April 2012 Notes

Make the most of the warm days and not so cool nights and get your veges in, especially the leafy greens which will feed you right through winter if planted now and into May. It’s  also a great time for planting herbs and perennials, shrubs and trees, and for striking cuttings of herbs and many other edible plants. And plant your garlic now if you haven’t already.

More importantly, give your garden beds a bit of TLC before you plant again. By now the zukes and other summer veges will be on their last leaves, beset by powdery mildew, slowly dying off. Amazingly, many are still trying to flower and set fruit – a survival strategy as long as conditions allow – but the likelihood of ripe, great tasting results are slim. Days are shortening, nights cooling. Frosts will hit. Unless you’re saving for seed, best to pull them out. You can compost the residues or even finely chop/mulch and dig back the residues straight into the soil. Be sure to put any plant residues you suspect have disease problems in the compost.  A handful of lime will help the breakdown and ‘sweeten’ the soil. Add compost or organic soil conditioner/fertiliser, rock dust,  dig it all through and you’ll be ready to plant the next crop.

Take care to rotate your plantings and follow with different crop types and families, eg. fruit (tomatoes – solonacae) followed by root (carrot – umbelliferae) followed by flower (broccoli – brassicae), etc. And make sure at least one rotation is a green manure crop that you dig back into the ground without eating. If you have a small garden and can’t manage to set aside some for a green manure it’s important to ensure you constantly feed your soil – add compost everytime you plant and regularly during the season, incorporate mulches after they have broken down, use worm castings and juice. Harvesting veges means you are harvesting soil nutrients; they need to be replaced. We can’t expect our soils to constantly provide – natural nutrient cycles are so much slower than our human demand!

Gardening Dates for temperate areas of SE Australia:

Leaf Days: 1-3, 9-11, 18-21, 28-30: amaranth, bok choi, brussel sprouts,  cabbage, kale, celery, coriander, endive, mibuna, mizuna, orach, rocket, tat soi, lettuce, mustard, silverbeet, chard, spinach, chives, garlic chives, coriander, dill, parsley

Fruit Days: 3-5, 10-13, 21-23: broad beans, mustard, peas, snopeas, peas

Root Days: 5-7, 13-16, 23-26 : beetroot, carrots, celeriac, fennel, garlic, garlic chives, bunching onion, kohlrabi, leek, parsnip, radish, daikon radish, swede, turnip

Flower Days: 1, 7-9, 16-18, 26-28: 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): 17

Node Days (avoid planting if you can):10,24

Apogee (moon furthest from earth; less lunar influence):22

Perigee (moon clostest to eath; more lunar influence): 8

New Moon/Full Moon: 21/7

Moon descending: 11-25

Moon ascending: 1-11, 25-30

Apply soil fertilisers, compost: 11- 22

Prune, take cuttings, plant seedlings: 13-16, 23-26

Apply foliar fertilisers: 1-7, 25-30

Graft: 1, 7-9, 26-28

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.

7 thoughts on “April 2012 Notes

  1. Genevieve Barlow says:

    Learning how to compost

    This morning I noticed a new layer of green stuff had been tossed on top of the compost heaps so I watered them and then sat cardboard on top of them. Is this the correct thing to do? And should I then have watered the cardboard? I notice a family on my morning walk covers their compost heaps with old carpet. Would this help our compost heaps rot quicker?

    • janet barker says:

      Yes, it’s good to keep the heap covered; you want to try to keep temperature and moisture stable, and contained. I wouldn’t use carpet because these days most contain chemicals that will leach into the heap and even carpet underlay is no longer that safe. Same goes for using it to mulch garden beds. Anyway, layers of cardboard or very thick layers of newspaper, or biscuits of hay/straw are all good to cover heaps – quite a thick covering. The cover doesn’t need to be wet but the compost layers should be watered well everytime you add something, then make it snug by covering it again. A contained bin with a wooden lid, or even a tarp may also work, as long as there is still plenty of air flow.

  2. Ros says:

    Yesterday I harvested my chillis. Next time I won’t plant so many. I had no idea they would be so prolific! Hence I have an some extras to share. I was thinking about our conversation at the garden on Saturday, Janet, and wondered if any community gardeners needed chillis to make up the garlic/chilli/detergent insectide you were recommending? I have more than enough to share for this purpose – or for eating, of course!

    • janet barker says:

      Hi Ros,
      Thanks for the chilli offer. As it happens, I went home and made up a batch after we had talked – I call it my pesky bug mix and it’s pretty creative i.e. not too specific about quantities. For this batch, I used a chilli, seeds and all roughly crushed, two bulbs of garlic ditto, added both to a jar topped up with hot water (you can add cayenne pepper as well) and put the lid on. I’ll leave it to ferment for a week or more and then dilute, about 20 parts water to one part pesky bug mix (or if particularly potent even 50 parts to one) and add a squirt of detergent. The detergent acts as a surfactant, it will help the mixture to cling to the plant leaves. But you’ll need to re-apply if it rains. It’s a deterrent, not a killer, but quite effective on a number of chewing insects. Penny Woodward recommends a soap spray, and also some other versions – http://WWW.pennywoodward.com.au. But then again, chillis are always good eating…

  3. Saide Gray says:

    Thanks for these terrific notes about gardening hints.I always refer to them before planting.
    A couple of weeks ago I planted broad beans with seeds I had saved from last year. The seedlings emerged fairly promptly, but they are fragile and wobbly, like toddlers trying to find their feet, and am wondering, if their is something I can do to strengthen their stems? Have I been over watering? Or maybe the soil is not composted enough?

    I have been eating those chillies you gave me Ros and could eat some more – they make food deliciously warm on a cool or cold night. A little chilli added to a red wine rabbit stew is pretty amazing. So if you still have chillies available am happy to relieve you of them. I could also make some of that pesky bug deterrent mix Janet has recommended, because if everyone puts it on their community garden plots, the pests will probably all come to my plot! That could be a good thing, as I have been collecting the snails from my plot and feeding them lettuce with a view to a delicious feast for myself, but have not yet braved the French snail cookbook!

    • janet barker says:

      Not sure about your broadies Saide. It could be you planted in a time of strong watery lunar/cosmic influences, eg. a leaf day, at perigee when moon waxing, or close to the full moon in a leaf day….. or something! I have had this experience with some plants before when they germinate as very lanky, weak things. What variety are they? Dwarf broadies tend to be shorter and stockier than the taller ones which usually need staking. Perhaps you could support them with a frame or stakes. Hopefully they will toughen up as the weather cools and growth slows into winter. The unusually warm autumn we’ve had til now would encourage rapid growth as well.

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