December in the Vegie Patch

20 December 2013
Written by Kath Irvine | Images by Kath Irvine
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Kath Irvine relaxes as the summer sun allows everyone time to unwind, enjoy a swim and a snooze under the fruit trees... with one watchful eye on the garden 


Greetings Edible Backyarders,

Let me officially welcome you to summer (even though its been summer for weeks!) River swims mark summer's arrival at ours and we’ve been in the river every day after school for the past few. So very lucky to be able to cool off in fresh, clean water amidst the birds and the bush. What do you have to be grateful for?

This being the season of giving and loving, here's my Christmas gift to you:

The Summer Palace by Micheal Leunig
Make a little garden in your pocket
Plant your cuffs with radishes and rocket
Let a passionfruit crawl up your thigh
Grow some oregano in your fly
Make a steamy compost of your fears
Trickle irrigate your life with tears
Let your troubled mind become a trellis
Turn your heart into a summer palace

Merry Christmas my gardening friends!
Yours in the earth,

Come to the Summer Gathering; our annual celebration of the good life! (A ticket for Christmas would be just the thing wouldn’t it!)

The dates are February 15th OR 16th 2014. Gather your favourite adults and spend a day at my place soakin’ up the summer garden and learning a heap of cool stuff. We’ll be talking backyard chooks, ferments, bread making, preserving, replacing and making your own tool handles, herbs for health, heritage seeds, endangered crafts and lots more! There will, of course, be coffee, delicious food and beautiful music. Book your tickets now - there are no gate sales.

December in the Vegie Patch:

You know you don't even need to pull the weeds, just lay wet newspaper a top and mulch a top of that. All those weeds will die down in the dark leaving a lovely feed for the soil - delighting the worms beneath. If the worms be happy, the plants are too. You also are happy not having to put your back or knees out pulling weeds! If you have no paper or no mulch then leave the weeds - they are a living mulch protecting your soil from the relentless sun.

Peppers and Aubergines are growing great guns in the greenhouse, I'm so looking forward to their mid summer fruits. Peppers are less hassle than tomatoes, as long as you can find a hot spot for them to grow in. They’re fruiting crops so don’t pile on a whole lot of nitrogen (otherwise you’ll grow big bushes with no fruits!) Mature compost with some well rotted pooh dug in is perfect. Seaweed, rok solid, vermicastings and comfrey are all fabulous additions. Peppers are very shallow rooting – so this means deep mulch and stakes. Don’t let them dry out! Regular liquid seaweed feeds make all the difference.

Choose a very sheltered, hot spot, or use a cloche, or make a simple suntrap – consistent warmth is very important. A good trick is to plant your peppers inside old compost bags. Lie the bag on its side. Punch some drainage holes on one side (this will be the bottom), turn the bag over and cut a square out in the middle (this will be the top). Roll up the open end and staple or tie. Fill with mature compost, plant your pepper in and mulch well. Bury these planter bags in your vegie bed or under a pile of mulch. This keeps the soil warm, retains moisture and recycles your compost bags!

My glorious zucchini has died a grizzly death, eaten from the inside out by squash bugs. I should have taken a photo for you but was feeling oh so blue as the flowers were opening, it was nearly producing!  Cocozelle, my prefered zucchini is also the preferred squash of these damn bugs, top in their taste preference in fact. So if your healthy zuc suddenly wilts and perhaps has some yellows think squash bug. The moth lays her eggs and they hatch out in the stem eating their way out. Slice the stem open and you’ll see the white grubs. If you get it early you can squash them and then pile up lots of compost above the slice and your zucchini will put out new roots and go again. Get rid of any eggs you find under the leaves. Happily I have plan B - a Delicata squash and an Acorn squash on the go - neither of which are affected and both will replace zucchini in our dinners.

Get into watering and liquid feeding mode - summer is here! Hill potatoes, tie and delateral tomatoes, leaf prune as required and keep a sharp eye out for pest and disease. If you are prone to blight or mildews weekly sprays with milk diluted 9:1 will hold the fungus back.

Direct sow salads, rocket, mesclun and coriander (all in the shade); carrots, beetroot, and radish; another zucchini, cucumber, some beans, basil and companion flowers to carry you through autumn.

Plant out kumara, yams and late tomatoes

  • How bout sending your niece/ nephew on one of Steve and Jenny's amazing workshops? Leave the tv and the play station behind and give the kids a real life adventure, Bear Grylls kiwi-style. Highly recommended by our boys.
  • Watsons Gardens in Otaki are selling beautiful chilli plants (already in flower) in huge PB's for only $15.00 (great value). Add a big red bow and ho ho ho.
  • Or a workshop voucher for the food gardener in your life from this cool as little garden called Edible Backyard...



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