Top soil key to tasty tight spaces
THERE is a trend these days for people to grow high- quality organic vegetables in quite tiny areas, sometimes only a few square metres or in pots and tubs on balconies, pathways, steps and patios.
This is why seeds and seedlings of many dwarf and mini vegetables are now available. January is a perfect month to get started, with many of them even in cooler parts of Tasmania.
The secret of success lies in soil fertility and location.
Whether vegetables are grown in open ground or pots, they still need good soil ( or high- quality potting mix) and full sunlight for as long as possible during the day.
Here are some easily- grown, miniature vegetables that can go in right now and take up little room as they mature.
Mini cabbages such as Golden Acre are so small they can be planted four to the square metre.
When the deliciously compact Vertus Savoy variety is closely grown, they form delicious, tight hearts about the size of large grapefruits.
Seed can be sown directly where they are to mature. Seedlings are thinned to be spaced 25cm apart either way.
Feed with weak liquid manure and compost “tea” for rapid growth.
Super Red Hybrid is another mini cabbage for delicious eating, raw or cooked.
Miniature cauliflowers are ideal for limited spaces. They mature fast, especially if grown about 25cm apart. The closer they are grown, the smaller the curd, which is no big deal because they mature more rapidly. Grow as for cabbages.
Carrots come in many sizes with extra large varieties being too big at maturity for container growing.
But the small, ball- shaped Paris Market is brilliant value because these extra sweet, crunchy carrots are about the size of plums.
A huge and continuing harvest can be obtained from large, shallow tubs and are ideal for growing in heavy clay or rocky soils. They make superb eating and extra late sowings in early March provide tasty winter eating.
Spring onions are perfect for tiny gardens or containers because they take up little space. Some varieties can be grown for steady harvesting all year round.
They include evergreen bunching or straightleaf varieties, always grown so closely they never fully mature but remain tender and sweet.
Also worth sowing now are the highly attractive red- skinned forms.
Spring onions need a sweet, slightly alkaline soil. Mix two or more packets of seed with a cup of dolomite limestone. Then sprinkle the combination thickly over a half- metre strip a few centimetres wide. Cover with a thin layer of fine soil, keep moist and new seedlings are up like grass in about 10 days.
Anyone living in frost- free or coastal districts can start a crop of snow, sugar- snap or pod peas during March or April for highly nutritious winter eating.
Last year I experimented by growing peas in tubs and was astonished at the high yields from each tiny area. I used small bamboo pyramids ( easily made up or bought cheaply at garden centres), to support the plants and they thrived. If you have a sunny spot on a balcony or patio and love freshly picked peas, give it a try.
There are still plenty of tomato plants on sale at some garden centres. Try to seek out Tiny Tim or any other cherry types. Most are fast- maturing and quickly form excellent crops of sweet tomatoes on dwarf bushes.
Grown in a bucket- sized tub allows them to be easily moved under cover when night frosts threaten in autumn. They continue to crop right into early winter.
And in any available space or pot, insert a few lettuce and parsley seedlings too.
The green or red coral types are highly compact and very attractive while oak leaf lettuces can be leaf- picked to provide a nonstop supply for weeks. All they need is plenty of water and weekly feeds of weak liquid manure.
These handy, compact and tasty vegetables are ideal for gardens where space is limited. The perfect little food garden for balconies, patios, pathways, steps or anywhere the sun shines.