I’ LL never stop raving about Tasmania’s perfect climate for growing vegetables. Most home vegetable patches are capable of producing a non- stop supply of the best, healthiest food we can eat all year round.
And the patch doesn’t have to be all that big. I mess about in ours every day, usually in the morning and evening at this time of the year. Like most other backyard plots, it is now approaching a peak of summer production.
Our patch measures about 10m x 20m, a size that can be easily fitted into most back yards. Right now it is a sea of nutritious plants of every kind.
Probably the most important are the potatoes because they are wonderful, tasty source of basic carbohydrates. The tubers also keep for months stored in boxes in our garage and we’ll be feasting off them until late winter or even spring.
I planted two 20m- long rows in spring and although many are still growing, we have been harvesting excellent spuds since Christmas. So far I’m averaging about 15kg to each plant and all with minimum work and no watering.
When the tops die down I’ll lift the entire crop and pack them into cardboard boxes in complete darkness so they don’t turn green and poisonous.
The garden space they leave will be limed immediately and in about a month will be manured, ready for the next crop.
I’m already sowing seeds of winter food plants. They are sown first in punnets, and then transplanted into the open garden in about five weeks. They include Savoy and Ballhead cabbages, Shogun and Calabrese broccoli, Violet Sicilian and other varieties of cauliflower, and Siberian and Two Peters kale.
The existing brassica crops are now fully protected from butterflies with a long netting tent, so spraying is no longer necessary.
Our winter crops of carrots, parsnips, beetroot and swedes are already popping up, but urgently need thinning. This is a tedious but highly important job. Once root vegetables are thinned, those left in the ground just take off. They should be ready for the first pulling by April and will provide for us until early spring.
Last November and December I sowed seeds of summer beans, including climbing and bush beans. The Scarlet Runners have taken over the trellis and are covered with brilliant red flowers with swelling pods galore. This success is due to a daily spray of very cold water just before nightfall.
Bush beans such as Gourmet Delight and the lovely golden Cherokee Wax are now podding- up furiously. Luckily all these bean varieties freeze to perfection to ensure plenty of excellent eating right through the year.
Like many others, I planted a big range of tomato varieties and I’ve been busy snipping off all old, withered lower leaves. Some plants are cropping so heavily I’ve been forced to add more supporting stakes.
There is no waste with tomatoes. My wife simply cooks all surpluses and either freezes the puree or makes sauces and relishes. So far the best bearers are Money Maker and a glorious, yellow- skinned Oxheart.
In any available space I’ve sown short rows of quick- maturing radishes and some Japanese turnips. After germination they grow fast and are ready to eat in a matter of weeks.
As for pumpkins, zucchini and cucumbers, I’ve deliberately sown the seeds in wellmanured spots in separate, unused, weedy ground. I’ve long noticed that the huge leaves of pumpkins dominate other plants so are brilliant at suppressing most weeds.
And perhaps best of all is the sheer pleasure, not only of working among and caring for food crops, but the extra joy of handing over great bags of this organically grown produce to visitors.