The Joy of Spring
By Peter Hatfield – Head Horticulturalist, Chiswick Woollahra
I don’t have to tell anyone twice that this is my absolute favourite time of year.
For the last month, I’ve been on the lookout for tell-tale signs of a bumper spring season. Buds on deciduous trees starting to swell, bulbs beginning to push through the earth, winter plantings in the veggie patch either in full swing or bursting to pop out flowers that hungry bees will soon race to attend.
In my mind, the sensory experiences of spring are the fabulous bright greens and purples of fat bunches of basil, and the pungent oils from mint, oregano and thyme that linger on your hands long after the harvesting is finished.
But before all this spring bounty can reach the table, there’s a bit of behind-the-scenes dirty work to be done!
Early Spring Garden Planning
Right now, forward planning is crucial. It’s a little like constructing a building - strategising different plots around the best locations, then starting from the ground up.
Knowing how much sun each species needs to reach its full potential is essential for a healthy harvest.
Build tomato and bean frames strong, using spare timber beams or stakes - you’ll be amazed how much these plants can weigh when bursting with ripe, ready bunches.
Soil PH has a massive impact on how plants perform over the growing season. Don’t be scared of learning a little garden chemistry 101. Just knowing the basics can put your plants in a much better position to thrive.
Grabbing a small soil testing kit is a great way to get your head around simple soil science.
Once you’ve used your test kit to establish your PH, it’s time to give your beds a good turn over. I use a long handheld shovel to avoid too much bending over and aim for about 300mm depth for cultivating most vegetables.
Add in a generous helping of compost, manure and perhaps a little blood and bone. Phosphate boosts soil health and pumps up your crops’ immune system, helping stave off disease.
Preventing Spring Garden Pests - Don’t Get Sprung
All that wonderful spring growth means your garden can become a real supermarket for snails, slugs, caterpillars and aphids and other insidious leaf-eaters.
The trick is to observe any suspicious changes to your plants’ appearance as early as possible. Catching larger pests like snails as soon as a rain shower subsides means you can remove most by hand and minimise the number of pesticides you use.
If you’ve identified a real infestation, you’ll inevitably have to stock up on a targeted supply of organic sprays or pellets.
Fruit flies are ruthless when it comes to decimating tomatoes and they’re incredibly hard to spot! To avoid a fruit fly invasion, purchase pheromone traps that lure the males to a quick demise, putting the mating cycle to a halt.
Spring Flavours at Chiswick Woollahra
Head Chef Francois Poulard and I have planned a spring garden that will provide extraordinary strawberries, luscious tomatoes, gorgeous cucumbers and delicate micro herbs - one of the secrets to the amazing flavours on the new spring menu.
The gardens at Chiswick have been turned over and I’m now waiting for the next round of rain to hit so I can start putting a new batch of seedlings in the ground. Until then, it’s time for a well-earned break and maybe a sneaky scoop of some of Francois’ mouth-watering basil ice cream!