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.