Kitchen Garden: Spring
We love picking dinner fresh from the vegie patch. Everything tastes so much better! Spring is a busy time in the edible garden. Here are our tips and tricks for a bumper summer harvest.
Photo - Luisa Brimble
Make the most out of the available space by layering. For example, plant climbers up frameworks and use the space underneath for salad and root crops.
It’s going to be a long hot summer. Protect tomatoes from water stress by using 1m length of agline inserted under each tomato so you can water where it’s needed directly - into the root zone.
Our spring planting plan is pretty basic. We divide the garden into eight 1m blocks. This is how they are planted:
1: 9 corn, 1 squash
2: 3 climbing tomatoes, 3 cucumber, basil
3: 6 climbing beans, 4 potatoes
4: 4 eggplant
5: 20 lettuce, 5 celery, 5 spinach
6: 20 beetroot, 20 carrots, 40 radish
7: 2 zucchini
8: 4 capsicum
Radish give quick rewards, and add a peppery bite to salads. Sow 6 every few weeks. The French like to eat them as a drink snack, served with cold butter and salt.
For leafy crops use seaweed tonic. For tomatoes and strawberries the bests choice is home-made comfrey tea. Comfrey gives a natural boost of potassium which encourages more tastier fruit – and more of it!
Water seaweed over lettuce. Photo - Humannet/Shutterstock.com
Get a head start on tomatoes by sowing into small pots and leaving on the windowsill. Prick out the weaker seedling so just one fills up the pot. Alternatively sow in situ once the soil warms. Try a new variety this year.
Sow a square of lettuce. Fresh seed gives the best germination results.
Sow bean seeds in tepees or tunnels. Each bean will produce at least 1kg of beans. ‘Blue Lake’ is our favourite. Sow a few more 4 weeks later.
Photo - Linda Ross
Lettuce seedlings need shade once summer hits. If they get too hot they bolt to seed and become bitter. Plant where they are shaded by other plants or place shade cloth over your leafy greens.
Radish gives quick rewards, and adds a peppery bite to salads. Sow 6 every few weeks.
Kale is a profuse leafy vegetable. Use some of the surplus as ‘pesto’: whiz the chopped leaves with two garlic cloves, the juice of one lemon, ½ cup parmesan and a good glug of olive oil. This zesty spread is delicious on toast, steak, hardboiled eggs or swirled though pasta.
Curly kale. Photo - Luisa Brimble
Peas must be eaten as soon as they are picked to ensure their sugars don’t turn into starch. Shelling peas is a favourite family afternoon activity in
Preserve a glut of broad beans by blanching them on a rolling boil for two minutes. Dry on kitchen paper before freezing in a zip lock bag.
Come November spring garlic can be pulled out of the ground. Let dry then plait the leaves, hang and use through summer and autumn. Or preserve garlic cloves: peel, pile into a lidded jar, topped with olive oil.
Shovel out the compost to enrich vegetable beds. Dig over the beds, adding cow manure, dolomite, blood and bone, Dynamic Lifter and potash (only for beds growing in fruiting veg). Leave two weeks before planting out seedlings.
Seaweed is needed fortnightly as seedlings grow.
Hold off any liquid fertilisers for fruiting plants, such as Harvest, until the plant comes into bud.
Worm liquid (diluted to the colour of weak tea) provides a good feed for developing vegetables. It is also a reliable anti-fungal spray against powdery mildew in zucchini.
Side dress throughout the season with well-rotted animal manures.
Make sure horse manure is bagged and tied for 12 months before use, this will kill any weed seeds for good.
think succession. Leave room for planting the next stage of vegetables next month to prolong your harvest.
Don't let seedlings dry out. Photo - Linda Ross