GARDENING: How to perfect your vegie patch in dry areas
MARCH is very important for preparing the vegie patch for the coming cooler months. But with some parts of Central Queensland being so dry the question that many gardeners ask now is should I plant vegies for autumn.
Last Thursday I received a phone call from a Mount Morgan gardener who asked if I could write a garden column giving advice to new Mount Morgan residents about how to grow vegetables during dry times.
Over many years the Mount Morgan community were able to adapt their gardening skills to be among some of the most water-wise gardeners in Queensland.
What has changed now is that in recent years many new residents have moved into the community that have never experienced drought conditions.
When starting a vegie patch the way you prepare the soil you have will help.
The inclusion of organic matter in your vegetable garden soil will help retain soil moisture, allowing water to penetrate and the roots to go deep into the soil.
In clay soil, the clay often packs down, which then prevents moisture from penetrating deeply into the soil profile. The addition of organic matter will physically separate the clay particles.
Autumn gives the vegie gardener so many vegetable varieties to grow.
The range of vegetables for Mount Morgan is even larger.
Vegetables like Beans, Beetroot, Broccoli, Cabbage, Cauliflower, Capsicum, Carrots, Celery, Cress, Cucumber, Leek, Lettuce, Marrow, Mustard, Potatoes, Radish, Silverbeet, Tomato and Zucchini can all go in now.
Brussels Sprouts can be tried during March and April but there are a lot of gardeners who have had some losses at this time of the year.
The best Lettuce to grow at the moment are the loose-leaf types as the hearting varieties will grow when the weather starts to cool.
For me, every vegie patch should have some leguminous plants like peas and beans for a number of reasons.
First, these types of vegies are a magnet for many insects.
I always plant more beans then I need so I can sacrifice the rest to the chewing insects.
Secondly legumes can have an important role to the whole vegie patch as they have tiny root nodules filled with bacteria known as Rhizobium.
Rhizobium are able take nitrogen from the air and convert it to an organic form which benefits both the plant and the garden soil.
Rhizobium does require a soil with a pH close to or just over 6.5 and with an adequate supply of the nutrients, phosphorus and even some molybdenum.
Simply raising the pH level will have the effect of releasing sufficient molybdenum that is already present in the soil of vegie patch.
An application of Dolomite at the rate of 200 grams per square metre four to six weeks before planting will achieve this result.
I would apply some Dynamic Lifter with a little amount of sulphate of potash as well at the time of planting.
One important hint when growing Beans and Peas: do not use companion plantings of Garlic and Onions nearby as they are not good neighbours.
My favourite vegetables are Broccoli, Cabbage and Cauliflower, these vegies are known as Brassicas and can also be grown from now on.
If you are growing Brassicas for the first time I would treat the soil of the vegie patch with some Dolomite four to six weeks before planting.
I have had the best results with using Blood and Bone with a little dash sulphate of potash when planting.
Brassicas seem to be best planted from seedling punnets rather than seeding directly into the vegie patch.
One other little hint is that Brassicas will not grow well near Tomatoes.
Another important hint when planting seedling from punnets is to drench with Fish Emulsion immediately after being planted out.
This will help the seedlings recover from the shock of transplanting.