On Tuesday, it rained heavily so I wasn’t able to get much done outdoors. It is great for the garden, especially the new plants I’ve been putting in since Labour Weekend. I’m also secretly happy because I’m absolutely exhausted and desperately needed a break, which I wouldn’t have taken if I was able to be outside. You need some distance from the garden so you can reflect, plan and resolve any problems which have arisen. Sometimes, you need time to research how to care for plants. If you’re always gardening, you lose perspective. For days I had been stumped over the issue of how I could grow more potatoes, given that the areas which will soon become available are close to where I want to grow squash and melons. Other parts of the garden are downright unsuitable for growing spuds, due to the lack of depth caused by roots from trees planted by the previous owner, which were removed many years ago but remain underground. I have a selection of early varieties of seed potatoes (Rocket, Jersey Benne and Liseta) which are chilling in the crisper compartment of our fridge, where they are being held for planting in autumn. I thought of putting in a couple of rows, but could foresee that harvesting them would be a nightmare if they were covered with cucurbits. Then an idea came to me. Early varieties need to be harvested in 2-3 months while the squash and melons are still growing actively, but if I planted a late potato variety, I could simply leave them in the ground until March, when everything could be harvested together. By leaving a main variety in the ground for 4-5 months, it would ensure that the potatoes would also store well, lasting us into the winter. While on my morning walk, I popped into Bunnings and managed to find just the thing – two 3kg bags of Morton Smith-Dawe Agria seed potatoes on clearance for only $3 each. I can’t believe how well everything has come together. Yesterday, I lifted a row of Agria potatoes planted on the 1st of August and put in a fresh lot. I wanted to get my second lot in before the rain predicted for today. The soil will be cool and moist, which will help them to germinate. In the past, I’ve had trouble getting potatoes started because the soil was too dry, which is why I don’t like to leave it too late in spring.
Just one thing – if you have had issues with the TPP, I don’t recommend growing potatoes in late summer like I’m doing as that is when they tend to be at their peak. We’re quite lucky to have not had issues with TPP (and the Guava Moth for that matter) but I’m not too gleeful as there’s always a first time. I know that I’m also pushing the envelope by planting spuds in the same area immediately after harvesting the previous crop, but as I mentioned above I’m limited in terms of where I can grow them in the garden. I do try and mitigate the risk of diseases by only planting certified seed potatoes, even if it can get a bit expensive. Also, I don’t recommend cutting up seed potatoes to make them go further as some gardeners like to do. Doing so quite literally opens them up to diseases.
I do admit to being slightly obsessed with potatoes now that I have discovered I can pretty much grow them year round in our garden in Auckland. Only time will tell whether seed potatoes can be preserved for later planting by keeping them in the fridge, but I saw that as being best option as it can get very hot in summer and I don’t want them to perish. Next summer, I can’t wait to get hold of some “Summer Delight” seed potatoes and try growing them for the first time. I have heard very good things about this variety from Lynda Hallinan in the New Zealand Gardener magazine, who plants 25kg(!) of them in her country garden in Hunua. I’m quite cross with myself as I did see them on special at Palmers a few months ago, but didn’t realise that I would have space for growing more spuds in late spring. Nevermind, there’s always something to look forward to growing next year!
Does anyone else have plans to put another round of spuds in after their first lot are harvested?
NB the photo is of my Big Chief Butternut seedling, which I planted in the garden yesterday.
On Saturday, I wrote about pumpkins and promised that I would cover squash separately. Although the growing process is similar to pumpkins, in my experience squash are more sensitive to the cold. I therefore start them a bit later on, after I’ve sown the pumpkins. My butternuts are still in trays under the eaves of our house as I thought I’d plant the pumpkins first and see how they go.
Although I have grown various kinds of squash successfully in previous years, we’ve never had what I would call a bumper crop, a bit like pumpkins. Normally we only get one or two butternuts, despite sowing an entire packet of seeds (or more!). Part of the problem is that I’ve been growing squash amongst the pumpkins, so they tend to get overshadowed by their big cousin. Squash are smaller and more delicate, whereas some pumpkin varieties such as “Blue Hubbard” and “Queensland Blue” can get quite large and crowd out the squash. To rectify this problem, I’ve decided to give the squash a separate area to roam. I’m also going to give squash the same treatment as my melons and pumpkins this year and use black plastic underneath to keep the soil warm. Cynthia (my gardening friend in Foxton who was a finalist in the NZ Gardener magazine’s Gardener of the Year competition a few years ago) did this for her squash as well, with great results.
This year, I’m growing the following varieties:
Butternut – Quite possibly our favourite type of pumpkin. The flavour is incredible! I’m growing “Butternut” (Yates), “Babynut” (Kings), “Big Chief Butternut” (Kings) and “Butternut Chieftain” (Kings)
Kumi Kumi – I love having this steamed with a little salt, pepper and butter. An old personal trainer recommended it to me as an incredibly healthy veggie. There are lots of different kinds of Kamo Kamo. This year, I’m growing the variety from Kings Seeds
Spaghetti Squash – We discovered spaghetti squash a couple of years ago. It stores very well and tastes delicious cooked with some garlic, butter, salt and pepper. I’m growing “Tivoli” (Egmont) and the variety from Kings Seeds
African Gem Squash – When I first started gardening in 2013, my mother asked me to grow gem squash which, like her, comes from South Africa. We enjoy it cut in half, steamed with a little salt, pepper and butter. This year, I’m growing the gem squash varieties from Egmont and Kings Seeds
My advice for squash is very similar to growing pumpkins:
· You can start squash from seed indoors or purchase plants from the garden centre. You should be able to find Kamo Kamo and Butternut plants, but I’m not sure about spaghetti squash and gem squash. If you want to grow them, you may have to start from seed.
· Choose a sunny site. All fruiting plants need full sun in order to do well
· Make sure there is enough room as squash does like to creep
· Like pumpkins, squash are gross feeders. Work loads of compost, sheep pellets and fertiliser into the ground beforehand
· Don’t space plants too close to each other so they have sufficient room to grow
· Liquid feed plants regularly to promote growth. I plan on using my Yates Thrive Tomato Liquid Plant Food on my squash this year, which is appropriate for other fruiting veggies
· We like harvesting our gem squash when they’re immature because they taste more tender (we test if it’s ready by poking our fingernail into the skin. You should be able to pierce it). However, they don’t keep well at this stage. If the exterior is too hard to poke your fingernail into, then they are suitable for storage
Is anyone else growing squash this season? What varieties are you growing? Collette, are you doing gem squash as well?
NB The photo is of my Yates “Hale’s Best’ rockmelon plants, which are doing nicely in the greenhouse. I managed to get my phone sorted at Happytel in Westfield Manukau, who I highly recommend for phone repairs. It turns out that it just needed charging!
I hope you all had a good weekend. Mine was very busy. I managed to plant most of our pumpkins into the garden, as well as some more zucchini. I also potted up some more melons that came off my heat pad (“Banana” from Kings, “Honeydew” from Yates and “Inverno” from Franchi) and planted two cucumbers against an obelisk (“Long Green” and “Continental” from Yates). I’ll see how these ones go before planting out more. I also did quite a bit of harvesting and put together a box of produce and plants to share with the staff at my gym. No photo again, as the place that repairs phones was closed yesterday.
I know I’ve already written two posts on wwoofing. I promise that this one is final. After our latest experience, we have decided that we will no longer host wwoofers. Before she left quite suddenly, the girl who stayed with us most recently accused mum and I of saying a number of things to each other about her that were completely untrue. It became evident that she was eavesdropping on our conversations (which were about the running of the household, gardening tasks etc) and when I told her we hadn’t said those things, she then admitted that she may have not heard correctly. I couldn’t believe that someone could make up a complete pack of lies about us! She also twisted a number of things that I had said. She asked if she could break up her stay with a trip to the Bay of Islands. Normally, this wouldn’t be acceptable once a stay had been arranged but as she had come a week earlier when the previous wwoofer left at very short notice, I was obliging. She wanted to go for two days, but I told her that if she wanted to stay for longer that would be fine as it was a long way to go. I also told her I would understand if her plans changed and she decided to stay there, rather than return to us. I was trying to be accommodating and nice to her! I had to ask her about her departure date, so I could book the next person. She turned around and twisted it, saying that I couldn’t wait for her to go away and didn’t want her to return!
Since we started hosting in 2017, I have invested so much personal time, thought and energy into wwoofers, all of which begins well in advance of their stay. While they are here, mum cooks high quality meals and even tries to accommodate their tastes. I try to educate them as much as possible about gardening and like learning things from them, too. To reward productivity, I try to give wwoofers extra time off (they always get a day off per week anyway), take them out to lunch towards the end of their stay and sometimes buy them little treats I know they will enjoy while they’re here.
Tthis has been a long time coming. What happened on Saturday wasn’t an isolated incident, but part of a pattern of behaviour we have been seeing lately. In summary:
· Wwoofing isn’t what it used to be. We have noticed that the quality of wwoofers has steadily declined over the past two years
· You can’t always go by reviews. Some of the most troublesome wwoofers had received five star reviews from other hosts
· You can’t be too trusting. You don’t know who you’re letting into your home and what they might have done in their life. Their persona on Wwoof might even be a complete fake!
· I’m tired of people departing at very short notice, leaving me in the lurch with the garden
· A lot of wwoofers really resent having to help me in the garden. Working hours, conditions and time off are all specified in our profile. Many wwoofers have done Couch Surfing before, where they got a free ride at the host’s expense. Wwoofing is different!
· I’m sick of people comparing our place to other hosts. The wwoofer who just left asked me if our place was like other hosts. No, it’s not. That’s what makes wwoofing special. Every property, garden and host is unique. Furthermore, there is regional variation and of course the contrast between town and country. There’s no such thing as a “typical Kiwi”!
· The hardest thing for me to deal with was people’s attitudes. I’m a happy, enthusiastic and positive person but some wwoofers can be moody and even hostile. I’m sick of always having to be cheerful and polite to people and be treated like crap in return
· Although we’ve never gotten a bad review (yet), I’m sick of always having to be so nice to wwoofers for fear that they will say something bad about us, even when they have definitely crossed the line. After our conversation on Saturday, it also made me realise that a wwoofer can make up stories about us, which affects our ability to attract wwoofers in the future
· Some wwoofers have a lot of baggage which affects their behaviour. Many wwoofers are travelling as a way of escaping their problems and put a lot of that on hosts, which isn’t fair. You can’t run away from your problems and sometimes you need therapy to deal with them.
· I suspect many wwoofers are drug users, indeed we had one stay with us who was in recovery. He told us that many other hosts do drugs with their wwoofers. I think some wwoofers get quite a shock when they realise that we don’t sit around smoking weed all day
· Solo travellers in particular expect company from hosts after working hours which isn’t possible at the moment due to training, appointments (I see the physio regularly for a couple of injuries) and errands. Any spare time is spent managing the garden, organising tasks for the next day and working on my blog. I don’t have really have any free time!
· Some wwoofers lack cultural sensitivity and don’t seem to understand what is appropriate to ask hosts about themselves. One wwoofer really upset my nearly 70 year old mother when she asked her some highly insensitive questions about South Africa, where she grew up during the apartheid era
· Against the background of the dramas above, delegating tasks and managing wwoofers was actually more difficult than just putting in a bit of extra time and getting on with the job myself
With wwoofing behind us, I feel a huge weight lifted off my shoulders and I am free to carry on with developing our summer garden. This subject is officially closed for me (subject to any comments or questions below), but I wanted to share these final reflections as I know that some of you are considering hosting wwoofers. Your experiences might be different, but consider yourselves warned!
Yesterday, I sowed my first round of beans outdoors against the trellis at the back of our house. Don’t laugh, but I really struggle to grow great beans. I actually find the simplest of veggies the most difficult to grow. Last summer, we had about five times as many melons as pumpkins, which is why I decided to give them the same treatment and use black plastic underneath (see yesterday’s post). With beans, the main problem for me is that they always end up being munched by snails and snails as soon as they surface. A few years ago, I started raising them in punnets for transplanting later on, with success. This year, I decided to sow some beans direct and wait to see what happens. I can always sow some on my heat pad in ten or so days if they fail. Beans are very easy to raise from seed and it’s best to sow them direct so you don’t interfere with the roots. If you’re really stuck, short on time or it’s getting late in the season, you can always purchase seedlings from the garden centre for transplanting into your garden.
Beans like warm weather, so it’s generally fine to start them soon after Labour Weekend. I’ve always found I have better luck in November, when night time temperatures are a bit warmer. There are so many different varieties of beans that I’ve grouped them into three categories:
Climbing – These need support, such as a trellis, obelisk or a fence. This year, I’m growing Blue Lake Runner (Kings Seeds), as well as Stringless Scarlet and Scarlet Runner (both from Yates)
Dwarf – These don’t need support and are great for smaller gardens. Despite being short, they can be extremely prolific. This year, I’m growing “Dwarf French Hiscock” (Egmont) and “Dwarf Top Crop” (Yates)
Exotic – These need very hot temperatures to flourish. This year, I’m growing snake beans (“Yard Long Runner” from Kings Seeds. The variety “Asian Winged” (Kings Seeds) was very popular amongst Asian customers when I ran a boutique plant nursery last year. My Fijian customers loved “Boda” beans, which are a bit like broad beans and used in curries. Seeds are very hard to come by. I was lucky to be given some by our neighbour Prakash. I’m going to see if I can get a few seeds from him so I can grow this variety myself and start saving seeds from my plants so I can continue the strain.
Here are some growing tips:
· Beware of slugs and snails, who love munching young, tender seedlings!
· Don’t start exotic varieties too early as they need very warm weather in order to grow well. I only start my snake beans in mid-November on the heat pad indoors and plant them outside in December. Once the weather is warm enough, they will grow quickly
· Like all fruiting crops, beans prefer a sunny spot
· Work some compost, sheep pellets and fertiliser into the soil prior to sowing or planting
· Beans produce flowers which need to be pollinated in order for fruit to form, so plant some flowers nearby to help attract bees
· Liquid feed plants weekly to promote growth, flowering and fruiting. This year, I’m going to use Yates Thrive Tomato Liquid Plant Food on my beans, which is suitable for all fruiting crops
· Harvest beans daily to encourage further fruiting
Has anyone else started their beans yet? What varieties are you growing this season?
Unfortunately I don’t have a photo to accompany this post as my phone is dead. I need to either get it repaired or replaced.
Yesterday, Sanna (the wwoofer who is staying with us) and I worked together to prepare the site where I intend to grow pumpkins this summer. We did it in stages. On Thursday, Sanna removed the broad beans, which were past their prime. The following day, we removed some cabbages that failed to mature. We then worked lots of compost and some nitrophoska fertiliser into the area. This year, I decided to try something a bit different. Cynthia, a gardening friend who lives in Foxton, grew her best crop of pumpkins ever by laying black plastic down and cutting out holes for the plants, exactly like how I grow melons. Ordinarily, I wouldn’t think of doing this for something as humble as the pumpkin, as they’re not terribly difficult to grow. Usually, we harvest enough to last us through the winter, but I was curious as to whether my plants could be even more productive. Sometimes, the plants would produce only one pumpkin each. I wondered whether this was normal, even for the fancier varieties. Despite sowing an entire packet of Musquee de Provence pumpkin seeds last season, we only harvested one pumpkin from them in total, which was a bit disappointing (but what an amazing pumpkin soup it made!). We wished there were more of them. Sanna spent some time looking at old pieces of black plastic we had used for growing melons in previous seasons and worked out what could be recycled for my pumpkin project this year. She managed to cover the entire area (cutting it as necessary so it would fit) and I put some potted miniature dahlias down on the edges to stop it from flying away. By that time, it was about half an hour before lunch, so there was enough time to plant a couple of pumpkin seedlings. I will continue with planting pumpkins today, because Sanna is going to the Bay of Islands for a few days.
Pumpkin varieties I’m growing this year include “Blue Hubbard” (Egmont), Marina di Chioggia (Kings), Hybrid Grey Crown (Yates), Whangaparoa Crown (Egmont), Queensland Blue (Yates), Jarrahdale (Kings), Beretta Piacentina (Kings), Long Island Cheese (Kings), Musquee de Provence (Kings) and Tonda Padana (Franchi). I’ll cover the squash I’m growing (including butternut) in a separate post.
I’m very pleased with my pumpkin seedlings this year. They look very healthy. The picture is of one of my Blue Hubbard plants. One of the problems with starting plants from seed is you can never be quite sure if you have timed it right. Starting too early might mean that the plants die from the cold. Even if you have a greenhouse which helps tremendously, plants can grow rapidly and become ready for planting out before outdoor temperatures are suitable or there is space in the garden. It’s never a good idea to leave seedlings in punnets or pots for too long or they can end up dying. This nearly happened to my corn, but I quickly planted it out yesterday while Sanna removed the broad beans.
If you can grow zucchini (which I covered yesterday), you can grow pumpkins. My advice is very similar:
· You can start pumpkins from seed indoors or purchase potted plants from the garden centre. In November, it will be warm enough to sow seeds directly where you want them to grow
· Choose a sunny site. Fruiting plants need full sun in order to do well
· Pumpkins are gross feeders. Work loads of compost, sheep pellets and fertiliser into the ground beforehand
· Liquid feed plants regularly to promote growth. I plan on using my Yates Thrive Tomato Liquid Plant Food on my plants this year (which is appropriate for other fruiting veggies)
· Don’t pick pumpkins prematurely or they will not be ripe inside! I usually leave them until they die off the vine, which is usually around March
· Pumpkins store very well, so we don’t normally eat ours until the winter, when the garden is less productive. If you’re going to use a storage shed or the garage, be careful as rats and mice love to nibble on them!
Is anyone else growing pumpkins this summer? What varieties are you growing?
Yesterday, I harvested the remainder of our Jersey Benne potatoes (see picture), which I have been bandicooting over the past week. Meanwhile, Sanna, our wwoofer, pulled out our broad beans which have finished cropping. Today, we are going to prepare the area with compost and plant pumpkins, which I will write more about in my next post.
In Wednesday’s post, you might recall me saying that I had started planting zucchini in the garden. Zucchini is very easy to grow and plants can be very productive – almost too much so. Most gardeners can relate to having a glut in summer. We make a number of delicious dishes from our produce, including frittata and parmigiana.
Zucchini is very easy to grow from seed. It’s not too late to get plants started if you haven’t already done so. This year, I’m growing the following varieties: Solar Flare (Egmont), Zephyr (Kings Seeds), Black Jack (Yates), Nero di Milano (Franchi), Fiorentino (Franchi), Partenon (Egmont) and Amanda (Egmont). All I do is sow seeds in egg cartons (I prefer using the lid rather than the part for the eggs) filled with some seed raising mix and leave them on my heat pad to germinate. The warmth aids germination and provides a consistent temperature, especially at night when it becomes cooler. If you don’t have a heat pad, try using your hot water cupboard. Once plants have germinated (at this stage they usually only have two leaves), I prick them out carefully and transplant them individually into 10 cm pots, before moving them into the greenhouse. Once plants have developed three leaves, I start hardening them off, moving them outdoors for a few hours before bringing them back undercover at night. After about a week or two, they are ready to stay outside before being planted into the garden.
Here are some of my top growing tips:
· You can get so many different types of zucchini. Try growing at least two different varieties, even if you have a smaller garden. I really love Solar Flare (Egmont), an extremely prolific yellow variety
· Stagger seed sowing to ensure a continuous supply of zucchini all summer. I sowed my first lot on 11th September and second lot on 4th October. I’ll sow another round very shortly, with more to follow in November (just don’t ask where I’m going to put them!)
· Zucchini is frost sensitive, so don’t put plants in too early. From Labour Weekend onwards is generally fine
· Plant zucchini in an area with full sun
· Zucchini are gross feeders like all cucurbits, so work in lots of compost, sheep pellets and fertiliser prior to planting
· Water plants well, avoiding the leaves as this can cause mildew (more on this later)
· Mulch plants to conserve moisture and add nutrients to the soil. I like putting some pea straw around my zucchini plants
· To promote lots of healthy leaves and fruiting, liquid feed plants weekly. This summer, I’m going to use my Yates Thrive Tomato Liquid Plant Food on my zucchini, which is suitable for all fruiting crops
· Zucchini generally need to be pollinated in order to form fruit. However, it is possible to find some varieties such as Partenon F1 (Egmont), which are parthenocarpic (self-pollinating). I had great success with this variety last summer
· Mildew can be a problem. It’s possible to spray plants, but I don’t usually bother as by that time they’ve usually been quite productive. I simply pull the zucchini out and replace it with another plant
· Pick zucchini regularly to encourage further fruiting (and to prevent them from turning into marrows!)
I’ve never grown zucchini in containers before, but have heard it is possible. Has anyone tried this? How large was the pot? Was it successful?
We have a lot of green cabbage and broccoli growing in the garden, so I thought I’d share some of my growing tips for brassicas. They’re not difficult to grow and are ideal for the winter garden. The main pests are the white butterfly (control with Natures Way Derris Dust from Yates), slugs and snails. Club root can be an issue, but I can’t say much as it’s not a problem I’ve experienced yet.
I normally plant cauliflower in late summer/early autumn and it matures in late winter/early spring. We harvested our last cauliflower three weeks ago. I’ve never tried planting cauliflower in spring because I’ve always been of the belief that it needs cold weather in order to form a decent head. I might be wrong, let me know if you’ve managed to grow caulis successfully in summer. They take up a lot of room, there are so many other veggies to grow in the warmer months which can’t be grown in winter and the white butterfly is a nuisance so I’d prefer not to grow caulis in summer.
Caulis are easy to start from seed or you can purchase seedlings from the garden centre. In February, I sow them in punnets and leave them in the patio to germinate. I highly recommend the variety “All Year Hybrid” (Yates), which I have had great success with. Once the seedlings are large enough, I transplant them into six-cell punnets before planting them into the garden. Protect seedlings and plants from the white butterfly with Natures Way Derris Dust from Yates, otherwise the caterpillars will eat your plants! Prior to planting, I work lots of compost and sheep pellets into the soil. I like to mix a little Yates Thrive Granular All Purpose Plant Food into each seedling’s hole as I plant them. Be sure to leave sufficient space between plants otherwise they won’t form a head. Over the cooler months, I usually liquid feed plants once a fortnight with Yates Thrive Natural Fish and Seaweed fertiliser.
I grow both green and red cabbage. The advice above for caulis applies to cabbages, except I discovered that in my garden in Auckland, it is possible to plant a second round of green cabbages in June/July (after the first lot have matured and been harvested) and they have started to become ready in the last couple of weeks! I covered the second lot of seedlings with a cloche (a milk bottle cut in half) to protect them from the cold. It seems that at least the green kind, which did most of their growing in September, don’t need very cold weather in order to form a decent head. As for red cabbages, I’m not sure whether they would form a head if grown at this time of the year. I generally find red cabbage more difficult to grow than green cabbage. Sometimes the red ones I grow during winter don’t always head up, despite cooler temperatures.
If you’re short on space, you can grow mini varieties, such as “Dynamo Mini” and “Super Red Mini” from Egmont Seeds.
The same advice for caulis and cabbages applies. Like cabbage, I’ve found that it’s possible to put in a second round of plants around June/July, after the first lot are harvested. I’ve noticed that the heads aren’t quite as large as the ones we grew during winter, perhaps due to warmer temperatures. Even if your broccoli is smaller than the ones at the supermarket, it’s a good idea to harvest them as they become ready otherwise they may start going to seed. If you leave the plant in the ground after harvesting the main head, you will find that smaller side florets will grow, but by this time I’m usually too impatient to wait and end up pulling it out to plant something else in its place.
I really like growing the variety “Summer Green” from Yates. Even though I plant seedlings in autumn, it can still be quite warm then so this variety is ideal.
Does anyone else still have caulis, cabbages and broccoli growing in their garden? Do you grow them in summer? What are your best growing tips?
Yesterday, I received my prize for winning Mini Challenge 2. It was very exciting to receive a parcel via courier that I hadn’t ordered, as I didn’t know what was in it. The package contained a bag of Thrive Natural Blood and Bone, a large bottle of Thrive Citrus and Fruit Natural Fish and Seaweed fertiliser (which I’ve never seen before), Thrive Natural Seaweed Tonic and some seeds (Watermelon “Sugar Baby”, Tomato “Mortgage Lifter” and “Sugarsnap” climbing peas), Thanks so much, Yates! I can’t wait to use these products around the garden and I will of course follow up on them in my blog.
We have a new wwoofer staying with us, Sanna, a Swedish girl. Sanna arrived on Monday and we have accomplished a great deal together in a relatively short time frame. Tasks we have completed include potting up melon seedlings, planting lettuce, capsicums and marigolds in containers, as well as planting more tomatoes and some zucchini (the photo is of my “Zephyr” seedling, a variety I’m growing for the first time). Today, Sanna is going to help me liquid feed the garden using Yates Thrive Natural Fish and Seaweed fertiliser and we will pot up some more Hale’s Best rockmelon seedlings (also from Yates), which are ready to come off my heat pad.
I’d like to elaborate on my previous point about crop rotation. I think I’ve mentioned a couple of times that it’s a good idea to rotate root, leafy and fruiting crops to avoid diseases (rule 1). I forgot to mention that it’s also a good idea to avoid planting veggies in the same family successively (rule 2). The best example is potatoes and tomatoes. Although potatoes are a root crop and tomatoes are a fruiting crop, both are in the solanaceae or nightshade family. Planting these in succession isn’t advisable as they are affected by the same pests and diseases, for example TPP, and it could cause them to spread to the subsequent crop. While I have broken rule 1 by planting potatoes following potatoes because parts of our garden are unsuitable for growing root crops due to insufficient depth, I have developed a habit of NEVER growing tomatoes in the same area as potatoes, no matter how desperate I am for space. While I’m making confessions, I do also grow leeks and spring onions pretty much year round in the garden bed that is shaded by our neighbour’s willow tree, without any problems. The lack of sunlight means that fruiting crops fail in this bed and there is insufficient depth for root crops due to the roots of the willow tree which run under the garden. The truth of the matter is that (i) I don’t always follow my own advice, (ii) what sounds good in principle doesn’t always work well in practice and (iii) constraints such as sunlight and soil depth limit your options, especially if you have a small garden, so you have to work around them. In the end, you have to do what is right for you and it’s fine to experiment a little like I have to strike a balance between following gardening principles which sound very logical and the reality of being able to grow all the things I want in our garden.
Please don’t ask me whether cabbages, broccoli and cauliflower fall into the category of leafy, root or fruiting crops because I’m not really sure. I’m also not certain whether those three basic categories are exhaustive; there may be others. To me, cabbages, cauliflower and broccoli are not leafy like lettuce and kale, which are, well, basically just leaves. Nor are they root crops, which grow beneath the surface like potatoes and carrots. They aren’t fruiting crops like tomatoes and zucchini, either. What they all have in common is that they form a head. Over the years, I’ve noticed that they all benefit from a fertiliser which has a balanced NPK ratio, such as Yates Thrive Granular All Purpose Plant Food, rather than a fertiliser which is very high in nitrogen, such as blood and bone. For those of you who don’t know (and this isn’t something I knew until the owner of Gardn Gro, a supplier of gardening fertilisers, told me when he was delivering some products I had ordered), the N stands for Nitrogen (needed for leaf growth), P for Phosphate (essential for strong roots) and K for Potassium (necessary for the formation of fruit). In my humble opinion, cabbages, broccoli and cauliflower need all three nutrients in order to form a decent head. In my next post, I’ll write a bit more about growing them.
I haven’t covered growing garlic before, so I thought it would be a good subject to discuss in this post. I’m definitely no expert, having failed miserably over the past couple of years. In the early days when I first started gardening, I had a lot of luck. I’m not sure what happened. Sometimes the less you know about gardening, the better! It was like that for me with kumara, too.
This year, I’m growing the following varieties: Elephant, Printanor, Kakanui, Takahue and Aja Rojo. I sourced the Elephant garlic and some Printanor from Newton Seeds in Auckland (who sell the most amazing Morton Smith-Dawe seed potatoes that you can buy by the kilo like Kwan in Kerikeri), while the Printanor, Kakanui, Takahue and Aja Rojo came from Catos, a family run garlic business located in the Waikato. I sourced this garlic from Trade Me, but I believe they also sell it at farmers markets.
I’m probably not the best person to advise on growing garlic given my bad track record, but here are some tips:
· Only use high quality organic seed garlic for planting
· Farmers markets are a good place to source seed garlic. I purchased some great garlic from the Matakana Farmer’s Market years ago but unfortunately lost the stock due to a bad season, so I couldn’t continue the strain
· You don’t necessarily have to buy fancy varieties or even source garlic in garden centres. Some of the best garlic growing in our garden came from a pack of organic garlic bulbs I purchased on special at Countdown for $5.
· Don’t plant imported garlic. It will have been sprayed, which will prevent it from growing
· Choose a sunny spot
· Ensure that the drainage is good
· Garlic is gross feeder. Work lots of compost, sheep pellets and fertiliser into the soil prior to planting
· The rule of thumb is to plant on the shortest day and harvest on the longest day, but you can plant garlic earlier, in April and May. The NZ Gardener magazine recommends leaving garlic in the ground for two weeks after the longest day prior to harvesting but I wouldn’t advise leaving it any longer than this
· If it’s still warm at time of planting, you might want to give the cloves a cold spell in fridge beforehand
· Separate the garlic bulbs into cloves. Don’t plant the whole bulb and don’t peel the cloves!
· Plant the outer, bigger cloves. Don’t bother with the small inner cloves as they won’t amount to much
· Space cloves at least 10cm apart, maybe a bit more for elephant garlic
· Plant cloves about 5 cm below the surface to ensure they don’t get scratched up by birds and cats
· Keep the weeds down as garlic won’t do well if it is competing with them for nutrients
· Mulch garlic to conserve moisture, add nutrients to the soil and help keep weeds down. I like using pea straw around my plants
· Liquid feed plants weekly for healthy growth. So far, I have been using Yates Thrive Natural Fish and Seaweed liquid fertiliser on my plants. I recently purchased some Yates Thrive Easy Pods on special at Bunnings for $1 each (see photo), so I will use some of that on my plants, too.
· Garlic is prone to rust. I didn’t spray my plants and I did spot rust on some of my garlic. In hindsight, I wish I had used Yates Natures Way Fungus Spray to help control it. I have used this product on my celery which had rust last summer, with good results
· If some of your garlic starts going to seed (this sometimes happens with Elephant garlic), remove the head so the plant puts its energy into the bulb rather than forming flowers
· When harvesting garlic, dig up the bulbs, don’t pull the tops
· Wipe the garlic clean and hang in the sun to dry. I do this for a few days after harvesting it. If you wash garlic, it doesn’t store as well
· Afterwards, I like to let it hang in the garage for awhile to help it cure
· I like to store our garlic in netting bags to allow air to circulate and then hang them inside our pantry
· Save some of your best cloves for replanting next season
Yesterday, our friends Leah and Harry called in on their way back to Tauranga Bay in the far north, after spending a weekend in Rotorua celebrating a friend’s 60th birthday. Leah and Harry run the camp at Tauranga Bay and we have gotten to know them well as we have a bach there. Leah is an avid gardener with a lovely little garden behind their house (see photo), which is footsteps from the beach. You might recall me mentioning Leah’s garden in my post on dealing with windy weather. As you can see in the photo, Harry built her a shelter belt made of black cloth around the garden, which functions as a fortress against not only the wind, (which can get quite strong being right on the coast) but also pests such as possums and rabbits. Over the years, I have given Leah lots of seeds and plants, so it feels like I have a hand in her garden, too. Every year when we spend Christmas at our bach and I see Leah’s garden, it always fills me with a sense of wonder to see everything flourishing, knowing that the plants were started from tiny seeds (sometimes harvested from our own garden, such as the sunflowers Leah grew last year) and seedlings from my nursery. Unfortunately, Leah had a terrible time with bugs this spring. The seeds she had sown from my collection germinated but the plants ended up being eaten. When I heard that they were passing through Auckland over Labour weekend, I told Leah to stop by and pick up some plants so she could try again. I put together three boxes of plants containing tomatoes, pumpkins, zucchini, cucumber, capsicum, corn, leeks, spring onions, marigolds, celery, lettuce, spinach and silverbeet. We also gave Leah some produce from the garden (cabbage, carrots and broad beans), as well as some seeds (including the incredible Queensland Blue from Yates). It’s still not too late to start zucchini, cucumbers, corn, pumpkins, squash and beans from seed but act quickly!
Leah’s garden is a good example of how productive a small patch can be. Last summer, she grew corn, tomatoes, squash, capsicum, sunflowers, zucchini, cucumbers, pumpkin and watermelon. I’ve already written a blog post about how to make the best use of the space that you have. My involvement in Leah’s garden led me to notice the following things about smaller gardens:
· As the NZ Gardener magazine once wisely said, large gardens are lovely but they are a lot of work. Aside from propagating seedlings, weeding, watering and caring for plants, don’t underestimate the time involved in harvesting and utilising produce. A smaller garden is perfect for a busy, working person or a small household
· There are no real limitations on what you can grow. Remember you’re just keeping things on a smaller scale. Aim to plant a variety of veggies that your family enjoys eating. Instead of growing rows of potatoes, planting just a couple of seed potatoes should provide you with enough spuds for your Christmas table. Even though Leah’s garden is small, she still has room for a few creeping plants like pumpkins, squash and melons
· Look into the concept of square foot gardening to maximise your space
· If your garden bed is small, you don’t necessarily have to have tons of plants in containers to compensate for this. Leah doesn’t have a single plant in a pot!
· Try to grow veggies vertically so they take up less ground space
· Don’t forget to plant some flowers to attract the bees and beneficial insects. Leah loves growing sunflowers. This year, I’ve given her some marigolds, which help repel pests
· Just because you have a small plot, it doesn’t mean that you’re limited to six-cell punnets in garden centres. You can still start plants from seed, like Leah does. You’ll probably find that a packet of seeds lasts several years and I doubt you’ll need to buy in bulk like I do!
· Even in a small space, it’s still possible to practice crop rotation. This is a good idea to prevent diseases
· It may be possible to set up a simple irrigation system with a soaker hose, saving you valuable time otherwise spent watering the garden
· Don’t put plants too close together. Brassicas need a wide berth or they won’t form a head
· If you don’t want to do a veggie garden over winter, consider planting a cover crop to replenish the soil
From my garden to yours, Anita