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Leafy Planting Days in Early Winter

This time of year is such a good season up here for leafy greens. We are now eating the first of the silver beet, chinese cabbages, lettuces and kale for the season, and the rest are not too far behind now. That’s them in the top left picture. They were planted as seed three months ago, potted on two months ago, planted out last month into a bed beautifully prepared by the chooks, and now, they’re turning into silverbeet frittata for breakfast, salad sandwitches for lunch, and Chinese cabbage sauteed with garlic and lemon juice for dinner.

My garden is pretty nearly frost free – occasionally I get a light frost and the lighter lettuces will be damaged but rarely killed outright. I never usually get frosts heavy enough to damage the brassicas – broccoli, kale, cauliflower, brussels sprouts, cabbages, chinese cabbages – or the raddicchio, spinach, silver beet, celery, parsley, rocket, aragula, or leeks. So I’m planting out all of them today. That’s them in the top right picture.

I have a new bed that the chooks have prepared over the last month and advanced seedlings that were planted as seed a couple of months ago, and potted on a month ago. They were all in individual pots so the planting out was very quick and minimally stressful for them. I have selected the strongest seedlings and ditched about a third of them. It’s a nice mixed planting, no two things the same next to each other, and since I’m only planting out the selected strongest seedlings and I expect to harvest all of them, I’ve only planted out what we will eat in the month (with a few extras for giving away). About the same amount also went out as infill planting in older beds, replacing the zucchini and squash as they finish up (after a good top dressing with compost and mulch).

I have another round of all the same batch of leafies ready for potting on today. That’s them in the bottom left picture. I’ll select the strongest, about a third more than I actually intend planting, and pot them up in a mixture of creek sand and compost, water them in with seaweed brew, and keep them in the sunniest part of the shadehouse for another month. At this two leaf stage, they are easy to transplant – it’s a half hour job – and they won’t suffer for it. I’ll have some punnets of left-over seedlings to go down in the mailbox tomorrow as give-aways. What goes around comes around, and when my seedlings fail, there’s a chance someone else will have some to fill the gap.

We are coming up to the winter solstice in about three weeks time, but until then the days are still getting shorter. So leafies planted now will not want to bolt, but rather wait until their lovely fine tuned endocrine sensing system tells them the days are getting longer, spring is on its way, and it is safe to set seed. So I have one more opportunity to safely plant them all again. By next planting break, it will be getting too late to plant the bolters. They would just be starting to look like maturing in September when the hot dry weather will likely hit, and the cabbage moths will start appearing again anyway.

So I’m planting another batch of seed in the seed raising box vacated by last month’s seedlings. A gorgeous, sunny winter day playing in the garden. Life is good.

{ 3 comments… add one }
  • Bellingen Seedsavers June 5, 2011, 4:05 am

    I tried your trick wiuth the rolled paper seedpots for some Collards seedlings. The pots worked a treat but the Collards seem very slow to germinate and then to grow. Perhaps Silverbeet and Black Kale,which are growing strongly, are a better plant for our region?

    Jack from Bellingen Seedsavers

  • Linda June 5, 2011, 1:35 pm

    Hi Jack, I’ve never tried Collards, so I’ll be interested to hear how they go. Given they grow in the southern states of USA, I would think we are in the right kind of climate for them. Silver beet and black kale are both going really well for me at the moment. In fact, I’m just now cooking some in a soup for lunch!

  • Jason Dingley June 7, 2011, 2:39 pm

    That is great information about the leafies and their lovely fine tuned endocrine sensing system. Thanks.

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