“Growing ahead of the pack”
Spring 2015 – South Australian Garden and Outdoor Living magazine
“Growing ahead of the pack” – Hannah Thwaites
The intermittent, temperate weather of Spring – sun, showers, sun – provides perfect growing conditions for edible plants. However, if you and your kids wish to ‘grow ahead of the pack’, you can create these conditions.
A microclimate is the climate of a small or restricted area that is different from the area around it. You can use the milder microclimates in and around your house to grow your Spring garden early – eg. balconies tend to escape frosts that kill off ground-level plants, sunny windowsills provide warmth without the risk of chilling winds. By raising your plants in containers, the small volume of soil is more easily heated, raising the temperature high enough to encourage seed germination and root growth. If your container’s microclimate is still too cold, you may wish to create a cover that allows the light (and warmth from the sun) in and still provides room for the seedlings to grow. In our 12-litre Mini-Crates, we’ve simply used some sticks in the corners as support and draped clear plastic over the top to trap the heat. However, you may wish to cut the tops off of bottles to create cloches and place those over individual seedlings.
It is very important that the planter allows for good drainage. Being porous, both timber and terracotta are ideal materials as water can leach out the sides as well as through the hole or two at the bottom, ensuring your plants don’t drown.
To create an early Spring garden, choose edibles that the kids like eating and are also easily grow from seed. Those listed below will happily grow in small spaces, with only the tomatoes requiring a simple support structure:
Salad-y goodness: baby spinach, dwarf cherry tomato, loose-leaf lettuce (aka cut-and-come-again lettuce), radish, spring onion
Herbilicious: basil, chives, parsley
Place your planter in the protected microclimate of your choice and allow the Spring sunlight to warm it up. The new plants will strive for the light and, with the addition of regular watering, grow up delicious enough to eat!
DIY Watering Bottle
Watering in small spaces can prove tricky with large, bulky watering cans. A cheap DIY option is to repurpose an empty plastic bottle – choose between 600ml or 2Ltr depending on your child’s strength and dexterity – by piercing the lid with small holes to create a nozzle. Depending on who will be making the holes (e.g. adult or older child), this can be done either by using a fine drill bit to drill through the plastic; heating a needle with a match or lighter to soften and pierce the plastic; or hammering a small nail through the lid multiple times. And if you ever need to replace the bottle in the future, simply use the cap on your next empty container!
Hannah Thwaites is Owner of The Productive Garden Co., an Adelaide-based business specialising in the design and installation of edible gardens and all about “Growing gardens you can eat!” www.productivegardenco.com.au