Lots of lush growth

There has been lots of lush growth since the first photo of my vegetable garden at the end of October.

The brassicas and beets have all grown really well. On warm sunny days I have seen good growth in just one day.  I have harvested brocolli (see my last blog), cauliflowers (the tops nibbled by slugs ruining the look of them but not affecting the eating), cabbages (nice and tight), and lettuces (not very big, not very good and riddled with slugs). I’m very pleased with that bed, it has produced well without too much watering.

The silverbeet and spinach have grown quickly and been very tendered to eat.  I have planted more caulis and brocollis and lettuces. With each plant, I put a big handful of manure in the planting hole to feed the seedling as it gets going. I don’t know why the lettuces have been so poor, I’ll have to work on that.

I have put in another slug trap at the other end of the bed and hope to eventually drastically reduce the slug population. There don’t appear to be any snails. The first slug trap I use beer for bait which works well but attracks slaters as well.  This second one I have put pellets in the bottom, so we’ll see how that goes.  The bird netting is working well at keeping out the white butterfly. I often see them flying all round the plants trying to find a way in, but fail.

Peastraw has been very successful too in keeping out the weeds, and reducing moisture loss.

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Grow giant brocolli

I picked this head of brocolli from my garden today. It weighed 1.450kg.  I used plenty of well rotted manure in the soil before planting and then covered it with peastraw to retain the moisture.  I didn’t have to water everyday which is just as well, seeing we have watering restrictions. I covered the garden bed with birdnetting to keep off the whitebutterflys and it worked well.  I’m very pleased with the result.  This brocolli will feed the two of us for several meals.

Always peel the brocolli stems particually the tough stalk.  The inside stalk is very nice especially raw.  In my opinion it is nicer and sweeter than the florets.  I have left the plant in the ground as there are two or three side shoots that I will leave to see if they grow much more.  I suspect not, probably just get tough.

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Beer trap for slugs and snails

This trap is full of beer and is then dug in so the lip is level with the soil.  The slugs can slither easily into the bowl and for some reason seem to be attracted to the smell of the beer.  When they go in, they get pickled and die.

The lid that fits on top stops rain and irrigation filling the bowl and diluting the beer.  Its simple but effective.  It seems to have attracted alot of slaters also which is a shame.

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Slug trap

slug trap

Slugs are a jolly old nuisance. I have often sprinkled around the garden lots of Quash Slug and Snail bait, but with limited success.  It is a pet and wildlife friendly product but it does break down in rain or irrigation.  Baysol is the only one that doesn’t break down in rain but is a lot more expensive.  I recently tried one of these snail traps that you fill with beer.  The first time I tried it, it was full of slaters which don’t do any harm in the garden, but when I emptied it, I discovered the bottom had a lot of slugs in it.  I filled it again with beer (such a waste of beer according to my husband) and this time you can see for yourself in the photo, it is full of slugs.  I am very pleased with the result.  I hope it continues to be so successful.  It hasn’t attracted any snails though!  Maybe there aren’t any.

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Making compost

If you were to read a book about making compost, it all sounds very technical, complicated and the average person would be put off giving it a go. It has to be easy or we won’t do it.

There is no doubt that turning our garden and kitchen waste into compost is the right thing to do for the planet and our own immediate surroundings, as well as feeding and conditioning our garden soil.  So how to make the process easy? A balanced diet is the answer.

To much of one thing and the heap will be either too dry or too wet and smelly.  You need a good mix of ‘wet and dry’ material, or carbon and nitrogen.  Basically though, I just throw in the bin the green waste as I get it. By that I mean, kitchen waste (uncooked) goes in each day and at weekends when I do a bit of gardening, I throw in the weeds and some prunings (chopped up a bit).  If I put in grass clippings, then I mix them with peastraw to dry them out otherwise the grass will go sludgy and smelly.

Now you have all the ingredients in there, the key is in the turning. This means digging it out of bin 1 into bin 2.  You can turn it after two weeks or two months, or leave it a lot longer if you want to but it will take a lot longer to break down. The sooner you turn it, the sooner you have compost to use.

Add water to keep the mix well moist as a dry mix won’t rot. Turn it three times and its done.  Each time its turned, it puts fresh oxygen into the mix and this cranks up the decomposing process.  So now you have the basics, get composting, your garden will reward you for it.

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Planting a new raised bed vegetable garden

Welcome to my new vegetable garden.  Over the coming season I will update this blog and explain what I’m doing, why, and tell you about the successes and problems I encounter. I have never had a garden of this size before, so it is something of a new journey for me too.

The raised beds were already made and filled with soil before I took charge. I topped up the existing soil with horse manure, peastraw and compost and I let that mixture sit a while before planting into it. I added seaweed gathered from the beach to one of the three beds, the one that I have planted with tomatoes, peppers and cucumbers because seaweed adds the nutrients for growing flowers which turn to fruit.

The second bed is for root vegetables, I have planted red onion seedlings, and sown carrot, beetroot and radish seeds, along with peas and cougettes, and the third bed is for leaf vege, silverbeet, lettuces and brassicas.

Then I covered the beds 2 and 3 with birdnetting supported by fibreglass rods. Different length rods bent over the beds give different height framing. The netting will not only keep off birds but also domestic animals and hopefully white butterflies.

When the seeds of carrot, beetroot and radish were taking a while to show through, I realised the top of the soil was drying out too much each day and this was compromising germination, so I covered the bed with shade cloth.  This, I thought was successful in stopping the sun drying out the soil and scourching the delicate seedlings. It made a warmer environment too.

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All Black Victory, Petunia that is…


PETUNIA “Black Velvet” one of the very few black flowers, is an exciting new release this year. As flower petals don’t make black pigment, the colour is created by breeding together the natural red and blue pigments.

Plant one in a pot with a white one and let the two entwine creating a wonderful display of black & white.

There are a number of other colour petunias of course, that you can also mix together in the same way, in a pot or hanging basket. SuperCal Petchoas (mini petunias) are also versatile, long flowering plants that are available in two hot new colours for the 2011 summer season: Cherry and Vanilla Blush.

Clever breeding has erased the sticky foliage of petunias, so the flowers drop right off rather than sticking to the foliage and looking unattractive.

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Grow Your Own Potatoes and Taste The Difference

Agria Potato Seeds ready for planting

Enjoy eating freshly dug potatoes by growing your own – its very easy.

For Christmas potatoes choose “Lisetta” or “Swift” as these are good early variaties 60-70 days to mature. For main crop try Agria variety – great for roasting and chipping.

Plant into free draining soil in vegetable garden, raised beds or a bucket.

When planting add Potato Food for extra heavy cropping.

Tui Plant Food

Come in store to view our great range of potatoes and get advice on everything you need to know about potatoes.

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Grow and eat your own vegetables


(photo credit by Jennifer Walker )

Do you want to grow your own vegetables this year but your garden is damaged with silt or you will have to move sometime to a new property?

Use a raised bed that can be placed anywhere, then moved if you need to.  Here at Portstone, our raised beds are wooden, interlocking slats that fit together in minutes, using no nails or fasteners.  Then just fill it up with compost and potting mix and you’re in business.

(photo by Kwong Hong Leong )

Plant strawberries around the edges so the fruit can trail over the side.  This prevents the fruit from going mouldy on the damp soil, makes it difficult for birds to get them, and also looks pretty.  Feed well with sheep pellets or strawberry fertiliser.  We have glazed pots in garden complimentary colours that have lots of pockets round the sides for planting strawberries in.  Great for patios and decks.

With spring here now, its time to get all your vegetables planted and seeds sown.  If you like swede, grow a few of your own, they are much jucier and sweeter than the dry ones from the supermarket.  Same with broad beans, they start to get bitter the longer they are stored, but so yummy when picked fresh plus broad bean plants when finished are a valuable addition to compost.

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You can’t beat the taste of a fresh apricot

The flavour to start drooling about in September is Apricot– a flavour to savour because harvest is not til February. An easy to grow blossom tree that rewards you with yummy fruit that you can make into jam and desserts, or put in the dehydrater and dry whole or make into fruit leathers, or eat them fresh from the tree.

Tomcot is a new one that has an intense apricot flavour and grows on a nice compact tree.

Sundrop and Trevatt are good old favourites that are suitable for the more moderate climate of Christchurch compared to Central Otago were they grow Moorpark.

Katy Cot and Garden Annie are semi-dwarf varieties for the smaller garden, or dwarf Aprigold for courtyards and containers.

Fitzroy is another sweet, tasty, medium size golden fruit that is suitable for a warm climate.  It’s a consistent and heavy cropper that matures in February. Most apricots are self pollinating; hence one tree will fruit well by itself.  The best time to prune them is late summer.  Treat pruning wounds with a pruning paint to prevent disease getting in.

WIKI Definition

The apricot, Prunus armeniaca, is a species of Prunus, classified with the plum in the subgenus Prunus. The native range is somewhat uncertain due to its extensive prehistoric cultivation.

In Europe, apricots were long considered an aphrodisiac, and were used in this context in William Shakespeare‘s A Midsummer Night’s Dream, and as an inducer of childbirth, as depicted in John Webster‘s The Duchess of Malfi.

Due to their high fiber to volume ratio, dried apricots are sometimes used to relieve constipation or induce diarrhea. Effects can be felt after eating as few as three.

Research shows that of any food, apricots possess the highest levels and widest variety of carotenoids, Carotenoids are antioxidants that may help to prevent heart disease,reduce “bad cholesterol” levels, and protect against cancer.

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