Hearty and home-grown
Growing your own vegetables and herbs is not as difficult as you think and, if you follow a few easy steps, not only will you save money, but the crops you produce will taste delicious.
Even if you’ve broken all your other New Year’s resolutions, there’s still time in February to make another important one – to eat healthy this year! An easy way to improve your health is to grow and eat your own delicious vegetables and herbs. The food you grow at home is healthier because it’s more true organic food. Especially when you avoid using chemical sprays and feed with organic fertiliser.
With a low to zero carbon footprint not needing to be transported by road after they are picked, your home-grown food will be environmentally friendly as well as tastier. Also less waste as you only need to harvest on the same day; as you plan to cook and eat it. Vegetables contain important nutrients like fibre and potassium, and can help to reduce the risk of diseases such as heart disease, stroke and colon cancer. Dark green or orange vegetables are especially healthy.
You might think that it is too early to be planning your new season kitchen garden, but February is the time to give some thought to what can be planted now for harvesting in a few months’ time. Don’t allow your kitchen garden to go into a rest period. Remove the rain-spoilt veggies and herbs and fill in with a fresh planting. Late January through to February is time for leafy veggies like spinach and lettuce but also over the next few weeks seeds can be sown to take advantage of the upcoming autumn weather, which will allow plants to grow into strong winter crops.
This is such a good looking crop with such a wide variety of leaf colours and shapes to choose from, they can be ornamental and practical in one! Grow them amongst other plants in the garden for great texture and contrast. Leafy types can be harvested within a week or two if planted from seedling size.
In modern gardens spinach has become the one source of home food that everybody wants. In SA it is the most popular herb-veg of all time. There are different varieties that can be planted to suit your cooking style. From multicoloured spinach to varieties with different leaf textures, spinach offers a wide choice ideal for designer salads, phyllo pastries, hearty stews and pap.
Other crops suitable for planting in February are:
sown now will not only provide the most produce, but the quality will also be excellent. These carrots, which will be ready for harvesting in about June, will not only last through winter, but may be harvested until October in cooler areas.
Plant seedlings or sow seeds directly into the garden. Thin out the tiny plants to avoid over-crowding. Beet will be ready for harvesting in about two months.
Sow seeds over the next few weeks. Side shoots can be harvested for months after removal of the main head and the leaves make wonderful greens to add to salads and stews.
It is also a good idea to plant different varieties of cabbage for a prolonged harvest. The variety ‘Sugarloaf’ is ready for eating about 65 days after planting, while ‘Grandslam’ can be harvested after 90 days and ‘Conquistador’ after 100 days. Sow the first seeds over the next few weeks and sow every three weeks to keep a fresh supply for the coming months.
Sow seeds over the next few weeks.If you plant different varieties, you will be able to have an extended harvest. The variety ‘Wallaby’ is ready to eat about 100 days after it is planted, while ‘Snowball’ is ready about 120 days later and ‘Snowcap’ can be harvested about 150 days after planting.
Herbs too have a change in February. Many of the annual herbs such as basil are coming to an end and the summer rain and regular watering will make some of the Mediterranean herbs look a bit tired or stretched. Garden centres fill the in-between season with many ready to use varieties so don’t go without your fresh herb fix until the main planting time.
Tips for success
Follow these tips for setting up your own kitchen garden:
- Choose a site in full sun to half day sun. Plant mixed in with your flower beds or in containers but if you prefer a traditional patch, 5m x 4m of usable space should be able to provide food for a family of five.
Before sowing and planting, prepare the soil well. Dig over the soil in the beds with a fork, add liberal quantities of compost (half a bag per square metre) to the soil and work in a handful of fertiliser per square metre.