So, 2020 hey? Just looking at that number makes me feel like we’re in some kind of technologically advanced, futuristic time — which I suppose we are in some respects. And although there have been a number of new and innovative approaches to crop production in the past few years, it still remains that the fundamentals of growing our own backyard food are “as old as the hills”.
Despite the new and clever ideas, there is no substitute for looking after our soils in order to receive healthy backyard fruit and vegetable crops. Good soil preparation, adequate soil moisture and protection of the soil are all keys to good harvests, and if we don’t pay attention to all of these we will start to see our production slip.
During these warmer months in particular it is important to keep our soils covered up with thick layers of mulch. Bales of lucerne or pea-straw are readily available on the Peninsula 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 because these will draw goodness from the soil and likely have more of a detrimental effect on your plants.
It’s not just our vegetables that require mulching either. 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.
Speaking of compost, at this time of year as we’re enjoying many a festive summer meal with friends and family, there is an opportunity to increase our compost production by scavenging all those vegetable and other food scraps. Perhaps take a bucket to your next festive gathering and ignore the weird looks as you cash in on a bonanza of food waste.
Drew Cooper, Edible Gardens