Friday, 30 November 2007

November Garden

The vegetable garden is springing to life as the October plantings are developing. Now it is time to plant the seeds of climbing and bush beans, lettuce, beetroot, carrots, celery, parsnips, potatoes, sweetcorn, silverbeet, pumpkin. For best results plant 2 days before the full moon and transplant seedlings of tomatoes, eggplant, pumpkin, capsicum, melons during the new moon phase in the afternoons.
Check the compost heaps are not drying out. Treat them like a living plant - if you water your plants once a week then water the compost at the same time.

“Using raw manure on my garden makes me organic” Wrong! All animal manures regardless of age must be properly composted with other materials before adding to soil. When raw manure is used it harms the soil microbes and the worms and causes imbalances in the soil. Sure!, you get the lush quick green growth, just the same as adding urea or soluble Nitrogen. Animal manures have the potential to contain dangerous organisms such as E coli; another important reason for composting all manures. Studies have shown that applying fresh manure over a number of years has no increase, or even a decreasing humus content in the soil, whereas applying composted manures results in a slow but steady increase of humus and organic matter. Same goes for liquid animal manures (an old time favourite of gardeners) where manure, mainly poultry/ pigeon, is steeped in water and then used directly on plants. This is the same as dissolving urea and using it. All liquid types of fertiliser need to be limited to the capacity of the humus in the soil to absorb, otherwise it is leached into the watertable. One of the main aims of organic agriculture is to feed the plants via the humus in the soil. Plants feed through very complex mechanisms. Humus, trace elements, bacteria, fungi, algae all play a part. To feed nutrients through water soluble fertilisers or foliar sprays can cause the plant to take up too many nutrients, to grow lush and sappy and be more vulnerable to pest and disease attacks.
Guidelines for manure use:
· Collect manure as fresh as possible from an uncontaminated site.
· Store manure, covered, out of the rain until needed for compost.
· Compost aerobically with other materials. The best way to add the manure to the compost is to make a thick slurry by adding a little water to a large container and mixing until smooth. This can then be poured over the layers as you build the heap.
· Compost is ready when it becomes an even, dark brown/ black, humus rich, hygienic, living substance with a pleasant soil like smell.

HERBS can add beauty and diversity to the garden. There is a herb to suit all situations.
· Grow herbs as companion plants in the vegetable garden. eg. basil with tomatoes : borage and garlic with strawberries : chives and carrots. and for overall benefit to most vegetables plant yarrow.
· Plant a culinary herb garden. It should be a sunny spot within easy access of the kitchen. It can be as simple as a wine barrel or large pots outside the kitchen door or any easily accessed area of the garden. This way you can snip them off fresh when you need them. A good range would include parsley, chives, oregano, mint, summer savoury , French tarragon or any herbs you are passionate about cooking with.
· Herbs can be grown along a pathway so you brush against them releasing their wonderful fragrances. eg lemon verbena, lavenders, rosemary or peppermint geranium.
· Herbs make great hedges eg lavender, wormwood, rosemary, elderberry, lemon balm. The key to a great hedge is to keep it well trimmed right from the beginning to keep it compact.
· Grow your own fertilizer Comfrey and nettles can be added to your compost or used to make a tea to water around the plants. To do this 3/4 fill a container with herbs then top up with water, leave for 2 weeks stirring daily. When ready dilute 1 : 4 . Comfrey is rich in Potash while nettles are rich in Nitrogen and trace elements and also works to balance iron.
· Set the mood with herbs in you favourite sitting spot . Lemon balm goes well where tranquillity is desired or if insects are disturbing your relaxation try hyssop, pyrethrum, pennyroyal or if ants are a problem try mints.
You could relax with a beneficial herbal tea like peppermint, lemon grass, chamomile or even better since the elders are flowing at present try making some elderflower champagne in time for Christmas.

no added yeast, non-alcoholic version
20 elderflower heads
5 lemons
150ml vinegar
1.5kg sugar
20 litres water
Cut most of the stems from the flowers. Shake any bugs, dirt etc. Squeeze lemons and cut rind into strips. Add all ingredients to a large container, stir until the sugar is dissolved. Steep for 24hrs, then strain, bottle* into sterilised bottles and seal. Store in a cool place. Keep at least 3 weeks before drinking.
* you can use PET bottles or champagne bottles.

Don't forget November is a great time to sit and enjoy your garden. Check out the birds and wonder at the insects and all nature has to offer.

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