Friday, 21 August 2009

WAITATI EDIBLE GARDENS column

WAITATI EDIBLE GARDENS

By Lynnaire Johnston

The recent changes in temperature, although welcome, do not
necessarily mean that we gardeners should be rushing into planting our
spring vegetables. Rather, we should be holding tight to our
enthusiasm and instead be patient. The soil needs to warm up first and
vegetables planted now may struggle to thrive. Waiting a few weeks
longer will ensure happy, healthy plants that reward you with a great
crop come summer.

Instead, there are a great many other chores which can be tackled now.
Your lavender bushes can be trimmed for a more shapely bush and an
abundance of flowers.

It's time to tidy up winter annuals and shrubs, consigning all the
detritus to the compost bin. This will give spring growth the best
possible start.

Put lime around your fruit trees if your soil is depleted and your
crops poor. And, get rid of any grass around those that are still
small so they have to compete for nutrients.

If you are lucky enough to have a grapevine, give that a good cut back
before the sap starts to rise.

Add plenty of mulch to your garden so that it has time to start adding
nutrients to the soil before planting begins in earnest. Straw,
sawdust (untreated, of course!), pea straw and shreddings all make
excellent mulch.

And, finally, spend what little remains of your winter down-time –
before it becomes insanely busy in the garden – to plan your garden
for summer. The latest plant and seed catalogues are out now, so
choose your new season's cropping adventures so that once the soil is
ready for you, you can be ready for it!

WEGgies initiatives

The WEGgies have been busy planning over winter and are keen to get
moving once spring is truly with us. There's the open orchard
initiative, plans for allotments, the community garden, upcoming
garden tours and the harvest markets all being thought about,
discussed and planned. To help all these along, there will be a
meeting of the WEGgies on Monday September 1, at 7.30pm. Any WEGies
keen to advance these initiatives and plans are invited to attend.
Venue is the Village Potager, 5 Foyle St, Waitati. For catering
purposes, please phone 482 1364 or email lynnaire@wordwizard.co.nz if
you intend coming.

Dear Aunt Lucy

Seaweed is said to be excellent for the garden. What kind should I
use, where can I find a good source and how should it be applied?

Yours,

Seaweeder

Dear Seaweeder,

Seaweed has unique attributes: a fertilizer that is rich in beneficial
trace minerals (which are generally lacking in New Zealand soils);
rich in hormones that stimulate plant growth and containing little
cellulose so it is easier to compost down.

Seaweed shares no diseases with land plants and contains no land weed
seeds. Eel/sea grass (Zostera novazelandica), sea lettuce (thin,
bright green stuff – Ulva sp); giant/bladder kelp (Macrocystis
pyrifera) and bull kelp (Durvillia antarctica – the big browns which
come up after storms) are all common seaweeds that wash up on beaches.

Eel grass is best collected from banks along the harbour edge while
sea lettuce can be found inside Blueskin Bay. Big browns wash up all
along exposed beaches (Warrington, Doctors Point). Big browns need the
most grunt to collect.

The easiest (read laziest) way to use is it as a mulch. Chuck a thick
layer on garden beds, around fruit trees and berry bushes with gay
abandon .Otherwise layer it into a compost pile to break down with
something more fibery (leaves or hay). Both ways deliciously dark
crumbly soil will result. Worried about salt on the garden? Rinse it
if you can, but if you can't, it will still be fine (it rains lots
here) and worms don't seem to mind.

Keener beans than I make tinctures by steeping seaweed in a barrel of
water or rotting it in a barrel and collecting the leachate. This is a
bit more work and absolutely stinks but is very effective as a
nourishing garden tea (dilute 20:1). Don't be tempted to cook it as
this destroys all the good bits. Commercially (cold pressed liquid
kelp), they use some kind of reverse pressure chamber to explode the
cells and liquify the material without heat.

Lastly, before you all rapturously rush out there to rape and pillage
the intertidal, remember that seaweed is a natural resource. If not
above the high tide mark, it will be re-immersed and continue its own
self advancement. If above the high tide, it's degradation will be
providing nourishment and shelter for a whole host of intertidal
organisms: baby clams, snails, sand fleas, crabs (in turn, food for
seabirds). So, try not to be too efficient and make sure you leave
bits behind for them.

Lots of love,

Aunt Lucy xxx

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