Archive for the 'Gardening' Category


October Planting – What you can plant right now and when you can eat it

Wayback when I created a handy little chart of growing times for common food plants which proved quite popular. So let’s put it in immediate terms- What can you plant this Labour weekend and when will you be able to eat it?

~~A reminder that this is for a guide for temperate New Zealand.~~

Plant now for December harvest

Leaf lettuce, Mustard greens, Radish, Rocket, Coriander, Parsley

Plant now for January harvest

Beans, Beetroot, Bok Choy, Broccoli*, Cabbage*, Capsicum, Chillies, Cucumber, NZ spinach, Swiss chard, Tomatoes, Watermelon, Basil, Dill, Sunflowers

Plant now for February harvest

Aubergine, Carrot, Corn, Leeks, Zucchinis, Pumpkin

Plant now for March harvest

Celery, Parsnips, Potatoes, Yams/Oca


* Yes, you can grow these now but I don’t advise it because of whitefly.

Buy seeds online

You can buy quality vegetable and herb seeds online right now at Trade Me and I’ll make darn sure they get to you ready to sow next weekend.


E. Coli: Lessons for the Home

The E. Coli outbreaks that have become so prevalent overseas lately are enough to make one’s spinach wilt at the mere thought. It does soldify in my mind one simple lesson for the home gardener :

NEVER put fresh manure on your vegetable garden. ALWAYS make sure it is composted well, for at least 6 months, with lashings of lime.

Also foragers beware. With the amount of fecal matter escaping from this country’s bovine masses, cooking the greens you source from riverbanks might be a mighty clever idea. The CDC says E. coli in spinach can be killed by cooking at 70°C for 15 seconds. (Water boils at 100°C.)


Let us speak now of lettuce…

Lettuce is by far the world’s favourite salad green. The Egyptians were growing it way back in 4500 BC and it’s been the darling of the salad and the sandwich ever since. There is an incredible array of lettuce available for the discerning gardener – colour, style, leaf-form and grace. Only a disappointing sample can be found on supermarket shelves, selected primarily because they keep better. But the delights of fresh-picked leaves straight from the garden can’t be beaten.

I’m an avid fan of the rosette forms of the loose leaf lettuce. Loose leaf is ready to pick in just a couple of weeks and is heat tolerant. Sow more every two weeks for a constant salad supply. I don’t mulch around my lettuce as slugs just love the taste of little leaves and like to hide in mulch.

Keep your favourite lettuce going from year to year by saving the seed

If you are new to seed-saving, lettuce is an easy place to start. There is very little crossing in lettuce, so your plants next year will almost certainly be just like your favourite lettuce this year.

Start by choosing the healthiest lettuce plants in your garden – you’re looking for strong, healthy growth. Make sure they taste great by picking a few of the outside leaves, you wouldn’t want to save something that tasted yuck. Once you’ve made your selection, put a stake next to it labelled ‘save for seed’. Many of my best seed-saving intentions have blown away when a hungry husband has eyed a particularly good looking plant.

Hopefully, your lettuce will escape predation and make it through to late summer, when it will flower. If your lettuce has bolted too early it’s not the best one to save seed from as this is not a trait you want to select for.

Seeds will be ready for collecting 12–24 days after flowering. Each day grab a clean bucket and shake the lettuce tops into it. Be careful not to damage the stem. Put the contents into a paper bag and leave to dry somewhere cool and airy. Label the bag with the type of lettuce, a description, when it was grown and where the seed came from. While this may not be so important if you keep the seed to grow each year – it may matter to people you wish to swap seed with. With a single lettuce able to produce 30,000 seeds, you’ll have plenty to swap.

Don’t plant try to plant your lettuce seed straight away – store for at least 6 months. The seed has a coating on it that will stop your fresh seed from germinating..

You’ll want to remove a lot of the fluff and chaff that was collected with it. When the seed is completely dry, rub it over a fine mesh. Gently blow on the seed and most of the detritus will blow away leaving small oblong seeds. Don’t blow too hard or you may lose it all! Now store it away safely and package some up to bring along to Seedy Sunday.

Lettuce varieties currently available as seed to New Zealand gardeners



Devil’s ear, Finger, Four seasons (Quatre de saisons), Heritage lettuce mix, Joes, Lightheart (Ruawai), Mignonette, Odell’s, Tree lettuce, Webb’s wonderful, Winter.


Buttercrunch, Great lakes, Green oak leaf, Red oak leaf, Triumph, Webb’s wonderful.

Kings Seeds

Buttercrunch, Tom Thumb, Freckles, Little gem, Rouge d’hiver, Vivian, Great lakes, Grenoble, Apache, Cocarde, Canasta, Drunken woman fringed head, Lolita, Lollo blonda, Dark lollo rossa, Royal oak leaf, Salad trim, Perella rougette montpellier, Tango.


Degli ortolani, Lingua di canario, Misticanza, Rossa di trento, Testa di burro D’Inverno, Misticanza quattro stagioni, La Resistente sel. “Franchi”, Burro d’Inverno, Parella rossa.

Egmont Seeds

Bug off, Cisco, Cos red majestic, Dover, Gourmet salad blend, Great lakes, Kaiser, Legacy, Onyx green frill, Red butterhead, Red fire, Solsun red frill, Tin tin cos, Tom Thumb, Veredes green oakleaf, Vesuvius, Xanthia red oakleaf.


Buttercrunch, Cos, Great lakes, Greenway, Webb’s wonderful, Winter triumph.


Buttercrunch, Great lakes, Mixed gourmet blend, Lollo rosso, Mesclun mix

This article appeared in the September edition of Kapiti’s  On To It.


A Short and Snappy Guide to Windbreaks

Why establish windbreaks?

Because they:

— allow gardens to grow without being beaten to death,
— slow erosion,
— increase pasture and production,
— reduce stock losses,
— protect plants,
— habitat for wildlife and insects,
— manage snow,
— can provide fodder, food crops, timber or fuel,
— improve work conditions.

Windbreak components

Height, Density, Orientation, Continuity, Length

Height: Determines protected distance downwind. Wind reduction area will equal ten times the height of the tallest trees used.

Density: Use as many species as possible in your windbreak. Plant them fairly close together, in multiple rows, to form 60-80% of a solid block.

Orientation: Make it perpendicular to the direction of the wind. L U E shapes work well.

Continuity: No large gaps. If you need to put a driveway through, make sure it crosses the wind direction.

Length: Should exceed the height by 10:1.

Good plants for NZ shelterbelts (especially in coastal conditions).

Feijoa, taupata, nz flax, tarata or other pittosporums, karaka, karo, cabbage tree, pohutukawa, ngaio, toetoe.
As always, choose plants that grow well locally.

Some taller native trees that can withstand strong winds

Totara, kahikatea, pukatea, toatoa, tanekaha, tawa

Theme song for this post: Gimme Shelter – Rolling Stones. Kept playing in my head the whole time I was writing this. Think of it as a mantra for windbreaking.


Garlic Planted

Ya’know how they say plant garlic on the shortest day, harvest on the longest? Well, that’s never really worked for me. I always got such tiny, squiddly little bulbs that I simply couldn’t be bothered using them for cooking. Last year, when I left my bulbs in the ground longer, I got better results. And this year I’m planning for some decent-sized bulbs by getting them in early —  one whole month early.

This isn’t a very radical idea – I’ve heard lots of other gardeners I respect say the same thing lately. And all though today was drizzly and yuck, I got out there and planted my garlic.

I’m trialling three different types of heirloom garlic this year, which I’ve kindly been gifted by a friend. Two types of rocombole and kakanui – very exciting. I’m prepping an article now on the heirloom garlic in NZ – should be together by end of the week… please hold.

This is how I’ve planted my garlic

A couple of weeks ago I dug over the beds for my garlic, added some well-composted material and sprinkled in lime. I’ve made sure the spots were well-draining. I’ve planted the cloves about 12cm apart, pointy end up and covered them with about 4cm of soil.

I keep my garlic well-weeded, and well-fertilised right up into spring while the green tops are growing.

For a really good article on garlic planting, I thoroughly recommend Kath Irvine’s Edible Backyard piece.


Gardening for community – weekly garden sessions in Kapiti

Kapiti’s Food Forest campaigners have been getting their hands dirty with weekly working bees in Waikanae. We’ve secured the use of a greenhouse to do some nursery work. This is a great opportunity to start growing on plants that we can use when we have secured a site for the community food forest.

These weekly community gardening sessions are a great opportunity to get involved, meet some people, maybe even learn a thing or two. It will be a pretty informal affair – turn up and lend a hand and have a chat over a cup of tea.

There’s plenty to keep us busy – weeding, digging, making seed-raising mix, making compost heaps, planting seeds, propagating, transplanting etc. If you want to learn any of these skills, hands-on is a great way to do it!

If you want to come along – gmail me at loveplantlife, or leave a comment.


Growing New Zealand Yams / Oca

Back in November on my scavenger hunt to Taranaki, I found some oca (Oxalis tuberosa) tubers sprouting. I had never seen them growing before, didn’t know a thing about them other than how tasty the little blighters are, but jumped in anyway and bought a couple of punnets. I had a newly-developed bed and so popped them in there until I worked out what to do with them. It’s only taken about six weeks, but finally I’m catching up on just what makes a little oca grow. Continue reading ‘Growing New Zealand Yams / Oca’

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