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Vegie Garden


If you haven’t already, now is the ideal time to get into the vegie garden.  There is no other time of the year where such an enormous range and variety of vegetables can be planted and grown. By the end of November you should have every corner of your garden planted in anticipation  for the ensuing bounty of produce to follow.

You may have already started planting, however I like to wait until a few warm days heat the top few centre meters of soil enough to have my seedlings hit the ground running and seeds jumping out of their skins!!

The vegie garden was once seen as a frugal means of feeding the family, and for some a necessity, but today it is so much more.  Impress your friends with a meal prepared and largely based on fresh produce from your garden.  Grow an array of unusual heirloom varieties alongside the newest hybrids. Share your bounty with friends and neighbours.  Enjoy a cold beer or wine as you tend to your garden on a warm summers night, nurturing your plants and you will be well rewarded by the results.

For Corn, buy seeds not punnets.  As the cobs are wind pollinated a block of plants is better than a row. Cobs only partially pollinated will be missing kernels at time of harvest.   I think a block of 16 (4 x 4) should be an absolute  minimum.  Place two kernels (seeds) per hole about 2cm under the ground and they will come up in just over a week. Fresh corn is the best.  Excess at time of harvest can be turned into dips, corn bread and blanched for use later in winter soups and stews.

Cucumber is a thirsty crop and unforgiving in warm weather.  On hot days, especially those combined with a warm wind; water your cucumbers twice daily.  Plant them in your best water retentive soil and mulch them well.

Get your lettuce in as soon as possible if you have not already. Experiment a little with the large variety available now in nurseries.  If you have some in already, plant a second crop for succession.  Lettuce needs to be grown fast to maintain taste.  Non bitter forms of lettuce become bitter when grown in soils low in nutrient and/or dryness.  Dry plants quickly bolt to seed and become unusable.  I liquid feed every week from planting until I pull up all my plants come late January.  Over Feb and March I buy lettuce as I find I just can’t water them enough and they always become bitter and bolt to seed.

Spring onions take up little space and are really useful over summer.  Plant a punnet every 3-4 weeks to maintain supply. They pretty much look after themselves.

Pumpkins take up a lot of space but can be interplanted to scramble over each other. Keep moist on hot days. They, along with Capsicums and Eggplant take quite some time to reap the rewards of your work. They often pop up at this time of year in the compost pile along with potato and cucumber, so transplant carefully with a large clump of compost into where they will happily grow for the next 5-6 months.

Beans, either climbing or bush are an ideal summer crop with their ability to bear crops continuously over an extended period.  They are great picked fresh and put into salads over summer and blanched late in the season for use in winter soups and stews.  Let a few pods grow out and harvest the seed for next year.

Bell Capsicums will take most of the season to grow and ripen, particularly if you want them to colour up beyond green.  If the moisture is not kept relatively even, the fruit will rot from the bottom end.  They love heat so place them with this in mind.

I find better results with the long sweet Capsicums - and chillies are great as they dry well when hung in bunches in a dark airy place such as the shed.

Eggplant crops late into summer and continue until winter frosts finish things off.  For the last few years I have found issues with caterpillars damaging the fruit and am yet to find an organic solution to this.

Tomatoes would have to be the most widely grown vegetable at this time of year.  I don’t worry about all the recommended pruning to enhance fruit volumes, I simply plant more seedlings. There are so many varieties to choose from so try one or two untried varieties each year to find your favourites.  If you want an extended cropping season plant your favourite variety two or three times throughout the season or select a range of early, mid and late cropping varieties. My favourites include Tommy Toe for a cherry tomato, Mighty red and Bourke’s backyard for a mid season, Grosse Lisse for a late season and San Manzano for a roma. Most varieties are best staked however some such as San Manzano and KY1 do not and may benefit some gardens where a limited space is available. 

I still have crops of broad beans and broccoli to harvest and when the space is cleared later in the month this is when I plant Basil.  I always plant this last when we are well into warmer days above 25 degrees and nights above 10.  I have no proof but am pretty confident more people than not kill off their first punnet of Basil by planting it too early.

If like me, you are already harvesting an abundance of strawberries and rhubarb, with raspberries and blueberries to come later in the season….oooooh I cant wait!

Plant enough of everything to share a little with the grubs, birds and sticky little fingers which meander through and graze, especially around 3.30pm when their hungry bellies arrive home from school!!

The vegie garden is not a project you can do once per year but rather a series of short bursts continuously throughout the season.  10-20 minutes every second day is not much of your time and will pay dividends continuously throughout summer and autumn. If you go away, most of you will know a neighbour who will lend a hand with the watering in exchange for a little produce … a small price to pay!!

Enjoy!, Chris Hose