Radishes make the perfect addition to salads. Crunchy, they add texture to dishes. We love adding them to raita, which gives it a mildly pungent flavour. Not all radish are red, making them a colourful and interesting addition to salads and other dishes.
Radish are incredibly easy to grow, making them perfect for beginners to gardening. Radish can be sown in spring and early autumn. Avoid sowing radish in the height of summer, as they will not grow well in high temperatures. Radish might not form a bulb if sown in winter due to difficulties with germination and cooler temperatures which might stunt their growth.
Egmont Seeds have an incredible range of radish seeds. You could try growing Amethyst, Black Spanish, Cabernet, Champion, French Breakfast, Pink Beauty, Round Mix and Sparkler. For Asian cuisine, try the Daikon radish called Omny.
Franchi Sementi also have a lovely range of radishes. The New Zealand supplier is Italian Seeds Pronto. Try Candela Di Fuoco, Gaundry and Dattero Rosso. You can also try mixed colours radish in the Golden Line range.
A convenient way of growing radish is to use seed tape instead of loose seeds. There is no need to worry about spacing seeds too closely, as they are already spaced the perfect distance apart. Seed tape is biodegradable, so it will disintegrate in the ground and the seeds on the tape will germinate. Egmont Seeds have a variety of radish seed tape called Cherry Belle which is worth trying.
How to sow
As a root crop, radish should be sown direct. Do not transplant, or you will end up with forked roots, a bit like with carrots.
You do not need to dig the area where you intend to sow radish very deeply, as radish are a shallow root crop. Digging the bed to a depth of 8-10 cm should be perfectly adequate.
As with all root crops, in order to form a large, strong root underground radish prefer soil which is well composted. I therefore advise not adding fresh compost or sheep pellets to areas where you intend to sow radish.
You may however wish to sprinkle a little Superphosphate fertiliser where you intend to sow radish and mix into the soil. This will encourage strong root growth.
Growing radish in buckets
I’ve never grown radish in buckets, but I’ve seen a post in a vege gardening group I belong to on Facebook where a lady in the US has grown spring radishes in buckets successfully. Reasons why you may wish to try sowing radish in buckets include getting a head start on the seasons at a time when the ground might still be quite cool (such as in spring) and space limitations in the garden. Sowing radishes in buckets are also perfect for people who don’t wish to dig up their lawn like us! Just remember not to use fresh potting mix or you may end up with weak or forked radish. As with sowing radish in the ground, try to use old potting mixture. It would be ideal to recycle potting mixture from, for example, summer crops such as capsicums, chillies and eggplants grown in pots.
Sown at the right time, radish should be ready in as little as 4-6 weeks.
I wanted to write a post about what tools and equipment we have in our garden shed so newcomers to gardening could get an idea of what they need in order to carry out basic, everyday tasks in the garden.
Not all of these items are absolutely essential. Use your discretion when considering what you need. Remember that what you require will depend on what type of garden you have. On the same token, there are many other tools and pieces of equipment which may be useful to you which we don’t have.
We tend to have duplicates of tools such as spades, forks, trowels and so on as we host wwoofers (travellers with working holiday visas who stay with us in exchange for some assistance around the garden). As there is sometimes more than one person needing a tool, this is helpful for people to be able to work on the same or different projects simultaneously.
Secateurs are helpful for pruning fruit trees and roses. They can be used to trim other plants.
Loppers are useful for pruning old, dead canes on roses and trimming hedges.
A spade is a basic gardening tool which can be used for digging over garden beds, digging out weeds as well as digging large holes for planting fruit trees, roses and other plants.
A fork is helpful for digging potatoes when they are ready to be harvested. It also comes in handy when weeding and digging over new garden beds where there are clumps of soil that need to be broken up.
Useful for collecting fallen leaves and levelling soil prior to planting.
Trowels are most useful for digging out weeds and digging holes for to plant new seedlings.
The perfect accompaniment to a trowel, a mini fork is helpful when weeding.
These are useful for resting your knees on when weeding, sowing seeds and planting seedlings. We use old kick boards for swimming for this purpose.
We have a lawnmower but don’t use it, as a man called Henry mows our lawn. A lawnmower is indispensable not only for every gardener, but also every house in New Zealand
Useful for tidying up edges after lawn mowing, so the pavement looks neat and tidy.
These are expensive. We don’t have one but our lawn mowing man does. His rotary hoe made it easy to create new garden beds.
Plastic ties are useful in securing plants to stakes and trellis. They can also be used to tie two pieces of trellis together when one piece on its own isn’t long enough.
String is handy for tying plants to stakes for support.
Scissors are useful for a variety of tasks, including opening packets or bags of fertiliser, compost and potting mix, cutting plastic tie and string, cutting flowers to put into a vase and deadheading flowers after they have bloomed.
Black rubbish bags
Black rubbish bags are a useful way of collecting garden waste, which can then be deposited straight into a garden waste wheelie bin. They can also be used to collect additional garden waste to be taken to the refuse station. Black rubbish bags can also be used to store items in the gardening shed.
Nails are useful for securing trellis to the fence for climbing crops such as beans and peas.
Staples are useful for securing trellis to the fence for climbing crops such as beans and peas
You’ll need a hammer to knock in nails for tasks such as securing trellis to the fence for climbing crops such as beans and peas
An axe is useful for breaking up gardening waste. After summer, we were left with a lot of tall sunflower stumps. The axe was helpful in breaking up the stalks into smaller pieces so we could dispose of them and the stumps in our garden waste bins.
A saw is useful for pruning thick rose canes and branches of larger plants such as camellias.
Old stockings make excellent, strong ties for securing plants to stakes.
Plastic stakes are the perfect way to provide plant support for crops such as tomatoes.
Thicker, wooden stakes are perfect in providing plant support for larger plants such as fruit trees and roses
Plastic punnets are useful for sowing seeds in to germinate
Once plants have outgrown plastic punnets, plastic pots are useful for potting up seedlings
Small plastic medicine glass
These are helpful for measuring liquid fertiliser to be diluted in water prior to application
In my previous post, I mentioned that our wwoofers Ivan and Bérangère sowed some “Easy Peasy” peas from Egmont Seeds against the back trellis near our washing line. I thought that it would be a good idea to write a growing guide for peas. They are incredibly easy to grow. It’s not too late (or early, depending on how you look at it) to sow some now, as we have done.
When to sow
Traditionally, peas are sown in spring but you can get a head start by sowing them in autumn. They grow slowly over winter but mid-spring, you can be harvesting your own fresh peas from the garden once the bees pollinate the flowers. It’s nice to have something ready in the garden at a time when there aren’t many crops to harvest. I’ve found that peas sown in autumn actually grow better than ones sown in spring, which inevitably end up succumbing to humidity as temperatures increase.
If you sow your peas now, your trellises will be vacant by November, when it’s warmer and you’ll be wanting to sow beans.
Where to plant peas
Peas prefer a sunny position in the garden. Like beans, peas need some support. They climb and weave their way up as they grow. . It’s ideal if you use a trellis and/or a fence. We use plastic green trellis which you can easily find at Bunnings and Mitre 10. The trellis is fixed to our back fence, where our washing line is located.
There are lots of varieties of peas on the market. This year, I’m excited to be growing Easy Peasy from Egmont Seeds. In the past, I have also grown Alderman Tall Climbing peas, which I became aware of when my gardening friend Rob Hammington gave me some seeds from his Koanga seed collection. They are also available from Egmont Seeds. Other varieties you might like to try include Feathers Tendrill, Greenfeast, Mammoth Melting, Onward and Sugar Snap Tall, all from Egmont Seeds. Dwarf varieties include Dwarf Massy and Dwarf Sugar Snap from Egmont Seeds. For stir fries, you might like to grow snow peas (or mange tout). Egmont Seeds has a variety of snow pea called Oregon.
How to sow peas
As peas have a hard coat, it’s a good idea to soak seeds overnight before you sow them. This aids their germination.
Prior to planting, make sure that you prepare the ground well. Dig the site over. I like to mix compost, sheep pellets and some general garden fertiliser into the area beforehand. Use a stick to make holes approximately 3 cm apart and place each pea seed in the hole. Cover as you plant the seeds. Afterwards, water well. Protect against snails and slugs using pellets or an alternative means if you are gardening organically.
You should find that your peas germinate in approximately 14 days. As mentioned above, if sown in autumn, you should be harvesting peas by spring. If sown in spring, you can expect to harvest peas in approximately 12 weeks.
Considering that at one point, it looked very unlikely that I would have a winter garden at all, it is incredible that I am posting about even further developments. Once the wwoofers and I had cleared up all of the mess leftover from summer (we still have a bit more to go), there was no stopping me from planting all my favourite winter veggies!
The willow tree garden
We have another garden bed on the border with our neighbour on Isola Street. This garden bed is overshadowed by an enormous willow tree on the neighbour’s property. The tree’s roots run underneath this garden bed, probably depleting a lot of the soil’s nutrients from the plants put into this garden. For these reasons, this part of the garden has therefore been a bit problematic. As an enthusiastic gardener, I want to try and make use of this space but am a bit restricted in terms of what I can grow due to the fact that the area receives only partial sun. There are some plants that do well in part sun, part shade, such as leafy green crops. I have grown celery, leeks and kale in this area successfully in previous years.
This year, I have decided to try my luck growing broccoli, cauliflower, red cabbage and green cabbage in this space, as well as some kale, celery, leeks and spring onions. I’m reasonably confident that the latter will do well, but unsure of how the others will perform. Gardening is all about experimenting and having a bit of fun once you’ve mastered the fundamentals such as how to grow and care for different veggies. I will report back later in this season with an update as to how these plants are faring.
I planted kale, broccoli, cauliflower, red cabbage, green cabbage and celery in this area today. Tomorrow, I’ll ask the two woofers staying with us at the moment, a young French couple called Ivan and Bérangère, to help with planting the leeks and spring onion seedlings (which I raised from seed).
Organising my seed collection
A big part of preparing for the summer garden was sorting out my seed collection. Normally, by mid-summer, my seed collection is an absolute mess. There are partially filled packets of seeds EVERYWHERE in the house! I started by collating all of my seeds and entering them into a catalogue I made from an Excel spreadsheet. I then filed each packet of seed in my organiser. My seed organiser in fact consists of three files that contain “envelopes” inside. Each envelope has a label, for example, “broccoli”, “cauliflower” and so on. I filed all of the packets in the relevant envelope. There are many ways that you can store seeds, but I find that this works for me. I wish I could say I thought of it myself, but a lady in the New Zealand Vege Gardeners group on Facebook told me that this is the way she stores her seeds, so I thought I’d give it a try. It’s also important to keep them in a cool, dry place. I normally keep them in our living room.
Preparing the summer garden!
While I may have been behind with the winter garden, I’m extra early in preparing for the summer garden. As I have said about, a lot of fun associated with gardening for me comes from experimenting. It’s a bit of trial and error to discover what grows best where and also what to sow when. Every year, I start sowing my summer veggies such as capsicums, eggplants, tomatoes and chillies towards the end of August. They germinate and grow successfully, but by Labour Weekend when I go to plant them, they are tiny compared with the size of seedlings in garden centres. I almost always invariably end up buying a few bigger plants in order to have a head start on the season.
This year, I’m determined to get a head start on my summer garden – with my own plants. I decided to conduct a little growing trial and start sowing some seeds every month from April onwards, in order to work out when is the best time to sow seeds for the summer garden. This morning, I sowed a range of capsicums, chillies, eggplants and tomatoes in propagators which I placed on my two heat pads. Once these seedlings grow big enough, I’ll take them off and nurture them in the propagators for awhile (not on the heat pads). Once they’re big enough, I’ll then finally put them inside my Sistema plastic crates which function as a mini hot house to keep the plants insulated during the winter period. Instead of cramming lots of crates inside the house as I did last year, I’ll be keeping crates inside our spa pool room. We don’t use the spa pool anymore. Now that the roof has been fixed and nailed down properly, this room will act as a nice greenhouse for raising my seedlings for spring and summer.
Yesterday afternoon, Ivan and Bérangère helped me by clearing all the weeds that had been growing around our “Unique” Feijoa tree. They also weeded around our lemon tree and removed weeds from the pots of the fruit trees in our mini orchard.
While they were doing those tasks, I planted some tamarillo seedlings I raised from seed in several areas of the garden. Last year, I had purchased four tamarillo plants which I had gotten on special from Bunnings and planted them in pots in our mini orchard. All of them died. I decided to give tamarillos another go, this time raising them from seed. They’re frost tender, so it’s hard to get them through the winter. To help the process, mum helpfully cut the bottom off some 2 litre plastic milk bottles to function as a cloche over the plant during the winter period. I will report back if my plants manage to survive the winter.
Today, Ivan spent some time removing three dead passionfruit plants at the back of our house and fixing the trellis which had fallen from the fence. Tomorrow, we will plant some passionfruit that I raised from seed last spring. The plants are very healthy and are waiting in my nursery, ready to be planted!
Tomorrow, I’ll get Ivan and Bérangère to sow some “Easy Peasy” peas from Egmont Seeds against the back trellis which Ivan fixed for me today. Traditionally, peas sown in spring but you can get a head start by sowing them in autumn. They grow slowly over winter but mid-spring, you can be harvesting your own fresh peas from the garden! I’ve found that peas sown in autumn actually grow better than ones sown in spring, which inevitably end up succumbing to humidity as temperatures increase, leaving them susceptible to powdery mildew, which isn’t very nice. It also helps with germination if you soak pea seeds overnight as they have a hard coat, so I've popped them into a bowl with some water before going to bed tonight.
Earlier, I posted about what I had planted in our winter garden (you can read these posts here and here). Over the past week, I have planted more vegetables in two other garden beds which our current wwoofers prepared for this purpose after clearing the area of weeds.
I planted the following seedlings:
o Cauliflower (white, green and orange)
o Red cabbage
o Green Cabbage
o Romanesco broccoli
o Perpetual spinach
I also planted a row of six Elephant garlic cloves alongside one of the garden beds containing broccoli. You can read my blog post about growing garlic here. I will wait until my roses arrive from the supplier before planting my Printanor garlic. I’m going to grow this around my roses due to space constraints, and also to keep the bugs away. I have done this successfully in the past.
I have also given most of the seedlings a feeding with some blood and bone liquid fertiliser I had in the garage, to give them a strong start to life. I strongly recommend liquid feeding your plants from time to time. You will get amazing results!
When our next wwoofers arrive on Monday, I am going to get them to help me sow some carrots in buckets. We have grown carrots successfully in this way in the past. Growing them in buckets saves space and the temperature is also warmer than the ground.
I’ll also ask our next wwoofers to help me sow some peony poppy seeds infront of one of our rose gardens, along the pathway leading to the front door. Come spring, the area will hopefully be filled with colour and look pretty.
The next major step in the winter garden will be to plant all my roses into the garden when they arrive from the suppliers in June. I have already worked out a plan for where they will go. I am very excited to extend our existing rose garden and add more David Austin roses to our collection.
A couple of days ago, I went to Newton Seed, a company where I source seed potatoes from for planting in the garden every spring. While I was there, I noticed that they also had seed garlic in stock. Mum begged me to buy some and plant it for her, as she loves to use garlic in cooking. It had been a couple of seasons since I have planted garlic and quite a few years since I have grown it successfully. I’m not sure if I’ll be able to return to my glory days (see picture above of our crop hanging out to dry on our washing line) but a small crop for cooking and some to save bulbs for planting the next season would be nice.
If it’s any consolation, I don’t think I’m alone. For the past few seasons, garlic growers seem to have had trouble with their crops. Poor seed garlic has resulted in poor garlic harvests. It is a vicious cycle and I’m not sure how the market will recover, as garlic for planting necessarily depends on harvested garlic. I should have been more careful to have saved garlic from my successful crop. I normally do this, but somewhere along the line I must have slipped up because I lost my own line of seed garlic and now have to rely on fairly poor quality cloves in order to get started again. For the past two seasons, this has deterred me from growing garlic. However this season I’m determined to start all over again and make the best of a bad situation.
There are many different types of garlic that are available for planting. Note that if you plant garlic found at the supermarket and greengrocers which has been imported from China, it will fail to form a bulb as the garlic has been sprayed. If you can find organic or spray-free garlic at the supermarket, this should grow in the garden.
This year, I’m going to grow Printanor (the standard white garlic which you find at the supermarket) and Elephant garlic. As the name suggests, the latter is much bigger than standard garlic. Did you know that Elephant garlic is not actually a type of garlic at all, but rather belongs to the leek family? If you’re after something a little more unusual, have a look at the varieties that Country Trading Co have on offer this season. In addition to Printanor and Elephant garlic, Country Trading also have Southern Softneck garlic, Kakanui garlic, Aoja Roja garlic and Russian Red garlic. Another place where you can source seed garlic from is Setha’s Seeds.
It’s a good idea to order seed garlic now, especially if you’re after the unusual varieties, which tend to sell out quickly. Traditionally, garlic is planted on the shortest day, which is on 21 June. But garlic can be planted any time from now until then. In the past, I have noticed that garlic planted before the shortest day does tend to yield larger balls of garlic. On the other hand, you don’t want to plant garlic too early as the ground needs to be sufficiently cool in order for it to emerge, like all bulbs.
As a bulb, garlic needs to be planted in full sun in order to grow well. The soil also needs to have good drainage. Garlic is a gross feeder so make sure you take the time (and expense!) of preparing the ground well prior to planting. Mix plenty of compost, sheep pellets and garden fertiliser (I like using some bulb food as well) into the ground. This year, I’ve decided that I won’t have a dedicated garlic bed due to space constraints but will instead plant garlic around the new roses I’m putting in this season. Garlic is a good companion plant for roses, as it keeps aphids away. I have grown garlic around my roses in the past with good results. If you are dedicating a separate bed for your garlic, rake the area so it is nice and level.
Separate the cloves from each ball of seed garlic you want to plant. Don’t peel the cloves! Don’t plant your garlic too deep – you need to dig a hole about two times as deep as the clove. Plant the cloves pointy side up and leave about eight centimetres between each clove, maybe a little more for Elephant garlic which will be larger than standard garlic. Water well after planting.
After about 3-4 weeks, you will see garlic appear. Weeds will compete with the garlic for nutrients, so weed the area regularly. It’s a good idea to apply mulch around your garlic to help keep weeds down and to add nutrients to the area. I like using pea straw. It adds nitrogen to the ground and helps to conserve moisture while guarding against weeds.
From August until October, it’s a good idea to liquid feed garlic at fortnightly intervals in order to achieve nice fat balls of garlic. I like using Seasol for this purpose. Seasol is a seaweed tonic which is organic. You can use any under liquid fertiliser though.
Garlic is traditionally harvested on the longest day, which is 21 December. I sometimes wait a week or two before I harvest the garlic. Once you’ve harvested your garlic, remove dirt (wash if necessary but be careful as this reduces the storage life) and leave out to dry. Store in a cool, dry place. I like placing balls of garlic in netted bags and leaving them to hang up inside our pantry. I find that this helps the garlic to keep well.
You know how on some days, you achieve almost nothing, but occasionally, you have a day where you get so much done that you can’t believe it? Well, today, I had one of those golden days. I just wish that they occurred more often.
The day started with a trip to the garden centre at Bunnings to purchase more seedlings for our winter garden. In an earlier blog post, you may recall that I belatedly set up a winter garden. As I had been sick in February and March, I was a bit late in planting a winter garden and annoyingly, I wasn’t able to raise seedlings myself, meaning that I have had to purchase plants from the garden centre which I try to avoid wherever possible. I find raising seedlings myself incredibly gratifying. Furthermore, sowing from seed means that you’re able to grow all different sorts of varieties of vegetables that you wouldn’t find in garden centres. However, I accepted the situation and have thrown myself into this mini project. Felia, our previous wwoofer, planted an assortment of winter veggies – parsley, spinach, silverbeet, pak choi and kale – into the patch that she had helped prepare for this purpose. Today, I purchased more pak choi, bok choy and kale to go into the garden.
I also scored an absolute bargain at the garden centre. Remember my earlier post about how much I enjoy economising in the garden? Bunnings Manukau had packs of six green stakes of various sizes for just $1. I have seen individual stakes like this sold for about $3 each in the past. I do have lots of these for use around the garden, however most of mine are broken from the wear and tear of being outside year after year in all kinds of weather. Needless to say, I bought the lot. I also popped into Mitre 10 to pick up three different types of lettuce as I wasn’t happy with the quality of the lettuce at Bunnings. In winter, we enjoy leafy salads (we omit tomatoes as they’re too expensive and hot house grown ones from the supermarket are tasteless). We also use lettuce in our green smoothies, the recipe for which I have posted here.
Before returning home, we stopped by the supermarket to pick up some things we needed for dinner. We were expecting our new wwoofers to arrive today and we needed some ingredients for dinner. Tonight, we’re having hamburgers so we needed some lettuce and bread rolls.
When I got home, I had a quick snack and then went to Hayman Park for a walk. The day hadn’t gone quite as planned. I was expecting to go straight from Bunnings to the gym (you can read about my latest gym here) but the process of purchasing plants and buying tonnes of garden stakes had taken more time than expected. As the weather was absolutely beautiful, after days of nothing but rain, I thought I would take advantage and exercise outdoors instead of going to the gym. The park was gorgeous. As some of you may recall, I have diabetes, so it’s important for me to try and fit some exercise into my day. An hours walk in the park is the perfect way for me to keep my blood sugar under control. Some of you may have read my recent post about how I fell off the fitness wagon while I was sick during February and March. Since then, I have been working hard to put the past behind me and get myself back on track.
Around midday, soon after I had finished eating lunch, our two wwoofers Pia and Kilian arrived. I have written a post about wwoofing last year. In a nutshell, we host travellers with working holiday visas who help us around the garden in exchange for lodging and meals. Both mum and I really appreciate the assistance around the garden and it gives mainly young school leavers (mostly from Germany on their gap year) a place to stay while they travel around New Zealand.
By 1 pm, we were all outside. I instructed the wwoofers on their task, which was to cut up the stalks of our giant sunflowers and fit as much waste as they could into our two enormous garden waste bins. While they were doing this, I managed to plant all of the additional plants to go into the winter garden and gave them a bit of water. By April, the weather cools considerably and with the amount of rain we had been getting, it isn’t necessary to water the garden. However, since these were new plants, I gave them a little to help them settle into their new location.
I also sprayed my roses with Super Shield, taking advantage of the day being sunny (although that would later change and we did have a slight drizzle, which turned to rain. Nevermind, these things happen, hopefully the spray had dried by then, although it is ideal if it doesn’t rain for the next 24 hours). While I endeavour to be as organic as I can be with edibles, I do spray my roses. Auckland is dreadfully humid and roses are very susceptible to black spot. By adopting a regular spraying regime, it is possible to minimise this terrible looking disease and have lush, green healthy foliage on your roses for most of the year.
I also fed some of my dwarf fruit trees (you can read about my mini orchard here) with slow release citrus food and gave some of my vireyas some slow release food specifically for azaleas, rhododendrons and other acid loving plants). Remember that potted plants should get slow release fertiliser in pottles (pottles for pots, as the assistant manager of one of my local garden centres reminds me) while granular fertiliser is fine for fruit trees in the ground. If you try to give potted plants granular bagged fertiliser, you may find that it takes a very long time to disintegrate.
In the later afternoon, I spent some time writing blog posts for my website. I also had a look on Awapuni’s website (www.awapuni.co.nz) for further plants to purchase to put into the garden. As you may recall, I am a brand ambassador for Awapuni. You can read more about my ethos regarding being a brand ambassador here. One of the best things about Awapuni is that they deliver direct to your door. Plants are also a large and healthy size, making it easy to plant at this time of the year, when the weather is considerably cooler and it takes a longer time for plants to develop.
I also spent some time looking through my seed collection to find carrot seeds to sow in pots in the garden, as well as some poppies which will go into the area along the pathway to the front door, infront of our row of seven roses, which was the first rose garden we established.
In the evening, we’ll spend some time getting to know our wwoofers over dinner around the table together. Then, it’s off to bed before 8 pm to get some much needed sleep before it starts again the next day!
I’m a little late in preparing the winter garden this year as I was ill in February and March, which are the the critical months for getting autumn and winter seedlings started and for starting to put in plants so they have a strong start while the weather is still warm. Nevertheless, I have decided to make the best of a bad situation and plant a small vegetable garden this winter with the help of the wwoofers who have been staying with us and helping out around the garden.
The first and a mammoth task was to clear the remnants of the summer garden and all of the weeds that had grown over the past six months. Then I had some planning to do. I had to work out where I wanted to plant the new roses I had ordered which will be arriving in the winter. I also worked out where I wanted to plant next summer’s strawberry patch and put in the plants for the next season. I was left with a square at the end of the strawberry patch and row of roses in one garden bed and an entire garden bed outside our lounge and dining room window. I decided that this would be where I would plant a late winter garden for this season.
To prepare the ground, we worked in plenty of compost, sheep pellets and general garden fertiliser. We then raked the soil so it was nice and level. Once the ground was prepared, I then turned my mind to what I wanted to plant in the area.
What kinds of things can you plant in a winter garden in the Auckland region? Once I started thinking about it, I realised that there was actually quite a broad range of veggies and herbs that I could plant in the garden.
o Red cabbage
o Green cabbage
o Wombok (Chinese cabbage)
o Bok Choi
o Pak Choi
o Cauliflower (white, purple and orange)
o Romanesco broccoli (cross between a cauliflower and a broccoli)
o Onions (red, white and brown)
o Spring onions
What have I planted in my winter garden? From the selection above, I decided on the following bare essentials to get us through winter:
o Pak Choi
There is still a bit more space left, so I will post an update if I decide to utilise this space.
One of the most common complaints I have heard about gardening (aside from the hard work that it entails) is how expensive it can be. I can’t deny that purchasing plants, fertilisers, potting mixes, compost and gardening tools can leave a significant dent in your wallet. However, there are ways that you can economise in the garden. In this blog post, I’ll outline some ways that I have managed to reduce the amount of money spent on our garden without it suffering. In fact, the garden has even benefitted from these measures as it has forced us to become quite creative with our gardening methods and techniques.
Making your own compost
By recycling your own waste, you can make compost that can be used to grow edibles and ornamentals in the future in your garden. The three traditional forms of composting are Bokashi, worm farms and composting bins. Click here to read part I, part II and part III to my guide on composting.
Propagate plants from seed
You can save so much money by propagating seedlings from seed rather than purchasing plants from the garden centre. It’s easy to raise most flower and vegetable seedlings from seed and it means you’ll be able to grow different varieties that aren’t available at garden centres.
All you need is some seed raising mix, plastic punnets, potting mix to pot up your seedlings as they grow, a watering can and some seeds. If you are germinating seeds in winter or spring, it might help if you use a heat pad to keep temperatures nice and warm overnight. Note that some seeds, especially root crops like carrots and parsnips, need to be sown directly where they are to be grown. In other words, don’t sow these ones in punnets for transplanting later or you will end up with forked veggies.
Save seeds from your flowers and veggies
Enjoy propagating plants from seed and want to save even more money? Why bother buying seeds when you can save seeds from your own plants and store them for sowing in future seasons. I have written a bit about seed saving in my blog, which you can read here.
Swap seeds with other gardeners
Save money on purchasing seeds by swapping excess seeds from packets or seeds collected from your own garden with other gardeners. Some gardening communities even have a little seed box which is passed from person to person, where they take and contribute what they want to the collection. Try to join one of these projects. They’re fun. It’s a great way to try new things and share what you have in your existing collection with other gardeners.
Propagating plants by cuttings
You’ll save an arm and a leg by propagating plants from cuttings. It’s really easy and doesn’t take much time. I have done a comprehensive blog post on this subject which you can read by clicking here.
You can propagate plants from your own garden or ask for or swap cuttings with neighbours or gardening friends. This is an economical way to start a garden, especially if you have just moved house.
You can also propagate more strawberry plants by ensuring that your runners form roots of their own. The runners will be attached to the parent plant so snip them off and voila, you have a new strawberry plant or plants for free. To read more about this, please click here.
Install a small water tank in your garden
It’s possible to save on the amount of water you use around the garden. One effective way of doing this is to collect water in a tank. This might be worth looking into, especially if your water bill is high, like ours. The tank need not be big. It’s possible to find some tall, slim ones which are ideal for collecting water for use around the garden.
Most garden centres will have a section with plants that have been reduced. Every time you go to the garden centre, it pays to have a look as you may be able to pick up an absolute bargain. Just be careful not to buy anything that looks like it cannot easily be revived. Obviously, some things in this section may not be marked down by much so it pays to do some quick calculations if it’s worth it to pay the full price and obtain a plant in perfect condition. One example of a bargain I picked up from the clearance section of a garden centre recently was a grafted standard lavender “Major” that had been marked down from $75 to just $15. This was the perfect purchase, as my existing standard lavender “Princess” had recently died and I had been looking for a replacement for some time, but was put off by the high cost of these plants. It was reduced as it had finished flowering for the season but was still well and truly alive. I am confident that it will reflower again in spring which will be perfect in timing, as my fruit trees will be in blossom. The bees that are attracted to the lavender flowers will hopefully pollinate the blossoms on the fruit trees.
Over the past two days, I have been busy preparing our strawberry bed for next season. We currently have a wwoofer staying with us, a young girl called Felia from Germany, so she has been helping me with this task. Commercial growers apparently plant their crop in May so I’m a month early, but I figured this probably wouldn’t do any harm. Remember, the earlier that you plant strawberries, the earlier they will fruit and you will get more fruit overall. In saying that, I have planted strawberries as late as September and they will crop. It’s just that you will probably receive fruit later and less overall than had you planted them earlier in the year.
I started by taking off the hoops and bird netting from last year’s patch. I then dug each plant up, disregarding most of the parent plants, which are two years old. You’ll know which ones the parent plants are as they’ll be huge. They will have lots of leaves and most of them will be dead. Overall, they will have the appearance of being tired looking. Strawberries are meant to lose their vigour by their third year, so I concentrated mostly on saving the new runners which the parent plants produced at the end of the season. I didn’t even have to peg the runners into the dirt so they established roots. It seems that nature did most of the work for me! Many of these new runners were still attached to the parent plant, so I had to snip them off. I couldn’t believe it but in the end, I had three enormous buckets of strawberry plants, just containing runners and one year old plants (the runners produced by the two year old plants which I disregarded one season ago). These originally came from 12 strawberry plants I purchased from Kings Plant Barn two years ago. This is great value considering that I no longer have to purchase strawberry plants. I simply replant the runners and the one year old plants which were the runners from the previous season.
I decided to use the area where I planted potatoes and then melons last year to plant strawberries for next summer. It’s a good idea to rotate crops in order to discourage diseases in the soil. It’s too early to cover the strawberries with netting as there’s no fruit on the plants, but we placed hoops along the rows to guide us as to where to plant the strawberries, so they remained in nice rows and it makes it easy to cover them when the time comes. In terms of soil preparation, we used 4 bags of compost, sheep pellets and some general garden fertiliser. I was going to use a tomato fertiliser, which is higher in potassium and aids fruiting, however it will be some time before flowering occurs. I therefore decided to use an all purpose fertiliser to help the plants establish strong roots and then I’ll sprinkle some tomato fertiliser around the plants in early spring to promote flowering. From around October onwards, I use a soluble fertiliser (Yates Thrive Strawberry Food) which I dilute with water. This promotes further flowering and fruiting.
Because I have so many plants, I have spaced them a little closer than I ordinarily would as I need to keep half of the space in that garden bed aside for the new roses which I am putting in during the winter. I hope that this doesn’t affect their productivity. Finally, I have been mulching the plants with pea straw to conserve moisture, keep weeds down and add nutrients to the soil. I have discussed the benefits of mulching previously in blog posts and my gardening newsletters. I like pea straw as it is an effective form of mulch which I have been using around my strawberries for the past five years. It also makes the patch look very neat and tidy.
Once fruit starts forming in October, I’ll cover the rows with netting to protect the fruit from being eaten by birds. Aside from this, the key to success is to water, water, water. Berries are composed largely of water so they need lots of it when they develop and the weather starts to warm up.
I will post again in summer with an update on progress with our strawberry patch. While I have been a little early in getting mine prepared this year, hopefully this post will encourage you to start thinking about putting some strawberries in over the coming months.