BEETROOT Beta vulgaris var. crassa. Sow beetroot in Autumn only in the warmest areas. For sweet, tender, non-fibrous beets, "grow them quickly and steadily". This translates to a fertile, preferably well drained, open soil, good fertility, and enough lime in the soil to keep the pH over 6. If in doubt on the lime status, throw a few handfuls around and lightly fork it in a couple of weeks before you plan to sow the seed. Beet seedlings are slow to get going, so the row needs to be kept fairly well free of fast growing weeds. Keep the rows short, and sow seed every 2 weeks or so, or you will end up with the yet to be used part of the crop becoming unusable due to size and coarseness. Sow about 30mm between seeds for baby beets, and 100mm apart (put in 2 seeds to ensure a plant at each space) for normal size beets. Cool temperatures produce the best flesh color, and dryness followed by rain will cause either 'zoning'-clear rings, or splitting of the root. These effects can be minimised by watering and mulching. Beetroot takes about 2 months from sowing to maturity. Varieties- The sweetest, best tasting varieties are 'Albinia Verecunda' (usually called 'Albina Vereduna') and 'Golden Beet'. Neither 'bleed' or stain, unlike the red beets. 'Golden' has an inherently lower germination rate, so it should be sown more thickly than most. But most beetroots are good, especially if they are pulled when still small. The variety 'Cylindra' was developed to give uniform, even sized slices for pickling. It is also a particularly dark red beet.
Brassica oleracea Cymosa group (syn. var. italica)
Calabrese type. This is the big heads of broccoli as found in the supermarkets. Buy punnets of seedlings, and make sure they are well fed and well watered after planting out. Modern hybrids are fast growing, and if they are subjected to prolonged stress of drying, they may form tiny heads prematurely, and the plants come to nothing. Some cultivars are adapted to autumn planting only, but the best known variety, 'Shogun', can be planted year round. 'Shogun' also makes useful small heads from the sideshoots that develop once the main head is cut. Not all cultivars do this. Provide a fertile soil and don't let the soil become dry. Provide plenty of lime-pH 6.5 to 7.5 is the 'ideal' range. Autumn plants largely avoid the green caterpillar infestation so prevalent in late spring and summer. This can be prevented by using light plastic netting to keep the butterflies out. The broccoli is ready to cut at about 3 months in autumn.
Broccoli Raab type -A further variation on this theme is 'broccoli raab', where loose green sprouting heads (more like loose broccoli than cauliflower) are harvested and eaten with surrounding leaves. It has a bit of a mustardy taste to it, but it is otherwise similar to Calabrese broccoli in taste. Broccoli-raab is fast maturing small plant, being ready in only about a 1½ months. It can be sown in autumn only in the warmer areas. Sow the seeds about 50mm apart, and thin the plants to about 150mm apart. It stands some light frost. As with all broccoli, fertile soils and never being water stressed is the key. The cultivar 'Hon Tsai Tai' has purple sprouting heads.
Romanesco type-this type of broccoli is also quite cauliflower looking. The head is made up of tightly packed yellowish-green conical florets arranged in an ascending spiral. In most areas. In the mild areas, sowings can be made in autumn for winter harvest. Allow around 30-45cm between plants. Culture is the same as Calabrese types.
CABBAGE Brassica oleracea var. capitata There are, for practical purposes, three main types of cabbage-drumhead, the standard supermarket cabbage; red cabbage; and the cone shaped spring cabbage. There are specific varieties for spring, summer, and winter harvest. They take from 2½ to 3 months from transplanting. For summer harvest, sow in the early part of spring; or set out plants in late spring. Set out plants in early summer for autumn harvest. Some fast maturing winter harvest types are sown or planted out in early to mid autumn. Small cultivars, such as 'leprechaun', or specialty types, such as the red cabbages, are probably the most useful for the urban garden. Cabbages tolerate heavier soils well, so long as there is enough humus and fertiliser, as they are heavy feeders. They need lime, so the pH should be above 6. Allow 30cm between plants for small varieties and 45cm for larger varieties. Spring and summer harvested cabbages will often form little 'mini' cabbages on the stump after the head is cut, so don't be in too much of a hurry to tidy up the row. Cutting a 10mm deep cross into the cut surface of the stump is supposed to help promote this phenomenon.
CARROT Daucus carota. Any reasonably good garden soil will grow carrots, but the straightest and smoothest carrots grow in a sandy or peaty loam. Sow from after the last spring frost through to early autumn. Baby carrots can be sowed a little later still. Frost kills the foliage, so they need to be mature before the first frost. Carrot seed is sown about 10mm apart and about 10mm deep. The seedlings are a bit weak, so the soil surface needs to be kept damp so it doesn't form a dry crust impenetrable to a baby carrot. Germination takes from 1 to 3 weeks. The best strategy for the urban gardener is to grow baby carrots. Varieties such as the 'finger' sized (100-150mm long) 'minicor', or the small round 'Paris market' types such as 'Thumbelina' are ideal. Paris market types need soil pushed over their shoulders to prevent greening. The best eating quality carrots after that are the 'Nantes' types. They are fairly cylindrical, about 150mm long, with blunt ends, The baby carrots and the Nantes types will grow well in a large broad pot on a deck (plant upward pointing barbecue skewers at the same time to prevent cats piddling on your carrots. This is obviously not an option if you have toddlers). For main crop carrots, there is about 3 weeks at maturity when they are in peak condition, and after that they may crack, the core gets larger, and they start losing quality. Harvest them when fully coloured.
CELERIAC Apium graveolens var. rapaceum. Botanically, this is celery. But in this variety the lowest part of the stem is swollen into a storage organ. Keep them well watered and mulched until they are ready in summer. Like celery, the plants must be grown in a fertile, moisture retentive soil, and be well watered at all times. It is important to have enough lime in the soil. Transplant from seedlings grown in a pot, or put in seed at 150mm apart and thin to 30cm frost. The seed is slow to germinate. In mild areas sowings can be made in autumn. Plant out or thin out to approx 25cm apart. Remove any side shoots as they appear, and from Late spring onward remove the lower leaves to expose the 'root' (actually a corm). Autumn sown celeriac should be ready in summer.
CELTUCE Lactuca sativa var. augustana ( syn. var. asparagina) -Asparagus lettuce, Chinese stem lettuce. This is a lettuce grown for the thick, edible, central flowering stem. It can be sown in autumn in mild areas. The swollen stem is harvested at around 30cm long. The thick outer skin peels off fairly easily, and the succulent core is eaten. Allow 50cm between plants, and grow as for lettuce.
CHERVIL Anthriscus cerefolium An annual of about 60cm/2 feet high, chervil is one of the 'fines herbes' of French cuisine. In France, it is used probably as frequently as parsley, and often in place of it.It has a subtle, delicate flavor, and therefore must be used fresh. Once dried it has almost no flavor at all.This is the best time to sow chervil, as it prefers cool weather and some shade.You need reasonable drainage for you chervil, and the seeds only need to be very lightly covered. They should, of course, be kept moist. The first pickings should be ready in spring. Summers hot dry weather gives it the signal to go to flower and seed, at which point it is useless. 'Brussels winter' is slower to bolt than standard lines, and it is more vigorous, but also more compact.
CHICORY Cichorium intybus -Radicchio, Witloof, Belgian Endive, Endives. Chicory is closely related to endive (Cichorium endivia).But, where endive is a smooth leafed annual, chicory is a (usually) hairy leafed perennial. chicory is grown in autumn only in the milder areas, and the variety must be appropriate for the season.The so-called 'sugar loaf' chicory forms a large cabbage like plant, with a head that is somewhat self blanching, and at any rate, only slightly bitter. The varieties from Chioggia, near Venice, are generally fully round headed. Chicory is not always predictable in whether or not it will head properly when grown out of the climatic zone it was developed in. If it doesn't, it should probably be cut down and blanched as for witloof chicory. Chicory takes around 3 months to maturity. Varieties- 'Palla Rossa' Special-a solid burgundy ball head, adapted to spring and late summer planting; 'Rossa de Verona', red heading variety sown late summer to autumn for autumn/winter harvesting; 'Puntarella' a 'Catalonga', or 'Italian Dandelion' type with dandelion like leaves that that can be sown and have leaves harvested all year round in milder areas; 'sugarloaf '-this variety forms an upright head a bit like a Chinese cabbage, and the tightly packed internal leaves are self blanched. Sow in early autumn for winter harvests.
CHINESE CABBAGE Brassica rapa subspecies pekinensis -Celery Cabbage, Chinese leaves(UK), Wong Bok, Pe Tsai. Botanically a turnip, Chinese Cabbage forms dense cabbage heads that may be very upright and tall or may be round or barrel shaped (wong bok type); or they may be loose, open leafed varieties with broad stalks. The leaves are thin, crisp, and with a mustardy taste. The heading varieties grow best in cooler temperatures. They are usually sown in late summer and autumn, and grow quickly without bolting at this time. Sow the seed thinly in the row, and thin the plants to 30cm apart for the tall types, and 45cms apart for the barrel shaped and round headed types. They are easy to grow if given a balanced fertiliser. They are ready in about 1½ months from planting out, or just over 2 months from sowing seed. 'Santo' is a fast growing (ready in about 2 months from sowing)loose leaf variety that can be grown at almost any time of year, 'two seasons hybrid' is the first heading chinese cabbage that can be sown in spring as well as autumn without bolting.
CHIVES Allium schoenoprasum Chives have a very very mild taste, they are easy to grow, relatively pest and disease free, take up very little space, are either universally liked or are so innocuous they are endured, and they have genuinely attractive little purple flowering heads. Plants from the nursery can be put out now, except in the very coldest areas. Keep the soil moist, make sure they get good sun, and forget them. They die down over winter, and provide plentiful tender,delicate grass like stems for snipping from spring on. Go easy on them for the first year, so that the clump can bulk up a bit. Chives clump up nicely, and you can lift and divide the clump in autumn to make more plants.
CHIVES - CHINESE Allium tuberosum (syn.A.odorum, A.schoenoprasum var. tuberosum) -Chinese Chives, Fragrant Flowered Garlic, Garlic Chives, Gow Choy. lt certainly has only the mildest of garlic taste-and none when cooked too long-, it is mild flavored and has the taste of a combination of leeks, maybe chives, and garlic. It is a hardy perennial, withstanding hard frosts. Sow it where you intend the clump or line to be, or sow it in a pot (it is slow to germinate-keep the soil moist, but not wet) and transplant it to it's permanent position. It is one of few alliums that can be grown in a pot in the kitchen. Chinese chives form bulbs (edible, similar to shallots, but small) that can be divided up and replanted.It does best, like most plants, in a fertile, moist soil, but is pretty hardy. Being a perennial, you get a season of harvest of the strap like leaves in the spring and summer until flowering in Autumn (although the flower buds are edible). In China, the plants are often blanched by excluding light. Blanched or not, they are used in quantity in dishes such as dumplings with soy based dipping sauce, or in egg foo yong. Their hardiness and mild flavor makes them extremely versatile, and it is suprising they are not more well known in the West.
CORN SALAD Valerianella locusta -Lambs Lettuce. Corn salad. Is a small, almost lawn daisy looking plant whose rosette of tender, mild, and pleasant little leaves are ready for harvest in winter. It is easy to grow, and in fact, if left to seed, soon becomes a welcome weed. In summer, the plants soon will become affected with mildew, especially in the warmer areas, so it is best sown now or in winter. It goes to flower fairly quickly in spring. Grow about 100-150mm apart, in any good soil.
CRESS Lepidium sativum -Pepper Grass.The mature plant is about 40cms high, with deeply cut leaves. However, it is far too coarse and hot if left to this stage. It is usually sown thickly in a seed tray or wide pot, and harvested with a pair of scissors about 10-14 days after sowing. It is a good deal easier to buy "spicy combo" sprouts from the supermarket.
ENDIVE Cichorium endivia -Scarole, Escarole. Endive and Chicory(which see) are both very similar, except that endive is mainly a loose leaf salad green, whereas chicory has heading varieties similar to a cabbage or iceberg lettuce. The leaves are finely cut in most varieties, and some look almost identical to dandelion leaves. There is a broad-leaved form, which is sometimes known as 'Escarole', or 'Batavian endive'. Endive-like chicory-is a rather to very bitter green, and the basal leaves of the rosette are often tied up over itself to blanch the plant and remove the bitterness. Growing them close together-around 200mm spacing- encourages self blanching. Endive is grown as for lettuce, and matures in 2-3 months from seed, depending on the cultivar. Autumn sown endive is really only possible in the milder areas. Varieties include 'Tres Fine Maraichere' -bred for small size, lacy foliage, low bitterness without blanching, and heat tolerance; 'Pink Stem"-large, pink stems, stands heat; St.Laurent-large, with a self blanching heart; 'Toujours blanche'-loose, open rosette, very pale leaves, best when young, well suited to 'cut and come again 'harvesting.
Allium sativum. [4
page garlic fact sheet]There is little more
than work than harvesting your own garlic. If you have the space and
you should try it. On free draining soils in a dry and sunny summer
production is almost assured. Where soils are damp and the weather
it can be erratic from year to year, both in quality and in quantity.
a deep, fertile, very well drained soil is needed, as there is
a risk of the cloves rotting in a cold wet soil. Provide a free
soil by amending it with sand, potting mix, well finished compost, leaf
mould, or whatever. Consider a raised bed, or large tub culture The
the leaf growth before bulbing starts, the bigger the bulb and the
will be. This translates to 'early care pays dividends later'. Add -and
incorporate well-a good dressing of a general garden fertiliser at the
time of sowing. Your soils pH must be above 6.0. Most soils will
from a liming at least a month or so before planting.
Planting in warm temperate areas can be done now through to early winter. Under warm temperate climatic conditions autumn planted garlic will remain dormant for a few weeks, then develop roots and a shoot. With the onset of the cold of winter growth is fairly slow until temperatures warm in spring.
In temperate areas, plant after the first frosts of autumn. Spring planting is possible in the higher latitudes, as the longer daylengths promote bulbing, but the shorter season means the bulbs are often smaller. Autumn garlic will produce roots, but either no, or short, top growth. If the garlic sprouts have emerged, they will survive freezes and snowfalls, but they should be mulched heavily to prevent heaving. Choose the biggest ' seed' cloves, and sow them upright, root end down from just buried to being 25mm/an inch or so under the soil surface. Once they have started growth in spring, give them regular-say fortnightly-very light side dressings of urea (or other high nitrogen fertiliser), spread 100mm/6 inches either side of the plants. Liquid manures are also beneficial. Garlic competes poorly with weeds. Keep them as close to meticulously weeded as is possible. If the weather is dry, mulch them to conserve water. If you grow garlic regularly in the same soil you will inevitably end up with a degree of disease in your soil and seed stock. This shouldn't prevent you from growing garlic, be we do need to accept that we have to put extra effort into keeping the plants in best possible condition when they start growing, and accept that is very wet years we may lose the lot. It is probably best to buy clean seed cloves every year, as they will get a good start before becoming infected. Rocombole can usually be relied on to produce something, even when your common garlic is a total loss. Keep your garlic well watered if there is a dry spell in spring, mulch to keep the soil, at least, cool and keep your plants growing strongly. Moisture stress and very high temperatures can cause bulbing problems
There are two main kinds of garlic- 'Common garlic', which is the usual white skinned supermarket type; and 'Rocambole garlic'.
Common garlic Allium sativum-Soft neck Garlic, Italian Garlic, Silverskin Garlic. This is the usual garlic, and has the strongest flavor. The bulbs outer parchment may be white, or streaked purple.There is usually a row of decent sized cloves around the outside, and irritatingly smaller, thinner cloves in the interior (altho' there are varieties with few, but quite large, cloves). Removing the skin from these cloves is not easy. The bulb is wrapped in many layers of parchment, which extend up up to form a pliable parchment 'neck' ideal for braiding. This garlic keeps well for at least 3 or 4 months. Varieties include California Early, California Late, New York White, and Printanor.
Rocambole garlic Allium satvum var.ophioscorodon -Serpent Garlic, Stiffneck garlic, Hardneck Garlic, 10 clove garlic, Top Setting Garlic, Bavarian Garlic. Similar to common garlic, but with two important differences. First, unlike common garlic, it throws up a flowering stem, called a 'scape'. Second, the bulb has relatively little outer parchment- as a result, the individual cloves are often exposed, and can be knocked off the bulb by rough handling, and can wither a bit after long storage.On the positive side, they are a dream to remove the skin from-it is trivially easy-there is only one ring of decent sized cloves arranged around the woody central flower stalk and no smalls or thins. It keeps almost as well as common garlic if stored carefully.The tall flowering scape makes a twisting loop as it unfurls it's 'flower' head (which contains tiny little bulbils). Thus it's alternative name, 'serpent garlic'. Clipping the flower stalk off early on significantly improves bulb size. Other garlics, such as 'Roja', are very similar to rocambole garlic, and are sometimes diferentiated from rocambole by being called 'hardnecked garlics'. It is more useful to refer to all flowering garlics as 'rocambole types'. Varieties include Rocambole, German extra hardy, 10 clove, Roja, Continental (a generic term for similar unamed types, rather than a single cultivar) and Porcelain.
Some garlic strains will just not bulb satisfactoriy in your area. Locally sold seed cloves may well be-but certainly not certain to be-the best variety for your climate. (Rocambole garlic is far more forgiving of the vagaries of climatic conditions than common garlic). The plants are ready to harvest when the foliage has died off. If it is very wet near harvest time, consider lifting them a bit earlier and drying them under cover. When the bulbs are dry, you can trim off the roots, scuff off the outer discolored parchment, and braid your garlic for storage. If you intend to keep your own clove seed, select the biggest and best bulb. Leave the cloves on the bulb, and at planting time select only the best cloves to use as seed cloves.
KALE Brassica oleracea var. acephala -Collards, colewort, Borecole. This non-heading brassica is very similar to the wild ancestral cabbage. There are many leaf forms, according to the variety-curled, frilled, laciniated, savoyed, or just plain. One form is known as 'collards' in the Southern States of America. Most tend to be strongly flavored, and their chief attraction is their great cold hardiness, disease resistance, wide adaptability to soil types, and nutritional value. Smaller varieties can be sown in early autumn for winter and spring harvest in mild winter areas. Pick the leaves when they are young and tender, no more than 100mm long-from the centre of the plant. Tender young side shoots are also suitable. 'Red Russian' is said to be the most tender and mild variety.
KOHLRABI Brassica oleracea Gongylodes group [syn. B.oleracea var.gonglodes). This somewhat bizzarre looking plant in the cabbage family forms a bulbous, apple sized and shaped, smooth, swollen stem just above the soil level. It is best eaten when not much larger than 50mm in diameter because it can get pithy and fibrous it gets larger than a tennis ball (with the exception of some specialist varieties such as 'gigante'). It has a pleasant nutty flavour when it is used raw, and a mild, vaguely sweet vaguely turnipy cabbagy taste when cooked. The sowing in autumn for a winter crop often does very well-all other things being equal-as kohlrabi really prefers to be out of the heat of summer. Allow about 100mm between plants, more if you are growing a large variety. Kohlrabi is relatively fast growing, maturing in about a month and a half if it is harvested small. The plants are fairly small and low growing for a brassica, and this plus their speed of maturity make them well adapted to the small space garden. They need to be grown without check for best results, so a rich and moist soil is the ideal.
KOMATSUNA Brassica rapa -Mustard Spinach. Similar in appearance to the leafy form of mustard (B.juncea), komatsuna is actually a leafy form of turnip. The tender glossy leaves have a distinctive flavour somewhere between leaf mustard and cabbage. It is very fast and easy to grow and can be grown almost year round
Allium ampelorasum Leeks take a long time to mature-about 5
from seed sowing, or about 4 months from punnets. Some newer varieties,
such as 'King Richard', are much earlier, taking only about 3½
from seed. Sow direct in early autumn in all but the coldest areas for
winter and early spring harvest. The plants need to be thinned to about
150mm apart, unless you want to grow them closer together for young and
tender mini-leeks. Or, transplant from punnets at the same spacings.
away any weak plants, as they never make a decent sized leek. Make a
hole to drop the young plants into, and use a hose to gently wash soil
into the hole. Bury them so only about 50mm is above the soil surface.
This forces the leek to produce a longer, whiter, stem. Seed sown leeks
need to have soil mounded up against the stem several times over their
growing season in order to produce the same effect.Leeks can withstand
hard frosts, but they will be a waste of space if they are made to
dry conditions without water. Very fertile loamy soils produce the
leeks. Gutless, sandy soils produce the smallest leeks.
Leek growing in Australia JJJ A good basic fact sheet covering all aspects of leek growing in broad detail.
LETTUCE Lactuca sativa. Lettuce is basically a cool weather crop, doing best in spring like temperatures (16-18ºC) . Indeed, a properly hardened off transplant will survive -5ºC frosts. Lettuce planted in milder areas do well at this time of year, but the coldest areas will have to beware of heavy frost. Lettuce seeds germinate best at relatively low soil temperatures between 15'C and 20'C, but will germinate in soil temperatures as low as 5ºC. Cover the seeds lightly, firm the soil surface, and kept the soil moist. Stress from lack of nutrients are the most common causes of bitterness at this time. Grow them in a moist, well drained, fertile soil. If you have sown seed direct in the garden, thin the seedlings to about 25cm apart.Lettuce at this time of year are usable about 2 months from sowing the seed. Transplanted from a punnet they are ready in about 1 month and 3 weeks.
LOVAGE Levisticum officinalis -Maggi Herb. Lovage has a strong, slightly yeasty flavor that seems to go well with all sorts of stewed, casseroled, souped or sauced dishes. In other words, a very useful culinary herb. Lovage is a perennial, and dies back in winter. It can stand heavy soil, and it quite undemanding beyond water. It flowers every summer, so the quite thick, dark green glossy leaves are best in spring. The leaves can be dried, but they take a while. This is quite a tall herb, reaching about 1.5M/5 feet. Plants are best put in in the spring, but seed can be sown now. The seed has to be very fresh, or it will not germinate.In addition, they need a period of cool before they will sprout.
MESCLUN-A blend of various fast growing seeds that are sown in a fertile patch of garden and harvested as immature young and succulent leaves around 4 to 6 weeks after sowing.Almost any green can be used- chicory, endive, mizuna ,tatsoi, corn salad, silverbeet, lettuce, kale, cress, Spinach, Chervil, etc. The accent is on fast growth in a fairly crowded bed, so the soil need to be fertile, free draining, and kept moist. The advantage is that if life gets busy and the plants aren't harvested young, they will still be harvestable at a more mature stage, it's just that some types won't be so tender, or have more pepper or bitterness in them. Spring and summer are the best times to sow, but by selecting the species, autumn and winter (except in very cold areas) are also suitable.
MIBUNA Brassica rapa x B.? -Mibuna Greens, Mibu Greens. From the Mibu region of Kyoto, Japan.Vigorous clump forming Japanese green with narrow, smooth leaves, related to Mizuna, but with a stronger flavour. It can be harvested at the seedling, semi mature or mature stage, leaf picked at any time. Allow about 20cm between plants, some can be left to mature, ultimately needing 50cm between plants. Sow in early autumn for winter picking.
MITSUBA Cryptotaenia japonica -Japanese Parsley. Aromatic culinary herb enhances salads, soups, oriental cooking. Easy to grow, and prefers moist, partly shaded locations-a great advantage for the small space gardener. As it is a perennial, it doesn't need to be resown every second year, unlike parsley. However, it has relatively sparse foliage in comparison.
MINERS LETTUCE Montia perfoliata -Winter Purslane, Claytonia. Small hardy annual, well adapted to cold areas, whose leaves can be eaten raw or steamed, until the plant starts to flower in late spring. They only need 10-15cm between plants, but they are extremely easy to grow from a scattering of seed.
MISOME Brassica campestris narinosa. Yet another hybrid Oriental green for steaming or stir frying. Vigorous, with savoyed deep green leaves. Very fast maturing (30 days.)
MIZUNA Brassica rapa ssp. nipposinica var.laciniata -Japanese Greens, Chinese Lettuce. A rewardingly vigorous, fairly compact plant (25cm between plants) with numerous stalks of dissected, feathery leaves. It isn't in the least bit pungent when it is young, when it can be used in salads and only very mildly mustardy when it is mature, when it can be eaten as a steamed green. The leaves don't get tough even if the plant stands for a long time in the garden. The plant can be partly harvested of its leaves over a fairly long time (starting about 3 weeks from sowing). It is cold resistant, being able to withstand several degrees of frost, and therefore a useful winter green. Sow now for winter harvest! It is also excellent for container gardening-compact, cut and come again, vigorous, pickable from around three weeks. Tokyo Belle Fl broad shiny leaves, crisp, somewhat midway lettuce/mustard flavor.
MUSTARD SALAD-WHITE Brassica alba. This is grown as a 'scissor crop'-young seedlings are snipped off at ground level about 8 days after sowing for use in salads and sandwiches. Sow the seed thickly in a pot or in a tray and keep the potting mix moist. The easy, year round crop. Mind you, it's easier to buy sprouts from the supermarket-but they're not as green.
MUSTARD GREENS Brassica juncea. Grown in Europe for mustard seeds for making mustard, but developed in the East as a green leafy, sometimes heading, vegetable. Hot and peppery to mildy hot, young plants and leaves can be used in salads, older leaves are steamed or stir fried. Mustard greens can become very hot if they are not picked soon enough-no doubt helping to explain why so few Europeans grow it. There are many varieties and forms-includes semi heading types, savoyed leafed types, thickened and elongated stem types, varieties with lobed or finely cut leaves, and even tuberous rooted types. Mustards need warm fertile soils, and ample moisture when they are young. They can stand cool conditions when they are mature, but cool weather and cold soils at the seedling stage will cause them to bolt. Swatow mustard, Gai Choi-leafy, semi heading plant, green, purple, or red leafed. Early autumn sowings give winter harvest. Horned -semi-heading, bright green indented and frilled leaves with a tubercular horn in the leaf midrib! Sow in early autumn for winter maturity. Young plants for salad can be grown virtually year round. Chinese green, Chinese Red, Chinese Purple -Large savoyed leaf winter hardy, slow bolting types. In cooler areas they are best sown now or in late summer (rather than spring) to be sure not to bolt. Southern Giant Curled , Mustard Greens, lettuce mustard- bright green frilled leaves, mild becoming hot to very hot with maturity. It can be direct sown now as long as soils remain fairly warm. SavannahF1-has broad shiny leaves, mild flavor, it matures very quickly (25 days from sowing in warm conditions). An early autumn sowing gives a winter harvest
ONION Allium cepa. The most desirable onions from the suburban gardeners point of view, are the red salad onions, which are sweet and desirable for summer salads. Unfortunately, they don't store well, so have to be sown in early autumn for late spring/summer harvest. Overwintering the plants is not a practical proposition for the coldest areas, for which areas spring is the correct season. Most of the world's onions are grown in a particular latitude, and these varieties are not well adapted to countries outside those latitudes (such as New Zealand) and therefore bulb poorly or go to seed. Hard, storage onions can be sown either now, or in spring. Spring sowing, however, means you don't have to weed or think about them over winter... Onions don't need much other than a general fertiliser. Too much nitrogenous fertiliser causes excessive top growth at the expense of bulbing. Thin the seedlings to about 75mm apart, about 100mm for the sweet types. Harvest the bulbs when the tops fall over, and dry them off in the sun or a shed for at least a week before removing the tops.
ONION, SPRING Allium fistulosum (perennial) Bunching Onions(USA), Scallions (a name also used for shallots), Welsh Onion. One of the most easily grown and valuable plants for the Urban hominid! A.fistulosum ('Welsh' onion) can be divided in autumn, producing winter side shoots.White stem types--A.fistulosum.'White Welsh', 'White Bunching' 'Supreme Long White','Straight Leaf'-little or no swelling of the base into bulbs A.cepa 'White Lisbon' cold resistant, some bulbing. Red stem types A.fistulosum 'Matador Red', 'Red Bunching', 'Red Streak'.Slightly later maturing (2 months, 1½ weeks vs 2 months for most others) with reddish stems.
CHOI Brassica rapa subspecies chinensis var. chinensis
-Bok Choi. Like the thin and crisp leafed B.rapa subsp. pekinensis,
(Chinese 'cabbage'), this subspecies of Brassica rapa is also
a turnip. Unlike Chinese cabbage, it has thick, glossy leaves and does
not form a true head. Pak Choi is a small, fast growing rosette shaped,
often upright (similar to celery) crisp stemmed annual, with cup shaped
tender leaves. Pak Choi is very easy to grow. Pak Choi can still be
in autumn in the milder areas, but not in the coooler areas.Sow where
are to grow, or from transplants. Usually used in stir frys, some of
new hybrids such as 'mei quing' have a mild flavor more suited to the
palate, and are good as a steamed vegetable. 'Mei Quing' F1-very small,
very light green, early, compact, mild; 'Joi'F1-white stem, very dark
leaves, upright,-looks like a very dumpy silverbeet-, mild, excellent
resistance, 'Taisai' white stem, upright.
Tat Soi Brassica rapa subspecies chinensis (syn. subspecies narinosa) var. rosularis/atrovirens-Rosette Pak Choi Tat soi, as one of it's alternative names suggests, forms a fairly prostrate, thick, rosette of dark green spoon shaped leaves. It is particularly valued because mature plants can withstand frost and snow. Sow until mid autumn in mild areas.
Pak Choi Sum- Brassica rapa subspecies chinensis var. parachinensis -Choy sum. Grown for the young flowering shoots, which are harvested with 3 or 4 leaves just as the yellow flowers are beginning to open. Expect the first pick around 2 months from sowing. 'Autumn Poem'F1-sow until mid autumn; 'Tsai Shim'-standard cultivar, sow until mid autumn (milder areas).
Pisum sativum. Supermarket frozen peas-especially frozen
peas-are so nice there is little point in growing your own. If you want
to grow peas, the dwarf self supporting variety 'Novella' would have to
be the choice. No stakes are needed when they are grown in a broad row,
and they flower and pod up right at the top, for easy picking, and they
are easy to shell. Peas need adequate lime in the soil, and plenty of
phosphate and potash. Peas like cool weather, so autumn is their other
PEA, SNAP Pisum sativum -Mangetout. These peas have a thick, edible pod, so there is no shelling, you eat the pod, pea, and all. With snow peas, the pea of choice for the suburban gardener. They are rarely available in the supermarket. They are called 'snap' because they are crisp and 'snap' when broken in half. 'Sugar Ann/Dwarf Sugarsnap/Whippersnapper'- a dwarf snap pea maturing in about 2 months from sowing. 'Sugarsnap'- climbing vining pea, and therefore neeeding support, this variety bears heavily, over a long period, and is particularly sweet.
PEA, SNOW Pisum sativum -Mangetout. Same as snap peas, but at the edible stage the pea isn't developed inside the pod. The pods are consequently flat. 'Chinese' by far the best snow pea variety currently available. Unlike others, it is genuinely sweet.A climbing type, so it will need support. 'Oregon Giant/Snow Flake'-It is productive, and somewhat resistant to disease. A 'tall dwarf' at 70cm, and can be grown without support, but is better with it in our windy climate
Snow peas and sugar snap peas in Australia JJJJ An excellent fact sheet on all aspects of growing these two peas, from varieties to soil. Oriented to commercial production, but the home gardener can easily cull out the commercial aspect.
Snow pea photo JJJ A very good photo and notes on preparing and eating snow peas at a major vegetable exporters site.
SHALLOTS Allium cepa (aggregata group), 'true shallots' and A. fistulosum
The New South Wales Department of Agriculture has put out an excellent easy to read fact sheet on this crop which is both concise and comprehensive. Recommended.
Shallots and Chives JJJJ A comprensive fact sheet from the New South Wales Department of Agriculture covering true shallots and Japanese/Welsh bunching onions, as well as some brief information on chives. All aspects of culture, from soil to pests, is covered.
SILVERBEET Beta vulgaris -Swiss Chard, Rhubarb Chard, Rainbow Chard, Seakale Beet. Sow or transplant in Spring, early Summer, or Autumn. They will grow in almost any soil, and as long as they don't dry out and are well fed they will produce prodigious volumes of leaves. The plants will usually last virtually a whole year before they start to go to seed. Some varieties will 'bolt' to flower prematurely if the newly transplanted seedlings are exposed to spring frosts. So easy to grow, it should be a criminal offense for a family not to have a plant in the garden at all times. There are red stemmed varieties ('Rhubarb Chard'), and varieties with red stems and purplish leaves. And now a New Zealand plant breeder has developed a strain of silverbeet ('Bright Lights') which produces plants with midribs of many varied colors and shades, from yellow to crimson, including pastel shades and stripes. Food never looked so good! About 2 months from seed to first harvest.