First stirrings of Spring

The first daffodils and hyacinths are flowering and in spite of the bitterly could southerly we’ve had the last couple of days, the buds are swelling and we notice the first stirrings of spring. This is also my first blog post since May, both because there’s nothing to do in my totally shaded garden this part of the year and because I’ve been spending June in Sweden with my family and July in France with friends. My plan was to continue the weekly posts, but without access to a computer that just didn’t happen! Over time, I’ll give you some glimpses of all the great sustainable solutions I saw over there.

Right now, we’re between midwinter and spring equinox. In northern European cultures, this was a time when people were celebrating the end of winter and the first stirrings of spring with a festival, or carnival. This was often followed by a ritual cleansing, or at least a visit to a holy well, and the setting of resolutions for the new year. At “Imbolc eve” (1/2 in the northern hemisphere, so 1/8 here) people had a nice dinner, setting some food aside for Brighid, the fertility spirit/fairy/goddess. They also prepared a bed for her so she would stay in the house overnight and bless the household with prosperity for the coming growing season.

One way of reproducing these traditions and connect with the seasons here is to celebrate with friends and family. We bring in budding branches to let them open in the warmth of the house, put some daffodils on the table and enjoy a good big dinner. Food spiced with tumeric, ginger, allspice and cinnamon is warming and help us combat the cold. And why not set a plate out for Brighid too? I regularly go to the sauna in spring to get the accumulated toxins out of my system – and enjoy the heat when the southerly is rageing outside.

After this celebration, many cultures had a period of fasting. This was often mandatory because not much had grown over winter and the stores were being rationed to last until the next harvest. For us, it is the ideal time to look over what we eat and introduce some of the wild salads that are starting to sprout: dandelion, puha, nasturtium, mustard, corn salad… Many of these are also great for digestion and support the elimination organs.

The moon is in its last quarter now and will be dark the night between Friday and Saturday. If you want to sow quick-sprouting seeds two days before new moon, when they germinate best, you’d need to get your seed trays and seed raising mix ready before Thursday. But you can actually sow these the whole week following the new moon too, so no stress! I’ll do mine as I get around to it…

My to-do list this week (12-18 August):

  • Check in on my wormfarm: Are carbon levels, worm numbers, water content ok? It’s not too compact in there after winter? Add dry carbon matter if needed, a little sprinkling of lime, cover if too wet.
  • Sieve worm castings for seed raising mix
  • Sieve garden soil for seed raising mix
  • Mix 1:1:1 of sieved soil, sieved compost and old seed raising mix (you can also buy Dalton’s Organic at Commonsense)
  • Check my garden plan up until December and count my seeds to make sure I’ve got enough + maybe order more
  • Sow seeds for indoors tomatos, peppers and eggplants in trays on a radiator (these need minimum 20ºC to germinate) – the ones to grow outdoors I sow much later.
  • Sow short-germinating seeds in trays in the greenhouse: Beetroot, Broadbeans, Broccoli, Cabbage, Chard, Collards, Kale, Kohlrabi, Leeks, Lettuce, Mustard, Spring onions, Onions, Peas (dwarf and tall), Rutabagas, Spinach, and Turnips.
  • Sow short-germinating seeds directly in the garden (in a bed double-dug in autumn): Carrots, Radishes.

Prepare for next week:

  • Start looking for compost materials, take a walk on the southern beaches to check if there are good banks of washed-up seaweed (make sure you’re not in the Reserve!!)
  • Check the compost when sieving it to see if I can put it on the beds next week if it’s mature enough.
  • Go over my vege & flower beds using the Niwashi to cut “weeds” that are going to seed, if any. Leave them on the soil to decompose if there’s no seed yet, otherwise put in the compost material pile.
  • Take out the long-germinating seeds for spring flowers and order more if I need: Alyssum, Aquilegia, Calendula, Corn flower, Foxglove, Hollyhock, Honesty, Petunia, Poppy (I didn’t sow them in autumn…), Sweet william.
  • Put up cloches to warm the sunniest bed so I can plant in it soon
  • If you have carbon crops that start to go dry and seedy, prepare to harvest them and use the stems in your big spring compost pile. I can’t grow anything over winter, as my garden is too shady.
  • Prepare (or buy) liquid feed for strawberries and rhubarb

As you can see, there’s now a lot to do in our Edible Oasis! If you’re a beginner, I suggest you stick to a few crops that you really like to eat and learn how to grow those. Start with 3-5 different veges the first year and add another 2-4 new ones each year. This will keep it from becoming overwhelming. And a few flowers, Calendula, Borage and Alyssum are both easy and pretty.

Last but not least, I’ve got a day workshop coming up for you: Grow an Urban Food Forest (part II), Sunday 6th September! It will happen on a private property in Mornington, it’s $90-$120 (sliding scale depending on your available funds). For more info and registration, email rego@edibleoasis.net

Happy spring! 

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