A Place of Learning: For Natural Learning

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Southern Vegie Garden Notes March 2013

Things not to miss in this issue:

1) How to harvest and store pumpkins
2) Great tips to ensure you harvest vegetables in early spring
3) Quick and easy composting system for city living - Bokashi

Pumpkins ready for harvestThe frost on the windows and the snap of cold in the morning are sure signs that the cycle of seasons is moving from lazy summer warmth into fine gold autumn. Gardening moves into a different gear. We are no longer growing for seeds (e.g. tomatoes) we are growing for winter greens (e.g. pak choi, cabbage).

Remember we’re on FaceBook now http://facebook.com/aplaceoflearningnz, if you like our page, you will see new courses and gardening tips throughout the month.

Quick Summary for April

SEEDS to plant
Spring onions
Pak Choi
Mesclun Oriental
Broad beans

SEEDLINGS to plant
Pak choi

Green crops
Lupin seeds


1) The Simple Organic Gardening Course

Quick, there are still a few places left. PLUS the scholoarship is available for a keen person.

Autumn is the perfect time to begin learning about vegetable gardening. In eight weeks you will have the knowledge, skills and enthusiasm to grow great healthy vegetables. Your garden will be ready for spring when you can harvest the abundance of food.
The cost is only $120 ($15 a session!) at 6.30pm – 8.30pm at the North Avon Baptist Church Lounge. We’ll be starting on March 27, running until May 15.

2) 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/

3) New FREE Courses at Delta Community House

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


Pumpkin Ripening on the vinePumpkins, courgettes and cucumbers are all getting a white mould on them because the plants are now running out of energy for growing. All their energy is now going into making their seeds. Put straw under the pumpkins to keep them off the ground and dry. The best time to harvest your pumpkins is when the plant has mostly withered away, and the skin of the pumpkin is hard. Keep a watchful eye on them because the slugs and snails will try to eat into them.  To harvest, cut the pumpkin stalk with secateurs leaving a 7 – 10 cm stalk. Don’t lift the pumpkin by the stalk as it may break off and damage the pumpkin. Store your pumpkins in an airy dry place out of full sunlight. Make sure the pumpkins are not touching each other, it will cause them to rot otherwise. Keep an eye on your stored pumpkins for any signs of mould.

Corn whichis ready for harvestCorn is harvested when the kernels feel plump under the sheaves and the tassels are brown. It is best to harvest corn just before you eat it as it is sweeter.

Parsnips and Brussels sprouts – leave them growing until after the first frost so that they taste sweeter. Carrots can be left in the soil and dug as required this month.

A seeding lettuceHarvesting seeds – keep looking around your garden for seeds to harvest. The plant needs to have flowered, and starting to get really dry. Make sure the seeds are dry on inspection. At the moment I am harvesting spring onion and lettuce seeds. I shake the spring onions seed head into a paper bag (with no holes). The lettuce seed I pluck the ones that are fluffy and put them in an envelope, label and date and store in a dry cool place. At Shirley Intermediate the children are harvesting blue lupin seeds and sowing them directly where the potatoes have come out.

When your cucumbers and courgettes have finished growing clear away all the old plants and replace with lupins or mulch. It is good to keep tidying up any yellowing leaves on your tomatoes too.

Sowing seeds

The beginning of April is the best time to sow onion seeds. I sow mine in nursery rows. They should grow to about 10 cm for wintering over ready to be transplanted next spring.

Broad beans can also be sown now (see beginners’ garden below). They will grow to about 10 cm before winter comes and lay dormant, then sprint into action next spring.

Planting Seedlings

Seedlings need to be planted between now to the first week of April so they get strong enough to winter over. They can look a little sorry for themselves during winter but as soon as the spring warmth comes they will zap into action giving you much needed early spring veg.


Lupins sown three weeks agoThis is a good time to attend to your compost heap and garden soil. As your summer crops come out you can sow lupins in their place. It is also good to keep your soil lightly covered with leaves and some grass clippings.

The great shower of leaves at this time of year is gardeners’ gold. They are a free nutrient resource, and gravity does most of the work for you –any excess you can just do a quick sweep and into the compost bin; remember it’s about making the most of what you’ve got. Also this is a good time of year to add some horse poo (or any other animal manure) and seaweed to your compost bin.


Black bird deterrentWhite butterflies and their green caterpillars are out in full force now. When you have healthy soil and plants you will have less trouble with these pests. Watch out for the tell tale signs of chomped leaves and caterpillar poo. If you only have a few plants just squash green caterpillars. Otherwise the best product is Neem http://www.koanga.org.nz/.

Also the blackbirds are busy. If you plant new plants from the nursery they will be immediately attracted to the place you have just dug up, looking for worms. They can dig up all your plants very quickly; almost before you can even spin around. The cheapest way to deter them is to put cut up drink bottles to make a sleeve. Put them over the plants them for a week or so until the soil has settled.

Ideas for the Beginners’ Garden

Broad beans are a good crop to grow now.  Compost your growing area. Open a v shaped seed drill about 8 cm deep (depth of your index finger). Plant the seeds about a trowel-length apart. Cover, and watch them grow!

With less activity in the garden now is a good time to set up bokashi composting system. Go to www.zingbokashi.co.nz/about.htm. This is a really neat method to compost your kitchen scraps, and turn them into nutrients for your garden.

The Christchurch City Council in its wisdom has stopped selling bokashi buckets but still has a good web page http://resources.ccc.govt.nz/files/UrbanComposting.pdf.
The buckets can be obtained from Em NZ 11 Kingslea St Sydenham, $36 and $6.00 Bokashi 03 374 6323. Or Dyers Rd Lanscaping 183 Dyers Rd  Ph 384 6540. They sell a non label brand of buckets for around $30.

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 . Until next month, happy gardening!



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