David Haynes gives us the rundown on the unofficial start of the gardener’s year, with winter plantings such as cabbages, silver beet and peas starting to put on growth and emerging garlic shoots.
Seeds sown last month indoors in pots will be sprouting and when true leaves appear this is the time to ‘pot them on’, ie. transplant to larger pots indoors before their final outdoor planting. This important stage gives tender vegetables the time to become sturdy.
How to ‘pot on’
- Carefully ‘prick out’ seedlings using a fork or thin stick, loosening soil around the seedling and gently lifting it out by its leaves (pictured above).
- Fill plant pots with fine soil or compost, make a hole in the centre of the soil lower the seedling roots into it and water it gently to persuade the roots down into the hole. The water should also settle the soil/compost around the roots.
October is a good month to germinate tender seeds such as tomatoes, capsicums and aubergine indoors. To skip the need to ‘pot on’:
- Fill a 7-10cm diameter plant pot with good rich garden compost to within 3cm of the top.
- Firm this down then cover with a 2-3cm layer of fine seed-raising mix.
- Water the contents and, once settled, push the seeds down into the seed-raising mix. The seeds’ roots will penetrate into the lower layer of compost gaining nutrients sufficient for at least a month or two.
Q. I would like to involve my toddler in learning about vegetable growing/preparation. What are the simplest, high success-rate veges to grow here in the deep south to keep him inspired?
A. The following plants, great to grow in spring, are good germinators, aren’t too picky about soil type and other than watering and feeding, need virtually no maintenance:
- Radishes: Easy to grow from seed, look good and ready to eat in around six weeks.
- Chard (eg. silver beet): There are a variety of great colours, all low maintenance. Grow from seed or seedling and keep slugs and snails at bay.
- Sweet corn: Wait until December before sowing seeds. Impressive in size, colour and sweet taste.
- Garlic: A little late to plant but it will still grow well, produce good bulbs and is almost pest-free.
Compost, watering, feeding, sunshine and a little luck are the final ingredients for a successful harvest.