It's day two of the Yates spring veggie growing challenge! Reproduced below is my second post in the competition...
In this post, I’d like to talk a bit about garden maintenance in spring, namely protecting and supporting plants, feeding plants, spraying and weeding. If plants are kept under cover, they may also need to be watered. This is something that I’ve been doing a lot of since September began, with the help of the wwoofers who are staying with us. While seed raising and planting seedlings is very gratifying, it’s also important to care for seedlings once they’re planted out into the garden.
Some seedlings and plants need protection over winter and early spring because the leaves are sensitive to frosts. I’ve also found that some types of seedlings newly planted during the winter or early spring months can require some protection from cold, too. Last month, I planted lots of punnets of broccoli seedlings to replace the ones that had been harvested in July. I covered each plant with a cloche, a plastic milk bottle cut in half placed over the seedling. Over the past couple of weeks, these seedlings have grown quite a bit, so it is time to remove the cover. This is something that the wwoofers staying with us at the moment, a young Danish couple, did with me this morning. Now that the broccoli seedlings will be exposed, something to bear in mind is that they will need protection from the dreaded white butterfly as temperatures increase! If it’s not one thing, it’s always something else! To protect plants from the white butterfly, I use Yates Derris Dust from the Natures Way range. Since these products are organic, I don’t feel quite so bad using them on brassicas when I have to.
Sometimes, plants are too large for a cloche, but at the same time need protection from frosts. Last year, I grew tamarillo plants from seed for the first time. I sowed seeds in spring, then nurtured and repotted the seedlings during the summer. By the start of autumn, I planted out six seedlings. Only two have survived, but they look very healthy and grew a lot over the winter months, much to my surprise. I think this is due to two reasons. Firstly, they are in a fairly sheltered location, near our house and beside our banana and lemon trees. The seedlings which were planted in a more exposed area of the garden all died. Secondly, I sprayed the leaves with a liquid frost cloth which I bought from Wally’s online store (it’s something that Country Trading also stock, in fact, exactly the same product). This coating provides protection from light frosts. I also used the same spray on the young passionfruit seedlings I also grew from seed last spring, which I planted at the back of our house to replace our old vine which died last year. So far, I have had good results with this product and would highly recommend it to other gardeners who need to provide protection for frost sensitive plants over the cooler months. Given how expensive tamarillos were in the supermarket this winter, it’s not that expensive especially as you don’t use that much of the product and I think it’s a worthwhile long-term investment.
Something else that is really important to start thinking about in spring is plant support. Yesterday, amongst other tasks, wwoofers helped me by fastening broad beans to stakes with some string. Back in late summer, I sowed the broad bean varieties “Evergreen” and “Exhibition Long Pod” (both from Yates seeds). They grew steadily over autumn and winter and have developed lots of flowers. Last month, the wwoofers staying with us at the time helped me tie them to their stakes for support. Since then, they have grown even taller, so the plants needed to be secured higher up. This is something that Merete and Jasper (the Danish couple wwoofing with us at the moment) helped me with yesterday.
Of course, tomatoes need to be staked too, especially as they start to develop fruit. Some of my Sweet 100 cherry tomato plants outgrew their 10cm pots, so they had to be repotted into bigger, circular pots. As these plants are very tall, I inserted a thin wooden stake in each one and secured each plant to its stake with some string, as we did with the broad beans. At the moment, they’re in the greenhouse. When they go out into the garden after Labour Weekend, they’ll probably need something a bit bigger. A couple of months ago, I was incredibly lucky to find green plant stakes in bundles of 6 for just $1 at Bunnings. Normally you would pay a couple of dollars for just one of these stakes! Because gardening can be a very expensive hobby, it’s nice to occasionally nab a bargain.
Sometimes, plant support can take other forms than stakes. Yesterday, I sowed some sweet pea seeds around a metal obelisk (“Bijou” and “Potted Fragrance Semi Dwarf” from Yates seeds). Sweet peas are among my favourite spring flowers and provide much colour in amongst the veggie seedlings. I like to sow peas (both edible and ornamental) in April so they can grow over the winter months and flower earlier. While I sowed edible peas in autumn, I forgot to sow ornamental sweet peas, hence doing them now.
While I love sowing seeds and planting out new seedlings, it’s also important to care for them once they are in the garden. To me, plants need more than just water and sunshine in order to really thrive. For this reason, I feed my plants regularly, both at the time of planting and as they grow on a weekly basis. When planting new seedlings, I like to use a little Thrive all purple granular fertiliser, from Yates. This ensures that seedlings get off to a strong and healthy start. For anything leafy and green, I usually just use a little Yates Thrive Natural Blood and Bone fertiliser, which ensures the growth of healthy green foliage. Once planted in the garden, I use a water soluble fertiliser on plants weekly during spring and early summer. I have a wide range of products from the Yates range. For veggie seedlings, I like to use the Natural Fish and seaweed soluble fertiliser, or the Fish Blood and Bone plant food. I also recently purchased some Yates Thrive Easy Pods from Bunnings, which I intend to use on the fruiting veggies when I plant them out over Labour Weekend. I also have some specialised Thrive soluble fertilisers, for the strawberries, tomatoes, veggies and herbs, roses and citrus. Each of these products is tailored to different plants, making their use in the garden even more effective. If all else fails, I always have some Yates Thrive all purpose soluble fertiliser, which usually does the trick! I guess I can also use some of the Thrive Easy Pods in the same manner, as they seem to be more generic in nature than the specialised fertilisers. Today, Merete and Jasper helped me liquid feed the entire garden, no easy feat armed with a watering can! Of course, it’s possible to purchase liquid fertilisers which connect to your hose, making the application for large areas much easier. They are very easy to use and it saves you from trampling over plants, especially as spring progresses and plants start growing rapidly. I’ve already stocked up on some Yates Thrive Natural Fish and Seaweed hose on fertiliser to use later in the season, when growth becomes more dense. For the moment, however, it is possible to get around with a watering can. Last week, it took the wwoofers and myself an hour to cover the entire garden between the three of us, which isn’t too bad.
For many gardeners, spring marks the start of an active spraying regime. As I am trying to grow as organically and sustainably as possible, I try to avoid using non-organic sprays on edibles. During the winter months, I used Yates Lime Sulphur on our roses and fruit trees, to help prevent fungal diseases in summer. Since spring began, I switched to using Yates Liquid Copper on our roses and fruit trees. I also sprayed our passionfruit vines and tamarillo plants (both grown by seed last year) with Liquid Copper. A few years ago, the fruit on our passionfruit vine was covered with grease spots which dropped off the vine prematurely while still green. We didn’t have any fruit that season. After getting in touch with Yates via the website and outlining the problem, I was advised to spray the vine with Yates Liquid Copper in spring, before flowering and fruiting, as a preventative measure. As copper is an organic spray, I feel comfortable using it on edibles. I hope that it will also help prevent brown rot and leaf curl on our dwarf peach and nectarine trees this season. I’m fairly new to fruit trees, having planted a mini orchard consisting of dwarf fruit trees just last year, so I’m still learning how to best care for them to ensure that they remain healthy and productive. One of the very few veggie seedlings that I’ll need to spray in early summer is celery, which always succumbs to rust due to moisture from rain and watering the garden. Normally, I sow celery in mid September. I have found the organic spray Yates Natures Way Fungus Spray a good compromise given my stance on spraying edibles. I sprayed my seedlings at fortnightly intervals from December onwards and we enjoyed a good crop of celery over the winter. For other gardeners struggling to grow decent passionfruit and celery due to fungal issues, I highly recommend these organic sprays from the Yates range. If you’re ever unsure which product to use, you can always leave a message on the Yates website (or sometimes even engage in live chat!) and someone will put you on the right track.
When summer begins in December, I’ll switch to using the Yates spray Super Shield on my roses, as it’s more appropriate in warmer weather. Just be sure never to use this product on edibles, as it’s not designed for this purpose! For my roses in summer, I alternative between using Super Shield and Mavrick Insect and Mite spray, also from Yates. I think it’s good to rotate sprays so you can protect plants from different pests and diseases and avoid plants getting too used to the same spray, making it less effective.
Finally, weeding the garden regularly is really important for plant health, not to mention the appearance of the garden! Admittedly, it’s not my favourite task in the garden, but in saying that it can be really satisfying after a day’s weeding (or even just an hour!), when the garden looks nice and tidy. Weeds compete with plants for nutrients, including plant food, water, air and light. Today, the wwoofers and I spend some time pulling out weeds in the garden. In spring, there is usually quite a bit of rain, which causes weeds to grow rapidly, compared with summer which is typically hot and dry.
Finally, don’t forget that any plants kept under cover will need to be watered! A daily task for me is to spray the seedlings on my heat pads with water. Normally, I only need to water the plants in our green house once a week, but I always make sure I lift the lids of the large Sistema crates I’ve been keeping seedlings in (which function as a mini hothouse within the greenhouse) so that the plants get some air and light during the day. At this time of the year, it’s not necessary to water the garden as temperatures are still quite cold and it rains frequently. However, as temperatures increase in October, it will probably become necessary to incorporate this task into our gardening regime, perhaps only every other day at first. After Labour Weekend, we normally water the garden every day.
The picture I have chosen to accompany this post is a sneak peek of some of the Yates products which I have been using to keep the plants in our garden strong and healthy. No, it’s not a shelf at Bunnings! I like to keep our gardening “pantry” well stocked!