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Most of us have eaten Beetroot at some point and had it make a mess, usually of the tablecloth or on our favourite clean shirt. Although most of us buy it in a can and add it to a salad or our favourite burger, growing beetroot is as easy as it is to stain your shirt with it!

What is Beetroot

Beetroot doesn’t really need any introduction as most of us have seen it and eaten it. That being said, here are a few tips for those of you who would like to grow your own beetroot.

Beetroot is a root vegetable, and the big red/purple bulb is actually the taproot of the Beetroot plant. This is the part that we are most interested in in this article. The leaves are also edible as a salad leaf when young, and are quite delicious. Beetroot can be known by different names depending on where you live in the world. You may know them as beets, table beets, garden beets, red beets, dinner beets and golden beets.

Sliced Fresh Beetroot
Sliced Fresh Beetroot
Growing Beetroot from Seeds
Beetroot Seeds

It’s best to grow Beetroot from seeds

Growing Beetroot is really easy if you follow a few simple rules. You will often see root vegetables as seedlings in your local plant nursery or garden centre, but like all root vegetables, beetroots are best grown from seed rather than seedlings as they simply don’t like to be transplanted because it disturbs the taproots.

When to grow Beetroot in Australia

In the warmer areas of Australia, like Brisbane and further north, Beetroot can be grown all year round although it is best to avoid the rainy season in the tropics.

In temperate or Mediterranean climates, Sydney to Melbourne and Adelaide, Beetroot can be planted from July to March.

In cooler areas like Tasmania, highland areas of NSW and Victoria, Beetroot is best planted in September through to February.

If you’re in Perth, Beetroot can be planted all year, but it does best in Autumn and spring

Australian Climate Classification map - BOM
Australian Climate Zones - Image courtesy of Bureau of Meteorology

Planting Beetroot seeds

The easiest way to plant Beetroot seeds is to make a furrow or trench around 1.5 to 2cm deep and place the seeds around 5cm apart. Lightly backfill the trench to cover the seeds and be aware not to cover too deep - 1.5 cm is just about the ideal depth for Beetroot.

This next part is a bit of a juggling act, you need to keep the area that has been planted moist but not over wet, if you have a really good non-caking, well-drained soil just give them a light sprinkling of water every day. But if your soil is inclined to cake and leave a hard surface, the easiest way is to cover the area with some hessian or an old bed sheet and lightly water this every couple of days just to keep the soil moist.

After a week, start lifting one corner of the covering to see if the Beetroot has germinated and are starting to poke their heads out of the ground. Once they are starting to germinate you can remove the covering for good. This method works well for most vegetables. Once the Beetroot starts to grow you can thin them out if required.

Do Beetroots like sun or shade?

When it comes to positioning your plants, Beetroots are not that fussy. They don’t mind full sun or part shade and they don’t mind being in dappled light either. Beetroot will also grow well in containers, providing that the container is fairly deep and has good drainage holes.

Garden Bed preparation

Like most root vegetables, Beetroots love rich, well-drained soil, with lots of organic matter like compost worked in. They require well dug and deep loose soils to be able to get their roots down easily.

Good drainage is a must or else the Beetroot will rot if the garden bed stays too wet for extended periods. If you’re faced with heavy, clay soils and poor drainage, improving its structure with plenty of compost will help and consider building in some raised beds or hill the soil up at least 30cm to promote drainage.

Hilled rows for drainage
Hilled rows for drainage

Growing Beetroot

Beetroot that grows the fastest will be tastier and more tender than the slow growers. The more fertile the soil is, the better Beetroots grow - good fertile soil and optimum moisture levels are the key secrets here. Before planting, either add some dynamic lifter or some fertilizer that is not overly high in nitrogen which will give Beetroot the kick along that is needed for growing good Beetroot.

A fertilizer that is high in nitrogen will give you lots of leaves but provide small Beetroots as the plant puts all of its energy into producing leaves.

How to grow Beetroot: From Seed to Harvest
Young Beetroot plants

Harvesting Beetroot

As a rough guide, Beetroot takes between 50 and 80 days depending on the variety and growing conditions to be right for harvesting. If you are looking for baby beets it will be a lot sooner. The good thing about Beetroot is once the taproot starts to develop, you can see how big the Beetroot is as the crown or top of the Beetroot becomes exposed. This makes it really easy to choose when you would like to harvest your Beetroot.

The thing to remember here is don’t let your Beetroot get too big. The really large Beetroot can become tough and woody and not tasty at all. Beetroot should be harvested when the crown is between 6 and 10 cm across the top.

A little tip when harvesting Beetroot, leave about 3 to 5 cm of stems on top of your Beetroots to stop the Beetroot from “bleeding” red juice all over your hands and basket, it also gives you a handle to carry them by

Freshly harvested Beetroot
Freshly harvested Beetroot

Varieties of Beetroot available at E&J Urban Farms

Happy gardening

Who doesn’t love a fresh green bean grown in the garden, picked and eaten straight from the bush! Beans come in all shapes, colours and sizes, and are a simple and easy crop to grow if the environmental conditions are right. But sometimes issues arise that can be confusing if you don’t know what to look for.

I have composed a list of issues that may help you understand the reason your beans won't germinate. Some of these issues are quite common and although it might seem a bit intimidating, don’t let it put you off trying to grow beans at home. Most years you should have a trouble-free experience growing fresh beans, occasionally you may come across an issue that can be frustrating, to say the least.

Various Problems with Germination
Various Problems with Germination

Why won't my beans germinate

I get asked this question on a regular basis and there are several possible causes for this such as

Seedlings appear to be cut off, wilt and fall over at ground level

Cutworm
Cutworm

This is the work of cutworms,  these little pests are grey grubs that are found at the base of your seedling. While it is good to mulch and add organic matter into your garden beds, unfortunately, it is also providing a home for these pests. If you have an issue with these pests, you will need to remove and keep your garden beds clean of debris and plant matter as well as keeping your garden free of weeds for a few months then try again.

Seedlings are deformed or have no growing tips or leaves when they emerge

The pest that is responsible for this is called a corn maggot. These small yellowish larvae are the offspring or larvae of small grey flies. The way to fix this problem is to clean the garden bed of any debris and to cultivate the soil to expose the larvae and disrupt the breeding cycle. Try planting again when the weather warms up a bit more.

Corn Maggot
Corn Maggot

Seeds that rot, or the seedlings collapse with dark water-soaked stems not long after they appear

There is a condition that most gardeners have heard of called damping off. This is a fungal disease that lives in the soil, particularly when it is hot and in high humidity weather conditions, to overcome this issue do not plant in cold wet soil and make sure that you have ample drainage.

Damping Off Disease
Damping Off Disease

Stunted seedlings that don’t want to grow

Chilly weather and unfavourable cold soil will limit and weaken your young seedlings. You will run into problems if you plant too early in the season. Conditions, where the temperature is consistently below 16-17 C, are not suited for beans.

Stunted Bean Seedling
Stunted Bean Seedling

Bean plants that flower then the blossoms drop

There are many reasons for this to happen

Early flowers won’t set pods

there are several reasons that can cause this to happen

Buds and flowers drop, mature beans are pitted and blemished

This may be caused by the Lygus bugs, these insects can be green, straw coloured with a green triangle on their backs, these little nasties have piercing and sucking mouthparts that feed on the leaves and young pods. Keep the garden free of weeds and handpick and destroy the insects.

Bean pods begin to develop then shrivel up

There are two reasons for this to happen.

Tarnish Bug
Tarnish Bug

Sunburn

Pods are streaked or spotted reddish or pale brown, sunburn is the result of overexposure to the hot sun, to prevent this issue it is best not to prune the bean plants that are above the developing beans and shade the bean plants over the hottest parts of the day.

Sunburnt Bean Pods
Sunburnt Bean Pods

Like I said before, all though it might seem a bit intimidating, don’t let it put you off trying to grow beans at home. Most years you should have a trouble-free experience growing fresh beans, occasionally you may come across an issue that can be frustrating, to say the least.

Some of the beans available in the shop

Understanding why Beans won’t Germinate or Set Pods

Happy gardening

Sweet corn is an unusual plant to grow in the home garden, but there is a real treasure in the harvested cobs. Picking the mature cobs and peeling back the sheath that surrounds the cob, revealing the sweet, creamy kernels is a pure delight. What could be better than harvesting and cooking your homegrown sweet corn for the freshest, sweetest of tastes? Read on to learn how to grow Sweet Corn in your Garden.

Sweet corn is definitely, best planted after the risk of frosts have passed. Sweet corn would have to be one of the easiest plants to grow in any garden as long as you have plenty of sunlight. It is recommended to only plant one variety in double rows as all corn will easily cross-pollinate.

What is Sweet Corn

Sweet corn, which is also known as sugar corn to some, is a variety of corn grown specifically for human consumption that has a higher sugar content than other varieties. As most corn varieties are harvested as the kernels ripen and mature, sweet corn is harvested at an unripe or immature stage while the kernels are still in a milky stage. For this reason, sweet corn doesn’t store well and should be eaten while still fresh.

Sweet Corn

Where to plant Sweet Corn

Sweet corn requires plenty of sunlight and there are no exceptions to that rule, protection from strong wind is another strong recommendation as sweet corn has a habit of being blown over really easily. Space is another requirement, sweetcorn is a friendly group of plants, they need to be planted in blocks or groups of rows to help hold each other up and most importantly to aid in the pollination of each other, so the more plants that you can grow in the area, better the pollination.

Sweet Corn growing in the garden

When to plant Sweet Corn

The basic rule of thumb here is any time outside the risk of frosts and excessive heat. As mentioned before, sweet corn won’t tolerate frosts at all, in fact they are warm loving plants.

In warm and tropical frost-free areas: almost any time except for the hottest month.

Temperate areas: once the risk of frost has passed, up to December.

Cool to cold areas: end of October through to end of December

Australian Climate Classification map - BOM
Australian Climate Zones - Image coutesy of Bureau of Meteorology

How to plant Sweet Corn

Sweet corn uses wind to be pollinated, so instead of planting sweet corn in a single long row, plant them in blocks or multiple rows for the highest chance success and have full cobs of corn. Even if your corn isn’t well pollinated the cob will continue to grow but will be missing most of its kernels, making for a disappointed gardener. Sweetcorn should be planted 1cm deep around 30 to 40cm apart with rows being 45cm apart in rich well-drained soil.

Planting Sweet Corn seeds

Caring for Sweet Corn

Sweet corn is really easy to look after, keep the soil moist but not wet and weed-free if possible. You can fertilise if you wish as this is a personal choice, if you decide to fertilise, use a good quality vegetable fertiliser once the sweet corn has grown around 45cm tall, mulching is optional but if you do mulch, wait till after you fertilise and the corn has been established to avoid the damages caused by cut worms as these worms will eat the fine delicate roots.

Harvesting Sweet Corn

Once the tassels emerge, it takes around six weeks for the cobs to mature. When the tassels at the end of the cob turn deep brown, the cobs are ready to pick. If you are unsure peal back the protective sheath that covers the cob and firmly press a fingernail nail into a kernel and if it exudes a milky creamy liquid, it is ready to pick, if the liquid is still quite watery, leave the cob for a little bit longer, if no liquid comes out, it is past its best at this stage.

Sweet Corn ready for harvesting

At E&J Urban Farms we currently supply two varieties of Sweet Corn:

Sweet Corn: Jolly Roger

Sweet Corn: Jolly Roger is an Australian heirloom variety.  Tall plants that usually produce 2 large cobs each.  Delicious, sweet flavour. Juicy yellow kernels.

Origin

Sweet Corn: Jolly Roger is an heirloom sweet corn variety that originates from Mexico but has been extensively bred in Australia to grow better in our local conditions.

Description

Sweet Corn: Jolly Roger produces one to two medium-sized corn cobs per plant.  Kernels are pale yellow in colour and variable in size, but cobs are of fine quality with a good flavour.  Because they have a higher sugar and lower starch content than other heirloom sweet corn varieties the seeds of this variety are thinner and more wrinkled when dried, however this doesn't adversely affect their germination rate.

Sweet Corn: Balinese

Sweet Corn: Balinese is an heirloom variety. Plants grow to around 200cm and produce at least two medium-sized cobs per plant. Corn cobs have pale yellow kernels with excellent flavour.

Happy Gardening

Queensland Blue Pumpkins grow from a medium to a large-sized pumpkin with blue-ish grey to blue-green skin. The fruit has a sweet pleasant flavour and is just one of a number of different variety of pumpkins available. These pumpkins can weigh between 3 to 6kgs and generally have a flattened bottom and con-caved top.

Queensland Blue Pumpkins growing over a fence
Queensland Blue Pumpkins growing over a fence

The rind is firm and thick with deep ridges and when you cut open your Queensland Blue Pumpkin, you will find a beautiful bright orange firm flesh surrounding a central cavity filled with seeds and pulp.

Best ways to use Queensland Blue Pumpkins

Queensland Blue Pumpkins have a strong aroma, yet a sweet flesh perfect for using in baking, such as fresh pumpkin scones or pies, roasting to serve with dinner or making pumpkin mash with potatoes.

Roasting Pumpkins
Roasting Pumpkin

How do you grow Queensland Blue Pumpkins?

Growing Queensland Blue Pumpkins is exactly the same as growing other types of pumpkins. Pumpkin vines can be quite rampant so you will need a large space for your pumpkin patch. Choose a spot that receives full sun and has well-draining soil to allow your pumpkins to thrive all season long.

Pumpkin seeds should be planted in little mounds in your garden bed about 2 to 3 weeks after your last expected frost date. The mounds are designed to stop your vines from becoming waterlogged and help with drainage, allowing the soil to warm up faster in the sun to help encourage the growth of your pumpkins.

Create some mounds using a rake or whatever else is at hand, hollowing out the top a little bit as this is where you will be watering your vines. Plant your pumpkin seeds (3 or 4 seeds per mound) about 2cm deep, and water in well. If you begin planting too early, you will risk poor germination and your seedlings succumbing to frost.

Plant pumpkin vines into mounds to prevent waterlogging
Plant pumpkin vines into mounds to prevent water-logging

Once your seeds have germinated, deep soak your pumpkins once a week with a hose on a steady trickle making sure to avoid wetting the leaves of your pumpkin as this will encourage mildew. Although your pumpkin’s leaves may look wilted during a hot summers’ day, the leaves should start to perk up again as the evening comes on. Use your own judgement but be mindful that pumpkins will rot or cause disease if they are kept overwatered.

The first couple of flowers that your pumpkin vines produce will be male flowers so don’t get too excited. As the vine grows, more flowers will start to emerge and you will see a difference in the flowers. Normally there should be enough pollinators around, but if you notice that the female flowers aren’t setting fruit, then you may need to step in, and hand pollinate them. We’ll talk about that process in a future post so be sure to check back often for that information.

Male Pumpkin Flower
Male Pumpkin Flower
Female Pumpkin Flower
Female Pumpkin Flower

As your pumpkins produce fruits you can remove some of your pumpkins to allow the ones remaining on each vine to grow larger.

Growing Queensland Blue Pumpkin
Growing Queensland Blue Pumpkin

Some gardeners like to turn their pumpkins so they are sitting on their bottoms rather than laying on their sides. Doing so does provide you with a better-looking pumpkin but be careful not to stand on any of the vines as this will kill or limit the flow of nutrients to the ends of that arm.

A frequent problem people see when growing pumpkins is rotting on the vine. The main causes for this problem can be overwatering with the pumpkin sitting on wet ground, lack of air circulation and hot humid weather. To increase circulation around your pumpkin, carefully remove and trim any vines and foliage that may be touching your pumpkin.

To help prevent rotting you can place some mulch and a sheet of cardboard or a squash basket under your pumpkin to help improve airflow on the underside.

When I was a child – let’s say 40 years ago - we would just drop seeds in a burnt-out tree stump hole and the pumpkins would grow quite well by themselves. They would even come up where the vegetable scraps were thrown which just goes to show that these Queensland Blue Pumpkins don’t need a great deal of looking after

How do you know when a Queensland Blue Pumpkin is ripe?

Most people are familiar with how to tell when an orange-coloured pumpkin is ripe and ready to harvest. For those that are unfamiliar are Queensland Blue Pumpkins this can be a bit tricky until you know what to look for. Remember lots of people think green pumpkins are ripe when they are actually just unripe orange ones. Once the vine starts to die off, this is when you should start to look for ripe pumpkins but you really need at least half the leaves to die off first

Ripe Queensland Blue Pumpkins have a bright rich colour that has become fairly even throughout and when they are ripe, the outer rind will take on a warty texture that is unmistakable.

If you are still unsure the “classing” trick to check the ripeness of pumpkins works in the case too. Knock on the side of the pumpkin and listen to the tell-tale hollow sound that bounces back at you.

Ripe Queensland Blue Pumpkins
Ripe Queensland Blue Pumpkins

How to harvest Queensland Blue Pumpkins

To harvest pumpkins, use a set of sharp secateurs or a really sharp knife. As with any cutting in your garden, clean and sharp is vital for getting a good clean cut and not stressing your plants out or introducing new diseases to a plant that may still have fruit ripening.

After your pumpkin is ripe, carefully cut your pumpkin off the vine leaving a 3 to 4-inch “handle”. The handle is to stop the pumpkin from drying out and rotting, don’t use this handle for carrying the pumpkin in case it pulls out of the pumpkin, as this will let bacteria in and moisture out, ruining the pumpkin.

Carry your harvested pumpkin by the sides or with your hands under the pumpkin, this should stop bruising of the pumpkin and of course the last thing you want to do is drop your pumpkin on your foot or worse splitting and bruising the pumpkin.

Queensland Blue Pumpkin nearly ready for harvest
Queensland Blue Pumpkin nearly ready for harvest

Happy gardening

What is your favourite fruit on a sweltering hot day in Melbourne? Personally, I’m quite partial to a cold slice of refreshing watermelon. Did you know that watermelon will grow just as well in Melbourne as in other parts of the country? It all comes down to the timing. Watermelon does not like wintry weather, but there is still time to grow this delicious juicy fruit, especially if you plant straight after the last expected winter frosts.

Growing Watermelons in Melbourne
Watermelon growing on the vine

When to plant Watermelons in Melbourne

As I mentioned above, watermelons are sensitive to frosts. If you are planting straight into a garden bed, it is best to wait until the chances of frosts have passed, then wait another 2 weeks so the ground has had a chance to warm up a little before planting. Ideally, waiting until the end of September/ beginning of October through to mid-November will yield the best results.

You can plant earlier if you are in a warmer area, but just be mindful of frosts. You can get around this by planting in good sized pots in a sunny warm spot in a green house or somewhere that’s warm. Just be careful not to damage the roots and stem when transplanting into the garden.

Choosing a site to plant your watermelon seeds

Watermelons grow on a vine, so you will need a fair bit of room for them to grow freely. It is recommended that you have around two square metres per planting space. Believe it or not, you can grow watermelons over a fence or shade structure which will take up less room in the garden as well as giving the vine more air circulation which will help in preventing diseases like powdery mildew.

Two critical elements required to successfully grow and harvest watermelons are warmth and sunlight. Although watermelons like a drink, they dislike soggy wet ground.

Soil preparation

Watermelons love well-drained, humus rich and nutrient dense soil to thrive. Watermelons have a deep and fine root system, so the soil needs to be well cultivated so these roots can grow down and really spread out to be able to access the moisture and nutrients so they can feed the rapidly growing vine as well as the fruit when they start to bear.

Planting your watermelon seeds

Now that you have picked your location and are sure there are no more frosts expected, you’re ready to plant your watermelon seeds.

Growing delicious Watermelons in Melbourne
Planting the watermelon seeds

I like to make mounds in the garden around 30cm high and 70 cm across, hollowing out the centre to form a “basin” into which I plant the seeds. This allows for drainage and a provides a means for watering your watermelons - more about that later. Space the mounds at around 75cm apart from each other.

Plant your seeds about twice the height of the seed with three seeds to a mound. Keep moist till they have germinated. You can start the growing of your seed indoors as well. Make sure to choose a pot that is larger than you would usually use so there is room for root development, like the ones you see in a plant nursery or 100mm pots. That size will hold them for a couple of weeks without becoming root bound.

Growing delicious Watermelons in Melbourne
Create a mound with a basin for planting the vines

Growing Watermelons on a fence

Watermelons will climb a little by themselves, but you will have to train them at the start. The tentacles will grab on, but a few ties here and there will also help.

When the vine has started to set fruit, you will notice that the fruit will start to pull the vines down due to the weight of the fruit. This is the time to get a little inventive! You will need to make a sling out of something to hold the fruit up and take the weight off the vine. I have seen slings made out of shade cloth, cotton sheets and pillowcases, it doesn’t matter as long as it is strong.

Remember, watermelons can weigh upwards of 15kgs or even more. Tie each end of your sling to the fence so that the fruit is supported, leaving a little room for expansion of the melon. Think of it as a hammock for the watermelon.

Growing delicious Watermelons in Melbourne
Supporting the growing melons with a sling
Supporting watermelons on the vine
Supporting watermelons on the vine

Watering your watermelon vines

Give your watermelons a good watering once a week or more often if the vines are showing distress from lack of moisture. This is where the “basin” comes into play that you made in the mounds for planting. Put your hose into the basin on a steady trickle and fill the basin with water.

It is important not to wet the watermelon leaves if you can help it, watermelons are prone to powdery mildew and by watering at the base of the vine helps to eliminate that issue. Only watering at the base of the vine saves water and helps to control weeds.

Harvesting your Watermelon

Watermelons are a long-term crop taking anywhere between 80 and 120 days depending on the variety and growing conditions. Warpaint takes about 80 days as with Sugar baby and Charleston grey upwards of 120 days.

There are three basic things to look for as the watermelon starts to mature.

Tendrils dying off near the fruit
Tendrils dying off near the fruit

To tell if a watermelon is ripe is a bit of guess work but if follow the above suggestions you are on the right track. Watermelons normally don’t all ripen together, so check out a few before deciding on whether the melon is ripe or not.

Unfortunately, the melon won’t ripen anymore after it has been picked and are best eaten within a day or two after picking to get the best out of the fruit, although they will store for a couple of weeks in the shade after picking.

Stages of watermelon ripeness
Different stages of watermelon ripeness

Happy gardening

The African Horned Cucumber is known by numerous names across the world depending on where you come from or cultural connections. You may know this fruit as the Horned Melon, Kiwano melon, Melano, Jelly melon, Blowfish Fruit, Gakachika, Gaka and Hedged Gourd to name a few.

Origin of the African Horned Cucumber

The African Horned Cucumber is believed to have originated in Southern and Central Africa where it has been used as a traditional food source. The fruit grows naturally in Namibia, Botswana, South Africa and Swaziland.

The African Horned Cucumber is now grown all over the world for its ornamental and edible qualities.

Description

The African Horned Cucumber is a hardy annual vine that has proven to be easy to grow, requiring warm conditions and some humidity to grow to full potential. The spiny, odd-looking fruit is green while it is growing, turning to a golden colour as it ripens.

The thick-skinned fruit has an edible greenish yellow coloured pulp inside with lots of edible seeds. The taste of this fruit is quite pleasant and reminds me of a mix of Banana and Cucumber with a hint of lime or possibly Kiwi-fruit. The fruit is quite sour if not given a chance to ripen and mature.

African Horned Cucumber
African Horned Cucumber vine

Using African Horned Cucumbers in the kitchen

As a different fruit than most of us are used to seeing, the African Horned Cucumber is quite a decorative fruit with its spiny bright orange-yellow rind and the bright greenish jelly-like pulp inside.

The pulp has a seedy texture, like passionfruit but has smaller and softer seeds. As mentioned before the taste is something else - think of a combination of cucumber and banana, with the tartness of kiwifruit and lime. Adding a bit of salt or sugar - or both if you like - really enhances the flavour of the African Horned Cucumber.

The African Horned Cucumber flesh can be added to things like salads, fruity salsas, cocktails, smoothies, fruit salads or just simply eat them as they are.

How to grow the African Horned Cucumber
The African Horned Cucumber has a bright green jelly-like pulp
How to grow the African Horned Cucumber
African Horned Cucumber vine hanging from the ceiling

Planting African Horned Cucumbers

The African Horned Cucumber vines are reasonably easy to grow, just like a cucumber and are usually unaffected by pests and diseases. They like a warm and sunny location but are quite tolerant of light shade as well. They will grow in poorer type soils, but to maximise your harvest plant in good humus-rich soil. Picking the fruit regularly will encourage the growth of more fruit.

Plant your seeds around 1cm deep, add a couple of seeds to each planting site and thin out after a couple of weeks if you want, although this really isn’t necessary. Seeds should be planted around 50cm apart to allow for good air circulation around the plant.

The African Horned Cucumber vines love to climb just like ordinary cucumbers. African Horned Cucumbers can be a rampaging vine so you will need a sturdy trellis to hold them, but they also grow well on the ground.

When to plant African Horned Cucumbers

In Temperate areas of Australia, the best time to plant is in the spring and early summer, after the chances of frost has passed.

In Sub-tropical frost-free areas, plant from late winter to late summer.

In Tropical regions, plant during the dry season, from the beginning of Autumn to mid-spring.  

Harvesting

Start to pick the fruit when they have turned from green to yellow-orange colour. Be careful when harvesting the fruit as sometimes they can bleed from the tips of the spines if they are damaged, staining what they touch.

Wear gloves when handling the fruit as the spikes can scratch delicate skin. The African Horned Cucumber fruit will store for a couple of weeks if kept cool.

How to grow the African Horned Cucumber
Handling the African Horned Cucumber

Happy gardening!

Have you ever eaten a fresh green bean straight from the garden? Absolutely delicious and crunchy! Read on for some great tips for growing beans.

Mixed coloured beans
Mixed coloured beans

Beans are a part of the Legume family and there is a huge range out there for the gardener and home cook to choose from, with endless possibilities on how you prepare and eat them.

Just going through the list of beans would be very time-consuming when you think of broad beans, runner beans, climbing beans, dwarf beans, dried beans, mung beans, soya beans, lima beans, kidney beans, the list just goes on and on. For the purposes of this article, I’ll just stick to the common garden beans that we all know and love.

Even the common fresh bean comes in several forms. We have a choice of climbing beans and dwarf or bush beans, long beans and shorter beans, string beans, and stringless beans. The humble bean also comes in a range of colours. There are green beans, yellow beans, purple beans, red beans, and speckled beans that come to mind.

What are the main differences between climbing beans and dwarf beans?

There are fundamental differences between climbing beans and dwarf beans which I'll try to explain here without all of the technical jargon.

Climbing Beans

Climbing beans – as the name would imply - love to climb so you will need support very early on in the growing season. Whether that is a fence, a trellis of some sort, or grow them over an arbour for shade, the options are endless as long as they can climb. Climbing beans produce for an extended period lasting up to a couple of months if the conditions are right for them. These beans are also suitable for both garden beds and container growing.

Guide to Growing Beans in Australia
Climbing Beans

Bush Bean

Bush beans are a short bush only growing to around 40 to 60cm tall. They prefer the warmer months of the year and have no frost tolerance at all. They produce their crop of edible beans over a short period that only lasts a couple of weeks. These beans are suitable for both garden beds and containers.

Best growing conditions for Beans

All of the garden variety beans have similar requirements except for broad beans which require cold weather to grow. Garden beans require warmth, plenty of sunlight, and well-drained soil. Beans love a slightly acidic soil with a Ph of 6.5-7.0 as well as plenty of potassium to thrive. Beans have moderate water need but dislike wet soggy soil.

Planting beans

Beans don’t really like cold weather at all as this will affect their germination, giving poor germination and stunted seedlings.

Once you have chosen what bean seeds you would like to plant, the rules are similar whether you are going to plant in the garden or a container. Yes, beans grow just as well in a large container as they do in the garden. Plant the bean seeds about 3 times the depth as the thickness of your seed, it doesn’t matter if you plant a little deeper as beans are a rapid and strong grower. Water once then lay off watering for a few days because if the soil gets too wet you risk the seed rotting before they emerge from the soil.

Once the seeds have germinated and you are planting climbing beans you need to have their trellis in place ready to go, otherwise they will take over the garden very quickly, latching on and climbing up whatever they can.

Growing beans

Once the beans are up and growing, they don’t need much looking after at all, tuck the odd branch in that has decided to go its own way, water when needed, and trim the bottom leaves off to keep them off the ground.

Fertilising

Beans are nitrogen fixers so the need to fertilise is a personal choice. If you do fertilise, pick one that is low in nitrogen, or you will end up with a monster plant and not many bean pods.

Harvesting

When the pods are developing, pick daily or every second day when the beans are of a good size, this encourages the beans to keep flowering and you will get a much more tender bean to eat. Snip the beans off rather than pull them off otherwise you risk damaging the plant.

Guide to Growing Beans in Australia
Freshly picked beans

Happy Gardening

Growing tomatoes from seeds is a really simple straightforward process. There are a few basic things you need to consider such as warmth, position, drainage and air circulation that are needed to successfully grow plentiful tomatoes.

Choosing Your Seeds

Whether you’re new to growing tomatoes or are an old hand, there are a few simple steps you need to think about before you go and buy some seed.

Growing space

Where am I going to grow my tomatoes? What room do I have? Will my tomatoes be growing in the ground? Am I going to grow my tomatoes in a pot on the patio? These are all important questions to ask yourself before choosing your tomato variety.

Variety

What type of tomatoes do I want to grow? There are hundreds of varieties out there in seed form with large tomatoes for slicing, cherry tomatoes that can be eaten whole. The colour range and taste is quite extensive.

Size of the Plant

This is one of the most important things to consider. Tomatoes come in two main types: Indeterminate which means climbing or rambling and the Determinate or bush tomato, which means they grow to a set size and don’t require as much room.

Determinate Tomatoes in pots on a deck
Determinate Bush Tomato
Indeterminate or "Climbing" Tomatoes
Indeterminate/Climbing Tomatoes

Planting your seed

There are a few basic items that you will require be for you start.

Pots

What you use is your own personal choice. Personally, I don’t like paper/cardboard style pots due to problems in sterilizing those style of containers. You may find all sorts of things in the recycle bin like a plastic drink bottle, take away containers, or the seedling punnet from the last trip to the plant nursery. It really doesn’t matter as long as it is clean and sterile and has good drainage holes in the bottom.  

Growing medium

Do not use garden soil. I use a good quality vegetable growing potting mix with added fertilizer rather that spending money on a seed raising mix which probably has little nutrients in it. Think about your own body for a moment - without food you’re going to get hungry and not grow well. Seedlings are exactly the same they will be living in that pot for a few weeks.

Let’s start growing Tomatoes

Sterilize and clean your pots. I do this by washing away any dirt or what ever was in the container before with hot soapy water, then soak the pots in hot water with 5% bleach for 30 minutes or more. Rinse the pots then fill with potting mix, tap the pot on a hard surface to pack the potting mix a little, then add more potting mix to fill the pot.

Poke 3 shallow holes in the potting mix and place 1 seed in each hole, very rarely there is such thing as 100% germination.

Don’t forget, Tomato seeds require warmth to germinate.

Tomato seeds that are just visible
Tomato seeds just visible

This next step is so important - DON’T plant too deep! If you take a look at the seed, you'll notice it is not very thick - probably 1mm at the most. I don’t cover these seeds with potting mix by hand, I use the spray bottle to wash some potting mix over the seed to just cover them. If you see part of the seed that’s great. One of the biggest causes of germination failures is the seed was planted way too deep and the new seedling runs out of energy trying to get out of the ground.

Give the pot a light spray of water twice a day until they start to germinate, then lightly water once daily while they are growing. It is important to keep the seedlings warm and give them plenty of light or they will become leggy quite quickly.

Planting the seedlings

How deep to plant a Tomato plant
Plant the seedlings deep

Regardless of whether you are going to plant your seedlings in a large pot or in a garden bed the same rules apply. Good quality garden soil or potting mix is important. It must be well drained and rich in humus and nutrients to get the best out of your tomatoes. If your garden bed is likely to become waterlogged you may need to build up the garden bed to improve drainage as waterlogging can cause root rot and that’s an entry point for all sorts of disease.

When your seedlings become around 15cm tall it is time to plant them out. Unlike other seedlings, Tomato seedlings like to be planted deep. I plant my tomato seedlings around ¾ of the way up to the bottom leaves. The seeding will start to grow additional roots all the way up to ground level so planting them deep gives them a strong root system early in their growing season.

I prefer to plant my tomato seedlings later in the afternoon as the heat is going out of the day to give them the best chance of growing and that way the seedlings won’t get a setback because of heat.

Water them in well.

Give them a daily watering for the first week or so while they are settling in. Fertilising your tomatoes is a personal choice. With good soil or potting mix, they don’t require fertilizer at all. Some gardeners like to fertilise when the vine starts to flower. If you’re going to fertilise, use a fertiliser that is suited for tomatoes, low in nitrogen and higher in Phosphorus. It is recommended to use 5-10-5 or a 5-10-10 mixed fertilizer.

Growing your tomatoes

Stake your tomato plants to prevent them being battered by wind
Stake your tomato plants to prevent them being battered by wind

Tomatoes generally are a trouble-free plant to grow. Water them consistently a couple of times a week and maybe three times a week in hot, dry weather. Mulch well around your tomato plants, keeping the mulch away from the stem which helps keep weeds away, save moisture and to keep the root zone cool. I stake all of my tomatoes regardless of what height they grow to stop them getting battered around by the wind.

Pruning tomatoes

Again, this is a personal choice. I prune the leaves off near the ground for two reasons, the first is stop any water splash on the leaves that may carry a fungus and the second reason is let air flow around the plant. Be careful though, because if you take away too much foliage you risk the fruit becoming sunburnt.

Harvesting your tomatoes

Harvest your tomatoes as they start to colour up and become a little bit softer, leave them too long and you are inviting pests into the yard, birds love a ripe tomato.

Time to harvest all your wonderful tomatoes
Time to harvest!

Good luck and Happy Gardening

No store-bought tomato will beat homegrown and freshly picked ones from your garden. And who doesn’t enjoy the fruits of their efforts? Tomato plants are a good addition to any vegetable garden, especially because most of us use them every day. If you are looking to grow tomatoes in your garden, black cherry tomatoes might be what you need. Their ease of growth and productivity are traits that any gardener will appreciate.

Description/Taste

The colour of a Black cherry tomato is an indicator of the fruit’s stage of maturity. At its first sign of ripeness, the tomato will have a signature mahogany-brown colouring with green shoulders, and it will be firm to the touch, with a blend of sweet and tart flavours. As it ripens, the green deepens to brown, the flesh becomes slightly tender, and the flavour grows. At the peak of their maturity, Black cherry tomatoes are low in acidity, and they develop a smoky and sweet flavour. The Black cherry tomato plant produces large clusters of 2.5cm round tomatoes on vigorous, tall, indeterminate plants that are easy to grow, as they are disease resistant and can be grown in the greenhouse or outdoors in a sunny spot.

Black Cherry tomato uses

Black cherry tomatoes are preferred for eating fresh, on their own or in a salad, though they also lend themselves to being flash grilled or roasted. Black cherry tomatoes can easily replace common red tomatoes in pizza and salsa recipes, and they also work nicely in sauces and soups. They pair well with soft, young cheeses, such as chevre and burrata, as well as aged cheeses like pecorino and parmesan.

Other complementary pairings include citrus, melons, eggplant, mushrooms, mild and hot chillies, poultry, pork, seafood, vinaigrettes, aged balsamic vinegar, herbs, such as basil and cilantro, and cream-based sauces, such as béchamel.

Like all varieties, store Black cherry tomatoes away from direct sunlight at room temperature until ripe and ready to use, after which refrigeration can slow the process of decay and prevent them from ripening further.

Nutritional Value

Cherry tomatoes contain lycopene, an antioxidant that can decrease your risk of cardiovascular disease and cancer. They also contain vitamin A and vitamin C, making them a good snack for maintaining eye health and boosting your immune system. Other significant contents for supporting good health include fibre, iron, and vitamin B-6. Although they are small, the bite-size black cherry tomatoes are indeterminate plants.

Their size might be deceiving, so they need tall and sturdy cages to support them to maturity.

You can start growing black cherry tomato seedlings indoors or outdoors. But to be on the safe side, it is better to start them indoors. More so when the forecast shows a likelihood of frost. Allow the seedlings to germinate and grow for around  6 to 8 weeks as you wait for favourable weather. Then, transfer them outdoors after the last frost, once the temperature is reliable. A black cherry tomato plant will do best in temperatures between 13 and 35C

Once you are ready to transplant, find a spot with full sun as they can withstand the heat. For you to harvest fruits bursting with flavour, ensure they get 6 to 8 hours of sunlight each day in nutrient-rich soil.

The three primary nutrients your plants need are nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium. Space your plants approximately 1 metre apart. When planting, pinch and remove the lower leaves to allow you to set about two-thirds of the plant underground.

Supporting your Black Cherry Tomato Vine

As mentioned before, the small size of the black cherry tomato fruit can be deceiving. Their plants grow to a height of 1.5 to 2.5 metres feet at maturity. For this reason, you need a proper support system to hold the vines up as they grow. The reasons for supporting your plant as it grows are:

Keeping plants and fruits off the ground, which prevents fruit rot or sunburn.

Making it easy to spray, dust, and care for them.

Ensuring the fruits get the full sun, helping them acquire a rich flavour.

Making harvesting easier as a supported plant is easier to navigate.

There are two common methods of supporting tomato plants as they grow – caging and staking.

Caging your Black Cherry Tomato

Caging is an easier option. With this type of support system, the cages are made from the wire used to reinforce concrete.

Black cherries tomatoes grow really tall so the cages will need to be at least 1.5 metres high. The good news is that you can buy cages from most gardening stores.

Caged plants should be set 1 metre apart and a cage placed over each.

For protection from wind and cold, use plastic wrap around the bottom of the cage. Approximately 0.5metres  inches from the ground will be enough to offer the required protection. Adding black plastic mulch to your tomato garden will offer additional protection and help them bloom early.

For caged tomatoes, prune them up to the fifth main fruiting branch. Pruning reduces competition between the vegetative and fruiting parts. Thus, it ensures you have bigger and better fruits earlier. As with most farming methods, caging has a downside – tomatoes don’t ripen as early as they do when staked. Still, caging prevents the majority of these delicious tomatoes from cracking or burning.

Staking your Black Cherry Tomato

 Staking calls for the use of wooden or metal stakes measuring between 2 metres in length. While you need wooden stakes about 2.5cm thick, you can use thinner metal stakes as they are stronger. If you decide to use wooden stakes, make sure the wood is not treated with chemicals.

Metal stakes are the best option (rebar rods are an excellent start) if you want a long-lasting solution.

Should you choose to stake your cherry tomato black plants, set them 60cm apart. Next to each plant and about 10cm from the base, drive a stake through the ground until it’s firm. Because they keep growing, you’ll need to regularly prune them to keep their growth in control. Otherwise, they will grow too bushy, weigh down the plant from the stakes, and produce less fruit.

Problems with growing Tomatoes

BLOSSOM-END ROT

Extreme moisture levels prevent plants from absorbing enough calcium from the soil. When this happens, fruits start rotting from the bottom up.

Other triggers of this condition include soil with high acidity or too much nitrogen. To prevent blossom end rot, test your soil pH and nitrogen levels. A simple preventative measure is to mulch your plant to help the soil retain enough moisture

FLOWER DROP

Flower drop occurs when blossoms fall off the plant without the fruits developing. Which is why this condition is also known as blossom drop. One of the biggest causes of blossom drop is a change in temperature.

When night temperatures go lower than 13 or higher than 30 C, plants lose their flowers.

Insects, water deprivation, lack of pollination, and lack of or too much nitrogen also cause blossom drop.

Obviously, you can’t change the weather. What you can do is strengthen your plant by adding fertilizer or organic pesticides such as neem oil. You can also plant milkweed and cosmos to draw pollinators.

Planting Guide

Method: Direct or Seedling Trays

Planting Depth: 5mm

Best Planting Season/s: AutumnFrost TenderSpringSummer

Germination: 5 to 10 days at 21-27ºC

Life Cycle: Annual

Row Spacing: 60-70cm

Plant Spacing: 50cm

Position: Full sun

Days to maturity/flowering: 80 days

Other: Plants need staking. Prune plants to two main stems. Keep well-watered. Pick when mature to encourage more fruit. To reduce the risk of disease do not water overhead. Rotate crops: do not plant in the same position two years in a row.

Happy Gardening

Chives are a perennial herb prized for the delightful onion or garlic flavour of their leaves and feature grass-like foliage topped with purple, pink or white blooms. Although chives are a member of the onion family native to Europe, Asia and North America, they are much easier to grow than traditional onions and garlic, with the added benefit of not taking as long between planting and harvest time.

Chives are ideal plants for pots, make attractive grass-like plants in herb beds and can be used as to attracts bees and other pollinators while repelling other insects at the same time. Chives are sometimes planted among vegetables to discourage Japanese beetles and other damaging insects.

Even those without a serious garden have probably tried growing chives at some point. It is one of the most common garden herbs available, probably because it is so easy to grow. It is a perennial, which means there’s no need to re-plant every year. Chives are about as low maintenance as you can get in the plant world. You can grow them indoors or outside, and they’re happy pretty much anywhere.

What Are Chives?

Chives are a herb that is related to onions and garlic with long green stems and a mild, not-too-pungent flavour. Typically used fresh, and most often (although not always) as a garnish, they add a bright colour and oniony flavour to soups, dressings, and dips, along with many eggs and potato-based dishes. They're easy to grow, easy to find, and easy to use.

Chives belong to the allium family, which makes them relatives of onions, leeks, scallions, and garlic. They have been used in Europe and Asia for hundreds of years but can be found around the world. Chives produce edible leaves and flowers; the green stem is long, pencil-like, and thin, with a centre that's hollow like a straw. They grow in dense hearty clumps, and typically are one of the first herbs to pop up in the garden in spring.

Chives do not require a lot of preparation since they are often used raw, fresh, and as a garnish. A little goes a long way, too—you don't typically need a lot to make a flavourful impact. They're widely available in grocery stores and therefore not expensive.

Growing Chives

Chives like plenty of sun, well-drained soil, and decent moisture. It's a good idea to dig in 4 to 6 inches of well-decomposed compost to the soil before planting. Because of their clump-forming habit, chives can become easily overcrowded, so dividing the clumps regularly will help to ensure growth remains vigorous.

In warm climates, they may remain evergreen year-round; in cold climates, they will die back to ground level each fall, returning as perennials in the spring. Chives are shallow-rooted plants; carefully consider what you grow around them and watch out for weeds springing up, as these can out-compete the chives if you aren't careful.

Gardeners growing chives as edible herbs may cut back the flowers to prevent the plants from going to seed. If you choose to enjoy the blooms (which are also edible), be aware that the plants will self-seed very freely, leaving you with many volunteers. This is not a seriously invasive plant, however.

Chives have no serious pest or disease problems, but root-rot can be an issue for clumps growing in dense, poorly drained soil. Chive Care

Light for Chives

Chives thrive in a full sun location Although they tolerate light shade, the flower display will be less impressive in shady locations.

Soil for Chives

To produce the best harvest, you'll want to plant chives in soil that is well-draining, rich. and moist—the same conditions under which onions thrive.

Chives are a drought-tolerant species once established. That doesn't mean you should neglect to water them during hot, dry weather. To achieve an impressive harvest, make sure chives are kept consistently moist throughout the growing season. If you aren't always able to keep on top of watering duties, you could consider mulching. Because chives bulbs are located close to the surface of the soil, this can help to conserve soil moisture.

Temperature and Humidity For Chives

Water for Chives

A cool-season herb, chives produce their best harvest in the spring and autumn. Extreme summer heat can sometimes result in chives going dormant during the middle of the summer. Extreme cold can also kill off the foliage, and this is why pot-grown chives are often overwintered indoors.

Fertilizer for chives

Chives don't need a lot of nutrients to survive, so frequent fertilization isn't necessary. But it's a good idea to give chives a single top-dressing with a nitrogen-heavy fertilizer in late spring or early summer. How to Grow Chives from Seed

Planting Chive seeds

Chive seeds sown outdoors in the spring usually germinate within a few weeks. Ideally, you want temperatures to be around18 to 24C. If early spring temperatures are cold, sowing them in a tray on a sunny windowsill is preferable, six to eight weeks before the last frost.

Make sure you sow them close to the surface and that they aren't spaced too close together. If you have germinated seedlings indoors to transplant outdoors, make sure you harden them off first with increasingly long visits outdoors over a period of about 10 days.

Planting Guide for Chives

Method                         Sow direct

Planting Depth             5mm

When                             Spring, summer and autumn

Germination                  7-14 days at 18-24°C

Life Cycle                       Hardy Perennial

Plant Spacing               15cm

Plant Height                 25cm

Position                        Full sun, moist well-drained soil

Days Until Maturity     60-90 days

Propagating Chives

Chives are easy to propagate by division. Even if you don't need to make new plants, it's still recommended to divide clumps every few years. This improves the productiveness and health of the plants and prevents them from becoming overly congested.

Pruning Chives

If you don't want chives popping up all over your garden, it's a good idea to deadhead the flowers immediately after they have finished blooming. This will prevent the seeds from spreading.

Harvesting Chives

Chives are usually ready to harvest within a couple of months of seed germination, or about 30 days after nursery seedlings are planted. It's a good idea for aesthetics, and to encourage healthy regrowth, to cut the leaves right down to the base. You can harvest at any time but be aware that old-growth can be tougher and not quite as flavoursome. New plants should be harvested four or five times in their first year. Mature plants should be harvested monthly.

Chives are best used fresh or when frozen immediately after picking. They lose their flavour if they are dried for storage. If you want to consume the flowers, pick them immediately after they have fully opened, as this is when they'll have the best taste.

Chive varieties

Garlic Chives: Perennial growing to 50cm. Plants grow in slowly spreading clumps with long green strap-like leaves with white star-shaped flowers. Leaves have a mild flavour, somewhat like a cross between regular chives and garlic. Can be eaten raw or cooked, good in salads, sauces, stir-fries and with fish, poultry and egg dishes. Can be grown in containers. Also known as "Chinese chives".

With their white flowers, long green shoots, and lack of a bulb, Garlic chives are graceful herbs with pretty white flowers. The combination of a chive-like appearance and strong garlic flavour makes garlic chives a popular seasoning. Chopped fresh garlic chives are found in recipes for Chinese dishes including stir-fries, and they are used in Japanese cuisine as well.

You can grow garlic chives in your garden or a container herb garden and bear a strong resemblance to regular chives. That's not surprising since both are members of the onion family. However, while the standard chives have a mild flavour similar to onions, Chinese garlic chives are known for their strong “garlicky” flavour.

Chives -Large leaf; One of the most popular herbs used in home gardens, Chives Large Leaved Plant is native to Mexico and South America. It has a pungent and aromatic flavour that makes it popular in Mexican cooking and its leaves and stems make interesting decorations on tables.

Chives Large Leaved Plant has several uses in cooking and as a garnish for food. Because it has such a pungent flavour, Chives Large Leaved Plant is used like garlic. In addition to being used as a garlic repellent, chives are also good for insect bites and burns, as well as digestive ailments.

Chives Large Leaved Plant can also be eaten raw or dried. When dried it becomes a delicious herb soup and has a distinct chive taste. When raw, Chives Large Leaved Plant has a sharp, pungent flavour that is very pleasant. The chive plant has an amazing ability to absorb the oils of the sunflower seeds, so they can be harvested several times a day, then placed in the sun and allowed to dry. This gives chives a fresh scent.

If you are growing chives from seeds, you will need to be sure that you buy chives Large Leaved Plants seed that will grow in your garden. Chives are small and do not grow up to three feet high. When growing from seed, be sure to keep the seed away from young children and pets. Chives Large Leaved Plant will only produce new leaves when they are fully developed.

If you are growing larger plants, such as the leaved chives, they can be used both as a garnish and as a spice in dishes. In Mexican cooking, they are often added to stews and  soups along with onion and garlic.

Natsuyo Chives: Green slender bunching onion high in vitamin B and C. Widely used in Chinese, Japanese, and Korean cuisine. Natsuyo is a cold-tolerant and heat tolerant variety that is a good bunching onion for all-year-round production. Resistant to disease especially downy mildew.

Chives are a member of the onion family, but unlike most onions, the greens are harvested instead of the bulb. In comparison to standard onions, chives have a much milder taste. The small grass-like herb is often added to soups, salads, and sauces for its light flavour and aesthetic appeal. Whether you're using chives for cooking or as an ornamental addition to your garden, the entire process from choosing a species of chive, preparing your garden, planting, and harvesting is quite easy.

Onion Chives: Perennial growing to 25cm. Grows in slowly spreading clumps. The plant has green, hollow, tubular leaves that have a mild onion flavour; used as a garnish, in sauces, dips, stews, casseroles, salads and soups. Can be grown in containers.

Chives are a member of the onion family, but unlike most onions, the greens are harvested instead of the bulb. In comparison to standard onions, chives have a much milder taste. The small grass-like herb is often added to soups, salads, and sauces for its light flavour and aesthetic appeal. Whether you're using chives for cooking or as an ornamental addition to your garden, the entire process from choosing a species of chive, preparing your garden, planting, and harvesting is quite

Happy gardening

Growing lettuce is relatively easy as long as it is cool enough. Unfortunately, lettuce is NOT a tropical plant. In the tropics, you can only grow lettuce during the cooler months. Lettuce does NOT like hot weather. In warmer areas, such as Northern Australia, lettuce can also be grown outdoors throughout the winter. Increasing daylight hours and hot temperatures stimulate lettuce to bolt, which makes growing lettuce more challenging during the summer months.

Growing lettuce is an easy and inexpensive way to put fresh gourmet salad greens on the table. As a cool-season crop, lettuce grows well with the cool, moist weather available in spring-autumn. In cooler climates, the lettuce growing season can also be extended year-round using an indoor hydroponic system.

Why You Should Grow Lettuce

Have you ever tasted lettuce fresh from the garden? I mean, FRESH? Picked less than 30 minutes ago? It's amazingly delicious! You will never settle for shop lettuce again after you tasted truly fresh garden lettuce. The flavour still beats the shop lettuce any day, but it's definitely not the same as garden-fresh lettuce. That's one reason to grow lettuce.

The other reason to grow lettuce is that lettuces are so incredibly ornamental. You know I don't believe in the separation of a strictly defined "veggie patch", kept separate from the ornamental part of the garden.

Do you know how many colourful varieties with different kinds of leaves there are? You can plant the most beautiful swirls and patterns just out of lettuce. But even individual plants or clumps of a few, strategically placed, can look as gorgeous as any typical bedding flower.

 When to Plant Lettuce.

The lettuce growing season begins in early spring and extends through autumn for colder climates. In warmer areas, such as Northern Australia, lettuce can also be grown outdoors throughout the winter. Increasing daylight hours and hot temperatures stimulate lettuce to bolt, which makes growing lettuce more challenging during the summer months. As a cool-season crop, lettuce can be direct-seeded into the garden as soon as the soil can be worked in the spring. Lettuce can also be started or grown indoors. Try succession planting and growing varieties of lettuce with differing maturity times to harvest lettuce plants throughout the growing season.

What Lettuces love and hate.

Lettuces need good soil. It should be light, free draining and rich in organic matter. It needs to hold lots of water and lots of nitrogen and other nutrients.

Lettuces taste best when they are grown as fast as possible and for that, they need water and food.

Lettuces need lots of everything, and they want a steady supply of it. Any setback they suffer will at least make them tough and bitter, at worst it will cause them to bolt to seed straight away without making any leaves for you. So, make sure they never get stressed (e.g., by forgetting to water them).

Lettuce has shallow roots, so it dries out easily!

Any gardening book (all written for cooler climates) will tell you that full sun is essential. Full sun is best ONLY when it isn't too hot. Once the temperatures approach the thirties, your lettuce will definitely appreciate some shade!

Growing Lettuce from Seed

Direct seeding is the easiest way to grow lettuce. Either spread the seed very thinly along a row and cover lightly with soil or sprinkle it over a bed and rake it in. Lettuce seed is very fine and not easy to spread evenly, therefore both methods will likely require you to thin your seedlings later.

Lettuce seeds usually germinate within seven to ten days but can take as little as two or as long as twelve days. It depends on the variety, the temperature, the moisture and other factors.

To thin your seedlings if they are too dense, cut the surplus lettuce plants rather than pulling them out, so you don't damage the roots of the neighbouring plants.

Direct seeding will likely cause some losses. Emerging lettuce seedlings are very vulnerable to all sorts of bugs. Slugs love them, so do grass and leafhoppers, and earwigs and other soil insects can get them before they even break the surface. Also, lettuces grow very slowly in the beginning and are easily overgrown by weeds.

You can also grow your lettuces in pots or punnets and transplant them when they are big enough to handle.

Handle them very carefully to minimize the transplanting shock. Ideally, you don't disturb the roots at all. Only transplant lettuce in the late afternoon to give them the longest possible time to settle in, before they have to cope with the sun and heat. If your lettuce seedlings were grown in shade or semi-shade you need to sun harden them before transplanting them. Alternatively, you can provide shade for a few days in their new position and then gradually remove it. A couple of hours the first day, longer the next and so on. If it's very hot, you may need to do both. The cooler the weather, the better your chances to successfully transplant your lettuce.

Growing Lettuce Plants

Lettuces need to grow fast to taste good, so keep up the water and nutrients. If the weather is very hot and your soil sandy, you will need to water daily. Stick your finger in the soil if not sure. Lettuces have a very shallow root system, so if your finger does not find any water, neither does the lettuce!

If your lettuce grows slowly despite having plenty of water, then it needs more food. Ideally, you planted your lettuce in a well-prepared bed that has lots of organic matter and compost in it. If not, then you need to supply extra nutrients, especially nitrogen. The problem is that too much added nitrogen makes plants sappy and weak and very attractive to bugs. Therefore, repeated small doses of fertiliser are better than one big dose. (A classic high nitrogen fertiliser would be chicken manure.)

Lettuces need some shade in hot weather. Don't plant them in the deep shade though, like under a tree. They will just grow into pale, leggy things with few leaves on them. Ideally, you find a position that provides dappled shade in the afternoon. Other options are interplanting between taller plants that will not totally shade them capsicums/peppers or eggplants, staked tomatoes. Take the idea and experiment with it.

Harvesting Lettuce Plants.

For crisper lettuce, harvest in the morning. Wash leaves in cold water and dry with a paper towel. Place lettuce in a plastic bag and store it in the refrigerator. Leaf lettuce can be harvested once the outer leaves reach a usable size. Picking the young, tender outer leaves will encourage the inner leaves to continue growing.

Harvest romaine and leaf lettuce as baby greens by cutting straight across the plant 2.5 to 5 cm above the soil level. Be sure to leave the basal growing point for further leaf development.

Harvest head lettuce (depending on the variety) when they’ve reached a suitable size. If you allow the lettuce to become too mature, you’ll end up with bitter lettuce.

Harvest iceberg when the head forms a tight ball, and the outer leaves are pale green. Plants can be pulled, or heads can be cut.

Romaine (cos) types of lettuce can be harvested by removing tender outer leaves or waiting until a head is formed. When removing the head, cut the plant above the base to encourage regrowth or remove the entire plant if regrowth is not desired.

Growing Lettuce in Hot Weather

Not all kinds of lettuce are created equal! Sorry, Iceberg is out. Do not bother with it. In a tropical climate, it will just rot from the centre. The other hearting lettuce varieties, like Butterhead or Batavian (Summer Crisp), may do ok in the coolest months. (The upper-temperature limit to grow heading lettuces is 28°C

Unfortunately, the Cos/Romaine types are also very heat susceptible. I do grow those, but they are the first to bolt to seed at the first sign of hot weather. The most heat tolerant kinds of lettuce are the open leafed varieties. All the pretty fancy lettuces you see in the shops, the frilly and curly varieties, are your lettuce varieties of choice for hot weather.

There are also differences in the heat tolerance of the open leafed lettuce kinds. Darker lettuce absorbs more sunlight than lighter colours, so it suffers sooner (but they are prettier). Choose light green over dark red. The most heat resistant kinds of lettuce in my experience are the oakleaf varieties.

Growing lettuce in containers

Lettuce is one of the vegetables that are very easy to grow in pots and you can even grow it in a small container. Healthy and continuously productive, this crispy salad green has many qualities that make it a blessing for health. You can start to harvest lettuce in no time– about 8 weeks for most of the varieties, it is super easy to grow and productive; similar to spinach. And the best part is you don’t need a lot of space to grow lettuce.

Choosing a Pot for lettuce

Almost all the lettuce varieties grow well in pots. As their shallow roots don’t need deep soil, they do best in wide and shallow containers. The pot must have adequate drainage holes in the bottom and should be at least 15cm deep. You can use any material for pots such as plastic, clay or terracotta pots. However, if you’re growing lettuce in a container in a warm climate, do that in clay pots and plant heat resistant varieties.

Planting Lettuce in Pots

 You can easily cultivate the lettuce from seeds or from seedlings. If you want to grow it from seeds, read this post. Alternatively, you can directly buy the seedlings from a nearby nursery. For continuous harvest do successive planting, sow seeds in every two weeks throughout the growing season.

In summer, when the weather starts to heat up the lettuce tends to bolt, to reduce this tendency keep your potted lettuce plant in a cool spot and provide proper shade.

Requirements for Growing Lettuce in Containers

Spacing Considering you’re growing lettuce in a small space in your container garden, we assume you’ll harvest your lettuce plants regularly; trying the “Cut and Come Again” method. This way you don’t need to care much about spacing.

Sow seeds densely and thin out the seedlings as they grow picking young, tender leaves regularly. Keep the plants 10 to 15cm apart (depending on the size of the leaves you want and the cultivar). However, head lettuces require more spacing than leaf lettuces and planting depth.

Position for lettuce

The lettuce loves the sunlight (more in cooler zones) though it can be grown easily in a partially shaded area but if you’re growing lettuce in a warm climate where the sun is intense try to place the pot in a spot that receives only a few hours of the morning sun.

During the hottest hours of the day (in the afternoon) it is recommended to create a shade for the plant to prevent the drying of the soil as lettuce prefers slightly moist soil constantly. Also, move the container to a cool spot when the temperature rises as this favourite green is heat sensitive.

Soil for lettuce

For growing healthy lettuce, use a good quality soil mix that has plenty of organic matter, such as compost and peat. You can also add well-rotted manure or compost additionally. The soil you use must be loamy and well-drained and doesn’t hold water too much.

Watering lettuce

In shallow pots, you may need to water frequently so that the plant will not dry out completely. Make sure that you not only keep the soil slightly moist but also avoid overwatering your container grown lettuces as overwatering can kill the plants due to root rot.

Fertilising lettuce

Because lettuce plants mature quickly, a single or double application of fertiliser is usually all that is needed to boost production. Before you fertilise, wait for a few weeks to allow the seedlings to establish. To fertilise lettuce, you can use a granular balanced fertiliser such as 10-10-10. You can also use liquid fertiliser for a quick boost. When fertilising, be sure to follow the manufacturer’s instructions as both over and under fertilisation can be harmful.

Pests and Diseases with lettuce

Growing lettuces in containers require care from leaf-eating insects. However, if the plants are healthy there are fewer chances of infestation of pests or diseases. Mildew, leaf spot, rot and a variety of bacterial infections are common diseases that can attack lettuce. In pests and insects– caterpillars, cutworms, aphids, maggots and beetles can cause damage to the plant.

Harvesting lettuce

Once the lettuce leaves have reached the height of 10 to 15cm (the baby green size perfect for cut and come again method) or according to your desired size, either pick the outer leaves individually or harvest them by cutting the leaves off 2-3 cm from above the base or crown (Must remember, don’t cut into or below the crown or else your plant will die). This way the plant will grow back, and you’ll be able to harvest it again. You can also pick the leaf lettuce before maturity, it’s simple, just remove the outer leaves when you need them in salads and keep the centre leaves growing.

Happy gardening.

You’ve got to admire leeks. They’re exceptionally hardy, generally trouble-free, and best of all they will provide beautiful long stems from autumn all the way through to spring at a time when other harvests are thin on the ground. Now’s the time to start thinking about sowing them…so let’s get started!

Leeks are very hardy vegetables, which in most regions will safely sit through frost and snow to be lifted as needed. You can prolong the harvest period by selecting a mix of varieties. Early season leeks are less hardy but will be ready for autumn, while mid and late-season leeks will give you smooth stems for winter and spring.

What Are Leeks?

Like onions and other members of the Allium family, leeks are bulbous vegetables with white flesh and leafy green tops. The bulb, however, is not round, but just slightly larger than the stem nearest the roots. The more rounded the bulb, the older the leek. Leeks are one of the more expensive onion varieties you'll find at the market. This does depend on location: In countries where they're commonly used, leeks are cheaper. Those who love the mild taste of leeks and the ease of preparation believe they're worth a little extra money.

Growing Leeks at a glance

Ease of Culture: Easy
Where: All zones
Best climate: Cool, and temperate
When to plant: Autumn and winter
Spacing: 10-20 cm
Harvest: Spring and summer (20-25 weeks)
pH: 6-7

Climate for Leeks

• Leeks prefer cool to warm conditions in the range of 12-25°C
• In cold areas, they are best sown in spring to early autumn for transplanting later
• In warm areas, plant in early autumn and harvest late winter/spring

Soil for leeks

• Leeks grow in a wide range of soils but like a well-drained soil moderately rich in humus
• It is a good crop to plant following a crop that has been heavily manured like corn or lettuce.
• Use a garden fork to loosen the soil well, and then mound the soil to help improve drainage.
• Add lime if your soil is acidic.

Position for Leeks

Leeks grow best in full sun but will tolerate part shade.

Sowing leek seeds

• Leeks are easy to grow from seed or seedlings.
• Seed is best sown into punnets for transplanting later.
• Fill punnets with a good quality seed raising mixture. Sprinkle seed on the surface and press the seed into the mixture to create close contact.
• Gently water seeds in and keep the mix moist until they germinate.
• Place punnets in a warm spot that gets a few hours of the morning sun
• After germination, keep the mix evenly moist and feed with a liquid fertiliser once a week to encourage healthy growth and establishment.
• Seedlings are ready for planting out around 8 weeks after germination.

Container Gardening Leeks

At this point, you'll either have some young leek seedlings or some roots to plant. Either way, the overall process of growing leeks in containers is fairly straightforward. Although leeks in containers is quite easy, there are a few steps that you'll want to follow to ensure a healthy and tender crop:

Leeks planted in a 12 litre container

When you're ready to plant outdoors, select a suitable container for leeks to grow in. A container whose depth is around 8-10 inches and volume measures 9 to 12  Litres do fine.

Fill the container 2/3 of the way full with premium potting soil. Leeks require a hefty amount of composted organics to maintain growth. The chosen potting soil should also be amended with sand or perlite to achieve proper drainage.

With the container two thirds full of potting soil, plant the seedlings or leek bottoms so that the root section is just below the soil line. Water in well. For small-medium sized leeks, utilize an all direction planting method ensuring 4-5 inches between plants. If larger leeks are desired, space 6-8 inches apart in all directions.

Place the newly planted container of leeks somewhere in the garden that receives a minimum of six hours of sunlight daily. Leeks will need this full sun (6+ hours) to survive.

Water the leeks so that the soil remains moist, but never waterlogged. I've found that watering thoroughly once a week is sufficient for proper leek growth.

As the season progresses and your leeks get larger, blanching of the stem should be performed. To do this, fill your container with soil or compost as the leeks grow taller. The additional soil will "blanch" the leek stem, turning it from fibrous green growth into tender white shoots

As long as you're using aged compost to blanch the leek stems with, fertilizing is generally not required. If you do feel inclined to do so, a nitrogen-heavy compost tea may be applied a few times during the season. Just remember, too much fertilizer can cause leeks to bolt.

Blanching Leeks

While all parts of the leek are edible, it’s the sweet tender white section that is preferred for cooking. 'Blanching' - the process of denying the lower section of the stems of sunlight as they grow - helps to increase the white section. This is achieved by planting seedlings deeply and covering the lower stems with a short section of PVC pipe or milk carton as they mature.

Planting Leek seedlings

• Dig planting trenches or rows 20cm deep and 20-30cm apart
• Separate and plant seedlings 10-20cm apart along the trench
• As the plants grow, gradually backfill the soil in the trench to cover and blanch the lower stems.

General Planting Guide for Leeks:

Method:              Sow direct or raise seedlings

Sowing depth:   5mm

When:                 Spring, summer, and autumn

Germination:     10-14 days at 18-23°C

Life Cycle:            Hardy Biennial (usually grown as an annual)

Row Spacing:      45cm

Plant Spacing:    12cm

Position:              Full sun, moist soil

Days to Maturity/Flowering:       110 days

*Notes: Keep well-watered. Hill stems with soil to blanch and create longer stems.

Watering and fertilising Leeks

• Water crops regularly to keep the soil moist.
• Sprinkle a little organic fertiliser along the rows once every six weeks to keep plants developing strongly.

Harvesting Leeks

• Leeks can be harvested at any time you feel they are big enough to cook with
• The ideal size for harvesting is when their diameter is around 2.5 cm
• Aim for a blanched section at least 10-15cm long.
• Large mature leeks may require a garden fork to help lift them out of the ground.
• Leeks can be left in the ground for extended periods without loss of quality – up to 12 months in cool to temperate climates (less in tropical and subtropical zones).

Pest and diseases

Leeks are largely pest and disease-free. Thrips may attack the foliage, but they cause little damage to the crop. Snails and slugs will sometimes lodge themselves between the leaves – inspect the plants periodically and pick these out.

In the kitchen

The delicate mild flavour of the leek can be enjoyed in soups, sauces, pies, tarts, and casseroles and sautéed and served as a side dish. Leeks need to be washed and cleaned thoroughly before cooking to remove the soil that collects at the base of the leaves.

How to Cook with Leeks

Leeks can be boiled, braised, fried, or roasted. They can be treated like onions, either sautéed in butter or olive oil or caramelized. However, you cook them, it's important to avoid overcooking leeks because they will get mushy, even a little slimy. The goal is to cook leeks until tender, though it should still require a little force to pierce them with a fork. When adding them to a recipe, you'll typically want to add the leeks near the end of the cooking time. Raw leeks are also a popular salad component.

Preparing leeks is relatively easy. Begin by cutting off the roots and the darkest green tops (these can be reserved for making stock). You will be left with a white stalk and light green leaves that are just beginning to separate; these are the edible parts. Cut each leek into quarters lengthwise but avoid cutting all the way through the white end. Rinse the leeks well, being sure to fan out the leaves that tend to trap a lot of dirt and debris. Pat the leeks dry, then chop, dice, or slice as needed.

Varieties that we sell

Elephant Leek

Allium Porrum

200 seeds/pkt Elephant Leeks

Large leeks can grow up to 10cm in diameter.  Good flavour.  Perfect for salads, stews, soups, stir-fries and steamed.

Leek Bulgarian Giant

Allium Porrum

200 seeds/pkt

Happy Gardening

Garden peas are an easy-to-grow, reliable addition to any vegetable garden. In addition to the traditional shelling variety, you can also grow edible-podded varieties such as Sugar Snap. Since they vary so much in size, colour, and flavour, there’s a pea variety out there for everybody. If you want to give peas a chance, here is most of what you need to know.

Growing your own garden peas will convert you to this ultimate in snack foods, as you will be hooked from the first time you munch on a snow pea pod picked straight from your own garden. Gardeners have been enjoying the delights of fresh peas for thousands of years, as they are one of the oldest of all vegetable crops, having been grown at least as far back as ancient Egypt. And it is easy to see why when the versatility of this remarkable member of the legume family is realised. Peas are easy to grow, can be eaten straight from the bush, are a mainstay of many traditional English recipes and last but by no means least, newer varieties such as sugar snap peas lend themselves perfectly to healthy stir-fry cookery.

Garden peas (Pisum sativum L.) are cool-season crops that include the common green English pea and the edible-podded pea. English peas are shelled and only the seed eaten, whereas edible-podded peas are eaten whole. Edible-podded peas take two forms, the full-podded snap pea with large seeds and the flat-podded snow or sugar pea with undeveloped seeds. Wrinkled-seeded varieties of peas generally are sweeter than smooth-seeded varieties and are preferred for home use. Peas are also often referred to as legumes as they belong to a large group of plants that bear their seed in pods that split down both sides when they are ripe. This family has an important advantage in that the roots are able to absorb nitrogen gas from the air and use it as a source of nutrient, meaning that they are able to grow in nutrient-poor soils that would severely limit plants from most other families.

Garden peas are one of the easiest of all vegetables to propagate and grow, giving rather rapid gratification. While they will grow satisfactorily in most garden soils, if drainage is poor then mounding the soil will give better results. If you are a particularly time-poor gardener, ready to plant pea seedlings are available in punnets from your local garden centre. However, it must be said that planting from seed will usually give a better result, as they are large, easy to handle and usually germinate within a week of planting. Sow the seeds 2-3 cm deep and 5cm apart within the row. Dwarf varieties can be grown in rows about 50cm apart while climbing types need a metre between rows and a trellis at least a metre and a half tall. Peas are a cool season plant that can be grown through winter in the warmer parts of Australia such as coastal NSW and Queensland. In colder areas such as Canberra it is best to delay sowing them to either late winter or early spring so that you can avoid the danger of frost damage to the flowers and developing pods.

Garden peas will thank you if you prepare their bed about five weeks before planting. Do this by adding loads of well-rotted chook poo and compost and maintaining a pH of 6.5 – 7.5. A touch of dolomite lime in the patch at planting time is a good idea, one small handful around the area to be planted.  Pea plants, even dwarf varieties, benefit from some type of support, so provide netting, trellis, wires, or pea brush for the tendrils to cling to. Pea brush consists of branched shrub pruning’s inserted into the row for support of the climbing pea plants. Erect the support system before or immediately after planting seeds to avoid disturbing the roots of germinating and established plants. Snow peas are one of the most satisfying vegetables to grow even in small spaces and are ideal as a plant for balconies and courtyards as they could and should be harvested every couple of days. As well as the pods you can also harvest the tender young shoots for salads and stir-fried meals. They can be grown just as well in a pot as they can in the ground just as long as they have a support to climb on to. A tripod made of tomato stakes will happily suffice in a large container planting. The seeds are sown straight into their final position and will find their own way onto the support. A handful of a complete slow-release fertilizer will see them through to the end of their fruiting period in spring. The most likely problem to be encountered is a white fungus that attacks the leaves and pods called powdery mildew. It can usually be controlled by spraying the plants with one part milk that has been diluted with nine parts of water. Snow peas are best harvested before the seed starts to swell in the pod and should be picked every few days to keep the plants at their maximum productivity.

Garden pea varieties:

Massey Gem (shelling)

Dwarf (bush) growing to 50cm producing pods to 9cm. Great flavour; very sweet. Very popular market variety. Disease resistant. Cold tolerant. Freezes well. Is also known as 'Melbourne Market'. Very popular for professional farmers or home gardeners. Massey Gem is the most widely used commercial shelling pea variety for the fresh market in Australia. Dwarf plants that grow to 50 cm tall and produce large pods containing 8 peas. This variety is considered the sweetest of the shelling pea varieties and is suitable for professional farmers and home gardeners.

Sugar Snap Cascadia

These popular peas are perfect for junior gardeners. Easy to grow with stringless, succulent, sweet pods that can be gobbled straight from the plant. A high yielding plant with pods that grow to 7-8 cm long. This variety grows to 1.5 m high when trellised. Peas need well-drained, limed soil. Grows well in cool climates and improves the soil.

Snow Pea: Mammoth Melting

Climbing snow pea seed variety, must be grown on a trellis as bush can grow up to 2.0m tall. Produces small-midsized, sweet pods approximately 10cm long. Another use for Mammoth Melting is to pick the leaves and shoots to eat as a steamed vegetable which is popular in Asian dishes. Climbing Snow Pea growing to 200cm. Flat, green, edible pods growing to 10cm by 2cm. Sweet and tender. Heavy cropping. Can be eaten raw or cooked, excellent in salads and stir-fries. Snow-peas are part of the legume family (beans and peas). They prefer any average well drained soil. They are a cool season annual that can tolerate heavy frost but can be killed at temperatures below -17 C. These plants also have nitrogen fixing abilities when the ground starts to warm up. Plant 2-3cm deep in rows 500mm apart in a well-prepared garden bed. These are very hardy.

Blue Pea: (Shelling)

Dwarf (bush) growing to 90cm, green pods to 6.5cm. Sweet and tasty, heavy bearer and a very popular variety.  Blue peas  are part of the legume family (beans and peas). They prefer any average well drained soil;  they are a cool season annual that can tolerate heavy frost but can be killed at temperatures below -17 C. These plants also have nitrogen fixing abilities when the ground starts to warm up.

Fresh herbs from the garden are an absolute must for anyone serious about cooking. One of my absolute favourites in the herb garden is Greek oregano (Origanum vulgare var. hirtum), also known as European or Turkish oregano.

So just what is Greek oregano?

Greek Oregano, Strong pungent flavour; better than any other variety. A perennial growing to 60cm. Bushy plant with pointed grey/green leaves. Leaves are very aromatic and can be used fresh or dried; commonly used in Italian, Greek and Mexican cuisine. Strong peppery flavour. Also has medicinal uses. Sometimes called "The pizza herb".    

Greek Oregano leaves are oval, hairy dark green leaves with small white flowers and positioned in opposite pairs along the stems. Some varieties have fuzzy leaves, others do not. Oregano starts as a ground-hugging rosette of leaves, but it can easily grow to about 60cm tall. A handful of plants will provide you with enough oregano to use fresh in season and to dry for use throughout the rest of the year.

Greek Oregano is generally planted in the spring or autumn. It grows quickly and will provide leaves suitable for cooking in no time.

Greek Oregano is one of those Mediterranean herbs that grow well in full sun, planted in lean-to-average soil that is well-drained. Climate, soil, and moisture can all cause variation in the oregano’s flavour, and rich soil tends to dilute the pungency of the flavour. This is a good plant for those sunny areas of your yard with poor soil that isn't very suitable for other plants. If planting in the garden, standard oregano (O. vulgare) should be planted 30 to 60cm apart. Wait until the soil is about 21 degrees C before planting.

Greek Oregano Care

Light
Most oregano varieties need full sun, however, the golden oregano variety does best in part shade, as its leaves tend to scorch in full sun.

Soil
Sandy loam is best suited for Greek Oregano. If your soil is moist with lots of organic matter, oregano will not perform as well as it does in lighter, dryer soil that is typically well-drained. Allow the soil to dry out fully between watering. If planting in pots, use any well-draining, general-purpose potting soil, possibly blended with some extra sand, perlite, or vermiculite.

Water
Do not overwater Greek Oregano. Water thoroughly only after the soil is dry to the touch.

Temperature and Humidity
Greek Oregano may need some winter protection. Covering the plants with mulch after the ground has frozen will protect it from wind damage.

Fertilizer
Many herbs are considered weeds, and most are not particular about the soil in which they grow. Oregano is no exception—it will grow in soil that is only moderately fertile. Do not add compost or fertilizer to its growing area. Large amounts of nutrients, such as nitrogen, can change the flavour of this herb.

Oregano Varieties

Different species of oregano and their cultivars can be perennial ground covers, tender perennials, or even small perennial subshrubs. Even common oregano, Origanum vulgare, can take many forms. Most have stems that can get very woody. Here are some common oregano varieties to consider:

Oregano vulgare (common oregano, wild marjoram, pot marjoram): Marjoram is a type of oregano with a less pungent, sweeter taste, often used in French and English cooking. There are many cultivars of O. vulgare, generally named for their unique tastes.
Origanum vulgare 'Aureum' (golden oregano): This oregano has lighter coloured leaves and a milder oregano flavour. It is more popular as an ornamental plant than as a cooking herb.
Oregano heracleoticum (Greek oregano): The variety usually used in Mediterranean cooking; this is the type most people associate with oregano flavour. Oregano onites is also sometimes listed as Greek oregano.
Lippia graveolens (Mexican oregano): Although not in the oregano family, this plant is called Mexican oregano and is used in chilli powders.
Pruning
Oregano needs regular pinching back, beginning when the plant is only about 10cm tall. Pinching back the growing tips will make the plants bush out and prevent leggy, straggly growth. It also keeps the plant from flowering, which is best if you want to keep the leaves as flavourful as possible for kitchen use.

As the plant grows larger, this pinch-back ritual should be a weekly affair; any growth you are not using for cooking or drying can be discarded. If the plant becomes overly woody, cutting the stems all the way back to the ground will encourage more stems to sprout from the base, resulting in a fuller plant.

Harvesting Oregano
The most flavourful leaves on oregano are found immediately before the plant flowers, but you can snip off leaves at any time for cooking or drying. Leaves can be frozen to use over the winter.

You can begin harvesting when plants have reached 8 to15cm in height, cut sprigs for use. The stems tend to get woody and the easiest way to strip the leaves is to hold the stem by the top, uncut end and run your finger down the stem.

How to Grow Oregano in Pots

Though it is perennial, oregano is well-suited to growing in pots, either as indoor plants or on a deck or patio. Any container with good drainage will do; 10 to 14 inches in diameter and 6 to 8 inches deep is an ideal size. Any general-purpose potting mix will be fine as a growing medium. Some growers find that adding a good amount of perlite, vermiculite, or sand to peat-based potting soil gives the best results.

These plants will not require a lot of water. In a good-sized pot, oregano plants should not need to ever be reported. It's generally best to simply discard a potted plant that's become overgrown and woody, starting over with a new plant.

Propagating Oregano
Oregano plants can be started from seeds, divisions, or cuttings. Since different species of oregano will cross-pollinate, you may not get what you expect from seeds you save from garden plants.

From seeds: Oregano seeds require some light to germinate, so cover only slightly with soil. Start seeds indoors and transplant when outdoor temperatures remain above 7degrees C through the night and soil temps are about 21 degrees.

From cuttings: Oregano can be propagated from stem cuttings at any time from spring to fall, though spring and early summer tend to be best since the stems are still green and pliable. Take 3- to 5-inch cuttings, making diagonal cuts just above a leaf node. Trim away the leaves from the bottom two-thirds of the cutting, but make sure to leave at least two leaves at the top. Place the cuttings in a glass of water in a bright but not sunny location. When a good network of roots appears, plant the cuttings in a small pot filled with potting mix to grow onward.

You can also simply divide plants at the root ball to make more plants. In early spring or fall, divide plants into segments when the centres begin to die out or the stems become too woody.

Overwintering
In cold-winter climates, cut back the stems of the oregano plant after the first frost kills the foliage. Leave a short umbrella of stems to protect the root ball, Cover the ground with 3 to 4 inches of dry mulch for the winter. Remove the mulch in spring as soon as the ground starts to warm up. The plant generally overwinters fine in warmer zones.

Kale is part of the Brassicaceae family which are also called "Brassicas," "crucifers," and "Cole crops". This family also includes broccoli, Brussels sprouts cabbage, cauliflower, kohlrabi and collards.

Most kale growing guides will start out by telling you it is a cold-weather crop, which tastes best after it has been touched by frost.

The reality is that while cold weather may be kale’s preference, Kale can be grown during any season and in most climates. The flavour, yield, and duration from seed to harvest will change depending on the temperature, weather patterns, variety, and soil condition, but kale is a tough crop that is willing to adapt to our expanding desire for it. With that said, it can tolerate temperatures as low as -5C degrees but will start to turn bitter and become tough in temperatures over 30C degrees.

This Beginners Guide to growing plentiful Kale will discuss how to grow kale in ideal conditions as well as give some tips on how to grow it outside its preferred climate. Feel free to alter my suggestions to fit your garden’s needs.

So… let’s get growing!

Growing Kale in a Pot:

How to grow kale:

If you don’t have the space to grow kale in the garden, or you want to save yourself the hassle, you can grow it in a pot or other soil-appropriate container. The pot or container must have a decent size to it for the plant to be able to grow in. I would suggest at least 10 litres. Plant your seeds or seedlings in the centre of the pot. Water well and a regular fertilizer program will be helpful. A planting guide for seed is available at the end of this blog. Make sure to move kale grown in containers into a partially shaded area when summer arrives.

Planting Kale in Your Garden:

Kale is a hardy biennial (it take two years to go to flower and complete its life cycle), but it is usually grown as an annual.

 If you’re planting during the cool season, find a spot where your kale will receive full sunshine. If you are planting during the warm season, or in a warmer climate, plant kale in partial shade.  Kale enjoys companion plants such as beets, celery, herbs, onions, and potatoes, but does not enjoy being planted near beans, strawberries, or tomatoes.

 Kale also prefers loamy, well-drained, moist (but not soggy) soil of average fertility. Surprisingly, it isn’t a fan of soil that is too rich in nitrogen, so it will do best with a pH between 5.5 to 6.8.  If your soil is too acidic, try adding some wood ash to sweeten it. Light, sandy soils and very heavy clay soils will “negatively”* affect the flavour of kale, but it still has the potential to grow in these environments.

 Seeds will germinate in cool soil, but they sprout best when the soil temperature is around 21C degrees. If you’re starting them inside, then do so 5-7 weeks before the last expected frost. If you’re direct sowing the seeds outside, do so 2-4 weeks before the last frost and/or anytime at least 10 weeks before the first frost of the next season. No matter when you plant, the soil temperature must be at least 4C degrees or higher for good germination.

The hotter the weather, the more bitter and tough the kale, but even bitter and tough kale is nutritious and can be made into delicious dishes.

Sow seeds in small pots filled with a mix of soil and veganic fertilizers/compost Plant your seed around 10mm deep.  Keep the soil around the seedling evenly moist throughout its growth but allow the top layer of soil to dry between watering.

OR:

You can directly sow seeds in the garden starting 2 to 4 weeks before the last frost date or as soon as the ground can be worked in the springtime.

A note on quantity: If you’re going to be using kale on a regular basis (and why wouldn’t you be?) you’ll want to have at least 3-4 plants per household member. It is also always a good idea to plant more seeds or buy more seedlings than you think you’ll need in case some of them don’t make it.

Before planting, distribute a good amount of organic fertilizer over the area you will be using and work it into the soil. Depending on the potency of the fertilizer you are using, you may want to fertilize then cover the bed and allow it to weather for one to two weeks before planting. If you are using seasoned compost to fertilize, you should be able to simply fertilize then plant the next day. If you’re using a mulch to fertilize you can simply place it around the plants after they are in the ground.

If you are planting from seedlings(that you started 4-6 weeks ago or purchased), put them in the ground 1-2 weeks before the last expected frost date. But only do this if the seedlings are big enough to survive the weather (they will have at least four true leaves**and the next two leaves will be beginning to form. The plant will usually be approximately 6 to 10cm high by this point.)

The recommended space for planting seedlings is 50cm apart in rows of 50cm apart. The space for direct sowing is much closer (if you are direct sowing your kale seeds, plant them 10mm deep and approximately 10cm apart and then thin plants to 50cm apart when they are 6 to 15cm tall.)

No matter the shape of the stem, set the transplants perpendicular to the ground so they will grow straight up, and place them deep enough to support the plant, but no further than the base of their first leaves.

A good amount of fertilizer depends on the type of fertilizer you are using. Follow the directions on the box if you’re using an organic fertilizer mix. With compost and mulches, you usually want to go at least 5 to 10cm deep, while other amendments like seaweed powder or rock dust only require a good sprinkle.

When a seed first emerges from the soil it has a set of two leaves called cotyledons. These are part of the seed and are its first food source. As the seedling grows, it forms two more leaves that look very different from the cotyledons. These are the first “true leaves” which look more like the plant’s adult leaves, but obviously smaller. Once the true leaves emerge, the cotyledons become unnecessary and eventually wither and fall off.

Care for your Kale:

Keep your plants well-watered. Along with cool temperatures, kale also enjoys moist soil. Keeping the soil most will also help keep the leaves sweet and crisp.

 Side dressing (fertilizing along the rows) with compost throughout the growing season will help keep your kale producing. You can do this approximately every 6-8 weeks.

If you’re having issues with dirt sticking to and rotting your kale leaves, you can put mulch (such as straw or grass) around the kale once it is at least six inches high.

How to harvest kale:

Kale is usually ready for harvest 70-95 days from seed and 55-75 days from transplanting, depending on the variety you are planting. Check the seed packet for specific times.

You can begin to cut individual leaves off the kale when the plant is approximately 8 to 10 inches high, starting with the outside leaves first.

 If you decide to harvest the entire plant, cut the stock two inches above the soil and the plant will sprout new leaves in 1 to 2 weeks.

 Make sure to harvest kale leaves before they become too old and tough. If you can’t eat the kale leaves fast enough and they begin to turn brown, pull the old leaves off, and compost them, to free the plants of insect attractants and unnecessary energy drains.

You can also pick kale regularly and store it in the fridge for up to a week. If you choose to do so, keep it lightly moist and place it in a bag, but unsealed, in the crisper bin.

Varieties of Kale

Kale- Black Toscana

Black Toscana Kale

An extremely attractive savoyed leaf variety with dark grey/green leaves. Grows to 60cm tall. Heirloom.                 Kale is also known as Borecole.

Black Toscana Kale is large kale with long strappy leaves, with the potential to reach 60-90 cm tall. It can have widespread as each leaf may grow to 5-10 cm wide, with 30cm high leaves on long greenish-white stalks. The leaves have a bumpy or embossed surface texture and are dark blue-green in colour. When the leaves are harvested, or cut away from the base, the plant takes on a fan or palm-like appearance giving it a prehistoric presence.             

Black Toscana Kale is reputed to be the best-tasting kale and is prized by chefs in Italy. Until recently, this leafy green was one of Tuscany’s best-kept secrets. This is the kale used for the famous Tuscan soup known as Ribollita or re-boiled bean soup. It has been used in northern Italy for centuries, as an essential ingredient in dishes like risotto, pasta, and frittata. The taste is slightly sweeter and more delicate than the curly kale varieties but still retains an earthy component. https://ejurbanfarms.com.au/shop/black-toscana-kale/

Planting Guide: Black Toscana Kale

Method: Direct or Punnets

Planting Depth: 10mm

Best Planting Season/s: AutumnLate SummerSpring

Germination: 3 to 7 days at 10-29C

Life Cycle: Annual

Row Spacing: 50cm

Plant Spacing: 50cm

Position: Full sun

Days to maturity/flowering: 55-70 days

Other: Protect from slugs, snails, aphids, and caterpillars. Keep well-watered.

Dwarf Blue Curled Kale

Blue Dwarf Curled Kale

Dwarf Blue Curled Kale: In the past few years, the word “kale” has become synonymous with health, and not without good reason. This nutrient-packed member of the cabbage family is rich in vitamins and minerals and tastes good to boot! As if that weren’t enough to make you want to fill your garden with this tasty plant, most types of kale are also relatively easy to grow thanks to their ability to withstand cooler temperatures. Like many other hearty greens, the leaves’ flavour will actually improve if exposed to cooler temperatures, so light frosts are your friend instead of foe. There are many different varieties of kale, but almost all types are either purple or green in colour with broad or curly leaves.

Dwarf Blue Curled Kale, as its name suggests, the heirloom Dwarf Blue Curled variety is one of the curly leaf types of kale, with a beautiful green-blue hue that makes it a popular addition to many autumn gardens. This variety is considered to be particularly hardy and can be harvested in all climate zones until the ground freezes. Considering that it grows in a more compact fashion than other types of kale, it’s a great crop for space-challenged gardens.

Dwarf Blue Curled Kale can be planted either in the spring just prior to the last frost or in the autumn, leaving approximately 6 to 8 weeks before the first average frost for the plants to grow.  Although plants will be richer in flavour when they are allowed to grow in cooler weather, they are tolerant of most climates. https://ejurbanfarms.com.au/shop/dwarf-blue-curled-kale/

Planting Guide: Dwarf Blue curled Kale

Method: Direct or Punnets

Planting Depth: 10mm

Best Planting Season/s: AutumnSpringWinter

Germination: 3 to 7 days at 10-29C

Life Cycle: Annual

Plant height: 35cm

Row Spacing: 100cm

Plant Spacing: 50cm

Position: Full sun

Days to maturity/flowering: 55-90 days

Other: Protect from slugs, snails, aphids, and caterpillars. Keep well-watered.

Red Russian Kale

Kale Red Russian

Kale is a primitive leaf vegetable. 'Red Russian' is one of the most popular varieties; it grows to 75cm at a fast rate and has blue/green/red tinged serrated leaves with red veins. The young leaves are eaten raw like lettuce, the old leaves are cooked like cabbage. Has a sweet flavour. Less prone to cabbage moths (and caterpillars) than other varieties.

This variety is easily recognized by its richly coloured burgundy stems and purple-tinted leaves. They are flat and toothed like an oak leaf with overall dark green colours and deep red veins.

Red Russian kale offers a mild nutty flavour that is slightly sweet and earthy with a hearty texture. When choosing Red Russian kale look for fresh, bright, firm leaves. https://ejurbanfarms.com.au/shop/red-russian-kale/

Planting Guide: Red Russian Kale

Method: Direct or Punnets

Planting Depth: 10mm

Best Planting Season/s: AutumnLate SummerSpring

Germination: 3 to 7 days at 10-29C

Life Cycle: Annual

Row Spacing: 50cm

Plant Spacing: 50cm

Position: Full sun

Days to maturity/flowering: 55-70 days

Other: Protect from slugs, snails, aphids, and caterpillars. Keep well-watered.

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Happy Gardening

Winter can be a frustrating time for urban farmers looking to grow herbs with frosts, shortened daylight hours and the bone-chillingly wet winter days. Growing herbs in the winter will require more care and effort but there are herbs that can thrive and yield a successful harvest. Growing fresh food should be possible - and successful! - 365 days a year.

Hopefully, this post can introduce you to some herbs that can survive the harsh cold weather and thrive with proper care.

Chervil

Chervil is one of those special herbs that prefer less sunlight and the cold conditions that winter brings. So, what is Chervil you may ask, Chervil looks like a slightly paler, more delicate, and more finely shaped flat-leaf parsley, but with frillier, thinner looking leaves. Sometimes bunches of chervil will have leaves that are quite tightly closed, almost flower-like. Avoid chervil with actual blossoms attached to it—that usually means the herb will have turned a bit bitter. Chervil is one of the herbs used to make fines herbs (the others are parsley, tarragon, and chives), a delicate herb blend used extensively in French cooking. Chervil is particularly delicious with eggs—either added to an omelette or sprinkled on scrambled eggs. It can also bring a fresh kick when added to lightly dressed salads.

Parsley

Parsley is a plant that should not be underestimated. Parsley is a much more resilient plant than you can imagine, in extremely cold weather they can hide under the ground to remain safe and fruitful. If there's one under-appreciated herb out there, it's parsley. For many, their only encounter with parsley is the curly, bitter sprig on the side of their plate at restaurants. Native to Europe, parsley is a very attractive plant that is generally grown as a culinary herb but often wasted as a garnish or plate decoration. Considering it adds more freshness than flavour to dishes, it is best used fresh and added at the end of cooking, giving home cooks all the more reason to grow their own. It’s commonly used to elevate the flavour of dishes like soups, salads, and fish recipes.

Thyme

Thyme can be a stressful herb to grow. Thyme is more at home and grows best in the colder months. It makes a great bushy pot plant and improves when you pick more of its leaves. Thyme (Thymus vulgaris) is a low-growing, woody perennial that performs especially well in somewhat dry, sunny conditions. A beloved Mediterranean herb, it holds its taste in cooking and blends well with other flavours of its native region, such as garlic, olive oil, and tomatoes. Thyme (pronounced "time") is used in a number of cuisines, including European, British, Mediterranean, African, Latin, and Central American, regional American, and the Caribbean. Fresh and dried thyme is commonly available in the refrigerated product section at the supermarket—use the de-stemmed leaves or add it to dishes whole. The thyme plant is robust and hardy and will proliferate in your home garden during growing months or in an indoor planter year-round.

Rosemary

We have all heard about Rosemary, which is a perennial herb, meaning that it can be grown all year long and sturdy enough to survive the icy cold temperatures. This is an herb that flowers throughout the year. This is one of the more affordable potted herbs that you can pick up in the plant nurseries, supermarkets of weekend markets. Rosemary is perfect with the heartier meats like lamb or beef and stands up well to the more pungent flavours like garlic. Rosemary is one of those wonderful herbs that makes a beautiful ornamental plant as well as a versatile culinary seasoning. Its Latin name, Rosmarinus officinalis, means "dew of the sea," and rosemary is most closely associated with the cooking of the Mediterranean region. In warm climates, rosemary can be planted at any time.

Mint

Mint is a strong herb like thyme. Those of us that has grown one of the many varieties of mint, then you don’t need to be told to grow it in its own pot as mint has a bad habit of taking over the entire garden, it is known to be invasive if you give it half a chance in the right conditions. This can be one tough resilient herb that will continue to grow throughout  the colder months One good mint plant will supply you with all the mint leaves that you will need.

Oregano

Oregano is known as a very robust winter herb that grows well in the colder months because of its ability to withstand frosts. The more that you harvest oregano the bigger and stronger it grows. Possibly one of the most recognized herbs in the cook's garden, oregano is easy to grow and adds plenty of taste to food. It fantastic when cut fresh from the plant and can easily be dried for long-term storage. The leaves of the oregano plant are very small and a dark green colour. It is a perennial in many zones and the stems can become woody over the years. Oregano produces tiny white, pink, or purple flowers which are very attractive to pollinating bees. Oregano is an aggressive plant that likes to spread, and a bush of oregano can grow quite large if you allow it. The stems can also grow up to 60cm high and will often lay down on the ground, particularly when the plant is young or in the shade. For these two reasons, it is best to give your oregano plants plenty of room in the garden. Oregano is a satisfying herb for any gardener. It is easy to grow and care for, as long as it does not remain wet for too long. Oregano grows very well in partial sun, making it a good choice for an indoor garden as well.

Basil

Basil is an extremely popular winter herb that is used for flavouring and seasoning. There is countless varieties of basil out there to choose from It has a unique aroma that fills the garden with a fresh, spicy scent that I can’t get enough of, and it lends dishes a subtle peppery flavour in all kinds of cuisines, from Italian to Thai. Like most herbs, it’s also healthy for you. As if that wasn’t enough to recommend it, growing basil isn’t as challenging as some edible plants. This tropical native is happy to grow outside, inside, in the ground, in pots or even in a hydroponic system. Harvesting is simple, too. You can pluck the leaves when you want to use them, and it will keep sprouting new ones. In fact, basil is so easy to grow and so useful around the house, I think it’s an essential plant for any garden (or windowsill) to have. There are dozens of varieties to choose from, each with unique flavours and uses. This guide will help you pick the best for your home and make it thrive.

Sweet basil is probably the type most people associate with basil. It has large, smooth leaves that are bright green.

Thai basil as the name suggests, this is the type often found in Thai cooking. It has a distinct licoricey aroma and adds aniseed and clove flavour to dishes. Its leaves are more robust than Genovese basil so it can stand up to cooking in things like soup. There are several types of purple basil, all featuring beautiful dark purple leaves and lilac flowers. The leaves smell sweet and lend nicely to vinaigrettes and salads.

Lemon basil is an old-fashioned heirloom variety that has an intense lemon flavour that goes nicely with fish or chicken. The plant features narrow, elongated leaves and lemon-scented white flowers.

Greek basil also known as globe basil; this is an heirloom variety native to Southeast Asia. It has small leaves on compact, dome-shaped plants. It only gets about 8-inches tall, making it ideal for container growing. There are many more to choose from and I have only covered a few in this article.

Chives

Chives are perfect for salads or snipped into various other dishes, it can also be added as a garnish to all sorts of creations. Chives would have to be one of the easiest herbs to grow during the winter months because it only needs a couple of hours sunlight a day to be happy Chives are perennial, hardy species of onion (Allium schoenoprasum), whose small, slender, hollow leaves, chopped fine, are used for flavouring salads, stews, and soups. Handled like onions, the small oval bulbs multiply rapidly, form clumps, develop abundant foliage 15 to 30 cm high and small round heads of tiny lavender flowers. As both foliage and flowers are attractive in appearance (though onion-scented), the plants are often used for edging flower beds; but unless the flower-heads are cut or the seed is gathered promptly, self-sown seedlings may prove to be troublesome weeds. For best results, the clumps should be divided every second or third year. Chives are known as one of the easier culinary herbs to grow, which is what makes them perfect for the beginning herb gardener. They are easy to grow from seed and since they are perennial, they will return year after year.

Coriander

Coriander is an annual herb growing to 50cm. Aromatic plant with bright green leaves that are used fresh in salads or cooked in soups, sauces, and chutneys. The dried seeds are used whole or ground as flavouring in both sweet and savory dishes. Coriander also has medicinal uses. Also known as "Chinese parsley" and "Cilantro". Attracts bees. It is a soft plant growing to around 30 centimetres in height, up to 50cm in height when flowering, and a spread of around 15–25cm. All parts of the coriander plant are edible with the fresh leaves and stems (before flowering), roots and dried seed most commonly used in cooking. Coriander maybe a once a very year herb within the carrot family. it’s additionally referred to as Chinese parsley, dhania, or cilantro. All components of the plant are consumed, however the recent leaves and also the dried seeds. Coriander leaves are crucial ingredients in several foods, like chutneys and salads, salsa, guacamole, and as widely used as a garnish for soup, fish, and meat. As heat decreases their flavour, coriander leaves typically added  before serving. In Indian and Central Asian cuisines, coriander leaves are in massive amounts and deep-fried till the flavour diminishes. During summer, Coriander Eureka plants change rapidly from leafy to seedy (this is called ‘bolting to seed’) and it’s almost impossible to have a crop on hand for use in the kitchen in the hot months. During autumn, winter, and spring, however, coriander stays nicely leafy for a number of months.

Rocket

Wild Rocket (Arugula) is an extremely hardy leaf which can be added to your favourite salad bowls to add that extra peppery taste to it. This will certainly make a salad bowl tastier. You can grow this in pots or straight in the ground – the choice is yours. If you grow salad rocket in bowls, you can move it into the greenhouse as it gets cooler to keep it growing for longer. Wild Rocket is great to grow in the garden or herb patch. It is perennial so will grow every year producing crops to use in your salads. Wild rocket is more peppery and fierier than the average rocket that you purchase in shops. To purchase wild rocket in shops it is a lot more expensive but so easy to grow. So why not try growing your own. Wild Rocket is also known as wall rocket. There are many differences between the salad rocket and the wild rocket is that the leaves are a lot finer on wild rocket than the salad version. They are also a lot stronger in taste. When using wild rocket to eat you can use it in exactly the same way as the salad version but be warned it is a lot hotter in taste. When planting wild rocket (Wall rocket) plant it in a dry shady spot – ideally near a wall – hence the name it gets. Keep picking the wild rocket often and it will soon grow new leaves on it to eat. Trim it back in autumn for another great harvest the year after. Once your seeds have germinated and are big enough for transplanting you can now look at potting them up if you are growing in seed trays. If you have sown the rocket seeds outdoors space the plants at around 10-15cm so they have room to grow and keep them weed free. The best part of growing something is harvesting it. To harvest rocket all you need to do is just pinch off the leaves as and when you require some for your salad. You will be picking it for weeks over the summer. If you pick the rocket leaves while they are young, the leaves have a much milder taste.

Pak-choi is a vegetable that has been in cultivation for a long time in Asia,  Possible thousands of years. Pak-choi is widely used in Chinese cuisine as well this vegetable is extremely popular in the rest of Asia as well. The is confusion with its name as many areas know this vegetable as Pak-choy, Bok-choy, Bok-choi, Pak-choi or Chinese cabbage to name a few. This may have come about as a misunderstanding as how the Chinese name for this vegetable is translated, regardless of what you know this vegetable as, this is and extremely versatile vegetable that is extremely flavour some and tender which can be used in a wide assortment of dishes.

As this vegetable is sometimes known as Chinese Cabbage, this is reference to the fact that this vegetable is classified in the Brassica genus, along with cabbages, Cauliflower, Kale and Broccoli to name a few. Pak-choi also belongs to the Mustard family, so they have a distant tangy, somewhat spicy flavour as of that link. Pak-choi can come in a wide variety of sizes and colours thanks to the development of specific cultivars.  

Classic Pak-choi has white crunchy stems and a dark green leaf, both as which are edible and delicious. In Asia, the smaller the vegetable is, the more favourable the vegetable is viewed, because the smaller plants tend to be more tender, while outside of China, people seek out the larger plants as they are under the impression that the larger the better. If you can grow the smaller varieties or by smaller plants, you may find them to be tastier and more tender. Large Pak-choi has the tendency woody and lacking in flavour.

Tender young Pak-choi only requires a very brief cooking time, with the leaves taking even less time to cook than the stems. Some cooks will separate the leaves from the stem, adding the leaves at the very end of cooking so the leaves only slightly wilt before cooking, the stems can be cooked a little bit longer, though may people prefer the stems to be crunchy rather than softened. Pak-choi can be used in Stir-fries, soups, curries, spring rolls salads and numerous other dishes.

Growing: This is a fast-maturing, versatile and tasty crop to grow in your vegetable patch or containers on your porch. Pak-choi, like many other Asian vegetables are a cool season crop, preferring moist conditions and the ideal temperature range or 15 to 20 degrees Celsius, light frosts are tolerated by most varieties, generally the ideal time to plant is in the spring and autumn.

Varieties

The 4 most popular Types are:

White stemmed: These varieties grow to around 30cm, light to dark green leaves that often curl outwards, white stems that are short, wide, and generally flat. Great for stir-frying

Green stemmed: they have a broad, flattish light green and smooth stems, wide at the base and generally harvested at around 15cm tall, generally used in salads but are also good in stir-fries.

Squat Canton types: these are generally a short compact variety with wrinkled dark green leaves and white stems. They are sometimes harvested early as baby Bok-choi and have a good heat tolerance.

 Soup spooned Type: These grow to around 45cm tall and has cupped ladle like leaves with white stalks.

Seedlings or seeds: You can directly plant Pak-b into the garden bed or in to pots and thin out as they grow, or plant into seedling punnets and then plant them out later. The seeds are small so don’t plant them deep. I sprinkle the seed on top then water them in well and have great success in that method. They only need a light covering of soil to keep them moist.

Growing Ideas

Pak-choi likes uniform conditions and full sun excepts in the parts of Australia with hot summers, high temperatures and long days will cause them to bolt to seeds.

These plants are shallowed rooted and will require frequent watering, especially in hot and windy weather. Mulching and dripline irrigation may be helpful.

These plants may require wind protection and good air circulation.

Pak-choi like rich loamy soil with high fertility, good drainage, and plenty of organic matter.

Pak-choi likes  pH of between 6.5 and 7 and are sensitive to a pH of below 6. If pH is low add some agricultural lime a couple of weeks before planting.

Pak-choi is best grown quickly for great flavour and texture, add some seaweed solution at planting and every couple of weeks while growing.

Harvesting: Pak-choi grows fast and will take between 35 and 50 days to harvest time. Harvest what is required for the day, or just cut some leaves as required and they will continue to grow.

Pests and diseases. Like Cabbages,  Pak-choi can suffer the same problems, they can be susceptible to powdery mildew, aphids, caterpillars, snails, and slugs. For Caterpillars and aphids, I use a mixture of Molasses and liquid soup to spray the plants to get rid of them.

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As we know Australia is a large place and has diverse range of climates and regions.
What grows well in the North will be in a world of pain if you were to plant the same
plant say, in Canberra for example.
If the urge to plant strikes you in winter, don’t worry, there are still plenty of
vegetables that you can grow. There is a such a diverse range of varieties out there
means that there must be something that can be grown, no matter where you live or
the time of year it is.
When it comes to winter vegetables, the type to plant can differ greatly depending on
the area of Australia you live in. For example, those who live in Northern Queensland
will find their options differ from those who live in Melbourne.
For a lot of these veggies, you don’t necessarily need a lot of space to start growing.
Growing winter vegetables in pots or moveable garden boxes can be a good idea for
those who want the option of rearranging or moving their plants about.
Australia is a big country with varied landscapes and climates and is
divided into roughly 6 climate zones:

  1. Sub-tropical (includes South east QLD and Northern NSW)
  2. Wet and Dry Tropics (includes North QLD, NT, and WA)
  3. Dry Inland (includes Arid and Outback areas)
  4. Temperate (including Sydney, Coastal NSW and Victoria
  5. Cool and Southern Tablelands (including Melbourne, Tasmania and cool Highlands)
  6. Mediterranean (Adelaide and Perth).

What grows well in one area may not reach its full potential in another area and vice versa.
Doing a bit of research to find out what grows well in your area certainly pays off in the long
run so I have included a general guide below as to what you should plant in your zone for Winter.
Local Knowledge is also an important source of reference, so look around and ask other
urban farmers you know what they recommend planting. Over time, locals will have tried
planting all sorts of different things and will know what has worked in the past and what
wasn't so successful.

Sub-tropical (South East QLD and Northern NSW)

Herbs: Plantings may include Chamomile, Comfrey, Cress, Dill, Endives, Garlic, Lemon
Balm, Marjoram, Mints, Oregano, Parsley, Rocket, Spring Onions and Thyme
Vegetables: Plantings may include Beans, Beetroot, Bok/Pak-choi, Broccoli, Cabbage,
Cauliflower, Carrots, Chives, Kale, Leek, Lettuce, Mustards, Onions, Peas, Spring Onions,
Spinach (Chard) and Tomatoes in frost free areas.

Wet and Dry Tropical (includes North QLD, NT and WA

Herbs: Plantings may include Dill, Coriander, Chives, Marjoram, Mint, Oregano, Parsley,
Rocket, Thyme and Winter Tarragon
Vegetables: Plantings may include Beans Beetroot, Bok/Pak-choi, Cabbage, Capsicum,
Carrots, Cauliflower, Celery, Chinese Cabbages, Egg plants, Kale, lettuce, Mustards,
Onions, Peas, Pumpkins, Silver-beet, Squash, Sweet Corn and Tomatoes.

Dry Inland (includes Arid and Outback Areas)

Herbs: Plantings may include Basil, Chervil, Chives, Chicory, Coriander, Dill, Fennel,
Marjoram, Mustards, Oregano, Parsley, Sage, Sorrel, Thyme and Winter Tarragon.
Vegetables: plantings may include Artichokes, Broad Beans, Broccoli, Brussel Sprouts,
Cauliflower, Carrots, Celery, Kale, Lettuce, Mustards, Onions, Pak Choi, Peas, Spring
Onions and Tomatoes (frost free areas)

Temperate, (includes Sydney, Coastal NSW, and Victoria)

Herbs: plantings May include Basil, Chamomile, Comfrey, Cress, Dill, Coriander, feverfew,
garlic bulbs, lavender, lemon balm, marjoram, mint, mustard, oregano, parsley, sage, shallots,
and thyme.
Vegetables: plantings may include Broad beans, Broccoli, Carrots, Cabbages, Cauliflower,
Cabbage, Kale, Mustards, Peas, Silver-beet Spinach and Chinese greens (for example Pak
choi).

Cool and Southern Highlands (Includes Melbourne, Tasmania and Cool Highlands)

Herbs: Plantings may include Chives, Coriander, Marjoram, Oregano, Parsley, Tarragon and
Thyme.
Vegetables: may include Broad beans, Beetroot, Broccoli, Brussels sprouts Cabbage,
Carrots, Cauliflower, Celery, Chinese Broccoli, Chinese Cabbage, Endive, Leek, Lettuce,
Onion, Peas, Snow Peas, Silver-beet, Spinach and Radish.

Mediterranean (includes Adelaide and Perth)

Herbs: Plantings may include Basil, Chives, Coriander, Cress, Marjoram, Oregano and
Parsley.
Vegetables may include Broad Beans, Beetroot, Broccoli, Cabbage, Cauliflower, Carrots
Celery, Kale, Lettuce, Onions, Silver-beet, and Peas.

Finally…


The above information is provided as a general guide only so be sure to research your local
conditions for the best results in your area. Feel free to contact us with any questions you may have or for general advice. And don't forget to sign up to our newsletter for more urban
farming tips.


Happy farming!

Carrot All Seasons

Growing carrots is so easy when you have the right knowledge. Carrots are one of those root crops that can be eaten both cooked and raw. Carrots are one of the more adaptable crops in the home garden, and produce a wonderful vegetable when grown the right way.

Growing carrots in the warmer northern areas of Australia allows you to plant carrot seeds almost all year round, except for the hottest months of summer. In temperate zones, the best time for planting is from July through to March, and in cold districts from August through to February. You can purchase carrots as seedling from garden centres, but they generally don’t transplant well.

Soil preparation

Carrots are a simple crop to grow, and can be really successfully grown in a wide range of soil. As we are dealing with a root vegetable here it’s going to be necessary to get your hands dirty. Rocks, stones and really heavy soil will slow down growth and deform your carrots. Carrots taste best when they are grown really quickly and good soil preparation is paramount. Compost is good and, depending on the carrot varieties you're going to grow, a nice deep topsoil layer is extremely important.

They grow best in deep, crumbly, well-drained soil, which allows the roots to expand and grow quickly. If you live in an area with heavy clay soil, you can improve the condition of your soil before planting by adding manure and garden compost. Growing carrots is best achieved in raised garden beds, 15-20cm above ground level, as water can drain away from the root area to prevent root rot. Carrot seeds should be sown direct.

Planting your seeds

There are lots of varieties of carrot seeds available that mature at different times and by spacing you’re planting times, you can have a supply of fresh carrots on hand almost all year-round.  One of the most important thing to remember is, don’t plant your seeds too deep as they will not germinate. Carrots store well in the ground and it’s better to have too many than not enough so plant several varieties if you have room for them. Ensure to keep the garden bed damp, but not water-logged, until seedlings emerge Try covering your garden bed with hessian and water the hessian a couple of times a day to stop the top of the soil from drying out and remove the hessian once they have germinated. The time it takes for the seeds to germinate depends greatly on the temperature of the soil. After 10 days the seedlings should start to appear. Once seedlings are approximately 4-5cm in height, thin them apart by removing the smaller of the plants.

Take a look at our range of carrots

Growing Carrots

Water the bed regularly to encourage the development of large tender roots. Additional fertilizer is not needed, but it may be necessary to apply a water soluble fertilizer if your plants are slow to develop.  Be careful don’t apply a high nitrogen based fertilizer, you will get lots of green leafy tops and very small roots. When growing carrots, most varieties will take from 16-20 weeks from sowing to harvest, however baby carrots can be pulled in 10-12 weeks from planting. Pest and disease problems are almost non-existent for carrots apart from the carrot fly. Carrot flies lay their eggs in the young seedlings and their larvae eat and tunnel their way through the growing root. They can be deterred by using plenty of compost as well as by using some good companion plants, like spring onions, to act as decoys. Carrots, like coriander, can bolt, which means they have a tendency to run to seed before producing their roots, generally when unusually cool weather is experienced in early spring.

Happy Farming!

Kohlrabi grows as a bulb topped with a rosette of long-stemmed blue-green leaves, making it a very odd looking vegetable. It can be white, green, or purple and has a mild taste that has made it popular in dishes from salads to soups.

Kohlrabi is grown for its swollen base which is actually the plant’s stem and makes it look like a turnip growing on a cabbage root. Kohlrabi is milder and sweeter than either cabbage or turnip and both the globe base and leaves can be eaten. The globe-shaped base develops above the ground making Kohlrabi a good choice for gardens that don’t have deep soils.

How to grow Kohlrabi successfully

Kohlrabi is a hardy biennial grown as an annual. It is a cool-weather crop and should be sown in the garden 3 to 4 weeks before the last average frost date in spring. It grows best in cool temperatures between 4.4°C and 23.9°C and requires 45 to 60 days to reach maturity. In warm winter regions, Kohlrabi should be sown in late summer for a winter harvest. It can withstand an early autumn frost and should be planted in full sun.

For best results, grow Kohlrabi in well-worked, well-drained soil rich in organic matter. Work 2 to 5cm of aged compost into the soil before you begin planting. Seeds can be started indoors, in a cold frame or plastic tunnel. Kohlrabi requires 45 to 60 days to reach maturity and should be grown so that it comes to harvest before temperatures average greater than 23.9°C.

In hot summer areas, you should plan for an autumn harvest. In warm winter regions, you can grow Kohlrabi through the winter. Kohlrabi should be sown in late summer for a winter harvest. Kohlrabi can withstand an early autumn frost. In cold winter regions, sow kohlrabi in summer for early autumn harvest. You can sow kohlrabi seeds as long as temperatures are greater than 4.5°C.

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Cold-weather care

If you are growing kohlrabi for late autumn or winter harvest, protect plants with row covers or a plastic tunnel if night time temperatures below -4°C are predicted. Sow kohlrabi seed 8mm deep and 2.5 cm apart. Thin successful seedlings to 20cm apart. Space rows 45-60 cm apart. Thinned seedlings can be transplanted to another part of the garden.  Grow 6 to 10 plants per person. Companion plants. Beets, celery, herbs, onions, potatoes. Do not plant with pole beans, strawberries or tomatoes.

Quick tips for successfully growing Kohlrabi

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