Spring and Summer are great times to grow food plants in Canberra. As the weather gets hotter, they need a bit more care and attention but it’s easy to do and your reward is yummy, super fresh herbs and veggies, sustainably grown by you!
These are some of the plants which grow well in Canberra. For more information about what to grow when in Canberra, go to www.cogs.asn.au.
|Herbs (harvest continuously)||Coriander (see the section below on successfully growing coriander in spring in Canberra), basil (FT), dill, spring onions, parsley, chives and woody herbs like rosemary, thyme, oregano.|
|Leafy Greens (harvest continuously)||Lettuce, silverbeet/rainbow chard, spinach, Asian greens (e.g. bok choi, pak choi, tatsoi, mizuna), rocket|
|Cucurbitaceae||Pumpkin (FT), cucumber (FT), zucchini (FT)|
|Solanaceae||Tomato (FT), chilli (FT), eggplant (FT), capsicum (FT), tomatillo (FT)|
|Peas and beans||Climbing and bush beans (FT), several varieties of peas (some pea flowers are FT), broad beans|
|Brassicaceae||Daikon radish, red radish|
|Amaryllidaceae (alliums)||Leek, shallot, chives|
|Edible flowers||Petals of calendula, viola, cornflower, borage, pansy marigold are edible. Separate the petals from the rest of the flower before eating. Sunflower seeds are edible. Leaves and petals of nasturtium are edible.|
|Flowers that you CAN’T EAT||Sunflower, paper daisy, cosmos|
All of these plants provide good nutritious food. A few ideas:
- Eat the leaves of lettuce, mizuna, tatsoi, rocket and spinach fresh.
- Steam or fry or boil silverbeet, rainbow chard, spinach, tatsoi, pak choi and bok choi.
- Eat the whole pod of young peas. Flowers and leaves are edible too.
- Eat daikon radish fresh or cooked
- Backyard tomatoes are a thousand times more delicious than shop tomatoes!
- The flowers also provide nutrition for bees.
All of these plants will produce seeds if they are left to grow to full maturity. If you’d like to save some seeds to plant next season, leave a couple of plants of each variety in the ground until they flower and the flowers turn into seeds or save the best fruit from tomatoes to save seeds. This will bring lots of colour and biodiversity to your garden too. There’s more to know about seed saving but it’s not complicated and everyone can do it! Check out our Quick and Dirty Guide to Seed Saving.
How to grow healthy plants from seedlings
Seedlings need to grow in a pot or garden that has enough space for their growing roots. Plant seedlings in a bigger pot or in a garden bed. All seedlings need water, food and sunlight. Good soil or potting mix gives plants the best chance: kitchen compost scraps dug into a hole near your plant will bring worms and improve the soil.
Harvesting from plants
Many of these plants are designed to be grown and harvested quickly, or harvested continuously over many weeks. Some take longer e.g. tomatoes and pumpkins.
For leafy greens, harvest the outer few leaves, leaving a few central leaves on the plant so it can continue to grow. A rough rule is to harvest up to one third of the leaves at a time and then give the plant time to grow back.
Protecting your plants
Some of these plants are not frost sensitive which means that if the frost falls on them, they will be okay. Anything marked as FT in our list above may need to be covered e.g. with a light cloth (an old sheet will do) if a frost is forecast. Pea plants are ok with frost, but pea flowers are frost tender so if your pea plant is flowering and frost is forecast, cover it overnight.
Tomatoes, chillies, eggplants and capsicum
Tomato seedlings should be planted in the garden or a big pot outside after Melbourne Cup Day (4th November). Tomatoes in particular are very frost sensitive and Canberra has been known to get late frosts up until late October. If your seedling is looking too big for the pot it came in, transplant to a slightly bigger pot until planting out in November. Eggplant, chilli and capsicum seedlings will be happiest going into the garden in October/November.
Peas/ Broad Beans/Climbing Beans
Peas and broad beans should be planted as soon as you can. They love cooler weather in September. Peas and climbing beans need staking – you can use some wire or a stake or even old garden furniture. Peas and climbing beans will send out tendrils that find and cling to anything nearby so they can grow up!
Give them lots of water and protect salad greens and lettuce from hot late afternoon summer sun.
A note about coriander in spring!
Traditional advice about coriander is to grow it in spring and summer. But coriander finds it difficult to cope with Canberra’s hot, dry days. Coriander will ‘bolt’ to seed (the leaves become like confetti and it sets flowers and then seeds) if shocked or stressed by not having enough moisture or by a baking hot day. To grow coriander successfully in spring and into summer, keep the soil surface moist, and plant in a cooler, slightly shady spot.
Planting a seedling
Seedlings usually come in a small pot but will need more room to grow into a full sized plant and produce food for harvest. Seedlings need to be transplanted into larger pots or into the garden.
As the plant grows it will need water and food and sun.
Water plants close on the soil around the base of the plant, not on the leaves. Feed the plants with a diluted solution of worm juice or a good commercial liquid fertiliser. Keep plants in a spot where they get sunshine most of the day.
Check out our Growing Herbs and Veggies from Seeds guide for much more on how to plant, care for and protect your seedlings for a great harvest.
If you’d like to connect with other growers and learn and share about how to grow in Canberra, get in touch with:
Canberra Seed Savers (Facebook or www.canberraseedsavers.org.au to find out how to get involved). Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
Canberra Organic Growers Society (Facebook or www.cogs.asn.au ).
Canberra City Farm: www.ccfarm.org.au