Silver beet and snow peas are very useful vegetables in the home garden.
The leaves of silver beet are a good source of vitamins and minerals and can be included in a variety of recipes. Silver beet is generally an easy-care plant as few pests attack it. Damage from caterpillars, evidenced by holes in the leaves, can occur in warmer months. Rust, a fungal disease, may result from humid conditions.
Plants affected will have brown spots on older leaves. These should be removed and disposed of in the general garbage, rather than being composted.
Silver beet varieties include Fordhook Giant, the most commonly planted variety, as well as Rainbow Chard, which produces leaves similar to the main variety but with the addition of colourful stems. These can be crimson, yellow or orange and add a touch of colour to the garden. They can be planted in the ornamental section of the garden for added colour effects.
A sunny position should be selected with enough space between individual plants to allow for good air circulation. Good drainage is essential. Sandy soils should have compost and manure added to them a couple of weeks before planting. Heavier soils should be loosened to break up any clods.
A steady supply of food (general fertiliser) and water will help the plants to grow quickly and thus produce tender, tasty leaves.
Snow peas are easy to grow. Seeds should be sown at a depth about three times the diameter of the seed. They should be sown into the position where they will grow. Plants will not grow well in hot weather, so it is preferable to wait until the soil has cooled.
Snow peas produce pods similar to garden peas, but they are softer. The pods should be picked before the pods become tough. Plants may need protection from birds. Seeds sown now should be ready for harvesting between July.
MAKING WHITE OIL
Horticultural oils are among the safest and most effective ways of controlling a range of sap-sucking and chewing pests in the garden. Aphids, scale, mealy bug and citrus leaf miner as well as caterpillars can all be controlled through the use of horticultural oils.
To make white oil mix two cups of vegetable oil, such as sunflower oil, with a half cup of washing-up liquid. The mixture should be placed into a lidded jar, so that it can be shaken well to produce concentrated white oil. The jar should be labelled and stored in a cool, dry place. It should remain effective for about three months.
When using the white oil, it should be diluted at the rate of two dessert spoons of oil, mixed with one litre of water. It would be preferable to include the dilution rate on the label.
White oil may be used safely on broad leaved trees and shrubs, where sap-sucking and chewing insect pests are present. However, if the oil is used on soft-leaved plants it may burn the leaves.
Many gardeners enjoy a bright display of sweet pea flowers, with their accompanying delightful fragrance, in spring. These may be low-growing plants grown as garden bed borders or in baskets, or taller varieties that climb structures.
Sweet pea seeds should be sown in autumn in order to ensure they grow and flower through winter and spring, before the weather becomes too warm. Choose an open, sunny position with good drainage.
The addition of lime, at the rate of 100 grams per square metre, will benefit the plants.
Before sowing the seeds, a trellis or climbing frame should be constructed, if a taller growing variety has been selected. This will ensure that the tendrils on the young plants can begin to attach themselves to the frame as they emerge from the soil.
Sweet pea seeds have a hard exterior. This can sometimes inhibit germination of the seed.
Scarifying the seeds and then soaking them overnight in warm water will greatly assist germination.
Seeds that have been soaked will swell considerably, making germination occur quite quickly, particularly if the seeds have been planted into light soils.
Seeds that are to be planted into heavier soil may not need treatment as the moisture in the soil will assist with germination.