Silver beet grows in the tropics as a replacement for spinach, which prefers cool conditions. Silver beet is easy to grow from seed, and requires a rich soil to produce successfully. Sow the seed direct three cm deep, five cm apart. Thin the young seedlings when they're 10 cm high to a spacing of approximately 30 cm. May to June is the best time in most warm areas. Silver beet can also be grown in a shady area. When harvesting, the leaves should be pulled off at the base of the plant to prevent rotting of the central stem.
In cooler areas silver beet can produce for up to eight months, providing a green vegetable for the family table when other vegetables may be in short supply.
Squash and Zucchinis are heat-loving vegetables and can be planted from May to February in sub-tropical and tropical areas. Prepare the bed the same way as for cucumbers, allowing plenty of room: the vines can grow up to six metres long! Six seeds should be planted in each area. When they're 10 cm high, discard the weaker plants leaving two vines to keep growing. Pick the fruit when it's young. These two vegetables are very subject to mildews, especially in warm, humid weather. Remove any infected leaves and bum them. The plants will usually 'grow out' of the problem.
Sweet corn is an extremely heavy feeder and the garden area for sweet com should be thoroughly forked over, with generous amounts of compost, animal and bird manure incorporated into the soil. Sweet com also requires lime because it prefers a soil pH of 6.5 to 6.8. Planting time depends on each particular region. Corn is a warm weather crop, needing a temperature range of 10° C to 35° C. However, air temperatures over 35° and hot drying winds can cause poor pollination and rapid maturity.
You can make a succession of plantings throughout the season to ensure a continuous harvest. Plant the seed in blocks in a number of short rows 60 cm apart. This increases the chance of pollination — the male flowers are at the top of the plant and the pollen has to fall, or be carried by the wind onto the silks of the female cobs lower down. Mulch corn lightly at first, increasing the mulch thickness as the plants grow.
Apply liquid manure occasionally to encourage strong growth. Cobs should be ready to harvest in approximately ten weeks. When the silks turn brown and wither press one of the sweet corn seeds to test for ripeness. If the juice that comes out is clear, the cob is not quite ready. If the juice is milky, it is perfect to harvest. Pull the cobs by giving them a sharp twist.
Com earworm can be controlled by dusting the tassels with Derris dust when the cob is starting to form. Sweet com is one vegetable which should be picked and cooked within a few hours (or even minutes) of harvesting. The natural sugars in corn quickly change to starches after picking, resulting in a dry flour-like flavour and consistency. Com, straight from the garden — absolutely delicious!
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