Prepare for winter treats
Use wetting agents to inject life into vegie patch
I’M HAVING the most wonderful time in my garden, now that we’ve had some decent rain. My kitchen garden, which was looking rather sad, has undergone quite a transformation. Last weekend I added heaps of organic matter to all the beds and treated them with a soil wetting agent because the soil was really, really dry. When the soil gets this dry, it becomes hydrophobic and is just unable to absorb water.
Wetting agents (not to be confused with water crystals) allow the water to penetrate more readily. After some good rain during the week, the soil was much improved, so I added still more organic matter and covered it with a good layer of sugar cane mulch.
I’ve ripped out what was left of the summer crops, leaving only the cucumbers which are still cropping heavily, and the basil. New lettuce, dill, rocket, coriander, shallots and beetroot are all in, as well as snow pea seeds.
Over the next few weeks, I’ll add the other key autumn plantings. The cabbage family (Brassicas) are perhaps the mainstay of the winter vegetable garden. Broccoli and kale are probably the most popular winter crops, and you will find seedlings of these available now or in the next few weeks. I grew some Violet Sicilian cauliflower last year. It formed beautiful tight purple heads and was much more successful than the white.
Peas and spinach can go in now too, along with broad beans. Asian greens such as bok choy, tatsoi and pak choy are also really good to grow because they are so quick – you can start picking only a few weeks after planting.
Keep all vegetables growing strongly with fortnightly application of a liquid organic fertiliser such as those made from fish and kelp.
Add plenty of flowers to the vegetable garden to help keep the pests away. White alyssum may help to deter the cabbage moth that produces all those caterpillars. Upland cress is said to be a good bait crop for those.
Other good companion plants for the cabbage family are bush beans, celery, onions, spinach, marigold, nasturtium and strongly scented herbs such as peppermint and oregano. I always leave room for some violas, too. Even though they may not be terribly useful as a pest repellent or companion plant, I just love those flowers, and they are edible. Got a gardening question? Email email@example.com.
◗ Get your garden in a purple patch with Violet Sicilian cauliflower. NOW IS THE TIME TO GET ROLLING T O WA R D S C O O L E R S E A S O N H A R V E S T S A N D S O M E M A Y B E J U S T W E E K S A WA Y