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Kay’s Garden Blog – December 2 2013

December Kay’s garden

It was wonderful to host Barry Brailsford and Cushla Denton here recently for talks in Wairoa and in our local Marumaru Hall. Amongst many other special things I was reminded that the ebb and flow of the moon is reflected in my own cycles and energy too……..not just that of the plants in the garden…. Yes, I have been reflective lately rather than bursting with energy, it’s new moon …!!!!

We’ve had a beautiful Spring here in our valley, the garden is looking great, everything is up and away, I picked my first green beans today, Fred’s dwarf….and I’m harvesting lots of Spring energy for winter ills and drinks, elderflowers are drying for chesty problems, nettle tea all year round, raspberry leaves to add to the nettle tea all year round, and I’m picking the last of the chickweed to add to tea as well. I’ve already harvested the first cut of stevia too, it seems to get earlier and earlier every year, last year it gave 3 cuts, but possibly  more this year.

The summer ‘weeds’ are coming up now, purslane, lambs quarters and red root , the wild amaranth, we eat them all, they are probably the most nutritious greens there are!!!!

We’ve always had a lot of solitary native bees in our garden here, they were always living on this free draining hot dry bank. I thought turning their dry bank into fertile moist garden beds might drive them out but last evening the ash tree was actually buzzing with the sound of native bees hovering over it, and they have gone nuts on the pollen of the flowering burdock, they also love the raspberries and generally seem to enjoy the garden. There are millions of them loaded up with pollen for the larvae in their solitary nests.

Insects seem to be a really big feature of my garden this season, there are lady bugs everywhere, honey bees all over everything, even the comfrey flowers on the comfrey I cut yesterday to mulch the tomatoes is still attracting bees…I must check the Soldier fly larvae farms we’re setting up, time to find eggs and larvae there too I think.

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It’s always great when the courgettes and bean harvest begins heralding another summer and the end of winter vege for a while. Delicata squash not far behind, neither are the Henry’s Dwarf Bush Cherry Tomatoes ( promise there will be seed for you all again next season) and buttercups just flowering.

I’m taking good care of the tomatoes…… always choosing a dry windy day to delateral while they are still very small, tying them up under a leaf  with a sift cloth to the stake so that they do not rub on the stakes, and ensuring they have the right minerals in the right relationships to grow high brix growth and healthy plants.. We follow the potato feeding instructions on the Potato Trial notes on the website for our tomatoes as well. Neither potatoes nor tomatoes come from a climate like ours, they evolved in a high altitude arid climate and we either have to use loads of toxic sprays , or we have to give them lots of love in the form of nutrients and care.

In a very arid climate tomatoes don’t need delateraling but in ours you’ll lose them to blight just when you thought you knew better!!!!

It’s simply too humid in most places in NZ, so our adaption to be able to harvest good crops is to delateral and keep good air movement around the plants.

I’ve reached the point where I have enough compost being made from the compost crops I grow each season to compost every crop I’m planting. The soil is improving each season, but I’m still needing to feed on top of the compost to keep things growing strongly. This year I made a barrel of Bio Fert and another of BioSol, with our Spring interns, both of the brews turned out beautifully and I’m using them now, I’ll put both brews into containers and make more, ready for the late summer garden I think.

Shelley our Spring intern who had responsibility for the Urban Garden, including the chickens, said to me the other day that she thought her chickens were looking better than every body else’s… I had a good look and sure enough she was right. I think Shelley was doing such a good job of keeping up daily chicken minerals and seaweed and calcium/grit to them as well as loads of fresh young comfrey, that they have laid super well, still have bright red combs, and no signs of feather pecking or rough patches etc etc etc. Keeping chickens laying  well from now on after the Spring flush, is all about keeping them mineralized… mine are still laying well but not looking as good as hers so I learned my lesson, back to the minerals and seaweed. More grit and more focus on the compost materials they are turning over, so they have higher quality decomposers to eat.

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I’m mulching  tomatoes with comfrey from the garden perimeter barriers this year, I’m watering them via the paths above each bed which act as swales… and next year once we have more barriers in place I might able to mulch the peppers, eggplants and more with comfrey too.

Raspberry Lake

Our berry patch looks like a wall of raspberries at this point, very exciting, our first big crop of raspberries, and we’ll have Pouto blackberries for xmas just like Logan Forrest!.. watch the February catalogue and website for the heritage  berries that will be available this winter. We’re writing that catalogue now, and it will be full of Forest Garden ideas for you.

We’re mulching trees in the forest garden right now clearing around them, checking moisture levels and watering where needed. I’m going to learn to use the video function on my camera so you can see how good it’s looking in there…….all of the fruit trees are growing well but it is the forest environment being created by the legumes and mineral accumulators at this point that is exciting.

Devils Ear in the summer shade of peas

I planted Cherokee Corn beans to grow up the flour corn today, and another planting of beetroot, carrots and a few summer greens, tampala is a favourite as is Golden Purslane. My Devils Ear lettuces look great in the shade of the peas, and the next lot will go in the  of something tall as well, although I’m planting Tree lettuce now as it will stand all summer and remain crunchy and sweet.

I have a perennial bed around my vege garden, and I’ve been experimenting with which perennial vegetable crops I think are worth growing as perennials. So far asparagus, globe artichokes, runner beans most of our green beans, shellout beans and dry beans come from these beans now) and rhubarb are the only definites, however seakale is looking very interesting and I’m going to persevere with that crop, I relegated Udo to the forest garden area where I have no animals to eat or dig it up, and if I had a very shadey moist spot in the perennial vege bed I would plant King Solomon as it is delicious.. however no such luck.. I’ll put it somewhere else. Burdock does well but I need to learn to eat it as a vegetable before deciding if it stays or goes…we should have seed of most of these plants in our July catalogue 2014. The best perennial vegetable book in my opinion is Perennial Vegetables by Eric Toensmeier, we will have this in stock in the new year.

In the meantime I’m planning for  late Summer Autumn food now, and getting organised to plant more beetroot, carrots, daikon, Brussells sprouts, leeks, autumn peas etc. Our  Koanga Garden Planners have been going out like hot cakes, it’s fun to sit down and reassess the plan now that the summer garden is in, how realistic did you make the change over from summer to Autumn, is it still what you want… it takes a few years to get it to work really well, keep reassessing it.

I’m also getting the last of my Summer flowers in to brighten up the garden for many months.. the usual favourites, zinnia chromosia, Sunset cosmos, red cosmos, sunflowers,  also gaillardia, marigold sweet hyssop, and of course marigolds…. All the complimentary colours for green… have you notices how all that colour makes you feel when you walk into it. A different feeling to walking into a cottage garden filled with flowering old fashioned flowers, ( the colours are quite different) and different again to a field of industrial green only corn!!!, or a field of roundup dead plants!!!