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Southern Vegie Garden Notes April 2014

Welcome to Southern Vegie Garden Notes

A winter garden with leeks, perpetual spinach and pak choi Most people look forward to the fine stable weather of a Christchurch autumn with sunny days, golden leaves and crisp mornings. Not so this year; yesterday when I walked on my lawn the water squelched up between my toes. We have also had a lot of heavy cloud cover. There have been many days when I have to put on the lights in my house in the middle of the day.  Some people have reported that their solar lights are not as bright as usual. We have had so little sunshine that people are going a bit frisky when finally the lovely yellow rays shine out even for a short time. 

Celery and Pak Choi growing well together in wet weatherI planted  a lot of brassica seedlings in early March which have grown much more slowly than usual. I was counting on about 8 weeks of good sunny weather to bring the plants on. I expect that the seedlings will winter over and then burst away next spring.

The wet weather has favoured some plants.  We have a flush of miners' lettuce at Delta Community Gardens. These little plants are not usually seen before August. Celery are growing well as they love the wet. 

The wet weather has also favoured fungi. There is a wonderful array popping up everywhere. Fungi are essential to gardens as they break down old plant material making  minerals available to the plants. If you look carefully at them you will catch their beauty.

A waterfall of fungi living on a rotting log.I have not made a suggested list of things to plant this time because if you are in a wet place then you are best to save your seed to plant in spring. If you have good drainage you can still sow lupins and mustard as green manure crops for the next two weeks. You can also plant broad beans. This is a good time for planting broad beans as they come up and winter over about 10 cm high making them ready to sprint in spring.

Harvest 

Enjoying crisp juicy Painted Lady beans in late AprilNever say never. The painted lady beans at Delta Community Gardens decided to flower and bean really late after mooching around all summer. Now in late April we are harvesting delicious beans. Painted Lady Beans are the best raw beans I have ever eaten.

Late tomatoes are best left on the vines. Thinking that they would rot in the rain and dense cloud, I picked some and brought them inside and put them in a bowl.  They rotted in the bowl really quickly. The ones I left on the vines are still good.

Celery, cabbages, silver beet, pak choi, broccoli and mesclun are all ready for harvest. I also still have beetroot, potatoes and carrots in the soil which I harvest as I need them.

It is good to remember that celery is frost tender and turns to slops in the frost. I am busy eating mine now and I will cover the crop with frost cloth when the first frosts look likely. I just love a thick juicy stem of celery.

Self Sown Plants (aka Volunteers)

Self sown pumpkinsIt is good to keep an eye out for self sown plants. Delta has a nice crop of silver beet popping up along with kale, celery and parsley. I have harvested two pumpkins at Guild St which self sowed. The seeds must have come in on some compost. Self sown plants can be transplanted when they are about the 4 leaf stage if they have popped up in an unwanted place. Last year the entire of Delta's first lettuce crop was from transplanted self sows. It is  handy to put your volunteers into rows. This makes it much easier for the human eye when weeding.

Herbs

 Anise HyssopOregano, thyme, parsley , marjoram, mint, sage and rosemary are the  most common culinary herbs. Fresh herbs give your cooking pizzaz and scent your house. Herbs are excellent plants for small gardens and pots.

Many herbs winter over and provide small pickings all year. Parsley is at the top of my billing for it grows year round. Parsley is best left to self sow. You only need to let one plant seed and you will have it forever.

We grew a number of herbs at Churchill Park this year. One of the herbs is Anise Hyssop. This plant has uninspiring looking leaves yet they are very sweet and taste of genlte aniseed. Most people screw up their face when I encourgae them to have  a nibble but as soon as they taste the sweetness their eyes pop open and they go , "Wow!" This is fun for them and great fun fo rme.

LovageRosemary cuttings will root in a glass of water on the window sill. Take 2-3 cuttings and keep replacing the water to keep it clean. When the roots develop pot up your plant. Spring time is probably the best but just experiment. Oregano, marjoram, mint and thyme all grow from rooted pieces. Just ask a friend, dig out a piece with roots on it, then plant it. The trick is to keep the roots  moist during transportation and after planting.

Lovage  has a clean celery taste and makes soups and stews special. Some people call it the Maggi herb as it was used to give flavour the commercial soups in the early days.

Garden Tasks.

Rosemary and New Zealand spinach growing togetherIt is a good idea to think about the place where you will plant garlic now. Garlic will rot if the ground is too wet. So this year it will be good to hill up an area with some wood ash and some compost so that the area is well drained. The spot needs to be sunny. Garlic is a suitable crop for small gardens. Garlic can be planted from mid May to July. 

May is a good time to mulch your garden. There are plenty of leaves everywhere ready for mulching. With the wet season the lawns are growing as if it is mid spring. So there are plenty of lawn clippings to add to your mulched garden. Other good things to mulch with are straw and sea weed. Pile it all on top of your garden with a sprinkle of lime. It will be ready to plant in in spring. You may need to cover your mulch with netting as the black birds and thrushes just love digging it up and throwing it all over the place.

Weeds and Snails

HydracottleThis wet cool weather has favoured a weed called hyrdacottle. I have always had a  little of this in the garden but most years it gets burnt off in the dry summer weather so it hasn't been a bother. This year it has rampaged around the garden and tried to smother my vegetables. It is A Nasty Weed. I have not been able to find out anything useful about this weed yet e.g. how does it propagate. I am still on the hunt for more information. Feel free to email me if you wish to contribute your knowledge. Since I have labelled it A Nasty Weed I am weeding it out and hacking it back as much as possible.

A water Garden sculptured by the earthquakes and filled by the deluges.Snails and slugs have also been booming. I usually have little problem with these because of the usually dry climate. This month they demolished all the lettuce seedlings which I had planted in the glasshouse. I had to resort to slug baits or lose everything. I don't scatter these on the ground. I place them, preferably on a pottle lid . It is exceedlingly rare for me to use these baits. I have probably only used them 3 -4 times in 10 years in emergencies.

I avoid providing snails and slugs with high quality real estate. They love gardens with little rock/ stone edgings. I keep my edges open and clear. They love old hedges or anywhere they can slip into moistly during the burning daylight hours. In a prolonged battle with slugs and snails peg out squares of black polythene and then look for them under the plastic in the morning. They love black polythene. It is the snail equivalent of a skateboard park. The snail harvest can be fed to chooks or be removed in any way you like.

New Course

Foundation Horticulture Programme.

Self sown kaleThis is a wonderful opportunity for those who want to learn basic growing skills as well as explore career opportunities in the primary sector.This course is free as it is funded by the Tertiary Education Commission.

This course is 12 weeks beginning May 26, 2014. Monday to Wednesday 9.30 - 2.30.  Thursday and Friday will be practical skills and work at your pace.The course will be held at Delta Community House 105 North Avon Rd.  Agriculture New Zealand have set up the course and Mary will be tutoring. The course will cover basic growing skills as well as information about the primary sector. The course is open anyone with NCEA level 1, or if English is your second language or you do not hold a NCEA qualification.

Consultation

Vegetable Garden Planning at Your Place

Lettuce drunken women. This was direct sown into the garden in early autumn.This is the perfect time for Vegetable Garden Planning as you will be able to get ready to plant for autumn. This is a great way to start your new garden. In Mary’s one and a half hour visit to your place, you will create your Garden Action Plan, and have a mind buzzing full of ideas. Find out how to transform your world with a spade and some seeds  http://www.aplaceoflearning.co.nz/vegetable-gardening/

The Simple Organic Gardening Course

   The next course will be run in Spring in the second week of September. Bookings taken now. email Mary mary@aplaceoflearning.co.nz 

See http://www.aplaceoflearning.co.nz/vegetable-gardening/ for more information

Breadmaking and Gardening

Mesclun ready for pickingThis free course is on at Delta Community House 105 North Avon Rd 9.30 - 12.30 Tuesdays April 29, May 6, 13, 20. We begin the course with making bread . While the bread is rising you can come intot he garden to learn seasonal skills.  When the bread is cooked enjoy it for lunch along with fresh salad harvested from the garden.  Email Mary to find out more. 

 

 

 

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