Late-winter plantings: broccoli and Chinese cabbage

'Chinese cabbage' seedlings grown from seed in fibre pots filled with potting mix and kept well-watered.

It’s early August here on the Adelaide Plains, so there are only three more weeks to the official start of Spring in southern Australia. And, as it was in every other year and in every other season, the gardener is trailing the calendar by at least a month…

A month ago, I’d sown Chinese cabbage seeds (Wombuk and Buk Choy)into fibre pots and potting mix for making kimchi, Hollow Crown parsnips for soups and puree, and purple-sprouting broccoli to please the cook; these seedlings have now germinated despite the cold and the rain, and it’s time to bung them in the soil while it’s nominally still wintertime.

This sounds simple enough, but in reality is compounded by the chaotic state of my shed bench which must first be cleaned up so that I can lift the seed trays to a suitable height to thin the seedlings. A month ago, my aim was to put lots of seeds in each pot just in case the germination rate was poor, and because thinning is easier than re-sowing empty pots. So here’s a photo showing the before and the after, and further down those sad little seedlings that didn't make the cut. This is a ruthless business, and so anyone named Ruth is kept off the property until the job is done!

Chinese cabbage seeds have germinated well, and need to be thinned to a single seedling per pot.

...and the same seedlings after thinning out.









These are the thinnings; seedlings that have germinated but must be discarded to allow a single healthy cabbage to thrive. The simple screw-driver-like object is used in replanting any excess seedlings into empty pots where nothing at all germinated.Planting seedlings sown in these square fibre pots is simplicity itself; a narrow hoe is used to dig a 100mm line along the drip lines (which are already in place), and the pots are taken out of the tray and spaced appropriately on the flat bottom of this small trench. Soil is then scooped back into the trench between the pots and tamped down around them. That’s it!

The cook follows the hoe which follows the gardener. Fibre pots are simply placed in the trench and soil is back-filled around them. The roots will grow through the fibre pot as it breaks down in the soil. Now we wait some more for the warmth of Spring to bring them to maturity. Parsnip seedlings don't hurry; even after a month they are still tiny.In the case of the slow-growing parsnips, this is likely to be about six months away, at the height of summer.




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