Max Lindegger of Ecological Solutions has kindly agreed for Permaculture Noosa to post his newsletters on our site:

Firstly on behalf of Ockenden, Cambodia I would like to thank all of you who keep giving us donations to take to Cambodia.  Also thanks to the buyers of Cambodian pepper and hats and the pegs.

I have prepared a short up-date on the happenings in Cambodia.  Please let me know if you would like to receive a copy.

Many thanks,   Max

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The mornings are definitely getting cooler and autumn is with us.

March was still much too warm.  Here at Crystal Waters we had some excellent rain, nothing heavy and not much wind.  The garden is powering on.

Beerburrum data:

March min +1.6C

March max +2.3

Average rainfall to March 574mm

This year       267 mm

Last year       629 mm

April will be very much Autumn for us here.  No more really hot days and the long range forecast by the BOM is predicting about average rainfall.

Expect cool mornings and mild days – perfect for the garden for the next few months.

The combination of good soil moisture, rainwater tanks full and milder weather is about as perfect as we can expect.

Cucumbers will slow down now, indeed they are finished here (they don’t like the cooler nights).

Carrots are powering on – a good time to plant more – and the beans galore continues.  Snake Beans like the wet and warm part of the year and you may still be picking a few more of them if you live in a warm pocket.  The Lettuce and Asian Vegetables are doing much better now.  Keep looking out for snails and slugs while the weather is still warm.  They can quickly finish off a seedling if you don’t watch out for them. Just pull them off and squash them.

Grasshoppers are still very active.  Feed them to the chooks.

Silver Beet has suffered with the rain and so has the Parsley.  It is normal.  Other vegetables don’t care much about the rain or weather conditions and will power on.

Time to replace the Parsley – I plant herbs like parsley at the end of the garden beds as these plants are in place for a long time. keep them as close to the entry as possible as you will use them in the kitchen pretty well daily.

If your Brassica’s are bothered by grubs you may like to use Derris Dust or one of the Pyrethrum Products approved for organic gardens. Only use as directed.

Early planting of some of the Asian Greens will suffer while the conditions are warm.

Best if you plant Strawberry runners soon and the same applies for the Garlic but if you are running late – do not despair, April is still okay.  Garlic is best planted into moist rather than wet or very dry soil.  It is very difficult to get organic Garlic this year.  I was given some planting material by one of our regulars and it is top stuff.  I will grow it with great care in the hope to have more planting material next year.  It is the best looking garlic I have seen for a long time.  Much appreciated.

Cut back the Basil – not too hard or some plants may die.  We planted 100’s of Holly Basil for the bees and some I will cut back and some I will leave.  I had hoped that they would self-seed but no such luck here. Holly Basil is considered a perennial plant in our climate. Bees love them.

Propagate using cuttings of any of your favourite herbs.  March/April is a good time get a good strike.  Keep cuttings in semi shade and keep them moist.  To improve the take rate, dip the base of the cutting in a little honey.  It works.

April planting –  a very busy month!   A great time to put in some potatoes too.  Try some of the interesting old varieties from Green Harvest.  Potatoes like deep, friable soil and lots of mulch.  Bracken Fern and Bladdey grass make excellent mulches.  Potatoes need a good watering to do well but hate wet feet.  My Grandfather used to cover any cut surface on a spud with wood ash to prevent diseases.  Roll each planting piece in a leaf of comfrey for a good start.  It works.  You have seen this before but here is that video again: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=y0uSqQhevqc

April is probably one of the best months to plant Caulie, Broccoli and Kale.  The wet is behind us (and the same is generally the case with snails and grasshoppers).  We have a long growing season ahead of us. Plant some now and some in May …..

If you had cloudy, dull, showery days some of the vegetables will have grown spindly.  Lettuces are good at this.  I often plant a second seedling next to the spindly one.  This will give me a chance to pull the poor one out as the replacement is growing along.

Have a look at the Green Harvest website for interesting things to plant this time of the year and excellent gardening tips.

This is one of the best times to plant Carrots.  They need very friable soil.  The seeds need to be kept moist at all times after germination until the plants are well established.  If you have poor germination don’t just blame the seed supplier but watch for ants which may well steel seed from your planting.  Don tells me that mixing the Carrot Seed with Pepper deters the ants.  From the time they are about 20 to 30 mm high, water deep to encourage good root development.  Carrots don’t like the soil too rich.  Use only well composted manures.  Fresh manures will result in forked roots and a strong flavour.  Watch for little grubs too!

Pat will be offering Green Bush Beans ” Provider” from time to time this winter (that is the plan anyway).  As a trial we grew these all winter the last few years with good success.  Beans will not tolerate frost but our upper garden is quite well protected and we harvested beans all winter.  “Provider” seems to do well in cool as well as warm conditions.  We will probably trial other varieties too.  It seems to be important to grow a bean variety in winter which matures fairly fast.  “Provider” should be flowering in about 6 weeks from a seedling and produce beans for a few weeks.  Look out for other Beans suitable for the cooler time of the year.  I used to grow “Hawkesbury Wonder” but not sure if they are still around.

Keep-up the manure teas on all leaf vegetables.  Don’t make them to strong or they may burn young leaves. Your garden will have lost a fair amount of Nitrogen during recent rains.  Be quite generous with Blood and Bone – a very small handful (or a large pinch!) for each small leafy plant is a good addition.  Do this about every 10 days or so.  Worm castings are also brilliant and totally safe.  Available at Pat and John’s stall.

Manure teas are best applied in the morning.  You can make a manure tea by placing a good handful of Worm castings in a bucket and letting it drain through a cloth. You get best value by mixing one part of this juice with about 5 parts of water (or a little more or less – it is not too important).

While the days are still warm, I find any watering late in the day at this time of the year only seems to encourage the snails even more.

I find it interesting how the trellis which was hung with Cucumbers (or beans) just yesterday can be planted to Peas in a matter of 30 minutes.

Lots of Peas going in this month!  They are simply fantastic straight from the garden.  And look at the money you will save.

It pays now, if you have prepared your garden beds early.  Most of our garden never has a fallow period – a period of rest.  If you have given the beds a bit of time without producing you will find that the compost is now friable and really easy to plant into.  The actual planting job is child’s play.  Spread a modest amount of seed-free mulch (Bladey grass and Bracken Fern are ideal as they truly are seed free).  Disturb the soil as little as possible and plant your seed or seedling.

Remember that some of our favoured plants for this time of the year will grow big: Broccoli, Cauliflower, Kale…..even Mibuna and Mizuna.  I plant Broccoli and Cauliflower up to 600 mm apart.  There is plenty of space in between at planting time to then plant Lettuce, Rocket, Pak Choy, Endive or Tatsoi.  All these smaller growing vegetables will be ready to harvest before the big vegetables need the space.  Mind you, last year I did a trial and planted Broccoli just 300 mm apart and the yield per plant was nearly as good.  If you try this, add some extra fertiliser or compost and you will be surprised by the reward.

About making the best of limited spaces.  We plant two Cos Lettuce seedlings per dripper and up to four seedlings of Pak Choy, Bok Choy and Choy Sum and then harvest while they are young.  It works!  We have done it for years and makes a small garden even more productive.

I plant Broccoli and Kale in a group and Caulie in another.  The reason is that the Caulie only gives us one pick, get pulled out and the space is available for the next planting.  Broccoli and Kale on the other hand stay in the ground for a long time and we get multiple picks.

Broccoli must be about the best choice this time of the year.  With some attention you will get at least 3 harvests from the same plant – a big head (about 100 to 150 mm in Diameter) to start with, a number of smaller heads a couple of weeks later and small bunches of flower heads a few weeks later again (often called   “Broccoleties”).  Remember to give the plants not only enough water but some Sulphate of Potash and/or some clean wood ash when they are well established.  It helps the plants to make that extra effort.  An application of a weak liquid manure tea (or Natrakelp or similar) will improve the flavour and health.  Keep the Nitrogen down when the plants are well established or you will get very large leaves and not as much of the “flower”, the part we eat.

Some rotted Poultry (or other) manure at the time of planting is perfectly good.

The old varieties of Broccoli are not well suited for our climate. You will find that they will look better in the catalogue then in the garden.

Remember that Broccoli, Cauliflower and Kale do best if you plant them deeper than you would usually plant seedlings.

April is a good time to start planting English Spinach from seed or seedling – also a good time to get Silver Beet started.

The grass is still green and there is a lot around with all this rain.  Collect it for compost.  A good time to clean-out the chook house and combine the weeds with manure for a good and hot compost which should kill most of the seeds.  A hot compost should reach about 60 to 65 C for a few days.

What to plant in April:  Carrots, Radish, Peas, Corn Salad, Turnips and Parsnip (best from seed) plus  Beans for frost free areas, Beetroot, Broccoli, Cabbage, Cauliflower, Celery, Kohlrabi, Lettuce, Endive, Rocket, Onions, Spring Onions, Silver beet, Spinach, Tatsoi, Mibuna, Mizuna, Pak Choy, Bok Choy, Choi Sum (indeed any of the Chinese Vegetables), Leeks, Chives, Parsley, Chicory (Seed or Seedling).

While Pat and John like to sell seedlings to you it is actually possible for you to grow your own.

Make sure you have fresh seed. Buy from a mail-order company ( like Green Harvest or Eden Seeds) or a place where the seeds are not stored in the sun but in some cool space. Seeds are best stored cool and dark.

Select a seed-raising mix or make your own.  A good seed-raising mix is fine, holds moisture but drains freely and is reasonably fertile.  Go for a well- known brand.

It is a good idea to have a sheltered area to start your seeds. In our case we start them in an Igloo – a plastic greenhouse.

The packet will indicate when the seeds should germinate.  This is a good indication.  Keep the seeds moist but not wet.  You may need to cover them at night (we have to) or mice will come and eat them.

As soon as the seeds have germinated and are above the soil level, move them into the sun.

If you leave them in the Green House or under shade cloth they will grow spindly and weak.  Never, never grow the seedlings under dark (green or black) shade cloth.  The result would be weak, spindly seedlings not worthy of your garden.

When Pat and John take the seedlings to market they have spent a good part of their lives in full sun.  They are hardy and can handle transplanting with ease.

There will be a large selection of seedlings available at the next Witta market (20th April).  Come early as the seedlings have been selling quickly.  Some lovely honey too – until we run out!  Also Pecan’s and Rosella Tea!!  Plenty of beeswax candles as well!

Honey’ customers please note:

We will be away in May so will bring extra honey to the April market if you wish to stock up.

Good gardening!

Max and Trudi  – swales1911@gmail.com