With these longer sunny days, we are seeing substantial growth in our edible gardens. And while it’s exciting to have another warm season upon us, keeping up with it all can be overwhelming for some. However, if you plan well and understand how the cycles work in your own garden, you can prepare and stay on top of the maintenance of your food crops.
By now you will want to have most of your summer crops in and growing strong. Tomato, capsicum, eggplant, chilli, zucchini, cucumber, pumpkin, watermelon, potatoes, beans and corn will all be loving the recent mix of sunshine and rain. Keep up with subsequent plantings of your salad vegetables: lettuces, beetroot, carrot, radish, kale, etc. The early stone fruit will be picking soon too, with plums, peaches and nectarines all swelling beautifully.
While enjoying the rewards from your garden, there are a few important things to keep in mind over this warmer period: maintaining soil moisture, watching out for pests and diseases, and consistently harvesting your crops.
If your soil has been prepared adequately before summer planting 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. Giving your gardens a hose down every few days isn’t really sufficient, and you may find that your plants don’t thrive as they should. A well-functioning drip irrigation system covered with a thick layer of straw mulch is going to make maintaining moisture in your soil much easier.
As well as attending to your soils, make sure you keep a regular eye on pests and diseases over the season. I would recommend casting an observant eye over your crops at least two to three times a week if possible to see if there are any little crawlers, nibblers or fungal issues. And you probably need to start now! The cabbage white butterfly is out and about, as are aphids, pear and cherry slugs, brown scale, caterpillars, earwigs, snails and slugs and so on. 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 ones. You can also find recipes on the web to make your own chemical-free alternatives.
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 prevent rotting vegies attracting flies and bugs. You may also end up with dry, split or oversized 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.
Drew Cooper, Edible Gardens