August in the Vegie Patch

20 August 2014
Written by Kath Irvine | Images by Kath Irvine
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Although winter is almost over, Kath reiterates the importance of keeping the garden bed warm, plus what veg to plant, natural remedies for chooks and more 


Officially it's the last month of winter but August always feels like spring to me. The bulbs are blooming, the Paniculata flowering and calves are up and running in the paddocks next door - nature's reminders that the energy is rising. Catch the wave and get a jump start on your spring food garden.

Soils are cold at this time of year. Hardy winter crops like peas and broadbeans like it that way but more tender crops like lettuce and potatoes need their air and soil a bit warmer.

The simplest way to do this is to put up a cloche, jimmy up a car windscreen, or cobble together some old windows. The best though is a small greenhouse (you'll never regret the investment). Keep it simple and cheap and build your own using recycled windows or a sheet of plastic wrapped around a timber frame. Make sure you can ventilate it (especially if it's small). You'll find it heats up easy enough but cooling it down is the challenge. A couple of roof vents and at least one side that opens completely will keep it healthy through summer.

Set your cloches up now and warm the soils for a week or so before planting or sowing under them.

To really get off to a flying start in your foodie patch this spring come along to my spring workshop, hope to see you there!

Yours in the earth,


August in the Vegie Patch

I know I'm repeating myself here but it's worth it to get some cover up. It's cold out. You put on a jersey, so do the same for your plants. The toasty warm soil will really get your seedlings going.

If you are on free draining loamy soils then you'll be able to work your garden. If not, and heavy wet, gluggy soils are your lot then please leave them be until they've dried out. Grow your next lot of crops in tyres or pots.

Or make an instant raised bed by piling up rotten straw/ hay and create little pockets of compost to plant into. Keep building and improving your soil by growing greencrops, adding organic matter, and total love and devotion until you too can plant and work at this time of year.


Given that I'm in the lower half of the North Island in New Zealand, you'll need to tweak this information to suit your place. If you're a beginner and unsure what suits your place then take the plunge and have a go - it's simply the best way to learn.

  • Direct sow outside: peas, snow peas, broadbeans, mustard or lupin greencrops, miners lettuce, corn salad, radish, broccoli, cabbage
  • Direct sow under cover: coriander, parsley, lettuces, spinach, rocket, florence fennel (yum)
  • Plant outside: broccoli, cabbage, kale, onions, shallots, spring onions, perpetual beet, silverbeet, asparagus, rhubarb
  • Plant under cover: sprouted potatoes, lettuces, bok choy
  • Direct sow lots and lots of flowers like calendula, borage, larkspur, love in the mist, poppies, heartsease and divide up herbs and perennials to keep them fresh and build up your perennial beds.

If you have a greenhouse (or live way up north) you can begin sowing all the fun summer stuff like tomatoes, aubergines and peppers, dwarf beans, zucchini and cucumbers too. You'll need a heat pad (or the equivalent) to raise aubergine and peppers which need the soil to be at least 20 degrees C to germinate.

I was reading advice on a New Zealand website recommending planting zucchini in August. Oh me oh my, perhaps in KeriKeri. Be patient and keep to the season - there are plenty of cool weather crops to keep our tummies full until the weather turns. I can't help but wonder is it worth extending the zucchini season - isn't four months enough?


Sweetie (chook on the left) has a dirty behind - a possible sign of worms. If I get in quick, I'll save the day with herbs! Spring's a common time for worms, so let's be prepared with some natural solutions.

Worms are preventable. Here's how:

• Keep their house clean and dry (I use macrocarpa sawdust on the floor under the perches and in the nesting boxes too)

• Clean water

• Fresh ground, no bare or muddy ground please

• Garlic and cider vinegar in their water trough for a few days once a month

• Don't overstock

• 1 teaspoon of food grade diatomaceous earth per chook in their feed regularly

• Fresh unpasteurised milk left a few days to curdle then fed out is another very effective preventive

• Grow lots of vermifuge herbs in forage areas (or give them some to eat once a month) - horseradish leaves, garlic tops, garlic, wormwood, tansy, carrot, pumpkin seeds, mustard seeds, elder leaves, nasturtium seeds. All of these herbs are very strong, so little and often is the key. They will eat what they need.

If your chook has worms it'll have a dirty backside. As the infestation takes a hold and gets worse the chook may have bloodstained poos, lost feathers (check this is not from hen pecking or moulting), weepy eyes, no appetite and be huddled up quietly on its own.

If you want to manage your chooks naturally then prevention really is the best cure.  If problems come along treat them at the first signs to avoid needing to use a chemical solution.

Garlic is a simple and very effective worm treatment (treat all your chooks at the same time). To hand feed simply chop up 1 garlic clove per bird (if you just scatter it in their feed some may not take it). Or if they won't take it like this then make garlic water (a great way to use up those annoying undersized bulbs). Crush a couple of garlic cloves per bird and put in a stocking. Hang this in the water trough. Make this their only drinking water. Do either of these week on, week off for a couple of months (use a fresh garlic stocking each time).

As well as this you could make an anti-worm mash and feed it out every second day, three times. This recipe is for one bird.

1 clove chopped garlic, 1 cup of oats, 1tsp cider vinegar, 1/2 tsp slippery elm (or live yoghurt), 1 fine chopped leaf of comfrey, 1 teaspoon finely chopped wormwood or tansy

Mix with enough water or raw milk to make a thin paste. Give this as their only food every second day for three days. If you don't have all the herbs don't worry just leave them out.

In the Kitchen  |  In the Orchard

  • Spring in the Organic Vegie Patch: September 27 @ 10:00 am - 1:00 pm | $65.00
    Come and join me for a morning in the garden, a bit of cake and a cup of coffee, and together we’ll get your spring vegetable garden off to a flying start. Click here for more details and to book your place



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