When you grow fruit and vegetables, the waiting is a worrying time and most acute during winter when plants take longer to grow. Now, it's almost time to harvest winter crops. The broad bean plants have black and white flowers, and the dainty white flowers on peas give us hope for a good crop in the coming weeks.
These plants have been doing a double job, not only to produce the first spring harvests, but also adding to the health of the garden bed with their nitrogen-producing root nodules. After they're harvested, the garden will be ready for a summer crop that needs to grow fast with a naturally boosted soil.
The key is to keep the plants growing without stress, by weeding, watering regularly, and mulching with sugar cane mulch or lucerne hay to retain moisture in the hot days. Broad beans will produce a good harvest for three to four weeks.
When the plants have grown to more than a metre high and set lots of pods, they are carrying a heavy load and need support.
Hammer a wooden or steel post into the ground at each end of the row and tie a length of strong garden twine along each side of the row of plants at 0.6 metres and then at 1.0 metres.
Pick your broad beans regularly, picking the pods at the lower sections of the plants. Sacrifice size for quality so that you can have the freshest pods. Half-set pods can be cooked whole. If you miss some of the pods under the big leaves, just pick the larger pods and shell them. They can then be frozen. Broad beans are high in protein and the young pods are very tasty. The tips of the plants can be harvested and cooked like spinach.
You'll find an array of recipes using tender young broad beans at goodfood.com.au, including a recipe using smashed broad beans and herbs with tomato or ricotta to make bruschetta, or just on crusty bread. A side dish of spring vegetables with lemon ricotta has all the goodness of an early harvest of baby carrots, stringless beans, broad beans and sugar snap peas.
■ Plant beans, sweetcorn, carrots and beetroot directly into garden beds.
■ Mulch around all of your newly planted vegetables this month. Bags of lucerne chaff, pea straw mulch or organic sugar cane mulch will prove to be a good investment as the materials will serve as a good mulch but also break down and contribute to the health of the soil.
■ Use liquid fertiliser made from seaweed, fish emulsion or worm juice every two to three weeks on vegetable crops.
■ Aerate your compost by turning over the heap. Add water if the compost is too dry and also mix in some new, green lawn clippings and vegetable scraps.
■ Dig out dock (with its big leaves) and any couch grass (including all the root nodules) that is encroaching into the garden.
■ Keep your tomato and capsicum plants in their pots for at least another week, to avoid any risk of frost damaging the seedlings.
>> Owen Pidgeon owns the Loriendale Organic Orchard near Hall.