Make hay, etc. There’s less likelihood of frosts from now on in because our soils are quite moist, even wet. Sodden soil will mitigate the effect of freezing cold temperatures overnight and early morning (water is the best thermal mass there is). The weeding is easy, almost enjoyable. Admire the growth. This is a season out of the box. Enjoy the spring in Central Victoria because it never lasts very long!
However. Brian Keats is suggesting more Weather (!) due to a supermoon (distances under 357,000km from earth) which amplify prevailing conditions wherever you are: frost, heat, downpour. It’s spring, so changeable as usual, but maybe more drastically this month. Look out around the perigee full moon (15-18th) anyway.
Raise your seeds indoors or under protection – beans, tomatoes, zukes, cukes. etc. Or plant them out as seeds now and keep fingers crossed (soil is still cold). The herbs are on show and asking to be divided, replanted, tended. We are viewing ours anew after Stefania’s visit.
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’re experiencing. Compost, worm juice and castings (use the castings sparingly – a little goes a long way – you can also make the castings into a dilute solution and water in). Remember to avoid urea based products if you are buying, rather than making, fertility (check the label, some well known ‘organic’ fertilisers contain urea, which is a synthetic fertilizer made from anhydrous ammonia and water soluble, not the best in an organic/biodynamic garden).
And the weeds. Not all weeds are bad. In fact on my ‘worst of’ list, I would probably put couch, phalaris (many farmers wouldn’t agree!), then have to think for a bit … It’s all about context. Many weeds bring benefit to the soil – for example, tap-rooted plants like Dandelion and the thistles bring nutrients up from deep in the soil, Patterson’s Curse concentrates copper in its leaves and stems which can be beneficial to the compost or garden (but also toxic to animals). Other weeds are medicinal for animals and humans, or improve the structure of the soil, or attract beneficial birds and insects, including bees.
Weeds can be an indicator of soil health. In biodynamics, Ehrenfried Pfeiffer (“Soil Fertility”, Lanthorne Press, 1983 pp 124-125) had a bit to say about this; that weeds are your friend and not your foe. He points out that “weeds are often indicators of mineral imbalances in soils and are even nature’s way of correcting those imbalances…”. Of course the rider to this is that the weeds may have grown from seed dropped passing bird, and then made the most of the opportunity … so it pays to look and read the site.
Along with mineral imbalances, weeds can also indicate poor soil structure, water-logging or poor soil drainage, low fertility or high fertility.
Cape weed is a case in point. It’s a South African native and really going for it this Spring, in pastures, gardens, the bush and on roadsides. You’ll most often see capeweed growing where stock have camped, or where conventional fertilisers have been used – capeweed tends to suggest excess nitrates in the soil and an acid soil as well. I’ve just applied dolomite lime to some bad patches of capeweed, to see if increasing the pH of the soil will adversely affect the growth, or allow other, more preferred plants, to move in. The odd capeweed plant in the paddock isn’t a concern to me, because it does bring some localised benefits, and I can ‘top it’ at flowering to prevent seed set.
Corkscrew (or Storksbill, Erodium) is another high, but unbalanced, fertility indicator whereas Onion Grass usually indicates poor fertility, especially of phosphorus, and poor drainage – you often see it in pastures that are reverting back to natural species, and where soils are compacted.
There’s a bit more information on the effect of Soil pH and nutrient availability in this earlier posting. 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.
Seeing weeds (except couch!) in the garden as helpers, not hinderers, also makes weeding more enjoyable – we appreciate what they are bringing to the garden and how, once we compost them, or make a batch of ‘weed tea’ (basically chop up your weeds and leave to soak in water for a couple of weeks and up to a month, stir occaisionaly so they don’t become anaerobic, sieve, dilute and use) or use them as mulch, the garden will benefit.
Enjoy a bit of Spring weeding, as well as planting this October.
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, maybe). Frosts can still occur in Newstead through October and it’s probably worth waiting till later in the month to plant out frost tender summer seedlings, perhaps.
Guide for temperate areas in SE Australia for October 2016:
Leaf Days: 5-7, 14-16, 22-25 – 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: 7-10, 16-18, 25-27 – 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: 1-2, 10-12, 18-20, 27-30 – 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: 2-5, 12-14, 230-31 -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: 19 (a good time to plant, transplant, etc, and in the 24hrs either side)
Moon Descending: 8 – 21
Moon Ascending: 1-8, 21-31
Full Moon/New Moon: 16/31
Nodes*: 13, 26
Apply soil food: 9-21
Apply foliar food: 2-7 best then 22-31
Mulch: anytime, but watch for frosts (thick straw mulch will intensify them) and remember the slugs!
Transplant seedlings, plants, cuttings: 18-21 best, then 10-12
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