The Gordon Gnohm

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

Mid Spring Musings

It’s the middle of calendar spring, and to call it a wild one would be an understatement. 30C in September! then last week snow! Our Unpredictable Highland Climate delivers again. 

So how does your garden grow? 

Did you get your tomatoes in the ground early? Reports from folks playing along at home have good growth, flowers and even mentions of tomatoes. 

What is your soil temp right now? Its 20+C in my 1st year bed of tomato/pumpkin, that’s summer!

Summer veggies

Corn

I’m about to plant corn amongst the broad beans, I’m not waiting. The beans will provide some frost protection before I harvest them, but also, corn is a grass so will love the nitrogen boost in the start of 2nd year bed. If you’ve ever grown corn but didn’t get many kernels on the cob, don’t be discouraged, we can fix that. 

I generally ask, “did you plant it in a long row”, to which the response is usually delivered with a proud puffed chest. “Of course, I planted it in a long row.”

Corn likes three things. Plenty of water, 16+C soil temp and wind for pollination.

The number one problem folks have with corn is incorrect planting. Planting in a long row does not allow for sufficient pollination, the pollen is taken in the wind and wastefully distributed elsewhere. 

Planting corn in a block, minimum 5 rows x 5 rows, allows wind to share pollen with the other cornstalks, improving pollination and increasing the number of juicy kernels on each cob. Plant 25cm apart to give roots enough space to capitalise. Keep corn roots damp and stable by heavy mulching with sugarcane. Sometimes I plant pumpkin vines in the corn patch to keep the sun off the ground in summer, but only if I get my crop rotation right, pumpkins prefer a 1st year bed.

Tomatoes

All my tomato seedlings have grown and flowered despite the cold myth. 6 frosts, one hailstorm and last week sleet. The growth slowed a few weeks ago, the soil temp dipped to 17C, but the trunks got staunch instead. The nights are warming up again and they are starting to grow. If you’ve been playing along at home, you’ve probably got tomatoes on your plants too.

Marrows

It has been a super warm start to spring, and as usual a cold spell as we get excited in October. The August winds have been blowing since June. Soil temp of 20C tells me its summer in my soil, so I planted pumpkins under shade of fruit trees, Zucchinis and Button Squash too. 

Basil

An early spring planting for the brave. It flowers in summer and pesto making comes before the flowers, so timing is everything. Basil is a very delicate herb and doesn’t like frost. Ive lost more basil to late frost than any other seedling in my vegetable garden, but I just keep planting it until the frost is gone. My wife (BST) makes so many good seedlings, I always have some ready to plant.

As mentioned last week, only some of the basil got burnt. Nearby companion lettuce, spinach and cabbages protected the delicate basil. Even though they were 20-30cm away. Next year I will plant circles of Leafy greens in preparation for basil and tomatoes. 

Eggplants were planted before the cold snap as led by my soil temp. 22+C. They were companioned with snow peas, but the constant wind removed the protection. They survived the recent sleet and one frost, some leaf burn was evident but on they grow. 

Over wintered veggies

Onions

I always have onions planted in the garden, but never enough. I don’t think any reach maturity for storing, as I harvest weekly for kitchen duties. The white tasty sap that comes from a fresh picked onion is unbelievable and only experienced by the home gardener. Freshest is Bestest.

Leafy greens

Spinach, winter lettuce and cabbage were planted in rows along the front of tomato beds. They have fed us through winter, providing shade to the mulch. The spinach and cabbage bolted to seed when the excessive heat arrived, so rather than trash the lot I picked off the seed heads, much to the delight of our very wellfed chickens. The spinach is still edible not losing flavour as the seeds haven’t been able to form. The cos lettuce has been a delight in midwinter and is now in seed.

Broccoli & Cauliflower

The cauliflower has fed us and now the rest go to seed. Lack of Skywater was the difference between abundance and a decent harvest. Broccoli has fed us too. Then I lopped it to eat more sprouts, but the heat caused them to stretch and go to flower, so I lopped them again. Brassicas are perennials so lopping them will provide more tucker quicker than replanting. Keep lopping to produce more sprouts.

Beetroot

Beetroot have overwintered well with decent roots to eat. The early superheat made them bolt, so I have left the largest to go to seed and eaten the rest. Beetroot can cross with spinach, so I usually let one go to seed at a time. I’m trialling isolation bags this year, so they can both go to seed at once.

Parsnips and Carrots

These dependable root vegetables have suffered over winter from the lack of Skywater. I didn’t hand water and that was a mistake. They are planted in the driest garden, and it needs a remuck (end of 2nd year). Watering has helped with root size but its all been too little too late. They are still tasty.

This week

The seasons are anything but normal, so the only guide to follow is your soil temp. This knowledge will give you the jump on both growing seasons, summer and winter. 

I am excited that next spring I won’t need to be as worried about my precious seedlings. Less work to do means more time on other projects around the homestead. The list continues to grow while I continue to age. The more attention I pay in the garden and the more I stray from modern conventions, the closer I get to a mindset that brought great benefit to grandmas, grandma. 

One of methodically going about her life, tending gardens, animals, family and tuning into the life cycles of nature. There is so much to learn in the garden, and it translates into my life as a result. This is what the xen monks were grooving on. Hands in the dirt has been the best therapy for my wife and I, as we rebuild after the truck crash.

Providing super fresh, nutrient dense tucker right outside your kitchen is a life skill that will get you through the tough times as much as it will bolster you in the good times. You are what you eat, so eat the best and freshest. Plant with seed acclimatised to your highland environment or find a reputable highland seedling supplier to do the hard work for you.

Every day is a school day,

Stay Awesome.

The Gordon Gnohm

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