Spring: October in the Garden

There’s been a lot of growth in the last month. We’ve had a lot of warm weather so far this spring, but I’m not sure if this is typical for this time of year. I seem to spend every spare moment in the garden doing little jobs – sowing seeds, thinning seedlings, feeding liquid fertiliser, and picking a few bits and pieces.

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Fruit Trees

I’ve had, er, mixed results with stone fruit. I’m sure my newly planted dwarf peach is dead – I pruned it back a little and it was woody all the way through. What did I do wrong? My dwarf Stella cherry still feels like it has sap running (which I’m told means its alive) but no shoots to be seen. However, here is the dwarf Goldmine looking good. It has some leaf curl and two fruits developping. It’s only a foot high.

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The Fantasia nectarine is only just leafing up. This seems later than every other tree in the area. This spot has a wall to the east. I grew cucumbers very successfully in this spot last year – the soil stays quite moist. So maybe the soil heats up later in the year than more exposed parts. Still, I’m not feeling very optimistic about the cherry.

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The Duffy and Apollo feijoas are sending out new growth from the tips and from the base. I can see how you can choose to grow these shrubs or as trees. Question is, is one growth habit better for fruiting than another? I have no idea. Also, these are named varieties so I should check whether they’re grafted. If so, I’m assuming I should snip those suckers? Just finally, are they some flower buds to the left?

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I planted three olives in autumn: Manzanillo (in a half wine barrel), Kalamata, and a Verdale. The potted Manzanillo pictured below is putting on the most growth. Bit worried the other two are getting too much shade (I know, olives and shade don’t mix).

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There’s growth on most of my stepover and cordon apples. It seems like a good amount but I have no experience to compare it with.

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Fruit growing on my Duke of Clarence apple cordon in its first spring. I snipped the fruit that set on the tip but I’m going to let these ones further down the main stem stay.

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Herbs

I’m letting the parsley stay and go to seed. I got loads of parsley coming up over spring from the dry seeds I shook out in autumn. I also read on Jerry Colby-Williams’ blog that he find parsley one of the best plants for attracting beneficial bugs. Here is my parsley being obliging.

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I think chives are a fabulous plant in the edible garden. They have a very upright and dense form, while being soft and wavy. And I just love the mauve flowers. It is such an easy, useful herb to grow. Something I hate buying at the shops because it’s usually in pretty poor shape.

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Tarragon dies back over winter and sprouts anew each spring. This is the French tarragon which is supposed to be the preferable variety (as opposed to Russian tarragon).

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This purple sage is doing really well.  I saw it planted en masse in the Food Forest at the Garden of St Erth and thought it such a nice plant in the edible garden. I’m hoping to take lots of cuttings and plant up the garden with it that way.

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Flowers

Newly planted Rosa Rugosa – I can’t remember which one. But Rosa Rugosa form rosehips, and I hope to use them to make tea or jelly, although I have no idea what I’d use the jelly for. It turns out I quite like the shrub too. Check out that hot pink.

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Self-seeded nasturtiums. Or perhaps seeds I sowed last warm season germinating now?

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Berries

A little alpine strawberry flowering. I planted two varieties: Yellow Wonder and White Baron Solemacher. I saw some seedlings of the same variety at the nursery and they were much more vigorous so I’m hoping these will make it.

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There are lots of fruit forming on the strawberries. I haven’t netted them yet. I feel so defeated after last year’s bug plague I don’t know if I have the energy to try and save them this year.

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Potted blueberries. Hmmm. I need to test the soil pH. I had a couple of handfuls last year from four plants. I don’t know if these will continue to flower, but if not, I’ll definitely get even fewer berries this year.

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Vines

Fragola grape growing well in a sunny spot. I’m comparing the growth of this one to two others which are planted in much shadier spots. I bought these as cuttings from Karen Sutherland‘s open garden. Her garden is full of plants which fruit in shade or part shade, this being one of them.

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A newly planted female kiwi vine  (Bruno) planted in this spot which gets afternoon shade. I planted it here after seeing an interview with Karen Sutherland on Sustainable Gardening Australia, on growing food in shade. I’ve got it in a bed with other plants with similar needs: high water, well drained soil, and lots of fertiliser (loquats, feijoas, and rhubarb).

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Perennials

I planted these rhubarbs in late winter. They are really standing up and spreading out. I’m very excited. I love rhubarb but I’ve never grown it (or most things) before. I’m feeding and watering it a lot (we’ve had a lot of warm weather).

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Here are two potted Dwarf Ruby Red rhubarb plants I planted last year. They didn’t do much in their first year and I was convinced I had rotted the crowns over winter. But they seem to have taken off. A third one is still looking unconvincing. They are in pots about 45-50cm across and in good quality potting mix. I have been feeding them slow release vegie fertiliser pellets and fish emulsion (charlie Carp) and Seasol.

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This is a  Violetto artichoke planted this winter. Not the benignly firm and plump heads I was hoping for. This one plant seems loose, and extremely spikey, much more so than the others I planted. Any advice on this readers? Is this just what some artichokes do? Is it still good eating?

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This is more what I was envisioning:

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Annual Vegetables

Broad beans providing in earnest now.  I’m picking every few days. The soil seems uncharacteristically sandy where they are (I have clay, clay, clay) so I’m having to water them quite a bit in this warm weather.

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Kale planted last autumn still providing for us, and our new chooks. I just love this stuff.

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I’m getting a useful amount of peas every couple of days now. These pictured are Greenfeast. I put them freshly picked in a frittata and they added noticeable sweetness. Really delicious.

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Here come the garlic scapes, joy of joys. Have you heard of them? They are the flower stems on hard-neck varieties of garlic. The bulge you can see is called the umbel, and you can plant the tiny bulbils that form in the bulge for more garlic. Scapes are delicious – they have a lovely mild garlicy-lemony flavour. I adore scapes pesto. It is delicious and fresh. Just replace basil with scapes in any pesto recipe, and omit the garlic.

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It pays to make a note of what you sow, where. I can’t remember exactly which lettuce this is. I think it’s one of the varieties less prone to bolting (flowering, or going to seed) in warm weather. I think I need to feed my lettuces and other greens more often. Or more than never.

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Golden Bantam corn poking up. I’ve never grown corn before. I’m planning on putting down drip irrigation – it’s a very thirsty plant. I was a bit confused about spacing. Every 35cm every way, or 60cm between rows? Enlighten me, please.

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Everyone says not to plant tomatoes before Melbourne Cup Day around here. But I’ve got shade cloth at the ready should there be a chance of frost. I want to try and get tomatoes a bit earlier this year. I made these tomatoes cages using wire mesh and tire wire, and three tomato stakes driven in for stability. It worked really well last year.

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In the Greenhouse

I’ve had a few successes and quite a few failures. Here are my pride and joy: Green Grape, Beams Yellow Pear and Green Zebra tomatoes.

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A slightly less impressive lot: Minnesota Mini rockmelon, Cape Gooseberries, lettuce and some straggly looking Green Zebra tomatoes. Not sure if they’ll make it in time for cup day…

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So, mid-spring. Time of peas and broadbeans, and much messing around with seeds. My big aim this spring and summer is to successfully practice succession sowing of the easier crops to start from seed. Post to follow shortly on that topic, although I’ve posted a spring guide to succession sowing in cool climates here.

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