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

Sunday Tasmanian - Tassie Living - - CONTENTS - with Peter Cun­dall

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.

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