Its time to sow spring and summer favourites. Climbing beans, aubergines, capsicums, tomatoes, pumpkins and zucchini can all be sown now. Seeds are usually started off in trays and punnets that are given warmth and indoor protection before being planted out after Labour Day. If you are feeling particularly optimistic land you live in a really sheltered part of the country then you might get away with sowing some directly outside. If you manage to get your sowing and planting underway in the coming weeks then there’s every chance you’ll be enjoying an early harvest of tender zucchini, sweet tomatoes and who knows what before Christmas.
Globe artichokes raise their stunning flower heads and the start of a delicious harvest commences. When they get to between golf ball and tennis ball size, cut the flower heads from the stem about an inch below the underside of their base. Flowers can be cooked and eaten whole when small or with the ‘choke’ removed during the cooking process if they are larger. Brassicas like Kale and Cavolo Nero make for reliable greens as we move out of winter and delicious asparagus spears should start breaking ground around now and can be harvested from plants that have already had two previous seasons in the garden.
If you don’t already have one then now is a good time to set up a worm farm – or ‘wormery’ - in your garden. There’s a wide range of tailor-made wormeries on offer at garden centres or you can always make your own out of some recycled polystyrene fish bins - even an old bath will do the trick. The basic principle is that kitchen scraps – mostly vegetable trimmings, coffee grounds, shredded un-dyed paper and un-waxed cartons, bread, cereals etc – are fed to worms in a contained area. The worms eat the scraps and turn them into a dark, nutrient-rich liquid feed as well as fabulous compost. The liquid feed – ‘wormjuice’ - is produced rapidly and is a primo plant food. More on wormeriesmore
"‘To improve germination of many of your seeds it helps if you soak them first. Beans, peas, zucchini and pumpkin seeds can all be soaked overnight whilst spinach, beetroot and silverbeet are best soaked for a couple of hours before planting.’"
Its worth remembering how good it is to be able to enjoy a continued harvest – and for as long as possible. If you sow or plant an entire crop at once it can result in a glut of produce and then just as quickly a scarcity in the garden. It can help if you first plan your beds and containers (try a quick scribble on a piece of paper). Decide what crops will go where and how much space you’ll give them – mark this out so you have a visual record. Then sow or plant a row or a half row every few weeks until you have filled the allocated spaces over a period of time. This will produce a staggered harvest. From now on if you sow or plant fast growers such as carrots, coriander, dwarf beans, lettuce, parsley and peas in this way you should be enjoying fresh and tasty, vegetables and herbs from now through to autumn and winter.
It’s a good idea to get seeds of companion flowers and herbs underway in beds or seed trays now – your plants will love you for it!
Companion planting is where different plants are combined in a garden for mutual benefit. Constantly introducing as much diversity into your garden as you can helps to create a healthy environment. It is also an essential part of balanced and sustainable food growing on any scale - without resorting to the use of chemicals for pest control. French marigolds exude chemical compounds (thiopenes) that repel microscopic root eating roundworms (nematodes) that feed on vegetable plants like tomatoes. Bright open-faced flowers like sunflowers, cosmos and calendula attract pollinating bees as well as beneficial insects such as hoverflies and ladybirds whose larvae feed on sap-sucking aphids. If you are an orderly gardener then plant your companion flowers in rows and blocks or as features at the corners of your beds and in containers. If you are a lover of chaos then spread them around your garden willy-nilly and include self-seeders such as borage and poppies that will happily take over any bare earth.