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Southern Vegie Garden Notes January 2015

Harvesting Fresh Organic Vegetables from your own Doorstep

Welcome to Southern Vegie Garden Notes

Freshly harvested carrot, choggia beetroot and radishQuick Planting Summary for February


Pak Choi
Silver Beet
Spring onions


Basil. The fragrance of summer.Seedlings

Pak Choi
Silver beet



Courgettes ready for pickingThis is the time of year when your garden is producing huge amounts of food. New courgettes and scallopini ripen daily. One well grown plant can produce up to 4 kilograms. This is a cause  for celebration. Yippeee. The plant which has grown from one seed  can produce more food that you can eat. Your garden is so abundant. When you have shared your courgettes with your friends, chooks, and family and still have some left over, then the millions of creatures in your Soil Food Web will soon compost any left overs into nutrients for your winter crops. Wonderful.

Butter beans ready for pickingHarvesting can be one of the most difficult tasks. Time and again I have seen gardens with the beautiful food unnoticed and uneaten on the plants. Recently my daughter Helen was wandering around her suburb in Perth, Western Australia and she txt me saying that everywhere food was rotting on the plants in gardens. 


Harvesting is difficult for beginner gardeners because firstly we don't see the world from the plant's point of view. Let's take the tomato's eye view. One very tiny seed sprouts and a tomato plant grows. It flowers and goes to seed and could produce 1000 seeds for scattering everywhere. In the process it feeds bees, insects, humans and birds. All the animals help the plant flourish and scatter its seed. This amazing abundance is the natural state of the world. So the first trick to harvesting is to see the world from the plants' point of view.


Tomatoes ripening on the vine. These plants will provide a tomato deluge.Harvesting is difficult for beginner gardeners because secondly we have been trained by supermarkets to want food in packets of six 24 / 7. We can now view the world in its unfettered, wild, luxurious abandon. Each fruiting season is  short. For example my Wiggins peach tree delivered its load this week. These peaches do not store for more than a week or so and do not cook well. The only option is unseemly gorging with chin dribbling juice. This is wonderful once a year.  So the second trick to harvesting is to be in tune with this great fling of food. Where possible be ready to eat, chutney, pickle, eat, sauce, bottle, freeze, eat, share, ferment.


An apple cucumber hidden under the vine.Harvesting is difficult for beginner gardeners because thirdly we are so busy driving to work, waiting in traffic jams, and putting our noses into one electronic device or another that we forget to deliver ourselves Peaceful Daily Garden Time. This is when you see the the fruit and vegetables ripening.  This means you can pick at the right time and beat the birds and bugs to your harvest. The third trick to harvesting is daily observation.

At the moment in late January, beans, tomatoes, lettuce, courgettes, cucumbers are ripening daily. Basil quickly goes to seed. Encourage your basil plants to bush out by pinching out the top growing tips. Then pick for Pasta and Pesto. See .http://www.aplaceoflearning.co.nz/recipes/pesto/

Spring onions flowering among the cucumbers. The flowers are not only beautiful but they also produce a lot of seed.Plants of which we eat the roots and tubers: carrots, celeriac, potatoes, parssnips, beetroot, turnips can be left in the ground and harvested as you go. These plants will not race off to seed until next spring. Spring onions also can be slowly harvested because they also won't go to seed until next spring. If you let a couple of last autumn's spring onions go to seed, then you will have plenty of seed for  the coming year.


It is planting time for winter vegetables.

Leek seedlings just planted. They will perk up quickly.All brassica seedlings -  cauliflowers, cabbages, broccoli, pak choi, will wilt in hot sunlight. It is best to wait for a cloudy day for transplanting. You will need to keep them watered morning and evening.  They just need a few minutes of light water e.g. mist setting. The brassicas are also the prime target of the white butterfly. One hungry caterpillar will demolish your seedling. I cover my seedlings in nets. This is not 100% butterfly proof but keeps most of them out. I also spray them regularly with neem.  Check underside of the leaves. If you see cream eggs genlty rub them off. If you see pinprick holes then there is a caterpillar and you will need to spray. If you have only one or two plants picking off the caterpillars and eggs will probably be enough.

Leeks - This is the time to plant leek seedlings. They can be purchased in bundles. If possible give your leeks a good soak before planting. The easiest way to plant your leeks is to use a dibble. A dibble is a pointed stick. I use a child's cricket wicket as it is the perfect size. Push the dibble into the ground as far as possible. Drop the leek into the hole. That is it. Water the leeks immediately after planting. Leeks can lie down on the job for a week or so and then they perk up and grow.

Leeks are one of the best winter vegetables. They have no trouble with frost , storms or caterpillars. They are tough and staunch while providing much needed winter greens. You can begin digging your leeks in  May - June. Just dig your leeks as you need them.

Growing plants closely together helps maintain soil cover and keeps in the moisture.Watering

This is critical in Canterbury during the Nor-Easterlies.  If you have  nourished your soil with plenty of organic matter then you will only need to water every two days. A plot with a fine sprinkler only needs about 10 minutes. If plants are stressed form lack of water they will bolt and go to seed.

Try putting your hand under the leaves of plants growing closely. You will find coolness and moist soil.


Butternut squash ripening on the vine. Enjoy Gardening without Backache

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.

Purple teepee beans flowering.Vegetable Garden Planning at Your Place

Start 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

Corn growing in Churchill Park Community Garden.Book now for the course beginning February 9 email Mary mary@aplaceoflearning.co.nz 

This course is designed for the home gardener. Come and enjoy learning about growing vegetables organically.  Your garden will flourish with fine vegetables.This hands on course allows you plenty of time to practice garden  skills.  http://www.aplaceoflearning.co.nz/vegetable-gardening/.  



Apple cucumber flowering

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