Author: Peter

What’s happening in May 2018?

The weather in Christchurch continues to be mild, with no frosts as yet. Climate change, climate disruption or climate chaos; take your pick for a name, but the reality becomes more apparent every year. At the gardens the immediate effect is that this lack of frost has resulted in our pumpkins not developing skins hard enough for long term storage. We will have to be careful to store them in a cool dry place with sacks under and between each pumpkin so that they don’t contact each other and start to rot.

We will be utilising the mild weather to plant more brassicas, leeks, spinach, spring onions and silver beet. The days and nights are cooler but the soil temperature is still high enough for these crops to get a good start. Our first plantings of broad beans have emerged and we will continue succession planting until August. Peas will also go in this month.

We have had good results with our peach seedlings grown from stones. These will be potted up this month. This method works well with peaches but is less successful with apricots, plums and other stone fruits.  All our fruit trees will be pruned this month.

Other seedlings under way are Kale and broad beans. These are being grown on in the glass house and will be available for sale in punnets at our next Market Day on June 23rd. Preparations for this will be going on throughout May, but produce is available at any time at Strickland St. (except for the delicious baking, which we only roll out on Market Days )

Also available at will be Dahlia bulbs. These will be dug up and potted up this month ready for sale. We are quite proud of our Dahlias; currently we raise 12 different varieties, and very lovely they are when in flower.

The war on weeds and oxalis is ongoing and there will be no letup in May.

St Mary’s Church in Addington delivered a load of leaves early in the month and these have gone into the bay reserved for leaves in our compost bins. Sheep manure and a dash of lime will be added and the result in a few months will be a lovely mulch.

What’s happening in April 2018?

It was a beautiful day on Easter Saturday when we held our Autumn Market Day and thanks to all who came along to Strickland St to have a look around or to buy. Thanks also to the volunteers whose efforts make it happen.

It has been a bountiful season for pickles, so we will be busy making more and plan to hold a “mini market day” on the 14th April to offer these delicious treats for sale.

It has been a very mild Autumn ; according to the met service the warmest start to a year since records began. Consequently aphids and white fly are still a problem, so much so that Christine will be making up another batch of our organic spray and blasting the critters. She will also be running a demonstration on how to make it during the mini market day on the 14th at around 11am. If the weather stays mild we can also expect a lot of diseases such as powdery mildew in the spring. On the plus side, we will take advantage of  the mild weather to plant our spinach, silver beet and other leafy greens. It also makes mulching easier so we will be doing lots of this to keep the weeds down and hopefully keep the soil temperature just a little raised.

Some of our beds will be planted with a green manure crop this month. We will use a mixture of French Marigold (Tagetes) and mustard which will then be dug in before planting broad beans. We have also used barley, and for Nitrogen fixing, blue lupin.

We are still harvesting crab apples and quinces, so jellies made from these are still emerging from the kitchen. The Feijoa tree also has some nice big fruit left.

What’s happening in March 2018?

This month is mostly about Picking, Preserving and Pickling. especially our crops of tomatoes and zucchinis.The tomatoes will go straight into the freezer to be used later for soups. Any green ones will be the basis of our delicious green tomato and pineapple relish. Zucchinis don’t freeze well so they are bound for the pickling pot. All the tomato plants will then be removed in order to prepare the beds for planting broad beans. We usually leave the ground fallow for a while but sometimes plant a crop of a light leafy green feeder such as lettuce or spinach. It’s probably too late for any new planting of carrots, but the ones we put in earlier are doing well

We have harvested a large quantity of apples and these will be stewed and then bottled or frozen. Some will be made into apple and mint chutney. Despite the trees looking very healthy, it has not been a good stone fruit season for us this year, especially the plums. We possibly pruned a little too hard last year. Our Grapes, however, have produced a bumper crop, as have the quince trees. Slow roasted with honey is a great way to use these as well as the traditional jams and jellies.

The NZ cranberry bushes (not a native despite its name) are ready to be picked and we are thinking up ways to use the berries. They taste a little like  (their relative ) guavas but with a hint of strawberry.

We have discovered rust on our peach seedlings and trees so they will all be sprayed with lime sulphur. We have researched this chemical and are satisfied that it fulfills the requirements of organic gardening. Apricots do not like it however.

March is a good month for planting silver beet and also the last of the winter brassicas will be put in after the ground has had blood and bone and sheep manure applied.

What’s happening in February 2018?

The summer harvest has begun! Zucchinis, tomatoes. french and dwarf climbing beans are all flourishing, so much so that Blue has been demonstrating his cherished “bean machine” which slices up the beans ready for cooking or freezing. The summer bounty also means that room has to be made in the freezers, so plum sauce production is under way using the plums which were frozen last year. The hot weather makes this a job for the dedicated.

The plentiful crops also means that we are getting good donations as local people take advantage of the fresh organic produce. This helps enormously with our running costs throughout the rest of the year.

The hot weather combined with a bit of rain has accelerated weed growth. We are putting convulvulus, oxalis and twitch into the green bin, NOT our compost bin. The City Council processes the material collected in the green bins at a high temperature and this will kill these invasive weeds whereas a normal composting process seldom reaches sufficiently high temperatures to do so.

Planting for Autumn and Winter crops is already underway. Early broccoli has gone in and the last carrots will be planted soon. Parsnips germinate well in hot weather so we will try a bed of these also. Brassica, silver-beet and other winter crop seedlings are all being readied. Cabbage white butterfly is a problem but they can be controlled with a home made spray (see our recipe below) or a safe manufactured spray such as Nature’s Way Pyrethrum. If you are not sure what compounds can be used in organic growing check the BioGroNZ website.

Our glasshouse has been cleared and cleaned with a baking soda solution as a fungicide, followed by vinegar.

February is a good time to sort and dry flowering bulbs ready for planting out in March or April. We will have lots of a fragrant jonquil called “Earli Cheer” for sale in the Autumn, so make sure to come down to our market day if you’re interested in these.

Organic Spray Recipe

Use  leaves of any of the following plants

  • Wormwood
  • Rhubarb
  • Feverfew
  • Tansy
  • Garlic( include bulbs)
  • Shoofly ( Nicandra physaloides)
  • Costemary
  • Pyrethrum

Cram leaves into a large pan and fill with water – use this pan only for home made sprays.

Heat, bring to boil and simmer for 2 hrs on an outside cooking surface – e.g. BBQ

Do not do this inside – the fumes are toxic – keep children and pets away.

Cool and strain through a sieve then tea towel.

Concentrate the liquid again by boiling for a further 1 hr.

Cool, bottle and add I tspn of organic laundry liquid before capping.

The laundry liquid will help the spray stick to the plant more effectively.

Use 1 cup/5litre watering can of tepid – warm water