July: A Walk Through My Garden

July: A Walk Through My Garden

Hey all,

I  wanted to do a more personal post today. It’s a lovely winter’s afternoon, super mild and not a breath of wind. I’ll take you for a wander around my own garden and show you what I’m growing right now.

First up, a little about my garden. The part I use for my vegetables is small, about 200m squared and it’s split into three terraced sections. I don’t get much sun in winter, about an hour, so naturally, this impacts how much, and how quickly things grow. I try not to let this stop my enthusiasm to try to grow as much as I can though, it just takes a bit more planning and inventive uses for all edible parts of the vegetables I grow.

My whole vegetable garden, minus two built planter boxes is a no dig-garden. We started with the two boxes but it was so limiting. I found no dig gardening made so much more sense for me and it meant I could use the entire space available (plus not to mention how AWESOME it is for the soil.)

As it’s winter, I’m growing a lot of cold hardy brassicas at the moment. I have about 20 broccoli and 15 cauliflower plants growing, all planted at different times to stagger the harvest. The ones that have heads on them at the moment where planted all the way back in late Feb/early March. I eat the leaves and stalks as well as the actual florets, as I don’t like wasting any food. The leaves are delicious sauteed when they’re young, but if they get too old and tough, or bug-bitten, I dehydrate them and blitz them into a greens powder. This powder I use in smoothies, breads, soups etc.. Once I have harvested the main heads of the broccoli, I let them keep producing mini broccoli shoots.

In between my broccoli and cauliflowers, I have planted lots of leeks. They’re good companion plants for each other and space wise, leeks can fit nicely in the gaps and maximize the planting space I have.

My cabbages and kale are slowly but steadily chugging along. The cabbages are forming heads but they won’t be ready to eat until well into spring. I have cavolo nero kale, purple kale and curly kale growing too. They’re slow but there are enough plants of each of them to provide us with a steady harvest.

Next to them is my garlic.

I use a mix of hay and pea straw as my mulch layers. I pile them on super thick to conserve all the nutrients under the soil and protect it from the harsh winter elements (though, today there’s no harsh weather to be seen!) When using pea straw, there’s the added bonus of free pea seedlings popping up! As well as the self seeded peas, I’ve sown some of my own, including a blue shelling pea. I’ve built a wee frame for them to climb up which well help keep the peas under control and it’s a great way to maximise space.

In summer I’m a big fan of vertical planting. Cucumbers, melons and pumpkins can all climb up and leave plenty of room on the ground to plant non-climbing plants. Near the peas I have selection of rainbow chard, silverbeet, spinach and celery.

At the very top terrace there is a bed of lettuce, more spinach and silverbeet.

Broad beans are spread around in lots of different pockets around my garden. The lot pictured below is around my brussel sprouts. Once they’re done producing, I’ll chop them down at the roots and they can return all the nitrogen they’ve collected back into the soil. The soil will need it too after hungry brussel sprouts have been there!

I like to continuously sow seeds such as pak choy, turnips, carrots and radish in spots that are empty. Pak choy, radish and baby turnips can be ready to harvest in 1-2 months, but carrots take a lot longer. I have to try extra hard to remember to keep sowing those so I’m not caught out when the current lot is all gone!

When thinning my carrots, I let them get to a decent size so we can still eat them. If I thin them too young it’s so fiddly and I find myself just throwing them on the compost! By letting them get just a bit bigger, there’s still a delicious snack that comes from thinning.

My blueberries are coming along nicely too. These are just grown from cuttings so they haven’t produced much fruit yet. I have a couple of strawberry patches, raspberries, and currents growing too. Those are spread around the edges, along with dwarf feijoas, along another veerrry thin terrace that has quite a steep drop, so they’re an edible fence!

Then lastly, there are quite a few fruit trees around the property too though I am unsure of some of their futures. One can get a little carried away in the fruit tree shop and temporarily forget that one does not own enough space for a huge orchard. 😉

My dwarf varieties can stay, some are in pots, some in the garden. I have a dwarf orange, mandarin, nectarine, cherry, and lemon. The other, larger fruit trees on my property (plum, apricot, and peach) will just be a wait and see to see how they do and if I can keep them pruned back small enough to fit. Half the fun is in the trying!

So that’s my little slice of heaven. I’m learning every day about what works, and what doesn’t, but one thing stays the same: it’s the place where I’m truly myself.

Thanks for reading. Happy gardening!

Winter in the Garden- July To Do List

Winter in the Garden- July To Do List

To sow this month: broad beans, broccoli, cauliflower,peas, snow peas, radish, rocket, onions, lettuce, swedes, turnips, silverbeet, perpetual spinach, carrots

To plant from seedlings this month: asparagus, Chinese cabbages, broccoli, cauliflower, garlic, lettuce, onions

If you’re keen on the idea of homegrown fruit, it’s still a great time to get some fruit trees planted. Here’s a link to Edible Backyard’s post on fruit tree planting. It’s brilliant and straightforward. One day I hope to have the space Kath has to plant fruit trees galore but in the meantime, I just live vicariously through those posts.

Consider planting comfrey underneath your fruit trees as these provide mulch when their old leaves drop off. Comfrey leaves are packed with nutrients as comfrey’s long tap roots bring up nutrients from deep in the soil and into their leaves. As the leaves break down around the tree, the tree will receive these nutrients. There is a Russian variety called called ‘bocking 14’ that only multiplies via root division, so if you’re worried about comfrey self seeding everywhere, try this one.

It’s getting to that time to plant potatoes. You can start chitting them now, to force seed potatoes to sprout. This takes about 4 weeks. Place them in a single layer in a cool light place, but not in any direct sunlight. Once the sprouts have long and strong shoots, keep the strongest 3-4 shoots and rub off the rest. Then they can be planted out.

It’s still time to plant strawberries! They can be planted all the way up to spring but planting them sooner rather than later will ensure larger roots grow and a strong plant means more strawberries! Read more on growing strawberries here.

It’s been cold, wet, raining and even in some cases hailing so our soils are taking a beating. Keep them well mulched to retain those nutrients. I find deep mulching my vegetable patch also stops it from turning into a bog as the rain can be soaked up by the thick layers of mulch.

It’s still cold out there but start sowing peas and broad bean seeds if you haven’t done so already. They’ll slowly establish their roots now and then as the weather warms up and the flowers appear, the bees will come and pollinate the flowers. Add in some quick growing crops such as baby turnips, radishes and more lettuce for something fresh to eat late winter/early spring. Onions can be sown now too, inside in trays or directly onto a prepared bed, as they need about half a year of growing time. 

What’s going on in your winter wonderland?

Happy gardening!

Fruit Tree Grafting: Whip and Tongue Grafts and Chip Budding

Fruit Tree Grafting: Whip and Tongue Grafts and Chip Budding

Fruit tree grafting is an economical way to create your own orchard. In winter you can collect cuttings (called scion wood) from your favourite deciduous trees and graft these onto rootstock and create multiple copies of each tree, without having to wait for a new tree to grow from seed or having to buy an established tree from a nursery.

There are a few more reasons why it can be a good idea to graft, other than it being cheaper. Grafting wood onto a specific rootstock means you can better choose the size of the tree you’ll grow as well as the hardiness.

In New Zealand for example, one of the standard rootstocks for apple is mm106. This is a semi-dwarf rootstock that is quite tolerant to moist soils. However, if you were wanting a smaller apple tree, for example, you could pick an m9 rootstock, which is a dwarf variety.

The scion wood and the rootstock need to be the same genus for the graft to take. The genus ‘Prunus’ includes stonefruit such as plums, peaches, nectarines, cherries, and apricots, so these could all be grafted on the same type of rootstock. You can’t graft a plum scion wood onto apple (Malus genus) rootstock. The only exception to this rule is pear, which can also be grafted to a quince rootstock despite quince being a different genus.

For some trees that grow quickly from seed, and grow fruit which is true to type such as a peaches,  nectarines and apricots grafting isn’t particularly worth it. But for pears and apples, it’s a great option. Apples and pears that haven’t been grafted to a rootstock with dwarfing characteristics can grow ridiculously tall and take up to 10 years to fruit, and just because you grew an apple from seed you can’t guarantee what type the fruit will be. A grafted apple can fruit in 3-4 years and grafted pear in 4-6 and you’ll be sure of the fruit you get.

That being said, grafting is good fun too, even if it’s just an experiment. It’s very cool to see the wood fuse together and become a new tree. I thought I would give a step by step run down of two grafting techniques, Whip and Tounge Grafts and Chip Budding, and encourage you to give it a go!

Rootstock and Scionwood

The rootstock is a plant with an already established root system. The rootstock is what determines things like how big the fruit tree will grow, what conditions it can grow in and the fruit size.

Some grafting techniques use an established tree stump to graft their scion wood on. In the two grafting techniques below I’m not using an established stump. I’ll be using young rootstock, like pictured below. You can buy bunches of inexpensive rootstock online, or use your own. For example, I have a lot of self seeded cherry blossom rootstock around my property on which I will graft edible cherries.

The scion wood is a cutting of wood that is from the tree that you would like to propagate and grow. Scionwood must be first-year wood, meaning the wood that grew last summer. The scion wood must be collected in winter and must always be dormant (no burst buds) and aim for pieces of about 2ocm- 30cm long. One very long piece can be cut into several pieces.  Store scion wood in the fridge, wrapped in wet newspaper and plastic, until you use it.

Whip and tongue graft

This is a dependable and solid graft with a bit of careful skill required. When grafting it is essential that the cambium layer of both the rootstock and the scion wood match and grow together. The cambium is a tissue layer of cells, responsible for plant growth. To ensure a good match it is important you cut smoothly and cleanly using a sharp grafting knife like this one.

Grafting Knife

Take your rootstock and make a long slanting cut across an internode (the space between the buds). Either place the rootstock on a chopping board and press down hard with a grafting knife or hold the rootstock away from you and with one hard stroke, slice, off an angled slice. Try to get the longest possible cut and as smooth as possible to create an oval face.

Find scion wood of a similar size in diameter and do the same thing.

They should match as closely as possible when held together.

There’s the whip graft, now for the tongue.

Keep your thumbs nice and close together for better control with the knife. About 1/3 of the way down from your cut, slice down into the face. Do this slowly and carefully as this can be quite tricky and you don’t want to press down too hard and cut yourself!

Do this in both the rootstock and the scion. Those cuts create the ‘tongue’ and this is what will help hold the rootstock and scion together. Carefully match them together.

Now the graft needs to be securely tied with grafting tape. Grafting tape stretches as the tree grows and keeps out water and diseases. This step is just as important as a clean cut! Cut the top of your scion wood off so that it has only 3 buds remaining. Plant your finished rootstock, preferably in the open ground.

Chip budding

This grafting technique is one that can be done all throughout spring and even summer. It involves grafting only a little bud of the scion wood onto rootstock. This means you get a lot more use out of one piece of scion wood.

On your rootstock, in the internode (the space between two buds), make a little cut, about 3 mm deep.  1cm above that, slice down to meet the little slit you previously made.

On your scion wood, you want to do the same thing except on the bud.

Once you have sliced the bud off, keep it sitting on your grafting knife to avoid touching it with your fingers and contaminating it. Carefully place it onto the rootstock, matching the bud with the cut you made before.

When wrapping this graft, wrap the bottom of the bud first and only cover the tip of the bud with one layer of tape. Plant your rootstock, preferably in the open ground.

The above two grafts were prepared on a bare rooted rootstock. This is a lot easier than grafting on a rootstock in the ground as you can move it around when cutting.

Machine Grafts

If cutting with a grafting knife isn’t your thing, there are grafting shears you can purchase online that do the grafting work for you and actually cut the rootstock and scion wood so they fit like a puzzle.

Once you have planted your rootstock, keep it well watered. If your graft is successful, you should be able to see the buds on the scion wood grow and swell within a couple of months.

Happy grafting!

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