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Southern Vegie Garden Notes November 2012

Bullet points for December

Seeds to sow

  • Radish
  • Turnips
  • Spring onions
  • Lettuce
  • Mesclun
  • In the first week of December you could plant your last sowings of dwarf beans, basil and courgettes


  • Lettuce
  • Courgettes
  • Basil
  • Cucumbers


Grow Your Own Free Lunch

This FREE course is held at Delta Community House for five weeks on Tuesday mornings between 9.30 and 12.30 . The next course will begin on Tuesday 12 February and  finish on Tuesday 12 March.


Dwarf peas flowering and pods developingTo date we have had a cool moist spring which is great for crops like potatoes, salad greens, radish, peas and turnips. But it is not so great for our heat lovers like corn, tomatoes, cucumbers, courgettes and chillies.  These are all a little slower this year.

I always know that summer is here when I transplant my first basil seedlings and smell the delightful waft of basil. At the moment we are approaching the longest day.  December and January are a pause in sowing and planting. This is a time of growing. Given a bit of water and a little attention the plants will carry on growing by themselves. So your job is largely to crack out the deck chairs and watch them grow.

Dwarf Beans just popped upBy the first week of December all your main summer crops should be planted except for a few beans and courgettes which you are growing successively.

Soil Lessons from Shirley Intermediate.

When we took over the garden in April this year there were three raised beds which had been used and were growing poor crops. The soil was exposed and hard and lumpy. The rest of the garden was in grass. Because we had no compost the children dug the new beds out of grass and piled in lots of old leaves and some grass clippings. We added some lime and some blood and bone. Next we planted lupins. Recently the lupins were cut down. The roots were left in the ground and the stalks and leaves chopped with a spade by children. We planted tomatoes, pumpkins and potatoes directly into the lupin litter left on the beds.
A couple of weeks after planting, the tomatoes, potatoes and pumpkins are booming but the beans growing in one of the original lumpy raised beds are like  bonsai  beans despite generous helpings of leaves etc.

 Lesson – It takes soil a long time to recover from being fried in the sun.


Broad Bean Pods ready for harvestIt is a good idea to watch your veggies growing as oddly enough so many people go to all the trouble of growing vegetables and then forget to harvest them!!

Peas – Harvest them when the pods feel fat but not hard. The children at Shirley Intermediate have become experts. They now are disappointed when they harvest a pea pod that has unripe peas.
Snow peas are sweet and tender before the seeds get too big. The children at Shirley Intermediate have realised that snow peas are often tucked away inside the vine. They have become skilled snow pea hunters.

Radishes are best plucked when young and tender. Like turnips they can be eaten raw or steamed for a few minutes.
Tender young broad beans ready for eatingBroad beans. Few vegetables create such strong feelings as broad beans. So many people “hate” broad beans… And this is all because they are left too late for harvesting and become bitter and floury. The key to broad beans is to harvest them when they are the size of your little finger nail and then cook them for about 1 minute. The children at Shirley Intermediate don’t bother with the cooking for 1 minute, they just eat them straight from the pod. The very little beans can be cooked and eaten pod and all.  If some of your beans have gone floury blanch them and take off the outside skin and whizz them into pesto.
Courgettes. You will need to keep your eye on these as they grow very quickly and you end up with huge marrows.

First Strawberries nearly readyStrawberries -The first strawberries are ready. As the season goes on you will need to remove the laterals if you want the strawberries to keep flowering.


If you have been busy earlier in the season adding plenty of roughage into your soil you will find that your soil holds a lot more moisture. Liquefaction holds moisture quite well too.  Remember that Nature thinks that bare soil is a disaster it is best to grow your crops so that they cover the soil with green leafy coolness. Watch your plants so that you can get to know by the look of them when they need water. It is good to have a balance. If you water everyday your plants will grow too quickly and not be strong enough when the Nor Wester slams in.

Garden Jobs

Tomatoes will need lateraling and staking. I tie up my tomatoes using a piece of freshly cut flax. The beauty of this is that the flax just composts at the end of the season. It is a painful job undoing lots of plastic ties.

Hill up your potatoes by hoeing up the soil on either side of the plant. You need to do this about twice.

Carrots before first thinningThinning – This is when you plant fine seeds like carrots and parsnips and the plants are too close together for optimum growth. You pull out some of the young plants so that the others have more room to grow. Leave the young plants on top of the soil or in the compost heap. Nothing is wasted. Thinning does disturb the young plants a little so it is best to water afterwards and not to do this job in the heat of the day.

Thin out your beetroot, carrots and spring onions.

Carrots after first thinningThin out beetroot to about three fingers apart and spring onions to about 1 finger apart. Young beetroot and spring onion leaves make a good addition to a salad. I thin my carrots twice. The first time when they are about the height of the palm of your hand to about 1 finger apart. The second time when you can see finger sized carrots which can be eaten.

Gone to seed.

Try and let some plants go to seed e.g. silver beet, perpetual spinach, lettuce, and beetroot.  I grow Kings’ French Breakfast radish for this purpose. They will fling their seeds around and you will be able to harvest the volunteers later. A self gardening garden!  Peas and beans are also good crops for saving your own seed.

Winter Crops are next

Tomato lateral When you come back from holiday in January, that is the time to begin planting your leek seedlings. So now is the time to plan which part of the Tomato lateral removedgarden you will use for this.


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