By: Justin Russell | April 12, 2017
As we slowly but surely move on from the flooding rains of recent weather events, my place (in southern Queensland) has been washed clean.
In the garden, the downside to heavy rain is that it leaches nutrients from the soil, especially if your ground drains freely. In existing garden beds I apply a five centimetre layer of compost as a surface mulch and sometimes I lightly fork it into the topsoil. In the vegie garden, however, I dig the compost in to about a spade's depth. Compost not only adds nutrients, but helps retain those nutrients during periods of heavy rain.
After rain events, gross feeders such as citrus may show signs of nutrient deficiency. In most cases the solution is to simply give the tree a feed. Pelletised chook manure is ideal, and some manufacturers make a blend specifically for citrus trees. As a further boost, treat citrus trees to a fortnightly application of seaweed extract until leaves are again dark green and lush.
In cool areas, April means that it’s time to start making leafmould. This is nothing more than fallen leaves from deciduous trees that have been piled together and allowed to rot over winter. The result of the process is a rich, black compost that can be incorporated into the soil to increase its fertility aeration and moisture holding capacity. Some leaves are very slow to break down - you can speed the process up by mixing some pulverised cow manure or chook pellets with the leaves and giving the pile a good soak. Then let nature get on with it.
To help prevent fruit trees from being reinfected with fungal disease next summer, remove any “mummified” fruit still hanging on the branches and dispose of them in the bin. Peaches and nectarines are especially prone to brown rot, and mummified fruit is a major source of fungal spores.
In all climates bar the subtropics and tropics, it’s time to plant garlic. Incorporate well rotted compost or manure into the soil a couple of weeks prior to planting, and if the soil’s acidic, add some garden lime. Temperature is important for proper bulb formation. If you rarely get frosty nights in your garden, try one of the soft neck or “artichoke” varieties, such as Mexican Purple Stripe, Glen Large or Melbourne Market. In cold areas from Toowoomba south, go for your life - most garlic varieties will perform beautifully.
With autumn rain comes chickweed (Stellaria media). This plant is rampant in shady parts of my garden during the cooler months, but fortunately, it’s one of the best weeds you can accommodate. Chickweed leaves are edible, and make a nice addition to salads. And as the name suggests, chickens love it. I regularly pull a few plants where they aren’t wanted and throw them into the chook run. The result is healthy birds that lay eggs with brilliant orange yolks.