In theory, January is the time to start sowing winter veggies like broccoli, cauliflower, and cabbage but the very hot days make germination a risky business. According to Kirchhoffs’ Marlaen Straathof, it is better to wait until the end of January and instead do a last crop sowing of summer veggies like bush and runner beans, beetroot, carrots, cucumber, spinach and Swiss chard and bush and trailing squashes and tomatoes.
“But gardeners need to sow them now,” she warns, “because this is a very short interim period and plants have to get going quickly so that they are fruiting before winter.”
In areas where frost comes early it is better to sow baby cherry tomatoes because these are quicker to bear fruit. A new garden bean variety to look out for is ‘Malelane’ which is a South African developed cultivar and produces French style beans. It is a vigorous grower and has no problem with the heat. While it may be too late to sow seed of brinjals, sweet peppers, and chillies, you can play catch up by buying them in seedling trays from garden centres. It is probably a good idea to also go this route for tomatoes.
Seedling trays dry out very quickly, which is why they should be planted as soon as possible. It is best to have the beds prepared beforehand. Soak the trays before removing the individual seedlings for planting. After planting, water with a diluted dose of liquid plant fertiliser like Margaret Roberts Organic Supercharger and repeat two weeks later.
Coming back from holiday to a wild and overgrown veggie patch is daunting, but it also makes it easier to get stuck in and pull out veggies that are clearly past their best, and to clear beds for new plantings. But don’t forget to leave space for winter veggies. There is plenty of routine maintenance that should not be neglected either, says Straathof.