March 2017

Autumn has been here for a little while – or is it a ‘Sumtumn’?  The lower angle of the sun makes things feel heaps hotter, earlier, and the air is very dry.  Good luck to those early autumn and winter planted things! I constantly find that theory about crop scheduling and planting crop types doesn’t often fit in the /my Newstead setting. It could also be that, disappointingly, my thumb and fingers aren’t all that green. But maybe, increasingly, getting non-bitter lettuces over summer when you really want them may need some manipulation. And excess water.

It’s been a weird summer after a cool and wet spring. No season is ever like another in the garden. But finally, our tomatoes and other crops are getting into full production. Fingers crossed that March is benign and there is enough warmth for all those pumpkins to ripen! Keeping the water up and a feed or two of worm/seaweed/compost tea will help things along.

Time to prepare beds for planting – this month will be vital to plant those caulis and broccolis and other autumn/winter crops. Get your brussels in! Dig in well prepared compost, rockdust, lime. Water in. Replace mulch if you aren’t planting straight away (and a bit of the old shredded/light mulch dug through the soil will help add organic matter, but don’t overdo it, or it will tie up all the available soil nitrogen and the plants will suffer)

If planting parsnip or carrot seed, remember these crops will take a while to germinate – up to 3 weeks – and over that time you need to ensure the soil doesn’t dry out at all – one way is to place wet hessian on top of the soil and then a light plank of wood, until the seeds sprout. Or you can presprout by soaking (see earlier post), plant and continue to keep moist. Putting in a quick growing leafy mix of salad greens and herbs is a great idea before we head into autumn proper.

Later in the month, start thinking about garlic and broadies – our two staple crops (and fundraisers) at the garden. We are back to the garden for planting as it’s been over three years since the garlic was there, and it’s closer to home.  Garlic is prone to many disease issues so rotation is critical, but the season and storage/curing is a big factor too.

It’s a constant challenge for community gardens to monitor and maintain crop rotations to benefit the soil and prevent potential pest or disease problems.

It’s not too late for pruning – prune for fruit production on your pome fruit trees (apple, pear, quince, nashi etc) and stonefruit (peach, plum, nectarine, apricot, etc). Berries can also get the chop when they have finished fruiting. Autumn berries get everything cut down to the base, summer ones get this years canes cut back to the base and the new growth that’s come through needs to be tied up and trimmed where needed – this will be where next years’ crop forms.

Think about your first application of BD500 for the year if it gets coolish and moist. Brian Keats reminds us of the March tides – neap tides and spring tides.  Spring tides mean high tides are higher, low ones lower. Neaps are the reverse. Think of the moon’s influence on both the sea and soil. Spring tides on 13th and 28th, neap ones 5th and 21st. In our climate, I also think of autumn as a better, longer Spring so that idea works.

Enjoy the better March weather for gardening – and perhaps go with the tides, plant your root and fruit crops, compost. And turn up on March 5th to discuss our garden future.

Gardening Dates for temperate areas of SE Australia:

Leaf Days: 1-2, -10, 18-20, 27-29bok choi, brussel sprouts,  cabbage, kale, celery, endive, mibuna, mizuna, orach, rocket, tat soi, lettuce, mustard, silverbeet, chard, spinach, chives, garlic chives, coriander, dill, parsley,

Fruit Days: 2-4, 10-13, 20-23, 29-31: broad beans, mustard, peas, snopeas, lentils, lupins, chickpeas, wheat, oats, barley, spelt, triticale (green manure plants)

Root Days:4-6, 13-15, 23-25, 31: beetroot, carrots, celeriac, fennel, bunching onion, kohlrabi, leek, parsnip, radish, daikon radish, swede, turnip

Flower Days:6-8, 15-18, 25-27 : broccoli, borage, cauliflower, all flowers (poppies, lupins, calendula, etc)

Moon Opposite Saturn (considered a good date for sowing seeds, applying preps and planting, or 48hrs either side): 6  

Node Days (avoid planting if you can): 11, 25

Apogee (moon furthest from earth; less lunar influence): 19

Perigee (moon clostest to eath; more lunar influence): 3, 30

New Moon/Full Moon: 28/13

Moon descending: 1-7, 21-31

Moon ascending: 7-21

Apply soil fertilisers, compost, take cuttings, plant seedlings, prune: 23-25 best, then 31 or 4-6

Apply foliar fertilisers: 7-8, then 15-18

Graft: 7-8, then 15-18

Dates are a guide for these particular crops. 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.

*The Ides of March come from the Roman Calendar which was based on the phases of the moon. The start of their year was actually March and the ides was the first full moon of the year. It occured around the 13th – 15th of the month (in 2014 it will be on 17th) and was the time of religious celebrations – as well as the assassination of Julius Caeser (and entered the lexicon c/o Shakespeare)  A gardening aside!