Grow what you eat!
Spring is finally here and the garden beds are all ready to go. After the winter frost have passed and the days get warmer, plant warm-season vegetables such as tomatoes, eggplants, cucumbers, corn, pumpkins, chilli, salad greens, root vegetables and legumes such as green beans. Choose between growing from seed or seedlings or both!
The vegetables in a kitchen garden can be split in half – annuals (such as lettuce and tomatoes) and perennials (such as rhubarb and strawberries). The annuals can be further divided into four groups: leafy greens (lettuce and spinach), fruiting veg (eggplant and zucchini), roots (carrot and beetroot) and legumes (beans and peas) and can be planted separately for easy crop rotation.
Buying seedlings rather than sowing seeds ensures greater success and it is more time efficient and easier! If you have a little more time you can try both seeds and seedlings. Buy seedlings (tomatoes and eggplant) and roots (beetroot, parsnip and carrots). The easiest veg to sow are legumes (beans) directly. Leafy greens are easy to grow from seed, and there are more tasty and interesting varieties available from seed rather than punnets.
Cordon: These are climbing vines and will need to grow on tall supports.
Bush: These are shorter but still need support to 0.6m. Grow a good strong heavy cropping, cherry tomato (cherry, tommy toes, grape, sweetbite), a medium sized tomato (plum truss, roma), a nice slicing tomato (black krim, oxheart, brandywine) and an unusual coloured tomato (yellow pear, red currant, green zebra). Planting 2-4 varieties is manageable and planting 2 plants per person is sufficient.
They need a very warm growing area and reach up to1m. The long purple eggplant is most successful. Plant 1 plant per person.
Corncobs are delicious and sweet; due to the high sugar content in corn, it is important to eat it within minutes of picking. Plant corn in blocks to increase pollination and therefore your harvest!
Cucumbers are vines that love to climb. Crystal apple, Lebanese and Burpless are great varieties. Train cucumbers up tepees or frames and tie them up as they grow. Plant 2 plants per person staggered throughout the season.
These are small shrubs that grow across the ground to 1.3m long and are constantly producing fruit as they grow. They can produce 30 fruit per summer season; one plant can produce 1 fruit every day. Select from black beauty, golden and Lebanese varieties. Plant 1 plant per person.
Summer squash –
These are also ground covering plants. They need at least 1m of space per plant and will produce 40 fruit per plant. Squash come in yellow scallop, patty pan green and de nice do fruit rond. Plant 1 plant per person.
Chilli and capsicum –
They love the hot weather of summer and will constantly produce fruit throughout the warmer months. Chilli and capsicum grow as small bushes from 0.5m 1m high. Sweet Chocolate, Chinese Giant and Hungarian Yellow Wax grow to 60cm.
Melons, pumpkin & watermelon –
These are space consuming and produce fruit at the end of the season. Give them their own beds as they don’t ripen until autumn and they won’t interrupt your crop rotation.
Growing leafy greens throughout the summer season is an uphill battle but its worth persevering as this is the season you need a plentiful supply. Keep a selection of chard, silverbeet, tropical spinach, warrigal greens, wild rocket and lovage on hand. They prefer growing in a slightly shaded area as they can often go to seed if the temperature gets too hot.
Climbing beans: (blue lake, snake, giant of Stuttgart) need to grow on 2.5m high supports. Each plant produces about 1kg of beans and can be blanched and frozen. Plant 1m of beans per person, with a spacing of 10cm apart.
Bush beans: (French, dwarf, butter, cherrokee wax, and drying beans such as borlotti) are dwarf beans growing to 0.5m and do not require any support.
Runner beans (scarlet runner, Sunset) are perennial beans and climb on 2.5m high supports. . Pick beans early while small, tender and tasty as larger beans become starchy and woody and not as delicious.
Leeks – They can be planted all year round. Drop a plant into each hole and water it in. Do not firm the soil round the plant. The stems may be blanched during the season by drawing up the soil and mulch around them.
Carrots – Sow carrots directly into the soil into shallow furrows thinly. Be patient, they can take three weeks to germinate. There are many varieties including thin, fat, orange, purple, red, yellow and white. Soil preparation to remove stones and clods is essential in producing carrots without forks or lumps. Plants will benefit from a fortnightly application of seaweed solution.
Beetroot – Soak beetroot seeds in warm water for 1 hour and then plant out. Plant thinly about 5-10cm apart. Beetroot are cluster growers and it is preferable to have a small cluster of sweet beets than a row of large woody ones. Sow directly into the ground into moist soil. There are many varieties available from seed (Woden, chiogga, forono, bulls blood, golden) but there are also good seedlings available from your nursery.
www.fiskars.com - (tools)
www.diggers.com.au - (vegetable garden labels, beans)
www.oasisaustralia.com - (seedlings)
www.scottsaustralia.com.au - (fertiliser, Osmocote garden soil)
www.diginvegetablegardens.com.au - (construction of gardens)
Read How To Grow Your Own Vegetable Garden Part One
Read How To Grow Your Own Vegetable Garden Part Three
Read How To Grow Your Own Vegetable Garden Part Four
Read How To Grow Your Own Vegetable Garden Part Five