The days are getting longer, the temperatures are warming up, and it’s time to sow seeds!
On the leafy green front, I’m sowing seeds for Iceberg lettuce, Cos lettuce – both cool-loving lettuces – and some mizuna. (See below for detailed instructions on how to sow seeds.) I’ve found myself buying mizuna from our Farmers Market, asking myself why I don’t have any in the garden! Mizuna is an amazingly easy and rewarding vegetable to grow and really fills the gap at this time of the year.
We still have lots of great brassicas to tie us over till the end of winter, but we need to be thinking ahead now.
It’s time to sow our tomato seeds – the grand occasion that indicates we’re in the last month of winter! I’m sowing seeds I saved from last season – Black Cherry, Tigerella and Moonglow; I have Green Zebra (from Bristol Seeds), Moneymaker and Gardener’s Delight left over from last year; I’ve got some new Scoresby Dwarf from Setha’s Seeds which Rob grew last year really successfully, along with my favourite bottling and saucing Romas.
Here’s how we sow our seeds (for those of you who’ve joined us recently)…
Firstly make sure your re-used containers are clean – we wash ours out in white vinegar to sterilise them.
Then we sieve potting mix to make a nice fine seed raising mix.
When the container is full, use a piece of dowel or angle iron or similar to make rows. Then pop your seeds in those rows. I only sow a few more than I think I’ll need, but if you have people you can give seedlings away to, then sow more. It’s really important to label the rows of seeds and put the date you sowed them on the back of the stick. The date helps you know whether you have a problem with viability of the seed.
Then we give the containers a good soaking in liquid seaweed to give the seeds a good start.
Onto a meat or vege tray and a windowsill. They should be up in 2-4 weeks and ready for pricking out a couple of weeks after that.
You can sow capsicums, eggplants and chillis now or in a month’s time or both and stagger the season. By way of experiment I sowed some capsicums and eggplants mid-July just to see if I could get stronger, more productive plants in the ground this year. Six weeks later and some of them are up (enough). They haven’t been on a heat pad so I think they’re not doing too badly for having started life in the middle of winter.
Also at this time of the year you can make a plan for your summer garden using crop rotation principles. Especially for crops like tomatoes and potatoes, it’s important they don’t go in the same bed again for at least four rotations. Ideally you would rotate nitrogen-fixing to root crops to fruiting crops to leafy greens, but that’s often not possible. Here’s my plan for this summer. (Bit messy with all the rubbing out of pencil!)
I’m also sowing a few flowers. The calendula and borage that was sown at least a couple of years ago, self-seeds and pops up all over the place, so they look after themselves.
I’m sowing sunflower seeds (twice as many as last year to make a bigger show), alyssum for orchards for under the fruit trees, and swan plant seeds to encourage monarch butterflies. I’m sowing these in separate cells as I won’t prick them out before planting out, unlike the lettuces and tomatoes. The sunflowers are big seeds, so only one in each cell, I’ve put two seeds per cell for the swan plants; and several seeds in each cell for the alyssum as they’re tiny and it’s good if there are several plants in a clump for alyssum when planting out.
A whip around our garden reveals a few asparagus spears big enough to eat this year…
Garlic looking nice and clean under the Mikroclima…
And the not so great onions. I think it’s the unrelenting rain that’s done them in this year. I put some Mikroclima on them about a month ago, and hopefully they’ll pull away, but it would have been better to have been on since the start.
I’m giving these two allium crops in particular a dose of liquid seaweed to keep them healthy. Using our own brew which needs a vigorous stir one way, then back the other and repeated to aerate it before applying.
Happy seed sowing!
From Jan and Rob