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Home-grown food grows in popularity

As the merry-go-round of this virus spins on, it seems more people are becoming familiar with growing their own food at home – one of the many positives to come out of this pandemic. Still too many negatives though. But if we stay focused on the brighter side, maybe it will allow us to smile more?

Many have grown to realise that planting seeds or seedlings, nurturing them and watching them produce meaningful harvests for the family is a most rewarding project. And what appears to be a lengthy process to begin with becomes very easy after only a couple of seasons. By the end of your first year you’ll wonder why you waited so long to give it a crack!

As we come into the final stages of what seems to have been quite a cold winter, it’s a good time to begin organising your edible gardens for the arrival of the warmth and growth that spring brings. Vegetable beds can be prepared, irrigation systems checked and fruit trees attended to.

Even though our cool-season crops are still growing strong and providing loads of delicious produce, at the same time we need to get prepared for the onset of the warm season. Ensuring your vegetable beds are weeded, topped up with compost and mulched ready for planting in September will allow for a smooth transition. Erect trellises if you don’t use permanent structures, install and/or test your irrigation system and begin sowing your warm-season vegetable seeds.

Sowing your seed now will give you time for your seedlings to grow strongly before transplanting them into their beds. In particular, tomatoes, capsicum, chilli and eggplant will be stronger the earlier you sow. But you can also sow seed for cucumber, zucchini, pumpkin and corn. These seeds can also be direct sown with your beans, but most people find security in planting them as seedlings. If sowing your own seeds isn’t your thing or not something you are used to doing, it is worth noting that you can grow a vast range and variation of your favourite vegetables by sowing yourself. The seedlings available to us at most nurseries are very limited, and often the tastiest or most interesting varieties aren’t produced by the big growers.

Your deciduous fruit trees will now be starting to emerge from their dormant state, and for some this is a critical time. If you have had major problems with peach leaf curl on your peaches and nectarines, it is important to try to intercept this virus before it affects your trees for another season. A little leaf curl is OK, and dealing with it without spraying can often be successful. However, if you have had bad infestations for a number of years you will need to take action. Look up lime sulphur sprays or bordeaux mixture and follow instructions on how to strategically use these very effective compounds.

For the rest of your trees, including the evergreens, give them a good feed to send them into spring with plenty of available nutrients to allow for strong growth. It really makes a big difference to the quality and quantity of fruit you’ll receive during the season.

Good preparation is always the key to a healthy edible landscape. 

Drew Cooper, Edible Gardens 

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