May in my vegetable garden

What to do in May's vegetable garden in Melbourne (Australia)

May in my productive garden

sweet potato sm.jpgThe year is racing away! The summer vegies are just about all out and most of the winter ones are in, but there is still plenty to do.

  • There is still some basil that I keep meaning to finish off in the garden and make the last of the pesto before it loses all flavour; and pick the slowing capsicum and chillis off the plants. These plants should survive the winter cold though they will look tatty until the weather warms up again.
  • I'm hoping the sweet potato will be ready to harvest by the end of this month. Hard to tell with these vegies but any cold weather will stop them growing underground.
  • Normally, at this time we are harvesting the Pink Lady apples on our espaliered tree. Despite my better pruning techniques which resulted in plenty of apples; and the netting of individual clusters of fruit, there is no fruit this year. Each bag had been chewed through and the apples eaten before I got to them. Marauding possums or rats probably.
  • It also wasn't a great year for our Vanilla persimmons . For some reason, all the flowers were male and so there was no fruit at all. However, the leaves are are still hanging on the gloriously coloured tree. 
  • The Jerusalem artichokes (or sunchokes) will soon be ready to pull out and dig up. I need to wait until the 2 metre high stems have died off and then it’s in with buckets to harvest the booty. Every year we get kilos of this root vegetable and then I make lots of Jerusalem Artichoke Pickle. Easy to make and keeps well. I also discovered how to store them so they don’t go soft and rot: keep them buried in damp sand or damp coir peat in polystyrene boxes (I use an old Esky) and then use them as needed. Roasted they are delicious and in a soup, they lend a lovely nutty flavour. Important though to dig out every last bit in the ground otherwise they will keep resprouting once the soil warms up again. PS In true permaculture fashion, this is a multi-use plant: once the tall stems are dried off they become good to use as support for climbers.         
  • I planted the brassicas (broccoli, wombok, bok choi, kale, Italian greens) in April and covered them with netting to keep the cabbage white butterfly off them but I do need to still keep an eye on them as the bird nettings aren’t entirely foolproof against very determined butterflies. If any of the leaves are against the net they can lay eggs through the holes.  I must remember to liquid feed these hungry vegetables with some worm wee or bokashi juice to keep them coming along.
  • An empty bed that had zucchini and corn growing over summer has had compost over it to rejuvenate the soil and will be ready for planting. In my order of crop rotation I follow with root vegetables, so no fertiliser in this space but the compost will rejuvenate the soil beautifully. So I will plant some more garlic (can’t have too much of this versatile allium, that stores so well and is so superior to anything imported), and some shallots. Shallots are wonderful keepers once they are out of the ground again in about 8 months time.
  • Plant out some snow peas, podding peas and some more broadbeans. The broadbean seeds planted a fortnight or so ago have not poked their heads out yet so I am inclined to think the seed was no longer viable. This goes also for the green manure crop that was planted. None of it sprouted and this time I do know why: some hungry doves were making a lovely meal of the tasty seeds. This time I will scatter the seeds, lightly rake them in and then cover with some shade cloth until I see some germination happening.

For some lovely colour around the place, it’s time to pot up some colour and put them near windows outside so I can enjoy the view from inside. In winter, pansies are my favourites, blooming for months on end and available in so many colours. I’ve missed the opportunity to plant from seed so some lovely seedlings will have colour up in no time.

…And I thought I had nothing to do!

newly dug for kitchen sm.jpgIn my preserving kitchen

The Jerusalem Artichokes will be transformed into pickles this year. I may even experiment with them in my Middle Eastern inspired pickles as they are a firm vegetable which would retain its crunch along with the beetroot, turnips and cauliflower in the recipe.

It's quince time and even though I still have Quince Paste left from last year, I can't resist using a cold afternoon to make another batch. It takes ages but the results also last preserved for years.