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Preparing your garden for winter

Cool mornings and moisture turns to sunny warm days in many parts of Australia. It’s the month where we wish we could spend every minute outside preparing the garden area and pots for winter.

Whether you are planting bulbs in pots in anticipation for spring colour or revamping the herb pots with coriander and parsley there is no better time of the year to be outside. Even if the weather turns wet you can be assured it is doing good to the garden.

 

Gardening in Autumn with Flowers

If you are stretched for time and only have 10 minutes for gardening there are still many jobs that can be completed.

If you only have 10 minutes:

  • Apply Seasol for Lawns. This product will strengthen the root system of the lawn and ensure it will stay green for longer over the winter months.
  • Place some spring flowering bulbs around the garden. Mix in a little compost and granular fertiliser before planting and wait for flowers in spring.
  • Control weeds between paving while they are small by pouring boiling water on them.
  • Feed Gardenias with liquid fertiliser. This will help prevent yellow leaves.
  • Revamp herb pots with winter herbs such as Coriander and Parsley.

 

Green Olive in Bowl and Olive Branch

Perfect Olives

An olive branch was the symbol of peace to the ancient Greeks. When they wanted to make peace they would literally take a branch from the olive tree and offer it to their enemy who had to take it. Wouldn’t it be wonderful if the olive branch was still the symbol of peace in the world today and how easy it would be to offer an olive branch to the enemy?

Olives grow very well in our Mediterranean style climate, they require warm summers and cool winters to thrive and will tolerate a wide variety of soil types. They are also a long term crop and will start fruiting 4-8 years after planting and after 15 years should bear fruit every year.

The trick is what to do with the fruit that’s quick and easy. Many olive pickling recipes involve weeks of preparation or the use of chemicals to speed up the process.

Perfect olives every time

  • Harvest olives when they are green.
  • Smash to remove the pip. Using the bottom of a stubbie on a wooden or plastic chopping board is the most effective way of removing the pip.
  • Soak in a brine solution. Use cooled boiled water – 100 grams of salt to 1 litre of water.
  • Replace brine every day until the bitterness has disappeared from the olives. This process usually takes between 4-7 days depending upon the variety of olive.
  • Then freeze in small containers or plastic bags.
  • Remove olives as needed, thaw and serve with extra virgin olive oil, garlic, chilli, lemon juice and crunchy sea salt.

These olives can be frozen and flesh will remain firm and full of flavour after thawing.

Word of caution:

In some areas of Australia the olive tree has germinated in native bushland, through birds spreading the seed. Avoid planting if the property is close to bushland.

A Basket Full of Fresh Potatoes

Potatoes

Kids of all ages love the opportunity to dig for fresh ‘new’ potatoes. It’s the perfect healthy treasure hunt and there is nothing quite like the flavour of home grown potatoes boiled, drizzled with extra virgin olive oil, crunchy sea salt and finely chopped parsley.

Potatoes are swollen stems and the stems need to be buried for them to crop successfully. As they grow up they need to be covered for them to develop the tubers. Using straw to cover the plants results in clean, easy to harvest potatoes that require minimal washing before cooking.

The top 5 tips to great tasting Potatoes

  • Only use virus free seed potatoes, to ensure a clean healthy crop.
  • Plant in a frost free area of the garden. If a heavy frost is expected cover new tender shoots with a thick layer of straw.
  • As green shoots appear, cover over a 20-30cm layer of straw. If mounding with soil cover to a depth of 10-15cm.
  • Potatoes require potassium to develop strong stems and tubers. Apply a complete organic fertiliser at planting and then every month until flowering.
  • Harvest when foliage starts to die off or flowers appear on the plant.

Once the potatoes have been harvested use composted straw to mulch fruit trees or vegie beds.

Gypsum – Miracle cure or waste of time?

Gypsum is sold as a clay breaker and is usually applied to gardens throughout winter to be washed through the soil with soaking rains. Gypsum works by improving the structure of clay soils, causing them to become more crumbly or friable. Once clay soils are more friable there is air movement between particles, these spaces allow organic matter and water to wash through creating pathways for plants roots. What you may not be aware is only certain types of clay soil will benefit from an application of gypsum and a simple test could save many hours of anguish for gardeners.

Take a small piece of soil, equivalent to a dessertspoon and drop into a jar of water. If the clay stays in the clump and the water stays clear, it will be a waste of time adding gypsum and other clay breaking solutions are needed. If the clay causes the water to go cloudy and the soil disperses gypsum may be beneficial for your soil. To determine the suitability, apply a little gypsum to the jar of water, wait 5 or 10 minutes and see whether or not the gypsum has caused the suspended clay particles clump together. If so, gypsum will be beneficial and can be applied by sprinkling over the soil surface in existing garden areas or apply to the base of the hole when planting.

If your soil does not disperse in water when carrying out the simple test, an alternative clay breaking treatment is required. Organic matter, compost and humus are dug into the soil to improve structure along with liquid composts such as Powerfeed.