What’s happening in the Gardens?

Spring 2016, Living Well Magazine

by Mascha Florisson

Spring has to be one of my favourite seasons in the garden. As the sun slowly starts to warm up the soil, dormant leaf buds burst open, spring blossoms colour our orchard and there is an ever-present smell in the air of freshly dug soil and mown grass. Not to mention the constant chatter and song of the many small birds busy establishing their territories, vying for a mate, and building nests in the bush surrounding the vegetable garden.

It’s a very busy time for us too in our organic vegetable garden. Raelene has led the team in building raised beds in the poly tunnel over winter to help with drainage and these will now be planted out. Our winter green manure crops are getting mown down and dug into the soil along with the amazing compost Wendy has been turning over all winter, which will prepare the soil for the many seedlings we have raised in the poly tunnel. Early in spring we direct sow beetroot, parsnip, rocket, mizuna, spinach and snow peas with beans and corn sown later in the season. Vegetables we raise as seedlings before planting out in spring are; tomatoes, capsicum, eggplant, cabbage, broccoli, cauliflower, lettuce, leeks, silverbeet, kale, spring onion, basil, cucumber, pumpkin and zucchini. Many of these seeds are suitable for direct sowing too but we like to give them a head start in our warm poly tunnel, so we can have them ready for harvest a bit earlier.

The great thing about growing from seed is that you can grow less common vegetable varieties that you can’t buy in the supermarket, or find as seedlings in a nursery. Each season we love to experiment with something we haven’t grown before and over autumn and winter we had great success with the purple cauliflower ‘Sicily Purple’ which is easier to grow than the conventional white cauliflower, and its striking purple colour looks amazing in a winter salad.

We also had success with the alien looking Romanesco broccoli, a vegetable for you fellow math enthusiasts out there, as the spiraling patterns are a natural representation of the Fibonacci sequence.

“The tiny seed knew that in order to grow, it needed to be dropped in dirt, covered in darkness, struggle to reach the light” – Sandra Kring

For spring we are trying ‘Red and Black’ heirloom tomato, whose blue-back skin and red flesh is full of antioxidants, as well as ‘Red Bore’ kale, with its deep red/purple curly leaves.

We also are waiting to harvest our first lot of brukale – a cross between kale and brussel sprouts, which grows frilly purple and green sprouts! Early spring is also the time for harvesting our asparagus – which have been dormant under a blanket of compost and hay over winter, as well as green cabbage, wombok cabbage (some of which will be turned in to sauerkraut), kale, silverbeet, broccoli, lettuce, red mustard, mibuna, tatsoi, pak choy, rocket, chervil, coriander, spinach, rhubarb and lemons.

Creating nourishing salads is a great way to consume some of the spring vegetables growing in your garden. Many salad leaves are ‘cut and come again’ meaning you can harvest them many times from one plant. There are many varieties of salad leaves you can grow for harvesting throughout each season, that you won’t find in your supermarket and will add a variety of colour and tastes to your salad. Just remember to provide a bit of shade for your leafy greens during late spring and summer. You can do this by planting in a shadier part of your vegetable garden, or into pots that can be moved into shade as the weather warms up, or by planting in-between taller crops such as corn or climbing beans. Most leaf vegetables taste best when grown quickly and harvested young, so you may want to sow some every few weeks for a continual harvest.

“The tiny seed knew that in order to grow, it needed to be dropped in dirt, covered in darkness, struggle to reach the light” – Sandra Kring

Some of our favourite leaf crops to grow for salad mixes: 

Mizuna (‘Red and Lime Streaks’ and ‘Mustard’), Tatsoi, Sorrel (‘French’ and ‘Red’), Leaf lettuces (‘Lollo Rosso’, ‘Speckles’, Salad bowl (‘Red’ and ‘Green’), Oakleaf (‘Red’ and ‘Green’), Rouge d’Hiver’, Coral (‘Red’ and ‘Green’), Endive, Rocket, Chervil, Baby Kale Leaves (‘Red Russian’, ‘Tuscan’, ‘Green’, ‘Blue Scotch’, ‘Red Bore’), Spinach, Baby Beetroot Leaves ‘Bull’s Blood’, Corn Salad, Baby Silverbeet Leaves ‘Ruby Red’ and Baby Cos (‘Red’ and ‘Green’).

In addition to home grown seasonal herbs, you can also vary your salads by adding some colourful, edible flowers into the mix. Edible flowers include; pansies, violas, borage, nasturtium, chives, basil, calendula petals, dianthus, citrus blossoms, fennel, hibiscus, lavender petals, mint, rosemary, cornflower, thyme, sage, sunflower, rose petals, marigold, zucchini, lemon verbena, broccoli and radish – but remember to only eat flowers from an organic source, that doesn’t contain pesticides, and harvest flowers in the cooler part of the day when they are at their best. Your salads will never be boring!

Happy gardening!

Brukale seeds are available from johnsons-seeds.com.au

Red and Black tomato seeds are available from diggers.com.au

Purple cauliflower seed are available from diggers.com.au and greenharvest.com.au

Red bore kale seeds are available from diggers.com.au and greenharvest.com.au