Peter Cundall: Tips for growing vital vegies
Gardening guru PETER CUNDALL says the great luxury of having a small, conveniently-located salad garden is being able to easily and quickly harvest enough ingredients to create fresh, tasty salads within minutes
The reason why salads are so much in demand during summer is because we always crave these cool, crunchy leaves, stems and roots when temperatures soar.
Luckily, a big variety of salad vegetables can be grown to perfection in Tasmania. It isn’t even necessary to have a garden because these valuable vegetables are grown just as easily in pots and tubs, provided they get plenty of sunlight.
The great luxury of having a small, conveniently-located salad garden is to be able to easily and quickly harvest enough ingredients to create fresh, tasty salads within minutes. Here are some common salad vegetables that are ideal for successive harvesting for months. All grow fast, are easy to prepare and are crammed with vitamins and minerals.
Lettuces are among the most easily grown of all leaf vegetables. Good, sturdy seedlings are available by the punnet at garden centres all year round. When buying, avoid big, floppy-leaved seedlings because most tend to collapse after being
Children love to sow radish seeds because they are up and moving in days and in less than a month are big enough for immediate eating
separated and planted out. Go for the small ones and for mouth-watering colour try the red, purple or Italian Oakleaf types, ideal for cut-and-come-again harvesting.
Half a dozen seedlings take up little space. Most are ready for picking in six weeks and provide a non-stop supply of leaves for another month at least. The big, solid-hearted crisp-heads such as Great Lakes are brilliant value and for variety at low cost, punnets containing a mixture of lettuce varieties are always on sale.
Prepare a rich, fertile moist soil and plant the seedlings 20cm apart. Do the job in the evening and healthy seedlings will have settled in by morning. Keep the soil around them well-watered with weekly feeds of heavily-diluted fish emulsion. As temperatures rise, pour in plenty of water to ensure they remain sweet and crisp.
Turnips grow fast and are so prolific they are hard to keep up with. Sow the seed directly where they are to be grown and harvested. Presto is well named.
These delicious, white-fleshed delights can be eaten at ping pong-ball size. Others worth a spot include Tokyo Cross and the bright red Scarlet Queen. Just sow them, thin if overcrowded and pluck them out for wonderful, crunchy eating whole or sliced.
Children love to sow radish seeds because they are up and moving in days and in less than a month are big enough for immediate eating. Try Salad Mix which contains a variety of different coloured and shaped radishes or the wonderful giant white radish Japanese Daikon. It can grow half a metre long and still remain gloriously tender and mildly spicy. All these plants need is good drainage, lots of water and a weekly feed.
Cabbages make great salads and luckily there are now many space-saving mini-varieties designed to grow fast, such as Super Red Hybrid, all easily raised from seed. Seedlings are planted closely, up to six plants per square metre. Most are ready in about 10 weeks. For extraquick crops go for Asian cabbages such as Wong Bok Hybrid, ready to munch in about 60 days.
Celery is easily grown from seed in containers. Keep the seedling-raising mix wet by sitting containers in a little water. The plants come up like grass and can soon be pricked out and spaced, six to a punnet. In the garden these plants adore well-limed soil and detest acidic conditions. They also love highly-fertile conditions and are almost impossible to overwater. You’ll soon be happily crunching away on those tender, sweet sticks. In the garden, water with diluted seaweed concentrate and if you can, mulch heavily with seaweed straight from the sea.
Spring onions can be grown like grass. Buy two or three packets of seed. Choices include Long White Bunching and Straightleaf and the red-stemmed forms look brilliant.
Add a generous, double handful of dolomite limestone to a strip of soil half a metre long and 15cms wide (or use a halfmetre diameter pot or trough) and rake into the surface. Empty the seeds from every packet into a jar containing half a cup of dolomite and shake well. Then sprinkle the mix over the prepared strip. Cover with a thin layer of seedling-raising mix – or fine soil – and water. In two weeks the ground will erupt with closepacked spring onion seedlings. Harvest when big enough to eat.