Kitchen Garden Spring
Till, sow, tend, harvest, cook, repeat.
That’s the vegetable mantra for spring as warm season produce takes off.
This easy-to-make bamboo and wire arch lifts summer vines off the ground, reducing the risk of powdery mildew and maximising productivity. To do it, simply arch long pieces of bamboo over and tie them together at intervals along your garden bed, or as we did here between two rectangular beds. Roll fine fencing wire over the arch and tie it on. Last year’s arch turned out to be a pretty and productive way to grow beans, tomato and cucumbers. Mum and I planted way too many cucumbers, which seemed to demand cocktail hour in the garden. Pimms anyone?
Cucumber Arch. Photo credit: Luisa Brimble
Heirloom tomatoes will come up year after year from fallen fruit so be on the lookout for freebies. Just in case, sow your favourite tomato into pots to get them going. If it’s warm enough where you live, simply shake a packet of tomato straight into the soil.
Tomato seedling. Photo credit: Luisa Brimble
Zucchinis need room to creep around – last year we grew one that measured 7m long! So remember - don’t plant too many or too close together. We find that three plants feeds four people plenty of zucchini flowers for deep frying, stuffing, or using in pasta sauce as well as zucchinis to use raw or cooked. Choose yellow ‘Gold Bullion’; pale green ‘Lebanese’; or dark green ‘Black Jack’.
Zucchini in basket. Photo credit: Luisa Brimble
Shovel out the compost and use it to replenish vegetable garden soil. At the same time add potash, garden lime, cow manure and Dynamic Lifter. Lightly fork in and wait two weeks before planting out your new summer seedlings. Start a new compost for next season.
Zucchini flowers being picked. Photo credit: Luisa Brimble
Fire up the comfrey patch, to be ready to make comfrey compost tea to add vigour and flavour to summer’s tomatoes, and to pump up the nutrient levels in the compost.
Consider taking at a pickle or preserving class in your local area so you’ll know how to make the most from your homegrown produce this season. We like the Cornersmith Picklery classes in Sydney’s Marrickville, coming soon to Annandale as well
Monitor broccoli and cauliflower closely for the right moment to harvest. Too soon and they’re tasteless and under-ripe, too late and they’ve gone to flower.
Broccoli or peas being picked.Photo credit: Luisa Brimble
Once a papery sheath has grown over garlic bulbs they can be stored. Check them now and if ready, lift, dry on trays in the sun for two weeks, then plait to store.
Pick peas and broad beans when pods are plump and they can go straight to dinner. Peas start losing sweetness as soon as they are picked.
Harvest kale leaves for kale chips. Spray with olive oil, sprinkle with salt and pepper (chilli optional), and bake in a moderate oven for five minutes. They are crispy, crunchy and delicious with a cool drink after a big day in the garden!
Plant plenty of tomatoes – vine and shrub varieties – in improved soil. Be generous with the food, providing seaweed solution as they grow and liquid fertiliser as they start to flower. Try the new ‘Lollipop’ in pots on the balcony.
Cucumbers come in plenty of shapes and sizes. We grow an intriguing collection of white, long, green, short, pickling, gherkin, green and white cucumbers. (We like a slice of ‘Crystal Apple’ or ‘White Spine’ on our sandwiches.) Sow direct or in jiffy pots.
Combine vine tomatoes, cucumbers and beans on one structure or tepee. Sow beans on the western side to protect tomatoes from sunburn, allow cucumbers and beans to help tie in the tomatoes and plant a few lettuce in the shade at the base.
Sow basil wherever there is room - under tomatoes, in pots and under beans. Pick the fragrant leaves when young and fresh.