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Southern Vegie Garden Notes April 2012

Southern Vegie Garden Notes
Vegetable Gardens for Nearly Free

April  2012

Last night was the first night I put my fire on.
Last night I had to pick some of my last beans for dinner with my head lamp on.
Last night I had to wear my parker (not orange) to walk the dog.

Late Autumn TomatoesTonight I am having my very last corn cob.
I have one courgette left.
Juicy ripe glowing tomatoes are dangling from vines.
Tatty basil are still holding on.
My celery is ready.

Golden leaves are piling up around the edges.
My wood is stacked.
The chooks are only laying one, two or none eggs per day. They are busy putting on their winter feathers. Their old ones are a carpet in the chook cage. Evidently you can't grow feathers and lay eggs at the same time.

My neighbour has cut down a huge old eucalypt and now I have afternoon sun pouring in my backyard in the late afternoon. It is wonderful.  My plants are shimmying their leaves in the sun. It has been such a wonderful warm, sunny and calm autumn; it is like a huge present after summer.

Shirley Intermediate has employed me for six hours per week to establish a school community garden. At the moment I am only funded till June 1 but we are hoping this will continue.  I find it really enjoyable working with the children.


Red SilverbeetIn my garden the spinach, red silver beet and late lettuces are flourishing. I have plenty of Pak Choi. I consider these a wonder plant as they grow all through winter. My New Zealand spinach is still juicy and a testament to the warm autumn.

I also have leeks and broccoli growing well but they are not ready yet. Self sown Red Coral Mizuna are popping up here and there giving the garden and the salad bowl colour. I also have a self sown Red Mizuna

I will buy some frost cloth for my celery which is in peak condition now; one really good frost and they will turn to slops.

I am now luxuriating in home grown potatoes. I planted mainly native potatoes with a few desirees. I love the native potatoes especially the small, round, rosy potatoes. They are so flavoursome that they don’t need butter or anything. Boil gently, cool and pop them in. They make really good hot potato salad with wilted native spinach, a handful of finely sliced pepper and a dressing.

I am still helping myself to blackberries. I am coming to the end of my apple deluge. My dwarf pear tree, which had been shifted too many times, produced four exquisite pears.

I found out this year that quinces can be cooked, skins on, just like stewed apple. I did not know this; I thought that they had to be jellied or turned into paste. The taste is just beautiful. Next year I will be on the quince hunt.

Parsnips – Parsnips are ready when the tops have died down and after the first frost. They need frost to be really sweet.

It is a really good time to harvest rhubarb before it dies back with the winter frosts. Rhubarb and apple crumble makes a tasty, cooler nights’ treat.

Red MizunaSeeds and Seedlings

I have saved plenty of seeds from my Painted Lady beans. If anybody wants some seeds just let me know.

I have a good crop of self-sown peas from my pea straw. I have transplanted them to the patch where I have dug out my potatoes. They are nitrogen fixers so they help recondition the soil after potatoes. Potatoes use a lot of nutrients because they not only grow huge tops but also store the nutrient in their tubers.

As the potatoes come out I always sow some mustard and or lupins to protect the soil over winter. I broadcast the seeds and rake them in.

I have been planting successive sowings of pak choi and spinach. I have planted a late sowing of spring onions. These are just coming up. They will grow a little and then bide their time till spring, when they will fatten up and provide you with early spring onions at a time when they are charging $$ for a miserable little bunch in the shops.

Shirley Intermediate garden is in  a lovely sheltered sunny spot. Before Easter I sowed Kings’ Organic Mesclun and this has come up well and is now a couple of centimetres high. Last week the children transplanted pak choi, kale, cabbages and broccoli seedlings into a tray; they are romping away in the warm days.

I have trays of lettuce and spinach ready to transplant at Delta Community Gardens to take advantage of the lovely frost free garden next to the concrete wall.

Because of the warm autumn, the soil temperature is higher than usual, so I have been pushing limits a bit. In the weekend I put in another row of Kings’ Organic Mesclun. I also put some more spinach and pak choi seeds in a tray; this is the latest that I have planted these seeds.  I will let you know what happens to these.

April is the time to plant onion seeds. I have planted mine in nursery rows. The purpose is to grow the onion plants to a few centimetres high. At this point they will really slow down over winter. At the beginning of spring I will lift them for transplanting into a permanent position. If you are planting onions it is good to prepare the soil with some wood ash and some bone dust.


I buried the fermented waste from my bokashi bucket. I expected it to produce a wormy compost mix. But actually the whole bucket of composting materials has just disappeared into the soil!  Go microbes.www.zingbokashi.co.nz.. 


At Delta gardens I lost two crops of lettuce and one crop broccoli to slugs. This is the first time this has happened. I think that it was a multi-combo of the following. I used pea straw to mulch in summer to save water; I think this provided slug homes. The summer was cool and moist; a perfect slug summer. The houses next door were demolished; they migrated?

I have not had a slug problem at home. I think that this is because the chooks dig in the pea straw rather than it lying on top. Chooks eat slugs.

Derris Dust is good for keeping your broccoli and caulis alive during the slug / caterpillar season. Spraying with neem is also really good; this can be purchased from www.koanga.org.nz.  My plants which I have been giving the bokashi liquid to seem to be more resistant.

At Delta I work one day a week which makes monitoring impossible so with great reluctance I carefully applied some slug baits. If it had been at home I would have put out squares of black plastic to form slug homes. Then each day I would have collected the slugs from underneath and fed them to the delighted chooks. Snails and slugs love black plastic. From their point of view black plastic has all the thrills of a slip ‘n’ slide.

Native PotatoesBullet Points for May

1. You can sow broad bean seeds.

2. You can sow lupins and mustard to keep your soil in good condition over winter.

3. You can sow onions seeds. – Best done in nursery rows for later transplanting.

4. You can transplant pak choi and kale seedlings. Broccoli and cauliflowers  can be transplanted for spring harvest.

5. Prepare a patch of soil for garlic with plenty of good compost. Plant garlic any time from the end of the month.

6. This is the best time to be thinking about your soil. It is really good to keep it covered. I have piled up weeded weeds on the unused patches. When my chooks move onto the old weed piles they will have a feast of critters.

It is best to cover your soil with whatever you have e.g. grass clippings, raked leaves etc.  This protects and nourishes your bacteria and fungi in the soil, which will then be ready to support your plants in spring.

7. This is the time to collect composting materials e.g. leaves, horse poo, and seaweed. You can build a layered compost heap with greens  (lawn clippings etc) alternated with browns, (dried leaves, sawdust, any dried matter). Moisten each layer and intersperse horse poo and sea weed between the layers.

8. This is a good time for tool maintenance and shed cleaning.


From Margaret Porter

My garden is looking like something out of a Tim Burton Movie. I am getting tomatoes but little else right now. The brocoli is full of bugs and I cannot get them out when I wash it. Bummer. Potatoes are okay, small but good. Because I did not trench them. Strawberries are ripening but the slugs get them before I do, which is very disappointing. I had a great bean crop both yellow and green stringless dwarf beans, Yum ! The corn is very small but very tender.

I am already planning my garden for next year. Oh, yes I have cabbages and rhubarb, too, although the slugs do like them as well as the "Butterflies", white ones that is. I planted a tomato plant in the corner of the conservatory and wow, it is growing like a weed! It was a "let's see what happens if I plant here" type of experiment. Next year, tomatoes are going in there for sure!

I plan to do sheet composting and already have lots of good grass cuttings as well as brown compost. I think I will dig up all the potatoes and plant the lupins and lemon tree I have in a planter.
Happy gardening, y'all. Margaret


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