Turnip

This is what happens when you forget to pick that perfectly sized turnip. Over a month later …

“Does my turnip look big in this?”

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Veggie update

Yes, we are still actually growing veggies at Chez Fork, but our recent major works have tended to overshadow the more routine aspects of gardening. Having finished and planted my wicking bed I got back into starting some more seeds off. Now if, like the rest of us, you never remember what to plant when I would recommend that you print off a copy of the attached PDF, which is Peter Cundall’s guide (everyone genuflect) to planting in cool climates, and make sure you place it somewhere where you see it everday.

Our tomato seedlings have been pampered in their seed tray, going outside during the day and coming back in at night – to avoid death by frost this week. So far the Cherry, Wapsipinicon Peach and my own Front Garden Bed varieties are up and growing. But we are still waiting on the Amish Paste and Siberians. I can’t see us ‘winning’ the tomatoes before Christmas race this year as we did start several weeks late.

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Along with the Purple Podded Climbing Peas in the wicking bed, I’ve also planted out another round of snow peas.More climbing peas have been planted but these will probably go to friends. The Massey Bush Peas planted in Autumn are producing pods now. But still no sign of Broad Bean pods.

Our beetroot, Forono and Little Wonders are starting to sprout so we will have plenty to be getting on with. Their older siblings planted out in Winter are now starting to form their bulbs so not long to wait for a feed from them. Don’t forget that beetroot leaves, the young ones at least, make a nice addition to a salad.

The new seeds I planted this week were parsnip, turnip and edamame (Japanese soy beans). They have all been planted in loo rolls! Sounds tasteful – not, but this is a really good way to plant individual seeds of crops such as root vegetables that do not like their roots disturbed. Once the seedling has reached a good size you plant the seedling, still inside the loo roll, straight into the garden. The cardboard rots down quickly and the plant grows happily on its way.

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Eating joy is being provided by our aspapragus and Purple Sprouting broccoli. While it was slow to get started (seven months from original planting!) the PSB is now in production overload. The more you cut the more it grows back. Plus it just looks great with those purple heads contrasting with the dark green leaves.

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Here is one of this week’s dinners. Purple Sprouting Broccoli and Asparagus with beef, Domburi style.

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Start Planting for Winter NOW!

I’ve just heard the weather report and they are predicting 36º today and 37º tomorrow so you may think I’ve already been touched by the sun when I say now is the time to start planting for winter. I’m not.

Let’s break this down a bit. As a very new gardener I was surprised, to say the least, when I discovered that winter is actually a very productive time in a Canberra garden. Yes we do swap scorching summer temperatures for frosts but there are many plants that happily survive the frost and require cold temperatures to be productive. So as we plant in late winter/early spring for summer crops we need to be doing the same now to produce winter crops.

The plants that seem to love the cold weather best are brassicas, root vegetables and lettuces. I know the lettuces sound odd but again they seem to cope with frosts remarkably well and don’t bolt to seed as quickly as they do in summer. Rocket is another plant that is also at its best in winter. If you don’t like green leafy veggies then perhaps you can just keep harvesting your current crops, keep up your succession planting and otherwise have a break until late winter.

Here are the planting recommendations from two sources you may consider more reliable than me. Firstly the Organic Gardener Calendar suggests planting turnips and carrots now (we are talking seed here as root crops grow best, not to mention straightest, when planted as seeds in drills). Jackie French who you might already know I consider the best source for Canberra gardening advice, says plant cauliflower, cabbage, broccoli, brussel sprouts, peas and collards. You can also plant Tom Thumb tomatoes to over-winter in a pot. I won’t be as we don’t have any suitably protected space to over-winter them. BTW she also suggests that you keep planting beans, corn, lettuce, carrots, silver beet, cabbages and potatoes with a view to getting crops out of them before winter.

A winter suggestion from our own personal experience is to grow some kale. Cavolo Nero is now widely available and to my taste has a much fuller flavour that is preferable to your average cabbage. There are also several kale varieties with frilly leaves that will also do well in Canberra. We’ve also had better luck with cauli’s than cabbages, picking off the White Cabbage moth caterpillars is a real chore and if you don’t keep onto it they can strip the leaves of your plants quite quickly. Unfortunately the moths also like kale but the open leaves make it easier to spot the caterpillars. If you really have a problem you can apply Dipel, which is an organically approved spray of bacteria that kills the caterpillars but leaves other good insects alone.

I’ve placed our order for some winter seeds with the Lost Seed company last night (www.thelostseed.com.au). Our choices this year are purple sprouting broccoli (recommended by both my new ‘friend’ Elspeth Thompson and Hugh F-W), salsify a root crop that looks a bit like a parsnip (sometimes known as the Vegetable oyster because of its supposed hint of oyster flavour), lettuce -Australian Yellow and Red Velvet, onions – Walla Walla and Stuttgart, French Breakfast radishes and Bunching Spring onions.

Of course when you are planting seeds in this weather you must water them daily or you will lose the lot before you get going (just ask how we know!). You will also need to keep an eagle eye out for the first seedling shoots and protect them as you see fit otherwise snails and slugs will ensure nothing green will survive the night. When you are directly seeding a very light sprinkling of sugarcane or pea straw mulch (hold a bunch loosely in your hand and shake it letting the smaller bits fall through your fingers) will help retain moisture but will allow the seedlings to break through easily. Seedlings will likewise need protection from predatory animals, including birds and possibly possums – a half circle of small chicken wire should do the trick for the birds and I know one friend at least raises her plants in wire mesh enclosures to keep the possums off.

Happy planting!