Bumper crop

Sunday Tasmanian - Tassie Living - - FRONT PAGE - Peter Cundall

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.

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