Summer in the Garden- December to do List

Summer in the Garden- December to do List

Sow this month: Radishes, Beetroot, Carrot, Spring Onion, Corn, Zucchini, Cucumber, Lettuce, Silverbeet

Plant from Seedlings: Chillis, Capsicum, Eggplant, Tomatoes, Cucumbers

We really are on the way to a record-breaking hot summer! Water restrictions in Wellington have already been implemented and I don’t know the last time I saw a rain icon on my weather report.

You may need to reduce your watering as per request from the local council, but unfortunately, your plants don’t take this request lightly! They need water, especially when it is this hot so it is your job to do all that you can do give it to them in the best, most efficient way possible that is within the water-use rules.

Keeping your soil moist

Keep that mulch piled on! This will help keep the soil damp for the days you can’t water.

You can also add in Debco Saturaid which is a natural soil wetter. It’s made from coconut fibre and helps to draw the water down to the plant’s roots. It will help avoid runoff too which is crucial in hard, dry clay soils where so much water can be wasted!

For a thirsty plant, dig a small container of some sort (that has holes in the bottom), into the soil next to the plant’s roots. Now when you water, the water will go straight to the plant’s roots and avoids water wastage. This also helps plants like tomatoes and zucchini that don’t like their leaves getting wet, as this can spread diseases. 

Vegetables Care

Certain things will be ready to harvest now.  If you have some beans, cucumbers, tomatoes or zucchini ready, pick them to encourage the plant to produce more flowers.

Take extra care of your tomatoes. Pinch off the laterals to ensure good airflow and encourage the plant to produce more flowers instead of leaf. Keep a close eye on them to watch for any diseases or pests.

Keep on sowing lettuce, radish, carrots, beets, and spring onion your summer salads. Keep in mind that if you are direct sowing, you have to keep the seeds moist or they won’t germinate. Covering the seeds with a sheet of damp newspaper or a thin layer of mulch can help. Make sure that if you are using newspaper, you remove it once the seedlings emerge from the soil.

Liquid Feed

Keep up the liquid feeding, about every two weeks to encourage healthy growth. Tomato liquid feed (Homemade or store-bought)  is suitable for all plants where you are harvesting the fruit, not the leaves.  A seaweed fertiliser or a weedy tea is a great general liquid feed suitable for all vegetables and fruit. A manure based liquid feed is good for all your leafy greens.

Make them all here

Flowers

Remove the dead heads from your spring flowers so they put their energy into the next growth spurt. Sow annual flowers in any bare spaces you have. Keep attracting those beneficial bees and bugs to create a healthy ecosystem in your garden.

Compost

It’s hot, so your compost will be breaking down faster than usual. Keep topping it up with layers of greens and browns (nitrogen and carbon) and add the odd small stick to help with aeration.

If your compost is full, start a new pile. Cover the old pile with a burlap sack or tarpaulin and let it sit and break down over summer and autumn, ready to be added to your garden beds next winter.

Enjoy yourself

This gorgeous but scorching weather means gardening in the middle of the day is impossible! So, enjoy slow relaxing evenings with a beer in hand, where it’s perfectly acceptable to garden until 9 pm!

Happy Gardening

Christmas in a Jar: Fun and Fruity Homemade Teas

Christmas in a Jar: Fun and Fruity Homemade Teas

Strawberry and lime, lemon and ginger, apple and vanilla…sounds like I’m listing candies doesn’t it!

They are in actual fact some of the flavour combinations I have tried out in this ‘Homemade Tea’ post. This number two in my Christmas in a Jar project. We have moved away from the bathroom and homemade bath salts, back to the kitchen!

My sister in law is the inspiration for this post. She loves tea. She’s the one that taught me you should never pour boiling water over your tea as it can burn the ingredients. Makes sense and it’s one of the tips I am going to pass on to you guys: if you make any of these teas, let your freshly boiled water sit for 5 minutes before pouring over the tea!

Once the water has been poured, let it steep for 5-10 minutes to really get out the flavours.

I used my dehydrator to dry all the ingredients but you can use an oven if you don’t have a dehydrator. I love these fruity flavours* I have come up with here and when you open the jars it literally does smell like candy!

*You can totally eat the fruit pieces in the tea mixes. It can be like a tea version of the Pimms cocktail!

F.Y.I, dehydrated strawberries taste AH-mazing!

homemade teas

All recipes listed below make 1 small jar of tea.

Lemon Balm, Lemon and Ginger Tea    

 Ingredients
2 cups fresh lemon balm leaves
Peeled zest of 1 lemon
10 cm ginger, peeled into thin slices

Honey to sweeten

Instructions

In a dehydrator or an oven (set to 60 degrees Celsius,) dry the lemon balm, lemon zest and ginger until they are completely dry. All the ingredients will take between 2-3 hours to dry depending on the size of the pieces.
When the lemon balm is dry, crumble it your fingers, into small pieces. Break the pieces of lemon zest into small pieces and crumble the ginger slices.
Combine everything in a jar and seal.
As long as everything was sufficiently dried, this will last months in a cool dark place.

To serve, add one heaped tablespoon per cup and leave to steep for 5-10 minutes. Strain and add honey to taste. 

Apple, Vanilla and Strawberry Tea with and Earl Grey Base

Ingredients

1 cup fresh strawberries, chopped into small pieces
2 apples, peeled and chopped into small pieces. Keep the peel too
1 fresh vanilla pod
4 tablespoons loose leaf Earl Grey

Instructions

In a dehydrator or an oven (set to 60 degrees Celsius,) dry the strawberries and apple pieces and apple peel until they completely dry, about 5-6 hours depending on the size of the pieces.
When they are dry, put in a jar.
Cut open the vanilla pod and scrape out the seeds. Add the seeds to the jar, as well as the empty pod.
Tear open the tea bags and add in too. Seal the jar.

As long as everything was sufficiently dried, this will last months in a cool dark place.

To serve, add one heaped tablespoon per cup and leave to steep for 5-10 minutes. Strain and add honey to taste. 

Strawberry, Lime and Mint Tea

Ingredients

2 cups fresh mint leaves
Peeled zest of 2 limes
1 cup fresh strawberries, chopped.

Instructions

In a dehydrator or an oven (set to 60 degrees Celsius,) dry the mint leaves, lime zest and strawberries until they are completely dry. The mint leaves and lime will take 1-2 hours and the strawberries between 5-6 hours depending on the size of the pieces.
When the mint is dry, crumble it your fingers, into small pieces. Break the pieces of lime zest into small pieces.
Combine all ingredients in a jar and seal.

As long as everything was sufficiently dried, this will last months in a cool dark place

To serve, add one heaped tablespoon per cup and leave to steep for 5-10 minutes. Strain and add honey to taste. 

Apple, Star anise and Fennel Tea

This one may sound a bit strange but the licoricey taste of the fennel and star anise work well with the sweetness of the apple.

Ingredients

3 apples, chopped, no need to peel
2 tablespoons fennel seeds, smashed a bit in a mortar and pestle
2 star anise, crushed into smaller pieces.
4 tablespoons loose leaf green tea

Instructions

In a dehydrator or an oven (set to 60 degrees Celsius,) dry the apple pieces until completely dry, around 5-6 hours depending on the size of the pieces.
Add the dried apple to a jar along with the fennel and star anise and seal.

As long as the apple was sufficiently dried, this will last months in a cool dark place.

To serve, add one heaped tablespoon per cup and leave to steep for 5-10 minutes. Strain and add honey to taste. 

Have fun and experiment! Make your own flavours! This is such a fun way to put some real thought and love into a homemade Christmas gift. ❤️ A little tag can be attached to show the ingredients used. 

Happy brewing!

Christmas in a Jar: Homemade Bath Salts

Christmas in a Jar: Homemade Bath Salts

Is it too early to start talking about Christmas? Maybe but I’m going to do so anyway.

This year I want to make some homemade Christmas presents. We live in such a consumerism orientated world. We have everything we need and then come Christmas we buy each other all sorts of junk that often ends up in the rubbish pile. A few years ago I bought my father in law novelty skull ice cube moulds, because of course, everyone needs those.

To do my bit to step out of this cycle of buying and throwing away, I am making my own presents. I’ve decided to write down a few and share what I am making, starting with this post: Homemade bath salts.

Homemade bath salts

Who doesn’t love a relaxing bath with deliciously scented, soothing water.

Bath salts are ridiculously easy to make and you can make them unique with your own choices of colours and scents. Since it’s Christmas I did a batch of minty candy cane salts, as well as a classic lavender.

Homemade bath salts

It’s a blend of muscle relaxing Epsom salts, cleansing salt, nourishing coconut oil and delicious scents. . Presented in a recycled jam jar, a strip of ribbon and a cute name tag. Voila! A perfect wee gift for your loved ones to enjoy.

Homemade Bath Salts

Ingredients

  • 1 1/2 cups Epsom salts
  • 1 cup rock salt or 3/4 cup sea salt
  • 2 1/2 tablespoons baking soda
  • 1 tablespoon coconut oil
  • 1-2 tsp of food colouring (optional)
  • 10-15 drops pure essential oil of your choice

Instructions

  1. In a metal or glass bowl, combine the Epsom salts, salt and baking soda and coconut oil. Stir well to combine.
  2. Add in the food colouring, slowly, mixing after each drop until it is your desired colour.
  3. Add in the essential oil and mix in well, taking care not to spill any pure oil on your skin.
  4. Pour into jars. I layered different colours for a visual effect.
https://homegrownhappiness.co.nz/homemade-bath-salts/

I’m going to be posting more homemade gifts in the next couple of days. Are you making gifts this year? If so, what are you making?

Happy crafting!

Heirloom or Hybrid Seeds?

Heirloom or Hybrid Seeds?

Heirloom seeds, hybrid seeds, what do you choose?

I don’t know about you guys, but when I first ventured into the world of vegetable gardening, I heard these two words a lot without a clue what they meant when it comes to the garden. I thought, ‘What’s the deal with sticking the label hybrid or heirloom on a plant,  a cauliflower is a cauliflower regardless of the label, right?’

Turns out there’s a bit more to it than just a fancy name!

seeds

Heirloom Seeds

An heirloom is defined as something special, of value, handed down from generation to generation. It’s the same with heirloom (or heritage as they’re also known) seeds. These seeds are from plants grown by our ancestors and passed down, each baby seedling a pretty much exact replica of the parent plant.

Heirloom seeds are open-pollinated and will produce seeds that are ‘true to type’. This means they are either self-pollinated or pollinated by a plant in the same variety to then produce offspring that are akin to their parent plant.

seeds

Hybrid Seeds

Hybrid seeds are the seeds produced by plants that have been cross-pollinated. This means the pollen from one plant has been transferred to a different plant of the same species. The produce that grows once the plant has been pollinated will be the same, but the seeds saved from that produce will not be the same as the parent plant.

A pumpkin pollinated by a zucchini will still produce a pumpkin. If you were to save the seeds of that new pumpkin however and plant those, you would end up with a zucchini/pumpkin hybrid cross. 

Hybrid seeds produced by seed companies are made very deliberately. Plants will be picked based on things like their size, disease resistance and yield and cross-pollinated to produce an elite sort of plant. As the offspring produced by that plant won’t be the same as the parent and you won’t know what you’ll get, you have to rebuy hybrid seeds each year instead of seed saving.

So what’s better, hybrid or heirloom?

Hybrids are faster, stronger and usually produce better than heirloom plants. They are however a one trick pony. You will need to rebuy them every year which puts you out of pocket and fills the pockets of the giant seed companies. Though hybrid seeds produce plants that are disease resistant and can mass produce, this is often at the expense of taste and nutrients. An heirloom tomato will often have more flavour and vitamins than a hybrid.

The act of seed saving that heirloom produce allows is more than just saving money. It’s amazing to know you are growing the exact same plant that grew hundreds of years ago. Koanga Institue in New Zealand does some amazing work with keeping NZ heirloom varieties alive. Their selection is just awesome, so many delicious varieties. Buy one packet of seeds and you can grow and save seed forever!

Want to read a cool story? A school in Canada found an 800-year-old squash a few years ago with preserved seeds! They have successfully grown a squash from these seeds and are now working on saving more seed to bring this squash variety back.

Ultimately the choice is yours but if you haven’t tried seed saving yet, I encourage you to give it a go! It’s extremely satisfying to be able to continue planting each year without the need to purchase more seed.

Happy gardening!

Spring in the Garden-November to do list

Spring in the Garden-November to do list

Sow from seed this month: basil, beans, tomatoes, cucumbers, zucchini, pumpkin, melons, corn, eggplant, chilli, capsicum, lettuce, radishes.

Sow from punnets this month: potatoes, kumara, tomatoes, onions, capsicums, eggplants.

Harvest this month: Artichokes, broad beans 

It’s still spring but this November has been so warm already. It was in the newspaper not long ago that we are in for an extra hot summer this year. I think that this month we should practice keeping our plants well doused and happy, in an efficient way so we don’t waste precious water. It’s only going to get drier and hotter which means water restrictions will come into play. If we take some steps now to mulch our gardens well, we can reduce the number of days we need to water yet still keep our plants satisfied.

Mulch

You guys know I’m a huge fan of mulch, and right now it’s particularly important!  Mulch keeps the ground cool and protected. I have my vegetable patches covered in a thick layer of straw and hay. While the sun beats down hard on the top, underneath is cool, dark and damp.

Get that ground covered! Straw, hay, dead leaves, spent plants, grass clippings…

Watering

When the weather is hot and the ground dries out, depending on the type of soil you have, it can be hard for the water to trickle through. Here in Wellington, I have clay ground and once that’s dry, you need a hammer to get through.

If I water my garden for only a few minutes, there’s no way that water will have time seep through the rock-hard clay and get to the plant’s roots. It’s important to water for a long time to soften the ground enough for water to get through. Mulching on top of the clay will help keep it soft.

If you have a sandy soil, water drains very quickly. Mulching on top of this will help retain some of the moisture.

Fertilising your plants

Fertilising is very important right now as your plants are actively growing. Applying liquid fertilisers is a great way to get plants their nutrients quickly.

A tomato liquid fertiliser is high in potassium which promotes fruit growth. This type of fertiliser is also good for eggplants, beans, chillis, capsicum, cucumbers and pumpkins. Basically, a vegetable where you are harvesting the fruit, not the leaves. You can buy a tomato fertiliser or make your own using comfrey leaves. Comfrey tea is also high in potassium.

Corn, potatoes and kumara can be fertilised with a liquid seaweed fertiliser such as Seasol, or make your own. (Check out the link below) 👇

5 Easy D.I.Y liquid fertilisers

Succession planting

Practice succession planting to ensure a long harvest time. Sow carrots, beans, beetroot, radishes, spinach and lettuce every 2-3 weeks so you don’t run out. I also direct sow zucchini seed every 4 weeks, all throughout summer, for an extra large harvest!

When planting from punnets, avoid planting in the middle of the day if it’s a hot day. Soak the seedlings in Seasol first to avoid transplant shock and water them well once they are in.

Pest Protection

Keep an eye out for bugs that plague your plants! The white butterfly is out in full force now, its little caterpillar offspring ready to annihilate your brassicas.

Checking your leaves manually and squishing the teeny yellow eggs and the green caterpillar are one way to combat this pest. Otherwise, use a net to cover your brassicas, sprinkle with Diatomaceous earth or use Kiwicare organic caterpillar bio control.

Aphids can also be a problem, on any of your vegetables or fruit trees. If you catch them quick enough you can squish the few there are with your finger (check the undersides of leaves too). If it’s a big infestation, spray the aphids directly with a mixture of unscented liquid soap and water (1 tablespoon soap to 1 litre of water.)

Grey aphids on a cabbage seedling
Grey aphids on a cabbage seedling

Other pests and diseases to watch for:

Mealybugs, Thrips, whiteflies and mites. The simple soap spray used for the aphids will work on a lot of these pests too. The fatty acids in the soap will dissolve the exoskeletons of the bugs.

Passionvine hoppers. Once adults, these buggers are hard to catch. Control them by vacuuming up their larvae before they have a chance to grow.

Psyllids. Dust the infected plant with diatomaceous earth or spray with neem oil.

Powdery Mildew. A fungal infection that can infect nearly any plant. Spray with a mixture of baking soda, soap and water. ( 1 tablespoon baking soda, 1/2 tsp unscented liquid soap to 3.5 litres of water.)

Blight. Treat early signs of blight with the baking soda spray above, or an organic copper spray. Late-onset blight or sever blight is harder to treat and it is best to remove the plant and dispose of it in the bin or burn it. Don’t compost it as you may spread it to other plants and don’t plant the same kind of plant in the same spot. The soil should then be well cultivated to stop the remaining blight spores overwintering and covered with a thick layer of compost and mulch.

A daily little wander in your garden can be extremely helpful in catching what’s wrong before it gets out of hand. It’s also a nice way to connect with your garden and see the changes happening each day!

❤️

Happy Gardening!

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