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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A quick guide to shade tolerant vegetables.

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The perceived wisdom about growing veg is that it needs full sun for at least six hours a day. However, you needn’t despair if you have a fairly shaded garden, there is some veg that will grow with fewer hours of sun.

As a general rule, veg that you grow for it’s fruits, for example, tomatoes, cucumber, capsicum, eggplant etc. will need their full six hours of sun to be really productive. However, plants that you grow for it’s leaves, lettuce and spinach, and roots, carrots and beetroot, will grow on as little as four hours a day. Also peas and beans are fairly shade tolerant and will produce well with fewer sunny hours than other veg.

Here’s a quick rundown for you.

Leafy veg such as lettuce and spinach.

Leafy veg such as lettuce and spinach.

Leafy veg, such as lettuce and spinach need only three to four hours of sun a day. The same applies to other leafy veg such as Asian greens and Kale.

Many herbs will grow in partially shaded conditions.

Many herbs will grow in partially shaded conditions.

There are many herbs that will grow in less than perfect conditions. If you can’t spare a spot in full sun all day, you should grow mint, parsley, oregano and chives.

carrots don't mind reduced sun hours.

carrots don’t mind reduced sun hours.

Root vegetables such as carrots, beetroot and radishes will cope with four to five hours of sun a day, although they will take longer to mature than the same plants grown in six or more hours of sun a day.

peas and beans will grow in partial shade.

peas and beans will grow in partial shade.

Another great crop that will get by on four hours of sun a day are peas and beans, although, as in the case of root veg, they will be slower growing than the same crop grown in six hours of full sun a day.

So, you can see from our short guide that it’s absolutely possible to grow a great variety of different vegetables and herbs even if your garden has less than ideal conditions in the sunny hours department. Start sowing that lettuce now!

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?

Growing veg in bales

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Ever wanted to give a bale garden a go? Don’t know where to start? It’s easy, we’ll show you how.

Select the bales, uses as few or as many as you like.

Select the bales, uses as few or as many as you like.

The first step is to purchase the bales you’ll be using, straw is best as there are fewer weed seeds in it, it is possible to use hay, just be prepared to pull out the grass as it grows. You can use as many bales as you wish, use just one if you don’t have the space for more.

Condition your bales to get them ready for planting.

Condition your bales to get them ready for planting.

Once you have arranged your bales on a firm bit of ground, they need to be ‘conditioned’ ready for planting. In order for your veg to grow, the bales need to begin breaking down so that the nutrients in them are available for the plants to take up. Conditioning your bales can be a lengthy process of watering your bales, adding manure and waiting until they start to break down, however, we have a super fast, Franger Farm, cheaty method that works just as well.

Thoroughly soak the bales, then add a good amount of chicken manure to the top of the bales and water in well. Next, add at least an inch thick layer of potting compost to the top of the bales and water again. You are now ready to plant your seeds.

Seeds germinating on the bales.

Seeds germinating on the bales.

Using the potting compost means that the seeds have something to get started in while the chicken manure aids the breakdown of the bales as the plants mature. It’s essential that you don’t let your bales dry out, they need to be kept wet so that the breakdown continues inside. After a few weeks, the bales will begin to feel soft and you will be able to push your hand into them easily.

A few weeks later.

A few weeks later.

All you need to do from now on is keep your bales well watered and they will provide you with a wonderful harvest of veg.

Fantastic harvest from our bale garden.

Fantastic harvest from our bale garden.

We have been able to get a second harvest from our bales, although here in Australia, we have very mild winters and a long growing season, if your bales are covered in several feet of snow over the winter, you probably won’t be able to use them again.
Once you have finished planting in your bales, you can use them as mulch on your garden or add them to your compost.
You can get so much out of a few bales of straw, why not experiment with this instant garden bed in your backyard.

Take a photo tour of Franger Farm : how we’re homesteading on our suburban acre.

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For the last five years, we’ve been slowly turning our suburban backyard into a miniature farm on a journey towards a more self sufficient life. here’s a quick photo tour to show you exactly what can be done in suburbia if you’re striving for a sustainable lifestyle.

Seasonal vegetables

Seasonal vegetables

Growing fruit and veg.

Spring harvest

Spring harvest

We grow most of the vegetables we eat and quite a bit of fruit, especially in the summer months. We have numerous veggie beds around the backyard, one is completely given over to the production of potatoes, the others rotate with seasonal veg.

One of the large backyard veggie beds.

One of the large backyard veggie beds.

 

Some of the first fruit trees we planted are now giving us nice crops of fruit, we’ve added more trees most years, some of these have yet to start bearing fruit, trees are a long term project.

 

We grow some soft fruits, we have a thriving strawberry patch, which we have finally found a way of keeping the weeds and the birds out, we also grow blueberries and raspberries.

Blueberries.

Blueberries.

The strawberry patch.

The strawberry patch.

We plant some purchased seedlings, but most of the veg we grow is started from seed in our greenhouse.

The greenhouse.

The greenhouse.

Keeping chickens.

Franger Farm chooks.

Franger Farm chooks.

The chickens are essential to our backyard farming project. As well as giving us a supply of fresh eggs, they eat our kitchen scraps, weeds and give us chook manure which we use to fertilize our veggie beds and fruit trees. The straw bedding from the chicken coops also goes back on the garden bed as mulch. our chooks produce enough eggs for us to sell extras to our friends, which covers the cost of their feed.

Reggie the rooster.

Reggie the rooster.

we have a rooster ‘Reggie’, so our eggs are fertile, and we’ve begun raising our own chicks. We also have a broody hen sitting on some eggs at the moment, we’re keeping our fingers crossed that she manages to hatch something soon.

Our latest batch of 'chooklets'

Our latest batch of ‘chooklets’

 

Rabbits.

 

Although our rabbits ‘Mushroom and Garlic’ are pets, they work hard for us. They are devourers of vegetable scraps and producers of much poo, which can be added to our growing beds without needing to be composted or aged in any way.

Mushroom and Garlic.

Mushroom and Garlic.

Worms.
We have two worm farms that we use to process our kitchen scraps. In return, they give us worm castings and worm wee, both of which can be used as fertilizer on our vegetables.

 

Our worm farms

Our worm farms

Pest control.

 

Snickers, farm cat.

Snickers, farm cat.

Let’s not forget another hardworking member of our team ‘Snickers’ the cat. He found a home with us after the family that owned him felt unable to cope with his hunting habit. Let’s just say that he a perfect fit for us and will kill any pesky critter that has the nerve to venture near our veg or our chook runs!

 

The  Micro Farmer.
The Micro Farmer gets involved in all the chores on Franger Farm, from collecting eggs and feeding chickens, looking after the chicks and rabbits to planting in the greenhouse and weeding the veggie beds. He loves to be outside, which is were he spends most of his time when he’s not at school.

The micro farmer, hard at work.

The micro farmer, hard at work.

Anyone can have a micro farm in their backyard, it’s just a matter of scaling it to fit. You can make use of the paved areas around your house by adding raised beds. Try hanging baskets filled with lettuce or tomatoes under the eaves, grow a passion fruit or grape vine on the pergola. The possibilities are endless, your imagination is the only limit!

Herb beds at the back of the house.

Herb beds at the back of the house.

Become a worm farmer!

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A worm farm is an easy way to process your kitchen scraps and to reduce the amount you’re throwing into your rubbish bin every day. You’ll also benefit from the great fertilizer the worms produce for you as a little bonus gift.

Our worm farms

Our worm farms

becoming a worm farmer couldn’t be simpler, especially if you choose to buy a ready made farm as we have. There are also plenty of plans to build you own out there on line, if you fancy giving it a go.

The worm farm should be placed somewhere out of direct sunlight and rain, as worms can be killed by high temperatures and you don’t want to get too much water into the farm.

Once you’ve installed your worms in your farm, you should begin by feeing them a small amount every few days. Don’t be tempted to feed them too much too soon or the food scraps will sit for too long in the worm farm and begin to smell and attract flies. once the worms start to breed and increase in numbers, you can increase the amount you’re feeding them.

Today's delicious offerings, spinach and lettuce.

Today’s delicious offerings, spinach and lettuce.

There are a few rules about what you can feed your worms. It’s ok to feed them scraps of fruit and veg, newspaper and cardboard, crushed eggshells and teabags and coffee grounds. worms don’t like to eat citrus or onions, chilli or garlic. you should never put meat or bones into your worm farm. It helps the worms digest the food more quickly if you cut it up first.

The micro farmer feeds the worms,

The micro farmer feeds the worms,

You’ll get two types of fertilizer from your worm farm, the first is the liquid, or worm wee that collects in the bottom level of the farm, it can be drained out via the tap and should be diluted until it’s the colour of tea before being used on your plants, it’s great for leafy greens.

Worm wee!

Worm wee!


The second fertilizer is the worm poo, or castings, this is solid and can be taken from the farm every few months. The castings can be added direct to the soil or to pots or can be added to water to make a liquid fertilizer.
Yes, it's the poo!

Yes, it’s the poo!

This is such a great way to reduce your household waste and produce fertilizer for you garden, everyone should give it a go.