With a fairly cool start to 2021 but still with plenty of growth, most gardens are looking fantastic at the moment. The bees are buzzing, the birds are chirping. And after the madness of last year, let’s hope that the next few months bring plenty of opportunity to share delicious home-grown produce with family and friends.
In order to sustain the harvests that are currently ripening on our vegetable crops, we need to continue to keep a keen eye on things. In particular, during these traditionally warmer months of February and March it is important to keep our soils protected and covered up with thick layers of mulch. Bales of lucerne or pea-straw are readily available at most animal feed or farm supply stores. It’s best to avoid those wrapped in plastic for obvious reasons, but if there is no alternative near, it’s better than nothing. Avoid using twig or bark mulches as these will draw goodness from the soil and likely have more of a detrimental effect on your plants. If you do wish to use a wood-based mulch, ensure that it is well composted and broken down first.
Your irrigation system may also require inspection from time to time. If you are not around or if you are asleep when your system waters the beds, you may not be aware of leakages, blowouts or worse. Run a manual program once every week or two just to check.
Our fruit trees require protection at ground level also, and a thick 75-100mm layer of mulch around the base of the trees makes an enormous difference to soil moisture. Ideally, each tree will have a 1-2m diameter circle of straw, hay or composted mulch surrounding the trunk with a drip-line tucked in underneath to reduce evaporation.
As our delicious stone-fruit is being picked, we should keep in mind that a light prune after harvest will be most beneficial to the following year’s cropping, in particular for peaches and nectarines that fruit predominantly on two-year-old wood. Apples and pears can also have strong new shoots cut back hard, while plums and apricots will benefit from a light tickle and tidy-up. Our fruit trees will also enjoy a good feed of homemade compost following harvest.
Remember to continue to feed your citrus trees monthly during these growth periods. They are using a lot of energy producing the current crop that will be harvested in the coming winter. And keep the water up to these too. Less water means less access to food.
Enjoy the rest of summer with family and friends. Fingers crossed this year we’ll be able to get together freely and share the fruits of our harvests.
Drew Cooper – Edible Gardens