How-to for beginner gardeners with Shannon Hunt.
Keep your soil moist & plant for Autumn harvests
In this hot February weather, with council water restrictions, it pays to remember that all the hard work and money you have invested into your vegetable and flower garden over the last 12 months may be wasted if you do not give your plants the moisture they need.
Here are a few steps you can take to ensure your seed growing is successful.
You can blame the lack of texture in the soil if your garden does not hold water overnight or during the day. While watering your garden twice a day over February is often regarded as normal practice, water restrictions may put the stoppers on that, so the trick is to get your soil to the stage where it has so much textural content that moisture remains in the air pockets for longer.
Channels of Moisture
Pelletised, heat-treated sheep pellets contain wool fibre that will swell up when water is added and then release the moisture and goodness into your soil at a gradual pace. If you are going away, create shallow troughs in between your planted rows. Place a layer of straw in the channel and top with at least a 10cm thickness of pellets. Fill in the trough with soil and water well. This technique will help retain water around your plants’ roots while you are away.
Good old mature woodchip mulch is a must for all your flower and vegetable gardens. Mature mulch is a great place for beneficial microbes, insects and worms to live and do their thing for the benefit of your plants, while also making weeding an easier job. Lay it 10–15cm thick. For those with sandy soil, put down a layer of manure or sheep pellets first and top with freshly chipped mulch.
Here is a handy hint for those of you who do not have a friendly neighbour to water your garden daily while you are away on holiday. Purchase a large pottle or jar or two of water crystals, aka water-holding/water-storage gel. Before you leave home, sprinkle handfuls evenly on the ground alongside your plants and then water the area well. The gel will hold lots of water and distribute it into the soil over a week. Be aware that once you water the gel it will look as if you are growing clear jelly in your garden, as it puffs up when watered.
A simple soak hose is an easy way to keep water dribbling into your mulched vegetable and flower garden over the hotter months. You can buy a timer attachment for your tap and set it to run early morning and late evening, or just turn on the tap for 15 minutes at a time. Do make wise choices when choosing a timer because a cheap timer is not always the best option.
Plant Salad to Harvest in April
In the warmer spots of our country, this month is a great time to plant out a second lot of lettuce, spinach, parsley, mizuna, radish and rocket so you can enjoy fresh, home-grown, garden-to-plate salads well into April. Your soil will be warm enough to directly sow seeds. Remember to sprinkle some diatomaceous earth (DE), which is safe for edibles, over the new sprouts that pop through the soil. DE will keep mites and chewing insects from chomping on your leafy salad plants and it will keep white butterflies from laying eggs on the undersides of the leaves.
Sow Now for Autumn & Winter Flowers
To add extra zing to your autumn and winter garden, pop in pansy, poppy, alyssum, snapdragon, primula, lobelia and pretty primula seed towards the end of the month. You can also plant out different varieties of lavenders.
Calendula marigold seeds are a must to plant now, both to create sunshine colours through the colder months and to help keep aphids at bay. The more marigolds you can plant around the outside of your garden the better. Look to dwarf varieties, which tend to stay upright and not become quite so straggly as taller varieties.