Tiny seeds reap tasty re­wards

Sunday Tasmanian - Tassie Living - - HOME -

THERE’S no ques­tion about the won­der­ful benefits of long, sunny days and rapidly in­creas­ing tem­per­a­tures. Growth is now al­most fran­tic and seeds sown over the next few weeks ger­mi­nate with as­ton­ish­ing speed.

Car­rot seed is a per­fect ex­am­ple. It has a false rep­u­ta­tion of slow ger­mi­na­tion and oc­ca­sional fail­ure. In fact, the great­est cause of poor or er­ratic ger­mi­na­tion is sow­ing the seeds too early.

Nor­mally, car­rot seed takes about 15 days to ger­mi­nate, but when sown in cold soils in late win­ter or early spring it can take twice as long – and it is dur­ing this cru­cial pe­riod when seeds ei­ther rot or are at­tacked by soil pests.

The lucky peo­ple are those with well- drained sandy, coastal soils. They can get their car­rot crop go­ing well ahead of most of us and can even get year- round sup­plies.

Sow a row or two this week and the warm soil will en­sure seedlings will be up by the end of next week. That means plenty of de­li­cious, fin­ger- length car­rots will be on the din­ing ta­ble by early Jan­uary, with regular pick­ing for the rest of sum­mer.

I should add the next best time for win­ter car­rot crops is about the end of Jan­uary. They will be a good size by April, pro­vid­ing non- stop sup­plies right through win­ter.

Keep in mind car­rots are noth­ing more than the fat tap- roots of bi­en­ni­als that store enough food so they can seed the fol­low­ing spring.

For­tu­nately, we are able to move in and har­vest these nu­tri­tious roots be­fore they bolt.

Car­rots have a low need for fer­tilis­ers or even or­ganic mat­ter. In short, it is a mis­take to dig in lots of ma­nure or com­post be­cause the main roots be­come di­verted by over- rich soil and fork waste­fully in all direc­tions.

I’ve never used any fer­tilis­ers when pre­par­ing a car­rot or other root- crop bed. The best soil is that which was fer­tilised a year or so ago to grow greedy veg­eta­bles such as leaf veg­eta­bles and sweet corn.

Car­rot seed is very small, so is best mixed with fine, dry sand be­fore sow­ing. Af­ter the bed has been dug and raked level, it is a sim­ple task to press a gar­den stake or rake han­dle into the soft sur­face to leave shal­low grooves about one- third of a me­tre apart.

The sand- seed com­bi­na­tion is then poured along these grooves and wa­tered. No back­fill­ing is needed.

Keep the seed- bed moist dur­ing the ger­mi­na­tion pe­riod. That means ex­tra wa­ter­ing a cou­ple of times ev­ery day if nec­es­sary and al­ways a fi­nal one just be­fore dark.

Parsnip seed is sown like car­rot seed and in the same un­fer­tilised soil, but there are a cou­ple of dif­fer­ences.

Al­ways use fresh parsnip seed. Sealed pack­ets from last spring should be chucked out. Fresh seed takes at least 20 days be­fore ger­mi­na­tion.

The other ma­jor root veg­etable is beet­root, which can be sown in the same bed with car­rots and parsnips. Beet­root seed is big­ger and is, in fact, a clus­ter of seeds.

I al­ways wa­ter newly sown beet­root seed with a heav­ily di­luted boron so­lu­tion.

This mi­cro- nu­tri­ent is needed, es­pe­cially by beet­root plants. One heaped tea­spoon­ful of boron mixed into 10 litres of wa­ter is plenty. The plants don’t need an­other dose.

These three, com­mon root veg­eta­bles are all highly nu­tri­tious and crammed with valu­able min­er­als and vi­ta­mins. All are best grown from seed, so don’t waste your money on ex­pen­sive seedlings.

Even a few square me­tres of sunny, well- drained soil are big enough to pro­vide most fam­i­lies with all the car­rots, parsnips and beet­root they need for most of the year.

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