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Updated June 3, 2012, 4:12 pm betterhomesgardens
Like a salad with extra crunch? Get fresh with your vegie patch.
Climate: Grows in all areas except tropical, dry subtropical and the hotter parts of semi-arid areas. Best in cooler, temperate climates.
Planting: In cold areas, sow seed from spring to early summer; in frost-free areas, from late winter to late summer. Sow into trays and transplant seedlings into small pots. When big enough, plant in free-draining soil with lots of rotted manure and a ration of complete plant food.
Growing: Always keep plants moist - you may have to water daily in summer. After planting out, feed every three weeks with soluble or liquid fertiliser. Slugs and snails will damage stems and a leaf-spotting fungus may attack the plant. It can be controlled with fungicide. To harvest, cut the whole plant at ground level or remove outside stems as needed.
Climate: Suitable for all climate zones. Grow year round in the tropics and northern subtropics, in warm seasons elsewhere.
Planting: Sow seed 50-75cm apart. Soil must be enriched with rotted manure and/or compost and must drain freely.
Growing: Keep evenly moist, applying more water as summer approaches. Mulch with straw, compost or rotted manure. Feed every three to four months with liquid or soluble fertiliser, or complete plant food. Pumpkin beetle, aphids and spider mite. Mildew strikes foliage in humid weather; control it with a suitable fungicide. To harvest, pick before the fruit becomes too big. Very large ones are tough and can be bitter.
Climate: Lettuces can be grown in all areas.
Planting: Except where winters are very cold, sow seeds directly, thinly, where they are to grow. In cold areas, sow indoors and transplant seedlings when they are big enough. In hot areas, don't sow during summer. Sow into friable, very fertile soil that's well dug over and barely cover the seed. Keep the soil evenly moist. If you eat a lot of lettuce, a good way to keep them coming is to sow in metre-long rows, sowing the next row when the previous has germinated. Lettuces grow very well in pots. Use wide containers for the best results.
Growing: Thin seedlings to about 2cm apart. As they grow, continue to thin them, using the tender thinnings in salads. Don't overcrowd plants or they'll be susceptible to fungus diseases in humid weather. Never allow them to dry out and keep competing weeds down. Feed them weekly or fortnightly with high-nitrogen, soluble plant food. Watch for cabbage moth and cabbage white butterflies, caterpillars, grasshoppers, snails and slugs, which eat holes in the leaves. Aphids can transmit diseases and stunt growth, and mildew can be a problem in humid weather. To harvest, the outer leaves of loose-leaf lettuces can be picked as needed. Harvest hearting types when the size is satisfactory.
Climate: Suitable for all zones.
Planting: Two to four plants are usually enough. Enrich the soil with rotted manure - dig it in a month before planting. Tall-growing types will need the support of at least one 2m tall stake, but a teepee arrangement of three stakes can be better. Put the stakes in place before planting the tomatoes. In the tropics and other frost-free areas, tomatoes can be grown year round. In cooler climates, plant them out only when you're certain night temperatures are always above 7C.
Growing: Keep the soil evenly moist and mulch around the plants with straw or compost. If weeds appear, pull rather than dig them out as tomatoes have roots at the surface. Tomatoes are heavy feeders, so feed monthly with soluble tomato food (a low-nitrogen, high-phosphorus fertiliser that encourages flowering and fruiting). Pinching out most laterals (shoots that appear at leaf junctions) produces better sized fruit. Fruit fly, caterpillars, aphids, thrips and mites may all attack tomatoes and the plants are also susceptible to a number of virus diseases and rots. Growing the plants in well-drained soil and in full sun is your best defence. Pick when ripe. In warm climates, the fruiting season is quite long. The best flavoured fruit is fully vine ripened.
Source: Gardening: A Commonsense Guide (Murdoch Books)