These are the lettuce seeds I planted just on a month ago now, last leafy planting break. I thought about planting them out today – I’m a bit late for the leafy planting break by the lunar planting calendar but it’s been a hectic week and I’m close enough for a non-purist like me. We have had a little bit of rain over the last week and I have a new bed the chooks have just come out of ready to plant out.
But they’re still a bit little – they will thrive for another few weeks in the mix of compost, worm castings and a little bit of creek sand that they are potted up in. I can feed them with diluted seaweed brew every week or so. It will be much easier to keep the water up to them in the shadehouse, and they are less likely to frizzle if we get one of those days with hot dry winds – catastrophic bushfire days – that we sometimes get in spring. Beans can handle it. Lettuces can’t.
I think it is one of the best tips I have for beginning gardeners. Garden vegetables have a long infancy. For lettuces, from the time the seed is sown until the time that they are too big for a pot and will suffer if not planted out it is about 6 weeks. Many varieties start harvesting at 10 weeks, so that’s more than half their lifetime. Celery is slow to germinate and slow to start – it can spend a couple of months in the shadehouse and be very appreciative of the shade, water, and attention. The basil seed I planted last month is still really tiny. It won’t be ready to plant out for at least another month.
I would give all these seedlings a good handful of compost if I were planting them directly anyway, so it makes sense to use the compost to pot them up instead, then plant them out with their own little fertilizer stash. It means I can keep the garden very heavily mulched without the mulch drowning baby seedlings. And having plants in the garden for only half their lives effectively doubles my garden space. That’s important for me these days since everything I plant has to be fenced Alcatraz style to keep the bandicoots from digging it up, the wallabies from eating it, the bower birds from pecking it off, and the brush turkeys from scratching it out.
So I shall leave these in the shadehouse, and plant out another round of seed of leafy greens today, so as to have successive plantings. I’m planting three varieties of lettuce – brown romaine, rouge d’hiver, and 2 star – raddicchio, Italian parsley, and three varieties of basil. I’ll plant another round of rocket directly, for harvesting as baby rocket. And that’s about it for leafies this time of year. The increasing likelihood of very hot days is limiting my planting more and more now, and making it more urgent to conserve water for firefighting. Not that it will help against catastrophic fires – on those days we just have to hope no-one drops a match, anywhere.