GAR­DEN­ING Time to get seeds into the soil


The Citizen (KZN) - - CITY | GARDENING - 5 tips for suc­cess What’s new in veg­gies Try these – they don’t come much quirkier than this

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.

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.

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).

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.”

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

90cm-1m apart.

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.

For more in­for­ma­tion visit

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

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