To say we were surprised when summer hurtled toward us at the beginning of October is an understatement. We were caught off guard and I have to admit I was lulled into such a false sense of security that I could get a jump on the season, that I bounded head long into planting mode to get my summer crops into the ground.
Before I did that, I attacked fallow winter garden beds with vigor, digging the beds over twice, adding a good amount of rich compost to the bottom layer before mounding the beds up and watering them well. A trip to town to purchase a range of tomato, eggplant and capsicum seedlings had me coming home with trays of potential sauces, salads and preserved treats. A side note here: I have tried for four seasons to raise my own seedlings from seeds, but I’m yet to master the art of getting the seeds to germinate and grow into sturdy plants, rather than the leggy specimens I’m so good at cultivating.
There is only one way to plant up a garden bed, and that is to get your hands dirty. You have to feel the tug of the roots as you separate the delicate little plants and then carefully place them into the new garden bed. It is here that you say a little prayer and hope that your preparation has been sufficient to give the new plants the nutrition they need to grow strong and tall. Once the new plants are resting in their new bed, a generous layer of mulch is carefully placed around the delicate stems, leaving them a little breathing space.
And so I did all of that. I watered the baby seedlings religiously as October gave us virtually no rain. The days however were balmy and warm. There was an odd cool day, which made me question my decision, but I justified my haste by the evidence before me. The zucchinis were growing, spreading their stems into star-like spokes, the tomatoes were just starting to shoot a little higher. And then it happened. A cold Friday night. As I lit the fire inside the house, using a pile of logs I’d not bothered to return to the wood pile yet, I didn’t spare a single thought for the little crop outside that was slowly taking the brunt of a Southerly wind, bringing with it a cold blast of icy air that turned the squash leaves black and shriveled the little tomato plants to wilting and dried little fronds.
And here’s the kicker. Old timers around the district have told me a few times, ‘plant your tomatoes AFTER Melbourne Cup Day’. Listening to a radio interview with a professor from Melbourne, who said we could go earlier because of climate change, had me convinced I was good to go. Sadly I was too hasty. It is another confirmation that local knowledge is key. So off I went to replenish my seedling stocks and allowed them to acclimatise while I watched the lead up to the racing season. My keen interest was not the fashions or the runners, but more the date. First Tuesday in November. Planting Day.
Here’s to a bumper summer season!
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