(A paid post with the good people from GARDENA NZ)
Historically, back in the day I was a bit of a malingerer, I would be slow to clear away the seasons end. Not because I was lazy, but to acknowledge the season was over was too much to bear. I’m just as bad with my Christmas decorations and this year they made it to Valentine’s day before being packed back into their boxes.
Not these days for the veggie patch. I have begun to appreciate how much nicer it is to look upon a garden that is not full of the dead, dying or weedy. A heavily mulched bed with a thick layer of compost is more pleasing than tangled crispy brown vines that have long since given up the ghost. Besides getting in early with the compost layer means the worms and other micro communities have plenty of time to work their magic and reinvigorate the soil ready for next season.
The same can be said for cover crops. There is something lovely about a lush green bed full of life when the options for things to grow is no where near as vast as in the summer. Unless I want a garden filled with broccoli, swedes and silverbeet, the only option is cover crops or let the spare beds lie fallow.
So, I have begun the task of packing up summer and putting it away until next year. The pumpkin bed has been cleared of all trace of the once life supporting vines and any opportunistic weeds that had snuck in there. As the pumpkin isn’t part of the crop rotation, I have sown a mustard cover crop that will help restore the soil.
A mustard cover crop is also a great indication of the quality of the soil. With an even application of the seed, a poor or uneven germination will highlight problem areas in the soil. Then monitoring the quick growing plants as they grow can also give vital information. If the plants struggle, the soil will need more love to be able to support the next crop. If it bursts into life with exuberant foliage can mean possibly too much nitrogen which isn’t ideal, except possibly if the next crop is a leafy green. What you need is a good steady, uniform growth across the whole bed. But make time to remove it before it flowers so it doesn’t become too woody to break down easily and definitely before it sets seed, so it doesn’t become a weed.
As for the cucumber bed, well it wasn’t the best season anyway. At least the lemon cucumbers provided us with an abundance, but the rest of the cucumbers and gherkins had a terribly poor harvest with a mere taster from each plant. The only way I could fill a jars of pickles was to let the gherkins that did show up grow larger than I normally would. I’m in too minds now. Am I being over optimistic and are the net trellises too tall or do they need to be shortened further? (I did drop them down a little bit this season.) Or was it just a bad season and next year they will willingly scramble to the top?
We will have to wait until next season, because for now, in a crop rotation revamp, the garlic will take their place shortly. I had the garlic before the cucumber last season and following the leafy greens. The problem is the leafy greens are still there doing their thing and will be until the spring so the garlic can’t move over into its bed, and certainly not now, the rainbow beet is flourishing. I looked at all the other crops in the sector 3 cycle and the root crops are in all winter, the broad beans, even though I don’t really like them, they are lovely to grow over the winter for a bit of height and will make the bean bed ‘occupied’, so the only logical thing is to swap the cucumbers for the garlic. The cucumbers end long before I need their bed, the beans before them will nourish the soil for the garlic and the leafy greens will be long finished before it is warm enough to plant out the cucumbers.
Sometimes sorting out the finer details can take a bit of fiddling about, but I think this should be the last fiddle in my crop rotation setup. These days my to do list for the week is set with a wander around the garden deciding what crops need to come out next.
Come again soon – I think a garden tour is due.
Sarah the Gardener : o)