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Leafy Planting Days in Mid-Summer

One of the best things about planting advanced seedlings is the head start you get.  I think people tend to forget how long plants spend germinating and as babies. These seedlings are a month old already.  If I’d planted them directly a month ago, this bed would have spent all that time hardly used, just inviting weeds.

In fact the bed spent the month with chooks in it, being given a barrow of organic matter most days to scratch and poo in.  It’s beautifully ready for planting. And I have several trays of seedlings that will go into it over the next  couple of weeks. Today and tomorrow are leafy planting days, and I have a  this batch of seedlings planted as seed a month ago and potted on at the two leaf stage into a mix of compost and creek sand.  Next week I’ll plant some fruiting annuals – beans and corn and cucumbers and capsicums and squash and zucchini, and the week after some roots, and in less than a month the bed will be so full you won’t be able to see the soil and I’ll be picking from it.

It’s a big investment in soil, but that’s my gardening philosophy.  I reckon you get better yields from a small area with lots of fertility than you do from a large one just dug up. If you only have a barrow of compost, you’ll get more to eat out of a pocket handkerchief garden than spreading it thinly over the whole back yard.

There’s not a lot of leafies to go in.  I hold back on planting seed before the summer solstice, as they have a tendency to bolt.  But also, there’s only so much lettuce and basil we can eat.  Three or four lettuces a month is enough when they are loose leaf ones and you just pick what you need every day.

This arvo I’ll put in another tray of leafies, and now it’s past the solstice I’ll be a bit more confident.  Lettuces, aragula, rocket, amaranth, basil, lime basil, coriander.  Maybe some endive and mizuna too. This cool wet year is really good for leafies.

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{ 10 comments… add one }
  • Elaine December 30, 2011, 11:23 pm

    Great philosophy Linda … I’d not thought about making a small area super-fertile and have tried to have everything get a little bit of whatever’s going.

  • Fiona December 31, 2011, 11:32 am

    Hello Linda
    As usual, you are so inspiring! We do seem to have a lot of unused gaps in our garden, and i think we’ve probably made our vege patches larger than they need be. Super-fertile, smaller spaces seem so sensible, on many levels.
    I’m assuming you grew these seedlings in your greenhouse, and I’d love to see a photo of it! Do you have any tips on greenhouse construction? We’re at the planning stage of ours, and I’d really like to have it ready for the autumn. We’re thinking of just adding a little lean-to greenhouse/glasshouse to the NE side of our shed, as that will give the little plants some shade from the hot afternoon sun. I’m hoping it might also create a warm spot in the shed behind it which will be nice for the cat to sleep in and perhaps be a good spot for brewing beer! What do you think? (I live in central-west NSW at 1100m elevation, in quite a cool climate.)
    Thanks Linda! And all the best for the new year. fiona x

  • Linda December 31, 2011, 11:53 am

    Hi Fiona, that’s a good idea. I’ll take some photos and do a post about shadehouse construction. My shadehouse is a key bit of infrastructure for my garden. It’s not very involved. Mine is right next to the back door of the house, so even if I am in a hurry, I tend to not neglect it. The garden can get away with rarely being watered, so long as I remember to not neglect the seedlings. It doesn’t have automatic watering – we learned to be too frugal with water in the drought, and I find watering is easy enough and causes me to pay a bit of attention – just a hose with a fine spray nozzle. It has a shadecloth roof and benches around the sides. One side faces north and it has a shadecloth blind that goes up in winter and down in summer. In winter, if I really want some extra heat for early germinating, I put the seedling boxes on this side, shadecloth rolled up, and a recycled window over the box to make a mini greenhouse. The western wall is shadecloth, and the southern wall is just wire net (to stop bower birds and turkeys and possums getting in. In the middle is a table with a plastic kids wading pool on it – one of those shell shaped ones – that I use for mixing compost and creek sand to make potting mix. Just outside on the western side, where it can get hot, is my barrel of seaweed brew. And that’s about it. Simple, but I couldn’t garden without it.

  • Faeryfay December 31, 2011, 5:12 pm

    Thank-you for your valuable information. I have been simply scattering seed around the vegie patch and have had a great crop, but am just about to sow some more and was thinking of sowing them into pots first as I’ve lost a lot of little seedlings to snails and bugs and have had weeds popping up. After reading this I am definitely going to sow them first into seedling trays and “baby” them a little! Taa!:-)

  • Lydia December 31, 2011, 10:10 pm

    Wish I knew what the secret of raising seedlings is. I can never seem to get mine to grow past the two leaf stage until they’re planted out, regardless of temperature, day length, moisture, or planting medium. Any tips?

  • celia January 1, 2012, 6:30 am

    Thanks Linda! I learn so much from your planting guides! Best wishes for a fabulous 2012!

  • Linda January 1, 2012, 9:51 am

    Hi Lydia, you’d think it has to be one of those things! Probably not day length or temperature. Temperature affects germination and fruiting. If they were not germinating at all, or if they were germinating but not fruiting I’d guess temperature. Day length affects germination and fruiting too. If they were not germinating, or if they were germinating and bolting, I’d guess day length. You didn’t mention light – it could be that. But not enough light usually makes things go “leggy” – too tall and spindly seeking the light, rather than stop. Not likely to be moisture – too much will make things rot off at ground level, too little will make them wilt, and too variable will bring fungus diseases – but none of those is just stopping growing. My best guess is that it’s to do with fertility, and my very best guess is pH. Lots of commercial potting mixes are actually nutrient poor and very acid, which makes it even worse. Worm pee can be acid too. Or, the other possibility is just not enough depth? I germinate seeds in polystyrene boxes (recycled from the back of the supermarket), filled with a home-made mix of creek sand (like fine gravel) and either mowed cow pats or old compost. The germinating mix doesn’t need fertility but it does need the right texture and moisture holding characteristics. But as soon as they are at the two leaf stage I select the ones I am going to grow (plus a few extras for good luck) and pot them on into individual pots with a very rich, homemade mix, mostly compost with a bit of creek sand for drainage and worm castings, watered with dilute seaweed brew. I keep them on the north facing shelf in the shadehouse, where they get morning and afternoon sun but no midday sun, till they are about a month old. Then I plant them out. The system works really well for me.

  • Fiona January 1, 2012, 10:26 am

    Hello Linda
    Thanks for your reply about the shadehouse/greenhouse. I would LOVE to read a post about yours!

  • Nicole Cody January 2, 2012, 8:12 pm

    Hi Linda, thanks for such an inspiring blog. So much useful info here! I’ve just nominated you for the Versatile Blogger Award. Details here: http://cauldronsandcupcakes.com/2012/01/02/my-first-blog-award-the-versatile-blogger-2/ Kind regards, Nicole 🙂

  • Lydia January 5, 2012, 8:14 pm

    Hmm, thanks. Maybe i’ll hunt up a ph test. I use bought compost because i’ve never yet succeeded in making my own. Actually, I can get big seeds to grow-beans, peas, zucchini, melons, but anything smaller just sits.

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