The main standby lines to sow in spring for summer harvest are beans, beetroot, carrots, cucumbers, lettuce, marrows, squash, pumpkin, melons, parsnips, radish, silver beet, and tomatoes.
Add for interest, sweet corn, capsicums, eggplant, okra, mustard and cress, and some new varieties among the old range. One is spaghetti marrow, which grows like a marrow but cooks like tender, pleasantly flavored spaghetti.
It is also worth growing a row of dill, which gives an appetizing, tangy flavor when chopped like parsley in potato salad, savories, or sauces – the flavor in dill pickles that changes pickled cucumbers to appetizing gherkins.
Being a quick-growing annual, dill may not find a place in the main herb garden. Just sow direct, then thin out the fine-foliage plants to about 6 inches apart. Use leaves and young stems once the plants are 12/18 inches high.
Eggplant is decorative and different. The large, oval, shiny purple-skinned fruits can be used in many ways. One is to slice, salt, then fry golden brown.
Eggplant grows in all but very cold districts with short summers.
Sow in seed boxes or pots, and keep in a warm, sunny corner. Plant out when about 2 inches high, once frosts are over, in a fairly sunny, well-drained soil, with about half cup to sq. yd. of complete plant food, mixed in before planting.
If available, add about 1 inch layer of well-rotted compost and dig in with the fertilizer. Give two or three good soakings each week, but let the surface dry out between times, without surface watering. Feed fortnightly with soluble, complete plant foods as fruits form.
Capsicums are wonderful for salads, barbecues, and savory dishes. Grow as for eggplant. They can get a fungus disease causing brown spotting of fruit and foliage in humid conditions. Control with bordeaux spray.
Californian Wonder, which changes from green to red, and Sweet Yellow, a long, mild, creamy yellow, are popular.
Tomatoes also need similar treatment and conditions. The large-fruited, tall growing types such as Grosse Lisse or College Challenger are best on stakes.
Semi-dwarf types such as Epoch have small to medium-sized fruit, and small, sturdy bushes that would grow in large pots on balconies or terraces.
Tiny Tim is smaller still, and looks comfortable in 4 inches or 5 inches pots. The fruits are in cherry-sized clusters and look well served whole.
Spaghetti marrow grows on a vine that runs no more than about 6 feet. The creamy yellow fruits can be 10 inches long and about half as wide. Smaller ones can be boiled whole, others cut in halves. After 15 to 20 minutes’ cooking, the yellowish flesh is lifted out in spaghetti-like strings. It tastes something like well-buttered sweet corn.
All marrows and squashes are easy to grow once the soil warms up in spring. Give them a well-drained, sunny position, some complete fertilizer and compost (as for eggplant). A little lime helps if the soil is inclined to be acid. (A shovelful of incinerator ash to the sq. yd. could substitute.)
Some people plant vine crops on “hills,” which is a good system. Don’t make high mounds, but rake up circular rims of soil about 2 feet across, dished in the center. Six or eight seeds are sown round the raised rim, then thinned out to the three strongest. Give frequent soakings in the early stages, less when fruit begins to set.
All the bush marrows are worth growing, especially for cooking whole while up to about 5 inches long, when they have their best flavor. The same applies to golden bush squash about 3 inches across.
Okra is different. The 3 feet to 4 feet bushes carry an abundance of fruits like small, fleshy, dull green marrows, held erect. Pick these regularly or they become stringy. Okra is used as a green, but is often cooked with tomatoes to add thickening and flavor. The sliced young pods cook to a jelly-like mass, so are also used for thickening stews, etc.
Sow okra direct, in rows, with soil prepared as for marrows. Give a fair amount of water.
Sweet corn is delicious if cooked when just mature – when the silky tassels at the top of the cob have withered. When a grain is punctured it should exude a creamy substance. If thin and milky, it has not matured enough: if dry, is too old, and not worth eating.
Soil as for marrows. Sow corn in a block of 4 or 5 short rows, to give protection to the tassels and help pollination. If pollination is faulty, the cob won’t be filled with grain. Soak regularly in hot, dry conditions.
Beans are a wonderful standby and give a good, quick yield. Give half cup of complete plant food to each yard of row, spread about a foot on either side, and half cup lime, unless naturally limy.
Sow 2 seeds about 1 inch apart, every 5 inches. Soak with soluble, complete plant food as beans set on the plants.
Sow an 8 feet to 10 feet row each fortnight and have fresh beans all summer. All varieties are suitable for September/October planting.