The Colours of Summer

20 December 2012
Written by Kath Irvine | Images by Kath Irvine
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Welcome to the start of summer. Of course whether it actually is or not will remain to be seen, but it’s looking likely. This spring has been very relaxed - plenty of warmth and an absence of wild weather. Us food gardeners are at the mercy of the weather – it truly is the boss. Not always a reasonable boss, but we have to make like the kids and find clever ways around it to get our way. 

In the Vegie Patch

Here come the colours of summer. I love the artful arrangement above – all selfseeded, and even though its taking up quite a bit of path I don’t have the heart to touch it!

The shoulder season crops – those wonderful quick turn around crops that fill in the gap before summer crops begin – are on the menu now. Beetroot, bok choy and saladings, topped up by beneficient perennials like perennial leeks and NZ spinach.  We are inundated with broadbeans right now and I’m hoping to find some time in the next few days to blanch and freeze the excess. I could write a little broadbean recipe book at the mo! 

The saladings are at their best before the heat kicks in. Once summer heats up (and wont it be lovely if it does this year) it gets harder and harder to grow sweet, crisp greens. The dwarf beans are covered in little babies and were looking forward to tucking into them in a few days time; the first zuchinnis are showing; but most exciting of all will be the new carrots! We’ve run out of our stores so am trying my best not to obsessively watch the carrots every day (as if that’s going to hurry them along)

My autumn sown onions are not far away from harvest – just waiting for the tops to finish off. Even though they look handsome – all big and fat – so are their stalks, which is no good for storage. My compost brew was obviously too rich. If I’d got it right the stalks would be nice and thin to seal the bulb inside and store it a long time. To compensate I’ll just grow extra red onions this coming autumn to get us through winter.  

All seed sowing can be done direct now – what a relief!

Sow a few rows of salads, radishes, spring onions and carrots. Sow your last zuchinni, cucumber and pumpkin this month, plus another lot of dwarf beans and companion flowers to carry your supply on through autumn. Remember to cover your seed with something (anything will do) so you don’t loose the lot to the birds. 

It’s your last chance to plant out kumara and yams. Please don’t buy individual kumara already potted up; you’ll be on a hiding to nothing (I nearly died when I saw $5 per potted kumara plant – what a rip off). If that was all that was available I’d flag kumara for the year and plant a pumpkin seed instead. Next year in August I’ll go through growing your own kumara slips, so you don’t have to worry about it. If you are in Otaki you should order your slips at Watsons garden centre – the most beautiful kumara slips I’ve seen for sale. Not potted up (as they shouldn’t be) but rolled in wet newspaper and sold as soon as they are ready.  

Hilling up potatoes can be done with whatever organic matter you have to hand.  These photos shows my spuds before and after. Hilled up with an eclectic mix of old corn salad plants, spent poppies mixed with my well used seedraising mix. It’s all about recycling and using what you’ve got. 

Keep your fresh herb supply up with another direct sowing of basil, coriander, dill and rocket.

The vegie garden jobs start to change tack now – all the bed prep is done, the majority of the seed raising is done and we get into maintenance mode – ie: watering, liquid feeding, hilling up potatoes, tying and delateralling tomatoes, pruning capsicums, and keeping a sharp eye out for pest and disease.

Welcome to the start of summer. Of course whether it actually is or not will remain to be seen, but it’s looking likely. This spring has been very relaxed - plenty of warmth and an absence of wild weather. Us food gardeners are at the mercy of the weather – it truly is the boss. Not always a reasonable boss, but we have to make like the kids and find clever ways around it to get our way. 

In the Vegie Patch

Here come the colours of summer. I love the artful arrangement above – all selfseeded, and even though its taking up quite a bit of path I don’t have the heart to touch it!

The shoulder season crops – those wonderful quick turn around crops that fill in the gap before summer crops begin – are on the menu now. Beetroot, bok choy and saladings, topped up by beneficient perennials like perennial leeks and NZ spinach.  We are inundated with broadbeans right now and I’m hoping to find some time in the next few days to blanch and freeze the excess. I could write a little broadbean recipe book at the mo! 

The saladings are at their best before the heat kicks in. Once summer heats up (and wont it be lovely if it does this year) it gets harder and harder to grow sweet, crisp greens. The dwarf beans are covered in little babies and were looking forward to tucking into them in a few days time; the first zuchinnis are showing; but most exciting of all will be the new carrots! We’ve run out of our stores so am trying my best not to obsessively watch the carrots every day (as if that’s going to hurry them along)

My autumn sown onions are not far away from harvest – just waiting for the tops to finish off. Even though they look handsome – all big and fat – so are their stalks, which is no good for storage. My compost brew was obviously too rich. If I’d got it right the stalks would be nice and thin to seal the bulb inside and store it a long time. To compensate I’ll just grow extra red onions this coming autumn to get us through winter.  

All seed sowing can be done direct now – what a relief!

Sow a few rows of salads, radishes, spring onions and carrots. Sow your last zuchinni, cucumber and pumpkin this month, plus another lot of dwarf beans and companion flowers to carry your supply on through autumn. Remember to cover your seed with something (anything will do) so you don’t loose the lot to the birds. 

It’s your last chance to plant out kumara and yams. Please don’t buy individual kumara already potted up; you’ll be on a hiding to nothing (I nearly died when I saw $5 per potted kumara plant – what a rip off). If that was all that was available I’d flag kumara for the year and plant a pumpkin seed instead. Next year in August I’ll go through growing your own kumara slips, so you don’t have to worry about it. If you are in Otaki you should order your slips at Watsons garden centre – the most beautiful kumara slips I’ve seen for sale. Not potted up (as they shouldn’t be) but rolled in wet newspaper and sold as soon as they are ready.  

Hilling up potatoes can be done with whatever organic matter you have to hand.  These photos shows my spuds before and after. Hilled up with an eclectic mix of old corn salad plants, spent poppies mixed with my well used seedraising mix. It’s all about recycling and using what you’ve got. 

Keep your fresh herb supply up with another direct sowing of basil, coriander, dill and rocket.

The vegie garden jobs start to change tack now – all the bed prep is done, the majority of the seed raising is done and we get into maintenance mode – ie: watering, liquid feeding, hilling up potatoes, tying and delateralling tomatoes, pruning capsicums, and keeping a sharp eye out for pest and disease.

What a Difference Watering makes...

 

What a difference good watering makes

You may have heard this many times before I know! but bear with me – I’m gonna say it again.   

1. Check your soil first before watering, by pushing your finger in. You cannot tell by looking – an experienced eye can look at plants and have a fair idea, but even still you’ll only get it by feeling the soil.  Just because the topsoil looks dry doesn’t mean you need to water. The top will always dry out (which is why we never leave our soil bare!). 

2. When you feel your soil you are checking that it’s moist all the way to the end of your finger – not wet, not dry – moist. If it’s moist – don’t water today.

3. If not, and you end up watering, do another test to make sure its moist to the tip of your finger before you finish watering. If you only keep the top moist that is where the roots will stay – and we want big roots that go deep as possible into the earth – so soak the soil folks good and proper. 

Soil is amazing – if your soil is bare and you’ve left it too long between watering’s the soil will create a skin on top in its desperation to protect life below. This skin is impenetrable… water will just run off. If this is what’s happened to you, then you need to rough the soil up a little with a garden fork, or even make shallow rows between your plants for the water to pool into. Once the soil is beautifully moist again mulch it for goodness sakes – and make a mental note not to let your soil die of thirst again!

At the opposite end of the spectrum – if you have sogged your soil by over watering then leave it to almost dry out. If your soil smells bad as well, then encourage the microbes back with a light dusting of roksolid or blood and bone worked lightly into the top layer , or a layer of vermicastings or chopped up seaweed – then mulch it. 

When you take your soil to either of these extremes, you learn a lot. How are the plants coping? Some will and some wont. For instance aubergines or basil in soggy soil will be complaining loudly, likewise saladings or parsley in bone dry, but swap them round and they may be doing okay. Sure you may have stressed your garden out, but you’ll have learnt a lot along the way!

Ideally you’d get your watering done in the morning before the sun hits. This gives the garden a chance to dry out and warm up before the moisture and cooling of nightfall. Watering really cools the soil down which is perfect before a hot day, but not so great late in the day. Wet gardens at night encourage fungal problems. But hey, if your garden is parched and night is what you’ve got then just do it.

How you water depends on which stage the plants are at. Seed and new seedlings benefit from a sprinkler. Sprinklers make like the rain - the kind of watering that leaves the garden sparkly and refreshed. 

Once your plants are filling the space sprinklers end up on the foliage not on the soil where the water is needed, so swap to a leaky hose beneath the mulch or hand water with a slow hose. I know, I know it’s time consuming – well you should take the time! You do too much, too fast as it is (note to self). Take the time and enjoy being with your plants, soak up your lovely little garden. It’s a great opportunity to see how everybody’s doing.

Seasons greetings to you all. May you all spend some good time with your best people, may your crops grow abundantly, and may you enjoy showing off the produce from your food gardens at the Christmas table!

See you again in the new year.
Yours in the earth,
Kath

 


 
 

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