Tales from the Vege Patch

Tales from the Vege Patch

September – October 2022

Loving this spring weather and the excitement the warmer days and lighter nights brings.  

Winter is a great time for resting the veg beds, sowing green crops and replenishing soil reserves with beautiful rich compost such as mushroom or if you have a pal with a horse some rotted horse poo is amazing.  

With this warmer weather, it’s easy to get carried away with vegetable growing excitement but proceed with caution as we’ll have a few more frosts to come. Some seeds are very sensitive to cooler temps and will just not germinate if seed raising mix or environment is too cold. If you are growing from seed bring them indoors into a warm space to germinate and once germinating, they will require lots of sunlight.

I’ve taken over the dining room at home, put up a trestle table and have planted a range of seeds from cabbage, broccoli, beetroot, peas, some tomatoes, butternut squash, pumpkin, cucumbers and quite a few flowers. I have sown seeds to cater for my own garden plus the libraries veg bed at the community hub.  I will also put some out in our community produce stand to share with others.

There are so many ways to garden affordably and one of those is to share costs with friends whether that’s purchasing a 6 pack of seedlings and splitting them or sharing packets of seeds. Remember Wānaka and Queenstown Libraries have a seed library for swapping and sharing.

This year I sent away to Heritage Food Crops New Zealand and have received 5 free packets of heritage tomato seeds (approx. 10-12 seeds per packet). I am really hoping for a huge tomato season this year, with lots of different varieties. I have the 5 heritage varieties to grow and will also be growing; Vintage Wine, Marmande, Indigo Pear Drop, Gold Nugget, Rainbow Blend & Money Maker. I use Kings seeds, if I don’t have a saved or locally grown seed, I find them to be reliable in our climate. I will of course save seeds from tomatoes this year for next season.

Don’t forget to get your early spuds in, I’ve seen a few varieties still available.

As always I’m so looking forward to eating from our garden over the warmer months and know that there is nothing like the taste of homegrown veg.

Happy growing, feel free to send in any of your gardening queries I’m happy to reach out to local experts to get those questions answered.

Goals for me this season:

  • Keep a growing notebook; date sown, germination time frame, transplant date, fruiting date
  • Only hot temp vegetables in the tunnel house; chilies, peppers, eggplant, cucumber, melon
  • Plant more varieties
  • Succession planting
  • Planting more in the space that I have eg: lettuce & basil under the tomato plants. This is good for soil health too.
  • Planting seeds earlier
  • Improve watering & liquid feeding

What to plant now – sow into trays and keep inside for a few weeks until that snow has finally melted:

  • Lettuce
  • Tomatoes
  • Sweetcorn
  • Pumpkin / Squash
  • Beetroot
  • Peas
  • Beans
  • Eggplant
  • Cucumber
  • Pickling cucumber
  • Leeks
  • Snow peas
  • Courgettes
  • Spring Onion
  • Chilies
  • Peppers
  • Celery
  • Herbs – parsley, mint, chives,

What to direct sow – if your soil is warm enough (soil temp. approx. 10-25 degrees) or you can provide some temporary frost cover:

  • Carrots
  • Radish
  • Greens – mizuna, rocket, spinach, Bok choy
  • Strawberry plants

And don’t forget to get your early potatoes in the ground!

Useful websites:

Planting guide and reminders to keep your kitchen garden growing

Edible Backyard ⋆ Growing food gardeners NZ

Recommended reading:

The Germinate Workbook

Flowers for Friends: casual, seasonal arranging for gardeners by Julia Atkinson-Dunn

Grow: Wāhine finding Connection Through Food by Sophie Merkens

April 2022

April is one of my favourite times of the year, I love the cool frosty mornings and warm sunshine filled days that allow me to continue to potter in the garden.

Surprisingly, I am still picking tomatoes and have just picked my last few strawberries. The chillies are still growing madly in the tunnel house, along with peppers and cucumbers and I am anxiously awaiting a first pick of Feijoas, check out the photos below it’s looking like a great crop.  

I’m a learn as you go gardener, picking up tips from those in know, reading plenty of gardening books and spending time at the community garden listening to others and following way too many gardening related Instagram accounts!  Failures in the garden are also a great way to learn. This year’s major fail were my spuds planted too late and not in the right spot. I have started a gardening journal / notebook mostly to keep my seed sowing calendar in check.

This season I’ve learnt’ to save seeds from my produce which is very satisfying as it will save money and allow me to continue to grow varieties that we have really enjoyed and know grow well in our garden. I’m particularly looking forward to planting garlic again this year from my January Harvest, I managed to put aside a few bulbs just for this purpose. If you haven’t already sourced your garlic for planting now is a good time to do it.

You should also be thinking about which beds you want plant greencrops and get those seeds sown. A greencrop adds organic nutrients to your soil, improving the quality for spring planting. Sow seeds direct, then in late winter, early spring they can be chopped down and incorporated back into the soil.  I’m going to try Phacelia and oats this winter.

Autumn and early winter jobs will be planting out the tunnel house with lots of leafy greens and cool weather lettuce. A newly covered garden bed is the designated brassica garden which I’ve had very little success with in the past so fingers-crossed for lush broccoli, cauli and sprouts. I will continue to liquid feed the Feijoas as they ripen and greencrops will be sown.

Happy gardening and harvesting. The May update will include some recipes to try from cookbooks available at the library.

Direct Sowing in April

Tunnel House or covered outside:

  • Beetroot
  • Radish
  • Lettuce

Tray Sow in April

  • Artichokes
  • Brussels Sprouts
  • Broccoli
  • Cabbage
  • Cauliflower
  • Spring Onions
  • Spinach
  • Silver beet
  • Pak Choy
  • Mizuna
  • Shallots
  • Coriander
  • Sweet peas

Transplant seedlings

  • Silver beet
  • Celery (outside or in the tunnel house)
  • Leafy greens – kale, silver beet
  • Lettuce – little gem, drunken woman, Cos, Buttercrunch
  • Rocket
  • Mizuna
  • Brassicas – Cabbage, cauliflower,

The latest gardening books to check out:

The Village: Grown & Gathered by Matt Purbrick

Grow Easy by Anna Greenland

March 2022

My garden is looking rather lush at the moment but I feel that we are in that precarious time of eat now or watch it go to seed.  I have a variety of lettuces growing wildly both outdoors and in the poly tunnel, both growing well and keeping our evening meals flush with crisp, fresh and beautifully flavoured salad.

2021 saw my first crop of garlic planted out over two beds, the reward being 50 beautiful large bulbs dug up in late December. Having used just a few cloves already (I couldn’t wait), I will be planting again as the flavour is so strong I and absolutely delicious. I will be able to use less in dishes than my usual supermarket bought garlic.

As summer crops are harvested and enjoyed, it’s time to think about what seeds to sow now for autumn and winter picking.  Even with a small space to grow, pots on a terrace or a strip of dirt at the side of the house, you can produce something edible that will not only taste amazing but will help you to cut down on the supermarket trips, reduce the food miles of your fresh food and create a sense of satisfaction having grown even just a lettuce or herbs.

Autumn has arrived and with it cooler mornings but gorgeous warm days.  As you pick and enjoy the last of the summer crops; cucumbers, salad, tomatoes and courgettes, start sowing new seeds and seedlings for winter picking.  Using the shelter of current established plants and the warmth of the soil, plant out seedlings to shelter and take hold in this ideal environment.

My garden is still flourishing with lettuce, peppers, chillies, strawberries, raspberries, basil, tomatoes, silverbeet & celery.  I’ve noticed the foliage on my main crop spuds dying off so will be digging those up over the next few days, looking forward to seeing how lush the harvest is, or not.

Due to the mass crop of basil, I have made a lot of pesto and have experimented with different ingredients. Swapping out super expensive pine nuts for walnuts, cashews or seeds. I have even used less oil and heaps of garlic (winter is coming).  Some will be stored in the freezer to-be enjoyed with future meals and snacks later.

I am really looking forward to trying to grow Brussel sprouts they are a much-loved veg in our house apparently they do well in cooler climates.  Good to get seedlings in the ground before the temperatures drop too low.  Another interesting veg that I will be trying are kalettes or flower sprouts.  They are a cross between kale and brussel sprouts.  I am also hoping to successfully grow and harvest cauliflower and sprouting broccoli.  I might be a bit late to start cauliflower from seed as I should have sown in February however the tunnel house provides a lovely warm seed-raising environment at this time of year, not too hot so I’ll be giving it a go anyway. 

I would love to hear any suggestions from our gardening community about what you are growing, new veg you are trialing in the garden and how your summer gardening has gone.  You can also ask us some questions and if we don’t know the answer we’ll ask an expert.

Favourite gardening moment recently was when my purple cherry tomatoes finally ripened.  I have been waiting ages for these beauties to be ready.  Well and truly worth the wait, they taste delicious and have made a great snack while working in the garden.  I will be saving seeds to grow again next season.

See the lists below for what to tray sow, direct sow or transplant into your garden beds now for winter crops. Check in at Queenstown and Wānaka Library to see what seeds are still available.

Direct Sowing in March:

  • Carrots
  • Parsnips
  • Lettuce
  • Beetroot
  • Radish
  • Chives
  • Coriander
  • Rocket
  • Mizuna

Tray Sow in March:

  • Beetroot
  • Kale
  • Spinach
  • Sweetpeas
  • Broadbeans
  • Brussel sprouts
  • Cabbage

 Transplant Seedlings to the garden:

  • Leeks
  • Broccoli
  • Silverbeet

January 2022

Enjoy your summer produce & keep planting lettuce seedlings & herbs. I have plenty of basil ready for pesto making but to ensure I don’t run out I have planted more seedlings.

It’s also a good time to think about how you are going to use any surplus tomatoes, peppers, chillies & courgettes. Share some recipes with friends and get your bottles & jars ready, replace lids and prep your storage space. Last year I dried so many chillies that we are only just down to the last few teaspoons of chilli flakes.

Here’s some suggestions on what to sow or plant out now. You can visit Queenstown or Wānaka Libraries to stock up on seeds from our seed libraries.

Seeds to sow in trays:

  • Beans (dwarf, bush, French, climbing)
  • Broccoli
  • Cabbage
  • Cauliflower
  • Chives
  • Kale
  • Leeks
  • Spinach
  • Silver beet

Seeds to sow direct into the ground:

  • Beetroot
  • Carrots
  • Coriander
  • Parsnip
  • Radish
  • Spring onions

Seedlings to transplant:

  • Celery
  • Corn
  • Brussel
  • Sprouts
  • Leeks
  • Lettuce
  • Tomatoes

Seeds available at Wānaka Library:

  • Beans – Colour combo dwarf (Kings Seeds)
  • Broccoli Sprouting – Winter Rudolph (Kings Seeds)
  • Cabbage – Space Saver (F1 Kings Seeds)
  • Cauliflower – Neckar Pearl (Kings Seeds)
  • Coriander – Locally Grown
  • Kale – locally grown – unknown variety
  • Kale – locally grown – Squire
  • Leek – Lungo Della Riviera (Kings Seeds)
  • Radish – Highlight (McGregor’s Seeds)
  • Silver beet – Bright Lights (Kings Seeds)
  • Spring Onions – Locally Grown

Seeds available at Queenstown Library:

  • Red mustard seeds
  • Chives
  • Basil
  • Wheat grass
  • Parsley
  • Spring onions
  • Kale
  • Sweet leaf fennel
  • Sage
  • Mesclun
  • Cucumber
  • Fennel
  • Radish
  • Spinach
  • Sorrel
  • Chilli

Some great gardening books to check out:

The Growing Season by Sarah Frey

The Hairy Bikers - Veggie Feasts by Si King & Dave Myers

Yates Garden Guide

The Edible Backyard by Kath Irvine

Homegrown Happiness by Elien Lewis

The Abundant Garden by Niva & Yotam Kay