QUICK SMART VEGIES
Friends Lynne and Colin are thrilled with their new raised vegie beds but are concerned that Tassie’s short growing season has put the brakes on planting summer crops. Rather than head straight into planting autumn and winter crops, what could they plant now to grow and harvest before autumn?
The good news for Lynne, Colin and everyone else contemplating a bare spot in the vegetable garden is there are summer vegies that will flourish before the cold weather and short days return.
Raised vegie beds provide ideal growing conditions for a huge range of vegetables and also make it possible to grow vegetables in the smallest of spaces. They are usually easy to cover to protect from pests including possums and birds. Filled with a bagged potting mix they are also weed free.
To get a fast crop now, select small, fastgrowing vegetables. To further speed up the cycle buy seedlings or advanced plants of vegetables that provide a harvest in around eight weeks or that are tolerant of cold conditions.
Reliable selections to plant in mid summer for a quick harvest before the cold weather returns include dwarf bean, baby carrot, radish, spring onion, snow peas and cut and come again lettuce varieties such as mignonette. Silverbeet and turnip will be able to be harvested in around eight weeks and continue to grow into autumn.
To harvest tomatoes from a midsummer planting plant advanced seedling of cherry varieties, which may be able to fruit before the fruit frost wipes out plants.
Shelter after planting
Plant selection is the first part of the plan. Careful planting and good care is vital to reap a harvest. Seedlings are vulnerable to wilting and water stress so plant them in the cool of the day such as evening or early morning. If the seedlings look dry at planting, soak them first and then plant them into moist soil. After planting, water them in well. Add a seaweed concentrate to the water at planting to help the seedlings to establish.
Vegetables grow best with full sun but fullon hot summer sun can kill young seedlings before they get a chance to grow.
This is because their small roots cannot take up enough moisture to combat what’s been lost through transpiration (the plant equivalent of sweating) in full sun so they need protection. Shade new plantings with a temporary cover of shadecloth or even use old sheets spread over stakes or hoops to block out the hottest sun.
The end result may look messy and untidy but it can make the difference between success and failure and doesn’t have to be permanent.
A neater alternative is to poke leafy prunings in among the newly planted seedlings to cast the much-needed shade. Use tough growth from evergreen hedges such as conifers or pittosporum. Late crops grown in pots can be protected by being physically moved into a shady or sheltered spot.
Seedlings usually take a few days to recover after planting. Once the seedlings are established or the hot sunny days abate, remove the temporary shade.
Even when the young vegetables are beginning to grow, do not cut back on watering while summer days remain hot and sunny. To keep the plants stress-free, water them in the morning and evening.
To fuel their growth, apply a liquid fertiliser formulated for vegetables every seven to 10 days to encourage strong growth. Keep the plants free of weeds as they compete for nutrients and water robbing the vegetables of what they need. The easiest way to do this is gentle hoeing or hand weeding without disturbing the roots of the young vegetables.
Plant lettuce now for a quick summer crop. Picture: JENNIFER STACKHOUSE.
English lavender. Picture: JENNIFER STACKHOUSE.