April in your edible garden
The colours of autumn are starting to show here now here in Wānaka and we are currently enjoying wonderful still, sunny days. This helps with the continuation of our precious growing season, a time that can be short lived in our mountain climate. We were caught out last week with a cold snap that delivered two huge frosts and brought an abrupt end to some of my bountiful plants .
I still have cranberries, autumn raspberries, blackberries, apples, the last of tomatoes, chillis, leafy greens, beets, fennel, basil, parsley and thyme. The mesclun salad I sowed six weeks ago in the glasshouse is thriving, as are the spinach seedlings which are ready for planting out.
April is a busy month in the garden. Harvesting edible goodness continues as does producing yummy creations to freeze. I have made a variety of delicious dishes, pastes and sauces with my chilli’s, tomatoes and courgettes. They are super handy to pull out of the freezer over winter and they sure beat their poorer out-of-a-packet (or jar) cousins.
This month is also the time for seed collecting, maintaining healthy soil, and a time when we start to prepare for putting the garden to sleep.
In this issue:
- Leafy greens – keep planting these
- Green manure crops to cover and care for your soil
- Collecting autumn leaves – a top tip for creating healthy soil
Leafy Greens. Keep planting leafy greens in your garden to ensure you have a continuous supply over winter. The likes of kale, silverbeet, Swiss chards, spinach, mizuna, and rocket, are all great examples to keep popping in the ground. If you have a glasshouse or covered garden area be sure to pop some in there as well. It is a perfect time to also sow seeds of miners lettuce and corn salad.
When harvesting from your existing leafy green plants, I highly recommend you look at the outside leaves first. If they are old, dry and brown pop them in the compost bin, otherwise from now on eat these leaves first. This really helps with extending the harvesting life of the plant and also helps to keep the plant healthy.
The leaves are turning into spectacular colours. I love picking a few stems or branches of leaves and throwing them into any type of water-tight vessel to use as a colourful display. There is something about bringing autumn colour inside. They are super quick to throw together and are a golden alternative if you don’t have many flowers in the garden.
A way to use your excess fallen leaves is to make leaf mould. To do this, pile your leaves in a corner of the garden or put them into a wooden or wire bin. Pile them up, and water. Repeat. Water again during dry periods and simply let the pile sit for at least six months. Slowly over time the leaves decompose, creating leaf mould, which is wonderful to use on the garden for improving soil condition.
You can use anything you have at home to store your leaves in. I make mine from rabbit-proof fencing wire and make a cylinder shape cage. A cluster of three can double as a sculpture under the trees.
Green Manure Mix Cover Crop
If you have areas in the garden that are bare soil, now is a great time to sow an autumn green manure cover crop. A green manure crop is grown to help build and maintain soil health. They are fantastic way of looking after soil health and different varieties can be planted all year round.
This mixed crop is a fabulous way to suppress weeds. Once mature, prior to flowering , chop the green crop foliage and directly put back straight back into the ground by lighting turning it in. This provides valuable nutrients into the soil ready for when planting begins in spring. Shop around for an autumn manure seed mix and sow it soon while the soil is still warm.
Until next month,