The last week has seen the coolest weather for this winter spfar, -6; -7; -5 and soil temps have also dropped. Soil temps in my garden are hovering around 6 degrees. These low soil temperatures really limit seed germination. Soil temperature is probably the most important factor affecting seed germination, and seedling growth. Finding information about soil temperatures at which vegetable seeds will grow can sometimes be difficult and often not consistent. This is because there are different terms for classifying soil temps for germination purposes. There is the minimum temperature required for seed growth, an optimum temperature, and a realistic temperature. The minimum temperature is reasonably self explanatory. It is technically the minimum temperature at which germination is possible. On the other hand, the optimum soil temp is technically the perfect temperature for germination. However in between is the realistic temperature. This is somewhere between the minimum and the optimum temps at which germination and healthy growth can be achieved. This happy medium is suitable for beginning plant growth with the assumption that optimum temperatures will occur as the season progresses.
So for example, peas sown in soils with a temperature of 15 degrees take about nine days to germinate, while peas sown in soil with a temperature of 4 degrees about 36 days to germinate. By this time most of us will have given up. The other thing that can happen with this very long germination time is that seed often gets damaged and is far more likely to become diseased. However a soil temperature of around 10 degrees (the realistic soil temp) will see a much faster and better germination rate of about 70% and strong early growth.
To ensure success at this time of year it is much better to plant seedlings at this time of year while the soil temps are very cold. As the soil temperatures warm up by late winter to early spring much better seed germination rates will be achieved.
Don’t forget Wynlen House Urban Micro Farm is running its winter gardening workshop where you can learn all sorts of practical information about chemical free all season produce gardening particularly in a cold climate.
The long winter evenings are well and truly here. The days are becoming so short. All the animals are gathering at the gates by 4.00pm demanding to be fed and to be let into their housing. By 5.30pm it’s the same for me. Time for snuggling up by the fire, dinner, watching cooking shows and reading.
I find filling in the long winter evenings is always a challenge. One of my occupations is to scour through recipe books. The other is re reading gardening books and exploring new “small farm” thinking through the internet. At this time of the year when we start the winter pruning program I re-visit my fruit tree production books. One of my standard refer to texts is Fruit for Australian Gardens by Paul Baxter, first published in 1991, and I have a couple of classics from the 1940’s Practical Gardening And Food Production in Pictures and A Handbook for Fruit And Vine Growers by the Chief Horticultural Instructor, Dept Of Agriculture South Australia. These older books provide wonderful detail and ‘how to’ pictures / diagrams.
So on to pruning currants. Paul Baxter states ‘Red currants are generally grown as a multi stemmed bush with eight to ten main shoots per plant. Pruning then consists mainly of removing some of the four to five year old branches each year so that new shoots will grow in the their place, ...also remove those erect shoots that grow in the center of the plant.”
The aim of pruning is to keep the form of the plant, remove any diseased material, to keep the plant’s interior open and to maintain fruit production. This involves removing about a third of the old growth away from the plant. The oldest growth is the thickest branches with bark that is very dark to the point of being black. Also remove any branches that are weak or very low and any crossing and or rubbing branches (cut the weakest or oldest). These cuttings can create new fruit bushes. Trim to about 30cm, and pot. With a bit of luck you should get a fairly good strike rate.
It has been a beautiful moist week, with some rain, lots of drizzle and delightful mizzle, that lovely heavy mist that is not quit drizzle. The vegetables adore this weather. The big broad leaves of the brassicas capture large drops of water like small pools; the soil has turned dark with moisture and looks rich and renewed. It is great transplanting weather. However as the soil has cooled right down seeds at this time of year can be very slow to germinate. Much better to plant seedlings.
This time of year is great for all those maintenance tasks in the garden particularly pruning, feeding and mulching of the orchard and berries. Food producing trees and bushes need to be well mulched so as to keep the roots warm and moist at all times and to ensure continuous feeding of the tree. A regular feeding and mulching program for the orchard should commence in winter when weed and grass growth has slowed.
The application of nutrient and mulching material should extend out from the trunk in a circle that equals the growth of the canopy. This material should be pulled away from the trunk, to keep the trunk healthy and avoid rot.
A winter soil husbandry program for food producing trees and bushes should include:
Other news from the farm. Jennifer the duck is still recovering well and has returned to the flock part time.
A good news update on Jennifer our sweet Aylesbury duck of strong heart who survived last week’s fox attack. While her wounds have mostly healed and she no longer requires medication, she still has someway to go to full recovery. She has sustained some brain damage that has affected her ability to stand quite upright. She has a list or a lean. But whether this will be permanent only time will tell. In all other ways she is behaving like a normal duck.
They wander around the garden together searching for snails and generally being ducky. They are very sweet together. They share lunch together then brown duck heads to the gate and requests to go back to the flock. It is truly wonderful to share this nurturing. Many thanks to Dr Louise.
Bronwyn Richards has cared for animals and has been growing vegetables successfully all her adult life. She is principle gardener for Wynlen House Farm