We may be locked-down but gardens are starting to burst out all over the place. Vegetable plants that were struggling to grow a month ago are now racing ahead as the days get longer and soil temperatures rise significantly. Now is the time to prepare for next month when we can safely plant many of our favourite summer vegetables
SEEDS TO SOW
Into pots, punnets and trays under cover in a glasshouse, sun porch or sunny window sill: tomatoes, capsicum, chillies, zucchini, cucumber, dwarf beans, butternut squash, basil, plus towards the end of the month, egg plant, melons and sweet corn. A trigger spray bottle is a good way to keep them watered without splashing and washing out the seeds.
Carrots, peas, radishes, beetroot, onions and parsnips can be sown directly into the garden. Covering seeds with a layer of seed-raising potting mix helps to prevent a hard crust that can hinder germination. I still prefer to sow cabbage, broccoli, perpetual spinach, cauliflower, and lettuce in pots to provide strong seedlings for planting later.
Nothing beats new potatoes fresh from the garden. I planted my first early potatoes in July and they are already 20cm high and have received their first ‘earthing-up’. This involves drawing soil up and around the plants until only the top of the foliage is showing. This provides protection from the weather and insect pests as well as preventing ‘greening’ of any exposed tubers. The same principal applies to potatoes in containers, just top up the growing mix as the plants grow. This early crop will be ready by late October. Time to plant a few more!
VEGETABLES TO PLANT
Garden centers will soon be full of tender vegetable plants and it can be a huge temptation to buy up large and plant your summer garden in early September. Unless you have very warm, sheltered garden, a glasshouse, tunnel house or some other kind of protection it really pays to wait until later in the month or postpone the planting tender crops until October if wet, cold conditions persist. Even if early plantings survive they are usually overtaken by crops that are planted into more favourable conditions.
Winter standbys such as cabbage, beetroot, broccoli, cauliflower, perpetual spinach, lettuce, spring onions, snow peas and silver beet can still be planted but be prepared to provide white butterfly protection as your cabbage, broccoli and cauliflower mature in a couple of months time.
Herbs can be expensive to buy but they are generally very easy to grow. It’s probably still a little too early for basil but everyday varieties such as parsley, thyme, rosemary, sage, chives and coriander will grow away quickly if planted this month.
This is a good time to trim off old, diseased foliage as the new leaves appear. Also (if you can bear to do it) removing the first flower clusters will help to develop a bigger, stronger plant that will ultimately produce bigger, better berries.
Written by Chris Green, Project Generate Volunteer