It has been a great autumn for planting with moist soils and mild temperatures for the most part. At the moment it is still warm enough for plants to grow and the soils are moist for planting.
Be careful of the weather, for as winter becomes closer, frost becomes more likely and the garden becomes a much less inviting place than earlier in the year. If there are no major garden alterations planned, then jobs can wait a week or two if the fine weather packs up, and work outside is impossible.
When the weather is fine then much can be done. Vacant ground can be dug over and fertiliser and or compost added to it.
This is the best time to add lime to the soil in your vegetable garden. If you garden on heavy clay soil the lime helps to combine with the very fine particles of clay soil to form into larger particles that are more easily cultivated. Don't fertilise ground to which you have added lime at this time. Spread the lime on the surface and let the weather wash it in.
Compost; It is the time to rake up all the leaves as they fall from trees and add them to your compost heap or make a specific pile of leaf mould.
When composted this is excellent for use for planting and also helps the condition of the soil. The addition of a compost activator (Tumbleweed Worm Farm & Compost Conditioner) is available to speed this process by neutralising the acidity as well as promoting essential nutrients by soil bacteria.
Materials suitable for composting include; Autumn leaves, grass clippings (unsprayed), hedge trimmings, straw, sawdust (from untreated timber), wood ash (untreated), food scraps, vegetable peelings, tea leaves, leafy tree pruning's, pine needles, sea weed, animal manure, egg shells and newspaper.
Do not include; animal fats, diseased plant material, oxalis or weed seeds, or poisonous plant material (eg; Oleander, Rhododendron leaves, Walnut leaves)
Broad Beans are a cool season crop and it is time to sow them now, with a second sowing in June or July as a successive crop.
They are normally ready for eating in 16 weeks. They are best grown in full sun in well dug soil and sheltered from the wind. Protect from birds with bird netting as they germinate, to prevent the birds from pulling them out.
Highly recommended is 'Chefs Best ican Broad Bean'. Called 'Mr Green Seed', this is one to sow this season. It will produce a great crop of beans that look good and taste good. 'Mr Green Seed' produces beans that remain green after cooking. Rich in minerals, vitamins A & C and dietary fibre.
Place seeds in double rows 10-25cm apart and set the double rows about 90cm apart. This will help ensure that there is good pollination.
Sow 5cm deep, cover with fine soil and keep moist. Water regularly as needed during pod setting. Pods picked at a young stage can be eaten whole although normally they are left to mature and only the beans are eaten.
Broad beans like lime and sulphate of potash – apply to the ground before sowing.
Green Crop; If you do not intend to plant a winter vegetable garden rather than letting the area become invaded with weeds you can simply sow a green manure crop.
It is also good for flower beds and new sections. The most popular two are blue lupin and mustard.
Blue Lupin is important for the maintenance of soil fertility. It assists in recycling lost nutrients from your subsoil and adds a good level of nitrogen which is available to your next crops.
Mustard aids in the control of wire worm nematodes etc, which are problems often associated with root crops (Carrots, Parsnips etc). Mustard has a fumigant effect, so reduces the chances of any soil borne diseases within about 40 days of digging in.
If you have had a problem with club root then it is recommended to not plant brassica crops after mustard as mustard is itself a type of brassicas and the problem will be proliferated.
Gareth Carter is the General Manager of Springvale Garden Centre