Tino CarnevalePrimavera

When I was a child my perception of spring through stories told to me, was of a season of renewal and abundance. The renewal part I’m fine with but as for the abundance part I suppose it is all a matter of perspective. There is certainly an abundance of work to do! Don’t get me wrong, the colours of spring are seriously amazing but I’m not too keen on eating magnolia flower soup or plum blossom butties.

spring blossomSadly the edible garden in spring is a fairly Spartan affair. There is more potential in the patch at the moment than there is production, so with that in mind I thought I should provide a run down on my vegetable patch as it stands at the beginning of spring.

In the first bed we start with Massey peas. This variety is a dwarf but I still like to give them a little support in the form of a few short sticks jabbed in the ground. Residing beside them is the German bean `Lazy Housewife’. Perhaps a rather unfortunate name but the reason for this is that it is stringless so there is no need to top and tail. Of all the things going on in the patch at the moment I am most excited to see how they go, as this is the first time this variety has made an appearance in my garden. They have gone in a little early for filming purposes but the weather has been rather mild and with a few more warm days the soil should be warm enough for germination to occur. Next to them will go the bush borlotti bean. It’s not the most prolific cropper but it’s colour and satisfying mealyness make it a very special bean. Now up to this point you may be forgiven for thinking this bed is my legume bed as part of a well mapped crop rotation plan but sadly, no. At the end of the bed is the odd one out, perched on a mound of mixed compost and aged sheep manure are seeds of the romanesco zucchini, another consequence of a filming schedule.

The crop of Garlic in bed 2 has been the stand out performer this season. It is looking strong and if it continues in this way we will have an even bigger crop than our last one which has kept us going all year. Keeping your garlic well weeded is the trick to getting a good crop. I like to make sure the crop has ample water at this stage of its growth and if you haven’t already, give it a treat with a feed of dolomite lime.

ruby cabbage copy

Ruby cabbage

Bed three is filled with members of the brassica tribe. Firstly the stunner of the patch the Ruby Cabbages, beautiful to both look at and to eat. Yesterday I transplanted some Red Russian Kale that had grown in the path into a gap in front of the cabbages where a row of them was dug out by two wayward chickens early in the season.  Next to them is probably the most picked on vegetable in Australia, the Brussel sprout. Personally I love them lightly steamed with some butter melted over them and some cracked pepper, or sliced and chucked on a griddle. The Pak choy living at the end of the bed has gone to flower so will soon come out, but the vibrant yellow flowers are a pleasure to see in the garden and the bees love them so they can stay in a little longer. There is also a couple of broccolette plants and what is shaping up to be a good crop of cauliflower.

Vibrant yellow flowers on pak choy attract bees

Vibrant yellow flowers on pak choy attract bees

In previous posts I have mentioned the rule of planting tomatoes in my area on October 24th which is Hobart Show Day, so it may seem odd that my first lot of tomato plants went in a month ago. The reason for this surreal planting is the Magic of Television! Despite this the plants are travelling along ok with the protection of a hessian barrier and black plastic below them to take advantage of any warmth there might be through the day. The issue is that they will probably struggle all season. They are both grafted Apollo which I am not a big fan of but were the only ones available at the time.

The top bed on the western side is home to my crop of broad beans which despite the best efforts of the chickens are doing well. The next job for this crop is to make a pen for them from stakes and twine to help them stay upright in strong winds.

Broad beans doing well (despite the chickens)

Broad beans doing well (despite the chickens)

There is a green manure crop in the top bed to the east which out of all the beds had the poorest soil. The crop consists of broad beans and as is always the way, the chickens have left these beans alone and the plants have grown beautifully. I cut them back yesterday hoping to get more growth from them before I turn it in. Before I put the green manure in I added a bag of mushroom compost, a bag of aged cow manure, half a barrow of homemade compost and a generous amount of worm castings. The next crop to go in this bed will be zucchinis and I am hoping all the extra effort will be reflected in the harvest.
In the next bed down I am trialling two garlic varieties. One is Roja which is Spanish for red, it is hard neck rocambole garlic that seems to be very popular in America. The other type I know nothing about, I only know it as Spanish pink and the seed that I got was very small and as such the plants have been weak and slow to move. I might need to save any good bulbs I get and try it again next year.

I am trying to restrict my potato planting to one small bed this season. Most years I love to grow heaps of different varieties but this season there will only be two. The old favourite the Pinkeye and a new variety for me, a gift from a mate called Pink Blush.

The next two beds are both a bit of a mixed bag, they are the crops that I could not decide where they went so they were kind plonked in. The first contains two crops of broccoli planted at different times and therefore at different stages of development. Joi recently seeded some red giant mustard which last year went from being the least favourite of our leafy veg to one we swore we would never be without. There is also the last row of our winter carrots which means it must be time to plant some more.

The second bed has been keeping us in greens over winter in the form of Tuscan kale and silver beet. There is also a row of chives which I have to transplant to my herb bed before they really start to put on growth. There are also new plantings of red onion and some ruby chard to wrap it up.

With all these crops already established, the next major job is to ensure all the tomato varieties are selected, carefully sown and all set to germinate. I suppose what I really love about spring is the promise of things to come, the expectation and the excitement.

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Tino Carnevale

About Tino Carnevale

Born and bred in Tasmania, Tino's lifelong interest in plants and gardening stems from growing up on his family's small vineyard and olive grove. He studied landscape design at the Royal Melbourne Institute of Technology and has an Associate Diploma in Horticulture. As well as being a presenter on Gardening Australia TV, Tino teaches gardening skills to both adults and children, is part of the The Stephanie Alexander Kitchen Garden Program and patron of the Tasmanian Weed Society.

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