My trailer is on the road several times a week this month as I haul load after load of bull kelp off the beach and onto the empty garden beds. It takes only a few days of rain to break down the dark outer layer and before you know it, the kelp is washing into the ground. Seaweed has a remarkable ability to condition soil by increasing its water-holding capacity. This in turn leads to better aeration of the garden beds and stimulates the beneficial soil bacteria into greater activity. So it is not only mineral nutrients that you are delivering to your garden by providing it with seaweed.
My trailer is also on the road hauling sacks of pine needle mulch to shield the soil from leaching winter rain and the arrival of those pesky hardy weeds which continue to grow over the colder months and then romp away in spring. The mulch also goes down between the rows of thriving Asian Greens, and covers the ground on the carrot bed just as fast as the roots are removed.
This month I’m taking care to remove dead and diseased leaves from the brassicas. I’m also spreading seaweed and animal manure under them and mulching. If I can keep the cauli greens, cabbages, kales and Brussles sprouts in good condition, I’ll have them right through until September.
Although it’s only May, sowing season will be upon us any day so I’m taking the time, while I have it, to sterilize all the seed trays and punnets which I’ll be recycling. This is especially important for pots that will once again contain delicate plants such as capsicums, tomatoes, cucumbers, aubergines, melons and zucchinis. Once sterilized and dried, the pots should be packed away in a clean, sealed plastic bag until ready for use.
I’m putting to good use the evening warmth of my living room to plait strings of shallots and garlic. Sometimes these bulbs just refuse to completely dry off and it’s simply asking for trouble to store them away while the stalks are not paper-dry right through. If, when you rub between your fingers the lower end of an onion or shallot stem (the part where it reaches the bulb) you find it feels moist or even slightly slippery, don’t string up or plait in the bulb with the others or it will only rot. If you cannot bear to have drying bulbs lying around the house one more day, pop them into a loosely packed string bag and hang it a warm, dry place where the bulbs can finish curing.
My last job for the gardening month is to snip off the dry stems of the runner bean plants, and clear away the old vegetation from their supporting frame. I’ll put thick straw mulch over the old roots and cross my fingers that all or most of them will emerge again in spring. Mind you, I’ll have a few waiting plants to fill in any gaps, just in case.