Once you get the basics right, there are some plants that are just tricky to grow. Here is some helpful advice for some of the more notorious vegetables:
Often carrots can come out misshapen, stunted or, even more disappointing, can be a show of lovely, luscious leaves but nothing underneath. Tips for successful carrots start with the soil. Carrots don’t like a nutrient rich soil loaded with organic material as this can cause them to fork. Avoid adding compost or manure to the spot you want them to grow.
Carrots also prefer a loose fluffy soil with no lumps, sticks or stones, which can also cause them to fork. If carrots are stunted it can mean the soil was a little too hard for them to push through, so when preparing the soil for planting. make it lump-free, loose and fluffy. Dig as deep as you want the carrots to be long.
Carrots need to be sown directly into the garden where they will grow. They don’t like to be transplanted, you might end up with mishappen carrots if they are. When sowing the seeds, it is best to sow thickly so the collective strength of small seeds can push through the soil easily. You will need to thin them out later. If you find they are all top and no bottom, this will mean you have too much nitrogen in the soil for happy carrots.
These have a reputation for being difficult to germinate, however the key for immediate success is use fresh seeds. Parsnip seeds don’t store well and will have low germination rates if they are more than a year old.
Most Brassica, cabbage, cauliflower, broccoli to name a few, really don’t like to dry out. If they have become moisture starved at any point in their life – including as a small seedling, there is an increased chance they will bolt to flower and seed, completely bypassing the desirable edible stage.
They also like firm soil, not compacted but firm, so gently shuffle over your soil before planting seedlings. Ordinarily it isn’t a good idea to walk on the soil, but brassicas would appreciate it if you did. If the soil is loose and fluffy you can end up with loose heads.
Coriander and Lettuce:
In the heat of the summer, lettuce and coriander will bolt to seed quickly and can make your salad a little bitter. We like to eat salad in the summer, but both plants prefer cooler weather. To get around this, you need to succession plant – that is starting new plants often throughout the growing season. Decide how much you would eat in a fortnight and every two weeks start that many new plants for a continuous supply. If you can provide some shade from the heat of the midday summer sun and ensure they get plenty of water, you will always have tender young delicious plants to harvest.
It can often be tricky to grow, but starting the seeds early in the season – from late winter – will help. Make sure the soil is rich with plenty of organic material. Most importantly, don’t skimp on the watering because they are very thirsty plants.
This is relatively easy to grow, provided you get one thing right. Don’t plant them in a row. Corn is wind pollinated, which means the pollen falls on the silks that are attached to the ears, from tassels at the top of the plant. There is a better chance of good pollination and full and fat corn cobs if the plants are grouped together so plant them in a block. The minimum number of plants for good pollination is three rows of three plants, but more is better.