Gardening On after Daylight saving

Now that daylight savings has finished for the current season, gardeners have to re-organise themselves a bit more not having that extra hour of light in the evenings.
One comment that tickled my fancy the other day was a diligent home keeper who made the comment,
"Thank god daylight savings is over, I was worried about the curtains fading too quickly."

Makes one wonder about the education standards in this country. You need a good sense of humor in this day and age and on the radio the other day I heard the tale about a granny that had acquired her first cell phone and was out visiting her friend, Peggy. About this time her granddaughter rang her cell phone and when Granny answered she asked her granddaughter, "How did you know I was visiting Peggy?"

One of the best items that I came across this week was that a number of scientists and researchers have determined that one of the main areas of health concerns is our food chain. (Rocket Science?)

They stated that the chemical additives were bad enough on our health, but the biggest concern was that our food lacked nutritional value. They believed that if our food had more nutrition (minerals etc) then the harmful chemical additives would be of less concern. This has also been a belief of mine for sometime. Gardeners that grow their own fruit and vegetables naturally, ensuring that the crops have all the minerals and elements the plants need, know this also.

In my case I ensure my body has a daily intake of high nutrition growing not only as many vegetables and fruit as possible but also growing and juicing wheat grass, taking MSM, drinking raw organic cows milk and having my own chickens. Since taking these things on a daily bases, my health is far better than it was a few years back. In fact I feel 20 years younger, a lot more energy, clearer thinking, better memory and I don’t catch colds anymore.

Just recently I was in a local office fixing up some business and the chap I was dealing with knew me and at the conclusion of the business asked if I would mind answering a gardening problem he had and could not solve. We sorted out the problem and found a solution and then he asked if I would mind helping another staff member. Always happy to oblige I was introduced to a young lass likely in her late teens about a problem she was having with a bed of silverbeet that she had started to grow. She is a first time gardener but very proud of her efforts to the extent that she was able to show me a photograph of the bed on her cell phone. The solution was likely a pH problem and lack of food for the heavy feeding crop. Next, another young lass popped in with a problem that she had growing in a outdoor container. It is great to see young people being aware of their health and vitality and wanting to grow at least some good healthy food.

Both these girls were very proud of their efforts but lacked the knowledge and experience that many readers of this column have.
We must look to pass on our experience to these budding gardeners so that they have successes and don’t become disheartened by repeat failures.

This might be a good time to give out some basic gardening tips that are easy to use and will assist in success.

If you are making a new garden area select a spot that is fairly sunny then after clearing the soil of whatever was there previously (often this is done by digging and turning over the soil to the depth of one spade or more)

While digging and turning over the bed you will be able to see what sort of soil you have and what worms are present. (Worms will only be present, if at all, if the soil has been moist for a period of time.)
In heavy clay like soil, apply ample amounts of gypsum to assist in breaking up the clay particles.

If very light soil then cover with compost and fork this into the soil. Also untreated sawdust can be used as well.
Make the garden bed of a size that you can plant, weed and work the bed without ever having to actually walk on it again.
A slightly raised garden with wood, bricks, concrete blocks can be used to keep the bed from spilling onto the surrounding area.
Next spread a fast acting lime or soft lime such as Rapid Lime over the area and rake in.

Initial food value can be obtained by spreading sheep manure pellets and blood & bone over the area and lightly raking once again.

In a sense the area is now ready to plant up but there are likely to be untold numbers of weed seeds waiting and ready to germinate so we need to make life a little harder for them and reduce the amount of weeding we have to do.

Lay several thicknesses of newspaper over the area, overlapping them and wetting them down as you go.
Do this on a calm day and have ready several bags of purchased compost ready to cover the sheets of newspaper as you go. The final thickness of the compost should be about 30 to 50mm or even greater as your budget allows.

Now the neat part, time to plant up. Select vegetables that are suitable for the time of the year and likely punnets of seedlings are best value at this time. Lettuce, silverbeet, spinach, miniature brassicas, spring onions, garlic, herbs of choice and maybe a stand of broad beans at one end furtherest from the sun so they don’t shade the smaller crops. Plant all these directly into the compost layer. If in punnets, plunge the punnets under water to soak before trying to separate the seedlings for planting. This reduces root damage. A small hole is made into the compost to the depth where the newspaper layer is and the seedlings placed in the hole (roots down) and compost pushed over the exposed roots to cover them with the base of the plant been level with the soil surface.
Watering; it is important that you keep the bed moist and without rain it means you need to hand water. Do not use tap water that has chlorine in it as you will do more harm than good.

Obtain a number of cheap buckets and fill them with the chlorinated water and leave them to stand in the sun for a day. Pour the then de-chlorinated water into a watering can and water the garden with it.

Then refill the buckets ready for the next time. These should be on hand ready to use directly after you have planted up your seedlings.
Check your local papers for poultry farms and give them a call to see if you can obtain some chicken manure. You don’t need much but many of them do sell bagfuls.
Obtain a big container like a plastic rubbish tin which can hold about 75 litres and fill the bottom third with the chicken manure then fill about two thirds full with de-chlorinated water. With a suitable paddle like stick give the whole mix a good stir. Top up with some more water to about 50mm from the top and give a light stir. Now you have made up a heavy duty feed for your new garden.
Water some of this into your garden every few days in this manner. In a 10 litre watering can place one litre of the food and add 9 litres of de-chlorinated water to it and water over the seedlings.
Afterwards give the contents of the rubbish tin another stir before placing the lid back on. More water and manure can be added as required.

Weeding: some weeds will appear in your new bed and these are valuable to building up the soil food web you are creating. Let them grow up to about 50 to 60mm tall and then with sharp scissors cut them off at ground level and let them fall onto the surface of the soil where they will be broken down, feeding the soil life. Don’t pull them out as their roots left in the soil to rot are very valuable.
Now you are getting into what is called Permaculture. A self sustaining system that mimics what naturally happens in nature amongst many other aspects.

Likewise when you harvest vegetables of the types such as lettuce and brassicas cut the heads off with a sharp knife leaving their roots to decompose in the bed. (Some vegetables will need soil disturbance to harvest such as potatoes and carrots but try to keep disturbance to a minimum.)

There are products you can buy to further enhance your plants and increase either their nutritional value or increase the soil food web populations. One of these has to be Magic Botanic Liquid which can be used occasionally as a soil drench or sprayed over the soil and plant foliage on a two weekly frequency.

The golden rule in starting off is never bite more than you can comfortably chew in other words start off small with say a garden strip about a metre wide and a couple of metres long. It is not a big area but is one that is easy to manage. You can, in that area, by not walking on the soil get about 3 rows of plants
such as silverbeet, lettuce spinach and miniature brassicas. Clumps of spring onions, carrots and broadbeans.

For your herbs they also can be part of the bed or alternatively planted into about 20cm pots using purchased compost, a little soil added along with the food mentioned above.

These can sit spaced out around the outside of your garden bed to make the whole thing look more attractive and productive.
If you do not have any area where you can make a garden bed (like in a flatting or town house situation) not all is lost as you can grow a vast selection of vegetables in containers and polyestrene boxes that are  150 to 180mm deep. Don’t use potting mix instead use a friable purchased compost with a little soil added and follow the above instructions.

You can plant about 8 silverbeet plants into one of these boxes with holes in the base for drainage and once established you can start harvesting the outer leaves. A box as such will give you a few cuttings each week for a long period (dependant on time of the year). Use the food as above.

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