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Southern Vegie Garden Notes July 2012

Bullet Points for August

  • Sow miners’ lettuce seed
  • Carry on pruning
  • Watch out for all the signs of spring and use them as a guide,
  • Sort out your seeds and read seed catalogues
  • Sharpen your tools

Bullet Points for the last two weeks of August

  • Plant main crop onions
  • Plant broadbeans, snow peas and early pea varieties.


Be wary of August!!!  After a long cold winter, it is common in Christchurch to have some lovely warm weather in the last couple of weeks of August and early September. Throw out the jerseys, slop on the singlet tops and feel your green fingers itching. This is a false spring.  Be warned. Last year I talked to a man who went to a nursery and was sold a very expensive tomato plant. He was assured it would grow in cool conditions, which was probably true. Only trouble is cool is not icy.  The plant was wiped out by a frost in mid September.

The other pitfall for this time of year is competitive gardeners; they are everywhere. These are people who will tell you that they are growing some unseasonable plant e.g. tomatoes and potatoes, and that they are already as high as the sky. Put your hands over your ears and do not listen.

Listen instead to the unfolding of the earth. This will save you huge amounts of disappointment, time and money. Now in July, the earth’s preparations for spring are well under way. This week for the first time in three months the blackbirds are back to digging up every bit of mulch and flinging it all over the paths. These blackbirds are having spring thoughts. The males will be fighting soon.

Last month biddi bids and chick weed started to grow. They are now romping away. The dog came in with biddi bid seeds stuck to her coat yesterday.

Buds beginning to swellTo get the feel of this time of year you can start by looking for buds. The buds on fruit trees are beginning to swell, while remaining safely in their weather proof casing.

Take a look at your chives. Mine are popping up the very first little leaves.

These signs of spring are you best guides to growing at this time of year. If it is popping up naturally, you can grow it too.

The magic of spring is driven by the changing light. I have added a table to show you how fast this happens at this time of year. It gives you a good idea of why the plants are grabbing their windows of opportunity and why there are separate bullet points are for the last two weeks of August.

Date           Sunrise            Sunset
July 20           7.55                  17.17
July 30           7.46                  17.27
August 9        7.33                  17.37
Aug 29            7.03                  17.59


I am continuing to harvest leeks, brussel sprouts, pak choi, mesclun, misome, self sown rocket, perpetual spinach, spring onions and silver beet.
I am also harvesting the wandering leeks that I was given; I popped in a few rootlings  last year.. They are very busy multiplying and shooting up baby leeks. I love food like this that comes up freely when there are few fresh greens.

My celery is now passed its best; they dry out with the cold. The stalks are no longer juicy, but they are still good for soups and stews.

At frost free Delta I am also harvesting broccoli.


Self sown Miners' Lettuce growing on the edge of the lawnI have miners’ lettuce popping up everywhere. I have a patch in my lawn. As I am not a lawn fanatic, I happily mow around them for the season. They are also in the veggie garden. These plants are very nutritious and high in vitamin c, which is why the old gold miners grew them everywhere they went. It is wonderful to have fresh tasty salad greens at this time of year. I started with one transplanted plant. The secret is to let some plants go to seed. They have very fine seed in capsules which they fling all around the place. After this you will have miners’ lettuce every year. It is so tasty, and so free. Kings Seeds sell Miners’ Lettuce seed. Mark out a sunny corner of your garden and sprinkle some in and then very, very lightly cover them.  The seeds are so tiny just a pinch is enough. Watch your patch carefully and tweak out any competing weeds.

Miners' Lettuce popping up between perpetual spinachThe last two weeks of August.

If the soil is in workable condition i.e. not wet and puggy, you can plant main crop onions. I plant mine in nursery rows i.e. I plant them in small rows. When the onion plants are a few centimetres high, I will lift them for transplanting into a permanent position. If you are planting onions it is good to prepare the soil with some wood ash and some bone dust.

If the soil and the days are reasonably warm you can sow some broad beans, snow peas and some early variety peas.  I plant Dwarf Massey or Novella peas. I get them from the supermarket. You can only plant the peas if your soil is well drained. If it is at all soggy they will rot.  Open a flat seed drill about 15 cm wide and the depth of you index finger to the first knuckle. Across the seed drill, plant the peas in a row of three. Plant the next row of three 5 cm apart; this is the length of my finger to the second knuckle.  When the seed drill is filled with neat rows of three cover, to the depth of the first knuckle. If you live in an area where there are blackbirds you will need to cover them with netting.


It is time to carry on pruning. Here is the course reminder.

Pruning  with Hamish Kelland  at Seven Oaks
Get the best out of your fruit trees!  Learn how to prune grape, apricot,
apple, plum, pear, quince and peach.  Tool selection and maintenance is also covered.
9am – 3pm  Saturday 28th July or August 25th or September 15th $30
July is a great time. courses@sevenoaksorganics.org.nz>


This is the last time of year to sort out your strawberries. It is best to renew at least a third of your strawberries each year.  Some writers suggest that you renew all your plants each year. These can be renewed from the runners. 
Clean up all the old foliage on your second year plants. The whole bed needs to be composted. Strawberries need to be well fed. If there are any runners left these can be grown as new plants but don't leave them attached to the old plants.

When you plant the strawberries ensure that the crown is above the soil. The crown is the part of the plant that holds the new leaves.

Strawberries can be grown in containers. They are wonderful for small gardens.

Notes from Hannah Bolton

We were eating tomatoes right through until early June which was great.  I was really happy with the garden last season, it was so good to grow a few new things and even though not all were successful it was a good learning curve. We have leeks, red onions, silverbeet and broccali harvesting now and lots of broadbeans coming through (though some seem to have a type of black rot happening, not sure what this is, wondered if it was frost
burn or lack of sunlight?  Part of our garden is really shaded at this time of year.)

Broadbeans can get a black mildew when the conditions for growing are not right i.e. too cold and wet. If it is bad I would remove the plants and wait until the end of August and resow in a different place.

The garlic and new fruit trees have gone into the garden and hopefully will do their thing! I am now a bit eager to get going planting some new stuff (I can practically taste those snow peas!!) but keep telling myself that it's
too early.

I have decided to do a course at the BHU at Lincoln uni on Organic growing starting in Sept, so there is lots to look forward to this Spring.

Notes from Margaret Porter

My garden experiences were short lived this year so far. The weather has been so wet and cold. I do have potatoes, lots of them, several varieties, and some still in the ground.
They are quite delicious. Does anyone have a good potato soup recipe that want to share?

I was told not to plant a garden next to my concrete or next to the house because the concrete leaches chemicals. Is anyone familiar with this theory? Is there a truth to this? What I planted next to the house and the concrete did not grow well at all!
Growing next to house like this usually means that the garden does not get watered with the rain enough and so the soil processes are not active. To grow well you need to water much more often and pile in the compost and manure. I don’t know about the concrete leaching chemicals.

My flowers did quite well though. They are potted. Pansies made it through all the cold frosts and snow. They are still blooming ! Beautiful to see when the weather is so yuck!

I hung suet out for the birds, and they are really enjoying it. I used a mesh bag that oranges came in and tied it at both ends then hung it on a branch. The tiny birds areloving it.

Next garden - I am thinking to do a raised bed and those big sacks for potatoes and so on. I plan to plant my potted lemon tree in the ground. It survived the winter but got confused as to whether it was supposed to produce fruit and has only blossomed twice. The first time there were so many blossoms I was so excited about having lots of lemons and have had none ! Go Figure. It may be better once it is planted in the ground next to the orange tree.
Lemon trees are pretty smart. They will blossom but they will shed their blossoms or baby fruit if the conditions are not right. I lost half my fruit in the big frost despite frost cloth. Lemons need a lot of compost/ blood and bone / Epsom salts and water. Lemon trees do well with the teapot emptied on them regularly.

Happy Spring ! Good Gardening to you all, Margaret


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