The weather has been positively balmy lately, making it hard to believe that it is in fact winter. My plants have even been a bit confused. In our “Green Smoothie garden” (a bed where I planted greens such as pak choi, bok choy and kale for our daily green smoothies) I noticed that one of my pak choi went to seed! This normally occurs in September, when temperatures start warming up again so it was surprising to see this happen now. Hopefully it’s a sign of a mild winter and early spring.
Growing some early potatoes
The wonderful warm weather we have been having lately, with rain and no frosts, has made me a bit adventurous. I read in a couple of different places that it is possible to start growing potatoes after the Solstice (shortest day) on 21st June. Normally, I have waited until September to plant potatoes but I’ve decided to give it a go much earlier than that this year. Today, I bought some very early seed potatoes called Swift from Bunnings, which are ready in just 60 days. I planted them in trenches. Apparently you’re not meant to mound them up all the way if you’re planting this early, so I laid them in rows in my trenches and just covered them with a bit of dirt. The idea is to mound them up as they grow. This technique makes it less likely for the seed potatoes to rot in the cold, damp ground during the cooler months of the year.
After foliage develops, if frosts seem likely I will use this fantastic product I discovered called Vaporgard, which is a spray on liquid frost cloth that protects plants from temperatures less than 3 degrees. I have already used some of it on my tamarillo seedlings which never ordinarily survive the winter and will report back on its efficacy in a later blog post.
Another product I look forward to using in conjunction with my potatoes is a special potato dust by Morton Smith-Dawe that I also purchased from Bunnings which inhibits spuds from sprouting once they have been dug and stored. Sprouting potatoes is the cause of much waste in our kitchen. Initially I wasn’t keen on using a chemical on stored veggies but in the end I decided that the pros outweighed the cons and I would give it a go this year.
In other news, I purchased 130 bare rooted strawberry plants from a commercial grower in Katikati. You may have read my earlier post on growing strawberries, in which I stated that my plants from last summer left me with heaps of runners which I replanted in a separate bed with a wwoofer called Felia in April. Unfortunately, most did not survive and out of the four rows I planted, only one row remained alive by June. I’m still not sure why they died as they looked very healthy when I replanted them in the garden.
Anyhow, the plants I ordered filled in the gaps and I am looking forward to having my own mini berry farm at the convenience of our front lawn this summer. The reason that I didn’t seek strawberry plants from a garden centre was because I needed such a large quantity to fill the area. It didn’t make sense to pay $2 per plant, so I made some enquiries about whether I could purchase bare rooted plants from a couple of commercial growers. I was lucky that one was still selling them; the other place is actually just up the road from where I live but lifted plants in May so I will have to be a bit quicker next year.
The garlic that I planted in April and May is looking fantastic. I have been liquid feeding my garlic with Seasol every fortnight to promote strong, lush foliage. I also mulched the areas where I planted garlic with pea straw to reduce weeds and retain moisture.