Can you believe it’s already October? The clocks have gone forward and Labour Weekend will be here before we know it! Refreshed from having the day off yesterday, I had a busy day in the garden today. In the morning, I planted some cut-and-come-again lettuce seedlings that I raised from seed into round containers (see photo). You may recall seeing these in an earlier blog post (they were in a tray). In the afternoon, I spent a few hours repotting capsicums, chillies and tomatoes into larger punnets.
I had to laugh when I read Carol and Collette’s comments on my last post about the large number of silverbeet and spinach seedlings in my photo. That is only some of them! For us, silverbeet and spinach are staples in the garden. We use it as an edible border around the garden to demarcate the different beds. I like starting seedlings in spring so they grow over summer and are established before the winter sets in. I find seedlings planted in autumn don’t usually grow very big. We just pick what we need rather than harvesting the whole bunch, a bit like our cut-and-come-again lettuce.
So why am I growing everything on such a large scale? At the moment, our goal is to be as self-sufficient as possible. I’m very interested in the concept of urban homesteading. We do get through lots of veggies between us. It’s great for our health, especially as we both have diabetes plus we host wwoofers from time to time and they enjoy eating out of our garden, too. This does beg some questions. How much can you grow in your garden? How much should you grow in your garden?
As I have discovered, you don’t have to leave as much space between veggies as recommended on plant labels. Sure, things like tomatoes and zucchini need a wider berth, but our greens for example (lettuce, kale, silverbeet and spinach) are planted in clusters of a couple of seedlings and they do quite well planted this way. As you can see from the photo, the lettuce I planted into containers today is also spaced quite closely. We like harvesting the leaves at a young stage. But if you wanted to, you could plant these further apart either in containers or in the ground and each lettuce will grow much bigger. It’s up to you.
Now for the question of how much you should grow. Here are some things you may wish to consider:
· What you and your family actually like to eat
· How much space you have
· How much you and your family can realistically eat without being wasteful
· What your gardening goals are eg recreation, homesteading/self-sufficiency
· How much money you want to spend on seeds, plants, fertilisers etc
· How much time you want to spend raising seedlings, caring for plants and harvesting your crop (it took an hour to harvest kale grown from just a couple of punnets yesterday!)
· Balance between edibles and ornamentals
· Leaving space for swan plants and bee attracting flowers which are important to conservation
When sowing seeds, remember that not all will germinate and you may lose some plants along the way to snails and slugs. Seeds are often quite small and it’s hard to predict how much you will end up with. It’s also very easy to get carried away as I often do! Don’t forget that you need not sow all your seeds at once. Sowing successively staggers your harvests.
If you are sowing in larger quantities, it might be worth looking into buying “bulk” (ie bigger) packets as it’s more cost effective than buying lots of smaller packets. Egmont Seeds and Kings Seeds both have wholesale catalogues; I’m not sure about Yates.
As Carol mentioned in her comment on my previous post, you can share excess seedlings if you’ve gone overboard. I normally share mine with neighbours, friends and family.