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!

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.

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!

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?

How to grow : Onions

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At Franger Farm, we firmly believe that almost every dish tastes better with an onion or two in it. We have a number of things that we just can’t grow enough of, and onions are well and truly on the list. Home grown onions are so full of flavour when compared to shop bought ones and can be grown in available spaces in sunny borders around the garden.

Onions need to grow in full sun in well drained soil.

Onions need to grow in full sun in well drained soil.

Onions are a cold weather crop, they can be grown in three different ways, from ‘sets’ (bulbs available from garden centres) from seed or from seedlings. We grow our onions from seed and occasionally, seedlings. Sow your seed about 2.5 to 5 cm (1 to 2 inches) apart, the same for seedlings, if you’re using sets, space them 10 to 15 cm (4 to 6 inches) apart. Ensure that your soil is weed free as onions are slow growing and can be quickly overwhelmed by fast growing weeds. Don’t bury your sets or seedlings too deeply or their growth will be restricted. Don’t bury your onions as they grow, the bulbs should sit proud of the soil.

The tops of your onions will fall over as the onions mature.

The tops of your onions will fall over as the onions mature.

The tops of the onions will begin to die back and fall over as they mature. Once the bulbs have swelled nicely and the tops have died back, you can harvest your onions.

Dry your onions on a wire rack or shelf.

Dry your onions on a wire rack or shelf.

If you want to store your onions for use throughout the year, they need to be dried first. Spread them out on a wire rack or shelf so they have good airflow around each bulb. The onions are ready to store once the skins have become dry and papery. The onions will need to be stored in a cool dry area to prolong their storage life.
I hope we’ve inspired you to give growing your own onions a go, but be careful, you may end up like us, chasing the holy grail of growing enough onions for your family for the entire year!

How to grow : Garlic.

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Garlic is an essential ingredient in so many of the meals we cook here on Franger Farm. Every year, we try to plant enough to see us through to the following year, and if I’m honest, we don’t always get it right. The good news is that it’s really simple to grow and we’ll tell you how.

Separate your cloves for planting.

Separate your cloves for planting.

Garlic takes quite a few months to grow, it’s planted in the Autumn/Fall and harvested in late spring or early summer. You can grow an entirely new bulb of garlic from a single clove, simply separate your cloves to get them ready for planting.

plant pointed end up.

plant pointed end up.

Garlic likes a sunny position in well drained soil, you should plant the cloves pointed end up about 15cm/3ins apart. It doesn’t like competition from weeds, so make sure that you keep the area around your garlic nice and weed free.

The garlic will send up shoots quickly.

The garlic will send up shoots quickly.

It won’t take long for your planted cloves to send up shoots and the bulb development to begin.
It’s time to harvest in the late spring or early summer when the foliage has died back. It’s fairly easy to loosen the bulbs with a small hand fork to harvest them, simply brush of the dirt, allow to dry a little and store until needed.

Brush of the dirt and allow to dry before storing.

Brush of the dirt and allow to dry before storing.

It doesn’t take a lot a room to grow quite a large crop of garlic and the flavour is far superior to shop bought garlic. Find yourself a nice little sunny spot and get growing.