Pre­pare for win­ter treats

Use wet­ting agents to in­ject life into vegie patch

Central Telegraph - - GARDEN - with Ma­ree Cur­ran

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 ma­ree@ede­nat­by­ron.com.au.

PHOTO: THINK­STOCK

◗ 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

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