Vegetable planting guide : March.

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I’m asked regularly “What are you planting now?” or “What should I plant at this time of year?” So, I’ve decided that a monthly planting guide is the way to go. Obviously, climates vary across the globe during each month of the year, but I will try to cater for most of you whether you’re in the southern Hemisphere like us, or still snow covered in the Northern Hemisphere, let’s hope you start to thaw out soon!

We’ll divide the guide first by Hemisphere (northern or southern) and then by climate (cold, temperate and sub-tropical – tropical). In this way, most planting zones should be covered.

Southern Hemisphere : March

Broad beans and broccoli.

Broad beans and broccoli.

Those in cold climate regions of the southern hemisphere can start to think about brassicas. March is the time to plant broccoli, cabbage, cauliflower, Brussels sprouts, Asian greens, broad beans, carrots, spinach, kale, leek, lettuce, silverbeet, spring onion, radish, swede and turnip.

In southern hemisphere temperate areas, you can plant all of the above with the exception of spinach (still too warm) and the addition of beetroot, onions, parsnips and peas.

cucumber can be sown in sub tropical/tropical climates in March.
cucumber can be sown in sub tropical/tropical climates in March.

 

Those in the sub tropics and tropics can begin sowing beans, Broccoli, cabbage, chilli and capsicum, carrots, cauliflower, cucumber, eggplant, Kale, leek and lettuce, potatoes and sweet potatoes, silverbeet, spring onions, sweetcorn, yam and tomatoes.

Northern Hemisphere : March.

Rhubarb can be planted in a cold climate in March.

Rhubarb can be planted in a cold climate in March.

Northern Hemisphere cold climate folk can begin to dream of summer this month. In March you can plant Beetroot, cabbage, carrots, Asian greens, Lettuce, peas, potatoes, radish, silverbeet, squash, swede, turnip, tomatoes and rhubarb.
Those in a temperate climate can plant all of the above with the addition of Beans (dwarf and climbing), capsicum, cucumber, leek, spring onions, pumpkin, sweetcorn, sweet potato and tomatoes.

Sweetcorn can be planted in the sub tropics/tropics.

Sweetcorn can be planted in the sub tropics/tropics.

The lucky people in the sub tropics to tropics can really get planting in March, here’s what needs to go in. Beans (dwarf and climbing), beetroot, broccoli, cabbage, Asian greens, cucumber, carrots, capsicum, lettuce, eggplant, melon, spring onions, potatoes, squash and pumpkin, radish, sweetcorn, sweet potato and tomatoes.

It’s very difficult to cover every climactic region worldwide for a specific month, but hopefully, this guide will at least point you in the right direction and get you organising your plantings for the month ahead.
Happy gardening!

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Transform a weedy eyesore into a veg garden in a weekend.

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We all have areas of our garden that could do with a bit of a tidy up, we had one that seemed to be permanently covered in weeds and it made for a depressing view from our bedroom windows in the morning. Something had to be done, so we came up with this plan to turn it into an attractive and productive little garden area. It was fairly inexpensive and very quick to do, especially if you can rope in a few children to help out!

A desolate, weed prone area.

A desolate, weed prone area.

We began by purchasing some ready made raised vegie beds, but if you’re unable to buy these, you can make your own out of any suitable materials you have to hand, old apple crates also make great raised vegie beds. We moved them around until we were happy with what their final positions would be.

Level the area if needed.

Level the area if needed.

Next, we levelled the area with some sand so that our raised beds would sit nice and flat.

Rolling our the anti weed mat.

Rolling out the anti weed mat.

We rolled out anti weed matting across the entire area to hopefully cut down on the return of the dreaded weeds later on.

The raised beds on top of the weed mat.

The raised beds on top of the weed mat.

The raised beds were then placed in their final positions on top of the weed mat.

Time to shovel dirt!

Time to shovel dirt!

Next, we filled our raised beds with some soil suitable for growing veggies.

Raised beds ready to be planted up.

Raised beds ready to be planted up.

We planted our raised beds up with a variety of different veg, including cucumbers, tomatoes, lettuce, radishes and eggplant.

The transformation is complete.

The transformation is complete.

Finally, we covered the weed mat in a thick layer of gravel to complete the transformation.

So now we another productive area in our garden and we’ve banished the ugly view fro our bedroom too.
If you can think of an area in your garden that could do with some TLC, why not try this simple idea.

How to grow : Asparagus.

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Asparagus is a real luxury veg and pretty expensive to buy in the shops. It’s easy enough to grow your own though, all you need is an area that you’re not planning to use for the next 25 years and some patience.

Asparagus is easy to grow from year old crowns.

Asparagus is easy to grow from year old crowns.

Asparagus is a perennial, so it needs to be planted somewhere that it can grow undisturbed year after year. It can be grown from seed or from year old crowns. Both are straightforward but, as the name suggests, year old crowns will give you a harvest sooner than growing from seed. Because Asparagus plants are so long lived, the soil needs to be prepared with plenty of compost and well rotted manure before planting. The crowns should be planted in winter while they are dormant in a trench big enough to accommodate the spread out roots, cover with compost. The crowns should be planted about 40 cm (15 ins) apart.
The crowns will send up ferny shoots in the spring.

The crowns will send up ferny shoots in the spring.

In the spring, the crowns will send up ferny shoots and this is where the patience comes in, it will take another couple of years before anything can be harvested from your Asparagus bed. The fronds need to be allowed to grow so that the crowns can produce some good, strong roots.
These plants are a few years old and are producing asparagus for harvest.

These plants are a few years old and are producing asparagus for harvest.

Once the strong frond growth has yellowed in the autumn, it can be cut back to ground level. The crowns will then remain dormant over the winter until finally sending up edible shoots in the spring.
Edible shoots will emerge in the spring.

Edible shoots will emerge in the spring.

The wonderful home grown asparagus shoots will increase in number every year, the bed needs to be kept weed free and fertilized in spring and autumn. If you follow these simple instructions, you’ll have sweet, tender Asparagus in your backyard in a few years time, and remember, patience is a virtue!

Growing food on paved areas.

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If you’re not ready to sacrifice your lawn for a veggie patch or you’ve simple run out of space, don’t despair, you may be overlooking some areas that can quickly be converted into food growing oases. Here’s a guide to how we use the paved areas around our home for growing food, it may give you a few ideas.

You can grow most veg in a raised bed.

You can grow most veg in a raised bed.

Our house can loosely be described as ‘ranch style’ and it is paved or gravelled all the way around. At the back of the house we have seven raised beds growing herbs and vegetables. Adding ready made raised beds is a really quick way to turn a paved area into a growing bed.

Adding some more raised beds at the back of the house.

Adding some more raised beds at the back of the house.

When we added our latest beds, the area had been covered with weedy gravel, we took it back to dirt, then weed matted the entire area before placing the beds on top, our next job is to add some new gravel around the beds. As soon as the beds are filled with soil, they are ready for planting and they can be placed direct on to concrete or pavers. So you see how quick it is to convert a paved area without any major alteration and not a huge expense either.

Large pots are handy.

Large pots are handy.

A few large pots can also be turned into an instant herb or vegetable garden, we have quite a few dotted round the place, they are great for use on balconies as well.

Make a frame for nets to keep pests out.

Make a frame for nets to keep pests out.

At the front of the house we have a large bed that is deeper than the others, this gives us more options when it comes to planting time. We’ve also added frames to some of our raised beds so that they can be netted to keep the pests out. It’s not essential to buy ready made raised beds, the same can be achieved with four pieces of wood joined together to form a bed, or with any large container such as an old apple crate.

Tomato plants in a raised bed.

Tomato plants in a raised bed.

As these beds are so close to the house, we like to use them to grow the things we use the most, like herbs and salad items, it’s so quick and easy to make a salad if you only have to step a few feet out of the door of your house to grab the things you need, and we never have to trek to the supermarket to pick up fresh herbs.
So take another look at the areas around your home, maybe you have got space to grow some food after all?

Why every suburban backyard should have chickens

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We started small, with one little veg patch and a few tomato, lettuce and sweetcorn plants grown from seedlings. That spring was very wet and the summer not especially warm. Our harvest was rubbish, but we were excited, it planted a seed of thought, maybe we could grow more of this stuff, maybe we could feed ourselves from our backyard? We threw ourselves into building a huge veggie patch ( this will be big enough to feed us, surely? erm…no.) and we grew more and more, but it didn’t feel as though we were really producing until we got ourselves some chickens. It’s the neatly packaged protein that they produce every day that makes them so amazing, the fact that you can do so much more with your veg when you have a few eggs, the wonderful sound they make in your garden and how happy they are to see you when you’re holding the food bowl. There are so many reasons to keep chickens in suburbia, here are just a few.

You don't have to spend a lot buying your chickens.

You don’t have to spend a lot buying your chickens.

They’re not very expensive to buy and house. Our first chickens were purchased from a battery farm, they weren’t ex-battery hens, rather, point of lay, that were just about to be shoved into the horrifying cage egg system. They were not very expensive but you can save even more money buy purchasing the ex-caged birds. These birds are not very old, around 18 months and are still laying well, just not productively enough for the caged egg industry. They will be very pale when you bring them home as they have spent their entire lives inside, they usually have a lot of missing feathers and they are usually scared of the big outdoors. Within weeks though, they will be looking and behaving just like chickens that have always lived outdoors.

Their housing need not be elaborate or expensive.

Their housing need not be elaborate or expensive.

You don’t need to spend a lot on housing your chickens, we started with something similar to this and now have an array of different types of housing, we even have plans to convert our kid’s cubby house when it’s no longer in use! The most important thing is that it should be lockable at night and predator proof.

Chickens do best on a varied diet of commercial layer pellets, grain, greens and leftovers from the kitchen.

Chickens do best on a varied diet of commercial layer pellets, grain, greens and leftovers from the kitchen.

You can build a run area around your coop to give your girls plenty of room to scratch and dust bath, we’ve learnt the hard way that it’s a good idea to net the top, no matter how high your fence is!
your chickens will help you reduce your waste, they love nothing better than polishing off the kitchen scraps, ours are especially partial to stale bread, pasta, lasagne and bolognaise.
Now may be a good time to talk about poo! If you’re growing your own veg, there’s nothing better for your veggie beds than having a home produced supply of chicken manure. You can add it to your compost, leave it in a pile to rot down or make manure tea with it by adding it to water and using it as a liquid fertiliser. Just don’t use it direct when it’s fresh as it’s too high in ammonia and will burn your plants.

Eggs! The best reason to keep chickens.

Eggs! The best reason to keep chickens.

Let’s not forget the biggest and best reason to keep chickens in your backyard, those wonderful eggs. The eggs that your chickens will produce on their varied diet will be better than any eggs you’ve eaten before, if this doesn’t sell you on the benefits of keeping chickens in your backyard, I’m afraid nothing will.

Reggie the rooster.

Reggie the rooster.

And a quick word on roosters. There’s no need to keep one. Forget everything you’ve heard about needing a rooster to keep the chickens in line or sort out the pecking order, the girls will manage just fine on their own and a rooster would be unwelcome in most suburban areas. We keep a rooster because we have begun to raise our own chickens and because we have wonderful and tolerant neighbours who put up with our “foibles”. So don’t let the idea that keeping chickens may be too noisy put you off.
I could go on and on listing the various reasons that suburbia needs chickens, we’ve covered the main ones, now it’s up to you to get a few chooks and see what keeping them means to you.