December 8th is the day of our Summer Market Day at Strickland St. This year we will be trialing a new product : Vegetarian Sushi. We will also have gallons of delicious elder flower cordial as well as Blackcurrant cordial (thanks to volunteer Dave for the blackcurrants) and Rhubarb and Strawberry cordial. It will be a Christmas theme, with some good ideas for presents (eg a punnet of mini bell tomato plants would be a great gift for any gardener) as well as all our usual produce and plants. Come along between 10am and 2.00pm and have a look around.
As in November, keeping on top of the weeds is the biggest job this month. The recent wet, warm weather has meant a lot of growth, and whilst this is good for some crops, weeds love it. There has not been a consistent rise in soil temperature but despite this we have had a good strike of zucchinis and carrots, our tomatoes are doing well and the broad beans have been magnificent. The glasshouse, by contrast, has been challenging to manage because of fluctuating temperatures, and leafy crops such as Pak Choy, silver beet and spinach are showing a tendency to bolt while still in their punnets.
Some jobs penciled in for this month include lifting and separating our bulbs before Christmas and spraying the fruit trees with our organic fungicide. It’s ideal weather for fungal spores to get a foothold.
Compost production is now in top gear and local gardeners seem to love it, so much so that we may have to limit sales in order to ensure we have enough for our own needs. We have also planted two grapevines (variety unknown) behind the front fence by the footpath so that passersby can eventually help themselves to a grape or two as they stroll past.
Finally, a pleasant surprise has been the emergence of several olive tree seedlings. These have grown from a sack of olive pits that was given to the Gardens about four years ago. The stones were planted in compost and after all this time they have finally appeared. They will be potted up this month.
Happy gardening and a Merry Christmas from the staff and volunteers at Christchurch South Community Gardens.
The race is on. It may have none of the drama and spectacle of the Melbourne Cup but the race against time taking place at the Gardens is vital to the success or otherwise of all our efforts. We have to get the planting of the slower growing vegetables completed so that they have sufficient time to grow and mature before the cold winds of Autumn start to blow. All our tomato and zucchini plants are now in the ground. All frost tender plants are going in; in fact there is nothing that cannot be planted now so it’s a very busy time for our volunteers. It also means the weeds are growing beautifully, especially amongst our carrot beds, so the fine motor skills of our dedicated weed busters are being tested as they pull them out.
The recent hot weather cost us some of our Basil seedlings which were “cooked” in the glasshouse. The areas under non whitewashed glass were the ones seriously affected. We use a mixture of 1/3 builders lime, 1/3 water based paint and 1/3 water for our whitewash and it works well. Too late for some of the Basil though.
The Addington Fun Fare in Church Square is taking place on 24th November and as usual we will have a stall there. Our delicious elderflower cordial will be on sale as well as all our usual plants and produce, so come along and enjoy the stalls and the surroundings in one of Christchurch’s hidden suburban gems. It runs from 11am until 3pm.
This month also sees us host 160 year 8 and 9 pupils from Somerfield School who will be visiting the gardens as part of their Garden to Table unit. Learning objectives will include eating seasonally and food storage. Christine will be able to show the students how we store our pumpkin crop as an example.
We have some children’s bikes for sale. Also a couple suitable for young teens. A neighbour of the gardens was doing them up as a hobby but unfortunately ill health has forced him to stop, so he has asked us to sell them for him. If you are looking for a kid’s bike come along to the gardens and see if there’s one that suits.
This month we are looking forward to our AGM on September 29th. Usually it involves short reports by the Board Chair and the Manager, followed by election of Board members. Afterwards a few nibbles and a bit of socialising. It starts at 11.30 so come along if you’re interested.
Early in the month we said goodbye to Damian who has been working with us since June. He has been a great help in keeping on top of the many tasks needed to keep the gardens functioning and we wish him well with his future gardening endeavors. Another of our volunteers, Carolyn, has gone off trekking in Nepal for several weeks. She intends to follow this up with some volunteer work in Bangladesh.
In the garden the early days of the month saw us harvest the last of the broccoli, carrots and caulis. The peas have popped up, much to the delight of the local avian population, and the broad beans are coming along magnificently. The tomato seedlings are in the glasshouse, hardening off and growing on in time for our Big Spring Market day on Saturday Oct 6th. They have been joined by hardier seedlings such as cabbages, caulis and lettuces. Also coming along nicely, but still on the heat pad, are capsicum and chili seedlings. Pricking out is taking up all the hours the volunteers and manager can put in.
Outside areas are still waiting for the ground temperatures to rise a little more before planting. First in this month will be Pak Choy, silverbeet and mizuna as they are quite comfortable with the cooler temperatures we get in September and October, and also carrots and beetroot.
We seem to be processing more food waste lately which helps with our compost making, and our worm farms have yielded up their worm castings which then go into our potting mix. This month we hope to bring two more worm farms back into production after the problems experienced with the drain taps. There are no spare parts available so we have to improvise.
Early in the month the Community Gardens Association dropped off potting mix and seeds from the Southern Seed Exchange. The aim is for us to propagate some of the rarer seeds in order to maintain a viable collection. We are pleased to be part of this important enterprise.
At the Beckenham site we are still spreading bark and we also have some wildflower seedling plugs to plant in order to brighten up the site along the fence line.
Pickling and preserving this month will be focusing on making grape juice from the grapes frozen in April and chili sauce from the frozen tomatoes.
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.