Gardening and DIY: Season's eatings

By Janet Luke

Autumn signals a slowdown in growth in your garden, but is still rich with fresh produce like these hops. Photo / Supplied
Autumn signals a slowdown in growth in your garden, but is still rich with fresh produce like these hops. Photo / Supplied

JANET LUKE GARDENING

Ripe for the picking
Feijoas, plums, mandarins and new season apples are bountiful. Vegetables such as broccoli, cabbage and cauliflower are plentiful. Pumpkins, squash and onions have recently been harvested.
In the vegetable garden
If you are a broad bean lover get these weighty seeds planted now. They will get off to a cracking start if planted while this warm Autumn weather remains. You could be picking fresh pods in as little as 75 days.

Choose a position that gets all day sun and add some compost or animal manure if your soil is lacking in 'get up and grow'. Soak the seeds overnight in fresh water and then plant around 5cm deep and 5cm apart. Keep the rows of seeds close so when they grow they will give each other support in the wind. You may be able to get away without staking them. ?When the plants get to around 50cm in height pinch out the top tips, which can be used in a stir-fry. This will create strong sideways growth and a bigger crop.

Also plant silverbeet, peas, coriander, celery, spinach and lettuce. If you are planning on planting garlic this winter, prepare the bed now.

Garlic is greedy and likes rich manure and compost. They are also selfish and do not enjoy close neighbours sharing their space! Remove all weeds and place a 20cm layer of mulch over the area where you intend to plant the garlic. I use pea hay or straw. Leaves are also great as mulch and now is the perfect time to get out there with the rake. If you keep the leaf mulch damp it won't fly around your backyard in a wind.

This is now the time to sow any winter crops or green manure crops as they will get off to a racing start before the cold weather descends upon us. Plant lupins, mustard or oats, in any areas of the garden which you are not going to use over winter. Think of this as living green compost.

As you remove any spent plants re sow the areas with some of these varieties; mesclun, beetroot; carrots; rocket, peas, cauliflower, cabbages, broccoli.

Hops
This quick-growing climber produces clusters of male and female flowers on separate plants in summer. The female flowers develop into the green cones used in beer making and in herbal creams. Placed inside a pillow slip, these cones will also help you have a good night's sleep.

Grow from a cutting or find a young plant in the garden centre. Plant in full sun, with lots of compost and with a sturdy support to ramble up.

Urban orchard?
Add a deep ring of compost around your fruit trees paying attention not to touch the trunk with the mulch. The delicate feeder roots of the tree will absorb the nutrients and feed the tree preparing it for winter.

If you are sick of mowing grass around your orchard consider planting some wildflowers instead. Many flowers will attract bees and other beneficial insects, deter weeds and help to feed the soil. Consider planting phacelia, borage, pansy, buckwheat, lupin, mustard, clover and comfry.

Hazelnut trees will be doing their thing. Check around the drip zone of the trees for any fallen nuts. Place a light coloured sheet under the tree to make picking up nuts easier. The nuts are best dried in their shells for several weeks prior to opening.

Eco Tip
Clean your heat pump filter with your vacuum on low. Dribble some essential oil on the filter to make the room smell nice when the ?heater is on.

For the next few months I will discuss a way which we can raise our own chemical-free protein easily.

A lot of people who know me well can't believe that I now keep rabbits for meat. When I was a girl at boarding school my pet rabbit died at home and I spent the rest of the school term in a sea of tears. Nowdays I keep rabbits in our urban backyard as a sustainable source of healthy, low-fat meat and luxurious fur.

The advantages
Rabbits don't require much space.
They can be kept on the lawn, in a garage or even on a balcony in suspended cages.
There is no restriction on keeping them in the city, and they are quiet.
Their droppings make fabulous manure.
They can be fed weeds and vegetable scraps.
They breed quickly and have large litters - rabbits can be slaughtered at three months old.?No need to pluck or age meat prior to eating.
Enables you to become more sustainable and you know the animal has been cared for and humanely killed.
Rabbit meat is low in fat and high in protein making it very healthy.
The meat is light in colour and looks like chicken.
One buck and two doe can produce enough offspring to allow you to eat your own home-raised meat once a week.
Pelts can be tanned and used.

Disadvantages
The cute and cuddly factor -someone will have to actually kill your eating stock - the "home kills" man will not be interested in making a trip into town!

Next month - which breeds are best.

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