The Gordon Gnohm

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

First Frost

The first frost has arrived, Mother Nature is the most reliable indicator. It is quite early compared with recent years and only in some areas so far. Notably Braidwood town, and outlying areas like Captains Flat and Mongarlowe. Not everyone got the frost, but we all experienced the significant drop in temp that night. 

It only reached 3C in my garden after being forecast for 11C, a significant variance thank you weatherbots. Some reported car window scraping frost, as the heavy dew settled and froze before sunrise. 

Pumpkins

The cold snap has been good for pumpkins, if you still had them on the vine. Powdery mildew destroyed all but one of my vines before the cold snap, with the leaves out of the way its much easier to harvest. A light frost is fabled to harden the skin, and increase sugars, preparing the harvest for storing. 

When harvesting for storage leave lots of stalk. I usually don’t pick until the stalk starts to brown, its starting to brown but the vine is done. Cutting the vine at either side of the fruit stalk is a good way to ensure the stalk dries well. Leaving them in the sun for a day or two after harvest will help to harden up the skin.

Tomatoes

There are so many tomatoes ripe for the picking, its hard to keep up. Im cutting out the bush as I go, making it easier to find the fruit. This will be the last harvest of the season for passata tomatoes. The eating tomatoes will stay a little longer, as they are still putting on flowers and fruit. Let’s see how long they last. I generally cut off plants at the base and leave the roots in the ground, but for tomatoes I remove the root ball and let the chickens process it.

Support structures show that my efforts were inadequate for this years plants. Most of the tomato bushes grew up to the top of the frames and then back down. So many tomatoes ripened on the ground. I will need to make better frames next year.

Volunteer tomatoes from previous crops are easily pulled out, but I fear with the heavy seed load, next year the number of tomato seedlings self starting will be a bit too much to manage. I need to remove the seeds from the bed to prevent the extra work next summer.

Fortunately, there is a decent cover of sugar cane mulch under my tomatoes. The seeds and spoilt tomatoes are sitting on top of this mulch blanket. I will remove the top layer of mulch and dump it in the chicken yard. The chickens will eat the seeds and pulp, kick the mulch around, add poop to it and ultimately compost it for later use. If any seedlings do make it through, they will be dispatched as they appear in the chicken run.

Remulching

The remaining layer of mulch will be thinning after the summer and is ready for a top up. All beds that have been harvested will appreciate a top up while the beds are unplanted. Reapply a thick layer of sugar cane mulch to the beds 50-75mm.

This new blanket will help to maintain your soil temp as the season cools and keep the frost from extracting your soil moisture. The deep mulch will nurture baby seedlings planted in the hollows. The heavy morning dew will collect and trickle down the to the base of the seedlings assisting them to do their best. 

Flying friends

The cabbage moths are visible in the garden and are doing a great job pollinating a variety of plants. Surprisingly last years cabbage, broccoli and kale appear to be mostly free of the larvae. The moths seem to prefer the new brassica seedlings after they stressed in the heat. If you find a brassica for sale at this time of year and there is no evidence of cabbage moth munching, you can be sure the seedling was grown in a greenhouse, or worse yet sprayed.

There are two reasons why the moths havent destroyed my brassicas. 1. The plants are established and very healthy, therefore not desirable to the moth. And/or 2. The birds and praying mantis have worked out where the yummy larvae will be and are feasting accordingly. Either way, Ecosystem Growing for the win.

There have been many butterflies visit the garden this year, most notably the Orchard Swallow Tail. There have been a few sightings in the Braidwood area this year and suggests there are plenty of citrus plants around. The Swallowtail larvae prefers to eat citrus leaves, and the adult is loving feeding on the nasturtiums. So much that it will even displace bees from the best flowers. Greedy butterfly, there are plenty of flowers to share.

As our homestead oasis emerges from the middle of the woodland ecosystem we inhabit, the visitors that stop by are increasing. The extra visitors bring more mouths to feed, and butts to poop, and they teach their young about our place. The benefits to the soil health, the reduction in pest populations and our sheer enjoyment are immeasurable. 

Competition Time

While the last of the tomatoes are being harvested, Bombay Seed Traders want you to show off your crop. Send a photo with a note, boasting about your most successful tomato variety this year. We want to know where and how you did it. See ad below to win a Soil Thermometer.

Stay awesome.

The Gordon Gnohm

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