The Gordon Gnohm

Play along at home, read Future Farmer in The Braidwood Bugle every Wednesday. 

Autumn Cleanup

As winter creeps closer it’s time for an Autumn Cleanup, to protect your materials and remove critter homes. All the critters are looking for a warm winter nest, so now is a great time to disrupt their apple cart and send them looking for accommodation further from the homestead. 

Rearranging pots in the garden has created fresh spaces. The vacant grass patches offer new places to make Veggie beds and most importantly I uncovered a few rodent nests, one full of babies. The chickens are moulting at this time of year, so they appreciated the extra protein.

Winter is a time of mists, fog, heavy dew and frost. Combine that with shorter sunshine hours and less evaporation, a fantastic habitat for decomposition can be created. If you have timber lying about from summer projects, it’s time to stack it off the earth so it doesn’t compost on you.

Stacking bricks, pavers and tin off the ground will deter snakes from settling in for winter. Snakes have probably already worked out were they want to hibernate and have been nesting while they stock up on food. Disrupt the nesting now before they settle in, and they will still have time to find a new home. Last year our blacksnake woke up somewhere in the garden and cleaned up all the rodents. I would prefer if she woke up further away and came to visit. 

Nursery Predators

After diligently removing cabbage moth larvae, between thumb and forefinger for several weeks, it appeared maybe the damage to our seedlings was from something else. Several slugs were found and removed, but still the seedlings were being eaten. It has been a very frustrating start to the winter season.

I have often said if something in your garden is not being eaten, its not part of an ecosystem. Our ecosystem is thriving, so it makes sense. Turning this autumn into a real headache in the Nursery. It’s not complete so the full protection is yet to be installed, and the losses have been significant. 

It appears the rodents have been feasting on the seedlings like microgreens. A new feat for this season, they found a way up onto the nursery tables, perhaps leaping onto them from nearby trees. The rodents love to dig for seeds just as they are about to pop, and several trays had been violated this way. 

Then one morning there was a calling card left by one of our resident owls, a small piece of tail on top of the seedling trays next to some digging. There has been no seedling trouble since. 

Our resident Owls, (Tawny Frogmouth, Boobook and Owlet Nightjar) did a complete job of catching the rodents over recent weeks. Removing summer homes kept them out in the open. The Owls had a great view from the trees above, and capitalised when the rodents made themselves vulnerable on top of the nursery tables. Easy pickings for the clean up crew. Ecosystem Gardening for the win, eventually.

Unfortunately, the losses in the Nursery translate into less seedlings for sale this season. There will be limited stock available this week at Deadwood Emporium, so don’t miss out. 

Now is a great time to plant

With daylight hours decreasing, but still plenty of warm sun, now is the time to plant out your winter garden. I wrote the following back in 2019 and I’m still banging on that drum.

It’s April and it’s getting colder, and some of us may be ready to abandon our patch of dirt for some indoor pursuits. But it’s not too cold to strike some seeds and feed yourself all winter. Or boost your soil while you wait for tomato season again. 

Plant these; Beetroot, Cabbage, Carrots, Cauliflower, Kale, Lettuce, Onions, Parsnips, Pea, Radish, Spinach, Swede, Turnip. It’s about Garlic time, depending on your microclimate and garden availability. 

Make sure your seeds are fresh and from heirloom stock, for maximum viability in varying conditions, maximum nutrients and tastier crops. I strike my seeds in a foam box and as it gets colder, I put a perspex lid on the box overnight, in an attempt to keep the soil temperature warm, stable and suitable for successful Canberra Region seed germination.

I don’t leave the lid on during the day, for risk of cooking the little dears. The sun is still hot during the day so be careful where you leave them. No lid during the day will also help them harden up rather than if the seedlings lived in a greenhouse all day long.

Hardier seedlings equal hardier plants, equals more produce for you and yours to eat.

Just think of the soups you will make if you strike seeds now or the baked dinners. 

Winter meals can be a dream when they come from your own garden. TGG 2019

This week

Final tally on my Pumpkin harvest. Almost 50 pumpkins off 6 plants. 2 grew in complete shade under the tomatoes. That’s a pumpkin a week til next season. Each vine was no longer than 1m and the flesh is so very pumpkiny. Folks playing along at home have reported similar harvests and flavour. BST Bush Pumpkins for the win.

The Yellow Faced Honeyeaters have been migrating back to the lower lands for winter breeding. A constant flow overhead with their distinctive chip chip. The male fairy wrens have lost their blue colouring for the winter, a sure sign of the change. They will become blue again as their breeding cycle starts in spring. 

Most of the deciduous trees in the garden have now changed colour, some even starting to lose leaf, a bounty for the garden. This weekend is ‘normally’ when I expect colder weather to start. ‘Normally’ I would expect the trees to start turning after this weekend with leaf fall occurring when the winter winds start. Reality is there is no real ‘normal’ in our Unpredictable Highland Climate, every season different from the last one. Its why I love it here.

Keep planting and growing and enjoying winter tucker from your garden. Get things in soon, latest you want to plant winter veggies is June, so there is enough time before spring seeding starts. If you are like me, im still trying to make room in my garden for winter plantings. Some of the tomatoes are gone, some are still producing. 

Ill be planting my winter veggies late again, but you can get your BST Winter Seedlings this week at Deadwood.

Stay Awesome.

The Gordon Gnohm

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