John's Garden Newsletters

John Bodycoat works for Conservation & Land management as a lecturer in the advanced diploma in agriculture and horticulture courses. He writes a Newsletter most months which is printed in Mandurah area newspapers. He has agreed to share the articles on our website.

April in the Garden

If you're planning and dreaming of having a year round supply of fresh produce from your home garden, well then it's time to get busy. Remember in the February issue I stated - Plan, Plan and Plan your garden. So if you've done this, good luck. I believe you should have the fairest and best garden in the area.

In your orchard, all berries would have finished - mulberries, marionberries, youngberries, raspberry and if you grow the thornless blackberry Waldo, it too has completed its fruiting time. Strawberry and lemon guava are at their peak, late grapes will be producing the last of their produce, mangos will have warmed your heart, stone fruit are now a memory, and apples and pears will be ready for fresh eating or bottling.

Other fruit coming up for picking include - pepino, guavas, quince, pomegranate, Brazilian cherry, late apples, citrus including the early Imperial mandarins and Irish strawberry tree. Olives are now turning black so pick and pickle. If you have chokos, they too are now bountiful. Remember to keep your citrus well watered, particularly oranges, as they're prone to split if irregularly watered. Pick your limes and lemons and early grapefruit. All this activity creates fun in the orchard.

Feed dry sandy soils with organic material such as rotted manure or homemade compost. Add Nitrogen (N), Phosphorous (P) and Potassium (K) into your soil using organic or inorganic material. Don't fool yourself as your soil needs all the macro and micro nutrients to produce flowers and fruit. If you're on acreage, buy in old weathered hay and place in your paddock and this will also help in soil improvement.

Remember 2015 is the Year of the Soils and we must improve our soil profile or organic carbon for plants to function properly. By adding soil improvers in homemade compost or purchased from your local nursery it helps to hold moisture in the root zone. Plus compost is very beneficial for microscopic soil fungi and bacteria that have the ability to help combat diseases. This must happen in all gardens no matter whether you're growing fruit, vegetables or flowers.

If you can't face the traffic and have decided to spend Easter at home, you have the perfect opportunity to get into the garden. You can spend some time working off the kilojoules piled on by those Easter eggs, or better still forgo the eggs and put in some plants instead.

What to do in your April garden

Stone fruitAs the weather cools it's time to cut back your apricots, nectarines, peaches and plums. Remember you'll need to spray with a copper-based anti-fungal product in May-June.
Compost and SoilTake out leaves from your gutters and compost them. Also put any fallen leaves in the garden into the compost as well. Buy in a trailer load of compost and mix it with old animal manures and incorporate this into your garden beds ready for planting. Add blood and bone or if you use non-organic fertilisers mix this in also.
StrawberriesPrepare your strawberry garden now and purchase your strawberry runners for an early May planting so you will be picking your first crop in August. Strawberry plants love to be fed and are high users of nutrients and fertilisers.
Your gardenIt is important to have fun as you prepare plants for the winter period.

Happy gardening

Last year I was asked a few times about putting wood ash on your garden beds. Yes, you can use it and wood ash is a very good source of potassium, which is an important nutrient for crops and other plants. Potassium plays a key role in fruit and flower development and among other things helps to regulate the flow of water and nutrients. But remember wood ash is alkaline. Some organic growers use it in place of lime if they have to raise soil pH. Don't spread it around acid-loving plants such as blueberries. Make sure you spread ash on your garden when it's dry. Otherwise, if left in the rain much of the potassium will leach out.

Quince Jelly Recipe

One or more whole quince fruit
1.25 L water
1 cup sugar for each kg of pulp

Add quince to the water and bring to the boil. When fruit is tender, carefully take from the juice and remove cores and skin. Mash and measure. Place back in juice and add 1 cup of sugar for each kg of pulp. Continue simmering. When a spoon-full placed on a plate gels, pour into sterilised jars and seal.

John Bodycoat

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