Cool nights and mornings, days less than 30 OC and a little bit of rain makes the perfect recipe for growing vegetables in the Wet Tropics. My vegetable garden is ‘powering’: tomatoes, eggplant, beans, cucumbers, cabbage and lettuce are all bearing fruit. I spend around an hour in the vegetable garden every afternoon, which includes harvesting time and the effort results in a constant supply of food at little to no cost.
Beneficial creatures are necessary in a well-balanced garden. These helpfuls include praying mantis, dragon flies, lady-bird beetles, Willy wagtails as well as owls, hawks and pythons to control mice. If you do not use harsh insecticides these creatures will arrive naturally.
There are times though when one species of pest will become a problem. A spray made by mixing a teaspoon each of high phosphorus detergent and pure citronella oil to a litre of water will control most insects and mites. You can vary the oils by adding eucalyptus occasionally. Fungal problems can mostly be prevented by spraying plants monthly with a mix of one teaspoon each of seaweed and tea-tree oil added to one litre of water.
Soil preparation is essential and that is when compost is essential. Making your own compost is simple and it is an immediate solution to disposing of household waste. To every square metre of new vegetable garden soil, add at least two large buckets of decomposed compost and two buckets of manures. Cover with a dusting of one cup of dolomite and ½ cup of sulphate of potash and hoe it into the soil. You can start planting straight away.
Snowpeas (climbing) seed should be planted against a strong, tall trellis. This plant is best grown from seed and they germinate within ten days. Every month add enriched compost to the root zone of the peas, pile up around the stems and cover any exposed roots. Snowpeas ‘mammoth melting’ is a vigorous climber (over 2 m) and a heavy cropper of sweet, delicious tender flat pods (max. length 10 cm). You can use the pods fresh in salads or quickly fried in stir fries.
Broccoli needs a rich soil and must be planted in full sun without competition from other vegetables. Firstly dig small holes 30 cm apart and fill them with water. When the water has drained, plant one seedling per hole and gently firm the soil around the small plants. Broccoli will produce one main flower head in about fifty days from planting. They will then continue to produce side shoots for many weeks, these often sold as broccoletti in shops. Broccoli Albert is a variety that produces large dark green flower heads followed by lots of side shots over many weeks.
The best vegetables to plant now are beans, beetroot, all cabbage varieties, capsicum, carrots, corn, cucumber, eggplant, leek, lettuce, spring onion, peas, pumpkin, radish, silverbeet and tomatoes.