Homes

Viva the vegetable patch

Be self-sufficient with your own summer vege garden

**Beans

**It’s time now to sow another crop of beans. Sow every four to five weeks until the end of January in the south and mid-March in the north. Lay straw around dwarf beans to prevent soil splash spoiling the fruit. If space is an issue, grow climbing beans around a bamboo teepee in the flower garden – their flowers are lovely! Pick beans before the seeds swell.

**Courgettes & cucumbers

**In humid climes, powdery mildew can be a problem for courgettes and cucumbers. Train them up a teepee or trellis and water the ground (not the leaves) to lessen the risk. Spray mildew with one teaspoon of baking soda mixed into one litre of water. If fruit fails to set, hand pollinate flowers by rubbing male flowers against female flowers (those with small swelling at base). Pick fruit regularly when about 15cm long.

**Peppers

**Peppers require a long growing season. By now, they’re best planted out as established seedlings. once fruiting, fertilise with a high-potash liquid fertiliser. Stake heavily bearing plants to prevent collapse. Harvest capsicums when green for a tangy flavour or leave them to colour up for a sweet flavour. Harvest chillies when green for a mild flavour or red for a fiery taste.

**Salad greens

**Salad greens grow fast over summer but need plenty of water to maintain active growth and keep leaves plump. Weekly liquid-feeding with blood and bone will also keep growth vigorous and succulent. Snip mesclun leaves when they’re young and sweet (7-10cm tall) and harvest lettuce when just mature. As salad greens don’t germinate well in high temperatures, sow another patch before Christmas to be ready for picking in February.

**Tomatoes

**Continue to remove laterals on tomatoes trained as single leaders. Hammer in a few more stakes for Supertoms and cherry tomatoes to support them as they grow. Leave fruit on the vine to ripen, as this achieves the best flavour and highest nutrient level. However, pick Heirloom varieties when slightly soft, as they generally ripen before they reach full colour. Liquid feed weekly with a high potash fertiliser and spray with copper to prevent blight. Never store tomatoes in the fridge – this diminishes their sugar content, making them less tasty.

General vege garden tips

  • Regular watering, feeding, weeding and harvesting are the keys to success.

  • Water established plants deeply every other day and young plants every day.

  • Liquid-feed every week with seaweed, fish or blood and bone liquid fertiliser.

  • Watch for pests or disease and spray with an organic spray immediately.

  • Invest in a worm bin – worm fertiliser is great for veges.

  • Experiment with different varieties to see which you prefer and which grow best in your area.

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