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