Kitchen Garden Guides

Tuesday, February 27, 2018

February 2018 Kitchen Garden Guide

Today, 800 million people around the globe are engaged in urban agriculture, which can produce up to 15 times more food than a rural plot of the same size, according to the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) of the United Nations. In addition, the FAO notes, urban farming “generates employment, recycles urban wastes, creates greenbelts, and strengthens cities’ resilience to climate change.”

Not only that, but doing something productive like growing some of your own food is satisfying and getting your hands into the soil can bring a glow to your cheeks, microbes to your gut and consequently a smile to your whole body!

Did you know that Australia has the longest history of food growing in the world? I recently read an eye-opening book called Dark Emu by Bruce Pascoe, about how the Aboriginal peoples of Australia were not just hunters and gatherers but also successful, innovative farmers; saving and sowing seeds, dividing roots and making extraordinarily complex fish traps way before any other civilization on earth. You may have seen Bruce Pascoe on Gardening Australia’s first show for the year, last week.

Pear and cherry slug

If you see tiny little black ‘worms’ on the leaves of your pears, cherries, quinces and even plums and the leaves are turning brown and crisp, you have this slug. A simple control is to spray the entire tree with a mist of water then throw ash or lime all over it. Do this a couple of times and they will be desiccated. Try to stand up-wind!

Watering tips

Yes it is lovely to stand about and day dream while spraying water with a hose, over the leaves of hot, dry plants. I do it often but it benefits mostly me, not the plants, as water needs to soak all the way down (and out) to the root tips, which may be 20cms below the surface and at least the same out from the stem.

  1. Buy a rose (ie a hose fitting) that cascades like a watering can head and simply adjusts the flow by turning the head or operating a lever with your thumb. I bought mine from Bunnings. Never use a gun style or those dreadful ones that only change the shape of the jet. I think people who design watering attachments should have to be gardeners!
  2. For hand watering in the garden, water each plant for a few minutes. What I do is walk around the garden beds several times because it is quite hard to stand still and water one plant for very long!
  3. Use a sprinkler, if you are on town or dam water or have another plentiful supply. Leave it on for an hour. Reduce the frequency of your watering. The roots will grow deeper and withstand much hotter weather.
  4. Use a deep hay mulch, lightly shaken over the soil. The water will penetrate and not just water the roots but also keep the microbes happy where the hay meets the soil.
  5. For my tomatoes, which can suffer with diseases if watered overhead, I have installed a line of 13mm irrigation pipe and inserted finger drippers between each tomato plant. These have adjustable little knobs that distribute water out to the size of a spread hand, like fingers. I attach a hose once a week and leave it on for at least an hour. This way every tomato plant receives a deep watering over both sides, a good 30cms or more from the stem. As the plants mature and when the weather is cooler, they need less water. This is also good for cucumbers and zucchinis which prefer not to be watered on the leaves too much.
  6. Group plants together that have similar water requirements.

Side dressing time

Side dressing means a supplementary feed once the plants are well established. A good thing to do for hungry plants in our short summer season to keep them powering along before the weather changes.  Now is a good time to side dress fruit producing vegetables, such as tomatoes, zucchinis, pumpkins, capsicums and eggplants (if you are clever enough to grow them here). A dose of potash, well watered-in with a watering can of fish fertiliser (preferably the one that uses carp which is a nasty pest fish in the Murray River) and seaweed extract is my recommendation.

Early February is the last chance to feed your citrus because new growth stimulated to grow later, when autumn is approaching, will result in the tips being burnt off, even if the plants are in a sheltered place, simply because of the cold on tender citrus shoots. I use poultry pellets and the carp fish fertiliser.

Seeds to sow now
Broccoli raab
Asian greens (late Feb.)
Spinach & silver beet
Spring onions
Hakurei turnips
Tas. swedes
Plant out now, yes now, or before!
Brussel sprouts
Broccoli – regular, sprouting and raab
Jobs for February
Plant or move citrus
Summer prune stone fruits
Prepare beds for autumn plantings
Save seeds for next spring
Give pots and the veg. garden some seaweed and fish liquid feed in a hosable spray.


Books of the month

Dark Emu by Bruce Pascoe
The Mix and Match Guide to Companion Planting by Josie Jeffery
Australian Herbal by Penny Woodward

December 2017 Kitchen Garden Guide

Hot, very hot and dry. Suddenly cold. Then windy and VERY wet for days and days. Now warm again! What a couple of weeks we have had and if your body is out of kilter, think for a moment about your garden. At least you could go inside and avoid the worst of it!


Garlic: Garlic does not like to be wet once its bulbs are maturing! Now it is saturated at the worst possible time. I pulled my early garlic last week when I heard the forecast. Now I am going to check my mid season and late season garlics by digging up a couple. If you see any signs of the stem going floppy or if your soil is clay (and therefore waterlogged and devoid of oxygen) dig them immediately and lay out in a tin shed to thoroughly dry off. For good storage, garlic needs to be firm and dry. 

Once you have harvested your garlic, plant out with other lime-lovers such as broccoli and be sure to plant amongst some camouflage like marigolds and leeks and add an aphid repellant too, like nasturtiums. There is more on this, below.

Tomatoes: There may be outbreaks of diseases so check regularly, over the next couple of weeks, for yellowing leaves, general wilt, spotty or curled leaves or purple leaf veins. Pick off any affected leaves and dispose of. Some of these symptoms may mean the plants should be relaced. A dose of liquid seaweed solution could help them fight off diseases. Listen to Peter Cundall’s radio show as I bet he will be inundated with questions about too much rain in the vegie garden.

Beans: If, like me, you sowed beans only a day or 2 before the big rain, the bean seeds may rot before they germinate. If the seedlings have not emerged soon, dig in with your finger and have a look so you can re-sow quickly, while the soil is deliciously damp, if needs be. Now is the perfect time to sow beans, after rain. Do not water until they emerge.

Mildew and other fungal attacks

Usually these come towards the end of the summer, when plants like zucchinis are coming to the end but this wet then warm weather may breed up spores very quickly. I use a spray of 1 part milk to 9 parts water, thoroughly over the leaves but I have also recently heard of using carb soda to ward off mildew on gooseberries. Check out the Gardening Australia website for more on this.

Plant out in the damp soil

Sow and plant cucumbers, zucchinis, corn, sunflowers, salad greens, herbs, flowers and everything you can get your hands on. After rain is the best time to get plants going. Even though the soil is still damp, always water your seedlings in. Why? Because every tiny root hair needs to be in contact with the soil to work its magic and extract nutrients from the soil. Watering in is the only way to ensure this happens.

Camouflage, deception and more

Sow brassicas now, in pots, for next winter’s broccoli, cauliflower, red cabbage and Brussels sprouts harvest. As they emerge, keep them covered with netting to keep those pesky cabbage moths away or cut out little moth shapes from white plastic (eg icecream or yoghurt containers) and string them about to fool the moths into thinking there are already moths in that area. I have some larger broccoli plants in pots, ready to plant out (heaven only knows why I grew them this time of year!). I will dot them about amongst lettuce, herbs and tall flowers like cosmos so that the moths cannot fly overhead and immediately pick out a row of broccoli to lay their eggs on. Camouflage also works for distracting birds away from my raspberries, some of which are overhung by tree mallows and others are along one side of a large apple tree. I am a seriously lazy gardener and try to use nature as my ally.

Growing Basil ….

Unpredictable and tricky until you find what works, basil is loved by everyone! Here is what I have discovered works for me: I sow in trays in December, only the large leaf varieties such as Genovese and Lettuce Leaf which grow fast in our climate and have fabulous flavour. The seeds take a while to germinate so be patient, keep the soil damp but not wet. Once germinated, water with a weak seaweed solution until they are big enough to transplant. I put several plants into each 20cm pot with a rich potting mix and keep them in my little hot house, as they hate the cold. I like to have 6 pots, some sown early Dec. and some later. They don’t mind a bit of shade as long as it is nice and warm and if you live somewhere consistently warmer than my place they may be fine outside. Don’t overwater and do pick regularly.

December Jobs

January Jobs
Sow seeds: beans, squash, cucumbers, basil, carrots, celery, lettuce, leeks, parsley, sunflowers, radish, parsnip, pumpkin, chicory.
Sow seeds: Lots of winter veg benefit from summer sowing so they reach a good size to plant out in autumn: fennel, Brussel sprouts, red cabbage, leeks, kale, beetroot.
Plant out: corn, tomatoes, cucumbers, pumpkin, other veg seedlings, potatoes, potted herbs,
Basil: keep in greenhouse in good sized pots with rich soil and water well but allow to drain well before watering again.
Fill in spaces with flowers, comfrey, daisies, herbs and love.
Dec and Jan:
-      Mulch vegetable garden well, preferably with old hay
-      Mulch fruit trees well, preferably with bark chips
-      Feed food garden with seaweed solution for pest resistance and fish emulsion or home made brews
-      Harvest and enjoy!

November Kitchen Garden Guide

Everyone is out in the garden, planting and sowing; dreaming of all the summer meals ahead, picked straight from the garden. My tip is to keep your tomatoes in pots until after the Huon Show (November 18th) if you live in a frosty area. I remember the year that many people woke to find a hard frost had burnt their entire tomato patch overnight in mid-November! I find that potting tomatoes up into slightly bigger pots works really well as advanced plants suffer little when planted out, unlike the little ones planted out early.


Just looking out the window is enough to give me high blood pressure this time of the year as I can see the grass growing while I have coffee! There is grass that needs mowing, grass that needs slashing and grass that needs pulling; pretty much grass everywhere and mostly where I do not want it. Grrrrr….

1. When I first came here, from dry old Adelaide, I loved cool, grassy paths wandering serenely through flower and vegetables beds but now I am over it because grass does not keep to the paths at all and can leap tall buildings with a single bound! By covering some of the paths with wet newspaper or cardboard then sawdust or fine bark mulch, headway is being made at last. When it all breaks down I scoop it up and toss it on the beds then remake the paths.

2. I try not to let grass grow within the drip line of fruit trees. As the trees grow, so the dripline expands and more grass is mulched over. Amongst the mulch I plant all manner of flowers and herbs and native groundcovers too. This is fabulous for fire zones as it keeps dry mulch to a minimum, using plants as living mulch. At the same time it benefits soil microbes, little native birds and beneficial insects as well as looking pretty.

3. I like a patch of lawn as a space to sit and chat, have a BBQ or read but I don’t need space for a backyard cricket match so I keep the lawn just big enough to put up my marquee…. after all, this is Tasmania and it does rain, without notice! Beyond that small lawn it is ideal to have dense plantings that shade out any errant grass and keep maintenance to a minimum. My father used a small, sharp spade to cut a narrow trench around the edge of the lawn. Any piece of grass that grew into that trench was removed pronto.

Codling moth

The adult female codling moth lays approximately 60 whitish grey eggs that are about the size of a pinhead, on the surface of the leaves of apples, pears and quinces when the average temperature is over 15 degrees in spring and early summer. To reduce their numbers you must act now.

Codling moth eggs hatch after 10 days and the small caterpillars emerge to feed on the leaf surface and make their way to the fruit. They burrow into the fruit and head for the core. They will spend about three to five weeks inside the fruit feeding and putting on body mass until they are ready to emerge. This is the stage that we see, when fruit displays the tell-tale hole which leads to brown insides or early rotting when stored.

My mother’s remedy works well but annually leads to her becoming embarrassed at her frequent visits to the local bottle shop every spring! She has a stash of tins, such as from tinned tomatoes, through which she has drilled holes and ties string so that the tins can hang in a tree. Into each tin she puts a dash of port and a double dash of water. She hangs 2 or 3 tins in every apple, pear and quince tree. The male coddling moths are attracted to the port and drown in it, reducing the number of fertile eggs laid by the females. My mother tops up the liquids regularly.

There is more information and several non-alcoholic controls outlined on the Global Net Academy website.

November is beans time.

Add a handful of potash and a good spadeful of compost per square metre and fork them in. Sow beans into damp soil and water only once until the first leaves appear. It is a good idea to soak the beans overnight before sowing, to hasten germination.

Climbing beans: If you are lucky enough to grow your own hazelnuts / dogwood / bamboo / suitable willow then you can easily (and for free) make use of them to erect a frame. (Search Google images for ‘bean poles’ and see how creative you can be). But beware!! We live in the roaring 40’s!! Pole beans WILL blow over unless the structure is secure. I tie one end of my frame to a sturdy fence post. I especially love flat beans and have found some seeds, at last.

Bush beans: These produce bucket loads of fabulous beans all summer without the need for a frame but therefore take up much more room. I love the thin, stringless, French beans as well as borlotti beans. It helps to mulch with dry straw once we get into summer and there is less rain.

Bush beans are great for Tasmania as they produce faster than pole beans. There are hundreds of varieties to choose from and saving seed for next year is simply a matter of letting some of the pods mature fully and dry off before picking.

Jobs for November

Sow indoors or transplant and protect:
Cucumbers (Lebanese), zucchinis (Romanesco), corn, pumpkins.
Sow or plant in the garden:
Salad leaves (not just lettuce!), brassicas (cover with moth netting), most herbs, salad and spring onions, beetroot, fennel, carrots, celery, parsnip, sunflowers and more!
  • Plant out frost tender seedlings after Huon Show Day.
  • Check your hose fittings, watering cans and irrigation equipment.
  • Share excess seedlings with friends.
  • Most of all, enjoy the garden and the splashes of sunshine!

October 2017 Kitchen Garden Guide

It seems that all our winter rain has come at once and many gardens are too wet, after a record dry June and July. If your soil is full of organic matter you will notice that the rain has penetrated deep, the big native worms have moved up into the top 20 centimetres and the soil is damp and beautiful indicating the perfect conditions for weeds and grass to germinate!

If you cannot keep on top of the weeds and grass, but the bed has not reverted totally to turf, simply cover it with plenty of hay, layering it with a thorough but thin covering of compost (and bio-char, if you have some) as you go. Then, when you are ready to plant into it, make a hole in the hay, add a good handful of compost and slip each seedling into its home. From then on pull the weeds and grass as they appear. This will be easy! Keep topping up with compost and hay all summer long.

Other amendments may be helpful, but we are trying to provide the right conditions for the soil microbes, who will do much of the work for you. Overfeeding your plants will kill the microbes in the soil and require you to add more and more amendments, forever!

Tasmanian plants for the kitchen garden

Along with herbs and vegetables that originate from other countries, plant some Tasmanian edibles. Not only can you eat them but they will bring beneficial insects and native birds to your garden.  And when you walk in the forests you will see them growing wild.

Did you see Tino, on Gardening Australia this week, planting native, edible plants in The Patch at the Tasmanian Botanic Gardens? Catch it on iview. Below are some of the plants he used plus some I have in my garden…..

Gaultheria hispida - Snowberry – a very pretty and quite tough plant with berries that look like balls of snow. This plant is recolonizing much of the previously bare hills surrounding Queenstown now.

Tasmannia lanceolate - Tasmanian Pepperberry – A mountain plant which does remarkably well in gardens, protected from afternoon sun in summer. Leaves and berries make excellent replacements for imported pepper. Be sure to plant females for the berries. You only need males if you want to propagate from the berries (just as you only need roosters if you want to have fertile eggs).

Ozomanthus – An open bush with tiny leaves, resembling thyme in looks and taste. I use it regularly wherever you’d use thyme. It has masses of beautiful, cream flower heads in summer. Mine grows in dry, semi-shade under an oak tree. Others I planted in lusher, brighter places all died.

Rubus parvifolius – Native raspberry – a very fine climber, with tiny little raspberries which are quite sweet. Worth growing. Very hard to weed around as the stems are so fine and easily broken.

Apium prostratum – Sea Celery – A salt herb used widely in restaurants these days but also eaten by early settlers and Captain Cook and his crews. This rambling shrub prefers dry conditions.

Kunzea ambigua – a lovely hedging plant for poor soils with masses of sweet-scented flowers. The leaves are useful for tea and have one of the best herb flavours for cooking of all the Tasmanian plants.

Cyttaria gunnii (Myrtle Fungus) - An edible fungus, which only grows on Myrtle Beech trees (Nothofagus cunninghami ) and cannot be mistaken for any other species. It has a mild, slightly apricot flavour. Look for them between Nov - Jan .

Prickly Currant Bush (Coprosma quadrifida): Forms sweet orange berries that can be eaten raw or made into a pie. The tiny spines provide protection for small birds. Consider the spines when choosing a location for these plants. To encourage bushy growth, pinch out the tips.

Coast Beard-Heath (Leucopogon parviflorus): Widespread throughout Australia, mainly along the coast. Forms a small white flower followed by a white berry. Grows well in sandy soils, avoid heavy clay. Small shrub - can be used as a hedge.

Flinders Island Celery (Apium insulare):  Grows only on the Bass Strait islands and Lord Howe Island. Stems can be eaten just like conventional celery and the leaves are a good alternative to parsley. Perennial plant that dies down in winter, but comes back year after year.

More information can be found on the Tas Wild Edibles facebook page and the Gardening Australia website. Plants and knowledge can be sourced at Plants of Tasmania in Ridgeway.

Citrus care.

  • October is a good time to feed your citrus.
  • Don’t use too strong if your plants are in tubs or you may burn their shallow roots.
  • Sprinkle 1 tsp. Epsom salts around each pot, or more if in the ground. Water in well.
  • Give a liquid feed such as seaweed and fish, all over all the foliage and soil, every 2 weeks.
  • Mine live on my sunny and windy verandah and thrive. I move them forward as the angle of the sun rises, to get as much sun as possible.
  • The frost damaged citrus in my garden will not get this treatment until they are looking stronger.

Sow in October
For transplanting later, especially in frost prone areas
Any vegetable that fruits or with edible seeds: (Tomatoes – a bit late), zucchinis, corn, melons, pumpkins, cucumbers, capsicums, eggplants (good luck!!)
In fact sow almost anything you have seeds of including flowers and herbs galore.
Leaves, legumes and roots
Lettuce and other salad greens, beetroot, parsnips, carrots, peas, radish, celery, summer spinach and brassicas….. and of course lots of herbs; all of them.
Tip: If you have grass problems in your beds, sow everything in trays and plant out later.

September 2017 Kitchen Garden Guide

Rain, cold and sun…. and roots

After one of the driest winters for decades, south eastern Tasmanian is now well and truly wet. But dig down beyond a spade’s depth and, here and there, the soil is still dry so let’s hope it keeps raining for a while yet. While the garden is coping with very dry then wet conditions, it is also having to cope with regularly very cold nights plus frost and snow. On top of that, warm spring air is arriving in fits and starts and the notorious, spring winds are picking up. Despite all this, fruit trees are blossoming and we are all hoping for good fruit set. How does nature cope with all this and how can we help?

Latest research is showing that the brain of plants may well be in the roots. Below our feet is more life than above and, as well as roots of plants, this life primarily consists of the first inhabitants of the earth, microbes. The roots of plants, in particular the root tips, are the interface that can sense roots of other plants (and even know if they are related!) as well as work with the rest of the soil life to extract minerals to feed to the plant parts that are above the ground. I went to a fabulous talk about this last weekend at the Botanic Gardens. So extensive and complex is soil life that one theory is that, as with mushrooms, the above ground plant parts are simply the fruiting body for the “real” plant below the surface and all this is controlled by millions of tiny root tips!

What does this mean for our food gardens? It means that keeping the microbes in the soil happy is the primary thing to do in order to develop delicious, nutritious, healthy fruit and vegetables, able to ward off disease. During this burst of every-weather-in-a-day, the soil needs deep mulch to regulate temperature and stop heavy rain pounding the surface (microbes are fussy about getting hot and cold, dry and wet). Have a look at a forest floor; mulch covers everything and no-one fertilises it.

Onto vegetable beds, sprinkle a thin layer of compost, then 10cms of fluffed up, soaked hay, then another thin layer of compost then another 10cms of soaked hay. Check every week and keep this rhythm going right through summer. Keep some large tubs scattered through the garden to make it easy to throw half or more of a bale of hay in and fill with water, to soak for at least an hour before topping up the hay bed.

To plant seedlings, make a hole in the hay, add a good handful of compost and plant into that. The hole does not need to go all the way down to the soil. Water in.

For trees, use the same method but use mixed bark at half the depth (or rain may not penetrate at all). Wetting as you go is important. If you have a grass problem, lay wet newspaper or thin cardboard and extra compost before the bark chips. Sticks and leaves and branches can also be added on top. Woody material encourages fungi and, in a forest, fallen branches and trees are everywhere, rotting back into the soil and encouraging more life.

Pumpkins in every garden

Soon everyone will be thinking about growing pumpkins. Our local gardening groups, collectively known as Gumboot Gardeners, want to encourage as many people as possible to grow pumpkins this year. We will be having a community stall at the Cygnet Market on October 15th where we will be distributing seeds of as many different pumpkins as we can muster as well as giving pumpkin growing advice. The idea is that then, in autumn, when pumpkins are ready to harvest, we will have another stall, with competitions for size, shape, creative dressing and decorating and cooking! Individuals, families, schools and groups are all invited to join in. Maybe the police station, fire station, medical centres, community garden and council parks will grow pumpkins too, as they do in Incredible, Edible Todmorden, England!

If you have pumpkin seeds to share please would you contact me asap so we can build up a great seed bank for our project.

War and seeds

Have you ever thought about what happens to the heirloom seeds saved for generations by traditional farmers when they become caught in war zones and their crops destroyed or abandoned? The rich diversity of crops can sometimes be lost forever and a community devastated by fighting may never regain the foods that had graced the tables of the community for thousands of years. Spare a thought for the chaos around the world and the seeds being lost, along with the lives.

How lucky we are to live in peaceful, beautiful Tasmania.

Indoors to transplant later
Outside (late Sept if very cold)
Celery, celeriac (love it wet, lime)
Capsicums, chillis
Onions, long keeping (lime well)
Kales, especially Squire and Blue Curled
Herbs (NOT basil yet!)
Brassicas (if you are prepared with netting to keep the cabbage moths off)
Lettuce + other salad greens
Still a bit early for cucumbers and pumpkins if you have late frosts.
Chit or Plant out
Divide and plant out
Potatoes (leave to chit or sprout if frosty where you live.
Plant out later)
Globe artichokes

August 2017 Kitchen Garden Guide

The light is slowly coming but the cold continues; such is winter at the bottom of Australia. Our European fruit trees are awakening and we all look forward to their abundant crops gracing our tables in the summer ahead.

Curly Leaf

It is time to see that the early fungus that causes leaf curl on peaches, nectarines and related fruit trees does not get a hold, by spraying every nook and cranny of every branch, stem and bud with a copper spray. Peter Cundall recommends Burgundy mix, which you can make yourself.

Burgundy Mixture:

1 Dissolve 100 gram of washing soda  in 5 litres of warm water.
2 Dissolve 100 grams copper sulphate in a separate half bucket (5 litres) of water.
3 Slowly pour the dissolved washing soda into the dissolved copper sulphate and add more water if necessary to make up 10 litres.
4 This is Burgundy mixture. It is at its most effective strength when freshly mixed so must be used immediately or within a couple of days.
5 Spray thoroughly over the bare branches of peachnectarine and other stone fruit trees to help control leaf curl and brown rot disease. It is also useful when sprayed over raspberry canes in late July for control of raspberry rust and on apple trees that had scab last year.

The mixture colours the sprayed plants blue. The spray can withstand light rain but should be re-applied after persistent rain and done at least twice before any buds open. Do not spray once the leaves and flowers open.

Surely it is not tomato sowing time!

If, like me, picking tomatoes from the garden is a favourite sport of yours then now is the time to get your seeds started. Last summer a lot of people grew the best tomatoes ever but we have no idea what this season will be like. So we need to hedge our bets and choose a range of tomatoes; some that will produce in a cool season, some for a hot season, some that will thrive even in the rain and some that can tolerate wind etc.

Kotlas is by far the earliest and is worth growing for that reason. I always grow some Rouge de Marmande because, no matter what, they will provide you with a prolific crop of medium sized, red tomatoes on sturdy, bush plants. These survived the cyclonic spring winds last spring.

I always grow some Black Cherry as they are the most flavoursome of the cherries, in my opinion, and are reasonably reliable, although mine did not flourish last year. After that, I go for a dense, luscious, tasty tomato like Black from Tula which may not perform as well in a cool summer but is the highlight of my garden when the summers extend in autumn. Last year I tried Black Crim but the skin was so thin that they were often damaged before ripening and I rarely got a good one.

Next I would choose San Marzano, as a cooking tomato as they go on and on for months, with branches laden and don’t even mind lying on the ground. I don’t much like yellow or pear shaped tomatoes but I am sure there must be some good ones.

Basically, fruiting plants like tomatoes, capsicums and eggplants need the longest growing season as they have to first get to a good size, then flower, then the fruits must grow and finally they need time to develop flavour and to ripen. Sow these now, preferably with even, bottom heat. I use a 6m long, 50 watt, thin, flexible, silicon cable taped to the underside of a 3 shelf, metal rack from the tip-shop. The metal shelves ensure good heat transfer to my seed trays and 50W just keeps the soil at a nice temperature.

Each seed tray fits inside a foam box from which I have cut out the bottom, so the tray sits directly on the metal shelf. Over the foam frame sits a sheet of glass. This is for 2 reasons. Firstly, successful seed germination depends on high humidity but constant watering can be too much, causing low germination. Once the seeds are gently watered at sowing, covering with a glass sheet keeps in the moisture without any further watering needed before germination. Secondly, mice love seeds and this is a fool proof way of keeping them out. I once lost a whole tray of assorted pumpkin seeds to mice and quickly learned my lesson.

What about basil?

Seeds you would be best not to sow yet include basil. I grow wonderful basil, sowing as late as November or even early December. This way they do not run to seed, but grow fast and strong in the longer days. I sow them in trays and transplant to 20cm pots, 3 or 4 to a pot, with excellent compost and potting mix. I keep them all summer in my green house. My favourite for Tasmania is Lettuce-leaf basil as its large leaves mean strong growth and good pickings. It has an excellent flavour as does Genovese.

No matter how warm your shelf or hot house, day length cannot be easily altered and some plants just insist on longer days to grow well.

Plant and sow in August

Plant rhubarb, strawberry runners, raspberry canes, asparagus and get all deciduous trees and shrubs in before they leaf.
Start sowing summer vegetables with bottom heat:
·         Tomatoes
·         Capsicums
·         Chillis
·         Eggplants…. Good luck!
·         Pumpkins… I would wait until Sept
·         Zucchinis ….I would wait until Sept
And while you are waiting for them to mature, why not grow some sprouts in the kitchen for a nutritious and delicious treat for your taste buds and body!
Sow now in trays to plant out later:
·         Onions including red, salad, spring and most others
·         Broad beans (it is not too late)
·         Coriander
·         Brassicas
·         Asian greens
·         Lettuces
·         Peas (sow direct and protect from birds and snails)