Parched gardens have had a little relief lately, but the change of season means it’s time to get busy with winter crops.
What a glorious summer we have had with many days on the trot of hot, sunny and settled weather. Your tan may be looking good but your garden could be feeling a little worse for wear and could be looking forward to more moisture and shade! Autumn may be approaching but the hot, dry and settled weather continues.
RIPE FOR THE PICKING
Right now rock melons, avocados, new season apples, peaches, apricots, cucumbers, courgettes, eggplants, capsicums, beans, chillies and new season potatoes are all in abundance.
IN THE VEGETABLE GARDEN
I’m sporting a gardener’s suntan, are you? It is that strip of tanned skin on your lower back which gets burnt as you are head down and bottom up in the garden and your t shirt rides up to expose a strip of skin on your lower back. Not very attractive admittedly but a badge of honour among gardeners perhaps?
This month is the time to keep on top of pests and diseases. The hot weather and abundant growth makes your garden a sitter for aerial and ground attracts from all sorts of creepy crawlies. Perhaps the most prolific at this time of year is the cabbage white butterfly. The best defence for this culprit is very fine netting over your brassica crops or regular spraying with an organic spray called Bacillus thuringiensis (BT). This is a naturally occurring bacteria which just targets caterpillars. It is certified BioGro organic but – as with all sprays – be careful when applying and only spray when necessary and on calm days.
Start to get your winter crops in the soil. I know it feels too early but if you plant some now they will get off to a stellar start and you can be enjoying fresh brassicas or broad beans before anyone else.
If you live in a very warm frost-free area you could still sneak in one more crop of French beans but sow now to ensure they produce before winter frosts destroy the plants.
Sow these seeds now; carrot, parsnip, lettuce, Brussels sprouts, spring onion. Plant these seedlings; celery, broccoli, cabbage, cauliflower and silver beet.
Now is the time to get busy with your pruning saw on any stone fruit in your garden. If you have peach, apricot and plums which have any dead, broken, diseased or tangled wood remove this now. Sometimes once a fruit tree has produced its fruit it has a spurt of lush leafy growth. This new growth rarely fruits well and is best cut out now. Pruning now helps to produce fruiting spurs, which will bear fruit next summer.
When you open a hive commonly you will not just see bees. Cockroaches, ants, spiders, moths and even, rarely, a mouse could greet you. Because of this it is important that if you take up beekeeping you are not squeamish in regards to insects.
In the height of summer a healthy beehive can have anywhere upwards of 60,000 bees. At the head is the Queen. She is the mother of all in the hive. A queen can live up to four years. When she is born she leaves the hive on mating flights to mate with male bees from other hives. She then returns and stays for the remainder of her life inside the hive, in darkness, having all her needs met by the worker bees. The queen can lay up to 1000 eggs each day.
The drone is the male bee. They are large with big eyes. They do not have a stinger. Their job in life is to spread the genetics of the queen to other queens in the area. In a hive which allows the bees to build their own natural comb, a healthy hive will be made up of around 15% drones.
Workers are sterile female bees. They make up the majority of the hive. During their short life, often only six weeks in summer, they have a defined, and a changing, set of roles. Roles include housekeeping, heating, nurse and forager bees. In its life a single bee will produce around 2mls of honey.