Living on Taungurung Country, Central Victoria, where the climate is cool and the warm season is incredibly short, gardeners like me need to be strategic and take advantage of every space.
Here are some jobs in the garden I recommend getting done now, before the heat of summer kicks in.
Tomatoes are a staple of most summer gardens, and in warmer climates, they will be well established.
But in my cold climate, they are only now going into the ground, having been raised undercover to an advanced stage.
Once planted, they will grow quickly and need to be pruned and trained.
I do this using a steel stake which should last forever and can be washed and stored at the end of the season.
When it comes to pruning, many garden varieties are “indeterminate”, meaning they will continue to grow and fruit along the main stem.
To concentrate energy into the growing tip, remove any lateral shoots that occur in the leaf axils.
It is also important to remove any foliage that is touching the ground, as this can be a pathway for fungal infection, but also the lateral branches to concentrate the energy into the main stem.
Is your soil in season?
While the air temperature has warmed, for most plants it is the soil temperature that is most important.
I use a thermometer to monitor conditions underground, and look at plants in the garden that indicate seasonal changes.
When self-seeded nasturtiums germinate, it’s an indication that the soil is warm enough for things like beans, basil and cucurbits.
Generally, soil measuring above 18 degrees Celsius is good for sowing seeds in spring and summer.
Mulch is only thinly applied to soil to ensure the sun will continue to warm the soil.
Prepping the pumpkin patch
To prepare an area of lawn for pumpkins, I make a large pile of organic materials.
I start with a layer of cardboard which is moistened and covered in aged poultry manure.
Next comes a drainage layer of woodchips and brassica stems. These are also mixed with compost and aged manure. Finally, the pile is covered with a thick layer of straw.
Four pumpkin seeds are planted into a deep pocket of compost and soil.
To get the very best value out of these few warmer months, I plant shoulder crops between the main plantings.
In the bed that grew winter brassicas is a quick crop of Green Mignonette lettuce. This particular variety can only be grown in this short spring season but as a fast-maturing crop, makes productive use of the space.
As well as focusing on summer crops, I’ve also started sowing for winter! Brassicas like brussels sprouts and some varieties of broccoli are already sown, and it is time to start the radicchio.
Sow seeds into large individual cells, as the seedlings prefer not to have their roots disturbed. Thin to one plant per cell when they germinate and in 2-3 weeks, they will be ready to go into the garden.
Most radicchio varieties have two distinct growth phases producing large, coarse leaves over summer and then distinct coloured hearts once the shorter, cooler days come.
Acknowledgment & humble source: