The secret to garden success? Think like a plant! | In Your Patch – Busselton Dunsborough Mail

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Turmeric. Bananas. Ginger. All grown here in Margaret River. And with no hothouse. So what's the secret? The secret to growing edibles like these in our climate is to... wait for it (this is exactly what I tell the kids in the Kitchen Garden Program at MRPS) think like a plant. What I mean by that is to find out what that plant likes, and then to replicate those conditions as best you can in your own environment. What we want to do is create a micro-climate that offers the plant what it needs. All of the produce mentioned in this article harvested in August is typically not grown in Margaret River. So how did we do it? Think like a plant! Our Turmeric was sourced in Carnarvon from Morels. We can't replicate a Carnarvon climate - or can we? I bought $5 of Turmeric pieces, just like the type you buy in the shops to eat. I planted it with the kids July 2020 in a small, raised bed that gets good sunlight, has rich, free draining, fertile soil and backs onto a wall providing some protection from the wind and a little more warmth than usual as the wall behind retains heat. For the first three months the bed sat idle and empty, or so the kids thought. One year later, and this is what we harvested. I mentioned in my last column that we'd look at our Ginger this month. Our Ginger is an edible variety and is sourced as a smallish seedling that you plant directly into soil. Many of you bought one yourselves when the school held a promotion with Lazarus Horticulture last January. Like the Turmeric, we waited for the green top of the plant to die off completely before harvesting. Last year we got a bumper crop - this year was a complete failure. A lot of vertical root development but no lateral ginger rhizomes. I planted in two separate spots including the same spot as last year. I'm going to investigate what may have happened and keep you posted. I'd love to hear if anyone was successful, as it may help to explain what went wrong for us. As we promote at MRPS, every success and every failure present opportunities to learn. Finally, our bananas. About three years ago we replaced our aging, rodent infested worm farms with new ones, made from recycled grape bins. The bins are quite large and didn't fit into the same spot, so we moved them to a new location. In doing so, we were left with an empty piece of real estate in the school garden - a rare event indeed. The kids and I talked about what we might want to grow and the overwhelming consensus was bananas. Who was I to say no? So we thought like a banana and researched the growing conditions that bananas like. We then built a sun trap. A lovely local and school garden volunteer Katie Biggs donated three to the Program. We identified them as Dwarf Ducasse with the help of Josh at Mitre 10 Margaret River. We gave them sun, shelter from the harsh winds, good soil, plenty of water, and a good dose of some well-timed fertiliser after about year two (thanks Katie), and soon after saw our first bunch of bananas. They were harvested this month, and we now also have two more bunches on the way. What to plant in September? We will start to see the soil temperature begin to rise, which many seeds and seedlings need to germinate and thrive. It's a very busy time with seed germination in trays and after they've grown planting of tomatoes, cucumber, zucchini, watermelon and rockmelon, along with staples like silverbeet and rainbow chard, lettuce (shadier spots), and Asian greens if you're not thoroughly sick of them by now. We also use a cheap style greenhouse - we put our seed raising trays under an upside-down clear plastic tub. It ain't pretty, but it works! We make sure our beds are ready by clearing out any produce, growing a green manure crop if we have time, digging that and any weeds into the soil in situ, adding some nice organic fertiliser, watering it in, adding a mulch layer, watering again, leaving the bed to sit for two weeks, and then planting. The timing on this is important - we try to do all this early to mid September so we can time our seedling planting into the beds when the soil is getting warmer and the days are getting longer, and we avoid any really heavy rains (fingers crossed) as all they tend to do is leach all the goodness you've just added to your soil out of it - which is most definitely not what you are wanting before planting. Happy spring planting everyone and remember gardening tip number two, think like a plant! Terri Sharpe is Coordinator and Garden Specialist of the Margaret River Primary School's Kitchen Garden Program and a Lecturer in Horticulture at TAFE Margaret River. Her column focuses on tips for a productive edible garden - what and when to plant, when to harvest, disease and pest management, and general tips on what works (and doesn't) here in the Margaret River region./images/transform/v1/crop/frm/wXRNchq95bZhpeysFncAhm/ce65e1cb-3afb-4b76-b5dc-f63ca8f75b06.png/r5_0_1915_1079_w1200_h678_fmax.jpgTurmeric. Bananas. Ginger. All grown here in Margaret River. And with no hothouse. So what's the secret? The secret to growing edibles like these in our climate is to... wait for it (this is exactly what I tell the kids in the Kitchen Garden Program at MRPS) think like a plant. What I mean by that is to find out what that plant likes, and then to replicate those conditions as best you can in your own environment. What we want to do is create a micro-climate that offers the plant what it needs. All of the produce mentioned in this article harvested in August is typically not grown in Margaret River. So how did we do it? Think like a plant!Our Turmeric was sourced in Carnarvon from Morels. We can't replicate a Carnarvon climate - or can we? I bought $5 of Turmeric pieces, just like the type you buy in the shops to eat. A bumper Turmeric harvest this season, but unfortunately no Ginger.I planted it with the kids July 2020 in a small, raised bed that gets good sunlight, has rich, free draining, fertile soil and backs onto a wall providing some protection from the wind and a little more warmth than usual as the wall behind retains heat. For the first three months the bed sat idle and empty, or so the kids thought. One year later, and this is what we harvested.I mentioned in my last column that we'd look at our Ginger this month. Our Ginger is an edible variety and is sourced as a smallish seedling that you plant directly into soil. Many of you bought one yourselves when the school held a promotion with Lazarus Horticulture last January. Like the Turmeric, we waited for the green top of the plant to die off completely before harvesting. Last year we got a bumper crop - this year was a complete failure. A lot of vertical root development but no lateral ginger rhizomes. I planted in two separate spots including the same spot as last year. I'm going to investigate what may have happened and keep you posted. I'd love to hear if anyone was successful, as it may help to explain what went wrong for us. As we promote at MRPS, every success and every failure present opportunities to learn.Finally, our bananas. About three years ago we replaced our aging, rodent infested worm farms with new ones, made from recycled grape bins. The bins are quite large and didn't fit into the same spot, so we moved them to a new location. In doing so, we were left with an empty piece of real estate in the school garden - a rare event indeed. The kids and I talked about what we might want to grow and the overwhelming consensus was bananas. Who was I to say no? So we thought like a banana and researched the growing conditions that bananas like. We then built a sun trap. A lovely local and school garden volunteer Katie Biggs donated three to the Program. We identified them as Dwarf Ducasse with the help of Josh at Mitre 10 Margaret River. We gave them sun, shelter from the harsh winds, good soil, plenty of water, and a good dose of some well-timed fertiliser after about year two (thanks Katie), and soon after saw our first bunch of bananas. They were harvested this month, and we now also have two more bunches on the way. Think like a plant and you too can successfully grow bananas here in Margaret River.What to plant in September? We will start to see the soil temperature begin to rise, which many seeds and seedlings need to germinate and thrive. It's a very busy time with seed germination in trays and after they've grown planting of tomatoes, cucumber, zucchini, watermelon and rockmelon, along with staples like silverbeet and rainbow chard, lettuce (shadier spots), and Asian greens if you're not thoroughly sick of them by now. We also use a cheap style greenhouse - we put our seed raising trays under an upside-down clear plastic tub. It ain't pretty, but it works! We make sure our beds are ready by clearing out any produce, growing a green manure crop if we have time, digging that and any weeds into the soil in situ, adding some nice organic fertiliser, watering it in, adding a mulch layer, watering again, leaving the bed to sit for two weeks, and then planting. The timing on this is important - we try to do all this early to mid September so we can time our seedling planting into the beds when the soil is getting warmer and the days are getting longer, and we avoid any really heavy rains (fingers crossed) as all they tend to do is leach all the goodness you've just added to your soil out of it - which is most definitely not what you are wanting before planting. Happy spring planting everyone and remember gardening tip number two, think like a plant!Terri Sharpe is Coordinator and Garden Specialist of the Margaret River Primary School's Kitchen Garden Program and a Lecturer in Horticulture at TAFE Margaret River. Her column focuses on tips for a productive edible garden - what and when to plant, when to harvest, disease and pest management, and general tips on what works (and doesn't) here in the Margaret River region.This story The secret to garden success? Think like a plant! | In Your Patch
first appeared on Augusta-Margaret River Mail.
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