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What's new with Farmer Pete : Spring into Action

The most active time in the Springfield gardens is right around now. Winter vegetables do well in 10℃ to 21℃, so for now we are still enjoying an abundance of cool season vegetables, but soil temperatures are rising, so it won't be long before we're growing summer vegetables. Soil temperature is measured in the root zone and that’s 10-15 cm below the surface. You'll find many pH metres available on line for under $30 that also measure soil temperature and it's important to check both pH and temperature at this time of the year. It’s best to take soil temperature early in the morning over three day and average the results.

Warm season vegetables prefer a soil temperature above 21℃, although most will grow in the 18-24℃ range. So, why is soil temp important? It effects soil chemistry and the release of mineral nutrients essential for growth as well as the oxygen holding capacity of water for your plant roots. I divide Spring into 3 planting groups. Early Spring - rhizomes and tubers, rhubarb, asparagus, potatoes and strawberries. Mid Spring - tomatoes, sweet corn, cucumbers, zucchini and pumpkins. Late Spring - chillies, capsicums and egg plants.

Having a greenhouse, heat mats or a warm north facing window ledge is a great way to get an early start germinating seeds. I started well over a month ago and now my tomatoes, capsicums, eggplants, 10 chilli varieties, zucchini and pumpkins are all well advanced ,with great root development in that warm potting soil. As the outside soil has now reached the ideal temp three days in a row, out they go into the garden.

The soil in all the gardens was prepared at the end of winter. I practice “no dig, so I do not turn the soil, letting the fungi and microbes stay undisturbed to multiply and do their work. Breaking unseen fungi strands and exposing the microbes to oxygen undoes a lot of good work. Instead, I add 30cm of newly finished compost, a sprinkling of blood and bone and (depending on pH) another sprinkling of garden lime. Most vegetables prefer a pH range of 5.5 -7 and the extra compost usually temporarily drops the pH given the large amount of decomposed organic material.

I water my new seedlings in the morning, around 7am, better than letting the seedlings struggle with cold soil and cold water overnight. The seedlings are watered in initially with Seasol to encourage root and microbes growth. Then, as they grow if I think they will benefit from supplemental feeding I use Harvest, an organically certified fertiliser that’s watered in making sure to keep the water off the tomato leaves if possible. When the seedlings are planted out I mulch them with Whoflundung to help keep the soil moist.

New life is flowing every where you look, fruit trees are full of blossoms, bulbs are up and the male quail's call to the hens wafts over the paddocks.

The quail hens are starting to lay, they started when the daylight hours hit the magic 12. At 12 hours of sunlight it triggers the hens laying mechanism to turn on. During the next 9 months they will lay an egg each day, that’s around 270 eggs per bird. As I only need one male per 5 hens it’s time to select the best breeders and move the other males to the fattening coups. I have collected the first 100 eggs and they are now in the incubator and after only 19 days this year's new flock will hatch. I usually have an 80% success rate. At 8 week's old quails are mature enough to start laying. They thrive in our enclosed anti aviary where we also keep 40 dwarf fruit trees and an array of over a dozen berry varieties. Quail are the perfect companion for fruit trees, they eat the bugs, fertilise the soil and best of all, they don’t disturb root zones and they supply a beautiful energy to the whole space. If you want some baby quails let me know, I will have plenty.

Farmer Pete

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