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Southern Vegie Garden Notes February 2013

Welcome to  Southern Vegie notes.

Things not to miss:
1) We are on Face Book, visit our site, and see what’s happening
2) Bread making and gardening course for FREE
3) Tips and tricks to keep slugs and snails out of your garden.

We love hearing from you, and help you with any questions you might have, feel free to ask questions on Face Book or to my e-mail mary@aplaceoflearning.co.nz . Happy gardening! 

Quick Summary for March

SEEDS to plant:

Pak choi
Silver beet
Perpetual beet
Red and yellow beets
Spring onions

SEEDLINGS to plant:

Pak choi
Silver beet
Perpetual beet
Red and yellow beets
Spring onions

Blue lupins


A Place of Learning is now streaming on Face Book. You can find us at facebook.com/aplaceoflearningnz. When you ‘like’ our page you will get frequent updates on courses, helpful tips and tricks for running your garden and the happenings in the garden scene in Christchurch. Face Book is also a great platform for you to ask your garden questions. And remember, any question is a good question.Go ahead, have a look today.

Up and Coming courses:

Vegetable Garden Planning at Your Place

This is a great way to start your new garden. In Mary’s a one and a half hour visit to your place, you will create your Garden Action Plan, and get a mind buzzing full of ideas. Find out how to transform your world with a spade and some seeds at: http://www.aplaceoflearning.co.nz/vegetable-gardening/


The Simple Organic Gardening Course

March  27 - May 15. Wednesdays 6.30pm - 8.30pm

Silver BeetAt the end of this  in depth course you will be able to grow healthy vegetables in your own garden. This is a great time of year to learn about gardening because  by spring your garden will be laden with fresh peas, broad beans, radishes, silver beet, spring onions and mesclun.

For more detail see Vegetabe Gardening

Contact Mary for bookings.

Cost $120 . Enquire about our special rates for unwaged and low waged.There will be one scholarship available. Email Mary to find out the conditions.


The course will be held at North Avon Baptist Church Lounge beside the Delta Community Gardens

105 North Avon Rd




Grow Your Own Free Lunch

The February/March Grow Your Own Free Lunch course is now full. But if you missed out, watch out for the announcement of the next free Grow Your Own Free Lunch course at Delta Community House. This course will be announced on Face Book, on the A Place of Learning Website and on the Southern Vegie Garden Notes

New FREE Courses at Delta Community House.

Bread Making and Vegie Growing, beginning April 9. This course will be held on Tuesdays 9.30 – 12.30 for 5 weeks. This is also a FREE course! On this course you will find out how to make a variety of different breads. While you are waiting for the bread to rise, you will learn introductory garden skills. More details coming soon. Did we mention it is FREE?!To book into this course, please call: Mary 03 942 6840 or e-mail: mary@aplaceoflearning.co.nz


There is a lot of wisdom regarding which plants grow well together – companion planting as they say in the trade. Recently I read somewhere that potatoes and pumpkins don’t grow well together.  If this is the case, someone should have told my potatoes and pumpkins this! When I returned home after a week away on holiday, my pumpkins had taken a ramble straight over the top of the potatoes while continuing to grow new pumpkins. The potatoes seem to be obliviously growing in between the pumpkins. This reminds me of the usefulness of keeping a garden diary. You can record your own experiences and be aware of the huge fund of knowledge that you are building up for yourself. Every season you grow vegetables, the more knowledge you accumulate. It will be interesting to see what my potatoes are like when I dig them up!


Tomatoes and corn growing togetherThis year has been such a bumper year for growing, that my tallest corn has reached a record high of 2.30 meters, and is growing two nice fat cobs.  I plant my corn behind my tomatoes. They seem to grow quite happily together each year. Corn is ready to harvest when you can feel the plump kernels under the green sheaves and the tassels are turning brown. It is good to learn to feel when they are ready rather than trying to take a peek through the sheaves.

Tomatoes ripening on the vineFor the last couple of weeks, I’ve been impatiently hovering over my green tomatoes, waiting for the first blush of red to show. As soon as this happened, ripe ones could be seen at the base of most vines, ripening with a rush. A gardeners’ treat is warm sunny tomato and basil on fresh bread, a magical combo for me. If the weather plays the gardeners’ game are benevolent we could be harvesting tomatoes into May.

It is a good idea to snip off any tomato leaves that are yellowing.  There are varying opinions on whether to take off a lot of leaves to allow the tomatoes to ripen in the sun. I personally think that the tomato plants retain more vigour if they have plenty of leaves. At the Shirley Intermediate School Garden, we are growing bush tomatoes. The first tomatoes to ripen were those deep in the bushes where very little sunlight penetrated. Again, have an experiment, and see what works for you. Also give the tomatoes the taste test. Which way of ripening gives the best taste?

At this time of year, beans need to be harvested every few days. This way you always get fresh tender and juicy beans.  They should snap when broken in half. Once they start to dry out then they get tough and stringy. For dwarf beans (conversely to climbing beans), hold the stem of the plant with one hand and pick with the other so you don’t pull the whole plant out, the little darlings are quite sensitive .

Digging PotatoesAt the Shirley Intermediate School Garden, the children asked if they could dig some potatoes because, “We just love hunting with our hands through the soil and finding potatoes.” If you don’t have a handy pack of 11 and 12 year olds at your disposal, you’ll have to dig with a fork or a spade. There is a bit of an art to potato digging, first, make sure you identify the main stem of one potato plant. Lift up the leafy top with your hand to see the area around the stem. Use your fork or spade, and dig about half a meter away from the stem, and dig well underneath the plant so that you don’t slice or spear them. You’ll get the knack once you’ve done it a few times. Failing that, you don’t have to be 11 or 12 to dig with your hands!

In Christchurch you only need to dig up your potatoes as you need them. They can stay in the soil all winter. After digging up your potato plant, hill up the soil around the undug plants. This prevents the top potatoes from going green. . As you dig your potatoes out, it is a good idea to plant blue lupins where the potatoes were growing, to prepare the soil for spring planting. It also keeps the soil covered.

Planting Seedlings

A tray of brassicas in sleeves ready for plantingPeople have been asking how to grow brassica seedlings (caulis, broccoli, brussels sprouts and cabbages are all in the Brassica family) at this time of year without them wilting or being eaten to death. If you keep your soil moist with plenty of fibrous matter in it, your plants will be healthier, wilt less and get eaten less.  For the community gardens where plants are only looked after one or two days a week, I purchase seedlings and grow them on in plastic sleeves (see photo). I put the trays of sleeves under netting so the white butterflies are kept at bay.  This way when you plant them into your garden, their roots are deep and are already flourishing.  I also give them the leaves a spray with neem oil. You can purchase this from Koanga institute:  http://www.koanga.org.nz/index.php/pest-control.html

A deeply rooted brassica in a sleeve.If you buy seedlings from most nurseries you will often find they have nice green tops, but small roots. These seedlings will be very tender and require lots of TLC. After planting they will need gentle watering at least twice a day until the roots are established. Without a good root structure they will be prone to being eaten so it is a good idea to put netting over them until they are established. Alternatively, you can use the plastic sleeve method I spoke of above before you put them in the garden.

If you have too many white butterflies in your area, then you may wish to grow crops that they don’t like e.g. celery, lettuce, silver beet, spinach, leeks, spring onions and leave your broccoli and caulis until spring.

Garden Tasks

A stroll around your vegie patch daily is the best way to learn about gardening. Observing your plants while they are quietly growing will help you learn about how they grow.  For example courgettes are best picked young; this way your plant will keep pumping out more courgettes, instead of putting all its energy into creating a huge marrow – which is fine if that’s what you like

Keep a watchful eye out for self sown plants. They save you the time it takes to raise seedlings yourself. I have a great crop of self sown spinach at the moment.

Aphid damage on a brassicaAlso if you watch your plants carefully you will see when pests begin to munch on the plants which have taken you months to grow. Discoloured and curled leaves show aphids are on the march. If you catch them quick enough, squashing them will do the trick.

I work once a week on Friday at the Delta Community Garden, and a week can be along time in a garden. Last week caterpillars attacked a few tomato plants and turned some of the leaves to lace. The signs of caterpillars are droppings on the plant, holes in the tomatoes and lacy leaves. If you can keep an eye on your plants you will spot these caterpillars and squash them before they do too much damage. I sprayed my tomatoes with neem oil (see above).

If you have some free time on Fridays between 9.30am and 4pm, you are welcome to come down and volunteer at Delta Community Garden. You can harvest yummy salad if you are there at lunch time.

Slugs and Snails

The best way to deal with these is to be careful not to provide them with high quality hotel accommodation. They love hedges, old boards, plastic and rocks. Last year at Delta we had a deluge of snails after the houses next door were demolished. The slugs and snails moved in and obliterated our crops. They even hid in the rhubarb leaves! You can use this knowledge to your advantage. Provide them with accommodation then in the morning collect all the snails that are hiding underneath. Feed them to your chooks or just squelch…I suggest pegging out some black plastic. Just make sure you remember to clear them.

Beginners Garden

Golden marjoram,  thyme and oregano growing togetherHerbs are good for beginner gardens. Oregano, thyme and marjoram can all be grown as cuttings from friends. Make sure the cutting has plenty of roots.  Pop the herbs in soil around an edge of your garden and keep them moist over the next few weeks. Watch them carefully so you can see when they begin to put out new leaves.
Mint also grows easily from a piece but it will invade your garden so grow it away from your vegie garden, or in a pot.

Parsley is best grown from a purchased plant. Place this on one corner of your garden and don’t pick it until it is really big.  Then let it go to seed. You will have parsley for ever.

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