Author: Peter

What”s happening in July 2018?

Halfway through July already and it’s peas and beans and peas and beans and….! However, lots of other stuff is happening as well. Volunteer Ted has been hard at work with the pruning shears and has completed most of the accessible fruit trees with just a few of the larger ones still to do. The object is to maintain crop levels whilst keeping them to a height which makes harvesting easily manageable. Our peach, quince, apple and apricot trees have all benefited from Ted’s expertise. Also undergoing pruning are our currant bushes. The three colours we have; red, black and white, all require different approaches to pruning. The white ones look and taste terrific in jams and jellies.

On the same theme, all herbaceous perennials are being cut back and compost spread around. We are also spreading shredded branches and bark ( donated by City Care ) on the small orchard  we are developing as a neighbourhood resource.

We are presently dusting all our vacant beds with lime . A light dusting only as the soil is best kept slightly acidic. We will work it into the ground and leave for a month before early planting begins in August.

Potting up and pricking out will continue through July. This will give us a good supply of plants ready for sale in our Spring Market Day on October 6th. We’ve already completed  lots of beautiful daffodils and these will be flowering from September.

We have had an excellent crop of Jerusalem Artichokes (Helianthus tuberosus). Despite the similarity in name, this is a completely different plant to the Globe Artichoke (Cyanara cardunculus var scolymus) which is a type of thistle. They seem to be hard to find in retail outlets so if you like them call in and pick some up.  ($5 per kilo ). They are a bit sweeter than potatoes and go well in a winter soup. Christine is experimenting with fermenting the tubers and also pickling.

What’s happening in June 2018?

Neil Young wrote “Rust never sleeps”.  Swap “A garden” for “rust” and it sums up nicely the situation in June. We have started harvesting Jerusalem Artichokes. kale, carrots and yams and will be preparing for the Winter Market day on June 23rd with lots of punnets of pea plants and broad bean plants ready for sale. There will also be kale and silver beet seedlings as well as lots of flowering perennials and bulbs such as jonquils and mixed daffodils. Come along and have a look around. 10am until 2.00pm

Jerusalem artichokes do not store well and are best left in the ground if you don’t intend to use them immediately. They can be pickled and are crunchy and delicious when the pickling is done with fresh tubers. They also make a great soup (look out for our recipe for JA and potato soup – coming soon).

Volunteer Darren and Alan have started re-aligning the edges of the garden beds to create better manoeuvrability for the lawn mower and this will continue through the month. They are also taking the opportunity to have a general tidy up. It’s a good time to see the structure of a garden  which means it’s also a good time to attend to the hard landscaping.

Our new plant display stand is nearing completion and will replace the old one this month. If you have visited the garden recently you will have noticed that the existing stand has reached its “end of life” stage.

There will be no let up in the green waste recycling programme during the Winter, although the lower temperatures mean the compost heaps need less turning than they do in warmer weather. If you have no physical space to dispose of your kitchen scraps by making your own compost or perhaps burying them, we would love you to use this service. One estimate has each household generating an average of 5kg of kitchen waste per week, and putting them into the red bin is a waste of a valuable resource. The green bin option means either a small fraction of the bin’s capacity is used each week or accumulating a bin full of putrefying, smelly scraps. Our service is free and easy to use. If you do have some space and want to set up your own composting system, but are unsure how to go about it, come along on a Saturday and get some free advice.

The new cycle way along Antigua St has opened and whether by coincidence or not (we suspect not ) our takings have suffered a big drop. It’s more difficult to park near us now and the effect has been quite dramatic. All you cyclists (of which I am one), take the opportunity to pick up some fresh produce as you cruise by. You can pick your own, although we’d like you to ask a volunteer if you’re after some root crops.

Apple tree pruning has been completed, dahlias have been cut back and potted up and pumpkins have all been harvested. At our St Martins site tyre stacks will be constructed and filled with compost this month in readiness for new potato planting in July. There will be lots of work done at the Beckenham site ; weeding, cutting back, edge tidying etc.  Volunteers are always welcome.

It’s not long until the shortest day, so stay warm and good gardening.

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.