There are lots of vegies that can be planted at this time of year but you need to do a bit of preparation first. Dig in or top dress with fine compost, rock dust and a handful or two of dolomite. If you’re not ready to plant immediately then cover with mulch and water well. Two really popular vegies are carrots and parsnips. They need a fine tilth (no lumps or sticks in the soil for at least the first 15cm) and well-drained soil. When you are ready to plant, pull back the mulch and get your seed ready to sow.
Carrots and parsnips don’t transplant at all well so there is no point buying punnets of seedlings and trying to plant them out in the garden, they will either die or go straight to seed. The trouble is that seed can also take a long time to germinate and you can’t afford to let them dry out at all while you are waiting for this to happen. There are two ways of making it easier to sow and grow these plants.
The first is to soak the seeds for 24 hours in shallow containers containing water that is slightly warm to begin with. At the end of this time sow the seed into shallow drills and cover with a thin layer of soil. Water with a fine soft rose on your hose or watering can to avoid washing the seed from the soil. After the soaking, the seed will germinate in a week to 10 days, instead of the usual three weeks.
The second is to cover the line of seed with a light timber board. This prevents evaporation and means you won’t need to water every day (or in the hot dry weather we are experiencing in Victoria at present, several times a day). After the first few days, once a day lift the board to check that the soil is still moist and that the seed hasn’t sprouted. Once the seed sprouts, remove the board and allow the seedlings to grow, keeping the soil moist but not wet. Once the seedlings are growing strongly and about 10cm tall, sprinkle pelletised certified organic manure along the row, water with dilute seaweed extract and move the mulch back into position on either side of the seedlings. In six weeks time you can harvest small carrots or parsnips, leaving room for the rest to grow to full size.
By: Penny Woodward
First published: March 2017