Can you believe it’s already October? The clocks have gone forward and Labour Weekend will be here before we know it! Refreshed from having the day off yesterday, I had a busy day in the garden today. In the morning, I planted some cut-and-come-again lettuce seedlings that I raised from seed into round containers (see photo). You may recall seeing these in an earlier blog post (they were in a tray). In the afternoon, I spent a few hours repotting capsicums, chillies and tomatoes into larger punnets.
I had to laugh when I read Carol and Collette’s comments on my last post about the large number of silverbeet and spinach seedlings in my photo. That is only some of them! For us, silverbeet and spinach are staples in the garden. We use it as an edible border around the garden to demarcate the different beds. I like starting seedlings in spring so they grow over summer and are established before the winter sets in. I find seedlings planted in autumn don’t usually grow very big. We just pick what we need rather than harvesting the whole bunch, a bit like our cut-and-come-again lettuce.
So why am I growing everything on such a large scale? At the moment, our goal is to be as self-sufficient as possible. I’m very interested in the concept of urban homesteading. We do get through lots of veggies between us. It’s great for our health, especially as we both have diabetes plus we host wwoofers from time to time and they enjoy eating out of our garden, too. This does beg some questions. How much can you grow in your garden? How much should you grow in your garden?
As I have discovered, you don’t have to leave as much space between veggies as recommended on plant labels. Sure, things like tomatoes and zucchini need a wider berth, but our greens for example (lettuce, kale, silverbeet and spinach) are planted in clusters of a couple of seedlings and they do quite well planted this way. As you can see from the photo, the lettuce I planted into containers today is also spaced quite closely. We like harvesting the leaves at a young stage. But if you wanted to, you could plant these further apart either in containers or in the ground and each lettuce will grow much bigger. It’s up to you.
Now for the question of how much you should grow. Here are some things you may wish to consider:
· What you and your family actually like to eat
· How much space you have
· How much you and your family can realistically eat without being wasteful
· What your gardening goals are eg recreation, homesteading/self-sufficiency
· How much money you want to spend on seeds, plants, fertilisers etc
· How much time you want to spend raising seedlings, caring for plants and harvesting your crop (it took an hour to harvest kale grown from just a couple of punnets yesterday!)
· Balance between edibles and ornamentals
· Leaving space for swan plants and bee attracting flowers which are important to conservation
When sowing seeds, remember that not all will germinate and you may lose some plants along the way to snails and slugs. Seeds are often quite small and it’s hard to predict how much you will end up with. It’s also very easy to get carried away as I often do! Don’t forget that you need not sow all your seeds at once. Sowing successively staggers your harvests.
If you are sowing in larger quantities, it might be worth looking into buying “bulk” (ie bigger) packets as it’s more cost effective than buying lots of smaller packets. Egmont Seeds and Kings Seeds both have wholesale catalogues; I’m not sure about Yates.
As Carol mentioned in her comment on my previous post, you can share excess seedlings if you’ve gone overboard. I normally share mine with neighbours, friends and family.
Today was unusual because I didn’t do much in the garden. With the clocks going forward last night, I woke up uncharacteristically late at 7.30 am (I’m normally up at 4.45am). After having breakfast, I went for a walk in Howick. The sun was out and it was just lovely. After lunch, one of my best friends visited me. She lives out in Waiuku as she teaches at the local secondary school and I only get to see her once a year, twice if we’re lucky. It was really nice catching up. Afterwards, I took her for a walk around the garden. I was incredibly happy to see that my spinach and silverbeet seedlings are doing well (see picture). I am also really happy with the progress of some Margaret Merrill roses that I grew from cuttings last summer. In order to boost their strike rate, I dipped the stems in Yates Clonex Purple Rooting Hormone Gel. They aren’t in flower just yet but have lots of lush, healthy foliage and have been re-potted into larger pots. I gave my friend some dutch irises from the garden and picked some late flowering daffodils for our vase in the kitchen.
If you feel like the gardening is taking over your life (which is quite normal at this time of the year), take some time out to catch up with people close to you who you haven’t seen for awhile, or do something else, whether it be exercise, listening to music or seeing a movie. Sometimes, I suffer from gardening burn out in spring (especially when I was selling plants last year), but over the years I’ve come to appreciate the importance of having balance! It’s perfectly okay to have a day off every now and then. Go on, you deserve it! After my friend left, I spent an hour harvesting some kale which looks like it’s about to go to seed, as well as lettuce. Our kale leaves are enormous, making them perfect for kale chips which we have been having with our dinner over the past week.
We have wwoofers arriving on Tuesday, so I drew up a task list of things I hope to get done over the next fortnight with them. We really appreciate having the extra assistance at this time of the year, as there is so much to do. I’ve been on my own over the past three weeks, so I’ve had to prioritise potting seedlings and put some less important tasks like weeding on the backburner.
I also spent some time unpacking some bags of seed potatoes and storing them in the crisper compartment of our two fridges. In my post on Friday, you may recall me mentioning that I’m going to try growing potatoes in autumn as we never have enough potatoes from summer to last over winter and in any event, they don’t store very well. Like growing potatoes in winter, which I did for the first time this year, it’s a new gardening challenge for me. Bunnings had seed potatoes on clearance for half price, so I picked up quite a few bags (6kg of Liseta, 3 kg of Jersey Benne and 6 kg of Rocket). Mum always jokes that I plant enough to feed the nation! I grabbed these while I could not only because they were on special, but also because it can be hard to find seed potatoes early in the year. They are usually only available from June onwards (Newton Seeds normally has them in April). They are sprouting but I won’t plant them until March. I wasn’t sure how best to store them so they don’t perish in the heat of summer, so I emailed Wally (the super knowledgeable gardener who I purchased liquid frost cloth spray from which I used on the tamarillos successfully). He responded and recommended that I store them in the fridge, as apparently that’s what Morton Smith-Dawe do. Wally also told me not to remove the sprouts as they won’t re-sprout later on, which is good to know. He said that the crop might be smaller when growing spuds in autumn due to the fact that the days will be shorter, but it is possible even where he lives in Palmerston North. Even so, I think it’s still something that’s well worth doing as the price of potatoes is astronomical during the winter and I’m getting tired of us having to buy them from the supermarket out of season.
Collette, in response to your question, Swift matures in 60 days.
What did everyone else get up to today?
This morning, we discovered that someone had stolen a plastic terracotta trough containing some red geraniums. Most of our garden is infront of the house and the section is unfenced. So far, we’ve been pretty lucky that no one has stolen anything or vandalised the garden. But there is always a first time for everything. This made both me and mum quite sad. The actual plants weren’t that expensive, nor the container (which was $50 from the Warehouse, bought on special for $25 but has depreciated over the years). It’s more the act of someone entering our property and taking something away without asking us. I’m always happy to give people cut flowers from the garden if they ask for them and we share our produce with family, friends and the neighbours. I’ve also given a lot of plants away, especially when I ran a little plant nursery last year because I had so many. I also gave up a lot of time to host numerous free workshops and tours of our place to help locals set up their own garden. Sometimes, no matter how much you do, it’s never quite enough. Still, no matter how bad things seem they could always be worse! There are much more expensive and unusual plants in the garden than the geraniums. At least they didn’t steal the pineapple which was given to me by someone else and is something you can’t buy in garden centres.
Today, I liquid fed my tamarillo plants (see picture) with Yates Thrive Citrus Liquid Fertiliser, as well as our lemon trees, passionfruit vines and feijoas. I also liquid fed the garlic and remaining potatoes with Yates Thrive Natural Fish and Seaweed fertiliser. We have wwoofers arriving on Tuesday, so I’ll get them to help with liquid feeding the rest of the garden as I don’t want to strain my injured neck.
From the picture, you’ll see that I staked the tamarillo plants after hearing about Sarah’s experience. I should have done this from the outset, but when I first planted the seedlings they were so tiny that I doubted they would survive. It has been quite windy over the past few days and I don’t want to risk them snapping! These plants were raised from seed last spring and are about the size of tamarillo plants you would find at the garden centre. As I mentioned in previous blog posts, I used liquid frost cloth spray once during winter to protect the plants as they are very frost sensitive. I’ve also worked out that they like being in a sheltered area. These plants are next to our banana and lemon trees, and near the house. The seedlings I planted in a more exposed area of the garden all died. Something to bear in mind is that tamarillos are susceptible to TPP, as they are in the same family as tomatoes and potatoes. So far, we haven’t had any issues with TPP but I wouldn’t want to be too smug! As a preventative measure, I am alternating between Yates Liquid Copper and Yates Copper Oxychloride spray every 10 days or so. Out of all my plants in the garden, I am probably proudest of the tamarillos as I grew them from seed and cared for them for the past year. They aren’t the easiest of fruits to grow so whatever happens from now on, I am happy that I have come this far. I’ve been through a lot to get here – four tamarillo plants from the garden centre to be exact! Every time, I lost them to frost over the winter. If this is a problem where you live, I highly recommend using the liquid frost cloth spray. The only thing is that apparently it doesn’t work that well in the case of severe frosts, so another measure like actual frost cloth might also be necessary.
I also sprayed our 28 standard roses and fruit trees with Yates Copper Oxychloride spray. As with the tamarillos, I alternate using this product with Yates Liquid Copper. I have been spraying them every 10 days or so. I highly recommend them both. They protect against fungal diseases (such as black spot for the roses, brown rot on the stonefruit and grease spots on the passionfruit), which are a problem during Auckland’s humid summers. Unfortunately there were some unexpected showers part way through (hate it when that happens!) so I finished spraying the roses and fruit trees after lunch when the weather was more settled.
Has anyone else had anything stolen from their garden?
Today, I started sowing cucumbers, a firm favourite in the summer garden. I sowed the varieties “Long Green” and “Continental” from Yates Seeds, which I have grown successfully in previous seasons. Both expired in August 2017, but if the germination rate of my “Queensland Blue” pumpkins from Yates which had the same expiry date is anything to go by, I’m sure these will do just fine. The only difference is that these packets were already opened. I’m still using my heat pad to germinate a lot of seeds, including the cucumbers, as the temperature drops at night. At the moment it’s around 8 degrees, I think the heat pad is consistently a nice warm 20 degrees. Heat pads are ideal for germinating heat-loving veggies such as peppers, tomatoes, eggplants, zucchini, pumpkins and cucumbers. If you don’t have a heat pad, don’t despair. Your hot water cupboard works perfectly. A lot of the time, seeds need warmth but not light to germinate. Just don’t leave them in there for too long after they’ve germinated or you might find your seedlings become spindly and discoloured due to the lack of light.
The process of raising cucumbers from seed is very similar to zucchini, pumpkins, squash and melons. I like to wait until the plants have developed at least three large, healthy leaves before planting them in the garden, usually after Labour Weekend. When I first started gardening, I grew cucumbers along the ground. A couple of years ago, I discovered that cucumbers love to climb! I started growing them up obelisks after reading some discussions in gardening groups on Facebook. I usually put three plants around each obelisk. This has the added advantage of keeping fruit off the ground, so they don’t rot. If you don’t have obelisks, you could use any kind of frame, including trellis, an archway or a fence. When it’s warm enough, cucumbers can be sown direct if you prefer.
Like other curcubits, cucumbers do best in full sun. I recommend liquid feeding them regularly. This summer, I’ll be using some of my Yates Thrive Tomato Liquid Plant Food on them (which is fine for other fruiting veggies). Keep picking cucumbers as they develop to encourage further fruiting.
It is also possible to grow cucumbers in containers. Last summer, I grew “Patio Snacker” from Egmont Seeds in a 35 L container with an obelisk. It did really well. You could also try growing the mini cucumber “Iznik” (also from Egmont Seeds) in a container, which I’m going to do this year.
I also harvested more Swift potatoes (see photo) and planted some Liseta seed potatoes in the same place. The potatoes I harvested were planted on the 1st of August. I took them out a couple of days shy of the recommended 60 days for Swift as I’m on a tight schedule with this space. Every day counts! I’ll leave the Lisetas in until the 6th of December, but will need to get them out of the ground quickly so I can plant my melon seedlings, otherwise they won’t have enough time to mature. I found some more Yates Dynamic fertiliser for root crops in the garage (I don’t think this product is available anymore), so I used a packet of this when planting the Lisetas, as well as some compost, Nitrophoska fertiliser and potato food. Sheep pellets are incredibly expensive at the moment, so I went without.
We still have other potatoes in the ground – Lisetas due on 9th October, Jersey Bennes due on 31st October, Agria due in mid-November and Heather due on 20th November. To help store potatoes better, I have been using Morton Smith-Dawe’s propham potato dust but it is too soon to comment on the effectiveness of this product. Next year, I’m growing to try growing quick maturing potatoes in autumn (planting in March) so we can keep these for consuming over the winter. We never have enough from our summer crops to last over winter, not to mention previous difficulties with preserving them. The idea is to lift them before the frosts in May. Has anyone else managed to grow potatoes in autumn successfully? Collette, if I recall correctly, one year didn’t you get some seed potatoes on special from Kwan in Kerikeri and plant them in February? How did they do?
The day didn’t look promising at first, with some rain in the morning. It didn’t really bother me, as I spent some time inside taking more pumpkin seeds off the heat pad, potting them up into individual pots and sowing some butternut pumpkins. We absolutely love butternuts and I’m growing several different kinds this summer: “Butternut” from the organic line of Yates Seeds, as well as “Honeynut”, “Big Chief Butternut” and “Butternut Chieftain F1” from Kings Seeds. Last summer, we didn’t have a good season for butternuts but had plenty of other pumpkin varieties to keep us going through the winter, including the wonderful “Blue Hubbard” from Egmont Seeds, which Collette introduced me to via the travelling seed box and “Musquee de Provence”, a lovely soup pumpkin from Kings Seeds.
In order to have a really good pumpkin harvest this season, I’m going to use some of my Yates Thrive Tomato Liquid Plant Food on my plants every week. While formulated for tomatoes, this fertiliser is suitable to use on other fruiting plants, including capsicum, chillies, eggplants, zucchini, cucumbers and melons. I think pumpkins can be one of those crops that people often tend to take for granted will grow well. Some years, we’ve had great harvests, other years were somewhat disappointing. Hopefully with a little pampering, my pumpkins will do even better than previous seasons. I’ve also learnt that pumpkins need full sun in order to thrive and are gross feeders, so be sure to mix in plenty of compost, sheep pellets and fertiliser at the time of planting.
In the late morning, I had to take a break from the garden and go to the physio. My neck has been playing up lately. It’s a common injury which resurfaces around once a year. It hurts to turn my neck and the top part of my back, just below the neck, gets incredibly tight. I had a terrible sleep last night and was in so much pain no matter which way I turned! I feel Carol’s pain and hope her back gets better soon. While I hate anything that takes me away from the garden, I have to factor physio sessions into my days going forwards. I certainly don’t want to end up not being able to do any gardening because of the injury, not the YMCA 10k summer series in the Auckland Domain, which starts next Thursday and which I really hope to participate in. Collette, you would really enjoy these runs and it’s a shame you don’t live here!
In the afternoon, I continued to pot up seedlings. I transplanted more lettuce seedlings from punnets into trays. In the picture, you can see some of the cut-and-come-again lettuce sown on the 3rd of August, which has grown a lot in the trays they’re in. I will plant them into containers soon. I probably won’t sow any more lettuce this season as we have more than enough seedlings and I find our lettuce starts going to seed in December when the weather warms up. Don’t forget that you can sow some varieties of lettuce direct, in fact it may even be better to do it this way. I find rocket and miners lettuce does very well sown direct, as well as lamb’s lettuce. The Yates rocket seeds which I sowed direct on the 1st of September germinated awhile ago and the seedlings look very healthy. It’s a good idea to liquid feed lettuce weekly to keep plants looking and tasting good. I have been using Yates Thrive Natural Fish and Seaweed liquid fertiliser on our lettuce and highly recommend this product.
I repotted my largest tomatoes (Sweet 100, purchased as seedlings from Kings Plant Barn) into even larger pots and secured them to their stakes with some more string as they have grown even taller in the past week. I also repotted some more chillies and capsicums into larger pots.
What did you get up to in the garden today?
So much for the weather being better than yesterday. In between showers and gusty gale force winds, I managed to continue repotting my capsicum and chilli seedlings for a couple of hours. I also took some pumpkin seedlings off the heat pad, potted them up and placed them in the greenhouse. I was extremely pleased with the germination rate of “Hybrid Grey Crown” from Yates Seeds. All four seeds I sowed germinated, despite the packet expiring in August 2017. According to my gardening diary, they were sowed on 19th September so they grew very rapidly. I also had a similarly successful germination rate with “Queensland Blue” from Yates seeds, which had the same expiry date. These plants are at a more advanced stage of growth and are doing well in the greenhouse. Don’t forget that it’s possible to sow pumpkin seeds direct when the weather is warmer. This reduces the risk of transplant shock. It also saves a lot of time potting and planting seedlings, not to mention money on potting mix and the use of plastic pots in the garden! I personally prefer to raise seedlings and transplant them later as I’m always changing my mind about the layout of the garden. A good idea is to sow pumpkins in peat pots or toilet rolls which are biodegradable and don’t disturb the roots of the plant.
I can’t believe how quickly my plants are growing in the greenhouse and how full it’s getting in there. A few days ago, I repotted some capsicums into larger pots and then started regretting it, thinking the new pots were too big. But when I looked at them in the greenhouse today, I could swear they have grown even more. This morning, I went to Bunnings to purchase more thin stakes for my tomato plants. I have been tying them with string as they grow. Some of my biggest ones might have to go into even larger pots. I simply can’t keep up with my plants! Thankfully, some new wwoofers will be arriving next Tuesday to stay for two weeks, so I’m really looking forward to having some much needed assistance around the garden.
Our microgreens “Mizuna” from Yates Seeds which I sowed on the 4th of September have matured and are ready to be harvested (see picture). We had some the other day in a potato salad with lots of fresh herbs from the garden and it was delicious! That same day, I sowed some fenugreek seeds which are also coming along nicely but are not quite ready yet. This is good, as it’s difficult to get through everything when it matures at once! Although there may of course be different and perfectly good ways of sowing microgreens, I highly recommend using a foil roasting tray as I have done. It works every time and is not made of plastic! Just remember to make some holes in the bottom for drainage. I love growing microgreens every spring as they mature really quickly and are so easy to grow. They are perfect for new gardeners and kids (not that children aren’t capable of growing difficult things, there are some incredibly talented young gardeners out there who outsmart us adults!).
Before I finished for the day, I had a quick walk around the garden. I love to take some time out to see how far I’ve come, not just this season but also over the years. In particular, I’m pleased with how healthy my two tamarillo plants look. I sowed them from seed last spring. You may recall me mentioning in a previous post that I used a liquid frost cloth spray to protect them from frost during winter. I’m so happy that it was effective. Not only are the plants alive, but they grew so much over the cooler months! Since the beginning of September, I have been feeding them every week with Yates Thrive Citrus Liquid Plant Food. I highly recommend this product, which I have also been using on our lemon tree, feijoas and flying dragon citrus. All of these trees look extremely healthy.
How did everyone else get on today? Hope the weather didn’t stop you from accomplishing what you wanted.
What an awful day! I’m not sure what it’s like in other parts of the country but here in Auckland it is incredibly blustery with scattered showers. I managed to repot a dozen tomato plants into larger pots before I called it a day. The on and off rain was becoming too annoying!
The capsicums and chillies I previously mentioned that I sowed back in April are doing really well! See picture. Over the past week, I have been gradually repotting the bigger ones from 10cm pots into larger pots. They are a mixture of Mama Mia Rosso, Mama Mia Gialla and Muscato from Kings Seeds, Palladio and Double Up from Egmont Seeds and Long Red Cayenne from Yates Seeds. For now, they’re staying in the greenhouse, especially given how cold it is today. It is getting a bit crowded in there though, so I’ll need to move some plants into the big bad world soon, even if it’s just putting some larger pots in our patio (not planting them in the garden just yet).
The radishes which I sowed in 35 litre buckets have germinated which is very exciting! I will update you later on regarding their progress.
The lettuce seeds which I sowed last month are now seedlings in trays. They are almost large enough to be planted out! Some will go in containers, the rest will go into the ground. Some of our miners lettuce has already started going to seed which I will remove and replace with my new seedlings. I’ve also noticed that some of our Italian parsley has started going to seed. With the changing temperatures causing plants to bolt to seed, it’s a good idea to harvest things like lettuce and kale which have been in the garden over winter, before it’s too late and they become bitter. I like to let a few plants go to seed as bees love the flowers. It’s amazing what bees are attracted to – you need not have expensive and extravagant flowers in the garden! I’ve even seen them sitting on weed-like flowers in the lawn, such as daisies and another white flower I’m not sure the name of. I also like letting some plants go to seed to promote self-seeding and sometimes so I can harvest some seeds from the plants later on. Sometimes I can’t always do this if I desperately need the space for other plants, which makes me feel a bit guilty.
Also, don’t forget to keep an eye on any winter crops remaining in the garden incase they’re ready to be harvested. I’ve been so busy in the nursery tending to all my seedlings that I nearly overlooked two enormous cauliflower which were ready! Over the past couple of days, we have been enjoying cauliflower mash, which is really yummy. We use a recipe by Eleanor Ozich (a favourite of ours) but there are lots of recipes on the internet if you’re interested. There are still some more cabbages in the garden that are heartening up, which will hopefully be ready in the next month. We like to make coleslaw with them, adding carrots fresh from the garden. We also have broccoli that are approximately half the way there. I like to space out planting cauliflower, broccoli and cabbages to ensure we have a continuous supply throughout autumn, winter and early spring. As a little experiment, I planted some cabbage seedlings in August. I’m curious as to whether they will form a head as I was always under the impression cabbages (and caulis for that matter) needed cold weather in order to head up. Interested in others’ thoughts and experiences.
Hopefully the weather will be better tomorrow! What did everyone else get up to today?
Set out below is my response to mini challenge 2 in the Yates spring veggie growing challenge, how to reduce the use of plastic in the garden.
When I saw the theme for mini challenge two, my heart sank. I have to be honest. I have a LOT of plastic in the garden – green trellis for growing peas and beans, hoops for the strawberries, stakes, milk bottles which I use as cloches, punnets, pots, seed raising trays, plastic containers, Sistema crates as mini greenhouses, propagators, bulb baskets for planting bulbs and spray bottles. Not to mention that all of my fertilisers and garden sprays come in plastic packets, containers and bottles! However, looking around, I have incorporated some alternatives to plastic in our garden over time. Things are never quite as bad as they seem! This challenge made me realise that I need to reduce the amount of plastic in the garden and has given me the impetus for change. Here are some of my ideas:
· Use wine barrels as outdoor containers instead of plastic pots. These are great for growing dwarf fruit trees. We have a “Blush Babe” apple tree in one, and a couple of Flying Dragon citrus in some others. Just be sure to drill holes at the bottom for drainage
· Use peat pots, toilet rolls and egg cartons for raising seedlings in instead of plastic punnets (see picture of my Hybrid Crown Pumpkin seeds from Yates, which are currently on my heat pad). I like using both the lid as well as the part for the eggs
· Use seed tape instead of sowing seeds in punnets where possible. This dispenses (excuse the pun) with the need to sow seeds in punnets and is biodegradable, making it better for the environment. It also saves time transplanting seedlings. I recommend the carrot seed tape “Baby” from Yates, which I sow every spring
· Instead of using plastic trellis for climbing crops such as peas and beans, use obelisks made of bamboo or metal. Wire mesh can also be used to create a secure frame. Another idea is to put up a wooden or metal arch, which provides a focal point in the garden
· Replace plastic stakes with wooden and bamboo stakes for plant support. I’ve found wooden stakes to be sturdier for roses and fruit trees. I place one on either side of the plant and secure them with old stocking as a tie
· Use ice block sticks for plant labels, which you can find at a $2 shop
· Old glass bottles (eg ginger beer) can make a quaint vase for flowers from the garden
· Use string for securing plants to stakes instead of plastic ties
· Use hanging baskets instead of plastic containers for growing flowers, veggies and herbs. Even if you don’t hang them, they will look nice on the ground. We have petunias, polyanthus and pansies in ours at the moment. In a few weeks, I’m going to plant some tumbling tomatoes in a few more hanging baskets
· Make a vertical garden using a wooden pallet, instead of multiple plastic pots
· Instead of plastic garden chairs, find a nice place for a wooden bench so you can pause for a moment and relax in your garden
· Use cardboard boxes and old tins for storage in your garden shed instead of plastic bags, crates and containers
· Swap plastic containers for wooden planters
· If you need to purchase seedlings, try to get them from Awapuni, who wrap them in bundles of newspaper rather than using plastic punnets
· Look into getting a paper pot maker to raise seedlings in instead of using plastic punnets (Egmont Seeds sell them)
Over the weekend, I have been busy sowing and planting flowers in our veggie garden. Yesterday, I planted a dozen punnets of petunias which I purchased from Kings Plant Barn into some large hanging baskets. I do have some petunia seed which I will sow on my heat pad soon (“Super Colour Parade” from Yates) but have struggled to grow them from seed in the past, hence having purchased plants as a contingency. Today, I sowed an assortment of seeds given to me by Egmont Seeds last year. All of these are completely new to me so I was a little nervous about sowing them, but I just followed the instructions on the back of the packets.
The seeds I sowed were:
· Candytuft “Fire Ice”
· Carthamus “Grenade Orange”
· Dianthus “Jolt Cherry F1”
· Godetia “Satin Mix F1”
· Lavender “Bandera Pink”
· Linum “Blue Dress”
· Lupin “Israeli Blue Admiral”
· Nigella “African Bride”
· Talinum “Limon”
Today, I also planted three punnets of “Ballerina” poppies as a border around our greens garden, which contains Silverbeet, spinach, kale and rocket. Over the coming weeks, I will be putting in many more flowers, including calendula, cornflowers, marigolds, bedding dahlias, zinnias, rudbeckia, tithonia and sunflowers. Every year, I sow the zinnia varieties “Gold Medal” and “Lilliput” from Yates Seeds, which look beautiful and flower for many months. I’m also looking forward to sowing the marigold “Safari Mixture” from Yates again, having grown this successfully in the past. We also have a number of lillies, gladioli and tuberous dahlias which remain in the ground and come up by themselves year after year. Some of these have already started to surface.
When I walked around the garden today, I noticed that the wildflowers and cosmos (“Lemonade” from Egmont Seeds) I sowed just over a week ago have already started to germinate, as have my “Potted Fragrance Semi Dwarf” sweet pea seeds from Yates which were sown around an obelisk.
Here are some reasons why I think gardeners should grow some flowers amongst their veggies:
· Flowers can be a useful companion plant. An example is marigolds, which are said to repel pests
· Flowers attract bees to the garden, providing them with food. In turn, the bees help to pollinate fruiting veggies, including strawberries, beans, zucchini and pumpkins
· Flowers attract butterflies to the garden. Every summer I love growing zinnias, which monarchs adore. I’m trying “Tithonia Goldfinger” from Kings Seeds this season, which butterflies also apparently love
· Flowers add colour to an otherwise very green space
· Flowers can also add height to the garden
· There is nothing nicer than an assortment of flowers fresh from the garden in a vase on the table (except maybe a plate of veggies harvested from your garden)
· Some flowers are edible and can be added to salads, such as nasturtium and viola
· If your garden is mostly infront of your house like ours, flowers distract from the fact you’re growing veggies in your front yard. While luckily this isn’t illegal in NZ (unlike some parts of the US), it might be perceived as a little strange
· Some flowers will self-seed ie show up in your garden year after year, without having to re-sow them. Examples include poppies, calendula and even sunflowers. The picture I have included with this post is of a self-sown sunflower which is currently in bloom right now!
We harvested our first strawberry today! Luckily the birds didn’t get to it, but I took that as a sign that it was time to cover our patch with netting, which mum and I did together in the afternoon. I must say it’s very early! Our bird netting has holes in it which is important, as the bees need to be able to get in and pollinate the flowers in order to produce fruit. I also gave our strawberries their weekly liquid feed with Yates Thrive Strawberry and Berry Liquid Plant Food. Whether you choose to use granular or water soluble fertiliser, organic or otherwise, don’t forget to feed your berries regularly for best results.
I also planted a punnet of celeriac I purchased from Kings Plant Barn. I did sow the variety “Mars” from Egmont Seeds about a month ago, but my seedlings are still tiny! I decided to cover myself and put in some established plants as well. I had luck growing celeriac two years ago at a time I actually knew very little about it! I had never tasted it before and simply popped the seedlings into the ground in September. About six months later, we were harvesting enormous bulbs, which we enjoyed in a slaw with apple. However, last year all my seedlings bolted to seed in November, so I ended up pulling them all out! This happened even though I had taken the time to make a proper bed for them in full sun and put a lot of effort into soil preparation. This year, I decided to take the same approach that I did two years ago and simply popped them in the ground. Sometimes, the less you know about gardening and do for your plants, the better!
It’s funny, because this also happened to me with kumara. My best season was a number of years ago when I knew nothing about growing it at all. I simply popped some slips in the ground, quite late even, in December, and harvested a couple of kilos of kumara from just a few plants in April that year. It was a bit of an afterthought, so they didn’t have their own bed but they got lots of sun. Since then, I have never had luck, despite going to great pains to order heritage varieties from Koanga one year, putting a lot of effort into bed preparation and devoting a lot of space (and prime areas in the garden at that) to them. I didn’t bother to try growing kumara again for a few years, but I will put some slips in this year.
Back to celeriac - a tip given to me by Chris from Yates was that celeriac needs lots of water to prevent it from bolting. Another thing I did prior to planting my seedlings which I ought to do for all plants I put into the garden, but often forget to do, was to soak the punnet in a bucket with some Yates Thrive Natural Fish and Seaweed fertiliser. This ensures that the plants get off to a strong start.
I also potted up some rhubarb seedlings. Last spring, I sowed the variety “Red Cherry” from Kings Seeds. I now have four plants. I’ll wait for them to grow a bit bigger before planting them into the garden. I’ve never grown or tasted rhubarb before so it will be a new experience for me. If anyone else has rhubarb in their garden, please let me know what you do with it. Both mum and I have diabetes (which we control with diet and exercise), so unfortunately any sugary recipes are out. We have to be very disciplined if we want to stay off medication! I’ve done a bit of research into the nutritious value of rhubarb and it’s apparently supposed to be good for controlling blood sugar levels.
I hope everyone is having a good weekend and getting lots done in the garden. I was feeling absolutely overwhelmed this morning but when I looked at my task list and crossed off the things that I had done, I realised I’m slowly getting there! Hope everyone else is happy with the progress they’re making. Remember it’s okay to take a break from the garden every now and then or even have a day off!