Harvest and autumn plantings are combining to keep cook and gardener busy at a time when many other gardens in the district are beginning to wind down following ‘summer only’ crops such as tomatoes, zucchinis, beans and cucumbers.
That this new round of plantings is possible owes much to the mild Mediterranean climate that we enjoy here on the Adelaide Plains; dry hot summers followed by cool wet winters. The absence of serious frosts owes much to the nearby ocean and allows us to grow all sorts of useful foodstuffs through the coming cooler months.
Indeed, some of these crops need short days and cold nights to begin to bear fruit or edible flowers or bulbs; asparagus, garlic, red, cream, white and brown onions, broccoli, broad beans, kohl rabi, cabbage, cauliflower, Brussel sprouts, potatoes, leek, Cos lettuce, parsnips, peas, Daikon radish, corn salad, shallots, kale, rocket, Mesclun mix, Mizuna, carrots, Chinese cabbages and stir-fry vegetables such as Pak Choy and Wong Bok, celeriac, silverbeet and spinach, turnips and swedes, chives, dill, coriander, fennel, marjoram, lemon balm, comfrey, nettles, parsley, peppermint, sage, rue, rosemary, sorrel, wormwood, nasturtiums and sunflowers are some of the herbs and vegetables, while the almond and citrus trees (grapefruit, oranges, mandarins and lemons) will also crop in late winter and early spring. If space permits, green manure crops such as barley or wheat will be grown for chook food and next year’s mulch. Raspberries are coming into their second (autumn) crop.
So seeds saved last year were planted out in February, protected from ultraviolet damage by shade cloth and are now entering garden beds that the chicken flock has worked over for weeks to clear of insect pests that grew in the summer mulch. Water has been going on in these autumn/winter beds, even when they lay fallow under mulch during the hottest days of summer; this is an important part of the preparation for planting, as it keeps the soil biota (worms, fungi, bacteria, insects) alive and healthy for the arrival of the new seedlings.
So now a whole new round of plantings begins while the soil is still warm, while there is that wonderful soft yellow autumn light to drive photosynthesis and growth until well into May, and while we wait for the refreshing autumn rains.
Growing crops year round is an essential part of getting the garden to provide fresh food to the kitchen and for the maintenance of harmony between cook and gardener – a relationship often strained by early autumn as we try to cope with the sheer abundance of crops that must be handled.
And what are we looking forward to most at the moment? Fresh rain-fed salads and green beans, the first capsicums and a cold crisp evening worthy of new pumpkin soup!