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Vegetable Growing
Whether you garden on a patio or half a hectare, everyone has room for a few vegetables and herbs. These in-depth articles will give you all the information you need to grow edible crops more successfully. Information on varieties focuses on non-hybrid and heirloom selections well suited to home garden production.
(To save paper wastage these files can be viewed on screen, saved but not printed)

All files are .pdf format. Adobe Reader is required. For free software download click the link.                     


Beans are one of the easiest vegetables to grow. While adding compost to beds is recommended in all growing situations, beans do not require the same degree of soil fertility as many other crops. In fact, excessively rich soil encourages leaf growth at the expense of flowering and can make plants more susceptible to pests and diseases.  Good drainage is essential and a pH of 6.5-7.0 is preferred...


Beetroot are biennial plants grown as annuals and harvested for their swollen root tuber. The flesh is generally red with brown/purple skin, although yellow and white fleshed varieties are also available. While beetroot is most commonly eaten as a cold, salad vegetable pickled in vinegar, it also makes a delicious hot vegetable. Grated beetroot may also be eaten raw.....

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Brassica crops offer a diverse harvest. In the case of cabbage, kale, collards, Brussels sprouts and cress, the leaves and buds are the major portion consumed. For broccoli and cauliflower it is the immature flower heads.  A root and/or leaf harvest is obtained from turnip, swede, salad radish, daikon radish, wasabi and English horseradish.  Kohl rabi, Chinese cabbage and other Asian brassicas such as mizuna are grown for their harvest of leaves and stems. The majority of mustard brassicas are grown for their seeds that are processed into the paste or powder we use as table mustard. Brassicas such as canola and rapeseed are grown for their harvest of oil.....

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The traditional European cabbage is a biennial plant that forms a large, dense, central head of overlapping leaves. Some cabbages are rounded (ballhead), while others are flat on top (drumhead). Those that form pointed heads are typically quicker maturing and known as spring or oxheart types.....


Capsicums love warm growing conditions.  You can grow them year round in frost-free tropical and subtropical regions.  Gardeners in temperate regions will achieve success by planting in spring and early summer.  Where temperatures are cool, consider starting your plants off in pots within a glasshouse or similar protected environment.  Choose a warm microclimate by planting up against a north facing brick wall, so that plants can benefit from radiated heat. Plants should be spaced at 30 –60cm intervals or are adaptable to potted culture.....


Carrots require open friable soil.  Use of fresh manures or over-rich compost causes excessive forking of carrots as the root tip is burnt and responds by branching.  For this reason carrots are typically grown in rotation with crops demanding high levels of nutrients.  Soil that has received a liberal dressing of organic material for a previous crop is ideally suited to follow-up crop of carrots.  Such sound nutritional practices also assist organic growers avoid disease outbreaks.....


Celery will grow in most well drained soil. In cool climates an almost year round supply can be achieved by planting during late winter and early spring and then again in late summer and early autumn.  In frost free, subtropical climates celery is best grown during the cooler months of the year. In these regions, autumn, winter and early spring plantings are most productive. Some success can be had in tropical climates with dry season plantings.....


Chicory is a perennial herb with a dandelion-like taproot.  In wild strains, the foliage forms a rosette of deeply lobed leaves. These become progressively clasping and lance-shaped further up the rigid flower stems. Each plant bears several branched flower stalks up to 2m high that are topped with attractive, cornflower-blue daisies. The flowers occur singly or in groups of two or three and grow 15-20cm in diameter.  Plants may be grown for purely ornamental purposes or cultivated as annuals or short-lived perennials for their leaf and/or root harvest.....


Plants are best grown from seed sown directly into the soil where they will be left to mature. In cold climates gardeners often start plants off in containers under glass, then plant out established seedlings when the weather warms up. Care should be taken when planting out as cucumbers are easily set back by root disturbance.....


Eggplants are short-lived tropical perennials.  One of the easiest vegetables to grow, the problem facing most gardeners is not how to grow them, but what to do with the more than 50 fruits that may be produced by each plant in one season.....


Fennel is adaptable across a wide range of climates but dislikes frost and extremely hot weather. This tends to encourage plants to flower and set seed prematurely. Peak growing periods are spring and autumn in most climates. Autumn plantings are preferred in subtropical regions and crops can be grown successfully in the tropics during the dry season.....


Garlic (Allium sativum) is really a perennial bulb. If you can grow a daffodil or a freesia then you can grown your own garlic. It is that easy.....

Globe Artichoke.pdf

Artichokes are an ancient crop.  Cynara is the Latin name for the weedy cardoon (Cynara cardunculus) to which globe artichokes are related.  Scolymus comes from the Greek word skolos or thorny and refers to the spines commonly found on seed grown plants. The original thorny varieties are so uninviting to harvest that it is amazing that anyone ever viewed them as edible.  In fact, plants were prized as food and medicine.  Of course, varieties grown today are selected to be largely thornless.  Plants are harvested when the buds approach maturity, but before the flower opens.....


Imagine having a year round supply of garden fresh, culinary herbs such as ginger, galangal, lemon grass, basil, turmeric, bay and Kaffir lime leaves.  These and many other herbs thrive in warm climates.  Preparation, position and propagation are the keys to growing herbs successfully in humid regions.....


Botanically speaking, this vegetable is a stem, albeit rather a swollen one.  Plants may be white, light green or purple with a bluish blush, depending on the variety being grown.  The flesh inside is white and sweet, regardless of external colouration. The leaves, leaf stalks and stem of the vegetable are edible.


Leeks are naturally biennial plants, producing vegetative growth during the first year, then flowering and producing seed during the second. Most garden varieties are grown and harvested within the first growing season and treated as annuals.  Leeks can be harvested and eaten at any size, but generally require a five to six month growing season to reach full maturity. They are popular with many gardeners in cold climates as they can be grown and harvested throughout the cooler months of the year when other vegetables may be in short supply.....


Successful lettuce growing is easy, but plants do have a high requirement for water and nutrients.   In cool, frost-free climates it is possible to grow hearting types all year round, but in warm climates, culture of hearting types is restricted to the cooler months with Cos and non-hearting varieties more suitable for late spring, summer and early autumn planting. Lettuce may be sown from seed or planted as seedlings.  With adequate water and nutrients its is possible to produce a harvest in six weeks.....


When growing onions it is important not only to choose the correct variety for your climatic region, but also to plant them at the right time of year. While onions are not particularly prone to pests and diseases, seeds have a short viability, so germination can be poor.....


Parsnips are best suited to cold and cool temperate regions. They require a long growing season and can be planted from spring through until early autumn. Crops can be grown in subtropical areas during winter, but are prone to rotting during hot, wet summers. They are unsuitable for tropical climates.....


Peas are annual plants.  They grow, flower and fruit in 8 – 14 weeks depending on the variety grown.  Dwarf varieties of garden and snow peas generally grow to less than one metre.  Climbing garden and snow peas reach over two metres in height.  The short-lived flowers are white or purple and often sweetly perfumed.

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Sweet Potato.pdf

Potato, tatties, papas, spuds.  Call them what you like! The humble potato has now gone ‘gourmet’.  Of course not just any old potato, but the varieties our grandparents grew and appreciated for their taste and different cooking attributes.  Supermarket chains are now marketing a range of potato varieties targeting the discerning buyer willing to pay premium price for a more unique product.  Organic growers have always acknowledged the unique qualities and flavour of different varieties.....

Pumpkins are some of the most vigorous members of the cucurbit family, but don’t let their trifid-like tendrils put you off.  While retail seed stocks reflect the relatively limited number of varieties produced by commercial growers, non-hybrid seed companies and seed savers networks present a picture of remarkable diversity.....


Rosella is a very versatile plant. Not only is the succulent calyx used for making jams and sauces, they are also dried to make tea. The flowers are edible and the petals make an attractive addition to summer salads. The tender young leaves may be cooked as spinach and fibre from the stems may be used as a substitute for jute.....


The Macquarie Dictionary describes spinach as ‘a large herb grown for its juicy, edible leaves’. Many gardeners reserve this description for the plant known as English spinach. This common name is somewhat confusing, as the plant is believed to have originated in modern day Iran.  Records indicate that spinach was included with the seed stock sent from England to Australia with the First Fleet. Winter is the ideal time to plant this short-lived, leafy annual, but there are also plenty of other delicious spinach greens to explore.....

Summer Salad Greens
Aim to grow your summer greens in an open friable soil into which nutrient-rich compost has been incorporated. Friable soil provides the best opportunity for plant roots to gain ready access to nutrients. While nitrogen is an important element in the growth of any leafy green plant, its availability needs to be balanced against a range of other major, minor and trace elements.
Swedes & Turnips.pdf

Swedes and turnips have been dismissed as old fashioned by gardeners and cooks who favour trendy aubergines and Asian greens. But take a closer look at these much-maligned vegetables and you will find that they have a lot to offer.

Sweet Corn.pdf

Sweet corn is a plant for gardeners who think big. You need to be prepared to grow a good-sized plot and to put some effort into preparing the soil prior to planting.  With heirloom varieties loosing ground to new hybrids and genetically engineered varieties threatening to contaminate what remains of the world’s heirloom seed varieties, there has never been a better time to grow sweet corn.....

Sweet Potato.pdf
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Australia is a comparatively small grower, producing around 32,000 tonnes of sweet potatoes annually. Most of these are sold as fresh tubers. Almost 80% of Australian sweet potato production takes place in Queensland, with northern NSW and Western Australia making small contributions to the annual total. In New Zealand the sweet potato is known by the traditional Maori name of kumara.....


Growing great tomatoes generally requires good soil nutrition. Cherry tomatoes (Lycopersicon pimpinellifolium) are less demanding, but if you want to grow large fruited Roma, Grosse Lisse or Beefsteak types (Lycopersicon esculentum), your crop harvest will be proportional to your soil enrichment efforts.....


Watermelons are tolerant of a range of soil types, but demand excellent drainage or vines are likely to suffer root rot. Prepare the soil prior for planting by growing a green manure crop and digging it in or adding plenty of well decomposed manure from grazing animals or home made compost. Avoid applying poultry manure or rich organic fertilisers as this can cause root burning and/or over production of non-fruit bearing male flowers.....

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