It is the 20th day of spring here in sunny South Australia and it’s 3 degrees C and hailing! Three days ago it was 28 degrees and I got sunburnt on the end of my nose! As I sit here in my warm office by my cosy fire, I am reminded that one of the enigmas of our weather here is inconsistency. Last week we were saying ‘ooh we’re in for a hot summer’ and now we’re back in our winter coats.This all makes for an interesting life, but serves as a timely reminder not to get too excited in the garden. Yes, I’ve planted my tomatoes and basil, and yes, they are looking very sad today. I’ve also planted beans and carrots that are just poking their little heads through the soil – let’s hope they survive.
This time of the year is a great time to observe, plan and prepare. ‘Observe and interact’ is one of the most important principles of permaculture, and one I strongly adhere to and recommend. For me, it means observing not only the weather and movement of the sun, but the soil, how things are growing, and what has been successful over the previous year. It also reveals what creatures present are helpful and which are not and how to attract the right ones, so I don’t have to use harmful chemicals in my garden.
The next step is to plan – I can’t stress enough how important this is. And of course I must confess that I am so guilty of buying new plants and then trying to find somewhere to place them. Or of planting tomatoes too early and just before a hailstorm! However, it can really be fun walking around the garden, finding places to plant new things and deciding what vegies to plant and where, especially trying to remember what you had in that patch last year so I can rotate my crops. It is also a great delight of mine to pore through seed and plant catalogs, and to visit nurseries to check out what is available.
But then to prepare…it is much wiser to put money and effort into improving your soil and getting prepared before you consider planting. I only learnt to appreciate this wisdom as a new gardener watching my new plants struggling for survival and demanding more and more food and water. My great uncle Phil, into his 90’s and renowned for his spectacular garden always remarked ‘the answer lies in the soil’ and he was right. Work on and in your soil and growing plants is relatively easy.