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Southern Vegie Garden Notes December 2014

 Wishing you a Happy Christmas
and an Abundant New Year 

Quick planting summary for January

Plants which can be grown from seeds

 Fresh strawberries are a taste explosionBeetroot
Dwarf beans (first week)
Spring onions
Radish (last week)
Silver beet

Plants which can be grown from seedlings

Raspberries fresh from the vine.Celery

Last night it was so calm and warm that I wore my very summer top and today it is so cold and windy that I have my trackies and my woollen jersey on. The next four days are predicted to have temperatures in the mid to low teens. Christchurch spring - summer 2014 continues to be one of wild temperature swings. The good thing is that the mid teens is wonderful gardening weather. You can work outside all day without melting in the heat or freezing. Also we have had plenty of rain. I had one week away from Delta Community Gardens and the weeds and crops have sprinted into action; both have doubled in size. 

Your Garden

New Zealand spinach self sown amongst calendula flowers. Tasty and pretty. Email mary@aplaceof learning.co.nz with things of interest from your garden. What has popped up in your garden? What is growing at the rate of knots? Your successes? Send photos if you wish.


Snow peasRaspberries and strawberries are ripe and ready. For me one of the greatest pleasures is standing in the garden eating fresh warm strawberries and raspberries  in the soft morning light. The snow peas are now in full production. On Monday some of the children at Shirley Primary School were standing in the garden with their cheeks bulging with broad beans while others were munching on bright cherry red radishes. 

After watching things grow so slowly in early spring it is always catches me by surprise when the plants race ahead at this time of year. I spent weeks hunting for the odd ripe broad bean and now there are buckets. Zip. All at once.  I have babied young lettuce through the weather rollercoaster of this spring sneaking the odd leaf here for salad and now zip they are all ready at once along with the spring onions.

Lettuce ready for picking.Vegetable plants evolved for themselves and not  for us and in places nowhere near New Zealand. They produce seed at the right time for their own native timetable. Many of our plants evolved in the Mediterranean where they needed to race seed quickly before the long dry summer. As a consequence these plant always fruit in deluges.  We need to be ready to catch their amazing abundance. After the broad beans are in full harvest, the peas start their ripening. When the peas are finished the tomatoes, courgettes and cucumbers come into their own. Always plenty and heaps to share.

Plants which Self Sow Easily

Plants which self sow really save the gardener a lot of work. Plants with shallow roots like lettuce can be moved around to where you want them. Take a good clump of earth with the plant and disturb the roots a little as possible. Transplant in the evening. Keep the plants watered with a mist 2-3 times a day for the next few days unless you have organised your transplant  to coincide with wet weather. Plants with deep roots like parsnips can't be shifted.

Self sown green macerata cauliflower ready for harvest.The plants which are currently self sowing around my gardens are: Red mizuna, tomatoes, New Zealand spinach, parsnips, radish, parsley, celery, cauliflower, broccoli  and red kale. If you have any self sows in your garden email mary@aplaceoflearning.co.nz and I will add your information / successes  into next months vegie notes..

Self sown plants only come true to type they are not hybrids. A hybrid is indicated by the letters F1. Kings Seeds www.kingsseeds.co.nz always indicate whether seeds are hybrids. Some seed packets don't carry this vital information.

When the seed is set plants tend to sprawl and take up a huge amount of room. The easy way to deal with this is to tie the plant to a stake. This contains your plant and at the same time allows it to throw its seed around.

Last year I tried to grow angelica archangelica and not one came up. However this year angelica has self sown from goodnesss-knows-where into the herb garden at Churchill Park. Some seeds are just like this.


I have used frost cloth this year in  two ways.

Self sown red kale.One: Pegged flat over freshly sown seeds and then removed after germination. I use bent wire as staples to hold it down. I have had great success in Shirley Boys high School. Their beans and carrots popped up quickly with great germination rates. At home my celeriac has germinated well. At Churchill Park Commmunity Gardens we had a great germination rate with parsnip, carrots and spring onions.

Two: I have used frost cloth pegged on wire hoops to cover tender plants like cucumbers, chillies and tomatoes while they are seedlings. One night A Cat came and slept in the warm space under the cloth and broke one of the cucumbers. This tells you how warm it gets under the frost cloth and that you need to peg the ends over tightly with bent wire. 

If you have any protection problems or successes email: mary@aplaceoflearning.co.nz 

Garden tasks

Take time out to watch the miracle of plants unfolding.January is a slow time for gardening. It is a big pause between the race of spring and planting for winter.

  • Enjoy being in your garden; sun, deck chairs, friends, barbecues, children.
  • Enjoy eating peas off the vine and watching bean seedlings pop up.
  • Enjoy a big bowl of fresh garden salad.
  • Enjoy harvesting for dinner in the evening.

Oxalis - This is the time to keep removing it. With a trowel dig under each plant and remove it to a bucket and the green bin. The plants have not yet ripened their bulbs  so it is much easier to remove. Once the bulbs are ripened they just drop off as you try to remove the plant.  I admire oxalis for such a clever propagation device.

Old potatoes - If you are using land where you had potatoes last year, this will leave you with weed potatoes. Just pull them up and leave them on top as light mulch. Weed potatoes will grow lots of leaf but usually they will not produce a large crop and are generally not worth the amount of garden space that they take up. Native potatoes self sow very easily.

A broad bean jungleSoil - Try and keep a light mulch on your soil. Not so deep that you house snail families but just enough to keep the sun from frying your soil bacteria.

Water - You will use less water if your garden is lightly mulched and if you have piled plenty of organic matter into it over spring. Water is best applied finely rather than in deluges

A good book to read which is available from the library.

Beyond the brink by Peter Andrews.

This book is written about the fragile environment in Australia and how plants especially weeds can bring it back to abundance. This book gives you a great new perspective on how plants organise the world.

 Enjoy Gardening without Backache

Broccoli de Cicco flowering In this one hour session discover the way to use hand tools such as spades, shovels, trowels and secateurs without hurting your body. You will have plenty of time to practice so that it's easy to do when you return home.

Cost: $30 per hour if you travel to Mary's place or $30 per hour plus travel time if Mary travels to your place. 

Come by yourself or gather a group of friends.

Call Mary 03 942 6940 or email mary@aplaceoflearning.co.nz.

Vegetable Garden Planning at Your Place

 Red spinach self sown amongst the broad beansStart your own garden for fresh organic food at your place

This is the perfect time for Vegetable Garden Planning as you will be ready to plant your winter crops.  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

Learning vegetable gardening naturally

This course is designed for the home gardener.

It is a hands on course with plenty of time to practice skills like transplanting. http://www.aplaceoflearning.co.nz/vegetable-gardening/

The next course will be run in autumn beginning in the second week of February. Bookings taken now. email Mary 


Flowering radish fire candle. These radishes are truly delicious.

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