nutrient rich plant food just when you need it most.
If this is the year that you decide to plant asparagus then now is the time to start preparing your designated planting area. You’ll then be ready for the fleshy dormant crowns that become available at garden centres or mail order in July and August. Asparagus needs a well-drained, deeply dug, rich and fertile soil. If your soil is heavy then you’ll need to incorporate a lot of sand to help with drainage or, perhaps better still, make a raised bed. The bed itself should be long and narrow – no more than two large strides across so that plants can be weeded and worked on from the side without needing to walk on the bed – unless you plant a huge one with paths in between rows. The crowns are generally spaced about two hands’ lengths apart, a small bed would have half a dozen crowns but if you want to feed a family think more of 20 to 30 crowns. Choose a position in full sun. Prepare your bed by thoroughly weeding the entire planting area, digging down to at least one or two spades’ depth and incorporating generous amounts of weed-free, well rotted manure.