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Southern Vegie Garden Notes August 2012

Bullet points for early September


 Snow peas ready for staking The following can be planted in open ground.

  • Radish
  • Carrots
  • Miner’s lettuce
  • Snow peas
  • Early dwarf peas e.g. novella,
  • Spring onions
  • Mesclun
  • Broadbeans

      The following can be planted in seed trays.

  • Tomato and chilli seeds indoors
  • Broccoli
  • Cauliflower
  • Hardy lettuce e.g. oak leaf

      Set out seed potatoes for Christmas dinner

  • Potatoes are set out in trays, in a warm sunny place so that strong shoots come from the eyes.


      The following can be planted in open ground.

  • Lettuce
  • Spring onions
  • Onions
  • Broccoli
  • Cauliflower
  • Silver beet

          Bullet points for late September

Planting at this time can vary with season to season.  The key is whether the soil is starting to feel warm. If your soil still feels cold and wet then it is advisable to leave planting a week or two.

  The following seeds can be planted in open ground.

  • Peas e.g. Wando and Tall Alderman
  • Carrots
  • Radish
  • Spring onions
  • Beetroot
  • Silverbeet
  • Mesclun

          The following can be planted in seed trays or pots

  •           Celeriac

Spring is here. Yippeee. Over this month daylight increases from 11 hours and seven minutes at the beginning of the month to 12 hours and 32 minutes at the end. It is time to shine The Barbie.

The biggest danger for new gardeners is planting out too soon. Show weekend is the time in Christchurch to plant out all the squash, cucumbers, pumpkins, zucchinis and corn. These plants like nice uninterrupted warm growing weather. So you don’t have to think about these for another month.

Pak Choi floweringIn all the excitement of spring and longer, warmer days, you need to remember that this is one of the hardest times of the year to find food in a veggie garden. The winter crops such as brussel sprouts and leeks are all over. Our faithful little pak chois, which have served us so well over winter now have only one thing on their plant mind - Yeah its flowering and seed time!! I am writing this in mid August and already some of the pak chois and rockets have started to flower. Where possible I leave these to flower as the flowers provide early food for the beneficial insects in our gardens.
Our root crops such as parsnips, carrots, beetroot and potatoes are finished.

Our ancestors harvested nettles at this time of year since they are one of the first plants up in spring and abound in any reasonable vegie garden.   http://www.guardian.co.uk/lifeandstyle/2012/mar/30/nettle-recipes-hugh-fearnley-whittingstall  gives you some nettle recipes.

Miners' lettuce and mesclun are other spring crops that give us plentiful quick salad greens at this time of year.

Pak Choi in AugustAt the end of last autumn I grew oak leaf lettuce, spring onions, and silver beet in trays to four leaf stage and wintered them over in trays. They are ready to plant out now and will grow quickly with the increasing warmth.

Opening a seed drill for peas.

Pea seeds set out in rows of threeOpen a flat seed drill about 15 cm wide and the depth of you index finger to the first knuckle. Across the seed drill, plant the peas in a row of three. Plant the next row of three 5 cm apart; this is the length of my second knuckle.  When the seed drill is filled with neat rows of three cover to the depth of the first knuckle.

Opening a seed drill for carrots.

A seed drill for carrotsOpen a v shaped seed drill about 2 cm deep. Sprinkle the carrot seeds evenly over the drill.  Carrots take about 3 weeks to germinate. To protect the carrot seeds while it is germinating, plant radish seed in the row. I put one radish seed about 3-4 cm. Just cover the seeds with fine soil. The radish comes up in 6- 10 days. As the leaves open out they protect the slower germinating carrots. By the time the radish are ready to harvest the carrots are well on their way. Note carrot seedlings cannot be transplanted.

Opening a seed drill for beetroot, spring onions, radish

The same type of seed drill for carrots is good for beetroot. If your soil is not well watered, you can soak the beetroot seeds the night before. Beetroot are best not transplanted.

Opening a seed drill for Mesclun

I use a wider seed drill; about the width of my finger. I find that with the variety of plants you can get a better germination than with a narrower seed drill. I sprinkle the seeds over the drill and cover with fine soil.

Note: All my seeds have to be protected from black birds. I cover the seed drills with old oven racks and fridge shelves or twiggy branches or bird netting.

Starting off tomato and chilli seeds indoors.

If you don’t have propagation facilities like me, this is what you can do.

Fill margarine sized pots, with drainage holes on the bottom, with seed raising mix or compost. Moisten the soil well and leave it to drain for an hour or so. Then  sow the seeds. Cover the seeds with seed raising mix or compost and on top  put wet newspaper cut out the size of the pot. Put the pots in my hot water cupboard. The wet newspaper stops the pots drying out. I check them every couple of days and moisten the newspaper.

As soon as you see the stems popping up take them out of the cupboard and put them on a window sill in direct sunlight. It is best to get the plants into direct sunlight while the stems are just bending upwards. If you are not careful the stems will get leggy and the plants weak. Keep the pots moist until the plants are at the four leaf stage, then transplant them into bigger pots.   Last year I went to Dunedin during this time, so I took my seedlings with me. Such well travelled tomatoes and chillis!!

This really is a wonderful time of year. I never lose the magic of watching seeds come up. I saw my first bee today on the pak choi flowers.

Happy growing everyone.


From Margaret Porter

Hi All,
I hope this winter has been kind to everyone. I had the pleasure of seeing Hannah at a cafe recently. We discussed our winter gardening. My garden is very wet, due to its location. I have potatoes coming up again. I buried some very deep and did not find them all when I dug them up. The ones coming up, about 8 of them, look very strong in the stalk and the leaves are deep green and hardy looking. Go figure. I will have potatoes for Christmas. I plan to sew more later on, from last years crop, as there are some sprouting. I had planted some last year from sprouts I cut off a potato and they grew!

Potatoes do self sow easily. What a bonus! In fact so  easily that they can become a weed, as it is almost impossible to get them all out at harvest time. Since your potatoes have popped up early you will need to cover them if there is a late frost as they are very frost tender.

My rhubarb died, I thought. It is coming up again. Anyone have any tricks or tips on how to care for rhubarb. What manure is best, and what do you do with the leaves, as they are toxic? I put them in my compost, now I cannot use it.

 Rhubarb leaves can be made into a natural insecticide for chewing insects. When we had the snail deluge at Delta last year, they hid in the rhubarb leaves during the day. It didn't seem to bother them at all. I have always thrown my rhubarb leaves in the compost heap without any known harm. 

Rhubarb dies down over winter. It is almost impossible to kill. In my first ever garden a helpful friend rotary hoed the garden and chopped the rhubarb up into dozens of pieces. They all grew! At Delta the rhubarb is happily growing in liquefaction. Some say that it’s the sweetest rhubarb they have ever eaten!! A shovel full of compost would be all that’s needed. It does require water in summer.

I am also wondering what kind of green/yellow dwarf beans are best to grow in the southern climate?

I plant beans in 5 – 6 small, successive sowings for my home garden, beginning on Show Day. I sow them every couple of weeks.  Butter beans seem to be a touch hardier than the green beans.  I make my first two sowings butter beans. I like bean Roquefort. Then I sow the green beans. My personal favourites are Top Crop and Bean Purple Tee Pee dwarf.  It is a good idea to try all different sorts over the years.




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