Even though February is a scorcher, cool season veggies can be started in seed trays for, for planting out during the cooler days of March.
For salad lovers, lettuce is at the top of the list, because it thrives in cooler weather and it can be grown through winter in sunny beds, in fertile soil that drains well. In cold areas protect with frost cloth at night.
Germination takes about a week and most lettuce is ready to harvest within two months. Feed monthly with Margaret Roberts Organic Supercharger and keep the soil consistently moist (but not soggy) for tasty, crunchy leaves. Drought-stress lettuce becomes bitter and is more likely to be infested with aphids.
Water in the morning so that leaves dry by evening and spread a light layer of mulch around plants to prevent water from splashing soilborne bacteria onto the leaves. Bacteria make the greens more susceptible to rot before and after harvest.
The loose leafed varieties are the most practical because you can harvest the individual leaves for up to three months before replanting. Others, like the butterhead or iceberg, are picked when the heads form so it’s best to sow seed at sow at three to four weekly intervals to have a constant supply.
Harvest in the morning because the leaf cells are full of water and have the best texture. Wait until the dew has dried.
Suggested loose leaf varieties from Kirchhoffs seeds are ‘Salad Mixed’, a selection of loose leaf and crisp lettuce and Lollo Rossa and Lollo Biondo ( red and green loose leaf lettuce).
Head forming lettuce include Blond De Paris, which has crisp leaves yet softer than an iceberg lettuce, Saladin, which is one of the best iceberg varieties, with crisp, sweet green leaves and a dense heart, and Butterhead which has large, firm heads that are round and slightly flattened. The smooth, green leaves have an intense green colour, and the hearts can be a rich golden yellow colour.
What to sow now:
Summer rainfall areas: all brassicas, lettuce, carrots, beetroot, Swiss chard, leeks, and onions
Winter rainfall areas:, brassicas, beetroot, carrots, celery, lettuce.
Subtropical areas: garden beans, beetroot, brinjals, capsicums, carrots, celery, onion, radish, Swiss chard, and tomatoes.
For more information: www.kirchhoffs.co.za
Published in Tuis
Written by Alice Coetzee