Cool Season Crop Tips
In frost-prone areas, April is your last chance to plant cabbages, cauliflower and broccoli. The seedlings will grow slowly, but they are frost-hardy and will be well established for early spring cropping.
Autumn is the ideal time to plant garlic cloves in rich, welldraining soil in a sunny spot. Do not plant them deeper than 5cm and ensure the pointed end is planted upright. Keep well watered.
THE DIRTY DOZEN
Did you know that shop-bought, inorganic lettuce is included in the so-called ‘dirty dozen’list of fruits and veggies most affected by pesticide residues? Sow your own crops of this easy-to-grow salad green, and harvest it fresh and healthy as and when you need it.
Once your late bush beans stop cropping, turn them into the soil – these nitrogen-rich plants make a super green manure that will be available for your spring plantings
KEEP YOUR CURDS WHITE
With cauliflower, the part you harvest is called a curd, another name for a tight flower head. Once they reach 10cm in diameter keep your curds white by bending some of the top leaves over them, fastened with string. Harvest before they get too big.
Peas are always best sown in situ in May. Before they can grow properly, they need to establish a symbiotic relationship with nitrogen-fixing bacteria in the soil. These bacteria form nodules on the roots of the plants, making nitrogen available in a form this heavy feeder can use. The wonders of nature! Sow another crop of peas in July for spring harvesting. Provide your plants with something to climb on, such as a tripod of flexible small branches, or four stakes wrapped in chicken wire, placed over the seedling. Watch out for downy mildew, particularly in winter-rainfall regions
Have fun with the inside, outside, upsidedown planter made almost entirely out of recycled materials. Cangro is a sustainable development initiative in the education and food security arena.
MAKE THE MOST OF BEETROOT SEEDLINGS
The beetroot seeds you plant are actually seedballs containing up to four seeds each. This means you need to thin the seedlings out once they reach 8-10cm high, cutting the leaves of the weakerlooking plants so the roots can thicken into globes. Add the thinned-out leaves to your salad sandwich – they’re delicious and nutritious microgreens.
5 MINUTES TO SPARE
Weeds quickly take over a bed and compete with the veggies for nutrition. Pull out a few weeds every day, as youdo the tour of inspection. Mulching also helps to suppress the weeds.
NAKED IN WINTER – NOT A GOOD IDEA
Even if you are not a fan of winter veggies, don’t leave the beds bare during winter. Rather sow green-manure crops like mustard, red clover, winter oats or wheat – that will add nitrogen and other minerals to the soil. As soon as the crop starts to flower, dig it into the soil. Alternatively, let the soil rest by covering it with a very thick layer of mulch. This protects and nurtures the soil life.
GROW ALL YEAR ROUND
Grow and harvest all year round in a tunnel. SA Green tunnels are galvanised for durability and they come in a variety of sizes.
10 MINUTES TO SPARE
Feed winter veggies with a seaweed-based plant tonic. If applied as a drench it will also stimulate microorganisms in the soil. Feed all brassicas with a nitrogenrich fertiliser.
Soil cultivation has been made significantly easier and faster with the VIKING range of petrol tillers. They are easy to handle, highly efficient, and require less effort to get the job done, thanks to their compact and sturdy design, robust components, and tried-and-tested technology. With models suited to both smaller and larger work areas to suit your varying needs, VIKING tillers also come with the back up and service of the STIHL network of specialist servicing dealers.
If you have run out of ties to secure tomatoes or runner beans to their supports, and you have New Zealand flax growing in the garden, pick a few leaves and rip them into
ribbons. These can be used like garden twine, and are even strong enough to be used to tie teepees together.
USE WARM WALLS
If the veggie garden is shaded in winter or falls into a frost pocket, try using the walls that bask in winter sun. The Coolaroo vertical garden wall planter is a very basic system made from a geotextile fabric, with six lined, fairly deep plant pockets. Hang it up from a wall using two nails and water by hand. The dimensions are 56cm x 70cm.
Think about how much food you want to grow and consider investing in a greenhouse. Easy Greenhouses supplies a DIY modular greenhouse concept that snaps together in a day or two, no special tools needed. Each unit comes with a step-by-step manual, making it easier than ever to build and own your own greenhouse.
Nothing needs go to waste in the food garden. Herb clippings can go back onto the bed as insect-repellent mulch. Add vegetable plants to the compost heap, and dig last season’s mulch into the soil, as organic matter.
DID YOU KNOW?
Newspaper is an excellent, easily obtainable mulch material. It is biodegradable, and the earthworms also like it. Put down a layer at least 10-15 sheets thick. Cut a hole for the seedlings, or put down cut squares. Make sure the paper is not pushed up directly against the stems. Mulch seedlings once they are 10 cm high.
WHAT IF YOUR VEGGIE GARDEN GETS TOO MUCH SHADE IN WINTER?
Interplant winter veggies in the flower garden. Try red-leaf lettuce, Swiss chard ‘Bright Lights’, beetroot, and oriental veggies. Even cabbage can be a feature.
If you’re a seed hoarder and are worried about the viability of seed you have saved, sprinkle some on damp cotton wool or kitchen paper towel. Keep the seeds moist (mist-spray several times a day). If there is no sign of life (tiny tips emerging) in at least half of the seeds, turf them out and buy a new packet.
New vegetable cultivars are introduced to the market continuously, and they are always improvements on the current varieties in cultivation. Seeds of new beetroots like MayFord’s ‘Touchstone Gold’ are available for sowing right now. They can be grown throughout the year, although sowing is not recommended in the coldest climates during April, May and June. It is an early maturing beet with a high sugar content, attractive green leaves with a yellow petiole, and top-quality, goldenyellow roots. Pretty in the garden and most unusual on the table, this golden beet is sure to become a real winner. The leaves can also be harvested and used fresh in salads or cooked as a chard or spinach. It is mature 50-60 days from sowing.
TIME TO TUCK UP THE VEGGIES
Cover outdoor seedlings with a ‘cloche’ – which can simply be a 2-litre plastic cooldrink bottle with the bottom cut off. It creates a mini-greenhouse effect around the plant. Leave the cap off to allow in air.
DIVIDE AND RULE
Asparagus plants go dormant during winter, making it easy to divide the crowns. This is done to hasten the production of thick, harvestable shoots in spring. Dig a trench and make a slight ridge in the centre of it, place the crowns on the ridge about 30cm apart, and spread out the roots. Fill in the trench with well-composted soil, firm down lightly, and water well.
MORE FOOD PLEASE!
Feed brassicas and broad beans with a nitrogen-rich liquid feed every two weeks, in order to encourage good growth before winter. Strong, healthy plants are more cold and frost tolerant. Broad beans are particularly heavy feeders. Check whether long-season crops like chillies and peppers, tomatoes, brinjals and squashes need supplementary feeding. Regular watering is still very important.