Direct sow, direct grow…what could be easier

‘In situ’ or ‘direct sowing’ is the traditional, uncomplicated way of starting veggies.

By October the soil has warmed up and veggie seed can safely be sown directly into garden beds.

Seed varies quite considerably in size and the summer veggies with large seeds are easier to handle, and can be sown in individual holes, which makes spacing between plants easier as well.

Just one packet can supply a season or more of vegetables, and if stored properly in a cool, dark drawer or container, can be viable for two to three years, making it even more affordable.

If you are wondering where to start the five veggies that Kirchhoffs seeds recommends for direct sowing are tomatoes (they germinate super easily), baby marrow squash ‘Caserta’, Swiss chard or Margo (indigenous spinach), bush beans, and beetroot.

Getting started

Read the seed packet: it carries all the information you need; depth of sowing, spacing, time to harvest, sun or shade requirements and what time of the year is best for sowing.

Loosen the soil, break up any big clods of soil for a finer texture, remove large sticks and stones and add in plenty of compost. Rake level, water and leave overnight for sowing the next day when the soil is still damp, but not too wet.

 Handy sowing tips

Use your finger or thumb to make a hole for the seed. First, measure the length of your finger. It may be 2.5cm to the first digit, and 5cm to the second, which makes it easy to judge, as not many seeds are planted deeper than 2.5cm After making the hole, just drop in the seed and lightly press down the soil to close the hole. Most plants need to be spaced 20cm apart; simply use the span of your hand.

The importance of watering

Don’t let the soil dry out while the seeds are geminating. When the little growing tips emerge from the seeds they dry out very quickly unless the soil is moist. In very hot weather water lightly twice a day or cover the beds with shade cloth, slightly raised above the ground.

Off to a good start

Watching the seed pop up is probably the most exciting part of growing veggies. It always feels like a minor miracle.

To get them growing well, feed with organic Margaret Roberts Supercharger and repeat two weeks later.

Beetroot or spinach seed looks like a clump, but it is a cluster containing a few seeds. Once it germinate, the seedlings need to be thinned out. The least disruptive way to do this is leave the stronger plants and snip off the others at ground level with kitchen scissors.

The seed looks like a clump – it’s actually a seed cluster containing a few seeds. Once they germinate, they need to be thinned out to one plant, leaving enough space for the rest to develop healthy roots. They can be left to grow in clusters, providing they have enough space to spread out

Tomato ‘Roma Vf’ (jam Tomato) may seem like an unusual choice, but it is flesh is firm and tasty with very few seeds, good for salads, sandwiches, sauces and cooking. It is a compact bushy tomato that can also be grown in containers. It produces lots of fruit and will need staking to support the fruit.

To grow: sow seed 3mm deep and space plants 30cm apart but with at least 1.5m between rows. Plants start producing fruit within 80 to 100 days.

Baby Marrow Caserta is a prolific and quick crop that is ready for harvesting within 50 to 60 days from germination. Pick the marrows when they are the length of a finger and keep on picking to encourage more fruit.

To grow: Plant three seeds in one hole; when one seed starts to germinate it releases a chemical that stimulates the others to germinate. Seeds should also be planted upright, 10 mm deep, rather than flat, to prevent rotting. Space plants at least 1m apart. Water often around the base of the plant to keep the leaves dry and free from mildew.

Garden bush bean ‘Contender’ is a particularly easy vegetable for the novice gardener to grow. It tolerates heat and also does well in shorter cooler seasons. It produces a prolific amount of beans, that should be picked every two to three days to keep it producing.

To grow: sow early in October before the soil gets too warm. Plant beans (2 to a hole) 10mm deep and 45cm apart. Keep soil consistently moist, and water daily in hot weather without rain. For a long harvest, plant successive rows every two to three weeks up until March.

Marog ‘Imbuya’ is an excellent hot dry weather substitute for spinach, and it can be picked over a long period. It has large, arrow shaped-leaves and the more they are picked the more is produced.

The young leaves have a mild flavour and can be eaten raw, cooked like spinach, or added to soups, stews:

To grow: sow seed 2mm deep and space plants 25cm apart. They tolerate low soil fertility and is not bothered by diseases or pests.

Beetroot ‘Bulls Blood’ doubles as a root and leafy vegetable. Pick the deep red leaves as baby leaves for salads or cook older leaves like spinach or use in stir fries. The medium sized, round roots have red and white zoning and make an attractive addition to any meal.

To grow: plant 10mm and 10cm apart. Beetroot don’t like dry weather and need regular moisture otherwise they can become stringy and tough.

Published Sandton Chronicle

Article written by Alice Coetzee