Winter has us well in its grasp, but already thoughts are turning to Spring. Our broad beans and peas have poked their heads above ground and all bare patches of ground will be readied for Spring by receiving a light dressing of lime. One application per year is enough. It gives the Calcium a chance to become available when mixed with other fertilisers such as blood and bone. This month will also see preparations begin for our tomato crop. Seeds will be sorted and planted on heat pads in the kitchen. They will stay there for three weeks and then go into the glasshouse for a month where they will be swaddled like babies. After that into the shade house for another four weeks. Planting out usually starts after Labour Day. We will be planting early potatoes this month. They can be planted in tyres now but if you do, be prepared to cover them when the frost comes down. Container growing of spinach, Pak Choy, spring onions, silver beet, carrots and beetroot can begin now also, but don’t forget to cover when appropriate.
Meanwhile, harvesting, pickling and maintenance continue as usual. A good crop of yams has now been harvested. These are delicious when roasted as per the recipe in our last newsletter. Our Jerusalem Artichokes will be completed this month and either pickled or made into a hearty Winter soup. The preserving pot will be busy as Christine clears out all the plums and blackboy peaches in the freezer, converting them into jam, sauce and delicious bottling. The last of the elderberries picked in March have been used up to make elderberry tonic.
Several other jobs either will either be completed or get under way this month. The firewood pile for the Hangi is now substantial and we are looking forward to the celebration of our twentieth anniversary on August 10th. The orchard corner will have all it currant sticks cut back and additional sticks planted. All the old raised beds have been removed from that site to make way for more trees. An extra pear tree has already been planted. Lots of compost has been produced in the last few weeks. Thanks to Darren for his hard work and also to Alan from St Mary’s Church for the delivery of sack loads of leaves which are great for our composting process. Lots and lots of bulbs have been potted up and we have also planted two roses, one in memory of the partner of one of our longest serving volunteers and the other a lovely yellow friesia. Mice have been eating into our seed store inside the building so all seeds are being sorted and stored in jars to keep the critters away. A single mouse has been trapped so far. It remains to be seen if he/she was acting alone.
June 5th was World Environment Day, and at the gardens it was a bitterly cold day as well, despite the clear blue sky. The usual crew turned up to set up and man a small table from which passersby were offered some of Christine’s delicious hot pumpkin soup and toast, and take away some seeds ready for planting in the spring. The theme this year was air pollution.
The next event at the gardens will be Mataariki Market Day on 22nd June. Christine is flat out making preserves and pickles in preparation for this event. The usual favourites will be available including spicy elder-flower tonic, piccalilli, hot chili sauce and plum sauce together with a sausage sizzle and home baked treats.
Work continues in the garden despite the frosts, rain and short days. We are still planting broad beans and peas directly into the ground and also raising broad bean seedlings in the glass house, but otherwise planting has stopped. Mulching of our brassicas with a side dressing of blood and bone has been completed. The Jerusalem Artichokes will be harvested early in the month so that they can be pickled in time for the market day. These are best left in the ground until needed unless pickled. Our Pumpkins are now in storage and we have buckets of apples and quinces ready to be turned into jams and preserves. Compost production will continue this month even though the process slows considerably with the colder temperatures. Our Feijoa tree is still yielding fruit, thanks largely to the netting spread over it. It will need pruning soon. Pruning of the grapevine has been completed and any fruit trees which have not yet been done will be completed this month.
On a less positive note; our entire bed of carrots was plundered one night late last month. The whole lot disappeared overnight. It’s doubtful that the person or persons who took them will read this but if so please be aware that we are not a supermarket. If you need such a large quantity please go to one or a greengrocer such as Funky Pumpkin. We are working through security camera footage in an effort to find the person responsible.
So far this Autumn soil temperatures have been higher than last year reflecting the mild weather, so it’s still not too late to plant some greens, especially the Chinese style Pak Choy. The cooler weather reduces its tendency to bolt. Time is rapidly running out for cabbages and caulis though, as there is a risk that the onset of cooler temperatures will stop their growth. We are busy mulching around our brassicas, with a side dressing of blood and bone and also a little bit of lime. The mulch keeps the weeds down and the soil temperatures up.
We are harvesting our pumpkins. This year we tried some Austrian Oil Seed pumpkins which are grown specifically for their seed, although the flesh is also edible. We have also just completed harvesting the last of the quinces and they have produced an excellent crop this year. All the garden volunteers have taken some home. This year we pulled all the second flush of figs off our fig tree as they will not have time to develop fully before Winter and we hope that doing this will produce a really good first flush next season.
On the planting front, celery plants will go in this month and we also will be trialing some early snow peas. Spring onions can be sown at any time of year as can baby gem lettuce. In the glasshouse we will be planting sweet pea seeds in punnets ready for an early start in spring. On the corner section we have some Blackcurrant bushes to go in as they do very well there.
As usual there is so much to do. Weeding, especially the noxious oxalis is constant as is the general maintenance required to keep the garden productive.
Every day in the Weather section of The Press you can find the soil temperature. The best guide for gardeners is the 10cm reading. This has been showing a pleasing upward trend recently so we have taken the plunge and planted an early variety of new potatoes at our St Martins site. We used Cliff’s Kidneys. Six weeks from now these will be followed by Maris Anchor and Agria. One of our volunteers, Ted, has also decided to try out the warming ground and has planted all the thinnings from his radish plants at home into one of the beds at Strickland St. So far they are looking very healthy. Christine is a fan of Daikon radish which she incorporates into pickles and also Kimchi, and has used this technique to increase the yield of this variety. The method could also be used with Beetroot seedlings as the ground is warming up.
Planting out of Silver beet has begun as well as broccoli and cabbage. The last of the carrots have been harvested and the bed for the new crop is being prepared. This involves digging in the green crop of marigolds (tagites) and mustard which will deter the pesky carrot flies from laying their eggs
Maintenance work continues. Pruning is just about completed, which is timely as blossom is beginning to appear on the plum trees, and we are stringing the broad beans. The birds have been into our pea sowings so now they are protected by chicken wire guards. The St Martins site has benefited from a lot of work and is looking good. It yielded a fine crop of pumpkins this year and also seems to be a great spot for growing chili peppers. Also benefiting from some TLC is the Beckenham site which has had lots of bark spread over the paths to freshen them up. In last months blog I incorrectly stated that the bark was donated by City Care. In fact it was given by Beaver Tree Services, so a belated thank you and apology to them. Some of the bark has also been layered into our compost heaps.
We have been disposing of surplus items via the Freecycle network This is a great way to give away items which are of no further use to you but are too good to go to the dump, or conversely, to pick up items which may be useful. It’s all done via email and is easy to use. Just go to https://my.freecycle.org/ for more details.
Emma from Canterbury University has been progressing our Human Activity in Gardening research project by assessing tasks for their suitability in improving balance, load bearing and cardio fitness. Christine and Anna presented the results so far to the last Public Health Association conference earlier this year and this project is ongoing. Emma’s time with us is coming to an end so we thank her for her work and wish her well in her future studies.