Summer Garden 2018

Summer has been a bit of a mixed bag here in Auckland. Long hot days, a few storms, rain and high humidity. This was the first year that I had a full season of gardening in the raised beds that I had installed last summer. To recap I had moved the location of the vegetable garden for convenience and for full sun position. We picked up a wooden crate from the side of the road that we converted to three raised beds, I hammered together a fourth bed from some old timber I had lying around. I used the sandwich method of layering various types of organic matter;Β  starting with a thick layer of cardboard to suppress the grass and weeds then layering with bokashi compost, coffee grounds from local cafes, dried leaves, comfrey leaves, manure, seaweed, lucerne straw, mulch, and compost.

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Three beds are intersected by a feijoa and mandarin tree.

At first some of the plants were not doing too good which was a bit puzzling as I thought the soil must be good from all the rich organic matter. I am always asking questions and listening intently when around other gardeners and from this I found out that my soil could be too rich and it needed a bit of neutrality so I bought some potting mix and added this to the beds and this seemed to help.

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A packed bed – tomatoes, chillis, butternut pumpkin and some onions (I think!).

I planted lots of tomatoes this year. I bought one grafted tomato – a gardener that I once worked with at the school garden had planted grafted tomatoes and they were the size of small trees and were abundant with fruit. So this prompted me to try this, I put one grafted tomato in a large pot, it grew very large and produced a fair amount, however I think it would have done better being planted in the ground where more nutrients could have been provided by the earth. The other tomatoes that I planted were the variety ‘money maker’, I planted these in the raised beds. They were value for money (excuse the pun), I was picking around 5-10 a day from around four plants. I pick mine when they are orange and leave them on my window sill to ripen. As I intended to make passata and pasta sauce I would put them in the freezer until I had enough to make a batch.

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Pasta sauce made from my tomatoes

Chilli’s were also very productive and still are producing, I put most of them in the freezer until I had a good amount to put in brine to preserve. The one chilli plant that I had in a pot I have now brought inside to see if I can get chilli’s through winter. I got a few courgettes off one courgette plant, but overall not they weren’t that successful with a few rotting on the plant. I planted kumara for the first time in November in one bed. I think I had around eight shoots, from these eight shoots they are looking very lush and I am looking forward to this harvest – probably around April. Kumara planting advice from Richard Maine (Gardens for Health) – Plant in mounds with several shoots in each mound, position the roots towards the east, mound up as they grow as you would with potatoes, they like seaweed.

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Kumara patch, you can eat the leaves!

Nena was given some New World ‘Little Garden’ pots. She enjoyed growing these from seed inside and planting them out in the garden. From her ‘Little Garden’ the cucumbers were most productive and are still growing! We have been enjoying lots of salads and I have pickled a few jars of them.

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Nena’s cucumbers

 

In the back garden there are still things growing. My grafted apple tree is now producing some fruit and a couple of citrus trees are also doing well. The grape vine was disturbed from an install of a new fence, the fruit wasn’t going to make it so I picked the unripe grapes and made verjus and unripe grape jam. Our beloved banana trees give us a bunch every around every 3 months. The last bunch I peeled and put in a bag in the freezer, the lady finger size is perfect for throwing in smoothies!

 

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Unripe grapes
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Blitz in a blender then strain out the juice
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Verjus. Jars have gone in the freezer.
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Unripe grape jam, goes well with cheese and crackers.

 

Taro loved the humid weather with the leaves getting to nearly one metre in length! At this size they are not great for eating but the smaller ones are which we sometimes cook. Remember if you are cooking, cook them for a long time or else they will make your throat fifisi (itchy)! Other leafy greens such as lettuces, kale and spinach didn’t fare too well in the garden, slugs and snailsΒ  would get to them before I did.

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Monster taro leaves!

Aside from enjoying gardening at home I have enjoyed other gardens! The winter gardens at the Auckland Domain are always a highlight, especially the water lily pond. It has become a tradition for our girls to be photographed at this pond that started with Nena when she was around two years old. I was particularly excited this time to see the lily pond after reading The Plant Messiah. It is a fascinating read of horticulturist Carlos Magdalena’s experiences and passion for plants, water lillies are one of his favourite plants and it was interesting to read about their history and the species.

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Royal Water Lily – Victoria Amonzonica at the Auckland Domain Winter Gardens
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Visiting and harvesting from friends gardens while they were on holiday

Summer now is officially over and I have pulled out some of the summer crops. A knowledgeable garden friend suggested that I cut off the plants at the base and leave the roots in. This helps aerate the soil and feeds the soil as the roots rot. I intend to do this in one bed, I am always keen to try out new things in the garden.

I hope everyone has had a great summer in the garden! Please let me know your high and low lights in the comments!

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5 thoughts on “Summer Garden 2018”

  1. Lovely read Candace. Just about to post my highs and lows also. In brief, started with a bang and enjoyed some early great crops but fizzled sooner than I expected or liked. I too had many questions, and am forever learning. Every year is the same and every year is different!

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    1. Thanks for reading Tricia, I will look out for your post, and thank you for the tomato plants that came from Tara, they were a bit slow going compared to other tomato plants, may be because I got them in a bit later. But nice looking and tasting toms!

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  2. Hi Candace, very well put.
    Some thoughts I had when reading yours:
    – the black seeded red or yellow tree chillies give well into winter and are perennial; they are quite hot though.
    – you are probably aware that the leaves of kumara are edible but maybe some of your readers arenβ€˜t
    – what kind of tomatoes is in the right photo of the holiday picking tomato??? Wow!!
    – I have cooked Raro tonight for a European-Pacific Fusion quiche tomorrow – looong cooking definitely, now I have a name for the awful itch, fifisi !!! 😎

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    1. Thanks for reading Ellen! Good to know about the chillis! Good point on kumara leaves, I will edit the caption of the kumara picture. Not sure what variety tomatoes bit I will ask. Taro – we usually cook in the pressure cooker which speeds things up! Or else cook taro leaves in slow cooker while you are out for the day. We usually cook leaves with coconut cream and onion – nice side to some carbs – taro root or casssava goes well!

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      1. Pressure cooker times are often 1/3-1/2 for the actual cooking – does the oxalic acid break down faster, too? Now that is good to know as I love my pressure cooker!

        Liked by 1 person

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