02 October 2011

Everything's Springing

A Spring Update

Some weeks ago, I suddenly woke up to the fact that it's Spring planting time, and I'd already missed my first-planting window by a week. Time to get busy!

Seed benches in their new home in the old Banana circle.
Closer to hand means better managed.
Much sowing of seed in seed-trays ensued. Honesty compels me to confess that I think this is the best Spring germination I've seen – at least in many years! Perhaps being a week late wasn't such a bad thing, after all. Tomatoes and Chiles are mostly up, and some of them – notably Brandywine, Purple Russian and Black Cherry – are almost ready for transplanting into their permanent homes already. Purple Russian and Black Cherry were substantially drought-hardy and very prolific for me on their first trial-run last year, so I'm looking forward to them. Lime Green Salad were doing well until a snail got into the seed-tray, so I've replanted them. I ran some germination tests on my Lettuce seed collection, and, sadly, most varieties are toast. I'm down to about 6 or 8 varieties which I've made sowings of and will grow up for seed.

This tray's for Dan, to wish him strength in his time of trial.
All varieties in the tray were sent to me by Dan and Val.
The major challenge has been getting beds prepared in time. With 3 seasons of drought behind us, the veggie garden has been sorely neglected. Last year, particularly, I found it just too depressing to even venture out into the wasteland that was supposed to be a good part of our food supply. That means that the weeds and Kikuyu had just about taken over completely, and clearing beds has been quite a Herculean task. Then, too, the lack of water until May means that I have almost no compost prepared. Luckily, our good neighbour D'vorah came to the rescue with half a dozen bags of horse-shit (in varying stages of decomposition and quality.) I've reserved the manure for those beds that needed it most – mainly the Tomato, Chile and Cabbage beds. The legumes can get by with just the bit of very old compost I did have - clearly not much in the way of nutrients, but still useful for the organic content.

Despite a few months of good rains, September has been even drier than usual, though it is, by my records, our lowest-rainfall month through the year. The few miserable dribbles of rain were little showers of 1 and 2 millimetres that really do more harm than good. At least we go into the season with full dams, so, even if the usual October/November deluges fail to materialise, we should still be OK for water until about Jan/Feb.

We have several new Tomato varieties to trial this year - varieties that have not survived the trials of years past. Along with them are several new Bean varieties:

Greek "Big Beans" (brought back from Greece by my parents from their trip there last year) I don't know anything about them - not even their growth habit, though I've guessed they're a bush variety. They're a lovely tasting, large, white bean. Excellent eating! (And I eat a hell of a lot of beans!)

Purple Podded Pole Bean (from Baker Creek seeds.) In general I am finding that pole beans are so much more productive per unit-area than bush types, that, if I can spare the poles and the energy to attend to them, I prefer them.

Papa de Rola (also from Baker Creek.) Their picture just looks so awesome I had to try them!

Cannelini Beans acquired from the local Fruit & Veg store, so I'm just trusting and hoping that they haven't been irradiated or anything stupid like that. Still to be planted, since I must get off by duff and clear another couple of beds.

But that doesn't mean I neglect some of my old, bulk-quantity standbys...

A prettier sight you've seldom seen...
Hopi Black beans emerging just 5 days after sowing.
Hopi Black Beans are my main staple bean crop. They are tasty, fast cooking, prolific and trouble-free, producing a good crop even in total drought. I basically stick the seed into the ground – usually the poorest bed I have, perhaps with a dusting of lime and bonemeal, trusting them to just get on with things – and then neglect them completely until they've dried out and are ready to be threshed. And they always do just Get On With It! Even last year, when they received not a single drop of irrigation water – not even after sowing – they produced a reasonable crop. This year I watered them exactly once, a couple of days after sowing, and they were showing their heads after less than a week. The only bare patches in the bed are two spots where the Chickens decided to make dust baths.

Rattlesnake are a fine, dual-purpose, pole bean, given to me by my good friend Franz. They're a brilliantly prolific and flavoursome green-bean, quite stringless when young, and make a fine dried bean if they get too big.

If there's time I'll also have to make space for Dragon's Lingerie - another of my staples, but, to be honest, I'm not sure where I'll find space, since I do like to grow at least a whole bed-full.

I didn't have time to prepare a bed specially for Squashes, but Inspiration struck! I had a good pile of garden-slash that needed burning - dead Banana leaves, rotten support sticks, old bits of wooden ladder long since fallen into ruin, tree prunings from the fruit trees... so I piled it all up amidst the worst of the Kikuyu and set it all alight. A roaring great bonfire, and I was left with a well-ashed, clear patch of Kikuyu-free ground. Dug it up, turned the ash in along with several shovels-full of composted manure, and made a nice Squashie mound. In the middle I've put some Lemon Cucumber together with Sunflowers (labelled "Parrot Food" at the local agri) in the hopes that the Sunflowers will provide good-enough stakes for the Cucumbers to climb. Around the edges of the mound I've put Table Queen (a favourite of mine) squash, a couple of Japanese pumpkin varieties that I found at the local Fruit & Veg store some years back (I'm hoping, possibly in vain, that the seed is still viable, since it's pretty old by now), and Waltham – a Butternut variety. I know it sounds like a lot, but it's quite a big mound, and I'll thin the plants to one or two of each in the unlikely event that too many of them germinate. Though the way this Spring is going so far, they will all come up!

I'm also planning another Squashie/Pumpkin mound. Maybe this afternoon, since there's rain forecast for tonight and tomorrow.

And I haven't even mentioned the Beets, saladings, Snow Peas, Endives, Swiss Chard, Giant Garlic, Golden Beet seed setup, Dill, Fennels,...

It's been a really busy Spring, and I'm really happy to be back in the garden.

No comments:

Post a Comment

You might also like

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...