It is sensible to wear a hat to protect your face from the sun when working in the garden. You should always wear thick gloves, too. They will stop you getting dirt or plant food under your fingernails or in any cuts on your hands, and protect your hands from thorns or prickly weeds. They will also make it much easier for you to wash your hands after your garden lessons!
Remember to keep your gloves together so that you
don't lose one of them. A good way to store your gardening gloves safely is to put them together with the tops of the cuffs level. Then fold the cuffs over
twice and hold the folds together with a clothes peg
or fold-back clip. Sealing the tops of the gloves will prevent spiders hiding in the fingers of your gloves.
If you use a fold-back clip, you can hang your gloves where they can dry quickly.
PLANTING IN GARDEN BEDS
When your seedlings in pots have grown enough roots to hold the potting mix together, and the seedlings have become used to strong sunlight, you can plant them into a garden bed. Water your seedlings carefully the day before you want to plant them into beds to make sure all the potting mix in the pots is damp.
Before you plant out seedlings, you will need to know how big your plants will grow so that you don't plant them too close together. Plants that are too close together will compete with each other for water and plant food, and they won't grow as well as they should. Air can't move around each plant when they are too close and the plants are more likely to get mildew diseases.
TO CHECK IF SEEDLINGS ARE READY
To check if your seedlings are ready for planting into beds, choose a potted seedling that looks large enough to be planted. Gently place one hand, palm downwards across the top of its pot so that the stem of the seedling sits loosely between your first and second fingers. Then turn your palm upwards and, with your other hand, tap firmly on the base of the pot as you can see in the photos below. The mix should slide out of the pot in one piece (just like cake out of a cake tin) when seedlings are ready to plant in beds.
If the seedling and mix slides out easily, carefully replace the seedling back in its pot so it won't dry out. If other seedlings are about the same size as the one you tested, your seedlings are ready to be planted into a garden bed. However, if the potting mix falls apart in your hand, carefully re-pot the seedling, water it gently, and wait another week or so before planting out your seedlings.
You can find how far apart to plant
your seedlings on the back of the seed packet or in gardening books.
You will need a ruler or measuring tape to space seedlings correctly, or you can make a measuring stick from a strip of wood that you can mark with measurements.
If you don't have enough of the same type of seedlings to fill a whole bed, plant each variety in a block as shown below, and not in long rows. The reason seedlings should be planted in a block of
short rows across a bed is because long rows make it hard to plan crop rotation. Crop rotation is very important in keeping soil and plants healthy and you will learn more about it later in this lesson.
First measure the distance you need between rows of plants. Mark each row across the bed with the point of a hand trowel. Then along each row, measure how far apart each seedling needs to be planted, and mark each spot by digging a small hole. Mark the end of each block with something that will remind you where the end is after your crop has been harvested and the vegetables removed.
Remember that seedlings are baby plants and they need to be handled gently when you take them out of their little pots and when you firm garden soil around them.
Before transplanting seedlings or sowing seed directly into garden beds, make sure the soil in the garden bed is thoroughly damp. If you transplant seedlings into dry soil and only water around the seedlings, dry soil in the bed will draw the water out of the damp potting mix and away from your seedlings, and they will start to wilt.
When planting seedlings of plants that grow leaves in a circular cluster (rosette) instead of growing leaves along a stem, make sure you don't plant them any deeper than they are in the seedling pot. The rosette seedlings will rot if the part where the new leaves form is buried in soil. Check that the planting hole is not deeper than the seedling pot before turning out the seedling.
SOWING ROWS OF SEEDS
In lesson 5, you learnt how to sow legume seeds. Some other vegetable plants also grow faster if seed is sown directly into furrows in rows across garden beds. These vegetables include beetroot, carrots, bulb fennel, lettuce in warm weather, mizuna, radish, rocket, tatsoi and turnip. After the seeds germinate, thin these seedlings by removing every second seedling until the seedlings are the correct spacing apart to grow to full size. The seedlings that you pull out need not be wasted. Small leaves from lettuce, beetroot, mizuna, tatsoi, coriander, fennel and rocket are delicious in salads!
It is easy to make furrows across beds with the point of a hand trowel. Seed is then sprinkled thinly along the furrow and the correct amount of soil is pushed from the side of the furrow to cover the seed. Put a plant marker at one end of each row so that you remember where seeds are before they germinate.
When your seedlings and seeds are safely in their garden bed, water them gently to make sure soil is settled around roots and seeds. Tease out a small amount of organic mulch into "sausage" shapes and place these between the rows of seedlings and seeds to help keep soil damp. Or you can use a light layer of sugar cane mulch between rows.
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Many plant diseases that start in the soil can be avoided if gardeners practice a sensible crop rotation. Crop rotation means regularly changing the family of plants in each bed to stop a build up of disease-causing organisms in soil.
Certain families of plants are more likely to suffer from the same diseases. These diseases are caused by some types of bacteria and fungi in soil that like to feed on the roots of the plants. Their feeding causes the plant roots to rot or stops the plants from soaking up water and food. Bacteria and fungi that cause diseases are called pathogens.
If gardeners keep planting the same family of plants in beds where the pathogens are, the bad bacteria and fungi will have so much food they can multiply to enormous numbers, and any of the vegetables the gardener grows in that bed will become very sick.
To avoid this problem, organic gardeners are careful to allow at least three years between growing a family of plants in the same part
of a garden bed. The pathogens then have no food during this long period. If the bacteria and fungi that cause diseases
don't have a suitable plant to attack
and feed on, many of them die and
the good bacteria and fungi that you learnt about in Lesson 3 can easily control the remaining pathogens and stop them from attacking plants.
This crop rotation will help prevent soil diseases from damaging your garden. All the plants listed in the crop chart (that you can find by clicking on the 'Crop Chart' button on the left) have been given a colour patch. Plants with the same colour patch are from the same family, are likely to catch the same diseases, or are helpful to other plants in that colour group. Plants with the same colour patch can be grown together (except for strawberries). For example, the two orange group families are not related, but they are helpful to each other. Therefore, plant these together in one section, and then rotate with a different colour patch next crop.
PINK group is the tomato/potato family that includes capsicum, eggplant and chilli. Basil grows well with this family. Strawberries are perennials and need a separate patch, but they can catch the same wilt disease, and must not be grown AFTER any of the pink group.
ORANGE group contains two families of plants. One includes carrots, celery, fennel, coriander, parsnip and dill. You can grow dill with this group OR with the cabbage family to confuse cabbage pests, but you should not grow it with both groups. The other family is the onion family that helps keep carrot pests away.
YELLOW group is the cucurbit or squash family that includes all melons, squash, marrows, pumpkins, cucumber, and zucchini. This family grows well with corn (DARK GREY).
GREEN group is the legume family that includes peas and all types of beans, as well as any legumes that you grow as a green manure.
BLUE group contains two plant families. The first is the aster family that includes lettuce, endive and both globe and Jerusalem artichokes. The second family includes beetroot, silver beet and spinach.
VIOLET group is the cruciferous family of plants. It includes broccoli, Brussels sprouts, cabbage, cauliflower, kale, radish, swede, turnip and rocket.
DARK GREY group is the grass family that includes corn and grains. Sweet potato that can also be grown as a ground cover can also go with this group.
If you mix plants from different colour groups along your garden beds, it is impossible to practice crop rotation.
This is why you should grow a small quantity of plants in a block of short rows across a bed instead of one long row along the bed.
It will make it easier to practice a suitable crop rotation if you make a chart showing which colour group you have planted in which garden bed. See an example below.
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