It’s a great time to get planting
KEEP SOWING AND PLANTING ROCKET
I go through phases with rocket. Sometimes I love it, sometimes I loathe it, but it’s managed to worm its way back into my garden this spring and I’m enjoying its peppery taste in my salads once more.
Rocket – like lettuce – grows quickly and can be picked as a cut-and-come-again salad green within a month of planting. When sown from seed, germination takes 7-10 days and reach maturity from 40-55 days.
To grow rocket from seed, choose a spot in your garden that has partial shade – it can bolt to seed early in hot summer conditions – and sow
in rows or scatter over the growing area. Lightly cover with soil and water gently and regularly until seeds germinate. Thin the seedlings to 3-5cm apart (eat the thinnings) and harvest leaves as required. Rocket seed is widely available from garden centres and online seed stores including Italian Seeds Pronto and Kings Seeds.
HAVE A GO AT COMPANION PLANTING
Just like humans, plants don’t always get along. While some make excellent partnerships, others can hinder growth and potentially compromise the quality of the resulting harvest.
Companion planting means choosing plants and flowers that complement each other, act as a deterrent for pests or diseases, enhance the soil and/or don’t occupy the same growing space as their neighbours.
For example, potatoes, carrots and parsnips are all root crops, so it makes sense not to grow these together which will only force them to compete for room.
Flowers like marigolds, are beneficial to many other plants because they can help to keep insect pests at bay. The French marigold (Tagetes patula) as well as Mexican marigold (Tagetes lemmonii) exude compounds from their roots which help to control nematodes (it hinders their ability to reproduce). This makes them fantastic companion plants for potatoes. Flowers like Cleome spinosa and sunflowers are great at attracting pests – like green vege bugs – away from wanted crops such as beans, tomatoes and sweetcorn. Nasturtiums are said to repel aphids and I heard a tip that recently that said if you want to keep slugs off your hostas, plant lettuce and Chinese cabbages nearby to lure them away.
Here are some good partnerships as well as pairings best avoided:
Beans like potatoes, sage, lettuce, carrots and cabbages but aren’t mates with anything from the allium family. Some people grow runner beans up the stalks of corn – this is a form of companion planting too as the corn stalk provides the support for the climbing bean.
Tomatoes thrive when planted with basil, carrots, mint, brassicas, chives, parsley and onions. Avoid planting beetroot, fennel, potatoes and raspberries nearby.
Potatoes are happy with brassicas, sweetcorn, peas and parsnips but keep away from celery, pumpkins, tomatoes and cucumbers. Tomatoes and potatoes are related so the risk
of disease-transferrence is increased the closer they are together.
Pumpkins like to be planted near sweetcorn, but not potatoes.
Garlic enjoys the company of parsnips but not peas or beans.
Plant silverbeet with beetroot, onions and marjoram.
Peas are happy with everyone bar the allium family.
Carrots like coriander, leeks, onions, cucumbers and tomatoes, but keep them well separate from potatoes and parsnips.
Beetroot do well alongside peas, onions and silverbeet. Avoid planting them with tomatoes.
Radishes enjoy the company of sweetcorn, carrots, lettuce and peas.
PROTECT YOUR LETTUCE FROM THE BIRDS
This time of year, as your crops are starting to get properly underway, the birds are keeping close watch on proceedings and you can bet they’re keeping their eyes peeled for any breaches in your defences. That’s what happened this week when I left my netting-covered raised bed with an unsecured edge following an early-morning harvest for