Cool Summer

I’ve got myself in a state where I don’t like my photos any more, so I’m using  C’s photos until that changes.

The long hot days of summer have not really materialised this year, and a flock of baby crickets in the bed last night signal the end wIll be starting soon. The weather has been patchy and cool for what should have been the warmest months. We have had mists and rains, while the East coast has been verging on drought. Never-the-less it was a treat to have enough water to water plants that needed it, and there is always something that likes the weather.


Many of our fruit trees are just starting to really produce, including the grape vine, and the cool weather doesn’t seem to have worried them. The plums have been fantastic this year, and I made a beautiful jelly yesterday from the Louisa plums which had fallen off the tree or cracked in the rain. The Satsuma plums have produced heavily and don’t seem to crack. They are delicious dried so we have had the driers running flat out. I’ve made verjuice with the grapes, and it’s lovely.


The misty weather caught us out in a couple of shortcuts we thought we could get away with in our frantic haste this spring. One was to to plant an early Agria potato crop using potatoes left from last year, the other was to re-use last year’s tomato frames without moving them. All spring and early summer we had lots of yummy chips, but a couple weeks ago the potatoes all got blight and had to be dug up, including the Red Fantasy (strange name but a beautiful potato) which could have produced more.

Everything is late, with our first pick of enough tomatoes for sauce only 2 weeks ago, and chillies and peppers just starting to flower. The tomatoes are showing signs of blight, but if we can only have a stretch of warm dryish weather we can still get a crop I think. The parsnips are only small still, however they can last well into winter.

Kumara and Zucchini are doing well, and the watermelons in the greenhouse are getting good sized melons, but our most successful crop this year has been micro/mini greens. We started growing these in the greenhouse in raised beds last Autumn , and it worked so well that we built some more outside. In the photo you can see a newly planted bed and an older one.


We have had fabulous salads all summer with baby amaranth, radish, beetroot, chicory, lettuce, basil, corn salad, coriander, mustard, sorrel, purple cabbage, and pea ‘feathers’. It would be nice to cut them every day, but a big container full lasts all week if kept in the fridge. It does use a lot of seed, so I have been rescuing some of the mini greens when they are finished harvesting and growing them on for seed. This looks a bit messy in the garden, and I have to fight the birds for the brassica seeds, but I have been successful so far with mustard, cabbage, radish, coriander, ruby chard, and beetroot.


bumble bee on dianthus

Flowers for Bees in mid Summer

Artichokes, scarlet runner beans, pumpkin, zucchini, tomatillos and other vegetables,  herbs, and flowers were full of bees in January.

Scarlet runner beans are so pretty and useful. This year I collected the mature beans to try as dried beans, since they get past it so quickly. The dried beans are very pretty, but I have yet to taste them.

bumble bee on scarlet runnerOregano flowers are extra popular.

honey bee on oregano

bumble bee on oregano

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Hokianga Red and gold corn for drying

Kumara, Corn, Zucchini seeds: too late, too late

It’s December and suddenly it’s almost too late. The lack of shelter makes it risky planting early, wet soil can’t be dug, and then suddenly it’s a race.

I’ve only just planted the zucchini seed – 2 types: Zephyr(F1) and an Italian – Costasta romanesco, in pots in the greenhouse . I’m not crazy about F1 seed because it can’t be saved, but Zephyr is very sweet, keeps producing over a long time, and is pretty: bright yellow with a green end, looking like they’ve been dipped in a pot of green paint. And zucchini crosses madly anyway, so saving seed leads to surprises and not always nice ones.

I found today that the mandarin we call ‘Richard the Ungrateful’ has died.

Continue reading “Kumara, Corn, Zucchini seeds: too late, too late”

tomato seedlings

Tomato transplanting, it begins

I arrived last Friday at the end of the day and the Moonglow tomatoes clearly needed transplanting. Their roots were small but their tops were tangling together. There was an extra hour of daylight thanks to daylight saving so I got into it and transplanted about 50 seedlings into separate pots.

I start to feel like the magician’s apprentice at this time of year, no sooner have I transplanted one flat of seedlings the next one is needing attention, and as I finish the last flat the first lot of small pots need to go into bigger pots, and so on. It’s not going to stop until I get everything into the ground sometime in November.

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Tomatoes seedlings

Seeds are up, and more chiles on the hot pad

The Moonglow and Golden Grape tomatoes are up in the greenhouse. These are the special healthy orange tomatoes; I saved seed from them last year. They are good for you to eat raw, they don’t need cooking to have good levels of lycopene. The golden Grape are small in every way, the seeds are small, and the seedlings are tiny compared to the Moonglow.

Continue reading “Seeds are up, and more chiles on the hot pad”

Red tulips in pots

Tulips, Pumpkins, and Rats

Coming back after 3 weeks away,the daffodils are just starting to come out and the tulips were ready to be moved into a sunny spot to flower, so I think all I missed was 3 weeks of rain and cold. The tulips which were either red or dark purple last year seem to have made a few yellow or yellow and red ones this year. I pulled most of the flower stems off before they could set seed, so I’m confused. I suppose this must mean that some of the little bulbs were from seeds rather than clones? Or more likely some of the mixed batch I planted in the garden several years ago made their way back into the fridge with the potted ones.

The grass is a bit long and the weeds have grown and the citrus has continued to ripen.
And the rats had moved into the hut and had a party, leading to lots of laundry and cleaning of drawers. For some reason they chewed off a large chunk of the rubber seal at the bottom of the door of the little fridge. The fridge was open and empty so I’m not sure what the point of this was.

image Several of the pumpkins (winter squash) which looked perfect on top are going mouldy on the bottom, and the rats have eaten through the skin of another one, so it’s time to make another batch of pumpkin ‘soup’ for the freezer – what we make is more like pumpkin mash which can be made into soup with the addition of milk or stock.
These were self sown from the compost last year, they popped up with the tomato seedlings and I let them grow around the tomatoes. Not ideal for either of them really, I was continually battling back the pumpkin and pushing it off the tomatoes. In the end however the pumpkins did grudgingly take off over the lawn and down the bank and did much better than the year before, probably by stealing food and water from the tomatoes. In fact I’m surprised there were any seeds in the compost to grow from they did so badly the year before. They seem to have stayed true to the type which I think was Ironbark, as I see I have a half used seed pack of these.

Cold Spring

The photo is from September, showing where the peas are.

We were away last weekend. Back in the city I made about 100 small paper pots and planted them with Florida F1 Sweetcorn. It’s been cold and hailing last week, but many of them have come up as I was able to give them turns on the heat pad. They are up to 2 inches high now, not even a week later. My plan is to plant them in the garden below the greenhouse.

I plan to do this for the flour and polenta corn as well, since over the past years I have sometimes had to replant entire crops. The earth is wet here at this time of year, and in some of the beds there are still clumps of clay. I will make more paper pots tonight.

This year we have peas next to the Louisa plum.  The soil was nice and friable and I spread lime around them. Carouby mange tout with their purple flowers were the strongest growers again, they have tiny peas and  lots of lovely purple flowers on them now.  The sweeter sugar snaps have been slow and needed 2 sowings, nd the normal peas even worse with about 8 plants coming up out of a whole packet.
Parsnips and carrots are up in the same area.

Tomatoes are in front of the greenhouse and in the top garden right side this year.
I will have to draw out some garden sections so I can refer to them by name. The garden below has been dug but needs hoeing.

I also transplanted another batch of tomatoes into 3″ square pots last weekend. These are the Orange high lycopene ones for eating raw. This year I have tried Golden Grape, Gold Medal, Moonglow, and Elbe from Bristol seeds in Whanganui. We will see what grows well and what tastes good. I have put one of each in the greenhouse an the rest will go in up top next week. I think they are better grown into at least 5″ pots in shelter.

The Beefsteak, Albenga Ox, and Brandywine tomatoes went in 50 x 2 weeks ago, the rest 3 weeks ago. The weather has been insanely windy and quite cold as it was last year at this time.

We used a different type of staking system, which we tried last year for one row. This is a long row of Macrocarpa stake triads connected by wire. This is what I used for the peas this year, covered with netting to protect from birds, which I removed yesterday as the peas were tangling into it.

We also used stakes to fence the tomatoes with wind cloth, thank goodness. More strong gales and rain today and it’s cold enough that we needed the heater last night and it would be nice now as well.

The tomatoes that went outside were a good size, all in 5 or 8 inch pots. We have lost one so far, one of the early batch before we had the complete wind cloth fence up. The bigger ones have been strung up with green jute twine. The others need to go up soon they are starting to grow lying down.

In with the toms I planted a few zephyr and Italian courgettes and some cucumbers. They are all a little miserable, and I’ve lost one of each, but they are alive and one is trying to make a tiny zephyr zucchini.

In the greenhouse I dug all the beds and planted 3 toms, Brandywine mix and Beefsteak in them. They have developed small tomatoes in the last 2 weeks. They were very dry yesterday after 2 weeks without water. I also put in a few of each pepper type – Ancho, Little Hat, Bell Colours, and Topepo and some sugar baby watermelons, tomatillos, and eggplant. They are all doing fine. I have planted some banana melons but they haven’t come up yet.

Miners lettuce Claytonia perfoliata

First Feed of Miner’s Lettuce this year

I love this winter salad green which seems to pop up in Winter the way it’s relative Common Purslane pops up in Summer, except that for us the summer version is much more ubiquitous (often called a weed, but also very nice in salads).

Miner’ lettuce pretty much stays where you put it, and can even die out if it gets too dry or overrun by weeds. If it’s growing well it’s thick – to harvest it you can just cut it off with scissors far enough above the ground to avoid any dirt. Claytonia perfoliata is its proper name.

Although it’s native to Canada where I grew up, I had never noticed it as a plant or a vegetable until I came to New Zealand. I imagined that the name ‘Miner’s Lettuce’ came from the shape of the leaves which are like a tiny shovel, but according to Wikipedia the leaves were a source of vitamin C for the California Gold Miners hence the name.

Also on the plate is another yummy veg, what we call ‘smashed parrot’, parsnips and carrots boiled together and mashed lightly with butter.