Spring Gardening Frenzy

With the soil warming up and winter rain over, we have been hurrying to prepare the garden beds for spring planting. There is a lot of weeding and clearing out to be done. Mulch and compost need to be spread. New batches of compost need to be started. We are moving ahead with all these tasks, even as I plant seeds in trays and punnets and transfer the first seedlings into the waiting soil. Mizuna, lettuces (“deer’s tongue” and “half century”), shungiku chrysanthemum, multiplying spring onions, red cabbage, calendula, mustard lettuce and New Zealand spinach all seem to be thriving. Sadly our tat soi has fallen victim to slugs and birds. I guess I’ll plant some more. I’ve also planted out the best bulbs from last season’s onion crop, in hopes that they’ll sprout and run to seed. This is my first attempt at saving seed from bulbing onions, so I hope my timing is right.

Baxter bush cherry tomato seedling

The first tomato seedlings, “Baxter’s Early Bush,” already have their first true leaves and will soon be ready to transplant. Pepper, zucchini, amaranth, and more tomato seedlings are poking their heads out of the soil.

Most of the tomato varieties we are planting are the same as last year: Money Maker, Russian Red, Humboltti and Green Zebra. The Green Zebra suffered from extreme neglect and didn’t fruit well last year. I’m determined to give it a fair trial this time around, since the few fruit we did get from it were beautiful and delicious. I have to pay more attention to staking and removing laterals, since it’s an indeterminate variety. Humboltti, a small yellow cherry tomato, fruited prolifically and stayed disease free last year despite almost total neglect. We are growing it again, since it is tasty and easy to grow, although it seems to split rather too readily. Baxter’s Early Bush Cherry Tomato is a new variety for us. We are hoping to grow some of these in containers in a warm spot, in order to have an early crop of cherry tomatoes and save space in the garden.
I saved seed from Black Beauty Zucchini the season before last. To avoid crossing with the Austrian Oilseed Pumpkin (also a Curcurbita pepo), I planted a late zucchini crop after we had harvested the oilseed pumpkins.
We are planting two varieties of amaranth this year. We have grown the leaf amaranth before. It’s an attractive coleus leafed variety called “Tampala.” Grain amaranth is a new crop for us. We are excited to be trialling a variety called “Pygmy Torch.” It is meant to be very ornamental and can produce a prolific grain crop in the right conditions. I have sown the grain amaranth in trays, and plan to plant it out in the garden at 8cm spacings as per the advice in an old Koanga Gardens seed catalogue.

10 Responses to “Spring Gardening Frenzy”

  1. Johanna says:

    Hi Rebecca – I’m really looking fwd to hearing how your amaranth goes! Am fascinated with the idea of home grain growing.

    I’m not sure if I will get round to planting buckwheat this year or not, but my seeds don’t expire for another couple of years, so maybe I’ll put it off till next year!

  2. Thomas says:

    I was just surfing and came across your site. Wonderful reading all around. I will be returning to read more. Keep up the good work.

  3. Sonya says:

    Hi Rebecca

    Well I have finally done it or should I say we have finally done it! Ian and I have started our organic garden beds. You make gardening sound so exciting. We have used the wood from our old worm garden, our own compost etc. I cant wait for the day when I can go out and pick our own veggies!

    I love reading about your life on the farm and I say to Ian (IL) ALOT that I cant wait for the day that we can be self sufficient too. Well Ian has just came back from planting sweet basil and comfrey in the garden – nothing like planting at night! Thank god he had his clothes on!!

    Looking forward to seeing your next post 🙂

  4. IL says:

    For anyone interested in growing tomatoes, there’s heaps of stuff at this page:


    Chapter 12 contains heaps of tips on composting, vege production (esp. tomatoes), liquid fertilizers, worms, growing in containers and other stuff. Worth the 2.3MB PDF download!

  5. Rebecca says:

    Hi IL and Sonya,
    Thanks for the link to the gardening information. I can’t wait to take a look. . . which I plan to do as soon as I’ve finished writing the next Farmlet post!
    Good luck with your vegetable garden.

  6. Kurt says:

    Regarding the slugs, the only organic method that I’ve found that works is to go out every night at 10 pm with an LED headlamp and an empty margarine container… knock them off the leaves and stems into the container, and put the lid on for morning. In the morning I take a savage joy in presenting the little protein morsels to the eager chickens (chooks). One of these days I’m going to get around to putting copper pipe around the raised beds to see whether that keeps the little buggers from climbing up from the cedar chips that surround the beds; I’m told that the cedar mulch is ideal bedding for slugs, and I certainly see them climbing up out of it nightly.

    Also, for some reason this year we have an absolute infestation of caterpillars eating our winter garden veggies. And the caterpillars are more voracious than the slugs – a slug will make a hole in a leaf, but the darn caterpillars will eat the whole leaf in a single night. Luckily, caterpillars also make tasty chicken treats, as it turns out.

  7. Rebecca says:

    Hi Kurt,
    Nice to hear from you.
    I’ve found the LED headlamp method of slug hunting very effective also. Actually, I’ve just now come in from such a late night snail-hunting mission for the protection of some tender young seedlings. Too bad I wasn’t so diligent about the tat soi! Maybe the next lot will fare better.
    I relish the though of being able to feed all those slugs and snails to the chooks. This is just one more reason why we are have to finish building a chook house and run as soon as we can!
    Good luck with your winter veggie garden.

  8. I was wondering if you had tried our certified organic plant activator called Nature’s Curator yet?
    I can send you a trial bottle if you like. It’s a new biological science developed right here in NZ and stimulates plants natural immune and growth systems. Gardeners using it have seen increased heath and vigor in their gardens – there are some comments on our website, http://www.naturescurator.co.nz.
    The best thing about it is that you don;t need gloves, mask or other protective clothing, you can spray it around animals and children, it washes up with water and you only need to spray a light mist for it to work.

  9. Rebecca says:

    Hi Lauren,
    Kevin and I have checked out your website and are very curious about your product. We’re keen to give it a try, and would like to report the results via Farmlet. I’ve emailed you about this.
    Thanks for getting in touch, and for your generous offer of a trial bottle.

  10. Hi there, just came across this site as well and wow, what a cool gardening blog. Lots and lots of very useful and unique gardening tips here. I am in the trade as well and even I learnt a few new tricks. Thanks