It’s been hot. Really hot. Record breaking hot, (read here,here and here.) If you're in Western Australia, you're probably fed up with all the facebook posts whinging about the heat, and the incessant pleading for summer to end already!
In fact, this summer has been so hot for the whole of Australia, the Bureau of Meteorology added a new range of colours to it’s weather forecasting chart. (More here and here). Last season my strawberries lasted all year and into the next and looked like this. They now look like this....
It was a really shitty summer for growing fruit and vegetables. I barely got a bowl of cherry tomatoes. Nothing from the zucchini, eggplant, cucumber, capsicum or bean plants. Ziltch. It didn’t matter that I was hand watering daily, the heat claimed them. The only plant to survive is my rainbow chard. You just can’t kill that stuff.
So I’ve put all my energy into an autumn-winter crop. And over the last few weekends I’ve been preparing the soil, weeding and pulling up old plants and making seedling pots.
I get scrap paper out of my recycling bin, trim it down into long strips, wrap it around the pin and squash the ends into the press. Done! They hold together tightly, no need for complex folding, tape or adhesive. I pre-label mine with sticky labels, then fill two thirds of the pot with good quality potting mix or seedling raiser. Add two seeds per pot then cover with more soil.
Place your pots in a nice sunny spot, morning or filtered sun is best. Too much sun will fry the poor babies. I’ve raised my seedlings on the window sill that gets filtered afternoon sun, inside a takeaway container for drainage. This year I have my seedlings under the verandah inside an old fish tank. Within a week, depending on what you have planted, you should have quite a few seedlings peaking through the soil. You will need to water daily, be careful not to over water. Moist, not dripping wet.
This is my first round of seedlings for the season; I’ve planted french green runner beans, sugar snaps, broad beans, golden dwarf beans, green peas, zucchini (late harvest), heirloom beetroot & carrots (rainbow varieties), leeks, brown onions, english spinach, mizuna, pak choy, chinese cabbage, purple flowering broccoli, savoy cabbage, potatoes, sweet basil, french tarragon, Italian parsley, sage, dill, thyme and chive. I’m also just about to plant lavender, poppies and nasturtiums for controlling or at least distracting unwanted pests and encouraging more bees into the garden.
Over the weekend I transplanted my zucchini and beans. They take no time at all to raise from seed, and are usually ready to plant into your prepared garden beds within a fortnight. The pots are usually pretty disintegrated by this point, but no matter if they aren’t, you can transplant the seedlings paper and all. The pot’s will break down over a few weeks and they keep your plants protected without going into shock from moving into a new environment.
Now with the ‘autumn’ temperatures still in the thirties, you’ll need to water morning and night to keep the seedlings from drying out. I back fill around my seedlings with water storage crystals for extra measure. If your super worried you could build a little shade over your plants to protect them from leaf burn. They will need some tender love and care until they toughen up!
I water my seedlings with Seasol every week to two weeks, and sometime use a little Osmocote® Plus Organics All Purpose fertilizer in between. This packs the soil with nutrients to encourage growth, fruiting and flowering. And lastly, for my first step in pest control, crush up dried out egg shells and spread around the stem of the plant. Snails and slugs won’t cross the little shards, and they act as a deterrent for some caterpillars. Happy planting!