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Southern Vegie Garden Notes January 2014

Welcome to Southern Vegie Garden Notes

Quick Planting Summary for February


  • Spring onions ready for harvestBroccoli
  • Cabbage
  • Cauliflower
  • Kale
  • Lettuce
  • Mesclun
  • Mizuna
  • Mustard
  • Pak Choi
  • Radish
  • Silver Beet
  • Spinach
  • Spring onions



  • Spring sown red onions ripeningBroccoli
  • Cabbage
  • Cauliflower
  • Celery
  • Leeks
  • Pak Choi
  • Mizuna
  • Silver beet
  • Spinach



The Simple Organic Gardening Course begins on February 4. There are still places. Email mary@aplaceoflearning.co.nz

Bee Planting

Buckwheat and borage Over the last few months I have met a few people who have said that there are no bees so there is not much point planting a garden. At Churchill Park we grew borage, mustard, an assortment of herbs and buckwheat. Yesterday these plants were alive with bees. The very small patch of buckwheat was a super highway for small insects. A quick survey around my own garden and I can see a bumble bee busy on the chives' flowers, bees on the runner beans, a monarch on the Joe Pye Weed, a yellow admiral scouting for food, a zap zoom of small insects, a sparrow eating a cicada and a flutter of white butterflies. The key is to plant as a wide variety of plants as possible. Think biodiversity and your plants will do the work for you bringing all the life you need.


BasilTwo weeks ago when I went to our local fruit and vegie shop on Marshland Rd the apricots and peaches were really expensive in the order of $6-7 per kilo. A week later the  price halved and the shop was overflowing with summer fruit. Bonanza is the essence of January and February. Tomatoes, cucumbers, potatoes, beans, carrots, courgettes, spring onions, New Zealand spinach, lettuce, silver beet, artichokes, apples, peaches, plums are all in full production.

For me the essence of this time of year is the lovely perfume of basil. Check out http://www.aplaceoflearning.co.nz/recipes/pesto/ for a pesto recipe. Pinch out the top 4 leaves of your basil plants and this will make them bush out and give you even more basil.

The essence of a good harvest is to keep watching your plants and keep picking. Beans, tomatoes and cucumbers ripen daily.

A mini cabbage growing on a cabbage stalkWhen we harvested cabbages at Churchill Park, we left the stalks in the ground and new mini cabbages have grown on the stalks.


Freshly planted leeksThis is leek planting time and Portstone  Nurseries sell leek seedlings in bundles of 20. We planted 250  leeks at Delta community house. Leeks are a wonderful vegetable for winter as they survive pretty well anything the weather can throw at them and provide us with nourishing greens when almost nothing else is available. Also they are  are not easily subject to disease. For growing instructions see ~~http://www.aplaceoflearning.co.nz/newsletters/southern-garden-vegie-notes-january-2013

This is the time to plant celery. It is important to feed celery well with plenty of manure and keep them well watered. Look in tthe Jan 2013 link for planting instructions.

Brassicas recently potted into sleeves protected under netting.Brassica seedlings - Brussels sprouts, cabbages, broccoli, cauliflower - can all be planted now. However they need care because they don't do well in the heat. Most of the seedlings you buy have big tops on them and small roots. They look great in their pots for sale but they are not strong plants. So they need lots of care.  Plant them if possible on a cool, damp day. Keep them well watered and keep the white butterflies and black birds off them.

Community gardens often can't have the day by day care you can have in a home garden so when I get my plants I pot them  into sleeves. I keep the plants by my door so they can be watched and watered and kept under netting. This way the plants grow roots the depth of the sleeve and are big and strong when put into the community garden and can withstand less constant watering

New Zealand spinach acting as a living mulch for tomatoes.Brassica plants need to be planted 1 1/2 trowel widths apart. To keep the seedlings moist you can add a light mulch layer of grass clippings or use quick crops like radish and lettuce as cover for the coil

Once the plants are put in the garden you will need to find a way to control white butterfly. You can do this ny netting the plants or spraying with neem.   ~~http://koanga.org.nz/shop/garden-products/neem-essential-oil-200ml    /http://www.naturallyneem.co.nz//.

The other option is to grow your brassicas in spring when the white butterfly is not around.


Lettuce can be very hard to transplant from seedlings in the heat of January and February. Instead I sow a sprinkle of seeds in a seed drill directly into the ground. I thin them out when they are at the two leaf stage.  When they are about 5 cm tall I thin them out again and use the thinnings for salad.

Because brassicas are such big plants they are generally grown in a seed trays and then transplanted at the four leaf stage into seedling trays rather than being sown directly into the ground.

Carrots sheltered by radishesI have had difficulty in growing carrots at Community Gardens because the watering is less consistent i.e. no weekend watering. The children at Shirley Primary solved this for me. They grew radishes very close to the carrots. The radishes formed a nurse crop sheltering the carrots. When the children pulled out the radishes, there was a strong crop of carrots snuggled up underneath. I experimented at Delta  growing a row of carrots closely planted between two rows of radish and I had the best germination of carrots  in any community garden. I even scored a self sown celery.

Garden tasks

Here in Christchurch we can have a good rain followed by a strong easterly or norwest which promptly dries the ground out again. To conserve soil  moisture it is important to have a light much or a living mulch. New Zealand spinach is a wonderful living mulch as you can eat it too. However you will still need to water consistently if you want a good harvest.

Vegie riot when gardener was on holidayIt is always interesting to see what your garden has done while you were away on holiday. At Delta Community Garden I discovered a vegie riot of NZ spinach, cucumbers, beans and red silver beet.

Make sure you leave space in your garden for winter crops.

Observe the annual round of weeds to become familiar with them. Gallant Soldier is easing back as nightshade and fat hen are now growing vigorously. The top leaves of fat hen are nice to eat but the plant sows a deluge of seed


Vegetable Garden Planning at Your Place

Tomatoes ripening on the vinesThis 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

Red onions ripeningThis course will be run in February 4,11,18,25 March, 18,25 April 1,8.  The exact date and time yet to be determined. See http://www.aplaceoflearning.co.nz/vegetable-gardening/ for more information


Canterbury Community Gardens Association

The Canterbury Community Gardens Association is having a stall at Ellerslie Flower Show 26 Feb - 2 Mar.


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