Over Labour Weekend in October hubby and I planted our vegetable garden for the summer.
My first task was to weed the garlic growing in the smallest vegetable garden bed, and then also sow onions, carrots, beetroot, radish, sugarbeet and carrot seeds as well.
Hubby then dug over the two remaining large garden beds, and I added sheep pallet fertilizer for the soon to be growing plants.
For the next bed, which was already growing peas and potato plants by now, I added lettuce, rocket, black turtle beans, summer sprouting broccoli, and cabbage, that I had been growing in the glasshouse.
With the last large garden bed I planted maize, corn, and pumpkin plants in the top half. In the bottom half of the garden bed I sowed wheat and linen flax seeds, while hubby acted as a scarecrow to keep the birds off them, and then we double bird netted the seeds to protect them from the birds.
With most of the glasshouse now empty of plants, we emptied out the space, and hubby dug over the garden bed. After that there was just the task of fertilising the soil, and then planting cucumbers, basil, chillies, capsicum and many tomato plants. There was also the big task of setting up all the climbing frames for the growing plants.
It's been a few weeks now, and everything is growing nicely in the garden, despite low snow falling the week after we planted everything. I can't wait to feast on all our vegetables over the coming summer.
Have a wonderful day
It's been another busy week in the garden, with warm and mild weather to welcome the start of spring.
I had to repot my chilli, capsicum and tomato seedlings in the last week, as they'd gotten too big for their plastic small glasshouses in the dining room. They're now happily situated in their now bigger pots with potting mix in the glasshouse, and are sitting in a frame which is wrapped up with multiple layers of frost cloth each night. If there's even a hint of bad frosts or snow, they'll be back inside the house in our spare bedroom until the bad weather passes.
Seed sowing is still underway, and will continue through spring.
Vege seeds sown this week:
- Pumpkin Crown Prince F1
- Pumpkin Musquee De Provence
- Pumpkin Baby Bear
- Pumpkin Marina Di Chioggia
- Maize Manaia
Herbs sown this week:
- Chamomile Roman
- Chamomile German
Flowers sown this week:
- Eupatorium Hemp Agrimony
- Gypsophila Snowflakes
- Gypsophila Deep Carmine
- Yarrow Summer Pastels
- Valerian officinalis
There's so much more seed to sow, and things to do in the garden, but work is also busy right now in the lead up to the Christmas season, with me preparing eco textile products for inclusion in the online craft artisan website Felt gift guide. I hope I can balance the two between now and Christmas.
Have a wonderful day
We're now into the last month of winter, and it's finally time to start sowing seed for spring. It's a tricky time of the year, as it's possible to get snow here in Dunedin even into the first week of October, so there's nothing worse than sowing seeds too early, and then having to try and keep them alive if there's a late frost or snow in early October. Last year we had snow laying on the ground the first week of October, and a couple of frosts the weeks after that, so it was a stressful time trying to keep all my seedlings alive, looking after my growing potato plants, as well as my new dahlias which had just popped out of the ground. Seedlings don't get transferred outside and into the vegetable garden until Labour Weekend, which is the third weekend of October, so that's a long way off right now.
I have a specific order in which to germinate seeds, so that I don't have too many plants sitting in the glasshouse for such a long period of time. The first seeds sown are my tomato plants. I grow enough plants for our own needs, but also for family members as well. I usually have at least 12 plants growing in our glasshouse, and poke any others that are spare in free space I have in the vegetable garden. We eat a lot of tomatoes fresh throughout the summer, but the bulk of it is frozen away for using in autumn and winter cooking.
This year I'm growing the following tomato varieties:
Franchi Sementi Pomodoro Red Cherry - A red cocktail tomato with great taste. This is no longer for sale in New Zealand, I save this seed every year.
Kings Honeybee F1 - I haven't tried this one before, I wanted to try another cocktail tomato, we'll see how this goes. One of my sister's grows her tomatoes outside, and it's far easier to ripen smaller tomatoes in Dunedin's short summers.
Kings Tomato Juane Flamme - Our favorite tomato, an orange tomato with the best taste of any tomato I've ever grown.
Tomato Grosse Lisse - A beefsteak tomato that was a favorite of my grandfather. The best tomato for putting a slice on a hot piece of toast, and eating it with a pinch of salt on top.
Tomato Island Bay Italian - I haven't grown this tomato variety before, but I've heard good things about it. Good for eating fresh and processing apparently.
Tomato Lebanese - Also a new tomato variety this year, I'm hoping it will have good disease resistance, and tastes good too.
The next seeds to be germinated are my chilli and capsicums plants. I've successfully grown chillies in our greenhouse, but I haven't had any luck with the big traditional bell pepper capsicums.
This year I'll be growing the following chillies and peppers:
Chilli Serrano - I had a huge crop of chilli last season, so I'm growing this variety again.
Alma Paprika Pepper - Trying once again to grow my own paprika. Last season they didn't grow as well as I hoped, am trying again for the last time.
Capsicum Marconi Red - A prolific sweet Italian variety. I'm hoping that it's narrow shape will mean it ripens faster.
Capsicum Orange Sun - My last attempt at growing a bell pepper variety.
Capsicum Red Bell F1 - Also another last attempt at successfully growing a bell pepper variety.
The tomato and chilli seeds were sown into two mini greenhouses, and placed in a warm sunny spot in our dining room. It's warm in there on sunny days, and also thanks to the benefit of our wood burner being in that room, they're kept warm in there every night in winter. I'm eagerly waiting for the seeds to germinate.
The next seeds to be sown are all my sweet pea varieties. I've collected quite a lot of Keith Hammett varieties over the years, he's a New Zealand breeder who produces the most stunning sweet peas. Sweet peas germinate in cool temperatures, so they are now potted up and put into the glasshouse.
The last of the seeds to be sown for now are the herbs coriander and dill. Coriander prefers to grow in cool temperatures, otherwise they will bolt, so I sow one lot in late winter, and another in early autumn. They don't like to have their roots disturbed while planting into the ground, so I sow a bunch of seeds into a biggish pot, and then when it's time to transfer them into the herb garden, I plant the whole container worth in one spot, I don't separate out the seedlings at all. For the dill seeds I do the same thing as with the coriander, it ensures I get a relatively big crop of leaves without the problem of using up a lot space.
The sweet peas, coriander, and dill are all now sitting in my glasshouse. We're were expecting snow down to 200 m last night, so I've put off doing any more seed sowing tomorrow. Hopefully soon they will be joined by a lot more seeds as the month goes on.
Have you started seed sowing yet? I'm interested in what choices you've made for the coming growing season.
Have a wonderful day
Down here in Dunedin, we are currently in the depth of winter. The winter solstice may have been a month ago, but now is the coldest time of the year for us, and will probably stay that way until late August at least. If it's not freezing cold and sunny, it's gray and rainy and soggy (and also still cold). Both outcomes mean not much can be done in the garden at the moment, on frosty days the ground is frozen solid, and on rainy days the garden is very squishy.
My frustration at not being able to get into the garden due to the weather has been made worse by me having minor toe surgery two weeks ago which has turned complicated thanks to an infection (as always, sigh). At the moment I can't fit my bandaged toe into any shoes (well apart from jandals), and if that wasn't bad enough, I'm not allowed to get my bandage and toe wet at all which would totally happen if I attempted to wear jandals in the garden right now. This pretty much means I have been confined to inside my home since the surgery, well apart from when I have to go to the doctors to get my dressing changed.
Just when I began to feel a little down about all this, one of the most exciting gardening days of the year happened, the arrival of the 2023/2024 Kings Seeds Catalogue. There's nothing like ripping open the packaging, sniffing that new magazine smell, and then flipping through the pages to see what seed goodies are available this year.
The first responsible thing to do though is to go through my current flower, herb and vegetable seed stashes and see what I have, there's no point in buying seed when I have plenty stored away already. My seed stashes are split into three sections, flowers, herbs, and vegetables. The flowers and herbs seeds are in disorganized chaos inside some plastic tubs.
The vegetable seeds however are meticulously organized in a craft storage box from Spotlight. It has lots of small containers which I use to separate the vegetable seeds based on each vegetable type. And thanks to my handy dandy label maker I know exactly which container is which. I also use the coloured boxes to match each vegetable type, and this makes it super easy to find the corn and carrot boxes for example.
After I pull out each box I open my garden seed database and check each seed packet, and their use by date, and update the database accordingly. If any seeds are low, or finished, I highlight the database to show which seeds I need to reorder. My database also includes a section to show what times of the year the seed can be sown, and when it has been sown. It's been very handy over the years as long as it's been kept updated.
Once that is completed, it's time to browse the Kings Seeds catalogue. On the first go through I highlight all the things I need, and those that I want. I let myself go wild. After that is done, I knuckle down and make post it notes lists. This list is more focused, and I make a point of deciding things like if I do really need three different varieties of calendula...
After that, the next step is going onto the website. First of all I add stuff to the cart that we absolutely really need. After that I narrow down the other stuff I want and put it in the cart. Sometimes the seeds that I need and want appear in the Kings Seeds shopping rewards list (they have a system where after you spend a certain amount they give you free seed packets). Then I tend to juggle the cart based on if some of my seeds will end up on that list, there's no point wasting money on what will be free seeds.
After all that is done, and I've justified to myself every seed packet in the cart, it's time to pull out the credit card and pay for all my precious seeds. And then the waiting at the letterbox begins...it's nearly just as exciting sorting through all the new seed packets when they arrive.
Are you buying and growing any new varieties of plants this year in your garden? Do you have a seed database like I do? I'd be interested to find out.
Have a wonderful day
Some of my favorite fruits of all time to grow are citrus. I love growing lemon, limes, and mandarin bushes, not only for their fruit, which I love using in food and drink all year round, but also for their shiny bright foliage which looks great when the plants are grown in a patio setting.
Back when we lived in Tawa, Wellington, I was able to grow lemon, limes, and mandarin plants outdoors throughout the year in the ground at our hillside home, and only had to protect them from frost for about ten nights each year. When we moved back to Mosgiel, in Dunedin in October 2019, however, I knew I had to make a decision on how to grow my citrus plants. From previous history, I knew that I couldn't just plant them in the ground and leave them to fend for themselves in Dunedin's winters.
The suburb of Mosgiel where we now live is blessed with its own microclimate which is far different from that of the rest of Dunedin, as it lies inland, in a sheltered valley 6 km from the sea. In summer Mosgiel is warmer and sunnier than Dunedin, and in winter is is colder and frostier. I love this about Mosgiel because it is more like Central Otago/the Mediterranean, than the rest of Dunedin, which nearly always get cool sea breezes from either the south-west or the east.
Warm, sunny summers are great for citrus plants, but cold and frosty temperatures in winter, along with the occasional snow, are not, especially when temperatures drop down to -6˚C. So I decided to put my citrus plants into very large plastic terracotta-like pots so that I could shift outside to our patio in late spring, and then bring them into our glasshouse in autumn for protection over the winter months. I also chose to plant the most cold hardy varieties that I could find, to give the plants their best chance at life.
The first citrus plant chosen is the lemon variety Lemon Meyer. It is the hardiest of all lemon varieties, is a heavy cropper, and the juice from the lemon isn't too sour. It was the first citrus plant I planted. It has flourished in it's position in the patio during the summer months, and now bears many fruit each year.
The second citrus plant chosen is the lime variety Tahitian Lime. We mostly use limes in our favorite soup recipe, Tomato, Capsicum and Lime soup, and this variety works perfectly for our needs. As limes do not like the cold at all, we were very surprised to see it growing and flourishing over the last three years. The first year we had two limes, and now each year we are getting dozens of limes off the bush, so many in fact that we are now giving our excess away.
The last citrus plant we chose was the Satuma Mandarin variety. Mandarins are one of my favorite fruits (much easier to peel than oranges), and are the perfect size for snacking on. They went into our last citrus pot, and along with the lemon and lime plants, they grew healthy and strong during it's first and subsequent summers. I am currently awaiting on it's first harvest, hopefully I can eat some soon.
Each year, at the beginning of October, they are moved out of our glasshouse, and into our patio, where we have just enough space for the growing plants. Over the spring and summer they are fed both a monthly and long term fertiliser, and are watered nearly every day to ensure the pots don't dry out. I recently also added Ecowitt Soil Moisture sensors to each pot to keep an eye on their moisture levels, so I know exactly how each plant is faring, and if they need to be watered.
They stay there all summer long until the end of March, and then we drag them back into the glasshouse for the winter.
Because of the many cold and frosty days ahead I take a multiple layered approach to keeping them healthy over winter. The first is to keep them safe in the glasshouse over winter, which keeps them safe from high wind damage and protects them from small frosts.
The second layer of protection is the use of Vaporgard Liquid frost cloth. It is an organic wax made from pine resin which helps protects leaves from frost damage down to -3˚C for 2 to 3 months. I usually spray my citrus plants with Vaporgard twice over winter in the glasshouse, and once more when they go outside in early October, since we sometimes get late frosts even up to the end of October. The good thing about Vaporgard is that it can also be used in summer to slow down moisture loss from plants.
The last layer of frost protection is my ever trusty frost cloth. I have a container full of it which I drag out of the shed each autumn. I usually drape a single layer over the citrus plants on frosty nights, but if I know that a big cold snap with snow, or a prolonged period of frosty weather is about to happen, I double up the frost cloth layers. On frosty mornings I don't unwrap the citrus plants from their frost cloth layers until the glasshouse has defrosted in the sun.
This multilayered approach to frost protection has worked really well with my citrus plants until now, but now I have a problem. My citrus plants have outgrown their pots, and they have gotten too big to transport to and from the glasshouse each winter. I need to find space in the garden for them to grow and flourish, and this means I have to plant them into soil. They are in the glasshouse for the last time this winter, and come this spring, they will be planted into the ground.
This means I am currently undertaking a winter garden project to rearrange the sunniest and warmest part of our garden to fit the citrus plants into this coming spring. And then after this summer and autumn I will be undertaking another project to figure out how to protect the citrus from frosts the next winter after that.
It's a big winter garden project at the moment, but it'll be worth it once the plants are happy, and thriving, and give me much more citrus to eat and drink in the coming years.
Have a wonderful day