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Southern Vegie Garden Notes February 2014

Welcome to Southern Vegie Garden Notes

Quick Planting Summary for March


Ripe Cherokee PurpleCabbage


Mesclun mix



Pak choi


Silver beet


Spring onions



Climbing beans ready for harvestBroccoli






Pak choi

Silver beet


Spring onions


The Canterbury Community Gardens Association has won a silver award at Ellerslie Flower Show. The exhibit is an excellent example of the luxuriant, beauty of vegetables. 

Marvelous luxuriant vegetables at CCGA exhibitThis month we have had strong easterlies. As I type this I can hear that special sound of the leaves rattling in the easterly turbulence. The sound of Canterbury. When you hear this sound, remember to water as this wind is very drying.

This year there has been many days with  low cloud which has slightly delayed the ripening of the tomatoes.  Also during February we have had some big daily temperature ranges. One day we had 10°C in the morning and 31°C in the afternoon. By the mid afternoon half the plants and the humans had flopped and were lying down. Basil will turn a bit yellow during the cooler times and then green up again when the heat comes back.

Above the ruffle of the easterlie you can hear the cicadas singing. It is a love song as the males sing to attract the females in the warm days of summer.


The courgette which grew under the strawberry frameThe fruit bowl is overflowing with tomatoes, chillies, peaches, apples and apricots. At Delta the apple cucumbers have set out to overtake the whole garden. Courgettes are growing wild. I forgot to check my courgettes for a few days and one grew under the adjacent strawberry frame.  Corn is flowering and the cobs are ripening. Beans are in full production. If you have planted your dwarf beans successively you will be on your second or third harvest. Dwarf beans tend to produce all their beans at once while runner beans start producing beans at the bottom and the last beans produced are at the top. Beans need to be picked while the pods are young and firm. If they feel papery and hollow then they will be stringy and tough to eat.

Basil, oregano, parsley,marjoram and thyme are all in full production. Now is a good time to dry herbs by hanging them in an airy place tied in a paper bag to dry. Basil and parsley can be made into pesto http://www.aplaceoflearning.co.nz/recipes/pesto/ . Parsley and walnut pesto is delicious.

Carrot seed ripeningSeeds can be harvested, labelled, dated and stored in a dry cool place ready for planting time next year. Carrots, beans, silver beet, beetroot are some of the plants whose seeds are easy to harvest. 

Underestimating the Natural World

At the Simple Organic Gardening Course I was asked if an object in the compost was a fungi. Closer inspection showed that it was a piece of egg shell. I said, "You won't find mushrooms at this time of year."  Then I went home and found two tucked in a cooler part of the lawn!

The Lone CornAlso in spring I planted some corn seeds and they all rotted except one. I had been a bit eager and had planted too soon. I gave the lone corn a chance and put it in the garden due to sentiment. I didn't expect it  to produce much as I have always been taught that corn needs to be planted in blocks as they are wind pollinated. The rest of the corn in my garden were planted about three weeks later and hence flowered later. But lo I have a large perfect corn. I am still pondering this one.

Self sown broccoliI am still amazed at Churchill Park. When they dug up the road the land was sand and stones as far down as you could see. I thought that it would take two years to even begin to build up the soil. Yet my casual throwing of half rotted grass clippings onto the garden turned tiny wizened plants into flagrantly healthy ones. Throwing half rotted compost on a garden is against everything I have been taught. After picking a bucket of beans, fabulous courgettes and spring onions at Churchill Park on Friday, I am still pondering this one too especially as there are no worms at Churchill Park.

At Delta we have a self sown broccoli which is growing between the concrete and the wooden edging. The broccoli flower is nearly ready. Its a whopper. 

It takes times to get things right

Cherokee purple tomatoes on the vineI grow Russian Red tomatoes for my main crop. They do so well outdoors in Canterbury because they are tough little plants which withstand the lower night temperatures.  I wanted to break out and two years ago I planted some Cherokee Purple tomatoes at Delta. They produced a few, not the buckets I get from the Russian Reds. Last year I tried them in my own garden and got one tomato from a grumpy plant. This year my partner built me a glass house and we have a huge crop of deep red meaty tomatoes.

At Delta the lower leaves of the tomatoes were turning yellow when the plants were in full fruit. Most likely this was due to uneven watering which stressed the plants. Normally I leave the leaves on tomatoes. I know many people cut the lower leaves off to hasten ripening and prevent disease. With the slow ripening I decided to cut off the leaves. AND then the tomatoes were sun burnt.

Sun burnt tomatoesI recently saw cucumbers, tomatoes and peppers growing on a wonderful sunny garage wall. There was even one egg plant. The owners of this wall could have at least doubled their produce, if they had maintained soil moisture with mulch and twice daily watering.


White butterflies are everywhere hunting for cabbages, broccoli, Brussels sprouts and cauliflowers to lay their eggs on. I watched one sipping nectar from a dandelion this morning. If you can spend time getting to know your pests it is really worthwhile. The white butterflies mainly only come out in sunny weather. They lay small yellow eggs on the back of leaves so that the baby caterpillars can feed on the broccoli  and cabbages while they are growing. If you have just a few plants it is easy to just check the back of the leaves and rub the eggs off. Otherwise you have to either spray with neem or pyrethrum or net your plants. The good news is that as soon as the cooler weather comes the butterflies disappear.

Black nightshadeThese plants are also a banquet for aphids at this time of year. Aphids can be washed off with a good jet of water. 

The best way to deal with pests is to keep your plants in good condition with water and well mulched soil.


Fat HenIf possible try and get on top of your weeds before they flower and scatter their seeds everywhere. Common weeds for this time of year are Gallant Soldier, Black nightshade,and Fat Hen . The top leaves of Fat Hen can be used in salads. The trouble with these weeds is that they overwhelm your other plants and they seed prodigiously. 


Vegetable Garden Planning at Your Place

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/

Chilies ripening in the glass houseThe Simple Organic Gardening Course

 This course will be run in February 4,11,18,25 March, 18,25 April 1,8.  

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









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