Summer in the Garden- January to do List

Summer in the Garden- January to do List

Happy new year!

I hope last year was a good one for you and that the new year brings lots of great things. I’ve personally had a fantastic 2017 and am so grateful to all my readers and your support over the last year. Thank you. ❤️

To sow this month: carrots, beetroot, fennel, cucumbers, lettuce, early turnips, corn, silverbeet, zucchini, beans

To plant from punnets: tomatoes, eggplant, chilis, lettuces, fennel 

This month you will be kept busy with a lot of harvesting. Beans, zucchinis, cucumbers, chilis and tomatoes will be appearing quickly and it is a good idea to harvest them as you see them to let the plant put energy into producing more new flowers and more produce.

Sow in the gaps

As you are harvesting, don’t forget to resow in the empty spaces! It can be easy to get caught up in picking produce now and not thinking about the future months. I direct sow lettuce, zucchini, beans and radishes constantly to ensure a continuous amount of produce. In the cooler areas, down south, you can start sowing early varieties of turnips now too. Baby turnips don’t take long to grow and you’ll have something new for your salads!

Prepare beds for leeks and brassicas

Next month is when I will start sowing my brassicas (Broccoli, Cauliflowers, Brussel sprouts, Swedes…etc) and leeks to give them a good start before it gets colder. I use this month to prepare the spaces where they will go. Brassicas especially are heavy feeders so pile on a good amount of compost and aged manure.

Remember crop rotation. If in the previous season you had planted brassicas in a certain place, don’t plant them there again the following season. This will deplete the soil of nutrients and if there are brassica diseases present, they will infect the next crop too.

Check for bugs and diseases

The tomato/potato psyllid is out now and can wreak havoc on your toms and spuds! Know what to check for if you think you may have this bug. Kath Irvine from the Edible Backyard has a great article here.

Potato psyllid damage

Blight, particularly on tomatoes is another problem. Telltale signs are black spots and rings on the leaves, fruit may start to rot and the leaves turn yellow and drop off. Once your plants have blight you should destroy the plants (not compost as the fungal spores can survive) and make sure not to plant the same plant there again for a few years. Blossom end rot is a problem often confused with blight. The bottom end of the fruit (where the blossom is) rots. This usually caused by erratic watering or sometimes a too acidic soil. Unlike blight, this isn’t a plant disease.

You can avoid blight by keeping your tomatoes well staked and trimmed to allow better air circulation. A spray of 1 tsp baking soda per litre of water is effective too, at the first sign of blight or as a precautionary measure. This spray also works well for powdery mildew, another fungal disease that can affect many plants but is common on squash and pumpkin plants. Signs of this are a white powdery looking dusting on top of the leaves.

Net your fruit

Stone fruits, apples and pears are ready or very close to being ready and the birds are just waiting patiently to attack. Net your trees and berry bushes now to avoid your trees being stripped bare. It is amazing how fast birds can work. On Facebook, I read a post a lady wrote about someone stealing all her cherries from the tree one day. Turns out it wasn’t a sticky-handed thief, just hungry birds. Not one cherry was left!

Liquid fertilise

Keep on top of liquid feeding! A bi-weekly or weekly dose of a good liquid fertiliser will have your vegetables thanking you. Try some homemade ones here.

Preserve your excess

Jams, chutneys, dehydrating, freezing… After you have had your share of fresh, given away to friends and families, preserve your leftovers so you have some for the winter! My larder is filling up quickly with different fruits I have collected. To preserve mine I use this simple bottling method here.

What’s your favourite thing to do with your fruit gluts?

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!

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!

Spring in the Garden- September to do List

Spring in the Garden- September to do List

Spring is finally here! Spring blossoms are everywhere and all my daffodils have flowered. I am just waiting on my tulips.

Though it’s a very exciting thought to start planting everything in the garden RIGHT NOW! Try hold off a little longer with planting any summer crops as New Zealand spring can be very unpredictable and a rogue frost could ruin all your hard work. Now is a good time to really ensure your soil is in top notch condition and that your garden is all cleaned up for when it is planting time.

Sow from seed this month:Beetroot, broccoli, radishes, coriander, celery, carrots, silver beet, spring onions

Sow from seedlings this month: broccoli, cauliflower, asparagus, cabbage, potatoes, silverbeet, spinach

Prepare your soil

If your soil in general is friable and dark looking, you can just a little compost and sheep pellets to it to replenish some of the nutrients lost in winter. If your soil is looking a bit lack luster, adding some vegetable Mix as well compost and sheep pellets will give it the boost it needs to grow a bumper crop.

Spring Clean around the garden

Pick up any dead leaves or plant debris and chuck them in the compost. Take this time to do some weeding too as the soft spring soil should make it a bit easier to pull them out. Don’t put any of the invasive weeds in the compost though. The compost won’t get hot enough in this weather to kill them and they’ll grow back with a vengeance.

Quick Sow Spring Seeds 

September/October can be a little bit of a lull period in the garden, food wise. There’s not an awful lot to harvest from winter as you’ll be emptying your garden beds  for summer crops. I like use this time to direct sow quick growers like radishes, baby turnips, spring onions and  beetroot (where I use the leaves in salads as I wait for the actual root to grow). They can be harvested in as little as 30 days so you can at least have something fresh to harvest while you wait.

Feed existing plants

Feed your garlic and your rhubarb now, both are heavy feeders! For rhubarb, apply some compost and sheep pellets, or well rotted manure around the crown of the plant to feed it and retain moisture. Feed your garlic with a fertiliser high in nitrogen and add a side dressing of blood and bone. Take care no fertilisers or manure touch the garlic plant itself.

Feed strawberries now and all other berries with Strawberry food. Feed your citrus trees now with Citrus food.

Feed your deciduous fruit trees now with Fruit tree Fertiliser. Check the soil around the trees and see if it needs attention. The rough winter weather can play havoc with the earth. Add compost if you need to around the base of the tree (make sure it doesn’t touch the trunk). Mulch your fruit trees.

Let your plants bloom

Some of your winter crops may be flowering now. If you want to give the bees a treat or you want to save seeds for next year, let them flower away. Let the flowers of whatever plant you’re seed saving from,dry out on the plant and then remove them and place in a brown paper bag. After drying them out further for another week or so, inside, give the bag a good shake to remove the seeds from the seed head. Label the bag and store in an airtight bag until you want to plant.

Some plants like parsley or coriander are excellent self seeders so you can just the let the plant do its thing and new plants will pop up next season.

Attract bees

Have your broad beans been flowering but there are no beans in sight? Each little flower needs to be pollinated and because of the wet weather the bees aren’t as active. We can try and attract them to our garden by planting beneficial flowers that bees love. Read more here –> Beneficial flowers in the garden.

Start Seedlings Inside

Zucchini, capsicums, chillis, cucumbers… these can all be started inside now so you can get ahead when it’s time to plant them out. Traditionally labour weekend is a safe bet to plant them out as the risk of frost is gone. For help starting seedlings inside, read more here—> Starting seedlings indoor.

Potatoes

Plant potatoes now so you have fresh spuds for Christmas! Generally you can harvest potatoes after they have flowered and died back but not all potatoes flower so this is not a sure fire method. Keep dates of when you planted your potatoes and what variety and then go from there.

I have listed a few common types and their harvesting times.

  • Rocket- 60-70 days, this a quick growing variety
  • Cliff Kidney- 60-90 days (depending on baby potatoes or if you want bigger ones)
  • Agria- 150 days for fully matured potatoes
  • Jersey Benne- 60-70 days, another quick growing variety
  • Highlander- 80-90 days
  • Red rascal- 90 days
  • Swift- 70 days
  • Liseta- 90 days
  • Purple Passion- 70-80 days

Happy Gardening!

Getting ahead in the Garden- Starting Seedlings Indoors

Getting ahead in the Garden- Starting Seedlings Indoors

One of the best ways to get ahead in the vegetable garden and save money is to start your own seedlings inside, from scratch.

In the garden centre, the seedling punnets can be pretty expensive at $2-$3 for only 6 or so seedlings. A packet of seeds is that price but for 100 seeds! What you are really paying for is the time that was spent growing the seedlings.

A little preparation and planning now can mean a full vegetable garden for only a little money.

Spring Seedlings

I start my spring seedlings nice and early, about halfway through August but I won’t physically transplant the seedlings into the garden until mid October, when the ground is warmer. Depending on where you are situated and the chance of frost in your area, the date of planting in the garden may have to be pushed out later. You want to start your seedlings about 6 weeks before the last frost date in your area.

What you need:

  1. A warm and light space. Warmth is most important as the seed germinates, but light becomes vital when the seed pops through the soil. If your seedlings don’t get enough sunlight they’ll become thin and ‘leggy’ as they search for the sun. If you don’t have a sunny window, invest in a grow light like this one. They aren’t too expensive and the LED red and blue lights mimic the sun.
  2. Seed Trays- There are many different sorts you can get, including biodegradable ones like jiffy pellets that can be planted straight in the ground. I will explain more down below.
  3. Seed raising mix- If you’re not using jiffy pellets which include the soil, an organic seed raising mix like Tui’s Organic Seed Raising Mix will give your seeds their best start.
  4. Labels (for what you planted and the date)- As much as you think you’ll remember, trust me, you end up forgetting what you planted and where and when. Labels are essential!
  5. Watering- Something that waters gently, like a spray bottle, so the soil doesn’t move around too much and disturb the seed.
  6. Seeds- of course, you need seeds.

Soaking Seeds

This part isn’t compulsory but I like to pre-soak my larger seeds before planting. It shaves off even more time as it will soften the protective seed coat and let the seedling emerge quicker.

Seedlings

Place them in a bowl of water for 8-10 hours. After soaking, take care when handling the seeds as they’ll be more delicate and plant them in your seed trays straight away.

Seed Trays

There are many different seed trays available, including using what you have at home.

A plastic container with a few holes punched at the bottom will work fine, but I definitely prefer disposable containers that can be planted in the garden without disturbing the seedling roots. This is especially important if you’re starting seedlings like beans,beetroot or artichokes inside which don’t transplant particularly well.

Disposable seed trays could include cups made from newspaper, egg cartons, cardboard boxes or my favourite, Jiffy pellets They are little, compressed pellets made from peat. They expand as you add water and provide all the nutrients your growing seed needs until it is time to transplant in the garden. Once it is time, you can pop the whole thing in and it will decompose in the soil

Seedlings

To keep things extra warm, I place my seedlings in mini green houses.

You can buy them like the one pictured above, or make your own.

D.I.Y Greenhouse

Place your seedling trays in a large container that can that has higher sides than the seedling trays. Cover that container with plastic wrap and punch a few holes in it for aeration. 

If you’re not using jiffy pellets which include the soil, fill your seed trays with seed raising mix and use a spray bottle to moisten the soil. Sprinkle your seeds over this moistened soil and gently press the seeds into the soil. You can add a small layer of soil over the top of the large seeds but for the smaller ones, you won’t need to cover them. Pressing them down will suffice.

Keep your soil moistened daily or as it dries out, but don’t wet it too much that it gets waterlogged.

Make sure to label what you have planted and include the date that you planted the seeds. This is so you can keep a record of how it is growing and know when it should be ready.

Transplanting and hardening off

As your seedlings emerge, the first set of leaves it grows are the seed leaves and aren’t considered the ‘true leaves’, the next set of leaves it grows however are. Once your seedling grows two sets of true leaves, you can start hardening it off to prepare it for life outside.

Place your seed trays outside on a calm day for 3-4 hours so they get used to the sunlight and outside temperatures. Decrease your watering to every second or third day. Slowly increase their exposure to cooler temperatures.

As the ground warms and there is no risk of frost anymore, your hardened plants can be transplanted. Don’t rush this step though, it’s not worth the risk transplanting them too soon only to lose them to a cold snap.

After transplanting your seedlings, water them well with Seasol to avoid transplant shock.

Happy gardening!

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