Reliable vegetable varieties

Everything you grow needs care and attention. However, some food plants are less fussy and give

more value for your efforts than others.

What grows well in one person's backyard may not do so well on someone else's property, so it is

worth experimenting with different varieties to see what does well for you. Comparing notes with

neighbours and looking at what grows in the neighbourhood are good ways to find out what thrives

in your area. The plants mentioned on these pages do well in an eastern suburbs garden in


The following are varieties of commonly grown vegetables that do well in Melbourne's eastern

suburbs.  Other varieties may do better in other areas: experiment to find out what works best for you.

Good, rich soil and adequate water will go a long way towards good results with your vegies. Always

mulch well over summer.

Seed companies like Diggers (Link) and New Gippsland Seeds (Link)  have a huge range of fruit and

vegetables to experiment with.


Climbing beans are more space efficient that

bush beans. Sow in late spring for the main

crop, then again in late January and,

depending on the weather, you may have

fresh beans until June.  Old screen doors with

the fly mesh removed  make good climbing

frames for beans.  Check the hard rubbish for


Good varieties to try: Purple King, Lazy

Housewife, Golden Pole Bean


'Sprouting' or 'browsing' varieties give months

of picking with small sprigs rather than one

large head. Two well grown plants should be

plenty for a family.  Grow over the cooler moths

if you want to avoid having to control cabbage

white butterfly.  Otherwise use 'Dipel'

fortnightly.  (This is registered for use on

organic produce.)

Try Diggers Seeds for sprouting varieties of



Cabbages look wonderful in the garden - like

great big green roses.

They will grow better for you if you grow from

seed rather than punnets or pots. Sow small

numbers, staggered over a number of weeks

or months so you don't  have barrow loads of

cabbages all ready for eating at the one time!

Try: Green Coronet (Hybrid) from New Gippsland

Seeds.  This variety resists bolting to seed so

you don't have to pick all your cabbages at



The crispness of fresh picked cucumbers is

one of the joys of summer and once you

tasted your own you'll be reluctant to ever buy

the commercial ones again. Especially since

they are so easy to grow.

Lebanese cucumbers are very prolific. Make a

frame to keep them off the ground.  A length of

sturdy wire mesh bent to make an arch works

well. Plant your seedlings at the edge of the

garden bed and train them over the arch

above the adjoining lawn or path.

Also try: Armenian cucumber (From Diggers or

New Gippsland Seeds)  These have long, pale

fruit which keep well in the fridge.  They may

not do well in cool summers however.


Just one of the latest in a string of fad foods?

Well, not really. Kale has been around for

squillions of years. It's just not been a

common food plant till recently in Australia.

It's a kind of loose-leafed cabbage. And it is

nutritious, being rich in iron, vitamins and


The variety shown here is Tuscan Black Kale

or Cavolo Nero. It is easy to grow and does

well in Melbourne.

Its beautiful, crinkled, blue-green leaves

make quite a statement in the garden, and it

goes on and on producing leaves month after

month, growing taller as it does.

Harvest the leaves you need as you need

them and leave the plant to grow on.

Use Kale in stir fries, soups, coleslaw.

Brushing with olive oil and baking until just

crisp is another favourite. 

As for cabbages and broccoli, cabbage white butterflies can cause problems in the warmer months, so

hand picking caterpillars or spraying with Dipel may be necessary.

When flower buds will appear you can let them mature and form seeds for your next crops.

However, if you have other brassicas growing they are likely to cross pollinate with your kale. You could

find yourself with kadishes, kallage, kalcoli or kastards. You may be lucky and find yourself with a

brilliant new hybrid, but most likely it will be best fed to the caterpillars or the chooks.

You could instead pick the flower buds and eat them. Steam them lightly, pop them into stir fries or

soups. Treat them like broccoli. They are delicious!


Loose leaf varieties can be grown all year.  Let

some go to seed and you will have a constant

supply of new plants. Pick leaves as you need

them, leaving some on the plant to keep it

growing.  Hearting lettuces are more difficult,

being prone to rotting and reluctant to 'heart'.

There are many varieties, and their different

colours (reddish, bright green, golden-green,

speckled) and leaf form (long, rounded, oak

leaf, frilly) look very attractive in the garden.

  The small Red Cos variety does better than

many others in hot weather.

If buying seedlings choose a punnet with small

plants - these will do better than more

advanced ones.


Picked fresh from the garden is the best way

to eat peas!  Grow from seed rather than

buying seedlings. Soaking in warm water for a

few hours will improve germination rate.

  Alternatively, get them started in a take away

food box on damp paper towel.  Place the lid

loosely on top and keep moist but not

puddley.  When small roots and shoots

appear, plant into pots or into the garden (but

watch out for snails and slugs).

Try Climbing Sugar Snap or Snow Peas (why

bother podding peas if you can eat the lot?). 

As for beans, climbing varieties are more

space efficient.


The following varieties are all particularly tasty

and prolific: Brown Berry (cherry type),

Pomodoro Crovarese (Italian variety, small

elongated fruit), Reggae Roma (egg shape and

size), Periform (large, solid fruit).  Black

Russian fruits early, is tasty, and does okay in

cool summers.

Try planting a few advanced seedlings into the

garden bed in September.  Plant deeply -

halfway up the stem - and to get them growing

quickly, make a protective shelter from clear

plastic. If all goes well you'll have well

established plants by the time the weather

warms up, and early tomatoes to pick. Plant the

remainder of your crop in November.


It is good to be adventurous with zucchinis.

Italian varieties such as Costata are especially

tasty and attractive.  Round varieties such as

Zucchini Rondo taste just as good if not better

than the standard long types, but the bushes

are more compact which can be useful.

Tromboncino zucchinis (pictured at left) grow

very long indeed.  Provide a sturdy climbing

frame for these ones.

If you don't have many bees visiting your

garden you may have to hand pollinate.