Hopefully by the time you are reading this we have been somewhat freed from the burden of the recent restrictions and we can get out and about a little more again. Spending more time at home has come with some advantages though, not least getting into the garden more and being prepared for warm-season vegetables probably earlier than ever before. Hopefully!
Although many of our cool-season crops are still going strong, having enough growing space to overlap the ‘major’ seasons becomes important at this time of year. Autumn-planted snow peas, broad beans and garlic will still have a couple of months’ life in them, so this may mean adding new garden beds to accommodate your expanding vegetable-growing repertoire.
If you haven’t already propagated your seedlings, you may want to go to the market or nursery to pick some up. But don’t skimp! It is well worth planting more than you think you’ll need because invariably something will happen to a few of your plants over the journey. And if they all make it and you end up with surplus . . . well, we’ve spoken enough about preserving and sharing in this column for you to know what to do.
Now, although excess crops of tomatoes, capsicum, spuds and cucumber provide us with many options, there are a few plants you may not want to go overboard with – in particular, zucchini and corn. For those just embarking on your food-growing journey, you will only require one zucchini plant for a family of four – two at the most – assuming you have a well-composted bed and reliable irrigation. Any more and you’ll invariably end up with a stockpile of giants that are only really useful for making soups. Corn can also be a little problematic if you don’t intend to preserve because you will find that most of your cobs will ripen around the same time and will need to be picked within a week or so to prevent them from becoming chewy.
To get the most out of your garden this season, have a look at planting a number of successive crops of the vegetables that you want to enjoy all summer. This means planting a few now, and then in three to four weeks planting another crop. Let’s take the corn, for example: for a family of four you may want to put in six to 12 plants now (depending on your corn consumption habits) and then sow another six to 12 in four weeks to provide you with a follow-up crop. If you get your first planting in early enough, you may be able to squeeze a third crop in too!
The same goes for your salad and vegetable greens, beetroot, carrots and bush-beans, to name a few. Successive plantings is where it’s at. Taking control of what is available year-round in your garden and kitchen very much depends on the frequency of your plantings.
Making a plan and following it is really useful!
Drew Cooper, Edible Gardens