Having been an avid food gardener for quite a while, one is bound to unlearn a few lessons. The consequences of them always tend to bite you on the bottom a little further down the track.
This season, I have made a couple of mistakes that have limited plant growth and are giving me sub-optimal rewards/harvests. The two main relapses in learnt knowledge are lessons that I learnt in my very first year of food growing in 2007. These two lessons are Mulching, and Timing and here is a bit about the consequences so far this year.
Temperatures in January and February have been in the mid 30’s C (90’s F) and the soil has been drying out rapidly with no rainfall to speak of since Christmas day. When I planted in late November, I failed to mulch heavily on 4 of the 5 main raised beds and have definitely noticed the difference in growth and quality. Each bed has a light layer of mulch of about 1 cm, which is just not enough when things heat up here in our climate. The saving grace that has helped avoid total ruin is that all of these beds are drip irrigated, alternating between harvested and mains water. Because I know that all beds are getting the same amount of water, I can see the effects upon the growth of the vegetables compared to the bed that I did mulch heavily with about 7cm (2 1/2 inches) of straw. The cucumbers and chillies in this bed are cropping heavily and look healthy. However the non-thickly mulched beds are dryer and the veggies within it, even though they are still growing, do not look half as healthy and are cropping lightly. The soils in each bed are identical in structure and are about the same pH.
|Straggly looking tomatoes due to lack of mulch.|
So to remedy this issue, with the obvious solution of adding more straw to the beds, after I cleaned out the chook house on Monday night, I took their bedding which consisted of sugar cane mulch and chook poo, and added masses of it to each of these lacking beds. In just 6 days the transformation has been amazing. The soil in each bed is staying moist, and there is new growth on the veggies in those beds, which are flowering again. I wish I had have been paying more attention! I am but human and have re-learnt the lesson of mulching.
|Healthy and abundant Long Yellow Chillies, well mulched|
The other problem/mistake that I made is one of timing. Planting the right plant at the right time. This issue stems from my lack of time management early in September when things around here were chaotic, hence the “More maintenance, Less projects” goal for this year. My spring planting did not actually occur until summer, and by that time it was getting hot and dry. Not ideal conditions for planting veggie seedlings, now is it? I didn’t even have time to grow my own seedlings, and admit that I bought them from a nursery or go without a crop.
So the consequences, which at this late stage, I cannot fix, are late crops, low productivity, and I do not have the weather to plant successive crops like I normally could. It also prevents you from planting early winter season crops like cabbage, garlic and onion, which need a long time to develop fully before hot weather hits again. I might just have to bite the bullet and pull summer crops out early before their full potential, and suffer the heartbreak. Saying that, I will probably be well over zucchinis by then!
|Late planted Spring onions|
It just goes to show that even a seasoned food gardener like myself can make mistakes and learn from them. In fact the beauty of food gardening is that I am still learning new things each and every season.
|The longest and straightest Lebanese cucumber I have ever grown!|
Mistakes only become an issue if you do not learn from them and keep repeating the same bad techniques over and over. Lets hope it never gets to that!