Well, finally things are starting to normalise. Restrictions easing, the sun shining, soils warming. The perfect antidote for a few quiet months and the perfect time to get more plants into the garden.
Now that plant nurseries are open again and we can wander through the outdoor aisles of our favourite retail, the opportunity to give our gardens a boost has arrived. Click and collect was OK – doable – but we really want to touch and feel before we buy. And select the plants ourselves rather than just pick-up at the door. In saying that, though, the contactless purchasing from our local nurseries has been one of the few pleasures we have been able to enjoy during the constant restrictions here in Victoria.
And this new-found freedom has come at the perfect time for us gardeners. The summer vegetable planting season is upon us and we will need to get a wriggle on if we want to get the most out of our edible gardens this year. Assuming that the additional time afforded us by lockdown has served to help get garden beds prepared for this moment, it is now time to hit the nurseries and grab all of your warm-season favourites. Lettuces, greens, beans, spuds, tomatoes, watermelon – it’s well and truly time for them all to go in the ground and get going.
With these longer sunny days we are seeing substantial growth in our gardens – just look at those weeds go! – and keeping up with it all can be overwhelming for some. However, if you plan well for the season and understand how the cycles work in your own garden, you can prepare and stay on top of the maintenance of your food crops. The important things to keep in mind over this warm period are maintaining soil moisture, watching out for pests and diseases, and consistently harvesting your crops.
If your soil has been prepared adequately during lockdown with plenty of nutrient and organic matter, a lack of water is really the main issue that will impede strong growth and healthy crops during these warmer months. Consistent soil moisture is very important to deliver food and water to your plants. A well-functioning drip irrigation system covered with a thick layer of straw mulch is going to make maintaining moisture in your soil easy.
As well as attending to your soils, make sure you keep watch for pests and diseases over the season. A few bugs in the garden are fine and a little damage is nothing to worry about, and as long as you catch them before any serious infestation takes hold you will be right. In the event of an outbreak, consider using ‘organic certified’ sprays over the harsher chemical alternative. You can also find recipes online to make your own.
Failure to keep up with harvesting your fruit and vegies can lead to all sorts of problems, so be sure to keep track of which plants are producing, and when (this will help in subsequent seasons). Regular harvesting will encourage your plants to continue to produce in most cases and will prevent rotting vegies attracting flies and bugs. You may also end up with dry, split or oversize vegetables if you leave them too long. Nibble as you wander to check how they are going.
The best way to stay on top of these things is to ramble through the garden a few times a week, sticking your fingers into the soil, checking for bites and bugs, and filling your harvest basket with goodies. It’s all part of enjoying an edible garden.