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Southern Garden Vegie Notes January 2013

You are very welcome to contribute your experiences to Southern Garden Vegie Notes. If you wish to contribute, please email your questions or notes from your vegetable gardening so I can add them on to the newsletter.


Freshly dug garlicGrow Your Own Free Lunch

This FREE course is held at Delta Community House on five Tuesday mornings between 9.30 and 12.30. February 12 - March 12. Book now to secure your place. This course is perfect for beginners.


Vegetable Gardening at Your Place

This is a great way to get inspiration to start your new garden.
You will have an hour and a half of Vegetable Gardening Planning for $85


Bullet Points for February

Seeds to sow for late January and early February

  • Kale
  • Silver beet
  • Perpetual Spinach
  • Broccoli
  • Cabbage ( for spring)
  • Pak Choi
  • Mesclun
  • Lettuce
  • Spring onions
  • Misome
  • Mizuna
  • Mibuna
  • Mustards
  • Spinach
  • Blue Lupins
  • Mustard

Seeds to plant throughout February

  • Mesclun
  • Lettuce
  • Pak Choi
  • Misome
  • Mustards
  • Mibuna
  • Mizuna



  • Leeks (best late January and early Feb
  • Brussels sprouts (Best in January)
  • Cabbages
  • Broccoli
  • Cauli
  • Spinach
  • Pak choi

 I have added a new section to this news letter called Beginners Garden. These are notes for people establishing their first garden.

If you have been growing for two years or more you will have found out how radically different each season can be. This year has been a boomer; plenty of sunshine and hot weather alternated with good, light rain. The tomatoes have well set trusses, the cucumbers and pumpkins are clambering all over the place. In contrast to last year when I was hovering over the tomatoes balefully looking at grey sky and wondering if they were ever going to ripen. If you keep a garden diary each year you can use the information to respond to the fluctuating growing conditions.

The essence of gardening in January and February is the daylight hours are decreasing which means your brassicas won’t bolt off to seed but you also have a short window for planting before it starts getting cold.

January Harvest

This is it folks - the beginning of the food deluge.  We are picking our first butter beans and they don’t even hit the pot; grazed straight from the garden. Courgettes, beans, basil, mesclun, lettuce, carrots, beetroot, turnips, radish, spring onions, New Zealand spinach, spinach, garlic, onions and strawberries are all ready for eating.  What a feast!

Garden tasks for January

  • If you have been away from your garden for a few weeks, you will have to carefully weed around your plants. At Delta Community Gardens it took three of us 2 days to clear spent broad beans and peas as well as metre high weeds. 
  • Put some of the weeds (except oxalis) back on your garden as a light mulch. It is worthwhile getting onto your oxalis quickly while the bulbs are still clinging to the plant and easy to remove. In a few weeks the bulbs will be ripe and drop off as soon as you move the plant.
  • Keep soil lightly covered with a sprinkle of lawn clippings, weeds or straw. A light covering stops the sunlight from frying the good fungi and bacteria, while at the same time not providing a home for snails.
  • Tomatoes ripeningCut off any marrow sized courgettes and tie up your tomatoes which are probably sprawling all over the place if you have been away on holiday.
  • In the garden where you have dug your potatoes, scatter the seed of blue lupins and mustard to rejuvenate your soil. Rake the seed in. Water. Easy peasy.

Planting Seedlings

Planting leeks with a dibblePlant your leeks now to produce big tender leeks for the middle of winter when little else is growing. I purchase leek plants from Portstone Nursery in bundles of twenty. This is my favourite way of growing them as I don’t have to worry about seedling leeks while I am away on my summer holidays. 
To plant leeks you need a stick (officially called a ‘dibble’. "A pointed tool for making holes in the ground for seeds or plants" - Collins English Dictionary. I use a child’s cricket wicket. Push the dibble into the soil as far as you can then drop in the leek seedling.  Plant the leeks a hand-span apart. You do not need to fill in the hole. The plants just need watering regularly over the next week. Using this method creates the fat, juicy, clean, white part of the leek.

Plant celery seedlings now, because celery turns to slush in the first good frost if you plant them too late. Celery is a big feeder. To grow thick, juicy celery I do the following: dig a trench about a spade depth and fill it with compost and rotted horse poo topped with soil. Plant the celery plants on top. Make sure they are a good trowel width apart in the filled up trench.  Water regularly.

Caulis, broccoli, Brussels sprouts and cabbages are all in the Brassica family. These brassicas require plenty of good soil if they are going to be healthy. The healthier your plants, the less bugs they will attract. To grow vigorous brassicas you will need to prepare your soil with compost and lime if you haven’t already limed your garden this year. These seedlings need plenty of attention at this time of year. It is best to plant them on a cool day or evening. These brassicas need plenty of room so plant the seedlings 1 ½  trowel widths apart. After planting they will need a little, gentle watering each day . While you’re there, check out for caterpillars and aphids.

Planting seeds

I plant my brassicas in a seed tray which I keep covered with shade cloth and put in a coolish place. They require regular light watering.

A spring onion seedingThis is a good time of year to save seeds. Flowering vegetables attract beneficial insects as well as looking beautiful.Flowering onions always look stunning. Carrots, spring onions and parsnip produce a lot of seed and can self sow easily but they can’t be transplanted. So you can just wait until the seeds are dried off, brown and beginning to fall. Collect them into a paper bag and label.  Store them in a dark, dry place until you are ready for them.

Flowering carrot staked and tied to save space.To save garden space flowering / seeding plants can be staked and tied.

Beginners’ Garden

If you are creating your first garden, it’s important to purchase a good quality spade; a second hand spade with a good handle is great or the other option is to get a trade quality one. ‘Cheap’ spades collapse quickly and end up being very expensive. Also purchase a good quality trowel. And that’s all you need to start.

Decide where to put your garden and clear about 1metre square. Less is more for your first garden.  In a brand new garden it is best to sprinkle it with lime and then pile on all the mulch you can find easily e.g. grass clippings, horse poo, and leaves.  Leave this to stew for a month or so.  In the summer heat you will need to water it regularly to keep the soil moist. I will give you more tips in February’s vegie notes.

If you have a patch ready, the best seeds for a beginner to sow at this time of year are mesclun and spring onions. The best seedlings to plant are pak choi, lettuce and herbs of your choice.

In the heat of January water your garden in the evening. This is a pleasant way to cool off from work and observe your plants growing.

Questions from last weeks e-mail

How can I stop white butterfly caterpillars eating my broccoli?

Keep a good eye out for aphids and white butterfly caterpillars on your brassicas. I consider the best option for these pests is Neem oil which can be purchased from Koanga Gardens. http://www.koanga.org.nz/shop/garden/neem-essential-oil-200ml.
Some people recommend Derris Dust but there is some controversy around this and you may want to read about it first.
If you have a small garden, wander out and observe your plants. Look for tell-tale caterpillar poo and just squash the wee blighters or feed them to your chooks. Aphids cause the leaves to discolour and curl. Chooks find ‘aphids on leaf’ a delicacy. Or else just squash them.

Plants which volunteer easily

A self sown celery growing in a liquefaction filled drain.Some plants love to self sow and this is the easiest way to grow vegetables. To achieve this let one or two plants just go to seed. I tie up the flowering seeding plants so that they don’t flop all over the place and take up heaps of room. Plants which volunteer easily in this way are: New Zealand spinach, perpetual spinach, celery, parsley, rocket, lettuce, leeks, spring onions, beetroot, silverbeet and mizuna. If plants self sow in the “wrong” place you can transplant them like a purchased seedling at the four leaf stage. Beetroot is best left to grow undisturbed though.

Perpetual spinach  growing in a crack handily provided by the earthquakes

Looking around for what you've got

As an organic gardener I am always looking around for what I can find to put on my compost heap or use as mulch. In my area horse poo is easily available and I regularly go to the beach, so I collect seaweed while I am on the go. You may have neighbours who want to give you their lawn clippings or autumn leaves. This waste is really organic gold!

Links you may want to follow



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