Now is the time to buy your seed potatoes and to start “chitting” or sprouting them. Time also to start sowing seeds of tomatoes, chillies, capsicums, lettuces and peppers into seed raising trays so that they are ready to plant out around Labour Weekend, when the frosts are hopefully behind us.
Last year I grew only an early crop of “Jersey Benney” potatoes and did not grow a main crop. We started using the early spuds before Xmas and the crop provided enough potatoes to last us right through until June. As soon as I had dug the first 2 or 3 rows of potatoes I planted 4 rows of sweetcorn in their place and about a month later, after all of the spuds had been harvested, I planted another 4 rows of sweetcorn.
Use only Certified seed potatoes, which can be bought now at any of the garden centres. Do not use old potatoes that were left over from last year, or cooking potatoes bought from the supermarket as these have been sprayed to try to prevent them from sprouting. Last year I grew the Jersey Benney type and they were very successful, but I like to vary the variety each year so this year I have bought “Swift”. We had a good crop of these when I grew them about 4 years ago. I place the seed potatoes into egg trays, with the sprouts facing upward, and tuck them away in the garden shed for a couple of months to allow them to sprout before planting out. A 3kg bag of Swift seed potatoes gave me about 36 seeds for sprouting and planting out, which is plenty for my small garden area.
If you haven’t already done so, now is the time to dig in that “green crop” of blue lupins that has been growing over winter. Dig the lupins in before they start flowering. I set the mower to full height and mow the lupins into mulch. I have found that mowing the top off makes digging the garden a lot easier. You could also use a weedeater or hedge cutting shears to
cut the lupins down. Before digging in the lupin stems, roots and nodules, a great source of natural nitrogen and fibre for your soil, spread blood & bone, lime and sheep pellets over the garden. Start off by digging a trench right along the back of the garden. Throw some of the lupin mulch along the bottom of the trench, as well as some compost. Dig another row, throwing the soil of this row up on top of
the first row that you dug and leaving another trench right along the garden. Throw some lupin mulch along the bottom of the second trench, as well as some compost. Repeat this process until you eventually reach the front of the garden. Digging in lupins, compost, blood & bone, lime and sheep pellets, especially at this time of the year, is one of the most important things that you can do to revitalise garden soil. It provides all of the natural nutrients that the garden will need for the next cropping season. Do not rake the soil flat yet, just leave it to fallow for a few weeks then rake it flat just before planting.