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Southern Vegie Garden Notes November 2013

Quick Planting Summary for  December

Plants which can be sown from seed

  • Carrot thinnings - a tasty morsel for the gardenerBeans
  • Beetroot
  • Carrots
  • Celeriac
  • Leeks
  • Lettuce
  • Mesclun
  • New Zealand Spinach
  • Parsnip
  • Rocket
  • Silver beet
  • Spring onions
  • Zucchini

Plants which can be grown from seedlings

  • Lettuce ready for harvest.Celeriac
  • Corn
  • Cucumbers
  • Lettuce
  • Mesclun
  • Pumpkins
  • Radish
  • Silver beet
  • Squash
  • Tomatoes
  • Chillis
  • Zucchini

Welcome to November's Southern Vegie Garden Notes.

What a wonderful growing season we have had this November. One indicator of the warmth of the soil is the presence of self sown tomatoes. Normally they do not appear in my garden until January when it is too late for them to crop. This year they are now 5- 6 cm high and will crop nicely. The self sown painted lady beans at Delta are already over a metre high and vigorously climbing up their poles. In my garden there is corn, sown by the chooks which is 10 cm high.

Freshly picked radish.As I am writing this we have just had three days of marvellous rain. Not too deluging, just lovely steady rain that really wets the soil deep down.  I am often asked whether rain makes plants grow better than watering and the answer is yes as it carries more nitrogen.

One of the delights of gardening for me is to eat raspberries, radish, strawberries, peas etc while standing in the garden. A warm strawberry on a summer morning is exquisite. This morning I watched the childen at Shirley Intermediate making a game out of hunting for snow peas and carrots. What fun.

A tomato just beginning to flowerYesterday I went to the New Brighton Community Gardens. It is a fiesta of vegetables and flowers. This year they have grown 25 different sorts of tomatoes which makes it heaven for tomato lovers. If you are out New Brighton way it is really worth while paying these gardens a visit especially as they grow both outdoors and indoors.

Each season it is good to make a note of what works and what doesn’t. This winter all the gardens in this area suffered from celery rust. It is this rust that makes commercial celery one of the most sprayed vegetables.  I love celery ( particularly with peanut butter) and my winter celery urges were not satisfied as I had to pull out all the crops and dispose of them. So I decided to grow a spring crop. This crop did exactly what I hoped it wouldn’t. It started to go to seed before even one delicious stalk could be pulled. I will plant celery again in late January in plenty of rich rotted horse manure and seaweed. I am preparing for this now. I will cover this in a couple of inches of mulch and keep up the water. I will feed them every 10 – 15 days with a liquid fertiliser like compost tea or comfrey tea. The idea is to make them so bursting with health that they will resist the rust. I will let you know how this works.

Snow peas nearly 2 metres highSnowpeas are wonderful. They are cropping now and heavily. They are able to be covered in snow in winter and pop up fresh and shining. The one thing I have found about snow peas is that they love full sun. I put an early crop in one of my slightly shadier parts of the garden and they are weedy while those grown in full sun are over 2 m tall.

Caigua SeedlingI also like to grow a new crop or variety each year. This year I am growing Caigua (pronounced Kai- wa). It comes from South America and has gherkin like fruit that can be eaten raw or pickled. I will let you know how it goes.See www.kingseeds.co.nz

Soil

Vegetables harvested from Churchill ParkChurchill Park is bursting with food even though the soil is sand and stones and the crops are not grown in raised beds. I would also like to note that personally I don’t recommend wooden raised gardens in most situations. The reason for this is that they are costly to purchase unless you are lucky enough to get some free wood. This cost is a barrier to many people. Basically wooden raised beds are a fashion and if that is what you like for ascetic reasons then go for it. Raised gardens are necessary really only where the water table is too high or the ground is unsuitable for some reason.  Other types of garden surrounds like stones, loose bricks and tyres become a haven for snails and weeds.

So if you are reading this and have put off starting a new bed because of the cost you can just grab a spade and dig your plot straight into the ground. As you add more compost and plant matter to your soil if will naturally hill up so the soil warms quickly from the sun. Another advantage to digging straight into the ground is that you can easily extend your garden as you gain confidence just by digging up another wee patch.

This week we started an experiement at Churchill Park. We planted potatoes. Instead of any attempt to hill them up with the sand and stones we will use mulch and some nearly ready compost.  It will be interesting to see what happens.

Growing from Seed

I have difficulty in growing carrots from seed in the community and school gardens while I have no difficulty in growing carrots at home. I think that the reason for this is that at home I can keep my eye on the soil moisture 24 /7 whereas in community gardens the watering is more sporadic i.e. no watering over weekends. The tip for growing from seeds is to keep them as evenly moist as possible.

Harvest

Only Brussels sprouts create equally strong reactions as broad beans. “Oh no I wouldn’t touch a broad bean ever again. Yuk Yuk Yuk. Disgusting. I had them when I was a  kid. Ick Yuk” The reason people hate broad beans is because they were picked too old, when they were floury and bitter. So the big tip is to pick your broad beans nice and young. They are wonderful in a stiry fry with a little light soya sauce. See Southern Vegie Garden Notes November 2012 for some cooking ideas.

Successful harvesting comes from keeping an eye on your crops. Peas picked young and sweet are delicious. Peas even a week later can be hard and bitter. At the moment I am harvesting lettuce, radish, carrot thinnings, spinach, spring onions, snow peas and peas.

Main crop potatoes after first hillingGarden Jobs

Early potatoes hilled upThis is really the busiest time for gardeners. If you have grown potatoes they will need to be hilled up. If you hill up your potatoes you will get a bigger crop and prevent them from greening.

For details on how to remove laterals from the tomatoes and thin such crops as carrots and beetroot check out Southern Vegie Garden Notes November 2012.

Garden health.

If you create an ecosystem in your garden as varied and mixed as possible you can increase your garden health. It is good to give thought Buckwhear, phacelia and borage growing on an edege.to the non vegetable edges of your garden. I grow wild flowers like buckwheat, alyssum, phacelia and borage to create food for beneficial insects. Pockets of ferns and natives deal with shady corners.

Herbs like lovage grow about 1.5m tall and have umbrels of yellow flowers. When you brush against lovage it exudes a celery aroma.  Elecampane has huge leaves and in late summer throws out the most beautiful bright yellow daisy like flowers. Carrots will grow beautiful umbrels of white flowers and give you carrot seed for next year.

A riot of parsley and motherwort tidying a difficult space.In my hard to grow areas I let parsley riot. It is good to think about those difficult corners as resources to create diversity. These garden corners are goods places for growing flax to tie up your tomatoes and comfrey to make liquid fertiliser.

Pests

Many of you will have a cat companion. Some cats are essential and loved members of a family. But cats are one of the biggest pests in the city garden.  They dig up the garden and use the place as a toilet. My neighbour had all her crops ruined when a cat sprayed faeces all over her plants. On a number of Vegetable Garden Consultations I have met people who are almost unable to use their properties because of cats. The stench can be horrible.  One couple solved the cat problem with a device they found on the internet called Cat Stop Ultra Sound. This has a sensor which is triggered by movement and emits a noise only cats hear and scares them away. The device is $80 - $100 but for them it meant that they can now use their garden.

Consultation

Vegetable Garden Planning at Your Place

This is the perfect time for Vegetable Garden Planning as you will be able to get ready to plant for autumn.
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 at: http://www.aplaceoflearning.co.nz/vegetable-gardening/

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