An April of delays and dry for the 2 folk, the dog and the tractor. The early signs of autumn were stopped in their tracks here as rains failed to materialise. Our weather has been cool, stunning, clear and bright as well as pretty dusty.
When we plan out a year of farm work, house build and garden planting we try to not overload any particular time of the year. This year the best laid plans have been sent asunder with the odd climate we have been experiencing.
Plan: February and March are months dominated by fantastic kitchen garden yields, in particular the tomato harvest. In the last March post, I lamented how the wonderful tomato crop looked like it was running out of time to ripen before the frosts of April arrived. How wrong I was. The warmer than normal conditions have seen the crop peak in April and I am harvesting 5kg a day of the most picture perfect fruit.
There are no complaints here. The house is swamped by all manner of vessels overflowing with beautiful tomatoes. It’s a daily mission to process the tomatoes into meals, soups, sauces, and chutneys. Friends and neighbours are now receiving kilos of tomatoes as gifts. This is all really wonderful.
Plan: April and May are my garlic crop planting months. April is the month of continued bed preparation, cracking bulbs, counting and preparing cloves for planting. This is when I get to revel in the beauty of the cloves, get hands dirty in the soil and generally play garlic farmer.
But the Plan is out the window! No happy garlic idyll for April. It has been too warm and dry to plant cloves out, at least not without an irrigation plan, something that is not usually required here. So the plan to plant garlic over Easter was shifted to a week later when the temperatures dropped below 25 degrees C during the day. Rain is due tonight and we have everything crossed in the hope of some coming our way.
The vegetable garden continues to thrive, as it receives supplementary watering, and the warm weather means crops keep producing. So there is this cross over between summer crops and autumn crops, tomatoes alongside broccoli, garlic coming up amongst the tarragon. Its just plain freaky!
Fresh produce from the kitchen garden this month includes tomatoes, kale, spinach, peas, cucumbers, rhubarb, spring onions, chives, parsley, tarragon, rosemary, thyme and sage. The broccoli heads are forming, the brussel sprouts have survived the grazing and the succession pea plants are just sprouting.
The garlic paddock planting has started. This year the focus was on improving the soil nutrition and we spent a lot of time applying layers of organic matter, manure and soil additives. This year the cloves were pre-soaked before planting. Pre-soaking the cloves in a seaweed and microbial solution is a great way to combat planting stress, encourage strong root growth (and in turn enable better soil nutrient uptake by the plant), and provides a bit of inoculation against fungal issues on the clove or in the soil. Our method is to use 25ml of Seasol and 50ml of EM1 Bokashi liquid, diluted into 1 litre of water. I can’t over state the difference it made to the cloves.
These cloves were soaked for 36hrs (don’t extend soaking beyond 72hrs) and they had already produced roots at the base. It makes it so very obvious now why I need to keep the water up to them, for the plant and to ensure the nutrients in the soil are made available to the plant. Where is that rain?
Planting in April is about the early season garlic. May is about the mid and late season garlic. We are effectively half way through planting the crop. They are bedded in under 10cms of straw mulch. This year we fluffed the mulch, unfortunately, the next day the wind picked up. There is straw everywhere but on the actual garlic beds. I doubt there is a solution here that does not involve construction of some kind of windbreak – but that is our whole focus here!
The owner-builder adventure continues albeit hard to show. We have used solid Tasmanian Blackwood timber around the windows and doors. It looks fantastic, but it is very hard to photograph in a way that reveals its significance to the build. Very early on in the project, we read the finishing stage would take the most time and money of the build. We did not realise it would also have the least impact on us. Seeing it actually finished is very, very wonderful and yet we are rather blase about it all, almost as if it had always been there. Is it possible that our vision of the finished house is what we always saw regardless of the amount of unfinished wall, bolts and structural steel on show? Or maybe we just know there is still so much more to do! Celebrate each tiny advance is a fair motto in such a mammoth project.
Easter of course! We do not practice any religion in our house but are lucky enough to live in a country that recognises this holiday period. It is a time to tackle big jobs or even plant the garlic crop but this year weather and travel commitments saw us very much eating, resting and spending time with our friends as we put hard work on the back burner. I made my first panettone, a significantly belated event given how many of these I have eaten over the years, and of course a batch of hot cross buns (sans cross). Both of these wonderful, easy and successful bakes came courtesy of Nadine Ingham of Flour and Stone bakery fame. I am a convert, both bakes will be happening again very soon, to help me celebrate garlic planting at the very least.
Book list April
I read this quote on Sarah Wilson’s Instagram page, it is with deep admiration and mirth I gift this to you my friends…