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.
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
- Garlic( include bulbs)
- Shoofly ( Nicandra physaloides)
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
Our Summer Market Day is being held on Saturday 9th December from 10am until 2pm. All the usual good stuff will be on offer: plants, produce, baking, preserves etc. In addition, local resident Neil will be bringing along his collection of renovated bicycles . A good range of bikes will be for sale; children’s and adult sizes.
Our Pea crop has finished but the second crop of Broad Beans is ready for harvesting. We are using Crimson Hughey which is a new variety with beautiful maroon flowers. It is cropping well so we will probably use it again.
It’s the time of year when watering is crucial and we need volunteers to help with our watering roster over the next month or two. If you would like to help come along to the market day and sign up to the roster. Sprinkler theft makes setting up the roster a little more difficult. Each year we lose two or three sprinklers, with an occasional hose going too. Given the hot weather we’ve been experiencing early in the summer the possibility of water restrictions is looming. At the gardens we have 3 big plastic barrels which are kept full of water. If restrictions are applied we can then use their contents with a watering can. If you do the same at home, make sure your barrel has a secure top to keep out mozzies and stop infants falling in.
Tomato training is in progress. Some of our volunteers are not at all certain about how to go about this so Christine will probably run a workshop in January. If you’d like to join in call in and talk to her.
Light summer pruning of our grapevine will be done this month. If you have a vine at home we suggest you prune to the last two or three leaves beyond the last developing bunch. This will give a much improved crop.
Have a great Christmas.