The Spring Veggie Patch, A Handy Tool + Spuds in Buckets

Reader Contribution by Kath Irvine

What to Sow and Plant in Early Spring

Take your vegetable garden next level and check your soil temperature before planting or sowing anything this spring. Nature is finely tuned to temperature, and the closer we can match our plants to the right soil temp. the better our crops. At this mo the soil in my veggie patch is 11 degrees C. Here’s what I can plant and sow.

Plant out celery, broccoli, cabbage, bok choy, kale, silverbeet, parsley, salads, onions, leeks, potatoes.

Direct sow carrots, kohlrabi, turnip, parsnip, rocket, chicory, endive, spinach, mesclun, miners lettuce, corn salad, bok choy, kale, snopeas, peas, broadbeans, fennel, dill, coriander, shallots, spring onions.

Tray sow celeriac, salads, silverbeet, parsley, chervil.

Companion flowers: Direct, or tray sow, or plant as many as you can cram in! Calendula, cornflower, poppy, nasturtium, borage, sweet pea, viola, larkspur or hollyhock.

Early Spring Greenhouse

Tray sow greenhouse crops like tomato, chilli, pepper, aubergine, zucchini, cucumber, melon. Use a heatpad/hot water cupboard or cozy fireside spot to keep your seed raising tray at 20 degrees C.

If you don’t have a greenhouse and live somewhere cool, don’t rush into summer crops—patience grasshopper! Heat lovers need to be planted when it’s hot. I plant outside tomatoes once the soil is 18 degrees C and the nights are 13 degrees C. Growing crops in the right soil/ air temperature means less stress + less pests + more crops = happy gardener!

Direct sow dwarf beans, salads, beetroot, courgette. The bonus of a greenhouse are these  early crops. I won’t be sowing outside beans until the soil is 15 degrees C.

Begin kumara shoots.

New Potatoes for Christmas

Having spent a good portion of my life coaxing vegetables from soil, I’m weather wary. Between now and the arrival of summer there will be days for shorts, days for raincoats, and days for beanies. I’m cautious with the planting out of tender crops like potatoes.

So my first lot of spuds go into buckets, a great use for cracked or broken buckets. Sacks are another good option.

Choose fast growers like Rocket, Swift, Liseta or even Cliff Kidney.

Make holes in the bottom for drainage and line with about 10cm of compost. Homemade compost is best because it’s not rich and fine like bought stuff. If you are using bought stuff, bring air with pumice, rotten sawdust or good soil.

Lay your seed potato in (one per 10litre bucket), on top of a few bits of seaweed if you’re lucky enough to be seaside. Top the bucket up with compost, straw, or old hay—or a mix of the above—to bury the spud, and you’re off!

Move the bucket among shrubs when the weather warms up. Keep the soil cool but leave the tops in the light.

Spuds in buckets aren’t as productive as in the ground, but it means those of us on cold/wet ground can have Christmas potatoes. I’ll do another lot of spuds in a few weeks time – in buckets if the soils still cold, or in the ground if things have warmed up. Little and often plantings, make for little and often harvests—achievable, and so very useful.

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