#Isogardening at this time of year – how you can make it work for you

I thought this month we would talk about gardening in #isolation. I have enjoyed being at home in peace with my garden and nature. Gardening at this time of year offers its own charms and challenges, but doing so in isolation offers an opportunity to us to get creative.

I’m delighted to see that many new people have started to grow food and start bokashi since isolation hit our countries. Of course, during a time when shops have been shut, the common cry has been: “Ahh but I have no potting mix, seed raising mix or plants!”

But did you know that there are many ways you can grow plants without any of the above?

Lockdown or not, I always recommend that seeds are the best way to grow your plants, as you never know what you will get from the garden centres (which can sometimes include an unwanted friend or two) or what the seedlings were grown in.

To source my soil during isolation, I have been foraging in the edges of the bush and found plenty of useable bush soil underneath the leaves.

The key is that whatever you sow in needs to be kept moist for your seeds to germinate.

Top tip: I usually sow, water and cover them either with a paper towel or cardboard. This really does the trick to speed along the germination of seeds.

If you are a person like me that lets your plants go to seed, as they are from organic seed, then you will observe that they literally pop up in the strangest of places. Rocket, lettuce, calendula, mizuna will all come up in the cracks of concrete, in path ways and even around the garden!

The key here is identification in the 2 leaf stage, so you don’t pull them out in error.

So, what should you be doing now to prepare for your winter garden?

As we are in the first quarter of the moon, it is time to get your garlic and shallot beds ready and also to think about cleaning up and repositioning your strawberries. I hardly ever replace my strawberry plants. If they have runners, I will cut those off and replant; clean the strawberries up and give them what they need for winter. I transplant my strawberries to a new bed every three or so years.

To me, winter gardening is far less labour-intensive than summer gardening and there are definitely less pests to deal with. Plus there is the added bonus of less intense heat that your plants can really benefit from.

What do I recommend you should plant now for winter?

This phase of the moon is the best time to sow broad beans and green manure crops to cover your soil that will rest and rejuvenate over winter, ahead of next summer. Even if you dislike broad beans, they are such a tonic for the soil and appreciate a side dressing of potash from your fire.

For me, this will be my last sowing of flowers for spring and of winter crops, as in June, everything slows dramatically due to the reduced daylight hours. Also, at this time it is good to get your beneficial flowers going to bring in the good insects for spring/summer and create a more diverse culture for your garden to enable all aspects of nature to work together. Eventually when the balance is right, the good insects will eat the bad and you will create a harmony that your garden will really benefit from.

Top tip: Over the next couple of weeks, get your above ground seeds in and then after the full moon, plant your carrots, Florence fennel, radish etc.

I also like to sow quick turnaround crops while I am waiting for the broccoli and cauliflower to mature. Great quick turnaround crops for this time of year are rocket, Chinese greens, Pak and Bok choi, radish and micro greens. These all mature in about 14-30 days so you can eat fresh from your garden while other plants are growing.

Happy #isogardening !

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