What an unusual time it is in covid-19 world. We are busy in our market garden enjoying the beautiful Autumn and from all accounts on social media it is how many people are occupying their time. The lovely rain through February and March along with this warmer April weather has provided wonderful growing conditions. I’m sure many of you have been planting lots of vegie seeds and should be seeing good germination and growth. While it is likely that this milder weather should continue well into May, a frosty night or two is also just as likely. So I thought it would be very timely to talk about how to keep your garden growing through winter. There are two key things to do:
First - plant seedlings. It is starting to get a bit too late to plant seeds. Seeds take time to germinate. As the temperature cools, and particularly as the night time temperatures drop, germination takes longer. Seeds planted now will not achieve enough growth. The cooling weather and increasing frost as winter starts results in overall growth slowing right down. Planting seedlings now ensures that you get good strong growth leading into winter with associated better continued growth through winter. Very young plants will quickly shut down when the soil temps cool and the air temperatures are below zero.
Second - frost protection. While many vegetables can cope with light frosts it is beneficial to provide them with some support. Seaweed products (Seasol) can be used to increase plant resistance to frost. Foliar applications take about a week to be effective. Regular (weekly) applications of a seaweed liquid fertilizer during our cold months can be a beneficial routine. However, to maintain healthy strong plants that keep growing though our extremely cold climate and harsh frost season, frost protection fabrics are essential. We are not aiming to grow things out of season, but we are aiming to provide support and a level of protection to our winter crops. If you are covering a small number of plants and are prepared to cover at night and remove during the day, then there are a large number of fabrics that can be used. Old sheets, feed sacks, hessian, shade cloth, the list is endless.
There are also specific agricultural fabrics available. We use a knitted, thermal, permeable fabric (insulnet) that allows the area covered to breathe, moisture to penetrate and it creates a “softer” microclimate modifying temperature by about 2 degrees. There are also other fabrics available in Australia including a horticultural fleece produced by Weed Gunnel, a Queensland company. Bunnings also has some fabrics. They are not very strong and as such will not last long but are at least easily available for the backyard grower.
Agricultural fabrics are generally held in place by a hooped frame. This can be homemade or you can purchase purpose built frames - cloches. While the initial outlay on cloche frames, some may consider a bit expensive, it is money well spent. Purpose built cloche frames are sturdy, ensure the fabric remains in place even with 100k winds; the fabric can easily be raised to access the bed without removing the frame; and they will last for a number of years.
Unfortunately, cloche frames need to be purchased in a set of 25 and most backyard gardens do not require this many. To assist all our gardening friends (within driving access to Wynlen House), we will bulk order frames so that you can purchase the amount you need. The frames are ideal for a bed width of around 80cm and you will need a frame approximately every 2 metres. For example if you had a bed area 80cm wide and 4 metres long you would need 3 frames: 1 at each end and 1 in the middle. Cost of individual frames is $14. However due to Covid 19 there are currently none available in Australia. The frames are produced by a New Zealand company which is in lockdown. I have been advised it will be at least 4 weeks possibly longer before they will be available. Insulnet is available at Braidwood Rural Store. If you wish to order cloche frames contact Wynlen House using the button below
Happy gardening and keep an eye on the minimum temps. If you haven't harvested your pumpkins you need to do this now!
A simple recipe for a fertilizer tea.
There are many recipes available using specific ingredients and quantities, however the following is a good standard recipe:
1 part seaweed or weeds or herbs (nettles, comfrey, dandelion... ) to 5 parts water.
Place in a bucket and cover with water.
Cover the bucket with breathable material and let it steep for about two weeks.
Strain the liquid. The solid waste can go in your compost.
Dilute it to a ratio of 1:10 and use it anywhere in the garden.