Hanno puts a lot of thought into enriching the soil before planting. The dry, summer-depleted garden beds need help if they were to produce consistent high quality crops for us over the coming nine months. The beds have a healthy blend of composted cow manure, old chook poo, lots of compost, worm castings, blood and bone and sulphate of potash (all organic additives). After the first of the greens were planted - sugarloaf cabbage and kale - they were watered in with seaweed and comfrey tea, the tomatoes, cucumbers and squash were watered in with plain seaweed tea.
It's wise to give your plants some help just after planting out. Seaweed tea helps the little seedlings recover from transplant shock and gets them on the road to healthy growth. We give all our seedlings seaweed tea after planting out. Then we divide seedlings into two separate groups - greens and fruiting plants. Greens are obviously plants with lots of green leaves and no fruit - lettuce, cabbage, kale, spinach etc. Fruiting plants are tomatoes, capsicums (peppers), cucumbers, cauliflower, eggplant, squash, pumpkins etc. I put root vegetables under fruiting plants too, because although they don't produce an edible "fruit" they are grown to eat the root, not the leaves. (Although usually you can eat both.) Root vegies are potatoes, carrots, radishes, turnips, parsnips etc.
We divide these vegetables into two groups because they require different fertiliser. They all need to be planted into well draining soil that's been enriched with manures and organic matter - although with the root vegies, you must be sure the manures are old and well broken down or they will make the roots fork out. Then we give the greens frequent weak feeds of comfrey tea or some other organic nitrogen rich fertiliser; the fruiting plants don't get nitrogen fertiliser as this would encourage the growth of green leaves at the expense of the fruit. Feeding a tomatoes plant (or any fruiting plant) with lots of nitrogen fertiliser will give you a large, lush, green tomato bush with very few tomatoes. The fruiting plants will get enough nitrogen from the manures and organic matter already added to the soil. The additive they need is sulphate of potash. This is an organic compound that will help build up the cell walls in your plants, will encourage flowering and improve the taste.
There are still a couple of garden beds that need weeding and digging over, and that will be done today and tomorrow. Then we'll put up some trellises and climbing frames and plant beans and peas. We're also waiting on seeds planted in the bush house to mature enough for planting out. There are lettuces, coloured silverbeet, parsley, bok choi and more tomatoes - Moneymaker. We still need to buy seed potatoes that I'll pick up from Green Harvest tomorrow.
Slowly but surely the vegetable garden comes together for another season. Growing vegetables is never a fast process - this is slow food in every way; slow, organic and local. There are many benefits in growing your own food, it's not just the final product that is the prize. You will enrich your life by connecting with nature and getting your hands in soil, you'll be healthier for it because you'll get some exercise in the open air, you'll built your independence because you'll be able to feed yourself without going to the shops and you'll develop your life skills - skills that can be shared and passed on to your children. There is nothing better than the taste of your own backyard produce and when you finally get it on your plate, I bet you can't eat it without smiling like a Cheshire cat.