With the soil warming up and winter rain over, we have been hurrying to prepare the garden beds for spring planting. There is a lot of weeding and clearing out to be done. Mulch and compost need to be spread. New batches of compost need to be started. We are moving ahead with all these tasks, even as I plant seeds in trays and punnets and transfer the first seedlings into the waiting soil. Mizuna, lettuces (“deer’s tongue” and “half century”), shungiku chrysanthemum, multiplying spring onions, red cabbage, calendula, mustard lettuce and New Zealand spinach all seem to be thriving. Sadly our tat soi has fallen victim to slugs and birds. I guess I’ll plant some more. I’ve also planted out the best bulbs from last season’s onion crop, in hopes that they’ll sprout and run to seed. This is my first attempt at saving seed from bulbing onions, so I hope my timing is right.
The first tomato seedlings, “Baxter’s Early Bush,” already have their first true leaves and will soon be ready to transplant. Pepper, zucchini, amaranth, and more tomato seedlings are poking their heads out of the soil.
Most of the tomato varieties we are planting are the same as last year: Money Maker, Russian Red, Humboltti and Green Zebra. The Green Zebra suffered from extreme neglect and didn’t fruit well last year. I’m determined to give it a fair trial this time around, since the few fruit we did get from it were beautiful and delicious. I have to pay more attention to staking and removing laterals, since it’s an indeterminate variety. Humboltti, a small yellow cherry tomato, fruited prolifically and stayed disease free last year despite almost total neglect. We are growing it again, since it is tasty and easy to grow, although it seems to split rather too readily. Baxter’s Early Bush Cherry Tomato is a new variety for us. We are hoping to grow some of these in containers in a warm spot, in order to have an early crop of cherry tomatoes and save space in the garden.
I saved seed from Black Beauty Zucchini the season before last. To avoid crossing with the Austrian Oilseed Pumpkin (also a Curcurbita pepo), I planted a late zucchini crop after we had harvested the oilseed pumpkins.
We are planting two varieties of amaranth this year. We have grown the leaf amaranth before. It’s an attractive coleus leafed variety called “Tampala.” Grain amaranth is a new crop for us. We are excited to be trialling a variety called “Pygmy Torch.” It is meant to be very ornamental and can produce a prolific grain crop in the right conditions. I have sown the grain amaranth in trays, and plan to plant it out in the garden at 8cm spacings as per the advice in an old Koanga Gardens seed catalogue.