Useful online gardening resource

This afternoon I finally sat down at the keyboard here at home (having left work early – we went and tried out new Honda Civics in the local dealer’s car yard for a bit, but didn’t take as long as expected there) and started looking for information about what exactly is the right time to be thinning out plants, particularly carrots and beetroot.

As I’ve mentioned in other posts, both beetroots (particularly the higher row) and carrots are growing very well, and so closely together that it’s hard to see the soil between them now.

When I first set the new garden bed up, I did a bit of online research as I had few printed resources to call on. I found a range of fairly useful resources spread across a number of sites, including:

Now all of these have proven to be reasonably good sources for the sort of information I need. However, I have to admit I felt that none of them truly went out of its way to be as thoroughly comprehensive as it could be, at least in terms of the information provided about each vegetable. Especially, and I mean especially, from the point of view of gardening up here in the sub-tropics.

Today I may have found a site that actually does strive to provide every bit of information it thinks might be useful about a wide range of vegetables (not to mention fruit). The site I’m talking about is  Successful Gardening with Annette McFarlane.

McFarlane is a local – best as I can tell, she lives somewhere on the north or northwest side of Brisbane. (I’m basing that on where she holds her library seminars and other events – very few of them are on the southside. I also found out from another site that she teaches horticulture at a TAFE college out at Grovely, in the city’s northwest.)  So she tends to write about local conditions, indeed to focus on them, which is just what I’m after. Pretty much all the other sites I’ve mentioned above tend to be rather south-of-the-border-centric. (Damned Mexicans.)

McFarlane is a devoted organic gardener, by the looks. I’m not yet prepared to go quite that far in my backyard endeavours, although I do hope to avoid the use of nasty chemicals wherever possible. Once upon a time I was a fan of the whole idea of permaculture although I never really followed its dictums with much faithfulness, apart from using proper spiral vegetable gardens. that was when I returned to live with my parents on their 3 acres for a time, back in my late 20s and early 30s. Still, I’d rather be doing the soil more good than harm with my gardening endeavours – who wouldn’t?

Part of McFarlane’s site is a set of PDF fact sheets (she calls them ‘articles’) detailing what seems like lots and lots of directly useful data about 30 different vegetables – including almost all the vegetables I’m currently growing. (Eschallots and chillies are the notable exceptions, although there’s a fact sheet for capsicums.) Each fact sheet is anything up to 4 x A4 pages long – vastly more information about individual species than I’ve seen on any other site.

I’ve had a look through a few of the sheets, in particular those for beetroot and carrots of course, and as a result I now know the following (and I quote):

  • “Carrots can be harvested when they are deemed large enough. Immature, ‘baby’ carrots should be ready in around 10 weeks, their selective harvest leaving more room for the remaining carrots to develop to a mature size over the next 6-10 weeks.”
  • “Beetroot can be harvested at any stage that they are considered large enough to eat, but certainly before they exceed 10cm across. Plants generally require 10-12 weeks to mature fully. Overly large or slowly grown crops are more likely to be tough and fibrous”

And this is pretty much all the information I was looking for, nicely packaged into a couple of handy PDFs.

She also says somewhere that the beetroot seedlings removed during the thinning process can, if carefully handled, be successfully replanted somewhere else. Hmmm. My thoughts immediately turned to those couple of squares of unused space in The Annexe. Been wondering what to do with it – and it gives me the chance to experiment and see if other vegetables will succeed in that rather overly warm and sunny environment.

The information in the fact sheets is clearly stated, well worded, and decently broken up with the use of headings so that it’s all quite readable. And there’s even the occasional “Did you know?” to provide a little entertainment as one works one’s way through the drier, factual stuff.

Thank you for all that info, Annette McFarlane. As a fellow Brisbanite and on behalf of all novice vege gardeners around here, I salute you. I hope and suspect your online resources will continue to inform and inspire me. Please don’t ever take them away!

Next up: digging out information about ‘natural’ pesticides that I can have ready for the inevitable day when the flying nasties invade.

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