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Leafy Planting in Early Autumn

After the heat waves of the last couple of weeks, today is cool and overcast. The soil is moist from good rain over the last few days and it’s a leafy planting day by the lunar calendar. It’s past Lammas so the days are shortening fast now, telling potential bolters that winter is coming so going to seed now is a bad idea, and the best strategy is to store food to last through to spring.  And I have nice heavily mulched beds as a result of all the good mowing weather, some lovely mature compost, and a good stock of creek sand for making potting mix.  You couldn’t get a happier day for planting leafy greens!

The advanced seedlings strategy has allowed me to hold seedlings waiting for exactly these conditions.  Last leafy planting break, in the frizzle weather, I potted on all the seedlings I had in the shadehouse into individual pots and held them in the shade where I could keep water up to them.  I have seedlings that are now a month old, that would have died within days had I planted them any time in the last month. We may still get killer conditions over the next few weeks – I won’t plant all the leafy greens in my shadehouse. I always raise about a third more than I intend to plant out anyhow. So I will have a reserve  if we have a sudden heat wave or hail storm. But today is so nice, it’s most likely the reserves will be given away or recycled in a couple of weeks.

I’m planting out advanced seedlings of several kinds of lettuce,  leeks,  parsley, dillbasil and lemon basil, coriander,  rocketaragula, amaranth, and Perpetual Green silverbeet . My celery seedlings are too small yet – celery are slow to germinate and slow to get going, and they really hate drying out, so I shall pot them on and hold for next month.

I’m also planting seed of  all the above except for the basils – I have enough of them now to last through to the end of the season – plus mizuna, endive, and Fordhook Giant and Italian silver beet.  I shall even give some cabbages, kale, and chinese cabbages a start – not too many – they’re this month’s long shot. It is likely that the cabbage moths will still be too voracious to get a good crop from them this early. But every year is a little different, so it’s worth planting out a couple just to see how they go.

The only leafies I can think of that I’ll leave out are English spinach – this far north it needs to be planted in the coldest conditions I can find – and broccoli – not worth fighting the cabbage moths for yet. My brussels sprouts are 10 cm tall but I shall hold them in the shadehouse as long as possible – they’re very marginal this far north.

I love the awareness of seasons that you get with gardening.  I am cooking with tomatoes and capsicum and zucchinis, but today has brought it home to me that summer is ending and the job of re-bricking the wood stove, that I put off till summer, can’t be put off much longer.

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