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Southern Vegie Garden Notes November 2014

Harvesting Fresh Organic Vegetables from your own Doorstep

Quick Planting Summary for  December

Plants which can be sown from seed

Radish ready for harvestBeans
New Zealand Spinach
Silver beet
Spring onions

Plants which can be grown from seedlings

Young beetroot plants growing well Celeriac
Silver beet

This November has been a wild weather ride. Change can happen with amazing speed. Today I began writing these notes in placid spring sunshine and then whoost. The nor wester blew up into punchy gusts bending the trees and carrying anything not nailed down. A sock flew passed the window.

A tomato and a lettuce hiding from hail under frost cloth.Last week the sky filled with towering dark grey clouds, the temperature and the barometer plummeted. Suddenly it started to deluge and hail. I leapt into my gumboots and ancient garden coat. I grabbed the crates in which I grow my tomato, courgette, buttercup and cucumber seedlings and raced them under the porch.  The spouting over filled within minutes and caused a waterfall just above the seedling trays of lettuce, silver beet and coriander. Finger fumbly with the cold I lifted the trays to safety in the nick of time. I grabbed frost cloth and wire hoops from the shed and just threw it over the tomatoes holding the cloth down with pegs and sticks.  Back inside, I put the fire on and with a numb brain and I didn't bother to cover the trays on the porch with netting thinking that they were  close enough to humans  to deter the black birds from  venturing in.   Wrong . The next morning the porch was scattered with potting mix and I would have lost all the plants in the trays if my early rising partner hadn't quickly covered them with some handy shade cloth.  Cold southerlies whipped around Canterbury for the next few days until all settled again in tempting calm spring sunshine. But not for long. The black Garlic growing strongly.clouds reassembeld. This time everything was on the porch. This time I was prepared for the hail. All plants covered, but of course we never got any hail.

Most of the plants in my garden have minor hail damage which shows up as yellow damaged spots all over the leaves. My snow peas are looking particularly tattered. It will be interesting to see whether they recover. Only the broccoli seems imune to hail of this size.


Spring onions ready for harvest Radish are ready. Yippeee. Right now delicious, crunchy radish are plentiful.  At this time of year a salad of finely sliced radish, spring onions and freshly picked broad beans (blanched for  2 minutes)  tossed in balsamic vinegar and olive oil is just perfect.

 Grow Your Own Free Lunch had to find eight ways to cook spinach and silver beet during September and October when there was few other crops ready. Spinach and onion scones, spinach fritata, spinach lasagne, spinach and potato curry and pumpkin and spinach muffins. It's lucky that spinach and silver beet are so versatile.  But now the early crops are coming on. The spring onions planted in Autumn have filled out and are ready. Broad beans are in full production. 

Methods of Protection

  • Lettuce snug under netting to keep them from being demolished by blackbirds.As mentioned above I use number 8 wire hoops, frost cloth and pegs not only for frost but also for covering against adverse weather like hail and southerly blasts.I  use frost cloth to keep the frost off celery during winter.
  • I cover my young peas and lettuce with netting, held up with the wire hoops and pegs or else the black birds eat them. When the plants are passsed the seedling stage, the black birds no longer interested, I uncover them. I cover my February / March brassicas with netting to keep the white butterflies off.
  • An old fridge shelf protecting seeds during germination from cats and blackbirds.I cover my seeds with old fridge and stove racks to stop the cats and blackbirds digging them up. I have found that the fridge racks also prevent damage from the feet of stray humans.
  • Strawberries usually need protecting from birds who are much quicker than humans. I uses the wire hoops, netting and pegs for covering my strawberries.

Choosing the right spot.

Many of our summer plants,squash, pumpkin, peppers, zucchini, tomatoes and corn, originate from central America where there are long hot summers after cold winters.  Christchurch most years has a sort of a long hot summer and this is why these plants are marginal for here. We need to tend them with extra care to get a good crop. They need our warmest and most sheltered places and definitely cover  from the roaring southerlies. The tomatoes grown on Delta's northern, concrete block wall suffered no hail damage and the first trusses are setting.

A tomato plant growing strongly beside Delta's north facing concrete block wall.In summer spinach, silver beet, spring onions, lettuce, turnips, radish and carrots can be grown in the less than prime places of your garden. They all need sunshine but will tolerate slightly shadier conditions. 

Plants will choose their own spots.

A self sown broccoli or is it a cauliflower growing beside the lawn.I have a lovely broccoli or is it a cauliflower that is self sown on the edge of the garden and lawn.  Delta has some healthy self sown leeks. Delta also had plenty of perpetual beet and silverbeet self sown under the wooden edging.  Self sown plants area real boon as they provide a harvest without effort. They are also a good guide as to when to plant; for example self sown pumpkins are a good guide for when the soil is warm enough to plant your tomato and other warm crop seedlings.

Looking after your soil

Weeds are your friends. They can take minerals from deep in the soil.  Weed them out, give the roots a good shake and leave them on top of your soil. The soil microbes will restore the minerals to your soil making them available for your vegetables. A light layer of weed mulch keeps the soil covered and stops the billions of microbes working in the soil from frying in the sun. The only weeds you can't do this with are oxalis, convolvulus, ivy and couch grass.


There will be plenty of grass clippings now. When you add them to your compost you need to layer them with straw or old leaves so that they don't go into smelly, green sludge.

A good book to read which is available from the library.

Self sown leeksThe Third Plate by Dan Barber.

Dan Barber is a chef who hunts for food with flavour and ends up with revolutionary ideas of eating. The cover is dull and it looks thick BUT the writing is excellent and I found it hard to put down.

New Sessions

 Enjoy Gardening without Backache

Young beetroot plants growing well.In this one hour session discover the way to use hand tools such as spades, shovels, trowels and secateurs without hurting your body. You will have plenty of time to practice so that it's easy to do when you return home.

Cost: $30 per hour if you travel to Mary's place or $30 per hour plus travel time if Mary travels to your place. 

Come by yourself or gather a group of friends.

Call Mary 03 942 6940 or email mary@aplaceoflearning.co.nz.

Vegetable Garden Planning at Your Place

 Delicious crisp silver beet. - Think garlic and butter.Start your own garden for fresh organic food at your place

This is the perfect time for Vegetable Garden Planning as you will be ready to plant in spring.  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/

Half grown lettuce drunken woman fringed

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