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Our First Quince Harvest

Hello friends,

We have finally have had our first quince harvest. We planted a quince Smyrna tree back in the winter of 2022, and we've been waiting impatiently for a harvest since then.

The first year after sitting there as a stick over winter, the leaves budded, and then it flowered. But nothing became of the fruit, and we weren't worried because the tree was too small to bear the big quince fruit anyway. Over the spring and summer it grew slowly, which was fine with us, as it needed to develop it's root system.


Winter came again, and once more it became a stick. And then the spring of 2023 the leaves unfurled, and the tree flowered again, but this time little quince fruit began to form. At the start there was about 10 fruit, but over the following weeks they started to drop off. Eventually 4 quince fruit remained.

Over the spring and summer the fruit began to grow bigger on the tree. I was realistic in the fact that strong winds could knock them off, so I left them all there. By the time this autumn came, the 4 fruit remained, and they began to ripen to a pretty lemon colour.


Ever since then we've been impatiently waiting for them to be ready to pick. I tested the fruit regularly to see if they were ready to harvest, by gently holding them and tipping them sideways. At first all four did not budge, so they were not ready. But then one day the two smallest fruit dropped into my hand when tested.

We had a couple of weeks more wait for the two biggest fruit to be ready to harvest. Luckily quince store well in the fridge, so when the last two quince were finally ready, it was time to poach the quince. We used our poached quince recipe, which you can find in a blog post here. This year we chose the vanilla and cinnamon combination for flavoring.

And the long wait for our own quince fruit was totally worth it, the poached fruit was aromatic and very tasty. And as a bonus we have lots in the freezer to enjoy over the year. And our quince tree is only a small tree, as it gets bigger much more fruit will ripen. My plan is to share them with family and friends and neighbours, and hopefully swapping them for other fruit we can't grow in the garden.

Have a wonderful day

Julie-Ann

Want to discuss my post? Feel free to chat with me on Instagram or Mastodon or Bluesky.

Outdoor Citrus Frost Cloth Project

Hello friends,

Sometimes it's just easier to buy stuff you need for the garden, and especially when the task you need to complete takes up a lot of time.

We were in the local garden center the other day and spied a new product on the shelves. Egmont is now selling a frost cover with a drawstring and toggle, and the frost cover is zipped on for easy placement and removal. The frost cloth is commercial grade, and the fabric is 30 gsm. I didn't buy one at the time because the bag is only 80 cm wide by 100 cm tall. The bag wouldn't be big enough to fit any of my citrus plants.

But after thinking about it over the Easter weekend, the bag would be big enough to use as a template to make larger versions that would fit my citrus plants. I went out and bought one after Easter, and it was only $10, which is a pretty good deal considering how big the zip is.


As you can see from the photos the frost cover bag is a rectangle which has been folded in two halves with a zip down the middle. The top is sewn across with a heavy seam which won't rip easily. The bottom contains a fabric casing to hold a thick cord, which is held in place by a strong toggle.

I tried placing the frost cover over the smallest citrus plant I have, which is our mandarin bush, and as you can see it is pretty squished inside the frost cover. It definitely needs more space so that the branches don't get squished. But the frost cover was pretty easy to put on, and the thick cord and the toggle did a great job of keeping the frost cover in place.

So even though I can't use this frost cover to protect my citrus plants, I can use it as a template to make bigger versions that I can use. And afterward I can use this frost cover for my small Camellia sinensis tea plant over winter, so that is a good bonus for me. In the coming weeks I'll make up the template for the citrus plants, and build a trial one for testing.

I did ask the garden center if Egmont planned on making bigger versions, but she said that this product had only just come onto market, so not likely this year. They were going to pass on my suggestion for Egmont make bigger versions in the future.

My suggestion is if you do have smaller citrus plants, that the Egmont frost cover is definitely worth buying for your plants over the coming cold season. With it being easy to take on and off, it'll save you time and protect your precious plants from any frosts that do happen.

I just need to now pull out all my current frost cloth stash and see if I have any frost cloth that can be used for making some bigger covers for my own plants.

Have a wonderful day

Julie-Ann

Want to discuss my post? Feel free to chat with me on Instagram or Mastodon or Bluesky.

Frost Proofing My Outdoor Citrus Plants With Liquid Frost Cloth

Hello friends,

Autumn is here, and the Autumn equinox has just been, and so with it comes the increased risk of frosts. The earliest frost we've had at our home since I started keeping records was on the 6th of April 2019, which is only 17 days away from today's date. All it takes is one cold front to come through, followed by a cold clear night, and a frost is possible. We've already had a low temperature of 3˚C this month, so there's definitely now a risk to my frost tender plants.


Our citrus plants outgrew their pots in spring last year, so they can no longer sit inside the glasshouse over winter for protection. I planted them in the patio in October 2023, so they now need to be protected from frosts and snow over the coming autumn and winters.


I plan to do this in a number of ways. The first one, which I've just done, is to treat all my citrus plants with liquid frost cloth, which is called Vapor Guard in NZ (you can buy this from garden centers). It protects plants down to -3˚C frosts by forming a protective wax coating over the leaves. Vapor Guard lasts about 6 weeks, as rain and frosts slowly break down the protective wax coating, and then it's time to spray Vapor Guard all over again. I keep a note of the dates I spray in my garden diary, and also calculate the next spraying day six weeks from then.

Vapor Guard does not protect the plants below -3˚C, so frost cloth is needed to protect the plants during the colder parts of the year. My plan over the next month is to build wooden frames, and then to attach frost cloth over the top. I'll then move the frames daily into position to protect the citrus plants when needed.

To treat the citrus plants with liquid frost cloth I added 15 mL of Vapor Guard to 1L of luke warm water. After giving it a good mix, I sprayed the liquid frost cloth onto the plant leaves on a dry and warm sunny morning with no wind. I wore gloves and a mask while doing so. The 1L of liquid frost cloth spray was enough to spray my lemon, mandarin, and lime plants, and also enough left over to protect my Camellia sinensis (tea plant) too.

My plants then had the rest of the day to dry, and for the wax to set. They're now protected from frosts for the next 6 weeks, we don't usually get heavy frosts until late May/early June, so I now have time to build the protective frost cloth cages.

I'm relieved to have done this, as the last week has been quite rainy, which meant I couldn't get a window to get this garden job done.

There will be no blog post next week, as hubby and I are having a much needed staycation between Otago Anniversary Day and Easter. Well be relaxing and eating hot cross buns and chocolate, and I hope to make strawberry and raspberry jam as well. I'll post again in early April.

Have a wonderful day

Julie-Ann

Want to discuss my post? Feel free to chat with me on Instagram or Mastodon or Bluesky.

Harvesting and Drying Alma Paprika

Hello friends,

This is our second year growing alma paprika plants. It's really satisfying to sow them as little tiny seeds, see them grow up into seedlings, and then onto big pepper plants with red peppers that you can dry into mild paprika.

The process for growing alma paprika plants is pretty much the same as any other capsicums or chillies. The seeds need to be sown in late winter, at the same time as tomatoes, and they need consistent steady heat in order to germinate. At that time of the year we have them sitting in the dining room where we have the fire going each day. Within a couple of weeks they germinate, and slowly over a couple of months they grow into seedlings which need to be potted on.

I move the alma paprika seedlings into the glasshouse in early October, and once it gets to Labour weekend, it's time to plant them into the ground in the glasshouse. Over the next few months they get bigger, and need staking, and at around Christmas they begin to flower. The rounded alma paprika fruits begin to grow, and then it's a wait over late summer and early autumn for the growing fruits to begin to change colour to a bright red hue.

Once the alma paprika fruit has turned red, it's finally time to pick them. I cut them off the plant using a pair of secateurs, and then take them into the kitchen to begin processing them.

After chopping them in half, cutting off the stalks, and removing all the seeds, I slice the alma paprika fruit into thin slices and lay them out on a tray.

Then they go straight into the dehydrator at 35˚C, and I dry them until the slices are bone dry and brittle, ready for turning into paprika powder.

After a quick whizz in our spice grinder, the paprika powder is ready to use in cooking. The spice is tasty and mild, and works great in a number of dishes. The whole process is really easy, and satisfying, so it's now yet another yearly thing for me to do in the garden and kitchen.

Do you have any yearly tasks you enjoy? There's great satisfaction in accomplishing them when it means you have tasty food over the cold winter season.

Have a wonderful day

Julie-Ann

Want to discuss my post? Feel free to chat with me on Instagram or Mastodon or Bluesky.

Lavender, Calendula, and Chamomile Oil Infusion for Soap Making

Hello friends,

I've been collecting our lavender, calendula, and chamomile flowers all summer, with the intention of making my own cold-pressed soap with an olive oil infusion from the flowers this autumn. Years ago, when I lived in Wellington, I attended a cold-pressed soap making course, and I have been making my own for years since then. It's an interesting combination of gardening and crafting, with a big splash of science, and it's a lot of fun to make once you know how to take the safety precautions.

The first step was to gather the flowers I dehydrated over the summer. I store them under the stairs in our home, the temperature is cool and dry there, so it's perfect for storing dried flowers.

I then filled a glass container up as high as possible with the dried flowers.

Once the container was full, I filled the jar with olive oil.

I usually use olive pomace oil, but I didn't have enough to fill the entire jar, so I had to go out and buy some mellow olive oil. The cheapest olive oil is the best to use, as I hate using extra-virgin olive oil for soap making, when it could added to meals.

Once the olive oil was filled up to the top, I removed as many air bubbles as possible, and used a spoon to ensure the flowers were mixed evenly.

After putting the lid on the jar and dating it, I stored the jar in a cool, dry place for two weeks while it infused.

When the time was up I passed the olive oil infusion through a cheese cloth to remove as many flowers as possible. The olive oil had taken on such a beautiful orange colour, and smelled like lavender.

I've now stored the oil infusion away for couple of weeks until it's time to make the soap.

This was such a fun project to do, and I can't wait until soap making day in a couple of weeks. 

Have a wonderful day

Julie-Ann

Want to discuss my post? Feel free to chat with me on Instagram or Mastodon or Bluesky.

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