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

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!

Deep Mulching- The Fuss Free Gardening Style

Deep Mulching- The Fuss Free Gardening Style

There are many ways to have a vegetable garden as well as many gardening styles. If you have raised beds for example, you could use the square foot method, a potager style garden, a keyhole garden, just to name a few.

I love browsing Pinterest and looking at pristine, organised raised beds, but when it comes down to it my gardening style is the complete opposite. For my tiny section, I have three main objectives: a high yield, good use of space and no weeding. To accomplish these goals I use a deep mulching method.

Deep Mulching 

This method is based on Ruth Stout’s ‘No Work’ gardening technique. The idea is simple: Keep a constant, thick layer of mulch around your vegetables all year round. This simple but effective technique means there is no need for weeding, tilling, digging or even composting (Though I do still compost, sorry Ruth!) It retains moisture in summer, keeps plants warm in winter and improves your soil fertility over time.

When your plants are finished, don’t pull them out. Simply chop them down and cover with mulch. Weeds poking out? Cover with mulch. You start with an initial 20cm layer of mulch, which will quickly settle down to about 5cm after rain, and just keep on adding mulch as needed.

My own gardening area is pretty small so I like to use all the space. This method lets me use the whole ground as one big garden bed with no set borders. Perfect for my hectic gardening style.

What Mulch to use?

You can use any vegetable matter as mulch. Chop down plants that are finished and use as mulch. I initially used a mixture of barley straw, pea straw and hay as my thick starting layer. Now I pile on grass clippings and leaves too. This thick layer will stop weeds as they won’t be able to reach the light.

When I’m planting seeds or sowing seedlings, I use my compost as the mulch and plant/sow right into that.

But hay has grass seed!

Yes, yes it does. The key point here is to keep the layer of mulch thick enough. If you only have a light covering then the grass seeds can touch the soil and establish in there. If your mulch cover is super thick, the grass seed will germinate but it won’t be growing in anything. Then you can simple cover with more mulch or stick in a pitchfork and flip the mulch over. Or, use straw. It has considerably less seed but it is more expensive.

Once you start this method, you have to keep going. It’s all about the continuous cycle of mulch upon mulch. For me, mulching all year round still beats constant weeding. Garden clean up each season is also considerably easier as instead of raking up dead and decaying plants, you just chuck another mulch layer on top.

And under that mulch…

Is a glorious world or microorganism and worm activity. Over the years your ground will get more and more rich and fertile as these layers continue to break down.

To get initially started, check out how to make a ‘No-Dig Garden bed‘, here. This is a great starting point as it also requires no digging or disturbing of the soil structure and microorganisms underneath.

This won’t be everyone’s cup of tea I’m sure, but it’s effective and time savvy. The mulching cuts down weeding, saves A LOT of water in summer, keeps plants warm in winter and improves soil fertility, ten fold.

What do you think, what’s your gardening style?

Happy Gardening!

 

Spring in the Garden- October to do list

Spring in the Garden- October to do list

It’s nearly Labour weekend when most of New Zealand will go out and plant the majority of their seedlings. The chance of a late frost will have passed and the weather will be warming up. For cooler areas down South, waiting a little longer to plant can be a good idea.

Seeds to sow: broccoli, cauliflower, beetroot, carrot, lettuce, spinach.
Seeds to sow after Labour weekend: Beans, cucumbers, zucchini, eggplants, pumpkins, melons, tomatoes, corn

Plant from punnets after Labour weekend: Eggplant, zucchini, capsicum, cucumber, chilli, tomatoes

Potatoes

Potatoes planted in the last two months will be showing their big leafy tops and they’ll need soil or mulch mounded around them. This will keep their long stalks from breaking in the wind and will stop the sun from shining through and turning your potatoes green.

Prepare beds for heavy feeders

Corn and pumpkin are two prime examples of heavy feeders. They need extra compost and manure in their beds to get them to grow big and tasty. You can use this month to prep those beds extra well, before direct sowing the seeds at the end of the month.

Work in things like well-rotted manure or sheep pellets, chopped up, washed seaweed, compost and worm castings. Cover the bed with mulch and let the worms and microbes have a feast until it’s time for planting.

Bees

As the weather is warming up, did you notice your broad beans are finally carrying little beans? We have the bees to thank for that.

We are heading to the months where pollination is vital for our fresh produce. Let’s get those bees in our garden by planting flowers wherever we can! Borage, lavender, poppies, lupins, sunflowers… these are all flowers bees love.

Feed your berries

Homegrown berries are hard to beat.  You can feed your blueberries, boysenberries, raspberries, gooseberries and strawberries with Strawberry Food to ensure a bumper crop. Keep the soil for the berries consistently moist but don’t over water.

Fill your gaps (and your plate)

Direct sow baby carrots, lettuce and radishes anywhere you have gaps. They’ll grow quickly and you can have fresh salads while you wait for your main summer crops to grow.

Slugs and snails

Keep on top of slugs and snails before they demolish your seedlings! You can use bait or a trap, like this beer trap. Fill it with beer and the slugs and snails will climb in and drown.

Fashion a frame

If you’re planting climbing beans, pumpkins, squash and cucumbers this year, a climbing frame may be what you need to save on space.

Photo credit: Pinterest

Pinterest is full of fantastic ideas on what you could use. It can made from stakes and string, an old spring bed base, a clothes horse… the possibilities are endless!

Photo credit: Pinterest

Happy gardening!

Container Gardening- Grow Produce Anywhere

Container Gardening- Grow Produce Anywhere

Having your own little vegetable patch can seem unimaginable if you have no grass to place it on. Container gardening means you can have your own homegrown paradise anywhere you like.

Well, as long as it gets sun. That’s still a must. Luckily you can always move the containers around to the sunniest spots!

Container Gardening

Tui garden products have a great range of soils and fertilisers perfect for container gardening. Today I used a mix of Tui Pot Power, Tui Vegetable mix and their new, handy pack of mini sheep pellets.

Container Gardening

Unless you have a mass amount of containers, you’ll need to consider where you plant your vegetables. You want to plant them in a way to maximise the space.

For this particular deck, there was a trellis at the back. I’ve planted purple climbing beans at the edge of a few of the pots to utilise the trellis, as the beans will climb up it.  Broccoli was planted alongside the beans. Broccoli uses a lot of nitrogen to grow, whilst the beans fix the nitrogen in the soil. When the beans are finished, the old plants can be chopped up and worked back into the soil to return the nitrogen.

Container Gardening

Capsicum and tomatoes were planted alongside basil seedlings. Basil can naturally help deter bugs and it is said to improve the flavour of the tomatoes.

Lettuce, coriander, silverbeet, red onion and strawberries were all planted in the remaining containers. Lettuce seeds were sown alongside the lettuce seedlings to ensure there’s a continuous supply.

Last but not least, I planted some french marigolds to attract those bees for when the tomatoes and capsicums blossom.

Container Gardening

The soil can be topped up once crops have been harvested. Add some more vegetable mix or compost, a handful of sheep pellets and replant something in it straight away.

Do practice crop rotation though, don’t plant the same family of vegetables in the same pot two seasons in a row. Otherwise, there’s an extra risk of plant disease or depleted soil.

Happy gardening!

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