Archive for the ‘Garden’ Category

Onions and Garlic

Tuesday, June 23rd, 2009

A couple of days ago, I braided up some of our garlic to give as a gift to a relative. Last year’s garlic crop didn’t produce very big heads, but the cloves are large, chunky and pungent, making it very satisfying to use. I love having extra garlic to give away as gifts!

Garlic braid

With the winter solstice approaching and the moon waning, I sorted out a collection of the biggest, plumpest cloves to plant for next year’s crop. I think we have chosen a better spot than last year, and have spent more time preparing it. Lets hope that these changes will result in a better garlic crop.

Yesterday I planted out the onion sets and garlic, with a wish that good things will sprout and grow with the passing of the solstice and the coming of a new moon.

Winter Vege Garden

Thursday, June 4th, 2009

After last year’s poor effort, I vowed to be better organised with our winter vegetable garden this time around. There’s still lots of room for improvment, but I’m pleased to say that the garden does look more productive and promising than it did at the same time last year. We have been enjoying some winter salad greens: corn salad, arugula, mizuna, tat-soi, and cress, as well as the first lettuces (winter lettuce, deer’s tongue, and half century). I am harvesting plenty of swiss chard (silver beet), as well as some New Zealand spinach and a few collard greens and green onions. There are still a few beets and carrots around, and lots of yacon tubers.

Winter greens

Becky and Owen dig some spuds

Leeks, sprouting broccoli, mustard lettuce, red cabbage, broad beans and snow peas are well established, but will not be ready to harvest for a good while yet. I’ve also planted some seedlings of celery, beets, and turnips. These are still very small and not yet properly established.

I’ve had a big disappointment on the onion front. Having gone to the trouble of saving our best onions from last year’s crop and growing them on for seed, I was hoping to have lots of our own onion sets to plant. Sadly, the seed didn’t take well. Only 4 of them germinated. Maybe the seed’s not viable because I didn’t dry and store it carefully enough? Or maybe I didn’t tend the seed tray with enough care? I’m planning to sow the rest of the seed to see if any come up, but have bought some onion seedlings in the mean time. I don’t want to risk having no onion crop!

I spent this afternoon preparing the garden beds for planting onions and garlic. There is a real nip in the air at the moment, and the nights are frosty. We are enjoying the chance to work outside in the cool winter sunshine.

Frost dealing to yacon plants

Brrr: -1.3C is pretty cold for us.

Compost and Liquid Fertiliser Barrels

Monday, May 11th, 2009

Back in spring, Kevin decided it was time to make a few changes in the ways we prepared “goodies” to feed the garden soil. Families of rats and long ropes of kikuyu grass kept invading our precious compost piles, and after a couple of years on the Farmlet, we still hadn’t got around to setting up a good barrel system for making liquid fertiliser. Something had to be done!

We had the good luck to find some large lidded barrels (200 litres each) at our local bargain centre. Here’s what Kevin did with them:

A tap was fitted to one barrel, and it was set up on blocks. We put some of our prized fish scraps into it, fill it up with water, and leave it to ripen. The resulting liquid fertiliser is rather smelly, but seems to have done wonders for our garden.

Rat proof/rhizome proof compost barrel

Kevin drilled lots of small holes in a second barrel, and we began to make our compost in it, layering kitchen scraps with dried kikuyu. Because the bottom of this compost container is closed, the lid fits tightly, and the ventilation holes are small, rats and ropes of kikuyu are kept out. The barrel heated up beautifully over the hot summer months. This compost bin design suits our needs so well that Kevin has plans to make another. The task of drilling all the small holes is rather tedious, but at least it’s a job that only has to be done once.

Recently, we tipped the compost out of this barrel, to build up the soil for our autumn/winter vegetable garden. We hope the plants will thrive on the results!

Heirloom Tomatoes

Thursday, April 9th, 2009

We tried a number of different tomato varieties this season. One of the local plant shops was selling heirloom tomato seedlings, so we added a sampling of these to the ones that I’d started from seed. My Dad also tried growing most of the same varieties we did, and we enjoyed comparing notes with him. The conditions in his garden are a little different to ours, but interestingly the same varieties did best in both our gardens.

Several varieties of heirloom tomatoes

These are the varieties we plan to grow again:

Moneymaker and Russian Red: hardy, red, medium-sized tomatoes. These have done well for us here year after year.

Green Zebra: Healthy, hardy plants that fruited very well for us this year. The green stripy fruit are beautiful as well as tasty.

Tigerella: Small orange and red stripy fruit with a good taste. These were the first to set fruit in our garden in the cool spring conditions. They produced a great early crop. . . and they are still producing now!

Black Krim: This variety fruited well for us, and did even better in my Dad’s garden. The fruit are absolutely delicious!

J. Walsh: This tomato was a volunteer that a friend identified for me. The healthy vining plant has produced an abundant crop of small to medium lemon yellow roma-shaped tomatoes. They have a thin skin and a pleasing flavour. I’ll grow this variety again if I can find the seed.

Humboltti: This is a yellow cherry variety that I got from Koanga Gardens. It’s hardy,crops well, and the fruit is wonderfully sweet. The only problem for us is the fruit’s tendency to crack.

These are the varieties we probably won’t grow again:

Brandy Pink and Yellow Delicious: These were lovely to eat, but the yield simply wasn’t good enough to justify the space they took up in the garden.

Amish Paste: This was an absolute fizzer in both gardens, bearing hardly any fruit at all. The few fruit we did get didn’t strike us as anything special!

Onions and Garlic

Saturday, March 28th, 2009

We harvested our garlic crop a couple of months ago now. The garlic we grow is a local heirloom variety, known as “Takahue garlic.” It has a wonderfully strong flavour and tends to have a bit of pinkish streaking in it. Kevin chose a dry and well-ventilated spot under the eaves of our house and hung the garlic up there in bunches. We have had some trouble storing our garlic in the past, so I’m happy to say that it seems to be keeping well in this spot under the eaves. We had a big crop of garlic this year, thanks to some kind friends who gave us some of their seed garlic. On the negative side, this year’s garlic is a lot smaller than the heads we’ve grown in previous years. We planted it in poor soil and it got very water-logged over the winter months. We’ll have to find a better spot next time around.

Harvested garlic hanging under the eaves

We’ve also been enjoying some pungent onions from the garden — Stuttgart Long Keeper from King’s Seeds and Pukekohe Long Keepers from Koanga Gardens. For some reason, lots of the bulbs have divided this year. This didn’t happen last season, even though I used exactly the same seed. I imagine it must have something to do with the conditions. Does anyone know why this might have happened?

In the spring, I replanted some of the best onions from last year’s crop and let them run to seed. I have finally harvested the seed heads. From 10 onions, I got 5 good seed heads, which I’m planning to use for the next season’s onion crop. I’ve never tried saving our own onion seed before, so this will be an interesting experiment.