August is a good month to start sowing seeds of summer vegetables and flowers. Last year a top range of seeds was launched onto the market for home gardeners of superior vegetable varieties.

It is a range of seeds called 'Chefs Best' distributed by Ican. Ican brand has been developed by a group of independent garden centres with the aim to put quality and value first, addressing the issue that we are in an age where price is often pushed lower at the compromise of quality.

Garden experts have carried out extensive trials and sought advice from vegetable seed specialists in NZ and internationally, to find the very best varieties for the NZ home gardener. The group of independent garden centres have chosen 15 of the very best vegetable varieties for NZ home gardeners.

Read more: Gareth Carter: Seven steps to the best potatoes
Gardening: Tips for fixing a soggy wet garden
Grow your own fruit to harvest

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The varieties have been selected for the following characteristics; Superior Taste, Improved Pest and Disease resistance, Increased Vigour and Yield. In addition they are consistent and reliable. A number of the varieties are also more compact, and faster maturing, which results in a larger range from less space, and the ability to produce more crops through the season. Many are ideal for raised planter beds and container gardening.

The ones to plant now direct into the garden include;
Broad Bean—Mr Green seed
Broad beans that look and taste good. They remain green after cooking.
Beet root—Red Lightning
Strong vigorous hybrid, upright, early maturing, deep red and tender—very uniform
Carrot Europa
Best carrot available. Fast, strong germination, vigorous, resistance to alternaria and bolting. Rates very high for taste.
Lettuce– Trendsetter
This cos type has become popular for modern salads. Easy to grow, space saving, green crisp hearts, early maturing and holds well. Resistance to downy mildew, sclerotinia and aphids.
Leek—Baby
Fast growing, ready to eat in 8 weeks from planting out. Best harvested when finger thickness. Can be close planted to save space
Parsnip —Trafalgar
Strong, vigorous germination and rapid growth. Long straight parsnip with good canker resistance. The best home garden parsnip yet developed.
Peas—Magic
Dark green pods on vigorous high yielding plants. Good resistance to fusarium and powdery mildew means you keep on picking to the last pod produced.
Radish—Olympus
Vigorous consistent variety, medium -large round. Pleasant taste. Fast maturing and disease resistant. Best radish available.
Spinach—Nutriplus
Vigorous hybrid, consistent highly nutritious, variety. Strong germination and fast maturing. Resistance to downy mildew. Very consistent.
The ones to sow in trays indoors for planting out at the end of September are;
Tomato—Flavoursome
A taste sensation. Early maturing, medium size fruits. Excellent resistance to virus and soil fungus diseases. Keeps well.

Grow Your Own Vegetables and Save
The question of the economics of growing your own vegetables is often debated with no clear winner. Following is a costing that one of our garden centre consultants have done covering the full year from Aug 2015 – July 2016, for a couple, in a very limited garden space of 24 sqm including pathways. A family of 4 may need 40 sqm to achieve a similar result.
The set up cost –
Raised timber bed 4m x 1.2m - $200
Soil /compost mix - $100
10 x 35L plastic pots - $100
5 x 50L Potting Mix - $ 75
Germination warmer plate - $ 40
Plastic box-$ 10
Frost cloth -$ 30
TOTAL Set up Cost $555

The ongoing annual cost
Seed-$60
Seed Raising mix-$15
Fertiliser-$50
Slug pellets /pesticides -$70 (Half these still unused – will do another year) TOTAL annual cost $195 Yield – Returns
The crops listed below were grown and provided total vegetable requirements for two people from Nov- July and 50% of the requirements for Aug – Oct.
Because of limited space, potatoes, sweet corn, keeper onions, and pumpkins were purchased (not grown)
Purchases of potatoes sweet corn and pumpkins plus supplementary requirements for July – Oct as above cost $180.

The above space and input yielded $1047 at supermarket prices at the respective time.
An excellent return for a minimal cost.

Lettuce*
Tomato*
Cucumber*
Dwf Beans*
Runner Beans
White Onions
Spring Onions
Courgette*
Buttercup*
Spinach*
Pak Choi
Cabbage
Broccoli
Cauliflower
Silver Beet
Leeks*
Broad Beans*
Garlic
Carrot*
Parsnip*
Beetroot*
Capsicum
Herbs
The asterisk* lines were ican varieties
Gareth Carter is General Manager of Springvale Garden Centre