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Top tips for growing green vegetables

By Mikaela Fowler

Before summer sets in, I go through the seeds scattered throughout my shed and select a good batch of mixed greens to plant directly into our garden beds and pots.

Spring is when the soil temperature starts to warm up so your seeds and seedlings will be sure to take off, with the warmer and longer days encouraging rapid growth.

Don’t wait for the heat of summer to plant – get your greens in the ground early (now) so they can establish themselves well and you’ll enjoy a longer harvest period.

I like to grow most of my leafy greens from seed, sown directly into the pot or garden bed exposed to at least six hours of sun a day.

Seeds and seedlings will grow quickly as the soil temperature heats up. Photo: Alex Carlyle

Although it might seem like seedlings give you a head start, growing from seed is actually quicker, easier, cheaper and you generally get healthier plants than transplanting fragile seedlings.

However, this does depend on exactly what you’re growing, so let’s take a look at what I’ve got going into the patch at home this spring;

From seed

These greens do better from seed

Lettuce varieties grow better from seed. Photo: iStock
  • Rocket variety (salad and wild)
  • Shiso/Perilla
  • Watercress
  • Lettuce varieties (cos, Australian yellow, oak leaf, Lollo Rosso)
  • Dandelion
  • Radicchio
  • Spinach “Bloomsdale Long Standing”
  • Mustard “Scarlet Frills”
  • Mizuna

Scatter the seeds over the soil and then re-cover with a light layer (about 5mm) of soil. Keep the soil damp throughout their germination. Be careful not to wash the seeds away with an over-enthusiastic hose.

From seedling

These greens are better bought as seedlings and can tolerate being transplanted into the garden

Rainbow chard grows better from seedling. Photo: iStock.
  • Kale varieties (Bear Necessities, Cavolo Nero and Scotch).
  • Rainbow Chard
  • Silverbeet
  • Red Veined Sorrel
  • Lemon Sorrel

Separate individual seedlings and space them about 250mm apart. Only plant what you need, choosing the strongest looking ones (avoiding the tall, leggy, falling over and root bound guys). When choosing what to plant, keep it simple. Look at what greens you love to eat and focus on growing them.

Many greens can “bolt”, meaning they flower and set seed quickly, even before you’ve harvested a leaf. Common reasons for this could be heat stress or they may have been damaged while transplanting from seedlings, so prepare your soil and keep them watered daily over summer. Planting from seed reduces the chance of early bolting.

Buy your seeds and seedlings at local nurseries or check out online suppliers, too. Photo: iStock.

Use a seaweed solution weekly or warm juice to keep soil biology strong and add an organic veggie fertiliser to maintain nitrogen levels.

Buy your seeds and seedlings at local nurseries or check out online suppliers, too, as they’ll provide you with more info on the plants and often you’ll find a far greater variety.

When it comes to leafy greens, your main pest will be the hungry caterpillar, so stock up on some Dipel spray and use weekly or as needed.

Rosemary and rocket pesto recipe

Who can resist a freshly baked loaf of warm sourdough with lashings of pesto? We are often seen on a Sunday morning at our local bakery tearing off handfuls of the stuff. It’s newsworthy if our loaf makes it home in one piece.

But when it does, we usually have this rocket and rosemary pesto in our fridge.

Rosemary thrives in our garden – it’s easy to grow and has a great flavour to add to any meal. The addition of rocket in this pesto makes for a peppery palate with a bright flavour.

Makes 1 small jar

  • 6 large sprigs rosemary
  • 2 cups rocket leaves
  • 1/3 cup toasted pine nuts
  • ½ cup grated parmesan cheese
  • 1 clove garlic, peeled
  • 2 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice
  • ½ teaspoon sea salt
  • ½ cup olive oil (or macadamia oil if you have it)


1. Shred the leaves from the rosemary stems and place in a food processor with remaining ingredients. Pulse until desired texture (we like ours coarse and slightly crunchy).

2. Scoop into a sterilised jar and store in fridge for up to two weeks.

Tip: This recipe is also delicious if you exchange the rocket leaves for lemon sorrel, just make sure to replace the lemon juice with extra oil so that it doesn’t become too zesty.

Slow Down and Grow Something: The Urban Grower’s Recipe for the Good Life, by Byron Smith with Tess Robinson, Murdoch Books.


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