The big dry

What a sum­mer… but your garden is prob­a­bly suf­fer­ing and bolt­ing to seed if it is lack­ing water.

Element - - LIFESTYLE - JANET LUKE GAR­DEN­ING

If the dry weather is con­tin­u­ing in your neck of the woods, wa­ter­ing and water con­ser­va­tion are crit­i­cal for the health of your plants.

Ripe for the pick­ing

New sea­son ap­ples and pears are plen­ti­ful along with rock mel­ons and dessert grapes. Ku­mara, both red and pur­ple are also avail­able. Early au­tumn bras­si­cas such as broc­coli, cab­bage and cau­li­flower are also ready to har­vest.

Vege garden

Young au­tumn seedlings re­quire a con­stant water sup­ply to en­sure a steady growth and for­ma­tion of a strong root sys­tem. When young plants are starved of water they go into preser­va­tion mode and shoot to seed. It will take a few good weeks of sig­nif­i­cant rain­fall to re­turn parched soils to moist veg­etable patches again. In the mean­time here are some sim­ple ways to con­serve water: Only water your garden in the early morn­ing or late evening; mulch the garden thickly with an or­ganic ma­te­rial such as straw, pea hay, com­post or even shred­ded newsprint; Form swales be­tween your rows (swales are shal­low trenches which help to slow water run off and pool water for the plants roots to up­take); dis­con­nect any down spout­ing from your roof so that any dew or rain can drain onto the ground or into a water butt; drape old net cur­tain­ing, or wind cloth over ten­der seedlings such as let­tuce or spinach to pro­tect them from the scorch­ing sun.

Seedlings to plant now in­clude broc­coli, let­tuce, mesclun, rocket, kale, broad beans and peas.

Herbs

Galan­gal This is a mem­ber of the gin­ger fam­ily and is na­tive to South East Asia. If you en­joy cook­ing Thai you need to grow some of this! The plant looks sim­i­lar to wild gin­ger and forms a clump of roots which are used in recipes. Galan­gal grows best in light shade in a warm space. A green­house is ideal. Pro­vide it with rich com­post and reg­u­lar water.

Kaf­fir lime

This plant grows as a small tree, 5-10m tall, with aro­matic and distinc­tively shaped “dou­ble” leaves. The fruit it bears are rough, bumpy and green. This lime tree re­quires a frost­free site in your garden or con­ser­va­tory and grows well in a large pot on a sunny bal­cony or pa­tio. Both the leaves and fruit rind are used for cook­ing. Place the plant some­where so you can brush by it and re­lease the won­der­ful fra­grance from the leaves. Like all cit­rus it re­quires reg­u­lar feed­ing with com­post, worm ver­mi­casts or liq­uid fer­tiliser to main­tain vigor.

Ur­ban or­chard

Fig trees will be fruit­ing now. Hang old CDs or tin lids in the tree to de­ter raid­ing birds. Figs do not ma­ture off the tree so en­sure they are soft be­fore pick­ing. When pick­ing, avoid get­ting the white sap on your skin as it can cause itching for some peo­ple. Figs are high in cal­cium and fi­bre. Cit­rus trees need feed­ing around their drip zone to nur­ture the de­vel­op­ing fruit. I pre­fer to use blood and bone, sheep pel­lets or my rab­bits ‘bunny berries’ as an or­ganic feed. If you are hand-wa­ter­ing your cit­rus trees give the trunk and un­der­side of leaves a force­ful squirt with the hose as this will help to wash away any young scale in­sects. Cut back to the ground any old fruit­ing canes on your rasp­berry or cur­rent bushes.

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