Summer in the Garden- February to do List

Summer in the Garden- February to do List

The last month of summer is already here! Time goes so quickly, especially when you plan around the seasons. There is always something to do or prepare for.

What to sow this month: Broccoli, cauliflower, cabbage, Brussel sprouts, bok choy, carrots, beetroot, leeks, spring onions, lettuce, fennel, swedes, turnips, parsnips

What to plant from seedlings: Broccoli, cauliflower, cabbage, Brussel sprouts, basil, coriander, leeks, fennel

February has to be one of the most rewarding months for the NZ vegetable garden. Your summer crops will be ripening quickly in the heat and you may find yourself overloaded with produce. Finding ways to preserve your excess fruits and vegetables is one of my favourite things to do and it means you can enjoy your homegrown bounty all year round.  I have been canning, dehyrdating and fermenting and it’s been so fun! I’m working on a few favourite recipes to share in the future.

In the Garden

Just because Autumn is around the corner, doesn’t mean the heat is stopping. February is one of the hottest months in NZ, and judging from how this summer has been so far, this February won’t be an exception.Therefore, keeping your garden hydrated is still at the top of the list.*

*Do remember though: a deep longer watering is better than many quick ones. This will ensure the water has time to actually reach the plant roots.

Liquid Fertilisers

Keep on top of liquid feeding! I make all my own liquid fertilisers (see my post here), and in summer I need to replenish my supply regularly as I am using it so often. Liquid feeding your plants every one to two weeks in summer is great to give them that extra boost they need to keep producing.

Seed Saving

Some of your leafy greens and herbs that are not so heat tolerant may start bolting and going to seed. Try your hand at seed saving so you can resow these next season. Leave the seeds on the plant to dry out completely before cutting them down and placing them in a brown paper bag. Keep your seeds in a cool, dry, dark place until you are ready to use them.

If you are wanting to seed save from plants such as zucchini or cucumber, wait until the plant is nearing the end of its life before letting one vegetable grow to full size. This is because, if the plant is putting its energy into growing a zucchini to full size, it’ll put less energy into producing more flowers and produce for you.

Once you have harvested a decent amount, let a few of the healthiest vegetables on the plant grow to full size. Zucchinis will grow huge and their skin will harden when they are mature. Cucumbers will turn yellow. Once mature, you can scoop the seeds out from the middle and wash them well to remove the pulp. The same goes for pumpkin seed saving. Once collected, let the seeds dry out completely on a tray before storing in a dry, cool and dark place.

Beans seeds can be collected by letting the pods dry completely on the vine until they rattle when you shake them.  

Prepping autumn garden beds

My own garden is still very full of summer crop so I don’t have a lot of room to start preparing yet but I do make the most of each little space that comes up and I have prepared a few small sections for some of my autumn crops.

Your soil will have been very busy and depleted over summer so you want to add nutrients back in. Spread a layer of rich organic matters such as leaf mould, worm castings, aged manure or seaweed over your soil. I use a deep mulching method in my garden so I don’t work any of this stuff ‘in’ to the soil. I place it on top and then plant right into it. This layer also works as a barrier for weeds. 

Autumn Seedlings 

Start off your brassica and leek seedlings now if you haven’t already done so. If you are planting out any brassica seedlings already, be aware the white butterfly is still out so it pays to cover them with a net.

Strawberry Runners

Your strawberries will be producing many runners around this time. Once these runners have rooted you can snip them off the parent plant and replant them as their own individual plant. A strawberry plant does its best producing in the first three years, so it’s a good idea to replace the older plants with some of these new plants.

Compost

At this time of year, I have a whole heap of compost piles. It’s so easy to just throw any green waste in a pile. Any leaves I chop back, or plants I pull out all get dumped (semi-nicely) in a pile. I mix it in with some carbon (dead leaves, straw, hay) and let it do its thing. Because they are dotted all around my garden, once it has broken down I can use it straight in the garden without having to cart it around too far.

If your plants were hit by any diseases such as blight or curley leaf , or were plagued by pysllids, do not compost these leaves to avoid spreading these problems to next season. Instead, burn or bin these infected leaves.

Want to see my personal February garden to do? Watch the video below.

Happy gardening!

Foraging for the Food bank

Foraging for the Food bank

I asked and you guys gave!

For me, this year is all about reducing waste, especially food waste. There is free food everywhere in natureVegetables, herbs and fruit. So much goes to waste because it is forgotten, the birds get it too quickly or people don’t even know it’s there.

In NZ this is a particularly big issue as many people are struggling to feed their families because of our extremely high food prices (we export most of our food, so our own prices skyrocket.)

I wanted to do my little bit to combat this so I am on a waste-free mission!

For my own little family, my aim is to stock my pantry with as much food as I can that we don’t already eat fresh. My garden is pumping out zucchini and tomatoes like nobody’s business, so I want to stretch out this food to last us as long as possible. Canning, fermenting and dehydrating are happening every day in the Lewis Household.

But there is only so much food I can hoard for my own family without sharing with others. This is where you guys came in.

I put a blast up on a few community pages on Facebook asking if people had any fruit trees where fruit was going to waste. Maybe it’s a forgotten tree or the abundance of fruit was just too much. Anyway, SO many people replied! I got offers for lemons, pears, apples, damson plums and berries.

Together with my glut of vegetables, I amassed a HUGE amount of fresh produce, with only one goal in mind for it: Donate it to a local food bank. Most of the fruit was in top-notch condition, and for the bird pecked and squashed fruits, I made jams and preserves. I asked ONYA NZ if they would help by donating some of their amazing reusable produce bags and they said YES. Check out their bags here. Their environmentally friendly and reycled bags allow your produce to breather and last way longer in the fridge.

The picture above is only about half of what was collected, bagged and bottled. This is all going to the local food bank.

I’m so pleased and grateful for the response of others and am so hopeful that I can continue doing this in the future. I encourage you guys to try something similar in your community! All the fruit I did collect was otherwise just going to be wasted.

We can all save some damsons in distress. 😉

Happy foraging!

A Beginners Guide to Growing Vegetables on a Budget

A Beginners Guide to Growing Vegetables on a Budget

‘Grow your own vegetables to save money.’

This is a common statement made and it does make sense. Growing your own cauliflowers is surely cheaper than buying them for $5.99 each at the supermarket. If you plan and do it correctly, home growing your produce is a definite money saver.

But how do you get started without having to first invest lots of $$ in setting up? Don’t worry, it is totally doable. With a little planning, initiative, and D.I.Y you can set up your own thriving vegetable plot.

Seed Starting 

Let’s start here. Starting your own vegetables from seed is a key part of saving money in the garden. It may seem cheap to buy a $1 or $2 punnet of 6 seedlings at the garden centre but trust me, it’s not. That works out to be around 20cents per seed. If you consider the fact that one tomato can produce about 40 seeds, it does seem a bit steep to pay 20 cents per seed.

What you are really paying for is the time it took for that little seedling to grow. This is where a little pre-planning on your part will pay off greatly.

Obtaining Seeds

So now that we have decided to sow our own seeds, where should we source them? You can buy seeds from garden centres and supermarkets but since the aim is to garden on a budget, let’s not do this. Let’s try these options instead:

  1. Asking around: Join a gardening group and ask if anyone has spare seeds. Social media is great for this. There are bound to be local gardening groups in your area on Facebook. Ask if anyone has any spare seeds to gift and you can pay it forward sometime in the future. I guarantee you, someone will give you some.
  2. Plant supermarket seeds: You can absolutely plant seeds from vegetables bought at the supermarket. You can’t, however, be sure that the variety that grows will be the same as the variety the seed came from. This is because the vegetables and fruits at supermarkets are usually hybrid varieties. (Read more about that here.)

    It’s also a possibility that the fruits and vegetables have been treated in such a way that the seeds won’t germinate. You can eliminate that potential problem by buying organic produce. Yes, you are initially spending some money, but if you were going to buy the pumpkin to eat for dinner anyway then it’s just a bonus to keep the seeds.

    Let some of your organic garlic, potatoes, kumara and yams sprout and plant away. You will hear that garden centre seed potatoes, seed garlic and seed yams are more disease resistant and hardier but I personally have also had great luck with planting my own organic supermarket-bought sprouted produce.

    Check out farmers markets too, especially for vendors selling heirloom produce. That way you can be sure that what you grow will be identical to the parent plant.

Seed Raising Mix

The seed raising mix found at garden centres is a perfectly balanced mix for growing seedlings in. However, that doesn’t mean you cannot make your own.

Don’t just go and dig up some garden soil though, this is too heavy and compacted for your seedlings to grow in and can cause dampening off and rotting. You can make a perfectly good seed raising mixture with homemade compost, leaf mould and sand.

Leaf mould is 100% dead leaves that have broken down. I did a post on making a leaf mould cage last year (check it out here). It does take a year to become leaf mould but don’t panic if you haven’t set up a leaf mould cage! You don’t need a huge amount to make a container of seedling mix. Look around in parks and walkways for a pile of fallen leaves. Dig under that and find the crumbling dark brown magic that will already be forming. 

As for compost, that’s another one to home make. Anyone can (and I believe, everyone should) make some sort of compost/bin/heap/pile to reduce waste. It doesn’t have to be fancy. Layers of green plant waste alternated with layers of brown (dead) plant waste. Compost can be achieved in a couple of months, even if all of it hasn’t broken down yet, dig under the pile and get the stuff closest to the ground.

If you haven’t gotten round to making a compost pile yet, ask around. Someone will surely give you a bucket of theirs.

Lastly sand. This is added to provide better drainage for the mix. This seed raising mix is made of 40% compost. 40% leaf mould and 20% sand.

Seed raising containers

Loads of things can be used for these. Empty yoghurt pottles, toilet paper rolls, ice cream containers, egg cartons. As long as water can drain out from the bottom it’ll work.

So now you have your seeds, seed raising mix and seed containers it’s time to plant. Here is my guide to starting seedlings from seed.

Building a vege garden

Now that your seedlings are growing, where will you plant them once they are ready for transplanting?

A cost-free, fuss-free no dig garden bed is a great option.

Choose a sunny spot in your garden and pile on layers of newspaper, homemade compost and free mulch (such as leaves, hay, straw etc). This is a perfect garden bed for your seedlings without the need to spend any money or the back-breaking work of digging and building a raised bed. For more details and instructions check out this post on no-dig garden beds.

Fertilising and feeding

Seedlings? Check. Garden bed? Check.

To keep your garden thriving, I have compiled a list of 5 home-made liquid fertilisers you can easily D.I.Y to nourish your plants.

Seed Saving

Once your vegetables have come to the end of their life, if you planted any heirloom or heritage varieties you can now save their seed for next year. Save the strongest and biggest plant of each variety and either let it go to seed (if it’s brassica or a leek for example) or save the seed from the largest ‘fruit’ or stalk of a plant (A pumpkin or an ear of corn for example.)

So now…

So now we have come full circle without spending much, if any, money.

The key is to use and reuse as much as you can of nature’s ‘waste.’ All leaves, all vegetable scraps, all harvested plants are vital for a healthy and thriving eco-system in your garden. Throw in a handful of free wildflower and sunflower seeds for the bees and you’re all set!

If you are a beginner gardener, growing only a select few vegetables and learning to grow them well is a great and easy starting point.

Do you have any budget friendly gardening tips to add? Leave them in the comments below!

Happy gardening!

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