Top soil key to tasty tight spa­ces

Sunday Tasmanian - Tassie Living - - HOME - Peter Cun­dall

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.

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