Tag Archives: plants

Super low maintenance garden

This year, I’m setting up a super low maintenance garden at home. With the baby arriving end of December, I won’t be out there weeding, watering or anything in January and February, yet I still want the soil to get better and also to eat some of my own produce… So how do I go about it?

Well, it does help that I’ve already got some good perennials going: Rhubarb, black & red currants, raspberries, lemons, peaches… I’ve also added in a full bed (5m by 80cm) of strawberries this winter – these only need a bit of liquid feed if they got plenty of compost and fertiliser when planted. Most of my hard-to-reach or dry areas are already covered in herbs which, if I don’t harvest them before they flower, attract bees and butterflies.

I’m choosing some different plants for my vege patch

  • Beans: my perennial runner beans are coming up, which is great, and I’ve planted some french garden filet dwarf beans too. I think these will be eaten and pulled before the baby’s here (or just about that time) and they will enrich the soil they grow in.
  • Cucumbers: with a sturdy structure to climb on, these will give some much needed shade for the rocket/coriander patch. And provide me with cucumbers which I won’t have to bend down to harvest!
  • Tree-lettuce: a variety of lettuce that doesn’t go bitter when it starts bolting. And it also bolts very slowly! Just harvest the bottom leaves (and if you don’t the snails will eat them). These can yield for months, much easier than having to replant lettuce every few weeks. I’ll leave them in place and let them go to flower so I can later harvest the seeds, as they are such a lifesaver for time-poor gardeners.
  • Perennial spring onions / Welsh bunching onions: these are a permanent feature in my garden, as they grow like chives and just keep coming back when you cut them. They taste more like “real onion” than spring onions, and can substitute either in most dishes. And on top of that, the green onions are more nutrient dense than yellow ones!
  • Potatos: just because I’ve got space left over, and my partner said he’d build a potato tower and add mulch as they grow. It’s an experiment we’ve wanted to do for a few years, but it’s never fit in to my crop rotations! We’ll measure how much the yield is for a tower. They’re much less work than tomatos (see below) and can take their place in the rotation.
  • Perpetual spinach: more versatile than silverbeet, it’s super hardy and will deal with anything you throw at it. You can’t even let the roots in the ground when you’re done with it, it just keeps growing back! 4-5 plants will be plenty of greenery for the two (soon three) of us.
  • Rocket, coriander and miners lettuce: in a patch, I’ve got all of these mixed together and I know that at some point they’ll all go to seed. Not an issue this year – I’ll either let the seedlings grow and eat them later in the year, or transplant them or pot up and give away… In the meantime, they cover the soil and are nice edible “weeds”!
  • Zucchini: I’ve planted 2, and count on them to take up a square meter each. Good cover for the bare ground, and I can just go out and pick what I need. Until they grow big, I’ve got radish sown in between, as they grow I’m harvesting the radishes and adding a bit of compost and mulch.

I’ve also changed my watering system. Instead of hand-held hose with a wand and very fine nozzle, which takes between an hour and three every 2-3 days over the driest period, I’m going for drip irrigation this year. It’s a first for me, so I’ll let you know how I go! I’ve got the theory, but not the practice on this 🙂 The idea is to have a system that goes through all of the growing areas, with the drippers at an appropriate distance for the plants’ needs. I’ll cover the driplines so they don’t get UV damage.

Mulch will be my saviour I think – I’m planning on cacao husks, if I can get it, otherwise straw, or compost plus wood chip if I can’t get neither. I usually plant very densely and weed as needed (generally only once after planting, as the leaf canopy quickly shades the weeds out when the vegetables are densely planted), but this year I don’t want to keep a constant eye on the garden and replant as I harvest. Mulch covers the soil and holds in moisture just as a good plant cover does, and doesn’t need the same maintenance.

What I won’t do, because it’s too much work

Tomatos – just the thought of tying up and delateraling weekly, liquid feeding, treating so they don’t get psyllids or blight or…. Rhaaa nononono! As lovely as they are when you’ve got the time & energy, it’s not for me this year 🙂

Carrots –  watering every day during germination, weeding religiously, thinning… no-no, all that crouching and bending isn’t for me right now. The organic ones from the store are totally ok for this season!

Kale, cavolo nero and the rest of the brassica family – over summer they all tend to get eaten by caterpillars, are prone to aphids and need a lot of nutrients and water. Can’t cope with that! I just might plant some very mature seedlings out in February, under netting, to have some next winter, but definitely not now.

Pumpkins – simply because they generally totally take over our whole garden, turning it into a jungle where my feet get tangled in their vines across the paths…

Spinach – bolts (goes to flower & becomes bitter) way too easily and need to be replanted regularly. Perpetual spinach can substitute in the kitchen.

Eggplant, capsicum, chilli, melon – these are soooo fussy with heat and often don’t yield well out of doors here in Wellington. I’ve grown them in the greenhouse, but they often get aphids there. So, not this year (I think…). But… maybe. What else would I do in the greenhouse? I can’t leave it empty… oh hard decisions 🙂

Peas – too much to think of. I’ll just forget to harvest them (I generally do anyway), and the structure can blow over and damage other things, and they get mildew if they get too dry in summer… nah. I love them though and wouldn’t usually do without.

THIS BLOG – as you can probably guess, I’m not going to necessarily write weekly! You’ll get the occasional post, but at some point there will be gaps of a few weeks or more. I know you understand – babies are kinda time consuming in many cases!  I’m officially on maternity leave from now on, so no longer available for design consultations or gardening advice. But I’ll let you know when I’m ready to start again – not before April 2017.

Big thanks for following this blog and spreading the gardening knowledge around! Happy growing season!

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Pricking out and planting out

How is your garden looking now? Pretty bare, with young seedlings just establishing? Or still a jungle of last season’s growth? Take it step by step and get new plants protected and well established. Leaving some old and tall plants around can help create a micro-climate the young seedlings appreciate, cutting the wind and the heavy rain. But if your soil needs aerating, take old crops out before you dig, or it will be unnecessarily complicated!

This week is ideal time for repotting, transplanting, pricking out and planting out. On Sunday 9th (rain day 16th) I’m running a FREE 101 Food Growing workshop at workerBe oasis’ Spring Celebration. There will also be stalls to share, swap, buy and sell seedlings, so you can bring some there, or take some home!

This week: First quarter, Sunday 9th October

  • Prick out seedlings you’ve grown from seed as soon as the cotyledons (very first leaves, that don’t look like the “normal” leaves) have opened. Move them to a much deeper (8-12cm) tray at 2-5cm distance depending on the variety. Be sure they have enough light for this whole stage. Leave them in these trays/pots until the leaves start touching each other. By then, they’re sturdy enough to get hardened off and planted outside. It’s really good practice here in Wellington, where weather is so unpredictable in spring!
  • If you’re not growing from seed, buy good quality seedlings to plant out now. All the leafy greens along with celery, peas and beans can go in now. I recommend organic seedlings from Common Property (available at all Commonsense Organics stores) or Oakdale Organics (available at some garden centres). These establish better relationships with the soil life and are therefore better at taking up nutrients.Remember to harden them off slowly, as they have been very well protected until now!
  • Prep the beds: spread 2-5cm of compost and a good quality organic fertiliser (either RokSolid or Nature’s Garden), fork into the top 10cm and rake the surface crumbly and flat, ready to plant or sow.
  • If you need to fill in a lawn, now is a good time to prepare it: mow really low, rake off moss and debris, spread lime and poke holes with a fork to get some air in, then rake again. Best is to use a wire leaf rake, it scratches the surface just right!
  • Plant out onion seedlings 11th October
  • Foliar feed regularly, especially on Thursday 13th (3 days before full moon). Use any of the recipies I shared two weeks ago!
  • Prick out and plant out “leafies” 14-16th: celery, cabbages (kale & cavolo nero too), spinach, lettuce, silver beet…

Prepare now for next week (full moon Sunday 16th October)

  • Buy lawn seeds to sow on prepared areas on the day of the full moon (Sunday 16th).
  • Get trays and potting mix ready to prick out tomatos, eggplants, zuccinis and other fruiting plants Monday 17th and Tuesday 18th.
  • Check your seeds to have enough to direct sow beetroot, carrot, turnips and autumn flowers, and to plant main crop potatos, and to grow seedlings for planting out in November and December.
  • Make sure you have everything to care for the young newly transplanted seedlings: cloches, netting, foliar feed, diatomaceous earth to deal with snails and slugs…
  • Sharpen your hoe and other weeding tools (niwashi…) and keep them sharp! There’s a lot less work to do when you can just quickly go over all the beds and aerate the surface, killing the weeds at seedling stage instead of pulling them out once they are established. But it means doing this weekly over the next months, and keeping the tools sharp is essential!

Hope to see you Sunday at the Spring Celebration, 1-4pm at 5 Hospital rd!

Undressing for the blackbirds

Today, I dared undress my beds  –  by which I mean I took off the netting. Soon I’ll see if the blackbirds are still as keen to dig the whole place up. The peas had already attached themselves with their little tendrils, which are surprisingly strong and have kept them upright through the last few stormy days we’ve had. Explaining patiently to them that they’re supposed to attach to the chicken wire frame I’ve put up on the other side… and apologising for ripping them off their nice netting. I find using bird netting over the vegetable beds as long as the seedlings are small is a great help to get them established, as the blackbirds seem to prefer the worm hiding directly under the plants and thus absolutely has to dig them up.

In next weeks workshops, I’ll share some other tips and tricks on how to deal with the different hazards when the seedlings are new to outdoors life. It all starts with the art of growing strong seedlings – which, of course, starts with the seeds and the seed raising mix you use. The first Sow Seeds workshop in the “Grow More Veges” series will take place next Tuesday (18th), followed by Plant Plants on Wednesday 19th. If you’re interested but the time doesn’t suit you, please let me know so I can choose a better schedule next time!

Of course, people with gardening experience are also most welcome to come and share experiences and ideas. Email me on rego @ edibleoasis.net or head over to Chalkle to register there.