While it is necessary to track the weather in all its vagaries, farm and garden activity cannot stop while we ponder the meaning of it all. In fact this unpredictability means as farmers and gardeners we need to be flexible as well as responsive. It means we are not only managing the present but also rethinking the planning for tomorrow.
This time of year is always a busy time in the garden, preparing beds, planting seed and seedlings. The Spring and Summer plantings are significant, with the majority of cold climate food production occurring during this period. The current warm weather makes it very tempting to move the timing of our Spring planting forward and this may be an option. However it is important to remember that this burst of warm weather does not mean the end of our frost season and the majority of Spring and summer plantings are incredibly frost tender. Potatoes are the hardiest and can be planted out over the next few weeks. We generally plant our first crop of potatoes in mid October. At this time of year, mid September, we are mainly doing seed raising of the summer fruits - chili, tomatoes, eggplants, peppers. In early October we start the pumpkins - not in the ground but in seed boxes.
Throughout August and September we have been planting out seedlings of brassicas (cabbages, broccoli, kale) lettuces, Asian greens, leeks, onions, chard/silver-beet, beetroot, coriander, spring onions, radicchio, endive, late season broad-bean. Soil temperatures have been very cold. Radish and Asian turnips seeds have been germinating well for at least the last 8 weeks, however the soil has only recently warmed enough for the germination of carrot and pea seeds.
Growing peas is always a challenge in our cold climate. We generally start planting peas at the beginning of August, but this year we have only had germination in the last 2 weeks as the soil has remained quite cool. We will continue planting shelling peas, sugar snap peas and then snow peas through to November. In November we start planting beans and sweet corn and commence the garlic harvest.
The main responsive issues given the current weather are: managing the watering; protecting vulnerable young plants from wind; mulching all the new plantings in preparation for the continuing dry weather, and on the rest of the farm, securing buckets, watering cans and all manner of farm and garden paraphernalia against the wild winds.
Importantly, stay strong...this dry windy weather won't last forever.
Spring has been topsy turvey on the weather front. Nice cold mornings including -6, very warm days up to 23, 70km winds and NO RAIN. It is very very dry. Spring always likes to throw a weather curve ball and it certainly has so far.
Our two female geese Netta the elder and Thelma, her 2 year old daughter, are both sitting on eggs and taking impending motherhood very seriously, being cross with intruders of any species and barking warnings at one and all. Manuel Talouse the Goose, Mani for short, the father to be, spends most of his time forlorn and alone with brief stints as the knight in shining amour protecting his maidens. Another two weeks should see a significant extension to our goose family.
A final reminder for this week is that in this dry weather, it is really important to make sure there is plenty of water available for all your stock. Ducks need lots of water. All the poultry are drinking much more and this will only increase as the weather continues to heat up. We also need to remember to have shallow bowls of water with rocks and twigs for bees and other insects to access around the garden. These smaller creatures in times of drought also need to have water available.
Today (Monday 11th September) we collected the little turkey poults from the hatchery in Bargo starting the process for Christmas turkey. Turkey poults are picked up or delivered as day olds. In fact this is the case with all poultry. In the first 24 hours of their life all breeds of poultry and water fowl can survive withour food or water as they are still being nourished by the egg. However they do need to be kept warm and have good air circulation. It is critical however that they receive food and water as soon as possible. Mortality rates can be quite high if food and water are delayed beyond the first 24 hours.
All the preparations for the poults needs to have occurred before their arrival. Ideally you should set up the brooder area 48 hours before the poults arrive. This is particularly important in cooler areas like Braidwood. This gives a chance for the bedding material to warm up and to ensure that the heat source is operating properly. These cute little babies need to be kept warm and cosy. We have a dedicated small shed to be our brooder house. A brooder is a place where young poultry are raised until they have enough feathers keep themselves warm. It should provide protection from predators; protection from moisture; be free from drafts; have good ventilation and most importantly a reliable heat source. In fact all the things that a mother provides for her young. For a heat source we use heat lamps with globes that produce heat but no light.
The feeding schedule becomes the most important aspect of raising turkeys and for that matter all poultry for meat. It starts from the day of their arrival until the day they leave for the abattoir in 16 to 20 weeks time. We mainly feed the turkeys a homemade mash. We don’t rely on prepared pellets. By feeding mash we can individualize, adjust and modify specifically to the animals needs. So just as organic gardening relies on the principle of healthy soils to create health plants likewise to sustain health animals resistant to disease they need to be raised on healthy soils and good food. All animals require healthy gut activity to maintain the balance of parasites and resist disease. By feeding our turkeys a homemade mash we can add mineral and herbal supplements to maintain their health. So just as Kentucky Fried Chicken is cooked with a blend of secret herbs and spices Wynlen House turkeys eat a blend of herbs and minerals.
Of course these aspects also form part of the basic tenets of any practice of animal husbandry. We consider how you raise, feed and care for your animals is vitally important. Our animals are raised with loving care. This does not mean that they are treated as pets but it does mean that we treat them with respect. We care about what they eat, their health, their housing and their environment. They live happy lives and this is very important to us. An animal that lives a happy health life will provide quality food.
This question is one that often causes much discussion amongst gardeners and foodies alike and is a regular topic of discussion at our stall. Technically there is no difference between silverbeet and chard with both having the Latin sub family name of Beta vulgaris.
Generally speaking whether we refer to these greens as silverbeet or chard is dictated by where we are raised. In Australia the greens from the Beta vulgaris family are most commonly called silverbeet, while in the States it is known as chard. The greens that we refer to as silverbeet grow as a cluster. The stems are broad and white and the leaves are fan like and have deep green crumbled leaves. The most common variety is Fordhook Giant, with Silver Ribs being another commonly grown silverbeet.
Many gardeners often differentiate between silverbeet and Swiss chard although they are the same species. Naming silverbeet as the green with white stems and calling the green with coloured stems and veins (crimson, red and yellow) as Swiss chard or coloured chard.
Silverbeet or chard is a very popular green with highly nutritious and flavourful leaves and stalks. Like many leafy green vegetables, silverbeet or chard are rich in an array of minerals and vitamins; high levels of magnesium, calcium, vitamin K, iron, potassium, vitamin A, zinc, copper, vitamin C, dietary fiber, and vitamin E. It is generally eaten cooked as the leaves and stalk have quite a thick texture. However young tender leaves are sometimes eaten raw.
Silverbeet or chard however is not the same as spinach. Spinach often referred to as English spinach has the Latin sub family name of Spinacia oleracea. It grows less vigorously and has smaller leaves than silverbeet. It is also softer and has a green stem rather than a large thick white or coloured stem. Spinach is a very versatile green and can be eaten both raw or cooked as the leaves are very tender. Spinach also has a different nutritional profile to silverbeet, containing more calcium and beta-carotene, around a third more iron, and folate.
Just to add more confusion to this discussion some states in Australia have in the past referred to silverbeet as spinach. Traditionally in NSW silverbeet has been referred to as spinach which is technically incorrect. While this misnaming is not as common as it once was it does still occur.
Silverbeet and spinach also require slightly different growing conditions. Silverbeet, in temperate parts of Australia, can be sown and grown during most times of the year, in cooler areas it is generally sown from Spring to Autumn. Silverbeet is reasonably frost tolerant although in our extremely cold region growth can be stunted and the stalks damaged by our continuous frost season. (over 100 frost days a year) Spinach on the other hand, is far less heat tolerant than silverbeet or chard requiring a cool soil for germination and is only planted in late autumn and winter and in very cold areas, early spring. Spinach generally has a far shorter picking season than silverbeet. Both silverbeet and spinach require a rich well drained soil high in phosphorous, nitrogen and potassium and of course plenty of compost. The most common varieties of spinach grown are Bloomsdale and Winter Giant.
Another green also referred to as a spinach is New Zealand spinach or Warrigal greens a native green in, New Zealand and Australia. It is not from either the spinach or silverbeet / chard family, coming from the Tetragonia genus. The plant is a ground cover and will form a thick carpet. The leaves are 3 –15 cm long, triangular in shape, and bright green. This leaf shape is similar to spinach hence the reference in the name. However the leaves are thick, and covered with tiny rounded fleshy lumps that look like waterdrops. It grows best in saline soils on the coast.
No matter what name we know these greens by they are highly nutritious and great greens to have in the garden. currently we are selling English spinach on our weekly stall at the Provisions courtyard; and in the coming weeks we will also have some lovely chard (silverbeet) including couloured chard.
See you there.
Bronwyn Richards has cared for animals and has been growing vegetables successfully all her adult life. She is principle gardener for Wynlen House Farm