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Southern Vegie Garden Notes May 2012

Bullet Points for June

1. Sow broad bean seeds.
2. Sow some mesclun seeds.
3. Prepare your soil to plant garlic.
4. Build compost
5. Keep your soil covered with lupins and or mustard seeds.
6. Maintain your tools

My head is happily buzzing after spending two really enjoyable Saturdays studying soil biology with Jim O’Gorman, The Dirt Doctor www.dirtdoctor.co.nz . These courses were held at Seven Oaks (courses@sevenoaksorganics.org.nz ). Seven Oaks is a wonderful, magical place of organic growing and teaching, where there is a school for children www.sevenoaks.school.nz/, and courses for adults. Children’s huts are interwoven with established fruit trees and native copses. Figs from laden trees and the late apples still hanging on made a chance tasty treat as we walked around.

Jim has developed a lovely diagram http://www.dirtdoctor.co.nz/page.php?id=128  which shows very clearly how good food comes from a Soil Food Web in a harmonious balance. One of the most important things you can do to create a happy Soil Food Web is to make compost.

To quote Jim, “Compost is the driver of your soil health.”

Autumn leaves  soon ready for compostingThis is a great time of year to make compost with the season delivering us plenty of composting materials. Cabbage tree leaves are dropped with every strong wind. Bundled up cabbage tree leaves make a perfect base for your compost as they allow air to circulate under it. Spent plants like sunflowers and corn make a good green layer. If you are trimming and clipping old summer growth add these to your compost as our friends in the Soil Food Web need plenty of roughage. Deciduous trees are delivering us a rain of lovely leaves for brown matter in our compost heaps. As you build your compost like lasagne, brown green, brown green, just moisten each layer as you add it. Don’t worry if there is a bit more brown than green.

The fine weather we are having is a good excuse to collect seaweed. It is preferable to wash off the sand before adding the layer of seaweed.  Check out Jim’s site for more composting detail.


At Delta Community gardens, where plenty of compost was added to the soil at the end of summer, there is a bumper crop of leeks and a flourishing crop of Brussel Sprouts.

New Zealand SpinachWith the warm autumn I am still harvesting New Zealand spinach. It will die back with the first frost. I just sauté a little garlic in butter and then slip in the chopped spinach and stir until bright green-soft; a couple of grinds of salt and pepper eh voilà! New Zealand spinach can be used in quiches, stir fries and pesto. I made a batch of spinach and tomato scones which proved to be very popular.

In my home garden I am harvesting choggia beetroot which makes a delicious addition to any pan full of roasted vegetables. Also ready for picking are pak choi, spinach, lettuce, carrots, celery and mesclun salad mix.

The last few tomatoes are still clinging on. Green tomatoes at this time of year are really delicious just lightly fried.

Asparagus sending up new shoots at the end of MayTwo years ago a friend grew asparagus plants from seed in a hot house for me.  I have just let the baby plants establish themselves.  In this warm autumn amazingly they are still sending up fresh shoots

Seeds and Seedlings

Self sown chinese cabbageIt is a good idea to keep your eyes open for vegetables that ‘volunteer’ in your garden.  Self-sown rocket, mizuna and the odd ‘Chinese cabbage’ are ready for picking in my garden.  The Chinese cabbages don’t quite pop up true to form but are great greens for me and the chooks.

You can still plant a row of Kings Organic Mesclun and Kings Mesclun Simply Red. www.­kingsseeds.­co.­nz These provide tasty pickings for your winter salads and sandwiches. Open quite a wide, flat seed drill (about a hand-width wide). Sprinkle your seeds evenly over it and very lightly cover the seeds. I use old fridge and oven racks to cover the seeds to protect them from the blackbirds. I source these from my local appliance shop.

Broad Beans seeds can still be planted. 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.

Seedlings ready for transplantingIn frost free Delta, this week, we will plant out red lettuce, spinach and pak choi seedlings. If you have a sunny, warm patch near the house, these will grow over winter.

At Shirley Intermediate the children planted pak choi with beginner fingers. A week later they are starting to grow.

As the potatoes come out I always sow some mustard and or lupins to protect the soil over winter. I broadcast the seeds and rake them in.

This is the time to think garlic. You can buy garlic in the plant shops or just buy NZ garlic in the veggie shops. Garlic needs a well drained site and a moderate layer of compost. A good sprinkle of wood ash is also recommended. You only plant the larger cloves of garlic. I use my dibbler (aka child’s cricket wicket) to make holes twice the length of the garlic. Drop the garlic in right way up. That’s all you need to do. You do need to weed garlic regularly.


Winter is maintenance time. Cleaning out the shed is a great way to start. Clean up tools and sharpen them.


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