News from Kyle: Starting your spring and summer garden now with seeds or seedlings

KL seedlingsBWe are enjoying some magnificent weather with a lot of hands rubbing together in eagerness. Eager gardeners are checking soil temperatures and becoming impatient with the fluctuating temperature which restricts the planting of summer crops. In the greenhouse, plants are stretching out of both the top, and bottom of the pots. Everything is go…but is the right time to start planting out your summer crops?

Many of you know that we can be impatient with tomato plantings, commencing way too early. But that’s cool, nothing wrong with enthusiasm! Home grown tomatoes are delicious, nutritious, and give many growers great pride with success. Whether it’s the taste, the joy of sharing them with your friends or neighbours, or just for bragging rights, we love home grown tomatoes.

They are also frost sensitive, so if you like to take a punt, go for it, plant em out, but keep in mind, a late frost may take out your early plantings. You can of course plant more later on. This also applies to many other summer crops we are keen to sink our teeth into. Capsicums, eggplants, potatoes, zucchini, cumbers, melons are also on the transplant list. Down here on the coast early October is the safe bet, just like Melbourne cup day for Canberra.

In the past I have found that the early plantings tend to fruit at the same time as later plantings. This is partly due to soil temperature. Warm soil is key for summer crops, so the more conservative approach of later plantings will increase your rate of success.

I took a punt and planted some tomatoes in a small garden bed on the northern side of the old factory. This position will keep them warm during the day, greatly reduce the chance of late frost damage due to the higher position and protect them from strong southerlies. The northerlies will just pin them up against the shed.

The majority of my summer crops will be going out in a week or 2, particularly now the weather is so up and down. The beds have been prepped, with compost, manures and soil amendments, and given plenty of time to settle.

Transplanting is one of the more enjoyable activities in the garden. I always give seedlings a good water with a mild solution of worm wee or, seaweed solution before I take them out of the tray or pot, and after they are in their new location. I keep the solution mild as seedlings are sensitive, yet they still receive a good dose of the beneficial bacteria and nutrients in the fertilizer. The garden here has a northern aspect which is great for most veggies, particularly the heat-loving summer veggies.

In the meantime there is still plenty of planting you can get stuck into. I recently spoke with Lish Fejer on ABC radio 666 about planting with seeds. Direct sowing is simple, cheaper and very successful. I will go into this in more detail in the future but for now give it a go. I recommend all root veggies to be direct sown. Most seed packets have all the info you need for planting, including spacings and depth. Lets keep it simple…

  • Clear a small area in your garden. Brush away any mulch, leaf litter and heavy organic matter exposing the soil.
  • Make some thin shallow furrows (trenches). Seeds should be sown at a depth twice the size of the seed your planting. Eg carrots and lettuce shallow, beetroot a little deeper.
  • Roughly space seeds to the recommended distance on the packet, though sowing a little extra ensures better germination rates, and excess can be thinned later on.
  • Cover seeds lightly and water in with a worm cast juice or seaweed solution. Water is also fine. Remember seeds need moisture to germinate, not flooding, so a generous water with a watering can or hose with a soft stream will do the job nicely.
  • The last and most important step is to mark or label where you have planted the seeds! As some seeds take up to 3 weeks to germinate (though generally 10-14 days), it is easy to forget where you planted them or somebody, something or some pet to disturb the planting. You can use any plastic or metal strips and jot down the date, the plant variety and the length of your planting. I use a chinagraph pencil/wax pencil for this task as they write on plastic and metal, but most importantly the marking is waterproof!
  • Now all you have to do is ensure the soil is moist, not soggy, over the next week. Use a very gentle watering can or watering attachment for you hose, and you’ll see the rewards of your efforts soon enough.

Happy planting!