Geoff Hicks | It's time to plant those peas

Many gardeners, and cooks, enjoy the taste of peas picked straight from the vine and then eaten from the pod, or used as a green vegetable.

Peas are suitable for planting out now.

Unless the mature plants will be a small-growing variety, a climbing frame should be provided, prior to sowing the seeds. This can be achieved by using cheap, plastic lattice, or supporting wire mesh between garden stakes. In addition to placing the stakes at the ends of the area selected for sowing the seeds, further stakes should be placed so that they will provide support to the wire once the plants begin to use their tendrils to grow with their natural upwards habit.

The type of support provided will be regulated by the particular variety that is chosen.

Dwarf sugar snap peas will grow to about a metre in height.

Snow peas, which are harvested as flat pods that may be used raw or cooked, will grow a bit taller.

Green feast peas are one of the older varieties and grow to about 1.5 metres in height. Seeds may be sown into a groove and planted fairly thickly. As the seeds germinate and the young plants emerge from the soil, excess plants can be thinned out and used as a salad vegetable.

MINI VEGES

For gardeners who have smaller areas available for growing plants, or who require faster results from their plants, mini vegetables are available. Varieties that are quick to mature are also available.

‘Superette’ cabbage will be ready for harvesting in about seven weeks from planting out. Chinese cabbage grow quickly from plants planted out now. The plants are upright in growth habit. Mini cauliflower seedlings are also available.

Although they are traditionally considered for warmer months, salad vegetables that are suitable for cooler temperatures can be planted. Lettuce varieties include ‘Mignonette’, ‘Green Cos’, ‘Greendale’ and ‘Winterlake’. However, other varieties of salad vegetables are also available. These include corn salad, winter chickory and endive. Shallots can be grown from offsets or small bulbs as well as from seed.

If there is sufficient space, then broad beans will provide good cropping. Dwarf varieties such as ‘Coles Dwarf’ and ‘Dwarf Pacific’ will not reach as tall as traditional varieties. A support such as lattice will still be required.

In cooler areas, spinach may be more suitable than silverbeet as it has less of a tendency to run to seed. Regular feeding ensures consistent growth. ‘English Hybrid’ and ‘Winter Hybrid’ are two good varieties.

EASY DOES IT

A group of plants that requires very little attention and yet provides an interesting display is the Tillandsias.

These plants are sometimes called “air plants” as they appear to exist only on the surrounding air. Tillandsias are actually epiphytes, and grow without their roots being in soil. In fact, the only attention they require is an occasional misting with water. Many varieties produce long, thin flowers, often in bright colours such as purple or crimson.

Tillandsias resemble succulents or cactus and usually feature long, thin leaves. They are natives of Central and South America and produce sparse roots that they use to attach themselves to some form of support. Tillandsias can be attached to a variety of objects and then kept indoors or in a semi-shaded outdoor area.

A glue gun or silicone-based adhesive can be used to attach the plants to their support, which might be an attractive piece of driftwood, a picture frame, rocks or an ornamental container such as a pot or candle holder. If the plants are to grow outdoors, which is their preferred place, then glue such as “Hard-as- Nails” outdoor selection should be used.

If using a material to tie the plants to their support, then plastic-coated wire, string or strips of stocking material might be used, rather than copper wire which might cut into the plant. The glue should be applied near the base of the plant, avoiding the plant’s roots.

Tillandsias from hot, dry areas are covered with a silvery grey scale and prefer to grow in a sunny or semi-shaded position. Those from humid rainforests or semi-open woods, where they cling to tree trunks and branches, featuring soft green leaves and should be given a position with filtered light. They should be fed in spring, summer and autumn with a weak solution of liquid fertilizer when misting.

Spanish Moss offers a huge range of possibilities. It grows as very thin leaves and can eventually reach metres in length. It can be simply grown by being hung from a tree or used to screen a view or provide privacy.

BELLADONNAS

Belladonna lilies have begun flowering in recent weeks. They are commonly known as “Naked Ladies” because of their habit of producing beautiful flowers on long stems before the leaves are produced.

Belladonnas are typically found in older gardens. Plants seem to perform better in areas of the garden that are not regularly maintained. Flowers are lily shaped and appear on the ends of stalks that are generally between 75cm and one metre in height. Colours are usually in shades of pale through to darker pink, although white-flowered varieties are also available.

BIRTHDAY

Maitland and District Garden Club will celebrate its 50th birthday on March 25 and wants to contact former members (49333703).

A TREAT: There are few better things for the gardener than to enjoy a handful of peas straight from the pod.

A TREAT: There are few better things for the gardener than to enjoy a handful of peas straight from the pod.