Tuesday, 22 October 2013


Reflections of the garden in the shed window
What's happening in the garden mid-October?  Quite a lot, actually!  I have been harvesting heaps of silver beet to make smooth-pureed pasta sauces before they have to be uprooted for my tomato plantings.  Lots of parsley, and artichokes starting to flower and feed us wonderful exotic French fare!!  I have learnt how to handle these buggers after several impalings on the nasty little prickles of the leaf edges.  Now I carefully cut them, holding the bottom, then cut the sharp little prickles off the leaf edges with secateurs.   Place them in a big pot, add a little water and boil them for about 20 minutes.  Serve with a couple of bowls with olive oil, chopped garlic, lemon juice and soy sauce.  Delissimo!

Sharp little spikes that bite!

Shhhhhh, the beans and peas do sleep
A makeshift tent to keep the frosts off - just removed it yesterday and they
are doing fine.

The last of the last season's green leafy crop soon to make way
 for tomatoes.
Since this photo was taken, I have set up a trellis for cucumbers and stuck several thick bamboo stakes in the ground for tomatoes.  I have planted 6 Roma (acid-free) tomatoes - good for cooking and for sauces as there is very little seeds and pulp.  In the other "fruiting" bed, there are 6 Yellow Pear tomatoes - a small droopy sweet fruit, suitable for salads and snacks.  I have a few trays of other small tomato seedlings - brandywine (old heritage variety that grow large and convoluted at the top) and moneymaker.  Tomato plants excite me in every way! They have such amazingly resilient seeds that can stay in the compost till conditions are viable for them to grow - a whole year later!  I usually plant about 24 plants - twice that amount seem to pop up everywhere in the garden!  And they can produce sooo much fruit - I often am able to freeze half the produce for "the cold times".  I have just learned another tip; to plant the seedlings deeper at transplant time, right up past the hairy stem which makes aerial roots and helps anchor the plant.  Here are some tips I have learnt over the years, to produce the best crop.

GreeNZ Best Tomato Tips:
1.  Set up stakes before planting, this way you don't damage root systems
2.  Sink a little plastic pot next to your seedling tomato - you can use this for feeding and    watering the plant -   it all goes down to the root system rather than running off on the surface.
3.  When transplanting seedlings, plant them deep enough to cover the hairy stem.
4.  Remove lower leaves - the first couple, when planting into the ground.
5.  Pinch out laterals (that's the little stems which grow out between the main stem and side  leaves) so that energy can go into the fruiting offshoots.
6.  When tomatoes reach the top of your support, pinch out the top or else the plant becomes top-heavy and pulls the entire plant over!
7.  When fruiting, feed your hungry little tomato plants every 2 weeks ( I alternate between sheep  poos and  worm wees or comphrey tea).
8.  Watch for hungry birds - they love to snack on the lower sets of fruit!  I net these with re-used  onion net bags.
9.  Don't water the plant - try to water into the little immersed plastic pot or immediately onto the  soil to prevent fungal diseases.  Or gentle water pressure to water the ground around it.
10.  Mulch around the plants to conserve moisture - compost or straw or even vacuum-cleaner   collections of hair and dust!

Did you know?  Tomatoes are the signature food for a healthy heart?  Anyone with heart disease or complaints should learn to cultivate these little treasures and make tomatoes a regular part of their dietary intake.

New season's green leafy crops: kale, broccoli, cabbage, caulis, chicory and
leeks interspersed with chamomile
I have remembered to feed my brassicas this year (broccs, cabbs and caulis) - and have harvested some whoppers!  Caulis weigh about 1.5kg while the cabbages weigh nearly 2kg!  Wow - shows you what a little worm wees and sheep poos can do!  The cauli was put to a sensational soup - gourmet!  Garlic, onion, a sweet potato, veg stock cube and salt it's only additions.

Second green leafy crop bed with salad greens: coriander, mizuna, lettuces,
cauli, silver beet and cabbages

Our salad bed is rampant, I think I've overdone them and could probably feed 3-4 families with these guys - they are now wall-to-wall salad stuff and we can't make enough salads to get through them quick enough.  I am still supplying a local coffee shop with parsley, in exchange for their coffee grounds but that soon should run out.  Must sow more parsley seed! 


I like to grow the leaf variety lettuces, rather than the "head" variety, which require picking in one fell swoop.  The leaf variety allows you to pick a selection of different lettuces for a salad - red, green, freckled, frilly or 2-toned, like this one above.  Rocket and Mizuna add another dimension, with a slightly peppery taste.  A wee smidgeon of herbs like parsley, coriander or mint, so as not to overpower the salad, and then the tit-bits to brighten it up - calendula, borage or nasturtium flowers, capsicum, cucumber, tomato (sun-dried in winter, or fresh in summer) and sprouts of the day (either mung bean or alfalfa).  

As I was working in the garden this weekend, an idea came to me: Mike and I have been working hard at building a business - a greengrocer's.  In years to come, as our children head off to live lives of their own (as our son has already done), they can always return weekly for a few bags of fruit and vegetables.  We will always have more than we can utilise, so this will become their living edible inheritance.  And as they currently share not in the joys of gardening or learning from us the skills of survival, perhaps one day I will print off my blog and bind it in book form to gift to them.  Hopefully there will come a time when they will want to learn about sustaining themselves with real-live nourishment from garden to table.  Well, that's the hope.........
I never did quite resonate with the saying: "Give a boy a fish and you feed him for a day. Teach him how to fish and you feed him for life."  My version goes something like:  "Give a kid a carrot and he nibbles on a snack.  Show him how to sow carrot seeds and he'll learn how to make carrot soup, carrot stew, carrot juice and carrot cake!"
Planting seeds of hope.......
Leeks, parsley and kale
I have set out a small batch of Maori potatoes in a pot.  Mind the spelling error on my sign - that should read Urineka! These are delectable eye candy on the plate - bright purple flesh.  Purple foods are high in anthocyanins - and protect us against cancers and neurological damage like Alzheimers.   Makes awesome mashed potato!  To buy the seed potatoes, click on the link above.
Urenika potatoes

Bright splashes of Spring Cheer
During my holiday break, I added handles to my Wonder Cooker Box.  Makes life easier to pull it out of the shelf!  The wooden box is lined with 2 pillows of polystyrene balls - bring a pot of rice or soup to the boil, pop it into the Wonder Cooker - off you go and 20 minutes later, it's cooked.  No boiling over or burning!  You can safely leave it 3-4 hours and it will still be hot enough to eat.  Eco-cooking at it's best!  No cleaning up spill-over messes, burnt pots or using heaps of energy to cook.  And this technology is easy enough to make!!
Wonder Cooker with handles!

Lime flowers
The smell of citrus blossoms hangs in the air, as one walks through our little "Garden of Eatin".  I am sure it is an aphrodisiac to humans and bees!  I want to fill my lungs with the stuff - can't get enough!  What a sight I must be - a little demented hyperventilation freak gulping in the scented air as I walk around with a ditzy smile on my face!
Strelitzia or Bird of Paradise flower
My strelitzias are doing so well this year.  They sulked for 2 years after being transplanted but now they have established themselves nicely and are flowering conveniently enough to allow me to pick one or two each week.  They last a week or two in a vase.  They amaze you with their regenerating tufts - as one dies off, another emerges - up to 3 times. A reminder of my African roots.

Strawberry blossoms mean one thing..............fresh berries for Christmas!

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