With spring just a whisper away, it is time to start preparing the spring and summer vegetable garden.
Night temperatures are still a bit too low for germinating seed, except for cool season root crops like carrots, beetroot, radishes and turnips, says Kirchhoffs Marlaen Straathof.
Her advice is to prepare the beds, plan your planting for the season and buy the seed while the temperatures warm up over the next two weeks.
Want to make your veggie garden more productive?
Raised beds provide better drainage (which veggies love) and a friable mix that makes it easier for the roots to draw up water, oxygen and nutrients, especially in gardens with clay, sand or very stony soil. The soil also heats up quicker in raised beds.
RAW Seed has introduced five new combo box-packs that add some nice tongue-in-cheek humour to the serious business of growing veggies.
There is “50 shades of Green” for the micro-green mix, “Bant like you mean it” for the squash mix, “Paint the Town Red” for tomatoes, “Hot and Sweet” for some seriously hot chillies, and “Salad for Adeline” that includes a gourmet selection of salad veggies like Crystal Apple Cucumber, Red and Gold Beet, Rainbow tomatoes, and Radicchio.
Each RAW combo box contains five different seed varieties and an instruction leaflet on how to get the best out of your seeds, written with the same humorous touch.
The boxes are brightly coloured, and easily identifiable; doubling up as a storage box for keeping the seeds fresh and dry. It is a great storage idea; no more seed packs clipped with a peg lying around.
Kirchhoffs has added three herbs from seed, a mix of edible flowers and New Zealand spinach to their range of edible seed.
New Zealand spinach is a bushy, fast-growing perennial with triangular leaves. It tastes like spinach and can be cooked like spinach but is not related to spinach, being more heat and drought tolerant.
Use the young leaves raw, sautéed, steamed or braised, added to soups, stews and pasta dishes.
The edible flowers mix includes marigolds, nasturtium, impatiens, viola and dianthus.
The herbs are bronze fennel, a more heat-resistant wild rocket, which has a stronger taste, and a heat-tolerant origanum.
Seed is available from hardware outlets and large garden centres.
Types of raised beds
• Mix top soil, compost and organics with the existing soil so that the final bed is at least 30cm higher. Edge with bricks or stones to prevent the soil from washing away.
• Make a series of narrow raised rows, with paths in-between. Don’t make the mounds too high or the water runs off.
• Build a wooden frame that acts as a box with no bottom or top and fill it with good soil. Lay weed guard cloth on the bottom to stop invasive roots coming through. Use untreated wood.
• Used tyres need to be big/deep enough to provide good depth of soil. Place tyres onto the soil or paving, with weedguard cloth as a base to prevent the soil from washing away.
Tips for veggies in raised beds
• In gardens with heavy, sticky soil, a raised bed is ideal for root veggies that like loose, free-draining soil.
• Leafy greens (spinach, kale, lettuce, rocket) are also more productive in raised beds filled with fertile soil. Because the soil in raised beds warms up quicker, greens can be planted out earlier.
• If tomatoes, brinjals and peppers are planted in raised beds make sure the bed is deep enough to accommodate their roots.