Mediterranean Gardening Guide by Nadja Osterstock of Nadja’s Garden
Just when you think you’re coming out the other side of the abundance of summer (and after a week away from it all), you take another look around and find that there’s still so much happening in the garden!
We’re harvesting cucumbers, corn, zucchini, basil, capsicum, eggplant, limes, silverbeet, lettuce and rocket. The tomatoes and cape gooseberries are regenerating after being lopped back, fertilised and soaked, and I’m looking forward to a second crop of each. The asparagus has started sending up a second crop of spears (the plants are young so I’m still resisting!) and the strawberry runners are rooting into their little pots around their parent plants, some of them ready to be cut loose now. There are a few okra pods and climbing beans popping up in between other crops, and our first gourds are setting fruit, which hangs down from the mesh roof of the chook house. Pumpkins are setting fruit as they ramble under the tomatoes and limes. Elsewhere in our neighbourhood, mulberries and figs are ripening. For cooling salads and cold rolls there are plenty of mint, Vietnamese mint, lemon balm and spring onions.
Our stone fruit and grape harvest is just over, and now our apples, persimmons and pomegranates are beginning to ripen while the nashis slowly catch up in size. Sweet potato vines are octopussing everywhere, chillies and passionfruit are flowering a bit late, and native shrubs, ground covers and Mediterranean herbs have slurped up all the water they can hold from recent rains and regained shades of green that I haven’t seen in months.
And to top it off, while our resident blue-tongue lizard seems to have nipped off for a summer holiday, a baby one has turned up in its place. I hope it finds all the good hiding places quickly!
The to-do list: Now that we have had a good soaking and the soil is still wonderfully warm, it’s a great time to add compost and fertiliser to support the soil life and in turn our hard-working fruit trees, vines and vegetables – and mulch again over the top. Peach, nectarine and plum trees can be pruned soon after harvest (in the mildest, driest weather available) to encourage regrowth of fruiting wood for next year’s crop – also a good opportunity to clean up any fallen fruit and any that have spoiled on the tree. This year we have seen an influx of dried-fruit beetle, which is harboured in rotten fruit and introduces brown rot to fresh fruit, causing them to drop prematurely and spoil from the inside(look for a telltale tiny hole near the stem). Grape and passionfruit vines as well as climbing vegetables need a bit of training onto their support structures from time to time (e.g. soft loose fabric ties or espalier clips).
For more summer veg, plant seedlings such as Asian greens, beetroot, squash, lettuce, radish, rocket, tomato (advanced seedlings) and zucchini. Direct sow in the garden seeds of carrots, beetroot and beans, and try a few late cucumbers if you have space in a warm position with vertical support. In seedling trays or punnets sow parsley, bok choi, silverbeet, rainbow chard, leeks, chives, celery, coriander, kale, spinach and rocket to plant out in March-April. Take rooted cuttings from mint and lemon balm to establish new pots or patches, being wary of their invasive potential.
Featured Permaculture principle: Catch and Store Energy
Haha! It feels like the whole summer so far has operated on this principle, from catching up on sleep and exercise to installing solar night lanterns, preserving and drying fruit. Today it took the form of converting surplus overripe figs to delicious lunchbox cookies. Summer is certainly the season of making hay while the sun shines! In the winter ahead those bottled peaches, plums and apricots and dried sultanas will help to fuel our shorter work days.
ph. 0410 636 857, website and blog at www.nadjasgarden.com.au