Top 5 – Gardening lessons I learnt in 2012.

I’ve been writing Top 5s for a year now and whilst I had been thinking of stopping them I have ideas for a few (or maybe more than a few) more.  I thought January would be a good time do a series of retrospective ones, looking back at the past year.  The first of these is this one – The top 5 gardening lessons I learnt in 2012.

1. Planting cucumbers early is not a good idea.  This year I am growing 4 varieties of cucumber:

  • Lebanese
  • Catalan Pickling
  • Summer Dance and
  • Lemon

Thanks for Bek at Bek’s Backyard for the seed for the last two.  The Catalan Pickling are the fat ones (they got a bit big while we were away over Christmas).  The Summer Dance is the long one at the back and the Lebanese the shorter at the front.


I sowed seed of the Catalan Pickling in early July and grew them on in an unheated mini greenhouse until they were big enough for planting out in September.  In August I bought some Lebanese seedlings and grew them on in the mini greenhouse until September.  I planted both out and they did not do well.  It was simply too early.  Growth was slow and a few died.  The plants from seed I sowed later (in August) and planted out later (early November) have done much better.  The lesson is: don’t plant out cucumbers before the soil warms properly – you might get the occasional early fruit but the plants don’t seem to recover properly and the long term yield will be significantly reduced.

2. Winter and Spring are the best seasons for growing potatoes in Melbourne.  I grew potatoes throughout 2012 and I found that; potatoes which did most of their growing during Winter, and better yet Spring, produced by far the greatest yield.  This post provides more detail.

Dutch Cream Potatoes

3. Setting fire to mint kills rust.  My mint developed rust, I researched and found that heat can kill the rust spores.  Click here for the post describing the experiment.  The upshot of which is that I now have very healthy and productive rust free mint.


4.  Garlic, particularly hardneck varieties prefer cold climates.  You can find the round up of this years garlic growing experiences here.  In a nutshell though; softneck varieties seem to suit Melbourne’s relatively mild winters better than hardneck varieties.


5. Planting tomatoes early is a good idea.  I sowed some Tiny Tim tomato seeds in May with the aim of getting some early tomatoes and that is exactly what happened – they started cropping in early December.  An experiment I will definitely be repeating.

Tiny Tim

What has your garden taught you during the past year?

This entry was posted in Top 5. Bookmark the permalink.

19 Responses to Top 5 – Gardening lessons I learnt in 2012.

  1. That the weather can put paid to all your good intentions and that cucumber actually loves very wet conditions.

  2. Daphne says:

    I can grow sweet potatoes, but variety is everything in my colder climate. Not all 90-100 day sweet potatoes will produce well.
    I need to cover my onions to keep onion maggot out of my storage onions.
    If I cover my zucchini to keep out vine borers, do it very early or they may get in anyway. Costata Romenesca have a chance of recovery after a vine borer attack, but regular bush zucchini don’t.

    • Liz says:

      Here there is very little choice about sweet potato varieties – I’ve very rarely seen the slips for sale and about 90% of sweet potato sold in the shops is the orange kind. I should seek out some other varieties as i’ve enjoyed growing it – I do like a wild vine….

  3. kitsapFG says:

    I learn stuff every year, and some I have found only applied to that particular weather year! This past season taught me that I need to thin my strawberry patch out this spring to provide better ventilation and minimize the grey molds that develop in my damp and cool climate.

    • Liz says:

      that is a really good tip actually – I have strawberries that get a bit overrun by my oregano and they get a bit of mould too – now I know why.

  4. Mark Willis says:

    My lesson: don’t believe everything you read on a seed-packet! I tried growing the Squashes “Butterbush” and “Autumn Crown”, both apparently bred to do well in our “temperate” UK climate, but neither of them did anything at all – a complete washout.

    • Liz says:

      I find that a lot of the info on seed packets isn’t particularly well tailored to my area either – the planting times are often out and the sowing distances very strange in some cases.

  5. Sarah says:

    Main lesson from last year – expect the unexpected. Just because the gardening season starts off with news reports of drought conditions and hosepipe bans doesn’t mean it won’t soon become a wet, grey summer, suited only to slugs and snails.

    • Liz says:

      Now that you mention it I do have recollections of English blogs talking about hosepipe bans which in retrospect seems a little on the ridiculous side…

  6. Louise says:

    This is a great list and these tips are very relevant to my new place. I am particularly grateful for the observation about potatoes and garlic. I agree with your observation about cucumber. Even in Sydney I didn’t usually start my cucumbers until November and here they are coping with the ridiculous heat here very very well!

    I have learnt the following: 1. soil quality is everything – I haven’t had time to build mine here yet, 2. broad yellow ripple currant tomatoes are not particularly heat tolerant, 3. early and late plantings of broccoli and cauli have very different problems to deal with – on balance I think the early plantings do better, 4. spring onions are so easy to raise and grow, 5. summer isn’t summer without sunflowers.

    Happy growing.

    • Liz says:

      I absolutely agree with you re the brassicas – definitely early – the late ones here just get infested with aphids and its all too icky for me to deal with. The butterfllies I can cope with – aphids in the flower heads – less so.

  7. Barbara Good says:

    Don’t ignore pests when you first see them, it’s so much harder to get rid of them when they are in plague proportions.
    Sometimes it’s okay to buy seedlings – I’m not do great at growing some plants from seed.

    • Liz says:

      I think its always OK to buy seedlings, the only reason I grow from seed is that you get a wider range of varieties and you know how much they have been forced. I do find shop bought seedlings can be a bit dodgy at the start of the season.

  8. mac says:

    Thanks for the tips. I’m still learning to plan “just enough” for our small family, I either have too many of one vegetable and not enough of another 🙁

  9. Nina says:

    The garden related things I have learned in the past year:

    1. Don’t grow too many of one type of seedling – it’s difficult to murder those babies after planting out as much as you can and giving others away. 2. Only grow garlic known for producing large cloves and DON’T plant the small central cloves. 3. Lebanese cucumbers can be successfully grown in pots with the addition of some climbing support. 4. It takes forever to grow sweet potato slips (at least around here!). 5. There is a wealth of wisdom on the blogs I read – I just need to follow the advice!

    • Liz says:

      Funnily enough my father actually has success planting those small central cloves. He plants them in herb pots and then plants them out in the garden once they are reasonably established. It works for you but i suspect it wouldn’t work for me either though.

  10. Learn to love the weeds… you will be a more contented gardener.

    By the way – I love the tip about mint – I hadn’t heard of that before – thanks!

  11. I totally agree with you on tomatoes and cucumbers. Thanks for the tip on mint!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *