Spring, what a mix of summer and winter!

Spring, what a mix of summer and winter!

Blossoms bursting out.

 

So lovely – and starts me wanting to plant all sorts of veggies for us to eat. Maybe you do too?

Yet the ground is so cold, cold, cold and wet. Seedlings struggle, then they get eaten by snails, slugs, caterpillars and everything else. That’s depressing and we feel we’re not good gardeners.

How DO we get great veggie harvests?

“Where” is important. Veggie seedlings need:

  • warm soil. Feel it – if it’s cold to your skin, it’s cold for seedlings.
  • lots of sunlight. Look and see if the bed is in sun or shade each day.
  • well-fed – lots of organic matter
  • wind protection.
  • protection from beasties – blackbirds, dogs and cats scratch out seedlings; slugs, snails, caterpillars etc, eat them.

 

“When” to plant?

Later is often much better.

Early spring plantings often give poorer harvests than later ones.

Warm the soil with clear plastic tunnels and bags over early plantings [which also give protection from wind, birds and animals]. And remember to remove them when the sun shines brightly or they cook.

 

“What” to plant?

Early spring is a good time to plant leafy greens (lettuce, endive, rocket, silver-beet, parsley, etc), and peas in the open. Snow peas, snap peas, tall peas, dwarf peas, sweet peas. [protect from slugs as they love peas]. Carrots, beetroot, radish seeds can go in now. Sow some seeds monthly to give a longer season.

 

Beans like ground really warm so we plant an early variety under a plastic tunnel soon and wait to plant other varieties in late spring.

Beans growing in winter under a plastic tunnel 20170529
Beans growing in winter under a plastic tunnel 20170529

Sow seeds of summer crops in trays or pots and keep them somewhere protected until the ground is warm before transplanting them. Pumpkins, squash, zucchinis, cucumbers, tomatoes, capsicum, chilies, melons, herbs etc like it hot. Our patio gets covered with pots in early spring.

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Corn, beans and sunflowers are easiest to grow after November when the ground is warm.

 

Give yourself permission to play with your garden,

investigate its ‘micro-climates’,

enjoy signs of life and

forget ‘perfect’ images – each garden is different and wonderful in its own way.

And each year is different, so different varieties thrive.

Plant an assortment and enjoy those that do give great harvests this year,

and know that next year maybe others will instead.

 

Best wishes with your spring veggie garden and may you have great harvests!
Heather 

PS

For more ideas about what to sow and when in NZ, have a look at  http://gardenate.com

 

PPS

For more about planting by the  moon phases,

If you like experiments about when to plant for best results, a great one is to plant the same seeds in rows right beside each other [so all other conditions are identical], and label the rows with the date of planting. Then sow seeds from 1 packet at weekly intervals, each week in a new row.

This way you can see how the recommendations for best/worst seed sowing outcomes from moon-planting guides work for you. Maybe they do, and maybe they don’t.

I enjoy experimenting with such ideas – and if only I can rescue the rows from the snails and black-birds, I might even get some results to share!

Here’s a post I wrote about planting by the moon phases if you like more information and reflections on it.

Moon planting guides remind me to plant SOMETHING, plan a little, and help me have a continuous supply!

 

Of pumpkins/squash, fruits, seeds and flowers for next week seed planting

Of pumpkins/squash, fruits, seeds and flowers for next week seed planting

If we want to harvest fruits [and veg] in future, it’s a week to plant some seeds for above-ground fruits, flowers, seeds.

Best days are Friday 29th – Saturday 30th December 2017 [here in New Zealand – or GMT +13]

Before the full moon on Tuesday 2nd January 2018.

Down-under we are in summer. Here in Auckland, NZ, the weather is warm so seeds germinate quickly [when kept moist]. It has been dry, with ‘showers’ rather than soaking rain so seeds and seedlings need watchful attention to maintain soil moisture levels so they grow well.

For those of you in northern parts where it is cold, either sow indoors in pots/trays [a glass-house is wonderful for extending the season]

Pumpkins/squashes/zucchini [courgettes] 

We have a sequence to provide these over a longer time span:

Still a good time to plant 1-2 ‘Zorro’ zucchinis into a rich, protected garden bed when the soil is warm. These are amazingly hardy and prolific [and they are bushes rather than rampant vines].

2014-11-22 15.03.59
Zucchini plant growing strongly

Cucumbers – the first 2 lots we planted are growing well. The ‘homemade pickle’ has provided 2 jars of gherkins already.  Much earlier than last year. The Lebanese varieties are getting bigger!

20161214_174257

 

Beans [I sow direct and protect from snails and slugs] We will plant more climbing ‘Emu’ beans. [PS -As the young beans appear with their first leaves is a great indicator to me to plant the next generation seeds for a continuous supply.]

20160927_172314

 

Tomatoes [also heat-lovers]. Getting a bit late so maybe plant seedlings. The cherry tomatoes we planted in spring are fruiting. Other varieties we planted late October are growing and some have fruit – there’s hope for them yet, even through there has only been 4 ml rain in December! I wonder what will grow best this season? For more on our tomato experiments, go here and here.

cherry tomatoes harvest!
cherry tomatoes harvest!

 

If you want chilies, capsicum peppers or eggplants [aubergines], plant seedlings rather than seeds. They need heat and a long growing season to fruit well.

 

Corn!  Plant into really rich ground. Early Gem and Bantam have grown well here in the past so we’ll see this year. They like lots of water, and our small tanks are nearly empty – we’ll have to use mains water instead soon.

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Raised bed growing prolific corn, beans, pumpkins!

Flowers. More flowers. Just because…

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Seeds – Amaranth, Chia, Quinoa, and whatever you like to experiment with. Chia grew well here last year.

 

Hopefully some of what we plant now will do well so we will have a harvest no matter what the weather does – hot/dry/cold/wet.

May your food garden flourish!

What we can harvest in a June winter

What we can harvest in a June winter

The weather has turned cold here in Auckland.

Is there still anything to eat from the garden?

When I wandered around, this is what I found:

  • Gorgeous red-stemmed silver-beet,
  • rocket,
  • endive,
  • parsley,
  • gotu kola,
  • choko,
  • apples,
  • mandarins

 

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Gorgeous red-stemmed silver-beet, rocket, endive, parsley, gotu kola, choko, apples, mandarins

Then I went hunting further under some plastic shelters I had put over some beds and found:

  • Beans,
  • tromboncino squash,
  • silver-beet,
  • lettuce
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Beans, tromboncino, silver-beet, lettuce

 

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Looking further: a tiny, tiny zucchini – in June!

And a few carrots

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carrot – ‘Egmont gold’

And the last of the apples

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Apples

 

Look – the mandarins are starting to ripen! The tree is loaded so we will have citrus for a while now. The lemons and oranges are still unripe so we will wait further for them.

 

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Mandarins

 

And persimmons starting to ripen too. They are so delicious we really look forward to their sweetness in the winter.

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We have broccoli coming soon. Other brassicas [caulis, cabbage etc] would too if we’d planted any!

 

A bit more on beans:

I am so pleased with them – they were a late sowing in March,  a dwarf variety ‘Prince’. Stella had commented that these ones ‘tasted OK and grew better than others in cooler times, early and late in the season’. So I tried them.

One lot in the ground and another lot in a planter-box which could be moved onto the patio for extra heat if needed.

They grew well, lots of leaves. Then flowers appeared.

As the weather got colder I put plastic covers over them and waited and watched.

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The plastic tunnel gives OK protection from cold winds of winter and frosts [which we may have soon].

And it worked – real beans to eat in June – lots of them!

20170529_150533

 

So if you have a way of covering a late planting of dwarf beans, they are worth putting in.  Our own beans in winter – so nice.

 

So even though the snake-beans and climbing beans have finished – they were great and powered on until a few weeks ago, tomatoes are faint memory, there is still a lot we can find in a winter garden which is wonderful.

 

Sometime before Spring, I’ll look into a post about the range of beans we plant, how and why – there are a few!

 

May you and your garden flourish
Heather

 

 

 

Harvest Time – love, love, love it!

Harvest Time – love, love, love it!

Nature is so generous when there is space, water and nutrients available to plants. I find the joyous abundance of plums, cherry tomatoes, beans, silver-beet and zucchinis remind me of what a wonderful world this can be. There is enough for us and for birds and beasties too.

Here’s a quick overview from ‘top-of-mind’

 

Cherry tomatoes have grown wonderfully and are continuing to produce great crops.

So nice for salads! Not so good for preserving so we will wait for the larger main crop tomatoes to ripen for making sauces, pastes, spicy chutney etc

cherry tomatoes harvest!
cherry tomatoes harvest!

The bird netting went over the bed when the birds found the little fruits and decided they were tasty. We have a good crop underneath the net. Wonderful stuff bird netting – pulled tight and tied it down so birds don’t get caught in it. We appreciate their efforts in pest reduction so this gives the best of both worlds.

 

Cucumbers are giving us enough for salads and some extra for pickling.

20161214_174257

 

Zucchinis [courgettes] are a favorite staple now – picked very small – so sweet and tasty they can even be eaten raw.

2014-11-22 15.03.59
Zucchini plant growing strongly

I prefer them lightly sauteed in spices in the wok with whatever veg the garden gives now. In a few months their prolific abundance will be – meh – and other veg will take priority instead. For a little while, zucchinis are great.

 

Beans

20160927_172314

Dwarf beans have a short season [purple tee pee and yellow butter beans are favorites] and are feeding us well. They go well in our stir-fried veg. The pretty purple-colored beans turn green when cooked, and the yellow butter-beans add a lightness.

Climbing beans.  We planted climbing beans at the same time as the dwarf beans. They take longer to grow and begin to flower so as the dwarf beans are finishing, the climbers are starting to produce now.

‘Emu’ beans are our favorite climber – string-less, tasty, easy to pick, and prolific over a l-o-n-g season. Even when older beans are drying on the vine, they still make more flowers and new beans – great!

 

Plums are dripping off the trees.

20170103_155009

I find stewing a saucepan-full each day or so works best for me as a pleasant way of saving their wonderful-ness  to be enjoyed in winter. The hot stewed fruit goes into [hot, sterilized] jars and is sealed for future use. When heaps ripen at once and there is a big glut, I find our 2 big stock-pots and preserve lots at once – MUCH more effort needed.

20170111_105634

 

Nectarines – yellow ones are ripening and need daily checking as they get brown rot quickly. Pick, wash and eat fresh soon or preserve for winter use.

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The tree is a dwarf form – was here when we moved in. I think it is a very old tree and it has perked up with food and water. It’s ‘thank you’ has been a good crop of large, juicy nectarines.

These are a challenge for us in Auckland – brown rot takes over so fast in warm, humid weather. Often we find the bottom of the nectarine is ripe while the top near the stem is still very green, and by the time the top is ripe the bottom has rot. Hmm. So we are experimenting – pick when the bottom is luscious to eat raw and stew the unripe top part for winter stewed, bottled fruit.

Auckland is at the extreme of the productive zone for nectarines so we are glad to get any fruit. Some years when the weather is hot, dry and not humid we might get a great crop.

Silver-beet is still producing wonderfully well.

 

Strawberries have about finished, and the birds have been very focused on finding the few remaining.

Blackberries are changing color and we hope this thorn-less variety is tasty – third time lucky?

Of pumpkins/squash, fruits and flowers for this week seed planting

Of pumpkins/squash, fruits and flowers for this week seed planting

If we want to harvest the fruits [and veg] of our efforts in future, it’s a week to plant some seeds for above-ground fruits, flowers, seeds.

 

Best days are Saturday 7th – Sunday 8th January 2017, + Wednesday 11th  [here in New Zealand]

Before the full moon on Thursday 12th January 2017.

 

For those of you in northern parts where it is cold, either sow indoors in pots/trays [a glass-house is wonderful for extending the season]

Down-under we are in summer.Here in Auckland, NZ, the weather is warm so seeds germinate quickly [when kept moist]. It has been dry, with ‘showers’ rather than soaking rain so seeds and seedlings need watchful attention to maintain soil moisture levels so they grow well.

 

Now is a great time to talk about

Pumpkins/squashes/zucchini [courgettes] 

We have a sequence to provide these over a longer time span:

First we plant 1-2 ‘Zorro’ zucchinis in pots in early spring, inside a plastic-bag ‘mini hothouse’then transplant them into a rich, protected garden bed when the soil has warmed up. These are amazingly hardy and prolific [and they are bushes rather than rampant vines].

2014-11-22 15.03.59
Zucchini plant growing strongly

Second, we plant a number of ‘tromboncino squash’ seeds into rich, warm soil in the garden in late Spring. These rampant vines will start fruiting later than the Zorro zucchinis – and keep going longer too.

 

They produce ‘crook necked’ type squash which are wonderfully tasty when small [less than my hand long] – even better than ordinary zucchinis! Sweeter.

A.N.D the ones we miss grow and grow and grow some more so quickly! There’s an in-between stage which is meh – so they go into soup. We leave most of them on the vine to mature. When the vine dies back the squash skin gets harder and harder – these fruit store well. And the flesh gets sweeter and richer – we think they are best baked or made into soup.

There are a number of varieties and we have tried 3 so far:

  1. Our favorite ‘tromboncino squash’ is from Running Brook Seeds [only available in NZ]. It is long, tasty, has a dark green skin and stores well too.
  2. Second is from ‘Diggers Seeds’ in Australia – nice taste, with light-green skin.
  3. Another is called ‘rampicante squash’ [here in NZ] with dark-green skin.

 

Third, main-crop pumpkins/squash go into warm, rich Spring soil. Their fruit will form hard skins and keep well. There are so many varieties to try!

We do love butternut squash – and some years it’s hot enough to grow some here. Some years not.

We found a standard pumpkin here is a ‘grey’ and can form a nice tasty fruit which keeps well. This one is reliable for us.

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pumpkin/squash harvest

 

Some varieties we used to grow well in Australia do poorly here or are not available at all. This reminds us to choose varieties adapted to local conditions where-ever we are.

 

Fourth, we use chokos [not a zucc] when and tromboncinos have finished. The chokos are just starting and, when they are very small, thumb-sized, they are delicious replacements for zuccs.

 

If you wish to save seeds from pumpkins, squash or zucchinis, many cross-pollinate so check out options before beginning.

I’ll put together a post about how to save their seeds to get true-breeding results.

 

We will also sow

  • Beans [I sow direct and protect from snails and slugs] We will plant more climbing ‘Emu’ beans. [PS -As the young beans appear with their first leaves is a great indicator to me to plant the next generation seeds for a continuous supply.]

20160927_172314

 

  • Tomatoes [also heat-lovers]. Getting a bit late so maybe plant seedlings. The cherry tomatoes we planted in spring are fruiting wonderfully well. Other varieties we planted late October are growing and some have flowers – there’s hope for them yet. I wonder what will grow best this season? For more on our tomato experiments, go here and here.
  • Corn!  Plant into really rich ground. Early Gem and Bantam have grown well here in the past so we’ll see this year.
  • Flowers. More sunflowers. Just because…

 

Hopefully some of what we plant now will do well so we will have a harvest no matter what the weather does – hot/dry/cold/wet.

 

May your food garden flourish!

My ‘lemons to lemonade’ recipe – quick and simple

My ‘lemons to lemonade’ recipe – quick and simple

Looking for a recipe to turn lemons into lemonade? This one is my ‘go-to’ recipe

  • 200 ml lemon juice – squeezed fresh from juicy lemons [and we sieve the big bits out]
  • 400 ml water
  • 200 g sugar or equivalent other sweetener [I sometimes use Stevia – add it with the juice]

Boil water in a saucepan. Add sugar and stir to dissolve. Remove from heat. Cool.
Add lemon juice and stir.
Keep this concentrate in fridge [1-2 weeks only].

To serve: in a tall glass/jug add ice, a little of the concentrate, and fill with sparkling spring water or soda water. Stir.

Taste, adjust quantities and sweetness. Some lemons are more sour than others – they need more sweetener to make a nice drink. Taste and adjust until you like the result.

Enjoy.

 

PS  My grand-mother’s original recipe included the lemon peel [zest].

It was boiled with the water for a bit [her measurements varied each time she made these for us as the recipe’s outcome depended on the type of lemon, season and rainfall. So she taste-tested and adjusted until it worked]

 

PPS If you buy lemons, unless you know they have clean skin without wax or chemicals, use only the juice.

 

Down-under sow seeds for fruits and flowers this week

Down-under sow seeds for fruits and flowers this week

It’s time to sow seeds for fruits and flowers next week – best days are Sunday 10th October 2016, + Thursday 13th – Friday 14th  [here in New Zealand] All plants with above-ground fruits, flowers, seeds that we eat and enjoy.

Before the full moon on 16th October.

In Auckland the weather has been milder – warm and wet, wet, wet!

I am already noticing molds starting – even on calendulas where, in past years, it had not been an issue. An early start to a warm, moist, humid season?

The grey molds reduce vitality of plants they grow on, so I’ll keep a closer eye on this issue now.

I will sow seeds of

  • Pumpkins/squashes/zucchini [courgettes] – love Tromboncino squash – a long crook-neck type. These green-skinned ones came from ‘Runningbrook Seeds’. We have also grown an orange version from ‘Diggers Seeds’. In Auckland we find  the green variety tastiest. There is another version ‘Rampicante crook-neck squash’ which is similar.

wpid-20150527_153803.jpg

  • Peas and beans [I sow direct and protect from snails and slugs] We will plant more climbing ‘Emu’ beans – a later producing bean which keeps on producing young beans even when there are many older ones drying on the vine! A great asset. Also some more dwarf varieties – I wonder which will do well now? As the young beans appear with their first leaves is a great indicator to me to plant the next generation seeds for a continuous supply.

20160927_172314

  • Chilies, peppers [capsicum] and eggplants [aubergine]  They really do best in summer heat and warm ground. Is it time to plant the special little pots from last month out yet? Maybe, as it’s a warm early Spring, I can plant some of them out in the garden now? And leave some to plant in November when it will be warmer again and less likely that storms will flatten them.
  • Tomatoes [also heat-lovers so they’ll go in somewhere warm – maybe some more in seed trays and some direct into warm ground by a warm patio?].  I’ll sow a number of varieties again – the ones that are powering along from last month’s sowing and maybe some others. The orange Moonlight, Oregon Spring [which was prolific last year; a red staking variety], Sweet 100 cherry [one of our favorites] and the ‘Self-sown cherry from the ginger pot’ [from many years ago which grows lovely mid-sized fruit] are our staples. I wonder what else will grow well this season?
  • Corn! Our first sowing can go into really rich ground now. Early Gem and Bantam have grown well here in the past so we’ll see this year.
  • Flowers of all sorts. Especially sunflowers, including ‘Russian Giant’. Just because…

 

I take indicators from successes and failures from the past month sowing.  If one variety is really doing well this year, we’ll plant more of it – and also plant a variety of other types because experiments to find new options are good fun for us.

Hopefully some we plant now will do well so we will have a harvest no matter what the weather does this year – hot/dry/cold/wet.