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Southern Vegie Garden Notes May 2014


Welcome to Southern Vegie Garden Notes



Fruit trees



 Today is beautiful warm, sunny and spring like.  I am writing with all the doors and windows open.  When the Port Hills are highlighted by afternoon sun, they are a lush bright green. A testament to the warm, wet and sometimes wild weather we are having. During the last storm one of our big trees fell over taking my unknown heritage apple with it. Both of which landed on my garden smashing my leeks (which have semi recovered) and thwacking the Brussels sprouts. The tree fell over because 'They' are developing what was once a heritage orchard into a block of flats, and have eliminated all vegetation except grass and some valiant bamboo. My tree, which all its life has had shelter from the South West, did not have the strength to take the storm. Also the machinery, which shook the whole house, rolled up and down all over the root systems. The earth being what it is, I discovered a year old seedling from this tree tucked away in a corner. I will transplant it this winter.

Mini Cabbage space saver ready for harvestCalamities will happen to your crops. In February 2011 I lost my potato crop to liquefaction.  The best way to deal with disasters is to have a good variety of crops over your section if possible. When my daughter Helen woofed in France, they grew 4 different strains of wheat each year because every season is different and some wheat does better in dry years or cooler years. So look for strength in variety for your crops.

It is good to have crops coming on at different times. I planted courgettes in December in Churchill Park. They out lasted the November planted courgettes and provided until last week when the frost fried them.

I found this site  http://www.forgottenfruits.co.nz/ in my search for a new apple tree.

Mesclun Garden Tasks

In the world of jobs and money we rush around like headless chooks meeting deadlines and hunched over computers while the world outside is warm and gorgeous.

In the garden you can find the winter sun, let it warm your back to rest and restore while you enjoy your lovely plants.


Leeks ready for harvestWe have had two good frosts so now is the time to begin lifting your parsnips. You will also notice your Brussels sprouts fattening up. I have planted celery at two different times and my late crop is nearly ready while my early crop is nearly finished. I am a celery lover. I enjoy the sweet, juicy, clean taste. I go out into the garden and pick off a stalk and munch. It's also good with peanut butter or cheese stuffed in the middle.

 Pak Choi, leeks, mesclun, mustard, silver beet, perpetual beet, spinach, kale, cabbage and parsley are all ready for harvest.


Echinacea at Churchill ParkMint is a wonderful herb. It does die down over winter but will hang on with a few leaves if in a sheltered spot. Mint gives salads a fresh zing. 

Clary SageAt Churchill Park we grew Echinacea, which is the herb in many immune boosting tablets. It is beautiful and worth  growing just  for fun.  Clary Sage is grown for its beautiful spikes of pink flowers and lemony smell. We grew them from seeds  www.kingsseeds.co.nz during  the Grow Your Own Free Lunch course at Delta. 

Protecting your Garden

 Leeks, Brussels sprouts, cabbages, silver beet, parsnips, beetroot, parsley are oblivious to frost to about -5°C..  I have seen pak choi withstand a week of -8°C. But if you want to grow more tender crops like celery then you have to protect them from the frost. I simply put wire hoops at each end of the row and peg the frost cloth on top. If you just put the frost cloth on top of the plants, a wee puff of wind can leave your crops exposed. Broccoli and cauli heads are not frost hardy. Broccoli goes to green slush and cauli goes brown. The plants are hardy just not the heads.

Lemon tree protected from frostYoung Lemon trees need to be protected from frost. Two years ago, my lemon tree was severely burnt in the frost because I had merely put the frost cloth on top. It snowed and weighted down the frost cloth then froze burning off all fruit and new foliage. This year I have attached the cloth to stakes.

Onion seedlings protected by old fridge shelves Cats, humans, birds, are all dangers to your garden. Last year I had a Homo Sapiens Incredibulus who came into the garden and trod with is big unthoughtful feet on my seedling onions which had been growing for two months. This all happened in the time before I could  take a breath. This year my onion seedlings remain under old stove and fridge shelves to protect them from all the above dangers.

Looking Ahead

It is always good to be looking at least a season ahead. Early spring is the hardest time to find food so it is good to have seedlings wintering over so they will get a quick start in spring. For example I like to plant spring onions in mid autumn so that they winter over a seedlings and pump on as soon as spring arrives. They are ready just when you are hanging out for their fresh deliciousness.

Red silver beet seedlings which will winter over and be ready for quick growth in spring.I often hear the comment, "There is nothing to do in the garden over winter."  This is the best time to plan your garden. What part of your garden is best for early spring crops? I f you need help planning you may want a Vegetable Garden Planning at your Place http://www.aplaceoflearning.co.nz/vegetable-gardening/


This is a wonderful time of year to collect compost materials. Leaves drop and drift from trees. The last of the grass clippings can be added to the dried leaves along with your vegie scraps and garden waste ( except convolulous, ivy, comfrey and oxyalis).

Compost bin made from plastic nettingA compost bin made of rigid plastic netting is effective, cheap and easily moved. It would need to be put in a sheltered spot.  

Compost bin made from wooden framesThe wooden compost bin is strong and holds a huge amount of material. The frames can be moved as the compost  shrinks down and used as the start of the next compost heap.

Watching Your World

In our virtual world where the weather is on our phone and the forecast tells us what clothes to wear, it can be easy to stop looking outside where all the drama happens. This week we had the lovely warm morning which later turned southerly. In our house, about an hour before any other noticeable change, the back door slams shut. This slam says, " The southerly is about an hour away." Above the Port hills huge black cumulo nimbus clouds boiled up and wind spun last leaves into whirlpools.

Enjoy your winter gardening. 


Vegetable Garden Planning at Your Place

Brussels sprouts This is the perfect time for Vegetable Garden Planning as you will be able to get ready to plant in spring. 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

   The next course will be run in Spring in the second week of September. Bookings taken now. email Mary mary@aplaceoflearning.co.nz 

See http://www.aplaceoflearning.co.nz/vegetable-gardening/ for more information

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