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Leafy Planting Days in Early Spring for a Neglectful Gardener

A well designed, established permaculture garden can keep producing with amazingly little time or energy spent on it.  Which is just as well, because mine has had amazingly little time or energy over the last season.  If not for the fact that I now have a A Garden With Stamina, I wouldn’t have a garden at all!

As it is though, the chooks continue their weeding and soil preparation even when all I have time to do is chuck a bucket of house scraps over the fence each day, and the occasional bucket of wood ash from the stove, and a bit of azolla from my morning walk, and the occasional bag of horse poo that a neighbour sells on the side of the road on my way home and…you get the idea.   Once patterns are established, they take just seconds of actual work, and no thinking at all.

But with the slightly longer days already, I’m getting a few extra minutes in the day, and it’s amazing what you can do in just a few minutes.  Last weekend I moved the chooks, and yesterday I had a few minutes to I clean out and prepare a seed raising box in the shadehouse, and my garden is on a roll again.

I use poystyrene boxes salvaged from the greengrocer for germinating seed. I find that punnets and pots are too vulnerable to drying out.  They are filled with a mixture that is mostly river sand – or fine gravel – mixed with some old compost or mowed, old cow pats.  The latter is for the texture, not the nutrients.  Seeds don’t need fertilising to germinate.  (Whenever you sprout sprouts using just water, you are proving it.)

As soon as the seedlings are up and have their first pair of true leaves, I prick them out with a kitchen fork and transplant into pots with a nice lot of compost and worm castings and seaweed brew, until they are big enough to plant out into the garden.  So the seed raising mix can be used over and over, and a box lasts all year.  My last box got abandonned when life got hectic, and was sitting there with overgrown, unwatered seedlings left over from months ago, but it took just minutes to get it ready for replanting.

This morning I had a few minutes before work again, so I planted the spring round of leafy greens.  Spring is not the perfect season for leafies, especially when it looks a bit like an El Nino is shaping up again and we are in for a long hot summer.   Leafies all want to bolt to seed this time of year, and pests like cabbage moths and aphids get busy.  There’s no point in me planting silver beet or spinach this time of year, but amaranth does well as a spring and summer leafy, and this year I’m trying a couple of other spinach substitutes – Egyptian spinach, and Orach. I’d love to hear from anyone who has experience with them.

I’m also planting a few varieties of lettuce that do well for me in warmer weather –  brown romaine, rouge d’hiver, and 2 star.  Rouge d’hiver is supposed to be a cool weather variety, but it is doing well for me in spring planting.  I’m planting another round of raddicchio, though it’s a bit risky this time of year.  And basil, lots of basil – lime, sweet and Thai varieties. And Italian parsley for tabouli.

I have amaranth and aragula (wild rocket) and dill and coriander all self seeded in the garden, and I’ve planted a patch of rocket as direct planting – something I don’t do often, but they should be ready to cut as baby rocket in about a fortnight, and I only plan to keep them going for a few weeks.

Next week is the fruiting planting break, so as I get time over the next few days I shall get pots ready for beans and zucchini and squash and cucumbers and tomatoes and capsicums and eggplants and chili and pumpkins and melons.  I so love these longer days!

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{ 6 comments… add one }
  • Jane O'Brien August 23, 2012, 2:52 pm

    Hello Linda. I live at Inverell NSW and we have just started making our chook tractor and marked out our first mandala. I have just read the 50 things about yourself and am wondering why you can not use a chook dome anymore? I also found we have something in common – I have a husband that loves fishing and doesn’t like gardening – but, I am determined to grow our food and involve all our family in the process. I look forward to a garden with stamina! Also thanks for sharing the “elegance in being frugal” – I have never thought of it as being elegant but later today I am going to elegantly mend my boys school pants – currenty we no not have one pair with out holes in the knees! Thanks for sharing and my copy of your book it very well loved and used. I managed to get two seed trays of leafy green sown this week. Happy gardening. Jane

  • Linda August 23, 2012, 3:28 pm

    Welcome Jane! I wrote a post a while back about Why I Don’t Use Chook Domes Any More. One of these days I’ll be a good blogger and build some proper navigation into this site! I bet your husband, like mine, likes eating out of the garden.

  • Jason Dingley August 23, 2012, 4:51 pm

    Dear Jane O’Brien, I am another one of Linda’s disciples. My family is having great success with the system. All the best with it.

    Linda, we got seedling started too. I am so looking forward to an exciting season in the garden.

  • Marijke August 23, 2012, 8:16 pm

    Hi Linda, thanks for your post on what you are sowing right now. Last year I felt I was constantly 2 steps behind, seeds need time to become seedlings ready to be planted out, worked that out now.
    I’ve spend a lot of effort building up the soil, still rock hard clay and hardly any topsoil to speak of, but it’s getting better with time. The harvest is not enough to sustain us yet, but what a nice place to play and get dirt on your hands. Fresh eggs, herbs, tomatoes, what’s not to love! Thanks for blogging, Marijke

  • Africanaussie August 24, 2012, 12:47 pm

    I was away for two weeks and came back to find my lettuces ready to pick and my, are they tasty – I think I will plant out some more and see what happens… Thanks for all the inspiration

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