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Leafy Planting Days in Late Summer Frizzle Weather

The frizzle weather is here.  Usually it is a lot earlier than this – we usually get a few days in December, sometimes even as early as October, when washing dries on the line in half an hour, and plants have a hard job avoiding doing the same.

Floods less than a month ago don’t help, well not much anyway.  I have a dam full of water, but any soil that was waterlogged, that is not under mulch has now dried out and cracked.

What helps is mulch, at least 15cm deep, shading and insulating the soil.  I have a community reserve that I mow.  The grass is not watered so in this heat it is pretty dry, and there are angopheras (apple gums) scattered around the edge, that drop lots of dry leaves.  So the clippings don’t turn into gley (the slimy water-repellent mat that green lawn clippings can turn into) and I can put them straight onto my beds.

What helps is soil with lots of organic matter in it.  If you do a little experiment and fill a pot with compost and a pot with loam, and sit each pot over a bowl.  Pour a litre of water into each and see how much comes out again.  Soil with lots of compost in it holds water, like a sponge.

What helps is watering infrequently and deeply, so as to train your garden plants to develop big deep root systems that are not so vulnerable when the top few inches of soil is bone dry and 40º. I haven’t actually watered at all in 2011, and even though the last few days have been heat wave, the weather report predicts some rain over the next few days, so I shall wait and see whether that needs topping up before putting sprinklers on.

What also helps is advanced seedlings.  Seeds won’t survive germination and tiny babies won’t thrive in this weather no matter what you do.  I germinate everything in the shadehouse this time of year.  Big seeds like beans and zucchini, I plant straight into individual pots.  But small seeds like the leafy greens are all planted in a mixture of sand and mowed cow pats then transplanted at the two leaf stage into individual pots.

Which is today’s job.

It’s too hot today to plant out even advanced seedlings.  I shall wait till later in the week, after (hopefully) it rains.  But it’s a good day for working in the shadehouse, transplanting the seedlings I germinated a few weeks ago, before we went to the beach, into their own pots to grow on for another month till they are ready to plant out. That way I can keep them in the shade, well watered and cool till they are big enough and tough enough to cope.

I shall also plant a new round of seed.  We are now just past Lammas, the point in the bell curve when the days begin to shorten at an exponentially faster rate.  (There’s a nice simple graph that explains it here.)  Although it is hard to believe, we’re already on the downhill run towards winter!  So I shall start planting almost the full range of leafy greens again.  Just the cabbage family I’ll hold on for a while yet – the white cabbage moths and web moths are too vicious in this part of the world.

And in a few weeks there will be lettuce again.  I like summer salads, based on cucumber and beans and tomatoes, but I am looking forward to leafy greens.

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{ 4 comments… add one }
  • sarah February 6, 2011, 11:46 pm

    I just wanted to add something to the discussion around watering. I read an article in our local (Hobart) paper a while ago, I think it was by Paul Healy, who is a permaculture/ sustainable living writer. Anyway, he was advocating watering when it is about to rain, or when it is raining, as the soil ‘opens up’ to receive the rain. Which kind of made sense to me, rather than watering when the soil is so dry and hard that it becomes hydrophobic and the water struggles to penetrate. But it’s not advice I’d ever heard before.

  • Jess February 7, 2011, 9:41 am

    I’m in Canberra and trust me, winter is definitely on it’s way! This morning was so cold I half expected to see frost on the ground! Blessed Lammas!

  • Pam February 8, 2011, 9:24 am

    Some great and interesting info Linda. Thanks so much! 🙂

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