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Southern Vegie Garden Notes September 2014

Harvesting Fresh Organic Vegetables from your own Doorstep

Miners Lettuce - This wonderful plant is really enjoyed by children. Sow them and watch  children feasting on fresh greens from the garden.Planting summary for October

Seeds in open ground

Miners’ lettuce
Silver beet
Spring onions

Orange silver beet brightens the salad bowl and gardenSeedlings

Silver beet

Seeds in trays

The following seeds can be put in warm place in the last two weeks of October ready for transplanting into open ground in the first and second week of November.


I spent August in North West USA and Canada as well as Calgary / Medicine Hat and Minneapolis. We are so lucky here in Christchurch to be able to grow vegetables all year round. Optimistically the day before I left, I sowed snow peas, spring onions and radish. 

In that first week of August we had been having a very warm patch of weather. This is usual for Canterbury. We have what I think of as a false spring - warm, fine, still weather in late August and early September. This is a prelude to the equinoctial gales which today at the end of September are swirling blossoms and leaves.

Snow peas which were planted in early August on 25 09 14The onions and the snow peas are booming. The radish have grown but are patchy. It is good to experiment like this. It was only leaving Christchurch and the warm spell that encouraged me to try sowing in early August. Voilà. Experimenting and leaving the well worn tracks is always interesting.

I hope you are enjoying the wonderful colours of spring: the deep rich reds, vibrant greens and stunning yellows.


Green macerata  cauliflower which was sown in mid autumn. Just ignoring plants and letting them do their thing brings rewards. Last autumn I sowed broccoli and cauliflower seeds. My aim was to grow the plants to about 10-15 cm high so that they could winter over and then burst into action in spring. However we had a wet cold autumn with low sunshine hours. The plants just sat in the garden as weedy, little seedlings. I thought that they would not be strong enough to grow well in spring. I basically ignored them and only just refrained from feeding them to the chooks. Fortunately because I went overseas, I didn't go into the garden and "clean up". When I arrived back, I found lush looking plants happily well on the way to production. I have to admit that now I am hovering over and inspecting the caulis yet to come.


Red MizunaEarly spring can be the hardest time to find food in the garden. The winter crops are finished and most of the spring crops are only just coming up. Enter Miner's Lettuce - delicious and full of vitamin c just when you need a good dose to clear out winter ills. Rocket is also growing profusely along with red mizuna. All of these make a lovely spring salad. In the USA, salad was often served as a separate course before a meal. It leaves the palate refreshed and clean.

The key to having some crops in your early spring garden is sowing hardy crops toward the end of autumn. For example  I still have late sown pak choi in the garden along with plenty of Spinach (Perpetual Beet).  I also sowed spring onions in early May. They grew 4 - 5 cm high and then wintered over. They are now growing rapidly and will be ready in the next couple of weeks.

Biscia Rossa Lettuce- It is quite cold tolerant had has rich red leaves.In mid May I sowed lettuce Biscia Rossa www.kingsseeds.co.nz and silver beet in trays in the glass house and wintered them over. In the last week of July I put them up against the warm concrete wall in Delta Community Gardens and the lettuce is now ready to harvest. I originally bought the Biscia Rossa because it was the only packet of lettuce seed left at Piko, however I have found them a brilliant early spring crop because they are quite cold tolerant.

At Delta Community Gardens we have plenty of spinach (Perpetual Beet) for the Grow Your Own Free Lunch course. We are finding a huge variety of ways to cook it: spinach and onion scones, spinach lasagne, spinach and cheese muffins, spinach frittata and salads. Food always comes in abundance which inspires our cooking creativity. 

Sowing seeds

Most early spring crops are sown directly into the soil. Root crops: radish, beetroot, turnips, carrots, parsnips and celeriac are best sown directly into the soil.

Snow Peas under netting protected from birdsSowing seeds is by far the best and cheapest way to grow your food. A packet of spring onion seeds can have over 200 seeds in it whereas if you buy the plants at best you may get a dozen. Sowing seeds is also a lot of fun because you get to watch the magic of seeds poking their tiny green leaves above the soil.

In most gardens peas have to be protected by netting in their early stages or else the birds devour them. If your peas look sick and have big bites out of the end of the leaves you know that the birds are feasting.

Both in Grow Your Own Free Lunch and the Simple Organic Gardening Course you can learn to sow seeds in seed drills. 

Self Sown Seeds

On Friday 19 September at Delta Community Gardens I found self sown French Breakfast radish. They were in the garden with the least sunshine; a garden I am reluctant to sow seeds in too early. Well formed and yummy. It is good to watch the timing of self sowns as it gives your more information about when to sow than any calendar does.

Spring onions growing well after being planted in mid autumn.Soil

I found 'The Third Plate' by Dan barber on the new books shelf in the library. It is really easy to read even though the cover is dull and the book looks big. Here is a little of his Short History of Soil.

"Soil is alive, and not just in the metaphysical sense. It inhales and exhales, procreates, digests, and constantly changes temperature.When growing properly soil organisms breathe as we do - taking in oxygen and releasing carbon dioxide into the air... And like us, soil containes a lot of tiny living creatures - a complex community of bacteria, microbes, fungi, grubs, bugs, and slugs....Soil is literally teeming with life. That's a lot of life to feed.... plants grow up and roots grow down, until eventually the roots and dead leaves decompose into a sheet of humus. This magical process is accomplished by soil organisms."

Feed your soil old plant matter and your soil will feed you.


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/

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