As each new season arrives, I take some time to plan what I will grow for Spring/Summer. I’ve rested most of the beds, planted green manure crops and topped up the beds with sheep and chicken manure and compost. An extra step I didn’t take last year was to check the PH levels. Having just planted out the blueberries into two of the newer raised beds (they’ve spent the last few years in pots) I was shocked to find the soil in those beds alkaline, when blueberries really (really) need acidic soil to thrive. I’ve taken the first steps of adding sulphur to the soil to lower PH along with chatting to my local cafe to collect their coffee grounds to add to the soil to help get it under control and give the berries a good feed. I’ll retest in a month’s time and hopefully see some improvement. Given the importance of correct PH to ensure correct nutrient uptake by your plants – please take the time to check your soil – the kits aren’t expensive and they are well worth it!
What’s already in the garden
Before I go into what I’m planning to grow, here’s a quick update of what I have in my patch already (not including the fruit trees – oh, and not including the chooks!): Blueberries, strawberries, raspberries, rhubarb, asparagus, artichoke, fennel, garlic, kale, herbs (mint, thyme, parsley, coriander, oregano, rosemary), and self seeded carrots, silverbeet and celery.
What I’m growing planning to grow
Looking at last year’s list, this one is similar – I like to keep it simple! We like to eat seasonally, so I’m planting what we’re looking forward to eating (important!) which includes tomatoes, cucumbers, zucchini and herbs such as basil to make pesto to store in the freezer! Here’s my list and some tips just incase you’re still deciding what to grow, and you see something here that piques your interest!
Tomatoes are one of the easiest crops to save seeds from (free plants!). Last year I saved the seeds from some of my favourite tomatoes so some of them are named ‘Farmer Rods Tomatoes’ and ‘Mandy’s Beefsteak Toms’ alongside some more familiar names like Yellow Pear and Black Russian. I’ve made the choice to plant some extra cherry tomatoes as they tend to be prolific and crop well into the cooler months. As most (or all) of them are indeterminate varieties they will need staking and don’t all crop at the same time. I have wire cages that I used last year and will use again this year.
I am growing mine from seed in Jiffy pots and will plant them pot and all, and deeper than pot level to give them the chance to grow strong roots. Always remove the bottom leaves when they get bigger to help prevent disease from overhead watering. Ideal soil PH: 5.5 – 7
We love our cucumbers for salads and fresh eating (not so much for pickling) so I’m sticking with the Lebanese and Mini Muncher varieties. They like to grow up, so if you’re short on space, give them something to climb on. While they will climb vertical, I find that they are more keen to ramble along something tilted on an angle – but give it a try and see how you go! Again, I’m growing these from seed, in pots. Ideal soil PH: 5.0 – 6.0
The humble zucchini is such an integral part of so many of our regular dishes – sliced and grilled on the BBQ, chopped and added to soup, grated and added to quiche or into a Bolognese sauce. I am planting a range of different zucchinis, including my favourite Black Beauty. These take up a fair amount of space once established and do like to wander out of a garden bed but they are worth it! I get the kids to hand pollinate the flowers when they open in the morning for more fruit and these I will grow at different stages over the season (planting 3-4 weeks apart) to ensure a more even harvest. Again, I will grow these from seed before transferring them to the garden. Ideal soil PH: 6.0 – 7.0.
I am planted both the standard Sweet Basil along with Lettuce Leaf Basil primarily for making pesto. I didn’t make enough last year and we’ve already run out. Store bought pesto is not the same! I’m growing these from seed (though I may also buy a punnet later in the season if I have room to plant them) in the little Jiffy pots to plant out. Protect them from slugs snails and earwigs who find them rather tasty. ANd pinch them out often to get them nice and bushy – and regular water is a must of they will bolt to seed. Ideal soil PH: 5.5 – 6.5
Our pumpkins were woeful last year! So much so that I had to think long and hard about trying them again this year. Given that they were planted where to blueberries are now, in soil that was very alkaline, I’m thinking that a change of position and some extra effort with feeding might make it worth one more try. I will try to germinate my last two Waltham Butternut seeds, and maybe look out for one or two more varieties to try. Pumpkins can cross-pollinate so it’s tricky to save the seeds and ensure they are true to type – its best to buy these seeds each year, or purchase seedlings. Ideal soil PH: 5.0 – 7.0.
Last year almost all of our broad beans, beans and peas were eaten by rats (or one very hungry rat). So disappointing! This season I’m going to try growing some Borlotti Beans in a Patio Garden Bed we have up on the deck near the house. I’m hoping that given their position, they are less likely to get attacked. No need to plant in pots/punnets, these can go direct into the soil. Ideal soil PH: 6.0-7.0.
So many carrot seeds – if anyone wants any – just send me an envelope and I’ll fill it for you! We corrected masses of seed heads from our already-self-seeded- carrots that randomly pop up in the garden, in the grass and in the path. I don’t think I could avoid growing carrots if I tried! The kids do love them though and they are easy to grow – just remember to thin them out as lots of tiny thin carrots is not the goal! Grow from seed, sow direct. Ideal soil PH: 5.0-6.0.
The other thing we’re planting this year is flowers, lots of them. We always grow sunflowers (the seeds are a great treat for the chooks) and a smattering of pansies, sweet peas, alyssum and nasturtium. This year we’re going to plant more to attract the pollinators and the good bugs to the garden. I’ve given that job to the kids as their project, another reason for them to be outside, and a great way to get them interested in the growing season.
And that’s about it. The plan so far. It may change depending on what I see at the plant nursery or what might be available at the local food swap, we’ll see!