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What you need to do in your vegetable garden now (May)

 For southern Australia it is too late now to put in vegetables. Cold temps from now on, especially the night temps which are usually more important than day temps, will stop plants from growing well during the winter and they will probably not mature.

If you have bare beds now it is time to prepare them for spring planting. Try to create more fertility in your soil that will also build up worm and soil microbe numbers. Here are my tips for building up that fertility:

1, You can still plant a winter cover crop, my preference is broad beans, as you don't need them to be tall before cutting them down and digging them in during the winter, or early spring. I prefer to cut down broad beans when they get about knee high. Plant thickly.

2, If you don't want to plant a cover crop then throw some chook manure onto any bare beds and cover with a thick layer of straw or sugar cane mulch. The manure will provide nitrogen to the soil organisms which will help break down the mulch quickly. You can use other manure but I prefer a high nitrogen manure when the beds are clear.

3, Make sure you weed the beds before preparing them. You want to have them as clear of weeds and weed seeds as possible to cut down on workload when you are ready to plant.

4, If your deciduous fruiting trees and shrubs have completely lost their leaves you can prune them now. This included grape vines, raspberries, kiwi fruit, apples etc. Your stone fruits should have been pruned directly after harvest and should not need any work at this time.

5, Start planning your veggie planting for next spring, buy seeds if you need to. 6, I know it is very hard, but, don't be impatient. I don't like planting and sowing earlier than nature intends, later planted veggies usually catch up quickly and outgrow those that are planted too early. Most summer vegetables need to be sown when minimum night time temps are consistently above 10 degrees. Unfortunately the spring night temps have been too low for longer the past few years so I have gone from planting early Oct to early Nov. We still have a long enough growing season to get anything ripe in time.

If you absolutely have to have Christmas tomatoes then you will be planting early so you need to make sure you have a warm hothouse to keep them in. If you are starting them indoors make sure they have plenty of light and place a curtain between them and the window at night so they don't get cold shocked.

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