Get­ting ready for win­ter

Franklin County News - - GARDENING - SHERYN CLOTHIER

for an­other two or three weeks, wa­ter­ing them reg­u­larly. This holds them back so they head up later and you don’t have a mass of red cab­bage ready at the same time. Af­ter all, you can only eat so much coleslaw in a week.

Miner’s let­tuce is a win­ter sta­ple and I leave each year’s crop to go to seed. It is just start­ing to re­grow among the dy­ing toma­toes now but the first two leaves are long and thin and look noth­ing like the nor­mal fat, round, juicy leaves. As with ev­ery­thing that pops up in my gar­den, I wait for the sec­ond set of leaves so I can iden­tify it be­fore pulling any­thing out. I don’t trans­plant my miner’s let­tuce – it just hap­pily grows wher­ever and I let it take over a whole bed.

TUCK THEM UP

We can get heavy frosts in the first week of May so I’m al­ready pre­par­ing any pre­cious, frost-ten­der and small plants to with­stand the cold.

First de­fence is a cou­ple of sprays of sea­weed tea every three weeks, to strengthen up ex­ist­ing growth, and then with­hold­ing any ni­troge­nous feed, which would in­duce fresh au­tumn growth that would be frost ten­der.

Then I use a col­lec­tion of frost cloths and heat sinks. Over the years I’ve tried ev­ery­thing from bio­dy­namic sprays to bub­ble wrap, but my best strat­egy has been to mulch the soil well, place two 20L con­tain­ers of old oil on the south side of the plant, and throw a frost cloth over the lot on clear evenings.

The mulch holds warmth in the ground and the drums ab­sorb heat dur­ing the day and re­lease it at night. Frost cloth cre­ates a lit­tle co­coon of warmth dur­ing the cold early morn­ing hours. Frosts only hap­pen on clear, still days, so the cloth is opened up in the morn­ing to al­low max­i­mum light and heat to be ab­sorbed dur­ing the day. When it’s wet and windy, the cloth is left to one side as it can do more dam­age than good.

FEED THEM

It may not look as if your gar­den is do­ing much over win­ter, but un­der­ground it’s pre­par­ing for a burst of en­ergy in spring. It ac­tu­ally takes 18 months for a fruit bud to form, so good nu­tri­tion now will af­fect not only next year’s crop, but also the one af­ter.

Since I com­post in situ – ie lay weeds and mulch around the base of my trees and leave my pet worms to do the work – it takes time for these nu­tri­ents to work through the food chain and be­come avail­able to the tree.

Now is the time to lay this down so ev­ery­thing is ready for the spring flush.

Any­thing can be used as

GET GROW­ING

This col­umn is adapted from the weekly e-zine, get grow­ing, from New Zealand Gar­dener mag­a­zine. For gar­den­ing ad­vice de­liv­ered to your in­box every Fri­day, sign up for Get Grow­ing at: get­grow­ing.co.nz a com­post mulch as long as it is a mix of ni­tro­gen and car­bon – ni­tro­gen be­ing any­thing green (weeds and lawn clip­pings) and car­bon be­ing any­thing brown (wood chip, sta­ble sweep­ings, straw, card­board or news­pa­per). I pre­fer to lay the ni­troge­nous green waste (weeds) down first and cover it with my wood shav­ings. This traps in the ni­tro­gen, stops it from be­ing sucked from the soil by the car­bon and looks tidy. But if your car­bon mat­ter is in dan­ger of be­ing blown away, re­verse it.

CLEAN UP

My tomato crop was dis­mal this year. Thank good­ness my par­ents had ex­cess. My plants grew well enough, but it was the green vege bugs suck­ing the juice out of them and turn­ing their in­ner layer white and hard that ruined them.

I tried to catch and squash the lit­tle blighters (a smelly job) but find­ing them among the dense growth of my bush toma­toes was tricky.

I’ve now pulled out all the plants, tied them into rub­bish bags and am leav­ing them to rot in the sun. I’m all for com­post­ing but I want to en­sure those veg­etable bugs are well dead.

I also threw some quince tree prun­ings that looked like they had fire­b­light on the fire. The tree has had a good feed of com­post and a spray of cop­per to sani­tise it.

Dis­in­fect all tools af­ter work­ing with dis­eased mat­ter and en­sure it is re­moved and or de­stroyed in such a way that the bac­te­ria or fun­gus is killed. Un­less you do su­per-hot com­post­ing, this is not usu­ally enough and can spread the prob­lem around your gar­den. Burn­ing and bag­ging are my favourites or this, the one in­stance when I would ad­vo­cate tak­ing mat­ter to the green­waste dump.

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