Time to get seeds into the soil
PLANT VEGGIES NOW: IF THERE IS A COLD SPELL, ALL YOU WILL LOSE WILL BE SOME SEEDS
Expert recommends root crops that germinate in cooler soil but holding back on summer crops.
Throw caution to the wind and start sowing your spring and summer veggie garden. Even if we are hit with one last cold spell, all you stand to lose is a few seeds. That’s the benefit of seeds, rather than more expensive seedling trays. Failure to germinate or an unexpected frost may mean a setback of a week or two, but there are still plenty of seeds in the packet.
For cautious gardeners, Marlaen Straathof of Kirchhoffs and Raw seed lines, advises starting with root crops that germinate in cooler soil. Tomatoes too, can be sown, but hold back on the long summer crops like capsicums and brinjals that need warm soil temperatures to germinate, she advises.
5 tips for success
Seed germinates best in wellprepared beds and it is essential to follow the instructions on the seed packet regarding sowing depth and spacing.
For good aeration, dig over the soil, loosening to a depth of 30cm but not deeper as anaerobic soil organisms will be disturbed or brought to the surface, which will kill them.
Break down hard clumps, and remove sticks and stones.
Add in compost, or well-composted kraal manure, bonemeal for root growth and a controlled release fertiliser like Vigorosa.
Rake level, water well and leave overnight before sowing the seed. After sowing the seed, press down the soil firmly but gently, to bring the seeds into contact with the soil and water well.
Good to know: Most seeds germinate within a week to 10 days. Water every day so that the soil does not dry out and use a watering can or hose with a “rose” attachement that doesn’t wash the seeds away. Cover with a light mulch (leaves, shade cloth, straw) if the bed is in the baking sun or if the seed is shallow (i.e. carrots, lettuce).
What’s new in veggies
With so many more gardeners growing veggies, seed producers are digging deep in search of new varieties that will make gardening more interesting; tomatoes in different colours, purple carrots, round rather than cylindrical cucumbers, and mini-squash.
Ironically, the search for something new has taken them back in time to old, heirloom varieties that were jettisoned because gardeners wanted regular shaped and uniform veggies.
Carrots that look like radishes, pink celery or yellow beetroot, may seem quirky, but they are all heirloom varieties, says Marlaen.
“We’ve chosen them because we want to entice a new generation into the garden, who want to grow something different.
“In many cases they don’t have the space for a veggie garden, or live in apartments so we have made sure the varieties are suitable for growing in containers, on a balcony or patio.”
Try these – they don’t come much quirkier than this
Red and Gold Beetroot is a mix of Detroit Dark Red and Golden Detroit, which has a slightly honeyed taste and keeps its colour when cooked. Detroit Dark Red is sweet and best harvested young. Sow all year round, in full sun, spaced 10cm apart in rows 30cm apart. Ready for harvest within 50 to 60 days.
Cucumber Crystal Apple resembles a Granny Smith apple when ripe. The crunchy texture is complemented by a smooth and creamy flavour and fruit is ready for picking within 70-80 days. Grow in full sun, space
Parisian Round Carrot has a shallow root system which makes it possible to grow them in containers or in poor soil. The taste is sweet (ideal for kids’ lunch boxes) and they freeze well and store easily.
They grow faster than elongated varieties, being ready for harvest within 50 to 70 days. Sow all year round, plant in full sun and space plants 5cm apart in rows 30cm apart.
Bean Mardi Gras consists of purple, cream and green beans that turn light green when cooked. Grow in full sun, in well composted soil, space plants
20c apart in rows 60cm apart. Harvest within 70 to 75 days and pick regularly to encourage more fruit.
Tomato Heirloom Rainbow Mix: it includes purple, green, red, pink, yellow, black, orange and white varieties.
The flavours range from mild to sweet or tangy. Plant in full sun, spacing plants 60cm apart. Harvest within 80 to 110 days; let fruit ripen on the plant and use as soon as possible after picking because the skins bruise easily.
Seed is available from hardware outlets and large garden centres.
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CUCUMBER CRYSTAL APPLE. Crunchy texture, creamy flavour. TOMATO MIX. Sweet and tangy. PARISIAN ROUND CARROT. Ideal for the lunch box.
RED AND GOLD BEET. Best harvested young.
Picture: i Stock