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Southern Vegie Garden Notes October 2014

Harvesting Fresh Organic Vegetables from your own Doorstep

Quick Planting Summary for  November

Plants which can be sown from seed

Zucchini seedling at the two leaf stageBeans
New Zealand Spinach
Silver beet
Spring onions

Green macerata cauliflower that was sown in autumnPlants which can be sown from seedlings

Silver beet

Welcome to Southern Vegie Garden Notes for October.

Purple broccoli which was autumn sownWe are now in mid spring and our juices are flowing for fresh ripe tomatoes and cucumbers and crunchy courgettes. This spring is quite warm and yet we still have very low night temperatures as well as the odd rip roaring southerly which these warm climate plants just hate. I always hold off planting these in my garden until the second week of November. Resist the sales temptation from nurseries and hold off planting. If you plant too soon, the plants get shocked and end up producing more slowly than the ones planted a week or two later. Remember Christchurch is marginal for planting tomatoes, cucumbers, chillies, pumpkins, squash, corn and courgettes. Marginal means that in warm years they do well and cooler years they struggle. .

 If you have a very, very sheltered spot you may be able to grow peppers and egg plants but even then your management of water will have to be spot on. I have seen peppers valiantly struggling in beautiful warm spots with no water. If you wish to grow these plants you really need a glass house.

Seed Raising

I offered to give seeds for the Food Resilience Expo which is on November 1. This meant cleaning out my seed cupboard. I generally keep my seeds labelled and in brown paper bags.  Some very elderly bags were thrown into the compost. I also had some heritage beans and peas that were 2-3 years old.

To test whether they were viable, I soaked a few of them in water overnight. Drained them  and kept them in my kitchen. I rinsed them twice a day. All the peas sprouted in 4 -5 days. The beans looked miserable. Then something in my head pinged and I realised that my kitchen is not really warm enough over a 24 hour period for beans to germinate. So I popped them in the hot water cupboard and about 4-5 days later half of them sprouted.  

There is heaps to to learn from this. It was really clear how beans and peas respond to temperature during germination. Beans really need the warmth and are best planted after the beginning of November. Also older bean seeds are more variable in germination. 

A good strike of Uncle Ted's tomatoes. The seed was saved in 2007.Also in my cupboard were tomato seeds labelled 'Uncle Teds 2007'. My Uncle Ted was given these seeds probably 30 - 40 years ago. He grew these beautiful beefsteak tomatoes on a sunny wall every year at his home in Christchurch. He gave me seeds and I also grew them for years. A whole pile of life stuff got in the way and the seeds ended up at the back of the cupboard. Knowing that tomatoes last a long time I flung them into  some  potting mix to see what would happen. É voilà up they popped.

This is the time of year for directly sowing seeds into the ground: peas, beetroot, silver beet, turnips, carrots, radish, mesclun, leeks and spring onions. It is so much fun. Watching and looking for those first signs. Getting impatient and thinking that "they will never come up" and then going out in the morning to see a green fuzz. I never tire of this. Every time it seems so miraculous.

Broad beans with dark purple flowersI was given some purple broad bean seeds. Now I have dark purple, pink and white broad bean flowers.I love the way nature is so extravagant with variety.


French breakfast radish Radishes are up and ready. The spring onions planted in Easter are ready. The autumn planted cauliflowers and brocccoli are now in full flower. The broad beans, lettuce and mesclun mix are nearly ready but not quite. The perpetual beet and silver beet are racing off to seed still leaving good pickings of lower leaves.

ThymeAt this time of year you may need to look a bit further to find food to harvest. I do find self sown plants like red mizuna are ready sooner than the ones I have sown. I am using the thinnings from my onions as spring onions. Fresh herbs: marjoram, thyme, oregano, parsley, chives, garlic chives, salad burnett, lovage, sage, rosemary and mint are all ready for picking.We made stuffed baked potatoes with marjoram, spring onion and parsley at Grow Your Own Free Lunch on Tuesday. The herbs make something quite ordinary very tasty.

Garden Tasks


Strawberries need to be weeded regularly. Straw mulch helps keep the weeds down.The spring equinoctial gales really dry out the soil. The coolness of the easterlie can fool a gardener into thinking that the soil is still moist. Test your garden with your finger. Does the soil still feel moist? If not water. I prefer early morning watering as the leaves dry out during the day and reduce the chance of unwelcome moulds. Also if you are hand watering turn the nozzle upside down so that the water goes into the air first. This way it falls more gently onto the soil.


If you are unsure about when to plant beans and corn feel the soil. If the soil feels cold to the touch then you need to wait a while.


Many weeds will be racing your plants to the sunlight and to seeding so it is the time to weed. When you have removed the weeds, give the roots a good shake and put them back on the soil as mulch. Oxalis is starting to come up; this is the time to dig it out before it makes the little bulbs. The only place for oxalis, ivy and convolvulus is the green bin. Before we had the green bin I used to drop them into a pot of boiling water and then compost them.


New Sessions

 Enjoy Gardening without Backache

Red mustard gives zing to your saladIn 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

 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/

Golden marjoram

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