It’s been a strange spring so far. Very dry, apart from one decent deluge of an inch or so, and warm. The green manure is ready for cutting. But no sign of our asparagus spears, and the broadies, though flowering with abandon, haven’t really formed pods (hope they hurry up for the dinner!) Glad we started our zukes and cukes and pumpkins early inside the igloo. Interesting the preschoolers’ seeds were up well ahead of ours, planted on the same day.
It’s well worth keeping account of the seasons, if not a diary (and it appears I think about this each Spring!).
Now is the time to feed your soil, especially if planting warm season crops, and for perennials to really benefit from the spring flush. We’ve been making heaps of compost – you can never have too much – the worm farms are also fantastic ‘juice’ producers and the high nutrient, sieved, castings provide the garden with the equivalent of a multivitamin pill. Remember to avoid urea based products if you are buying, rather than making, fertility. Feed the soil and it will feed you.
Soils are complex. Soil health is a reflection of the physical, chemical and biological factors and their interactions. (I plan to write a soil primer, to add to the biodynamic basics page…) To start, pH is a basic indicator of nutrient availability (and therefore can indicate biological activity and structure). It’s a good idea to test your soil every few seasons, just to check whether repeated cropping is tending to acidify your plot, and whether you need to add more lime, or if the system is humming along nicely. Vegetables, fruits and flowers have preferred pH tolerances, but the ideal range is around 6.5 to 7.5 (7 is considered neutral and below 7 is acidic, above 7 is alkaline). Below pH 6.0, nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium, are less available; above 7.5, iron, manganese, and phosphorus are less available. You can use a simple and inexpensive test kit. We have one at the garden. Make sure you sample the top 10cm of soil and take many samples (eg. for our individual plots, around 10-15 small cores mixed together and then take about a tablespoon for a sub-sample to give a decent guide. Soil is variable. Don’t sample from obviously different areas – if you have a damp, or gravelly, or sloping part of the garden, test that section apart from the rest.
The best news is that practices like green manuring, adding composts and encouraging soil microbial activity all ‘buffer’ or ‘balance’ the soil and will reduce, and also increase, pH over time. Applying BD500 and the BD compost preps will certainly help to balance the soil pH.
For a quicker result (over a season or two) to increase pH you can add lime (not builders lime) – about 100g per square meter. Dolomite lime will bring the added benefit of Magnesium. Reducing the pH of alkaline soils is a bit more difficult. Using a pine based mulch or adding pine needles or decomposted leaves can help, as well as adding elemental sulphur (but take care as it can kill good microbes if too much is added at once – no more than a handful per square meter).
Here are the dates for gardening this month. Note that (s) means sow as seeds and (p) means plant as seedlings. (eg. tomatoes can be planted as seed but probably still too early for planting seedlings early this month in frost prone areas). Beware that frosts can still occur in Newstead through October and it could be worth waiting till later in the month to plant out frost tender summer seedlings!
Guide for temperate areas in SE Australia for October 2014:
Leaf Days: 1, 7-9, 16-18, 26-28 – amaranth (s,p) basil (s), bok choi (s,p), chinese cabbage (s,p), dill (s,p), kale (s,p), celery (s,p), endive (s,p), mibuna (s,p), mizuna(s,p), orach (s, p), rocket (s,p), tat soi (s,p), lettuce(s,p), mustard(s,p), salad greens (s,p), silverbeet(s,p) spinach(s,p), chives (p,s), garlic chives (p), coriander(s,p), dill (s,p), parsley(s,p), radicchio (s,p), rhubarb (s,p), clover (s)
Fruit Days: 1-3, 9-11, 18-21, 28-30– broad beans (p) bush and climbing beans (s,p) capsicum (s,p) mustard(s,p), peas (s,p), strawberries (p), amaranth (s,p) capsicum (s,p), chilli (s), corn (s), cucumber (s), eggplant (s), okra (s), pumpkin (s), rockmelon (s), snopeas (s,p), squash (s), tomatoes (s), watermelon (s), zucchini (s)
Root Days: 3-5, 11-13, 21-23, 30-31– asparagus (s,p), jerusalem artichoke (p), beetroot( s,p), carrots (s), celeriac (p), fennel (p), kohlrabi (p), leek (p), spring onion (s,p) salad onion (s,p), bunching onions (s,p) potatoes (s,p), shallots (s,p), radish (s,p),
Flower Days: 5-7, 13-16, 23-26 -broccoli (p), cauliflower (p), borage (s,p), globe artichoke (s,p), sunflower (s) marigold (s,p), nasturtium (s,p), other flowers
Other Auspicious Gardening Dates:
Moon opposite Saturn: 6 (a good time to plant, transplant, etc)
Moon Descending: 1-14, 28-31
Moon Ascending: 14-28
Full Moon/New Moon: 8 (lunar eclipse at 8.50pm)/24 (solar eclispe at 7.56am)
Nodes*: 9, 23
Apply soil food: 9-13 best, then 1-9, 28-31
Apply foliar food: 24-28 best, then 14-24
Mulch: anytime, but watch for frosts (thick straw mulch will intensify them) and remember the slugs!
Transplant seedlings, plants, cuttings: 11-13, 30-31, 3-5 (in order from most beneficial)
Graft: 24-27, 29, 5-7, 13-16 (in order from most beneficial)
Dates are a guide for these particular crops. For more info see Planting Notes. Timing will vary from region to region (particularly with climate change) and even within a garden’s own microclimates. Of course, rainfall, weather conditions and your own schedule will influence when you garden.
# Broccoli can be grown year round, apart from the hottest months. I prefer to plant through the colder months to avoid having the broccoli forming heads when the cabbage moth butterfly is active, in late spring and summer.
* Each month there are a couple of ‘node days’ when the sun and moon are in opposition. Many biodynamic gardeners choose not to plant on these days, or at least a couple of hours either side of the node.
** Perigee is the point where the moon is closest to the earth, so the influence of the moon is strongest. Apogee is the furthest point from the earth, so the opposite occurs
lunar perigee (on the left) and apogee (right) viewed from the earth