Spring is supposedly just around the corner, actually it’s here! By Kathleen McCann

Kathleen McCann
Kathleen McCann – About Regional permaculture guru. By Ian Campbell

Are you set to get into spring and all that it entails – making your garden ready for the next few months of warming conditions? In some gardens on the south coast, plants (as well as animals and birds!) have already begun their explosion of flowers, perfume, and accelerated growth.

What to do?

Well, hopefully you’ve survived the challenge of a very dry winter. Some of the crops I planted were very slow to grow, but since the last good drop of rain a few weeks ago, my garden has started to pump again. I have broccoli, parsley, three types of lettuce and mizuna really taking off, keeping me in greens.

A little slow to start at first, the peas have finally come in and the broadbeans are also flowering and fruiting fast.

Broadbeans have really responded to our recent rain. By Kathleen McCann
Broadbeans have really responded to our recent rain. By Kathleen McCann

But I’m contemplating what to do to get my beds ready for even more food.

I’ve got some horses that have moved in next door and my chickens are making an excellent pile of poo for me too. So it’s out in the paddock with a couple of big buckets and a shovel for the horse manure then I am raking up the chicken debris under the roost to help my garden along.

Usually, I would put both manures through my composting system – which I did throughout winter – but I am also going to put it straight onto the beds and lightly dig them in. This will give the micro-life in the beds a real boost, plus I am going to add some potash and dolomite and to top it off a healthy dose of mulch.

Choose your mulches wisely, if you are buying from a produce store make sure you enquire where the bales have come from. Organically grown or chemical free is the best to get – or slash your own if you can – as long as seed heads have not appeared, most grasses are good for mulching. I am lashing out and have bought a couple of organic sugar cane bales.

A mini hot house to protect fragile seedlings from cold late winter nights, with lady bird watching on. By Kathleen McCann
A mini hot house to protect fragile seedlings from cold late winter nights, with lady bird watching on. By Kathleen McCann

But rice straw, lucerne (horse food grade), wheat and oat straw work well too. Lucerne has more goodies in it because it is a nitrogen fixing plant. I steer away from pea straw as I have heard that it is sprayed with herbicide to make it easier for baling. It’s good to always check.

I’m making up seed trays out of old styrofoam vege boxes (free at the back of most supermarkets – goes straight to landfill otherwise).

My soil mix for planting seeds is two parts old sawdust, one part old manure, one part compost.

I’ve already got tomatoes going and springing into life! I placed a couple of old glass louvres on top to make a simple greenhouse – keeping the moisture and warmth in. As the weather warms overnight I will take the glass off.

Next to go in the boxes with be all my summer lovers – zucchini, cucumber, more lettuce, and maybe some extra different heritage tomatoes. I plant beans, corn, carrot and beetroot straight into the soil.

This year I am also experimenting with more subtropical plants – two types of sweet potato, ginger, turmeric and choko.

My garden - in need of a spring tidy up. By Kathleen McCann
My garden – in need of a spring tidy up. By Kathleen McCann

I did plant some yacon one year, but it doesn’t agree with my belly! (A bit like Jerusalem artichoke). I’ve also planted more tamarillo and passionfruit as my older plants are on their way out now after 4 years of growth – both plants usually only last 5 years.

So get out there and get started!

Fruit trees have already started flowering, the soil is receptive for more planting after the good rain we’ve had so it’s an ideal time to get into it!

Happy playing and planting,

Kathleen

Words and pictures by Kathleen McCann – permaculturist, artist, good chick and number 1 worker at Luscious Landscapes.

Put the kettle on, it’s time to get in the garden. Kathleen’s autumn-winter checklist.

Kathleen McCann
Kathleen McCann

The colder months are here and our region really feels it.

Life retreats only planning to stir with the first rays of spring, but don’t you retreat from your vegepatch or orchard, there are things to be done and still food to grow.

First a bit of observance – with a cuppa and sitting in the sun in the middle of the garden to peruse some of the issues that came up last season.

Some thought starters…

Do you need to rearrange the beds? What beds worked well last season and what didn’t? Do you need to put in a green manure crop to reinvigorate a bed where plants didn’t really thrive?

Take the time to really see what went well and what didn’t.

Start to make a list of some of those jobs you’ve been putting off in the garden…

Red daisy helps bring the good bugs in
Red daisy helps bring the good bugs in

Clean up the old summer beds and compost all that you can. You have been feeding and improving your garden for a while now so it’s good to keep what you’ve grown in the system.

Remember to collect fully grown seedheads from the best plants, dry them out and store in airtight containers.

Fork and aerate beds, reinvigorate with dolomite, potash and your favourite type of fertilizer, mine is my compost with added chicken manure from my girls.

Mulch all the beds again, I use slashings from the farm, rotted bales from the produce store and sometimes grass clippings if they don’t contain seed heads.

Plant out winter crops – brassicas, rocket, parsley, peas, chives, onions, garlic, silverbeet, spinach, coriander, all the root crops and don’t forget the broad beans!

Have you thought about what flowers to plant around your patch?

I have lots of geraniums, nasturtiums, marigolds, chrysanthemums, salvias and daisy family around mine. Someone is guaranteed to be flowering all through the year. The good bugs will thank you and help you control the bad ones.

Keep on top of any pests – aphid, white moth, cabbage moth, snails, and slugs all appear around this time of year before the harsher temperatures make it difficult for them.

Aphids! A little eco-freindly washing liquid mixed with water in spray bottle will take care of them, but you'll need to keep it up
Aphids! A little eco-friendly washing liquid mixed with water in a spray bottle will take care of them, but you’ll need to keep it up

For the ‘slimers’ I put ash around my seedlings to protect them, for aphids and moths a small amount of mild eco-detergent mixed with water in a spray bottle helps. The key is to be consistent, once is usually never enough!

Feed the citrus – cow/chicken manure, some potash, and a little Epsom salt, and mulch them.

Rake up leaves from deciduous trees and compost them, or better still put them into the chicken yard and let them play around in the leaves and turn them into compost for spring. Most deciduous trees are ok, but research your trees toxicity to chickens first if you have any doubts.

Planting more fruit trees?

Bare-rooted stock is now in and autumn is a great time for planting out. Remember to plan where your trees will work best and how you’re going to manage them throughout their (and your) life.

Clean up under all your fruit trees.

If you’re growing stone fruit or any of the pomme (apples, pears, etc) family get some help from the chickens in cleaning up. It is fine to leave the ground bare under the trees for a couple of months.

Red ribbed dock and horseradish, I eat the dock leaf and the root of the horseradish
Red ribbed dock and horseradish, I eat the dock leaf and the root of the horseradish

Start to think about how you’re going to prune for next years crops. Plus how are your tools going? Maybe an afternoon of cleaning and sharpening is in order?

Look for dead or dying branches to remove. Your first prune of the year should be the apricots – June is the usual time for this group. Wait till it’s very cold and all leaves have dropped to prune the rest of your orchard, that’s mainly so you can easily see next year’s fruiting spurs.

If your fruit tree has wooly aphid, scale, or sooty mould then it is usually a sign the tree is not doing so well in its root system, or rot has set into the heart of the tree.

You’ll need to make a decision, whether to save the tree or cull and start again. Often the tree is failing because of an issue within itself – just like us!

Keep up the watering, this time in the afternoon, when it is a little warmer.

A lot to consider, you might need more than one cuppa!

Play, plant and go well my gardening friends.

Words and pictures by Kathleen McCann – permaculturist, artist, good chick and number 1 worker at Luscious Landscapes.

The big dry – how to help your garden survive with plants up to the challenge

Kathleen McCann
Kathleen McCann

Everything is crispy, trees are turning up their toes and dust is now the common ground cover.

How on earth can we keep a productive vegetable patch and prevent fruit trees from losing their crop in these extreme dry times?

Part of the answer – grow plants that are up to the challenge.

Heat tolerant plants for the vegetable garden:

Arugula – wild rocket, spicy peppery flavour
Beans – dwarf varieties
Broccoli – picking varieties
Capsicums – all peppers including chili
Corn – nothing better than your own
Cucumbers – the small varieties work better in tough conditions
Eggplant – once again the smaller varieties work better and grow quicker
Hardy woody herbs – Mediterranean herbs such as rosemary or bush basil
Pumpkin – the smaller, quicker growing varieties
Silverbeet – perennial varieties work well
Spring onions – keep planting out to keep up a supply
Tomatoes – smaller varieties of fruiting toms grow well in tough conditions
Weeds – yep, you can eat’em. Purslane, warrigal greens, dandelion; all good to add to your menu
Zucchini – smaller varieties again do better

Fruit trees that cope with heat (to a point):

Almond
Apple – dwarf and smaller fruit varieties
Apricot
Avocado
Banana – on greywater if possible
Pear
Passionfruit
Plum – Asian varieties
Pomegranate
Macadamia
Red Mulberry
Walnut

And once you have them in the ground, some tips on keeping the moisture up to them…

During the planning stage of making your garden it is vital to think about water – availability, easy access, recycling and ways of keeping it on (or off!) the block for as long as possible as needed. This determines the size of the garden and what you can produce using the resources you have.

If your garden or orchard is on a slope you may have to introduce terracing or swaling (a ditch on the contour) to help slow water down so that it seeps down into the ground instead of running off the top.

Check your taps and connections, every drop counts.
Check your taps and connections, every drop counts.

Do you have access to town water?

If you’re on town water you will have to decide if you’re prepared to pay for its use. If you are on dam water or tanks then it is important to manage your use over the drier seasons.

You have to regularly maintain all taps, connections, and joins – leaks stick out rather easily with lots of green turning up in unusual areas.

Remember 1 ml of rain on 1 square foot of roof catchment means 1 litre in the tank.

Watering the garden deeply once or twice a week, usually in the evening, really helps maintain good root coverage below ground. If you miss an evening, early morning is second best.

In prolonged extreme temps and hot winds, you may have to water every day or every second day depending on water availability.

You could also look at recycling your greywater out into the garden. There are certain rules to follow so read up on the local council regulations.

Kitchen, bathroom and laundry greywater will need to go through a filtration system to take out any impurities.

You can use laundry greywater straight out on the vegetable patch – but only if you aren’t washing nappies. If you do wash nappies you will have to put the water through a filtration system before it goes onto the garden.

There are many designs out there on the net, ranging from simple reedbed systems to very expensive technology.

And remember to use eco/soil/plant friendly detergents for greywater use.

Mulch deeply to keep in moisture

I start my beds with no-dig gardening techniques and keep adding throughout the seasons as needed.

I make sure I have at least 10cms of mulch around the summer vegetables that need it – leafy greens, tomatoes, soft herbs such as basil, brassica’s, capsicums, chilli, zuchinni, etc.

I don’t mulch around any alliums though – onions, spring onions, chives.

Remember to keep up the slug and snail baiting throughout this time too as deep mulch can also help them survive the heat.

With fruit trees, mulch to the drip line of the tree – where the end of the branch hangs down to the ground is the usual size of the root ball.

In extreme weather conditions, you may have to decide what to keep growing and what to let go?

If you do have to make the decision to stop using some garden beds, it is a good idea to ready that bed for fallowing – letting it sit there – weed free if possible, fertilised and mulched – until the weather turns and you can replant for the next season when it looks like enough rain has returned.

Too many apples, remove half or more to help the tree cope in dry times.
Too many apples, remove half or more to help the tree cope in dry times.

Plant out larger vegetables on the hottest side of the garden to help protect and shade the smaller, less hardy varieties. Companion planting guides will help you choose who can tolerate who.

If you have a netted orchard you could plant a shelterbelt of smaller trees on the west/northwest side of the fence to provide shade and wind shelter.

You need to make sure the shelter belt is far enough away so that root invasion isn’t a problem in the orchard. Choose trees with a small root ball.

Most eucalyptus have roots that can travel up to 45 metres looking for sustenance.

In extreme conditions, shade cloth can be hung above your fruit tree and to the windiest side to help keep them cool.

If you have limited water you may need to take half or more of the younger fruit off to help the tree cope.

Play, plant and go well my gardening friends.

Summer hijacked by bindiis. Advice to slow their advance!

 

Bindiis! Quick gettem now before they flower. Supplied by Eurobodalla Shire Council
Bindiis! Quick get them now before they flower. Pic supplied by Eurobodalla Shire Council

Bindiis are the curse of summer 2016/17 in South East New South Wales.

Barefoot cricket is not an option and running under the sprinkler ends in tears. My dog Duke has even worked out a path around the bindiis when fetching a ball – smart fella!

Spread easily by foot traffic and in the fur of animals, bindiis AKA Soliva sessilis are a native of South America, but are now well established around the globe. Backyards in New Zealand, France, Hawaii, and California have also become no-go zones.

In 2016 it seems these little ‘pricks’ have made the most of a good growing season.

A spokesperson from the parks and gardens team at Eurobodalla Shire Council says bindiis generally flourish in spring, but especially so after a wet winter.

And a wet winter we have had.

Checking the rainfall stats, South East NSW received an average of 364mm of rain over the three months of winter. Bega was the top with 808mm, then came Batemans Bay with at least 400mm, Eden 236mm, Bombala 235mm, Jindabyne 258mm.

As a bonus, most backyards also had a good dump in early spring.

Boots - an unwilling accomplice to the spread of Bindii's
Boots – an unwilling accomplice to the spread of Bindii’s

Friends of About Regional are despairing.

Jan Southcott writes, ‘This is the first year they have invaded our lawn – grandkids won’t be happy.”

“I think they are worse this year,” Robyn Calhoun says on Facebook.

Ahoy Jenni writes, “I was ambushed by a whole cluster of bindiis.”

From Meagan O’Halloran, “They are much worse at my place too this year.”

Robyn Broughton was forced to take action, “Just finished digging mine out of the backyard.”

There is more at play here though then just our wet winter.

About Regional garden Jedi, Kathleen McCann says, “When weeds appear there is a story to look for, often a story of repair and rejuvenation.”

“What the bindii is telling you is – Stop treading here, I am repairing your lawn!”

Kathleen McCann
Kathleen McCann

The Bega Valley based permaculturist says bindiis are a sign that your lawn has become compacted, stressed and worn.

“Bindiis often appear as the first part of a healing process – a successional process of plants that move in to repair the soil,” she says.

“Next to appear will be long tap rooted weeds like flat-weed, thistle, dock, and plantain.

“After that, the native grasses have a chance to appear and repair,” Kathleen says.

For a land manager like Eurobodalla Shire Council, controlling bindiis is a key part of their annual maintenance program for local parks, sporting fields and reserves.

High profile grassy areas like Moruya’s Riverside Park, the Batemans Bay Foreshore Reserve, and the turfed areas around public pools come in for particular attention.

To stay ahead of the spiky invaders Council sprays a herbicide during the winter months called ‘Spearhead’.

“If the bindiis have flowered it’s too late to spray for summer,” a Council spokesperson says.

“The maintenance must be done annually and we are finding each year there is less infestation than the previous year.”

Bike tyres too! Helping the Bindii spread
Bike tyres too! Helping the Bindii spread

No sprays for Kathleen McCann, her approach is to work with the natural healing process and restore the health of your lawn – reducing those bare, compacted spots where bindiis can take hold.

“Next time it rains, or after a good watering, fork holes into the lawn, feed up with fertiliser, worm juice, dolomite, potash and give it another good watering,” Kathleen advises.

“You will still have some bindiis popping up but they will soon disappear as the repair starts to happen.”

On Facebook, Russell Jennings adds, “Learn to recognise the distinctive leaves and just keep ripping them out before they seed.

“It takes a while, with regular pulling out sessions, eventually you can win,” Russell writes.

Good luck comrades in the battle against bindiis, may luscious lawns be yours in the summer of 2017/18.