3 months until Autumn hits! At the risk of not being present to summer – let’s think about dinner in Autumn. Let’s get some new stuff planted to keep your vegie patch abundant. Not in an excessive, big mission way, but a regular, little way.
January is an opportunity to extend our summer crops. To create a lovely continuity after our current crops call it quits. Successional planting/ sowing is the proper name. Let’s just call it – not going hungry, little and often planting, or production plus.
What to sow and plant in January
- Plant out another lot of dwarf Beans and Basil. Another one or two Tomato, Cucumber and/or Zucchini (a january zucchini is such a useful thing.)
- Direct sow Salads (choose heat lovers like Tree lettuce, Merveille de Quarter Saison, Drunken Woman, Oak Leaf, Summer Queen), and another lot of Rocket, Radish and Coriander. All on the shady side.
- Direct sow Beetroot. Use your edges for this, unless you need a heap to pickle/ bottle you don’t need a whole bed. Such a small efficient crop, they can be squeezed in anywhere.
- Tray sow Winter leeks and Autumn brassicas.
- Make compost for Autumn plantings.
Toss another lot of flower seed about to continue the fodder for the bees et al, and for the sheer pleasure flowers bring your good self. Stock, snapdragon, calendula, borage, primula, and chamomile … so many options here! Choose vigorous self-seeders as opposed to fussy, fancy things. This way you only need sow once, and enjoy them ever more. Self-sufficient plants we love and adore.
Find garlic seed
My darling friends – it’s no good coming to me in May or June asking where to get garlic seed, by then all the good stuff has sold out. Start the hunt now! Mid January brings cured garlic to the farmers markets, use this for planting. For good quality, heritage garlic seed get on the email lists at Sethas Seeds or Country Trading.
Manage pests + weeds for peace of mind
Should you be going away, do these three things before you head off
- A Neem spray (or whatever you use) to keep pests in hand
- A seaweed liquid feed
- Mulch everything
Get ready for hungry brassica’s – two ways:
- Sow a legume greencrop (+ lime if you are on clay soils). Cut it down in about 6 weeks – right about flowering time, then broadfork the bed, spread compost + minerals + mulch with the greencrop. Leave to settle before planting out.
- Or Broadfork/ aerate the bed, give it a good water (or do this on a rainy day) and cover the whole bed in rotten manure. Mulch generously and leave it to percolate for 6 weeks or so.
I start planting out brassica’s late January/ early February and sow a mixed tray (2 or 3 each of cauli, cabbage, broccoli) every 3 or so weeks for regular harvests Autumn through Spring.
Give your seedlings the best start
A strong start makes all the difference. So much depends here on what the soil and climate is like at your place. Whether the wind whistles through, whether you get 10 – 2 sun or not, whether your soil is warm, but lacking in nourishment (sand) or is heavy and wet, lacking warmth and air (clay). Mitigate whatever unfavourable factors exist at yours.
- Planting a puny two leaf seedling in the garden is like kicking your 4 year old out of home – too vulnerable! Leave seedlings in their pots until they have 4 – 6 leaves and their roots fill the container out. Now plant them out. Grown up and ready to handle it.
- Make the transition from the cosseted world of the pot to being planted in the garden a gradual one. Leave them outside in their pots for a few days and nights to get acclimatised.
- Build a shelter around summer crops if the weather is still up and down at your place at planting time. Use an old window, some clear plastic stapled to stakes, or a clear bucket with its bottom cut out.
I began my food growing journey up Otaki gorge, living down the drive from some of the best people you’ll find anywhere – Ray and Joan Moffat. Joan had a beautiful, but practical garden and I learned many great things working alongside her.
The value of vigorous self seeders, the importance of ground-covers in the war on weeds and how stashes of garden tools about the place saves you miles. How having places to sit and rest makes sure you sit and enjoy and not to waste time being too fussy – take the kids to the river instead. To use what you’ve got to create the things you need, and the value of being in the garden in a little and often way to catch problems when they’re small.
Though it sounds too simple to be life changing, a daily walk and sort in the garden, will change your gardening life. All problems start small. Small problems make for simple solutions = a peaceful easy life. I don’t know about you, but this I love.
Pinching little laterals off your tomatoes and peppers leaves tiny wounds that heal in a flash and prevent viruses and bacteria getting in. Squashing little groups of aphids or a few shield bugs each day can stay an epidemic. Liquid feeding at the first sign of a fading plant picks it up and boosts it along before it craps out. Sprinkling slugbait as soon as the carrots germinate prevents a mollusc midnight feast that leaves you empty handed.
Don’t be deceived by its simplicity – a daily stroll is your secret garden weapon.
December to do’s
December is all about succession crops – plant a few more of your favourites to keep the harvests flowing in.
Make room for them by chopping down greencrops and clearing finished crops or flowers. Or make a new area by laying cardboard and piling up compost or rotten straw or some such and plant into that. Or use boxes or pots.
- Direct or tray sow a few more beans, corn, cucumbers or zucchini. Look out for rats and mice with direct sown corn seed. Train cucumbers up a trellis to save room and if you can’t be bothered erecting bean frames grow dwarf beans instead of climbers. All you need is a stake at each end of the row and a bit of twine about the middle to hold them upright. The trick is to sow a new row every fortnight, cause they grow their little hearts out in a live fast die young type style.
- Plant out a few more tomatoes, basil, parsley and salads. Read about my favourite tomato frames and tomato prep here.
- Direct sow dill, basil, chervil, saladings, magenta spreen, beetroot, carrots, coriander.
- Sow as many summer greencrops as you can find spaces for – phacelia, buckwheat, mustard or lupin. These begin as a much-needed rest for your soil, become nectar for the beneficial insects and end up as mulch or compost.
- Last call to plant out melons, squash, kumara and yams. If you want to get any of these guys happening you need to jump on it this week to have a ripe harvest come Autumn.
I planted my watermelons last week. Mounds of homemade compost and never letting them dry out are the key to a good melon crop. I leave a little moat around each seedling at the top of the mound to catch the water and retain as much water as poss with grunty compost and by mulching them with old blankets or sacks. Or in this case leftover jute from the berry-house. If you only have a short season like me choose melons to suit. Sugarbaby does well for me.
- Keep the flowers coming on too – they are such an important part of the whole. A succession of flowers not only makes your garden pretty for all seasons but more importantly it keeps our friends the beneficial insects fed. Scatter some autumn flower seed about in December either direct or in a tray. Zinnia, gaillardia, cosmos, sunflowers, anise hyssop, cleome, mignonette, marigold – whatever your favourites are.
- Make a pile or two of compost for Autumn plantings. So satisifying! And if you haven’t tried my easy peasy compost out yet – give it a go. You’ll be pleasantly surprised at how easy it is to make a good brew.
Look after your soil
It’s hot, it’s dry and it’s hard yakka growing all that produce – keep your soil in good nick for now and ever more with these three things.
Proper watering makes a big difference to the health of your soil. Get into the habit of checking your soil first, before you water. There is no point in randomly swishing water automatically every evening. Especially if your garden is heavily mulched and fully planted, all you do is get the leaves wet.
Poke your finger into the soil to see if it needs watering or not. As long as its moist at your finger tip its fine to go another day. Unless were talking seed or new seedlings, in which case it needs to moist at the very top. The combo of strong soil + mulch holds onto moisture longer than you think.
Water until your soil is nice and moist. Like barely moist. Not soggy.
Keep a nice rhythm of moist, letting it just dry out, then get moist again. Not only will your crops be better but you’ll use less water. Us gardeners have a big responsibility here.
I’ve written a whole blog post on it already – you can read it here.
I’m a big fan. After a feed of seaweed the garden perks right on up that’s cos seaweed contains all essential minerals – the full spectrum. A balance of minerals is key to a thriving soil life which in turn is key to an abundant garden – you can’t do better than seaweed. My whole garden gets a feed of seaweed every month. And if there’s any extra pressure about (disease or pest) I’ll feed as much as weekly.
Nourishing yarrow, fennel and parsley mulch
Mulch is your soils shelter. It keeps the moisture in, provides a roof over the worms heads, and drip feeds the soil life. What a difference that layer makes! If all your mind can conjure at the word mulch, is pea straw then have I got news for you! – mulch is so much more than pea straw.
Mulching also doubles as weeding. When the weeds are too big for the hoe, just pile mulch on top. The weeds will return to the soil a la nature’s way, delighting the worms/ soil life beneath. You also are delighted not having to put your back or knees out.
The very best mulch, the one that gets the soil life humming and keeps the moisture in is a mixed mulch made up of garden debris. Homemade mulch is the best. Failing that, any mulch is a good thing. Stretch your mind – sacks and old blankets are good as gold.
I love November because Asparagus and Broadbeans are in it. Two of my favourites! Together! At the same time!
The sweet spot of abundance
Every garden has it’s own microclimate, and the better you understand yours, the better your garden be. And when your micro climate, and the needs of your crops meet is your sweet spot of abundance. This is the moment to hold out for – wait to plant till conditions are perfect and boom – we’ve got our grow on people.
If you’re up north you’ll be planting kumara and tomatoes outside already – lucky you! My soil is still at 13 degrees, so I’m patiently waiting. 13 degrees is too cold for summer crops to flourish in. The day will come.
It’s easy for me, this waiting when my greenhouse is full of all our summer goodness – tomatoes, peppers, aubergines, dwarf beans, cucumbers, melons, basil, the first zucchini – all the heat lovers growing great guns. Without my greenhouse I’d never achieve all our food growing needs. If you’re into growing your own vege and live somewhere cool, you need a greenhouse too!
What I’m sowing and planting this November
Direct sow and plant
- Little and often patches of quick greenery like rocket, spinach, coriander, lettuce and mesclun. Check out my easy peasy salad growing ways.
- Direct sow root crops of beetroot, radish and the last lot of carrots.
- Direct sow cornflowers, cosmos and calendula. Think of your flowers like your crops – a steady succession to keep your garden buzzing :).
- Once the soil is steadily sitting at 15 degrees direct sow your first lot of beans.
- Kumara slips are about to go in (any day now!) I’m waiting for the soil in my kumara bed to hit 18 degrees – its getting a gee up under plastic as we speak.
- Yams can be planted out if not already done.
- Perpetual beet and parsley are going to seed. Let them do their thing to feed the beneficial insects and self seed everywhere to save you shopping for these guys ever again. If you plant new ones out now and let the winter ones seed, you’ll set yourself up to always have some to use. Though they be humble and ordinary they are the backbone of the kitchen and your wellness.
- Direct sow phacelia and buckwheat in any gaps. As well as rest and repair greencrops provide you with homegrown mulch, making them super valuable. If the idea of less shopping and plastic floats your boat – squeeze them in.
- Harden off seedlings before planting out . Pumpkin, squash and sunflower seedlings are in transition from greenhouse to outside – a few days outside and then a few days and nights and then planting, adapts them well for a smooth transition. Once the weather improves (wont be long!), outdoor cucumbers, tomatoes, and the first lot of corn and zucchini seedlings will be next ones outside.
A few important jobs
- Weeding begins! Don’t let them get a grow on my friends. We don’t need outside housework and big missions. Lets keep things easy and get them while they are small. Dollop thick mulch on top of weeds or hoe them up and leave them on top to return to the soil. Gardening is depressing when you leave weeds to smother your crops and get a grow on.
- Be sure to thin out earlier sowings of beetroot, parsnip and carrot to 10cm as they hit four leaf, for good size crops.
- Set up awesome, robust frames for growing on.
- Protect all potatoes you plant from now on in with wondermesh, or other cover of choice, to keep the psyllids out.
Have Neem on standby to easily manage sucking insects. They will come. And if its warm at yours maybe there already. Like weeds, you must get on top of them at the first sign. Don’t let them get a strong foothold – it’ll wreck your crops and your peace of mind. Here’s why my favourite is Neem.
Brassica free = cabbage butterfly free!
You will notice there are no brassicas on my November planting list. That’s cos cabbage white butterfly’s start-up soon and I’m not that keen on managing them. Besides which we’ve just had 8 solid months of eating broccoli and cabbage – it’s time for summery things!
If you are growing spring cabbage or broccoli get ready with some insect Mesh, the same fine mesh that keeps psyllids out will keep the moths (yes it is a moth, not a butterfly!) from laying eggs on your precious cabbages, there by preventing the caterpillars in the first place. Although the moths look haphazard as, they are brassica seeking missiles, so cover your crops in an obsessive no holes way. Any little gap and they’ll be in there laying up a storm.
Derris dust alert! Let’s stop with the Derris Dust. I know its easy. I know Grandma used it. But it’s super toxic! Rotenone, the active ingredient in Derris dust is a neurotoxin (why would ya go there) and fatal to many of our important beneficial insects – parasitic wasps, ladybirds and dragonflies to name a few. Canada has outlawed the use of it on gardens and looks like USA is going the same way.
In the greenhouse
A greenhouse is a high stress environment, all that plastic and heat makes it so. It needs a bit more TLC to get through the summer. Start it off strong with big healthy seedlings and hummus rich soil.
- A weekly spray with high quality seaweed feed keeps cells strong, boosts nutrient uptake and both of these things together prevent sucking bugs. The very best seaweed feed in NZ is Oceans Organics. Buy it in bulk through Agrisea if, like me you got a good size patch going on. I love their super handy Easy Sprayer. Put the seaweed concentrate in, add a bit of Neem or stinging nettle if you like and click it onto the hose. It dilutes the seaweed just right and that lovely fine pressurised mist gets in every nook and cranny. Awesome also for school and urban gardens. Make it easy and you’ll do it.
- Leave a bit of wild in your greenhouse to provide an ongoing mixed mulch – the very best soil conditioner! Sow greencrops/ companions in every gap (apart from the north side), and let them flower away to entice the bees. I use nasturtium, borage, mustard, lupin, african marigold and shoofly. Chop them back when they encroach on the crops and pile on the soil.
- Tomatoes, dwarf beans, zucchini, melon, eggplants, chillies, basil and cucumbers are growing like rockets in the warmth. Keeping an eye on soil moisture hits the job list.
- De-lateraling the greenhouse tomatoes is in. I do this to create single leaders that’ll grow up strings. The airflow is important for disease prevention, and it makes spraying and picking a dream.
- Tray sow another lot of summer companion flowers like zinnias, sunflowers, marigolds and cleome.
- Tray sow outside basil, zucchini, cucumber, corn, beans and tomato
October is when seed raising peaks. It makes it easier, this busyness, when you know it’s just for a short burst. It settles down again come December when all the long term crops are well and truly in and we go back to little and often sowing for continuity of supply. There’s a bit of extra effort too, as we do our best to create the right conditions for long term crops like kumara and pumpkin. Get them in as soon as conditions are right for best ripening.
October checklist and things to do
- Get your zucchini, cucumber, pumpkin, corn, tomato and pepper beds ready to grow. These are all heavy feeders and need rotten manure, compost, seaweed – that kind of business. Add it now, so the soil can incorporate and percolate – all ready to plant later in the month once your soil has warmed enough.
- Be sure of robust stakes and frames for beans and tomatoes
- Tie broadbeans to keep them upright through spring winds. A stake at each end of the row and a row of twine wrapped around in the middle and again at the top of the stakes is how I do it.
- Make a compost pile with all your spring clean up (or three).
- Thin September sowings of beetroot and carrots to 10cm spacings to be sure of good sized crops. If you are careful you can transplant the spare beetroots in any gaps.
- Plant out chives, thyme, oregano, sage, rosemary, lavender and any other perennial herbs you need.
- Protect all new shoots and seedlings with slug bait and bird net
- Prick on seedlings in trays as soon as they have 4 leaves
Seed to Sow and Seedlings to Plant
Under Cloches, Old Windows or in the Greenhouse
Direct sow another lot of dwarf beans.
Direct sow basil, cucumber and zucchini. Cruise it here. Remember you can tick away with these guys over the next 4 months, planting out a new one each month for regular supply.
Plant out tomatoes, peppers, chillies, eggplants, basil, zucchini and cucumbers into warm soil. Hello summer!
Pumpkin, zucchini, cucumber, melons, corn, salads, basil, tomatoes and companion flowers like sunflowers, gaillardia, calendula, zinnias and oodles of marigolds.
Direct Sow Outside
Radish, daikon, coriander, carrot, beetroot, florence fennel, dill, peas, sno peas, rocket, salads, spinach, leafy greens, calendula, borage, sweet peas and cosmos.
Once the soil hits 15 degrees you can direct sow beans.
Once it hits 20 degrees zucchini, cucumber, pumpkin, melons and corn can go in.
Plant out salads, red onions, celery, silverbeet, perpetual beet, asparagus crowns, potatoes, yams, rhubarb and parsley.
Beware the seed eaters!
Mice, rats, slugs, snails and slaters are about at this time of year. It’s worth managing them cos one night visit from any of these guys sets your food garden back.
Rodent management is essential for a food gardener, and I think, a cool thing for all of us to pitch in and do. Food gardens are a rodent hotel after all – cosy homes (compost piles) and food supply (corn + sunflower seed nomnom). Make trapping part of your regime.
Slaters love newly sprouted seed, nibbling the newly germinated shoot off and completely ruining your day. Make a trap by putting a spoon of yoghurt in a small container. Top it up with water. Bury it in your seedtray or garden so the edge is at ground level. Slaters love this stuff. Or sprinkle Tui Quash slugbait about to deter them.
Slugs and snails are getting going too. Asparagus, peas, carrots, echinacea – some things they love especially, but really you must protect every new shoot from them in spring or you’ll be re sowing. At this time of year I pop out on moonlight evenings and do a big old snail squash and slug capture. I sprinkle Tui Quash round all newly sown seed and transplants (it’s petsafe and chemical free).
Last minute preps for Tomatoes, Pumpkins and Corn
In an ideal world preps begin with the preceeding crop – in the case of these heavy feeders nothing beats a lupin or pea and oat greencrop through winter to condition and build the soil. But the world isn’t always ideal is it! Here’s how you can last minute it.
- Broadfork the bed so the roots can get down straight as an arrow – this almost makes more difference than the compost I reckon!
- Add a fine layer of compost + gypsum + a full spectrum mineral fertiliser if you need it, and lightly mix it all into the topsoil.
- Mulch thickly and let it settle until planting.
- Put up stakes and frames pre planting.
Pumpkin and Melon Preps
- Create raised mounds made of 50/50 compost and soil. Add rotten manure. Add minerals if need be.
- Cover deeply in mulch for best biological activity and leave it be. Do what you need to, to warm things up.
- Direct sow into this when the soil is 20 °. Because they are low growing and need no frame pumpkins are well suited to starting out under a cloche if its still chilly/ soggy at yours. You can of course, tray sow them and transplant at 4 – 6 leaf stage. Pumpkins need a long season to ripen – as early as you can manage is good.
- Broadfork the bed so the roots can head to china
- Add a fine layer of compost + rotten manure. Lightly mix it all into the topsoil.
- Mulch generously and let it settle until planting.
- Direct sow once soil hits 18 – 20°.
- For staggered harvests sow a few a month now until December2 ways to get your corn going. Either put up a cloche and direct sow once the soils warm. Or sow into loo paper rolls filled with seed raising mix. Jam the rolls together in a container so they don’t fall over/ collapse and keep in a warm place. Plant out toilet roll and all for no transplant shock.
September In The Vegie Patch + Xmas Spuds + Asparagus
So much cool stuff to do in the food garden at the mo. So much prettiness to soak up and enjoy.
In the Vegie Patch
Take your cropping success next level and check your soil temperature before planting or sowing anything. Align your crop choices with it. Nature is finely tuned to temperature.
Plant out celery, broccoli, cabbage, bok choy, kale, silverbeet, parsley, salads, onions, leeks, potatoes.
Direct sow carrots, kohlrabi, beetroot, turnip, parsnip, rocket, chicory, endive, spinach, mesclun, miners lettuce, corn salad, salads, bok choy, kale, snopeas, peas, broadbeans, fennel, dill, coriander, shallots, spring onions.
Tray sow celeriac, salads, silverbeet, parsley, chervil.
Companion flowers Direct, or tray sow, or plant as many as you can cram in! eg: calendula, cornflower, poppy, nasturtium, borage, sweet pea, snapdragon, aquilegia, viola, wallflower, larkspur, hollyhock.
In the Greenhouse (or under cover)
Tray sow tomato, chilli, pepper, aubergine, zucchini, cucumber, melon. In line with my location, these will all be grown in my greenhouse. Depending on how the season rolls out I’ll be sowing outside crops of zucchini, cucumber, tomato next month. Don’t jones out and rush into summer crops if you live somewhere cool. Patience grasshopper. Planting heat lovers when its hot means less stress, less pest, more crops, happy gardener.
Direct sow dwarf beans, salads
Begin your kumara shoots.
Here Comes The Asparagus!
Blimmey, could it get more exciting! Asparagus is popping up and soon to be part of dinner. Hopefully your patch is weed free, composted, mulched = ready for a productive season. If you’ve yet to weed be ever so careful – the spears are super fragile and break off with the slightest knock.
Happiness Is Homegrown, New Potatoes For Christmas
Having spent a good portion of my life coaxing vegetables from soil, I’m weather wary. Between now and the arrival of summer there will be days for shorts, days for raincoats, and days for beanies. I’m cautious with the planting out of tender crops like potatoes – such a waste when they get bowled over by late frosts.
So my first lot of spuds go into buckets – a great use for cracked, broken buckets (sacks are another good option).
Choose fast growers like Rocket, Swift, Liseta or even Cliff Kidney.
Make holes in the bottom for drainage and line with about 10cm of compost. Homemade compost is best – no where near as rich as bought stuff, and no where near as fine. Those undigested bits make air and worm pockets. Bought stuff is too dense, too rich – so mix it with something to bring air – pumice, soil or straw or some such.
Lay your seed potato in (one per 10litre bucket), on top of a few bits of seaweed if you’re lucky enough to be seaside. Top the bucket up with compost/ or straw/ or old hay or a mix of the above to bury the spud – and you’re off!
When it starts to heat up you’ll need to move the bucket amongst shrubs to keep the soil cool (leaving the tops in the light).
This is never going to produce the same amount were the tubers in the ground, but it gives those of us on heavy wet ground the opportunity for early potatoes.
If you stagger plantings, you’ll stagger the harvest. Little and often is achievable, and so very useful.
What To Plant And Sow In August
Here’s what I can plant in my Levin garden, given that at the mo. my soil is 10 degrees and night temps range from 3 to 13. And my soil is nicely moist and easily workable from all those years of care. Tweak this information based on your own soil and air temps.
Should your soil stick to your fingers when working it, if there is sitting water or sound effects when you walk about or if a handful squeezed together is the beginnings of a clay pot – then taihoa, your soil isn’t ready to play in yet. Grow in pots or boxes instead.
If you’re a beginner and unsure what suits your place just take the plunge and have a go – it’s simply the best way to learn.
Direct sow outside: peas, snow peas, broadbeans, mustard, lupin or phacelia greencrop, miners lettuce, corn salad, spinach, radish, kohlrabi, parsnip, rocket, spring onions
Direct sow under cover: coriander, saladings, beetroot, carrot
Tray sow: broccoli, cabbage, lettuces, onions
Plant outside: asparagus, broccoli, cabbage, kale, onions, shallots, spring onions, garlic, perpetual beet, silverbeet, rhubarb. Strawberries can go in now, but May really is the best time!
Plant under cover: sprouted potatoes, lettuce
Good Companions: Direct sow heaps of companion flowers like calendula, cornflower, borage, stocks, larkspur, love in the mist, poppies, heartsease and divide up herbs and perennials to build your beneficial insect fodder and habitat.
Lupin greencrops sown this month will be pre flower and ready to cut down. A perfectly timed pre cursor to mid spring plantings of heavy feeders. Think corn! tomatoes! squash!
Lots of Onions in a Small Space
Three times as many infact – I’ve got x102 in a 2m x 1.2m space using my 3 onions in 1 hole trick. Or rather, Eliot Colemans 3 in 1 hole trick (honour where honour is due).
The onions pop up kind of sideways as they grow and fill the space nicely. They seem happier this way. Such flimsy seedlings for so long, it must be nice, tucked up with their mates, rather than flailing about on their own.
Trim the roots and tops before planting for plumper bulbs at the end. Plant at 20cm spacings.
Summer Crops are for Summery Places
If you have a greenhouse or live somewhere frost free and winterless you can begin sowing summer stuff like tomatoes, aubergines and peppers, dwarf beans, zucchini and cucumbers too. You’ll need a heat pad (or hot water cupboard, or hot box or …) to raise aubergine and peppers who need 20 degrees to germinate.
If you have neither warm night air or a greenhouse, then wait. Summer crops flourish in summer. Forced to contend with cold nights, chill mornings and heavy soil, they stumble, trip and flop. With so many cool things to sow and plant right now, there’s no need to force it.
August in the Veggie Patch
August Garden Tasks
Your Pre-Spring Seed Sowing Check List
Ain’t it great when seeds and seedlings are back!
- Clean your seedtrays. Just use water and [for complete story] a stiff scrubbing brush, then leave them out in the sun. Once upon a time I would have rolled my eyes at such advice, thinking it over fussy, prissy. It is however, a most worthwhile spend of ten minutes – lurking spores/ bacteria wreck havoc.
- Make or buy seed raising mix. Organic is best as there are no fungicides therein.
- Cut up labels (go through the recycling bin for plastic), and buy a new pen if need be (a year in the greenhouse does ink no favours).
- Order in your seeds this month. Be sure to purchase a decent supply of greencrops, plenty of companion flowers and a tonne of beneficial soil building herbs.
Preventing Garlic Rust
Keeping our garlic weed free is putting our best foot forward in the rust prevention game – let there be airflow! A monthly liquid feed also does wonder especially if it includes slow ferment NZ seaweed and/ or EM. After that, we’ve done all we can here – the rest is up to the season. Watch this space 🙂
Warm the Soil
Right about now the greenhouse is the star of my show. That toasty warm space pumps out crops for us year round. As a bit of inspiration – we’re still eating beautifully sweet bell peppers from ours. In a more ordinary fashion, but none the less valuable, celery, salads and coriander are harvested regularly for the winter table, and we get the jump by a couple of months with an early zuchinni and dwarf beans. If a greenhouse is on your wishlist – do it!
If you don’t have a greenhouse, get creative with old windows, bubble wrap or sheets of clear plastic, or set up purpose built cloches to warm your soil – it doesn’t take much. The combo of warm soil and warm air speeds spring crops along which is especially useful if you are running out of fresh vege for your table. It also broadens the range of crops you can grow. Dwarf beans fit under a cloche and germinate at 15 degrees and an early zucchini is possible if you can get your soil to 16 degrees. A simple soil thermometer helps heaps here.
More magnificent garden information next week and or see the website.
A journalist once asked me “Whats the best time of year to start a garden?, and I said “Anytime!” There is not one food growing season, there are four!”
Let’s take a look at what to plant in your veggie patch in winter. I encourage you to take this leap into year round gardening (also called successional planting); your reward is great – a year round harvest. And there is, I’m sure you’ll agree, the gift to your soul – the ‘being alive’ feeling that gardening brings. The thrill of providing your own food, best food! – for yourself and your family. The small triumph you feel, when though it rains you went out and got on with it!
Wet, Heavy Clay
If you are on wet, heavy and therefore cold soil your winter garden will be best in pots. Over time the addition of organic matter, gypsum and mulch will transform the glug into the free draining humus heaven you need for year round planting. For now though, the best thing you can do is mulch soggy soils and leave them well alone.
Learn Your Place
Understanding your unique growing environment is essential. There is a lot of advice out there and not all of it is going to apply to your patch. The only way you learn your garden’s limits are by mucking in and doing it! This here is what I can plant in winter, in my Horowhenua garden, lower half of the north island, NZ. Tweak it to suit your place, (and your palate).
Vegetables to plant or sow outside
- Plant broccoli, cauliflower or cabbage for late spring harvest.
- Plant bok choy or kale for late winter harvest.
- Direct or tray sow rocket, mesclun, miners lettuce, corn salad, spinach, raddichio, sno-peas, peas and broadbeans for spring/ summer harvest.
- Direct sow parsnip, radish, kohlrabi, swede or turnips.
- Direct sow legume greencrops, as heavy feeders like broccoli come to an end. (Now you’re really thinking like a food gardener – preparing your ground for future crops.)
- Plant garlic, shallots, spring onions and onions for summer harvest.
- Plant globe artichokes for spring harvest.
- Plant asparagus crowns for future springs (about 3 years before you can harvest, but oh so worth it)
Vegetables to plant or sow under cover
By under cover I mean in the greenhouse, in a cloche, under bubble wrap or under bottles. Old windows and car windscreens are fab! Adding another layer warms the air and soil and speeds tender seedlings along. Another way to warm your seedlings is to grow them in pots close to your house.
- Direct sow coriander, beetroot or lettuce
- Plant out saladings
- Direct sow a mustard greencrop, after greenhouse tomatoes and peppers to cleanse the soil.
Good Things Take Time
It’s important you understand the truth of how long from seedling to harvest. Good things take time. In the matter of a broccoli you’re looking at 3 months, a lettuce 6 weeks, garlic 6 months. Add some frosty cold weather and everything slows, almost grinding to a halt. So when I say planting the winter garden – it’s just that – planting. The food you’re harvesting now was thoughtfully planted in autumn.
Winter In The Vegie Patch
Hurrah for winter! It took a while, but we got there. Hurrah for a natural end to pests, to the slowing down of weed growth and a break from the intensity of the autumn vegie patch. Hurrah to hibernating ladybirds – a good sign for next seasons beneficial insect population.
What to Sow and Plant and Do in June
I’m not the only one who loves winter – some legumes are good with it and so are alliums, brassica’s, chard and spinach. Salads survive it, but very slowly so best get them under cover to keep them growing and providing leafy goodness to keep you strong.
- Sow mustard or lupin greencrops. Yes to greencrops! Our soils have worked hard through autumn and all the work they’ve done has gone into our tummies. Give 100% back to the soil with a greencrop.
- Sow peas, snowpeas and broadbeans, spinach, corn salad, mesclun, onions and radish.
- Plant bok choy, tatsoi, collard greens, kale, broccoli and cabbage. You can sow brassicas too – even though the ground is cold and growth slows these guys don’t mind. Sure they’ll grow slowly but when it warms up in spring – boom!, they spurt away and finish off. A super handy spring crop.
- Plant silverbeet or chard, shallots and garlic, strawberries.
- Plant salads under cover (greenhouse or cloche or a pot on the deck). Warm the soil by creating ridges to plant into and using nature’s heaters like seaweed and grass clippings.
- If you’re planning on planting out onions next month put some thought into your bed preparation. I’ll be chopping my pea and oat greencrop down, adding a fine layer of compost and leaving it to settle for a few weeks.
- If you haven’t done it already, chop asparagus canes down this month. Cover the bed with a generous layer of rotten manure/ prunings from herbs /seaweed and spread the chopped up canes on as mulch.
Increase your beneficial insect/bee fodder by planting out more herbs and companion flowers.
Leafy greens are the cats pajamas. Easy to grow and full of vim and vigour – just what we need to stay well through winter.
Brassica’s are where it’s at as far as keeping healthy goes – collard greens (a fabulous pick and come again cabbage), bok choy, tatsoi (or any asian style cabbage) and kale are top of my list. Even in this cold weather you can plant them out and they’ll slowly tick away for you.
Salads always have a place in my heart. Even though I add all sorts of other things to the bowl – sliced cabbage or chard or parsley or chickweed – I still love lettuces. They do best under cover at this time of year, (depending of course on where you live). My best winter performers are Drunken Woman Fringed Head (not a typo, but a true story!), Red or Green Salad Bowl, Red Oak Leaf, Merveille de Quartre Saison, Rouge d’hiver and Lollo Rosso are my go to’s. The red ones seeming to fare better in the cold, than the greens.
Parsley, chard, perpetual spinach and silverbeet might be ho hum, plain Jane but don’t under estimate these beneficent vegetables – such a lot of goodness in a small space. If your vegie patch is small plant these guys in your flower beds or beneath fruit trees.
Perennial leeks are stars – my favourite perennial vegetable. So easy and bountiful. Though they are smaller than their annual cousins, they taste the same and the ease with which they grow makes them well worth it. After flowering in Autumn (a gorgeous bee laden display), cut them back and pile on soil goodness like manure and mulch. When they shoot back up, thin them out for bigger sized leeks and that’s it. A steady harvest of leeks from May through September.
The Patient Wait For Yams
I’m so grateful to yams because they’re ready in winter – not busy old autumn. And there’s no preserving required either. Just patience.
Yams fatten up threefold in the cold. Guaranteed big fat sweeties after a few frosts and the tops have died off. If you’ve rushed in to harvest and been disappointed with your crop – it may just be that you were too impetuous, young at heart perhaps. You’ll be amazed at what happens in the yam patch after cold. Patience my friends.
Winter provides an opportunity to do all the stuff you wish you had time for through those busy growing/ preserving seasons. Moving plants, making new beds, planting trees, building fences, setting up irrigation – all the stuff that makes our gardens better.
My winter project is one I’ve been meaning to get to for about the last 3 years. I’m gathering all the bits required as we speak. We need a gutter along the front of the greenhouse and to replace about three of the posts. Without a gutter, the water has poured off that big expanse of roof, and pooled at the bottom winter through spring. The soil is soggy as anything and the posts have rotted out super quick. Oh happy day when we get this sorted! (The no-fun projects always linger till things get desperate.)
Indulge yourself. Re-organise your patch, give those improvements wings while there is sod all to do in the vegie patch.
May In The Vegie Patch + Strawberries + Asparagus
Things To Do In The Vegie Patch This Month
- Leave nothing bare! Soil prefers to be growing stuff – a crop or greencrop preferably. If weeds is what you’ve got and you’re just too busy – then let it be weeds. Yes, truly – weeds! Roots keep your soil happening. When you get around to it pile up a thick layer of mulch on top of those weeds and let it all rot down natures way. This saves your back, leaves your soil in peace and adds a heap of goodness. Not all soil building is arduous.
- Make lots of compost. Finished summer crops/ flowers/ perennials provide a bounty of ingredients for compost. Chop them down, cut them up and toss together with some seaweed or poo, cover (my favourite cover is a fadge/wool sack), and leave nature to make magic. There is nothing cooler than starting your spring crops off with the rotted remains of your summer crops.
- Greencrops – lupins, broadbeans, phacelia, wheat, oats, mustard or barley. My favourite winter greencrop is Kings seeds pea, oat, lupin mix. Grow as many greencrops as you can.
- Corn salad and miners lettuce. Desert island saladings these. Sow them once, let them self seed and have winter greens every year.
- Broadbeans, peas, snow peas; spinach, bok choy, rocket, kale, coriander; radish.
- Good companions like calendula, poppies, cornflowers, larkspur and sweetpeas (must have sweetpeas!)
- Onions. If you get the chance to play with growing onions – go for it! There’s no greater sense of pride than in your home grown onions.
- Salads to plant under cover (cloche, cold frame or greenhouse), when ready.
- Broccoli and cabbage. Even though growth slows right up its still worth it to keep planting brassicas. Sure they’ll grow at a snails pace but come spring you’ll be pleased you grew them.
- Strawberries. Plant into raised ridges if you have heavy soil. May plantings have all winter to grow lovely big roots. Big roots = bigger plants = more cropping. For big juicy fruits use rotten manure in your soil preps.
- Garlic. Part of our rust prevention strategy is going to be finding varieties that are less prone. Heritage is going to be a big player here. Picking the brains of gardeners I admire and respect, it seems hardneck garlics are hardier. Though they don’t store as well as the softnecks – if you team them up with an early garlic you’ve got your season covered.
- Lettuces – under cloches or in the greenhouse.
- Brassica’s for spring eating.
- Silverbeet, perpetual beet, chard, kale, parsley – our kitchen cornerstones
- Lots of flowers like stock, primula, tulips, snapdragons
Thin and weed carrots, kohlrabi, fennel, parsnips to give each due space. What a difference good spacings make to your crops.
- Liquid feed broccoli, cabbage and cauliflower that aren’t heading yet and celery and all other leafy greens too. This is a powerful way to keep biology active and working, so make it a regular part of your garden care.
- Harvest kumara. If you haven’t already done it, get those kumara up! The rules say you’re supposed to wait till the tops die off, but in all these years I’ve never got to that stage. This instruction is for hotter climates I think. It’s more important to get them up before the frost hits it. The gamble is yours!
April In The Vegie Patch
When to Call it Quits
Winter draws ever closer, and tough choices need to be made. Do you have enough room for all your winter crops or does something have to give. Is it time for summer crops to go? And time is of the essence people, anytime soon the weather will turn and the nights will cool. Those cool nights set the stage and everything slows down (Man doesn’t that sound good – everything slows down…)
So if you need the space for winter crops rouse your tough loving self and whip out the old (hurrah compost!) and get planting the new – now! today! or you’ll run out of grow time.
How To Grow Fabulous Brassica
The trick to good heads is:
- Fertile soils
- Giving each plant due space so they aren’t competing for nutrients ( 30 – 45cm depending on variety)
- Open soils. Go over the bed beforehand with the broadfork so their roots can speed down straight and deep. Thus avoiding competition with their neighbours, establishing rock solid stability and resourcing a wider range of help and goodness.
Keep your broccoli, cauliflower and cabbages growing fast with:
- Weekly liquid feeding
- Cabbage white control – either flick off the eggs beneath the leaves and squash the caterpillars or spray with Kiwicare caterpillar killer, it’s not for much longer – hurrah!, they’ll be disappearing soon.
- A deep water once a week (when it doesn’t rain that is)
- Mulching up around the stalks as they grow. They’ll peg new roots down in this mulch giving them extra resilience.
- A side dressing of rotten manure when the plants are at 30cm – a gob beneath the mulch, beside each plant will do it.
Brassica’s love rotten manure. Incorporate some into your initial bed preparation and side dress a few times through the growing season. If no rotten manure is to hand then liquid feed weekly with your magic pooh brew.
In the next two weeks
- Plant out lots of salad greens and loads of leafy greens – parsley, kale, silverbeet, perpetual beet or rainbow chard to ensure plenty of fresh greens through the winter… best food!
- Plant another mixed lot of brassicas for late winter eating.
- Plant celery into a lovely pile of muck. Avoid leaf spot and rust by growing in the greenhouse or under cover.
- Plant companion flowers like calendula, stock, larkspur, cornflower, primula, poppy to keep your spirits up and your beneficial insects fed.
- Direct sow peas, snowpeas, sweetpeas, broadbeans, corn salad, miners lettuce, spinach, coriander, radish and rocket.
- Avoid chocolate spot and rust in broadbeans by sowing in spring if like me, you live in a high rainfall zone. A generous side dressing of wood ash also helps.
- Direct sow greencrops in any gaps – oats, lupin, broadbeans, wheat, mustard. My favourite combo is Kings seeds pea/ oat mix.
- Tray sow globe artichokes and onions.
- Thin root crops for good sized crops (note to self 🙂 )
- Save seed
The summer garden is in full production. Fruiting vegetables, like pregnant women, need good nutrition and water. But in the rest of the garden, it’s not the time for new plantings- wait until autumn when the cooler, damper weather helps them establish roots.
Water on Fridays: This sounds daft, but you can help keep your rates down by watering the garden on a Friday. It’s those peak, weekend spikes in water usage that trigger summer water restrictions. So, if at all possible, water the garden on Fridays and spend the weekend doing something else.
Using drinking quality water on lawns is somewhat insane. Let [for the complete transcript] the grass grow a bit longer over summer, rather than scalping it, as it helps shade the roots and keeps the lawn greener. Don’t fret if lawns do brown off, they will bounce back once the rain returns (which it has been doing regularly, this summer.) And have you ever noticed how grass stays greener in the shade? Think about planting deciduous trees around your lawn for summer shade – they’re lovely to sit under too.
Bottlefed veges: Cut the bottoms off 2-litre bottles and sink into the ground next to plants. Not only does this make watering much easier, it gets water down to roots in the deeper layers of the soil. Add some liquid feed every couple of weeks for great crops.
When we do get rain, seal the moisture into the soil by topping up mulch while the soil is wet. A good thick layer keeps weeds away, helps keep roots cool and moist, and feeds soil life.
Notice which plants are doing well: fill your garden with drought-resistant plants and you’ll never need to worry about them. Good candidates include Mediterranean herbs like lavender or rosemary, Australians such as grevillea and bottlebrush, or African aloes and proteas.
Summer in the garden:
- Summer prune: Take the tips out of fig trees, and cut grape vines back to just a leaf or two beyond the last bunch of fruit. Cut back excessive leafy growth on fruit trees. Stonefruit can get a heavier prune straight after fruiting
- Berries and fruits may need protection from birds. Use netting, or try hanging up old CDs (or Christmas decorations).
- Lettuce, coriander and salad greens need shade at this time of year, if they’re not to dry out and bolt.
- Pile up grass and weeds for compost. Water, and cover to keep damp. Even if you never get around to turning it, you’ll have some ready for next spring.
- Add liquid feed to your watering can for great crops.
- Keep filling gaps with basil, lettuce and bush beans, or leeks and fennel for winter. If growing from seed, start sowing winter vegetables like broccolli.
Plant out: Zucchini, beans, corn, lettuce, silver beet, beetroot, pumpkin, squash, red onions, leeks (for winter), basil and other herbs.
Sow seeds: Brassicas and fennel for planting out in March, salad greens, carrots, beetroot, radish, beans, silver beet, phacelia, zinnia, sunflowers.
Early summer in the garden:
- Keep planting summer vegetables like tomatoes, beans, cucumber, zucchini and pumpkins, to extend your harvest into late autumn. Things are still growing fast.
- Mulch as you plant, to keep weeds away and stop soil from drying out.
- Lay soak hoses and watering bottles through beds at planting time – it gets harder later.
- Fruit trees will drop their young fruit if the roots dry out. This is the crucial time of year to water them for a good crop (If they dry out later in summer, fruits will be smaller and have a more concentrated flavour – but if they dry out now it will reduce the crop.) Water well then mulch deeply around fruit tree roots, keeping mulch away from the trunk itself
- If you can’t get around all the weeds, slash down those that are going to seed. Slashed annual weeds can be smothered with newspaper/ cardboard and mulch.
- Make liquid feed by soaking comfrey or seaweed in a bucket of water. Water it on every week or so; you’ll notice a big difference in the health of your plants.
- Keep making compost – even if you never get around to turning it, it will be ready for autumn plantings.
- Enjoy the garden! Long evenings and early dawns are made for being outside. A few minutes of planting or watering make great stress relief over the silly season.
Plant out: Tomatoes, cucumber, beans, peas, potatoes, corn, lettuce, silver beet, pumpkin, squash, red onions, leeks (for winter), basil and other herbs.
Sow seeds: Salad greens, carrots, beetroot, radish, zucchini, pumpkin, cucumber, corn, beans, peas, silver beet, sunflowers.
Keep planting beans and zucchini every few weeks for an ongoing supply over the whole summer.
Plant of the month: magenta spreen, supergreen!
- Grows to 2m tall, 1m wide
- Ridiculously easy, doesn’t need watering once established
- Good looking (also makes facepaint)
- One plant feeds the family all summer. From pretty microgreens to full mega-sized leaves for serious food-producing, magenta spreen is adaptable and delicious.
- Young leaves and tops bedazzle in salads, can be steamed or sautéed. Larger leaves, produced in huge amounts, are great for curry, lasagne or spanakopita
- Rich in vitamins A and C, calcium and iron
- Pest-free and self-seeding.
Things are at their freshest, juiciest green: It’s a great season for lettuce, parsley and silver beet, so make the most of these before they go off to seed. Top tip: If your silver beet is starting to flower, try eating the buds, before the flowers open – they taste slightly nutty. Stir-fry or steam them like broccoli, or dip them in eggy batter and fry.
November is also the month of flowers: Think about the bees and avoid using pesticides.
Jobs for November:
- Keep planting summer vegetables a few at a time, for a steady supply.
- It’s still cold for tomato seedlings, especially if they’ve been growing in a hot house – `harden them off’ by leaving them outside a few days before planting, or rig up a temporary cloche for shelter in the garden.
- Stake tomatoes, beans and peas at planting time to prevent root damage later. Tomatoes need 2m-ish tall, strong stakes. For cherry tomatoes, which have a more sprawling habit, try making cages, such as a ring of netting or a tripod of canes.
- Put in a root-watering system at the same time you plant – a terracotta pot with the hole glued up, or an upside-down plastic bottle with the bottom cut off.
- ‘Edit’ self-sowers like borage and calendula so they don’t smother other desirable plants. They are great compost fodder.
- Weed and mulch fruit trees and berries – make sure trees don’t dry out at this time or they will drop their baby fruit.
- Compost- it’s great rotting weather and there are lots of weeds and grass clippings at hand. Pile up new heaps, and turn older ones to find the black gold at the base.
- As you weed an area, follow up with mulch straight away to prevent weeds and keep the ground moist over summer. Take away a barrow of weeds- replace it with a barrow of mulch
- Divide perennials and herbs- split clumps into smaller plants to keep them vigorous.
Sow seed: Salad greens, beans, peas, beetroot, tomatoes, basil, zucchini, kamokamo, pumpkin, cucumber, leeks, red onions, carrots, rocket, coriander, parsley, sunflower.
Plant out: Beans, tomatoes, zucchini, pumpkin, cucumber, peas, spinach, lettuce, potatoes, all sorts of herbs and flowers.
Planting time is the best time to add a deep-root watering system. Shown is a terracotta pot with the hole blocked (water slowly seeps through the walls,) but you can also use upside-down plastic bottles with the bottoms cut off. Water into the bottle or pot – it makes the job much easier, and delivers water straight to the roots, which is best for the plant.
Spuds with Whakapapa: The potatoes being planted include heritage varieties from Setha’s Seeds in Hawke’s Bay.
There will be a dozen different types, half of them Māori potatoes, known in general as riwai or taewa, including yellow, waxy Hua Karoro, floury Uwhi, and even some from the Chatham Islands.
Community Gardening in Paekākāriki
POG (Paekākāriki Orchards and Gardens) established in 2013. Since then they have run a produce stall at the monthly market; been involved in street plantings; supported the school garden; investigated sites for a community garden and in spring 2017, launched a giant potato patch on one of these sites, with financial support from the Community Board.
Does community gardening mean having one large garden?
Not always. It can mean gardening as a community, in various people’s backyards. That’s a model that has been popular in Paekākāriki for a few years now, with a few different groups that formed during Greener Neighbourhoods programmes. Over the warmer months, a Friday afternoon or weekend garden bee is often followed by a pot-luck meal and social get-together.
These garden bees are great for getting gardens cleared and beds established, or for getting larger jobs like pruning or mulching done in a quick time. There are usually a few group members with gardening or building skills to share. With six households, having a fortnightly-ish bee over spring/summer means everyone gets a crew turning up at their place every few months.
Potty Potters at Paekākāriki School Garden is a focus for community-minded gardeners
Ground Breaking Potato Patch
The Great Paekākāriki Potato Patch will be planted, in a community event followed by kai and merriment, on Saturday October 7.
It’s the first step in breaking ground for a new community garden, say organisers Paekākāriki Orchards and Gardens (POG), with the harvest to be shared amongst all who join in. POG’s long-term vision is for the village to be a place of food abundance, where no one needs to buy such easily grown items as plums, lemons or feijoas.
The patch, about 9m x 5m, is on the edge of sports fields at the northern end of Tilley Rd, where Te Ara o Whareroa cycleway enters QE Park. Potatoes were chosen as a first crop because they’re a common staple, and are relatively easy to grow. The plan is to create a huge organic no-dig bed, building some good soil as well as a crop of spuds. “The idea is to do something people can easily replicate at home,” says Stacey Gasson of POG.
Black plastic has been laid down to knock the kikuyu grass back; once that’s lifted, as many roots as possible will be forked out and the area covered with brown cardboard. Next, about 400 seed potatoes will be laid out and covered with layers of rotted hay, fishmeal, seaweed and other fertilizers, tree lupin and wood chip. Other than a little ‘earthing up’ as the plants get tall, there shouldn’t be much maintenance until the harvest in autumn – which will call for another party, hopefully with hot potatoes to share.
POG say they’re testing the waters a little with this enterprise, to see the level of interest within the community. The patch is just part of a longer strip of council- administered land between the campground and what’s known locally as the ‘horse track’, running between Tilley and Wellington Roads. There’s potentially space for large gardens and orchards, if community interest is there.
Great Potato Patch Planting
Saturday 7th October, 2.30pm
Tilley Rd Sportsfield, Paekākāriki
Followed by shared kai and merriment from 5.00pm
Paekakariki School Plant Sale
Saturday 21st October, 9.00am – 12.00pm
Paekakariki School, Wellington Rd, Paekakariki
Wednesday mornings to propagate plants for the twice-annual Plant Sale, raising thousands of dollars for the school garden. There’ll be shrubs, perennials and herbs as well as summer flowers and vegetables.
Spring is here! And with it, a lot of rain.
Heavy downpours, like those we’ve seen recently, test the limits of paved areas and paths.
Are paths in the right places, or are we cutting a muddy track across the lawn? Are they at the right level? Can they handle large amounts of rain? Paving that’s too low means puddles in all the wrong places. And if driveways are turning into waterways, it may be time for a drainage rethink.
After a heavy downpour, look around your garden. It becomes obvious where the natural hollows, low points and watercourses are. If these are on a well-trodden path (because of ground compaction) you may need to raise the paving level, or create better drainage beside it – for example by digging trenches.
Get to know your property, and you can turn pooling and puddles into rain gardens, swales or watercourses.
On slopes: Rain always follows the path of least resistance, and can scour out mulch and topsoil, carrying it into the storm water system. Slowing water down is the key to letting it sink in, rather than run off.
Creating swales (ditches that run sideways, across the contour of the slope) has several advantages. Swales slow the flow of water and act as pockets to collect topsoil and mulch. Plants growing around these pockets benefit from the extra groundwater in dry weather too. See more information on how to build a swale here.
Low walls of ponga or logs can also be useful to terrace slopes, creating planting pockets.
Rocks, stones and logs can be used to create a ‘dry riverbed’ that becomes a temporary stream in wet weather, perhaps flowing into a raingarden. Plant ferns and other thirsty plants along the edges.
Raingardens: Areas where water pools in heavy rain can be turned into rain gardens. These mini-wetlands hold water for hours or 1-2 days after heavy rain, letting it gradually drain into the soil so it’s filtered before entering waterways. Roof stormwater can also be diverted into raingardens.
On sandy soil, make a depression lower than the surrounding area, with gently sloping sides. The size of the raingarden depends on the amount of water it will get. Plant it up with natural wetland plants like rushes, sedges and flaxes, or groundcovers like leptinella and gunnera. A rock or pebble mulch is good, as bark mulch can float away when the area fills with water.
On heavier soils, raingardens might need an underdrain and/or an overflow. For more information see here.
Plants as filters: The bush acts as a natural water holder and filter, releasing water slowly over time. Compare a valley of sodden bush with a valley of pasture – you’ll see far more soil erosion and dirtier streams in the farmland. We can’t all have bushclad properties, but even on a small section, plantings of shrubs and grasses hold and filter water better than paved areas or lawns.
Permeable paving: This means a driveway or path that lets some rain sink through. Permeability can be provided in different ways; by using a permeable surface like lime sand or gravel rather than hard paving; by allowing cracks between pavers; or by using specially-made water-permeable pavers. Weed matting and/or a compacted base course layer underneath will provide further stability and drainage and make your paving last longer. For driveways, consider having concrete strips for the tyres rather than paving the whole area. There’s a great gallery of ideas on pinterest here.
The bigger picture: Where does water go when it leaves your property? Rain falling on hard surfaces- driveways, concrete, patios – can’t sink in, as it can on gardens or lawns. Unfortunately it often ends up dirtying our streams and waterways. To reduce flooding on a larger scale and clean up Kapiti’s waterways, support local wetland restoration projects.
Free Green Gardener workshops:
Matai Community Garden Working Bee
Sunday 1 October, 1.30-3pm
Matai Community Garden, 192 Matai Rd, Raumati
Help get the garden in shape for spring.
Growing Plants from Cuttings:
Monday October 2, 10am-12
Kāpiti Community Centre, Ngahina St, Paraparaumu
Learn how to propagate plants for free, and take home cuttings from the community gardens great collection of drought-proof flowers and herbs.
Beyond Kapiti: here are some options up and down the motu…
Based in Tutira, Hawke’s Bay. Spring and early summer workshops include seed propagation, edible garden planning and tiny house building.
A bit closer to home, Kath Irvine provides inspiration and practical knowledge from her garden in Ohau
Saturday September 23, 10 am – 2 pm
October Open Day + “Fruitful Fruit Trees” Talk
Saturday October 21, 10am – 12.30 pm
Late winter is all about preparation: getting seeds ready, building up soil and making plans so you can hit the ground running next month.
Winter time is Daphne time
- Moving: Soil is wet, so plants that are in the wrong place can be moved without too much shock. Stake and mulch them well afterwards.
- Weeding: One reason weeds are so successful is they start growing a wee bit ahead of many garden plants. Staying on top of weeds saves a lot of work later in the summer; catch them before they seed and you’ll also notice fewer weeds each year. (Also, baby weeds without seeds are better material for the compost heap). At the moment soil is moist, releasing roots easily, and the gaps where weeds are pulled out heal quickly (in my gardens, ‘good weeds’ – other self-sowers like calendula – will rapidly grow to fill in any bare patches, forming a live mulch.) Cover any other gaps with other sorts of mulch (see below).
- Planting: There’s just time to get shrubs in the ground to get roots down by January, when things get dry. Add something water-retentive to the planting hole: wet newspaper, seaweed or compost, to hold water around the root zone.
- Fruit trees: Finish pruning grapes, figs, roses and pipfruit. Prune citrus, and feijoas if you missed them in autumn. Mulch with good compost or seaweed. Plant the last fruit trees. If you had leaf curl last year on stonefruit, spray with copper before they blossom.
- Mulch up around the stems of brassicas (eg broccoli, cabbage), especially if they’re rocking around in the wind. Mulch any gaps in your beds – it keeps away weeds, feeds worms, protects the soil from rain and slowly melts into humus.
Sow: Prepare seeds for spring sowings. You can start seeds off in August if you have shelter (a cold frame or greenhouse): peas, any greens, early tomatoes and beans. Start carrots and beets under a cloche. Grow microgreens on a sunny windowsill.
Plant: Garlic, borage, calendula, greens – bok choy, silver beet, lettuce, miners lettuce, land cress, silver beet.
Matariki is the start of the year, a time for new beginnings.
Our instinct can be to hide indoors in winter, but it’s a great time for soil building. Manure, leaves, seaweed from winter storms, dead plants, grass clippings, weeds (preferably without seeds or roots) – all these can all be piled up to rot down over winter and be ready for planting in spring. This technique can be used to fill a raised bed; on top of an empty bed; to make a new bed, or to make smaller mounds or puke, ideal for planting pumpkins or kamokamo into in November. These need lots of room, but the puke provide a pocket of good soil for roots- allow about 2m between them for plants to spread.
Building a no-dig bed or puke:
- Prepare the area: If it is grassy, scythe or trample the grass; if there are pernicious weeds like dock or kikuyu, dig them out. You can make a no-dig bed on top of gravel or concrete. Edgings are good, though not essential – driftwood or sleepers are good.
- Gather materials:
- Cardboard and newspapers to lay under the bed.
- A pile of greens for nitrogen: grass clippings, manure, vege scraps, green leaves, green weeds (without seeds), blood and bone.
- Roughly twice as many dry browns for carbon: hay, dead leaves, old ponga or bracken fronds, seaweed, straw, lupin or tagasaste branches.
- Completely cover the area with wet cardboard/ newspaper.
- Layer materials, starting with a thick layer of browns (twigs and branches, even logs are good), then a thinner layer of nitrogen and so on. The higher the better.
- End with a carbon layer, sprinkle with lime and water well. Cover with sacks or an old blanket or sheet (not necessary for puke,) leave about 8 weeks to break down a bit.
- For puke, start with a small pile of twigs or hedge trimmings and layer on grass clippings, seaweed, leaves and manure.
- Plant: In spring, make holes in your no-dig garden/puke, and fill them with compost or garden soil. Plant seedlings into these pockets of soil. Gather the carbon material back around the seedling to mulch. Water well and watch it grow!
Matariki is also the time for hui or gatherings to share food and seeds. There are lots of opportunities for this coming up:
This third documentary from New Zealand’s Localising Food project addresses the impact of industrialised food monopolies and why our food security is now reliant upon local community-scale seed systems. Learn about a range of inspirational seed saving and seed sharing initiatives happening throughout the country, which can be replicated and adapted anywhere.
This film addresses the severe decline in seed varieties, the rapid rise of corporate control over our food and seeds, and the legislative implications of the recently endorsed Food Bill and the still-possible TPPA. It shares how New Zealand grassroots seed-saving initiatives are making a difference, through inspirational models of seed swaps, seed exchanges, seed libraries, seed banks and family seed businesses all around the country.
Themes running through the documentary are that sharing seeds regenerates community, seeds carry cultural heritage, home seed saving is at the root of change, and seed sovereignty is vital for local food security and bioregional resilience.
To view trailer (and other Localising Food mini-docos) visit: www.localisingfood.com
As we’re hunting out woolly slippers and draught-proofing windows, it’s time also to think about shelter in the garden. Just as the most effective winter clothing involves layering – merinos, scarf, waterproofing – the best shelter in gardens is also built up in several layers.
Like a chink between trousers and top, an undefended gap between trees can make life uncomfortable all winter. Provide good shelter, on the other hand, and you could be cutting not only wind, but also your power bills – it’s another layer of insulation round the house.
Creating layers of shelter to protect your garden from winds means using combinations of trees, hedges, screens and shrubs to give protection where it’s most needed. It might seem counterintuitive but open fences, screens and hedges create more shelter than a solid barrier like a brick wall. Open shelter filters and slows down wind, while solid barriers create eddies downwind – which is why the windiest areas are often found at the corners of fences or buildings. Sometimes simply planting one shrub or flax bush in these wind tunnel spots can shelter a whole yard.
Any barrier creates shelter behind it for a distance of 5-10 times the barrier’s height. So a 2m hedge can shelter a 10-20m courtyard. Increase that by adding a few taller columnar plantings such as cabbage trees- these can cut wind without creating shadow, and frame a view without blocking it.
Areas needing maximum shelter, like a sitting terrace or vegetable garden, can have added layers of protection. For veges, this could be a knee-high fence or hedge of lavender, rugosa roses, sage, and other useful herbs and insect-attracting plants. For a sitting area it could mean trellis or screens, supporting vines like sweet peas or grapes.
Try and find plants that serve more than one purpose- such as feijoas, which provide fruit as well as shelter, taupata to feed birds, or rosemary, which attracts bees.
Give support at planting time as root rock (plants wobbling in the wind) can be fatal. A solid, low tripod of stakes gives plants support in all directions. Heavy rocks or bricks on the roots also provide stable anchorage. Mulch well and make the most of winter rains to water in your plants.
In the edible garden:
Prune in June:
- Grapes: Prune hard, to a structural framework of vines with just a couple of buds on each lateral (branch). They fruit on new wood.
- Roses: Prune out the oldest wood, then prune to an outward facing bud.
- Figs: Prune hard over winter if you want to reduce the size, then pinch out tips over summer to create a many-branched tree. They too fruit on new season’s wood, so an unpruned tree may have lots of fruit but they’ll all be up in the air for the birds to eat!
- Apples and pears: fruit is borne on ‘spurs’ on two-to-three year old wood, so be careful not to take these off. Prune off the oldest wood, diseased wood and any branches that are crossing or rubbing. Winter pruning promotes a big response of new growth in spring, so new shoots may need thinning out mid-summer.
- Plums: Don’t need heavy pruning- just thin out unwanted or inward-growing branches.
- Citrus: Prune these any time through until September: take out the oldest branches and criss-crossing growth. Try to create good airflow to reduce fungal diseases. Pruning over the colder months reduces the chances of lemon tree borer entering the wounds.
June 17: How to Prune Fruit Trees: Kath Irvine workshop, Edible Backyard, Ohau.
Other June jobs:
Mulch, mulch mulch: Feed that soil life! Now is the time to create your soil for next summer. Build it up with layers of wood chip, seaweed, straw, grass clippings, manure…
Seedlings: If you allowed a few plants to go to seed over summer, seedlings of lettuce, borage parsley, mizuna and other self-sowers will be popping up everywhere. Move them to a suitable spot (or pot up for your local school or community garden).
- Weed the bed thoroughly, fork in lots of compost and a dusting of lime
- Poke a hole with a stick about 5cm deep and pop in cloves so the tip is just below the soil.
- Water well and mulch with straw or seaweed to keep weed-free.
Broad Beans: One of the few seeds that germinate at low temperatures, these are among the easiest veges to grow.
- Poke into the soil 10-20 cm apart, 2-5cm deep
- Put a stake in each corner of the bed, wind string around as the plants grow.
Not well-known, but gardeners who grow it will rave about how it comes back each winter with no effort. A Californian native, it was a staple food for gold miners (hence the name). It’s a hit with kids and adults alike, being soft and mild in texture and flavour, more like a bright green spinach rather than crunchy lettuce. Great for winter salads as well as spanakopita, soup, pasta etc.
Sow: It’s getting too cold for many seeds, but you can sow broad beans, and onions in trays to plant out in late winter. Grow microgreens on a sunny windowsill.
Plant: Garlic, beetroot, winter greens (bok choy, mizuna, lettuce, miners lettuce, land cress, silver beet, parsley.)
As we humans reach for extra layers of clothing and bedding, spare a thought for your soil. A protective layer prevents damage from winter wind and rain. This could be mulch, a compost heap, seaweed or a cover crop… for more ideas click here. Remember, if you don’t cover up your soil, Mother Nature will do it for you – with weeds!
Can be planted throughout May or June (the earlier you plant it, the earlier your harvest and the sooner you can use beds for other summer crops).
Prepare beds by weeding well, adding compost and a dusting of lime and potash or wood ash. The more you put in to the soil, the better your crop will be.
- Choose the fattest, healthiest bulbs you can find – spindly ones will never come to much.
- Space 10- 20cm apart. Poke a hole with a stick and pop in the bulb so its tip is just at the surface (make sure you get them the right way up).
- Mulch with a light airy mulch like pea straw
- Liquid feed with seaweed once a month.
Last year Kapiti gardeners struggled with rust on their garlic, due to the wet summer. Rust, which causes rust-coloured spots on foliage, is spread by spores and thrives in humid conditions – and there’s not a lot we can do about the weather. But there are some things you can do to prevent rust this season:
- Grow garlic in a different bed – last year’s beds will be full of rust spores. This crop rotation may not eliminate disease, but at least puts you one step ahead.
- Ideally, use clean cloves. I am using last year’s garlic as seed, but because it had rust (though not enough to stop a decent crop), I’ll try soaking the cloves for a few hours before planting in some liquid seaweed, mixed with organic fungicide.
- Space the bulbs out well, to allow plenty of airflow. Imagine the fattest garlic bulb you have ever seen, then double that distance between cloves. (Maybe about 15cm, for those who prefer precise measurements)
- Add plenty of compost- garlic is in the ground a long time, so it needs lots of food. Feed monthly with liquid seaweed or comfrey from springtime on.
- Keep the garlic weed-free. Use straw mulch over winter to keep weeds away, but don’t mulch heavily in spring as this can encourage fungi.
- Kath Irvine of Edible Backyard, a fount of garden knowledge, has written an e-book about garlic, available to download on her website for $6. If you haven’t seen her website or been on one of her courses, check them out – I’ve learned so much from her. [Click on this link to see the book: Grow Great Garlic]
In the edible garden:
Sow: There’s a small window left for sowing carrots and beetroot. Sow lettuce, miner’s lettuce, coriander and broad beans. Grow microgreens on a sunny windowsill. Sow green crops like lupin in any spare ground.
Plant: Fennel, garlic, beetroot, celery, winter greens- bok choy, lettuce, miners lettuce, land cress, silver beet. Snow peas and Asian greens such as mizuna and bok choi are more cold tolerant than their relatives, fat-pod peas or cabbages.
Strawberries: Plant now for early crops.
Broad Beans: Anzac Day is the traditional time to sow broad beans (according to my grandfather). These cold-season plants are pretty bombproof and make a great beginner’s crop from seed. They also enrich the soil by `fixing’ nitrogen from the air. Plant 5cm deep, 15cm apart, in rows 30cm apart.
Mon 12 June| 10-12am |Community Centre Ngahina St Paraparaumu
Green crops and soil building. Winter is a great opportunity to build up organic matter in your soil – pile on seaweed, manure, leaves and grass clippings. Even better, grow your own soil and mulch in the form of green crops/green manure. Find out how (Indoors if wet). For more info and to book, call 04 902 3240 or visit www.kcc.net.nz/workshops.
Root crops like carrots do well over winter (hiding from the wind!) Plant now, covering seed with sawdust if you have some, to keep it moist while germinating
Building soil: Autumn and winter is a good time to be building up soil to feed your plants over the next growing season.
Good soil is rich in organic matter. Powdered fertilizer might provide chemicals, but can’t improve structure in the way compost does: holding water, providing pathways for roots, slow-release nutrients, and food for worms which aerate the soil.
Good soil is alive: Not just with worms, but with a million creatures invisible to the naked eye: bacteria, yeasts, fungi, actinomycetes and other microbes. These creatures all interact with plants to create a healthy rhizosphere (root zone).
Good soil holds moisture: Compost can hold up to 20% water without becoming waterlogged, so a 10cm layer of compost on your beds is like having a 2cm deep reservoir.
6 things you can do for your SOIL over winter:
Grow broad beans: they can get nitrogen from the air and convert it into plant material. Plus you get a crop in spring!
Trenching is the simplest form of composting: dig a trench, at least a spade’s depth, across your bed. Add vegetable scraps as you get them, covering with soil as you go. Things planted on top of the covered trench will have all that food at their roots
Pile seaweed across the bed (or around fruit trees) and let it rot down. Lots of nutrients and no weeds!
Collect up autumn leaves and grass clippings to build a compost heap on top of the area where you are going to grow next year’s tomatoes: Come October, just collapse the heap sideways and plant on in.
Sprinkle seed: Green manures such as lupins, oats and mustard can be dug in or used as mulch.
Cover with mulch. Arborist’s chip is a cheap and long-lasting way to keep away weeds, feed worms and build soil.
April in the garden:
The seasons have turned: It’s well and truly autumn, and with or without rain, cooler nights mean more soil moisture. The ground is still warm however, making April the best month to re-sow lawns. It’s the start of the planting season for trees and shrubs, while seedlings of lettuce and other greens are less likely to be fried to a crisp now things are cooler.
Compost fodder is abundant for soil building. Pile it into heaps, or lay directly onto beds to keep weeds away and rot down over winter.
Lawns: Now is the time to rejuvenate lawns, as new seed will sprout well before the soil gets too cold. Fork over tired areas to aerate, rake on compost for top dressing. Look for drought-resistant types (eg tall fescue)
Plant shrubs and evergreen or subtropical trees like citrus, feijoas, natives, shelter belts… Split clumps of perennials like alstroemeria
Garlic and Strawberries: Both can be planted over the next couple of months (get them in early for early crops.) Fork in a 5cm layer of good compost before planting. Pine needles make a good mulch for strawberries
Keep planting brassicas/ leeks/winter greens/green manure crops/broad beans. Snow peas and Chinese greens like bok choy are more cold tolerant, so grow better over winter, than their relatives the fat-podded peas or European cabbages.
Mulch: Check the soil is wet at a spade’s depth before mulching. Even though we’ve had some heavy rains, they can take a while to sink into parched ground.
Green crops: A handful of seed can turn into a great layer of mulch- grow your own soil! Find out more at the Green Gardener workshops or on this website.
Plant: Brassicas, silver beet, lettuce and other salad greens, red onions, fennel, beetroot, strawberries.
Sow: Coriander, rocket, calendula, alyssum, miner’s lettuce, peas, broad beans, peas, green crops (direct); lettuce, spinach, silver beet, peas (in trays).