As gloom, doom and anxiety infiltrate our daily lives, I don't intend to focus on them here...but oh how I wish everyone could have a garden in which to isolate.
The purpose of this newsletter is to respond to the numerous comments and requests I've received via recent instagram posts, where I've been loosely documenting autumn tasks in the kitchen garden. Yes...I've been on a mission to plant for the season ahead! This wave of wild enthusiasm though, is only partly survival mentality...really it's my perfectly normal pattern of behaviour at this time of year, when the season's betwixt and between, overlapping, crossing over from one to the next. It's a time of bountiful harvest alongside planting for the season ahead, and always has me in panic mode!
Whilst I've broken the back of the planting here, please don't worry if you haven't (remember, I'm doing it on quite a big scale so it takes awhile). You still have time to do the same...but I do urge you to please get a move on over the coming days! I'm not yet finished here either....in fact, successional planting is vital: dropping seed and seedlings in at regular intervals to ensure a constant trickle of produce to eat, rather than one bumper harvest at the end of the season is definitely the way to go. While it should always be the case, it is especially so in these hitherto unforeseen circumstances.
If you're new to all of this (a. please refer to the entire podcast series!) but b. I'm aware that many people still don't recognise (not their fault in this day and age) that we have two very distinct growing seasons in much of this country...how very lucky we are! For most of us, we can plant in late summer/autumn to grow through the winter months for a spring harvest...and plant again in late spring/early summer, for an autumn harvest...whilst attempting to make sure we have produce coming in to eat all the way through. These are not the same veg both times! So unless you're in the tropics, forget tomoatoes, capsicums, aubergines, cucumbers, zucchinis, pumpkins and beans right now (some people have mentioned these to me). They are not the seasonal veg that will grow through the cool months in the southern states!
So...while I prepare a more lengthy version (to join the podcast page notes as a supplementary edition) with images just as soon as I can, I recognise a growing sense of urgency amongst some of you to know what to do. So here's a quick version to tide over those who have specifically asked for a shortlist of what to do in the kitchen garden NOW!
1. Prepare your soil if you haven't already. Remove spent plants from last season (the ones that are no longer productive*) and aerate where the earth is badly compacted after drought conditions: plunge a border fork to the depth of its tines but don't 'turn' the soil.
2. Add compost (home made if you can but otherwise bring in the best you can get your hands on). Plop it gently on top of the aerated soil - don't dig it in...let the earthworms and mircro-organisms do the work for you.
3. Add mulch to cover this precious life-giving compost, to retain water/prevent evaporation and said precious microbial activity.
4. Plan what to plant / sow where. As a guide, remember to rotate the four family veg groups: leafy greens to follow legumes; roots to follow fruiting veg is a good guide.
5. Think structures for height, both from an aesthetic point of view as well as for saving space - build wigwams, even tunnels if you have room. Build boxes for broad beans - visit podcast episode seven to see what I mean, and be sure to build them before you sow seed - there's a full explanation there.
6. Gather any net or wire you can get your hands on for pest control - you'll find plenty of examples littered throughout my instagram posts and stories, as well as the podcast notes.
Which brings me to.....
Seed to sow direct into the soil now:
Peas (most tend to be climbers - what a good excuse to erect a wigwam) five or six seeds per structure are more than enough but will allow for some duds.
Broad Beans (get very tall and have very fragile stems so please build my box, see above...5 seeds per box!).
Loose leaf lettuce varieties (broadcast in a patch or sow in a row)
Rocket (broadcast in a patch or sow in a row)
Parsley (broadcast in a patch or sow in a row)
Dill, coriander, chervil (broadcast in a patch or sow in a row row)
Calendula (broadcast in a patch or sow in a row) - good companion / eat petals
Leaf Amaranth (broadcast in a patch to eat tiny leaves)
Fennel (broadcast to use as a companion, for its fronds, flowers & fresh edible seed - used this way it will grow very tall and take up space so not in a row)
Mustard leaves, like Red Elk and Giant Red (broadcast in a patch or sow in a row)
Carrot (broadcast in a patch or sow in a row)
Beetroot (in a row or a patch...I sow quite thickly so there will be plenty of thinnings to pull and eat as leaves). Be sure to soak the seed first.
Parsnip (in a row or a patch...be sure to soak the seed first).
Turnip & Swede (I seem to have stopped growing these - note to self to reintroduce!)
Seed to sow now into punnets:
Lettuce...for a continuous stream (there are two I like to sow now that do well in the winter months but hate summer: Australian Yellow and Freckles Bunte - usually available from Diggers).
Seedlings to plant now:
Brassicas: kale, broccoli, cabbage, cauliflower, kohl rabi, brussels sprouts (the last only if you have a long cold season).
Fennel (for their swollen bulbs).
Leeks (it takes a long time for them to develop)
Lettuce: hearting and cut & come again varieties
*Like me, you may well still have tomatoes, zucchinis and aubergines growing well and in full production. Capsicums too, are just coming into their own after putting on good growth through the summer months, so don't pull them out while they're all in their most productive phase! You just have to work around them.
** See examples of all of the above on insta stories 'autumn planting'.
Coming up soon will be time to sow garlic - Anzac Day is my benchmark - if I haven't sown at Easter, I aim for 25 April. So try to get hold of organic cloves to sow now. I sow my onion seedlings a little later. Don't forget to add some sweet cottage flowers to your kitchen garden. Often out of place in contemporary gardens, kitchen gardens are the ideal place to let loose with a romantic flourish of old-fashioned flowers that will act as good companions, bringing in the good bugs as well as a smile to your face. Think stock, wallflowers, snapdragons, and if you have space, even delphiniums and hollyhocks (sadly neither of the last two like me here!). Borage too, and the aforementioned calendula, both of whose petals are edible and...the all time favourite nasturtium.
Of course there are all kinds of things you can experiment with too. And there's a good chance I've missed out something vital and obvious! I'll be broadcasting my poppy seed soon...I noticed the first new tiny leaves of a self-sown one the other day, which is a good indicator; though I expect some Indian Summer days ahead yet, so I'll sit on my hands on that score for now!
I hope this helps as an interim measure, but for the die-hards, yes...I'll start a-writing to give you more information. I'll also try for another of those IGTV videos...oh my goodness, the one I did was such a spur of the moment idea...not that it's likely to be any better if I plan ahead! It wouldn't upload as one, which is why it's in two parts! If you missed, you can see it here...part one and part two! Then it took about 24 hours to upload...technology is not my strong point! But I'll see how I go because if it is useful for you to see this way, it might tide us over 'til you can visit again in real life. (Believe me, I've been racking my brains on that score too...and will see how the new rules fall).
Now off you go to the garden...in complete isolation! And please do refer back to the podcast notes...all the information you need IS there! Even if you can't bare to actually listen again!
Very best wishes as always,