February in the Vegie Patch

scorching sun
February is usually a rather hot and often unpleasant time of year for gardening. Try to water early in the morning or in the evenings to ensure that your plants can gain the maximum benefit from each precious drop. Deeper watering, less often is also the maxim of gardeners at this time of year.
Take advantage of any cooler days to keep the weeds under control and to top up the mulch layers on your garden beds.

PLANT: Seedlings of broccoli, Brussels sprouts, winter cabbage, kale, cauliflower, celery, leek, lettuce, silverbeet and spring onion.
SOW: Beans, broccoli, beetroot, carrot, cabbage, cauliflower, late Brussels sprouts, leek, lettuce, turnip, beetroot, Chinese brassicas, Asian roots, parsnip, and silver beet.
Vegetables such as beetroot, carrots, lettuces and turnips are best sown successionally to ensure a regular, manageable supply

The to-do list

• Water and weed your garden as required. Pick crops regularly – especially beans, zucchinis and cucubers
• Enrich soils with lime and organic matter before sowing broccoli, cabbage, cauliflower and Brussel sprout seedlings. They are very hungry plants. Feed fortnightly with liquid manure or worm juice as they are growing.
• Lettuces must be grown quickly to stay crisp and juicy. Feed with liquid manure every 10-14 days.
• Pick silverbeet regularly leaving 4-5 leaves at the centre for quick regrowth.
• Pinch out the growing tips of runner beans once they reach the top of their support. Pick beans regularly.
• Thin vegetables sown earlier before they are large enough to compete with each other.
• Continue to tie up tomatoes to their stakes as they grow. Dust regularly with sulphur powder to prevent whitefly and other pests.
• Harvest herbs regularly. Don’t let the leaves get too old. Excess leaves of basil, coriander etc. can be chopped, placed in ice-cube trays, covered with water, frozen and then transferred to plastic bags or other containers for a ready supply over winter,
• Lift garlic, shallots, onions etc. and hang to dry, out of the sunlight, before storing.
• Thin apples, persimmons etc.
• Tidy up summer-flowering strawberries that have finished fruiting. Cut off old leaves and unwanted runners, control weeds, feed and top up mulch
• Top up existing mulches that have rotted down over the past months.
Peaches
Harvest peaches and nectarines
If you adore the taste of fresh peaches or nectarines, now is the time to start thinking about planting new peach trees so that you can enjoy this delicious fruit straight from your own garden.
Peaches, like most stone fruits, require an open sunny position with well drained soil which contains plenty of organic matter. A fruit tree is in its position for a long time, so careful preparation of the spot will pay big dividends in the future.
 Select a suitable spot for your new tree
 Kill any perennial weeds (such as sorrel or kykua) by covering the area with black plastic or corrugated iron for 2-3 weeks. At this time of year, the heat generated by the sun under this covering will destroy these weeds.
 Mix in some compost and manure, and then cover the area with mulch.
 Keep the area moist until ready to plant in June/July. Remember to keep the mulch away from the tree-trunk once it is planted.
Peaches are self-pollinating, which means that you only need one tree for successful cropping, and they’re pretty trees that are worth growing for their spring show of blossom alone.
Winter pruning should open up the centre, remove crowded branches and weak stems, and encourage new growth. Keep tuned to this newsletter for news of our winter pruning field day.
Peach trees will need to be sprayed with lime-sulphur when dormant to prevent leaf-curl and fungal diseases in the growing season. Planting garlic under the tree will also help prevent diseases.

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Coping with the Cucumber Glut!

Cucumbers have been excelling themselves in production this year, so many of us have excess cucumbers staring at us and DEMANDING some action!
Of course there are only so many cucumbers that can be eaten in salads so here are some ways of using some of the excess.
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1. A very refreshing drink for hot days can be made by adding slices of cucumbers and some lemon juice to a jug of iced water.
2. Tatziki
Ingredients
1 cup Greek whole milk yogurt – drained over a sieve for around 10 mins
1 English cucumber, seeded, finely grated and drained
2 cloves garlic, finely minced
1 teaspoon lemon zest plus 1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
2 tablespoons chopped fresh dill
Kosher salt and freshly cracked black pepper

Directions

In a medium bowl, whisk together the yogurt, cucumber, garlic, lemon zest, lemon juice and dill (or Fennel). Season with salt and pepper. Chill.
For some extra flavor, add some olive oil and some coarsely chopped fresh mint. Serve with crudities at your next party.

3. Cucumber Pickles

Ingredients
3 Capsicums – 1 red
3 Onions
6 Cucumbers (Can also use Zucchinis)

Directions

Slice all ingredients thinly and cover with 1/2 cup salt.
Allow to stand overnight or at least 6 hours
Drain and Rinse

Boil 3 1/4 cups white vinegar, 2 cups sugar, 1 packet pickling spice*, 1 tablespoon brown mustard seed, 1 tablespoon whole black pepper.
Add vegetables
Boil until tender – NOT TOO SOFT

Bottle and seal whilst hot
Store at least 2 weeks before use. Preferably longer for best flavour

*Typically British pickling spice can be purchased ready made but I prefer to mix my own altering the mixture according to availibilty
1 tablespoon coriander seeds
1 tablespoon mustard seed
1 tablespoon whole black pepper
1 tablespoon cloves
3 or 4 dried chillies
1 teaspoon ground ginger
1 piece cinnamon stick, crushed
3-4 bay leaves

4. Cucumber and Apple Chutney

Ingredients
3 Cucumbers – Cut in half lengthways, de-seeded and chopped finely
8 Cooking Apples – peeled, cored and chopped
3 cups/650 gm Onions – Peeled and chopped finely
2 1/2 cups/600 ml white wine vinegar’
2 1/2 cups /500 gm light brown sugar
1 tsp cayenne pepper
1/2 teaspoon smoked paprika
1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
1 teaspoon rock salt

Directions
Place the apples, onions and cucumbers into a pan with the vinegar and bring to the boil. Simmer until softened.
Add the sugar, spices and salt. Stir until all of the sugar is dissolved.
Continue simmering until the chutney thickens, stirring occasionally.
Pour into hot, sterilized jars and seal. Label and store for at least 4 weeks for best flavour and taste.

5. Cold cucumber Soup
This creamy no-cook cucumber soup makes a splendid side dish for summertime meals.
Ingredients
2 large cucumbers, peeled, halved and seeded
1 1/2 cups plain Greek yogurt SAVE $
1/4 cup olive oil
1 lemon, zested and juiced
1 clove garlic, finely chopped
1 tablespoon finely chopped fresh dill
1/4 cup loosely packed flat-leaf parsley
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 cup chopped purple onion
1/2 cup chopped tomatoes
Directions
In a blender, puree cucumbers, yogurt, lemon juice and zest, olive oil, garlic, dill, parsley, and salt until smooth

Pour into serving bowls. Top with tomatoes and purple onion. Serve immediately.

Happy Gardening and Cooking! Mary

Coping with the Zucchini Glut

As per usual this year, I have totally over planted Zucchini plants but I do like to have a variety – dark green, light green, striped and yellow!
Consequently I have developed a range of uses for Zucchini!
zucchini
1. Grated Zucchini
The fastest and easiest method is to grate the Zucchini – use the food processor if there are heaps – and then freeze. I prefer to use the thicker sandwich, resealable bags for this task as they can be re-used multiple times. This zucchini can then be added to soups, casseroles etc throughout the winter. it can also be used for the zucchini cake recipe below.

2. Zucchini Pickles

Cut up 1 kg of zucchini and 2 large onions, sprinkle with salt and let stand for 2 hours.
Add some chopped red and green capsicum.
Drain.

Mix
 2 cups vinegar
 2 cups sugar
 1 tablespoon ground ginger
 1 teaspoon curry
 2 teaspoons turmeric
 2 teaspoons mustard

Add drained pickles

Boil 20-25 minutes

Mix 1 tablespoon of cornflour into a paste with some extra vinegar.

Add to the pickles and boil a little longer until thickened.

Pour into sterilized jars and seal.

3. Simple Zucchini Cake
zucchini cake

 500 gm Zucchini – trimmed and grated
 3 tablespoons of golden syrup or 1 ½ cups sugar
 4 eggs well beaten or 3 turkey eggs or 2 goose eggs.
 1 cup olive oil
 1 ½ teaspoons baking powder
 1 teaspoon bicarbonate soda
 1 ½ teaspoons cinnamon
 1 teaspoon grated nutmeg
 1 teaspoon salt
 2 ½ cups flour – gluten free flour works fine with this recipe
 1 cup walnuts – chopped

Preheat oven to 180o C or 350 o F. Grease and line cake tin. I use 2 bread tins.
Combine Zucchini, oil, eggs and sugar or golden syrup – set aside
Sift the flour, baking powder, bicarb soda, cinnamon, nutmeg and salt into a bowl
Gradually stir in zucchini mixture.
Add walnuts. Mix well.
Spoon into cake tin. Bake 1 to 1 ½ hours

4. Curried Zucchini

Step 1. Dice 2 Onions finely
Step 2. Heat 2 tablespoons oil in a large, heavy-based saucepan with a firm fitting lid. Add diced onion and 1 1/2 dessertspoons Curry paste and some freshly ground black pepper. Cook until onion is softened and curry is aromatic.
Step 3. Dice 2 kg of Zucchini and add to saucepan (You can also use button squash or a mixture of squash and Zucchini for this recipe). At this stage, you can also add extra spices e.g. ground ginger, turmeric, smoked paprika or Harissa paste. Stir thoroughly to mix.
Step 4. Add 1 tablespoon chicken stock powder and stir. DO NOT ADD WATER – the stock powder will draw the fluid out of the zucchini to form the sauce.
Step 5. Place the lid on the saucepan and allow Zucchini to cook gently for approximately 10 mins – less time if vegetable is finely diced.
Step 5. Dissolve 2 heaped tablespoons cornflour in 1/2 cup water and add to cooked zucchini. Bring to boil, stirring gently with a wooden spoon
Step 6. Add 1 can coconut milk gradually, whilst stirring. Heat thoroughly and cook until thickened. Stir continuously to prevent burning.
Step 7. Add to freezer containers, cool, add label and date then freeze.
This sauce is very handy for quick meals served with pasta or rice. For variety add some browned mince steak or grilled sausages.

Happy cooking!!

January & February in the Vegie Patch

We have certainly had a wonderful start to Summer with very few hot days and lots of rain.
The plants (and weeds) in our garden are growing at a furious rate.
However, it very important to keep an eye on the soil in your patch and ensure that all beds stay well watered. Also don’t forget to look after yourself – remembering to drink plenty of fluids and wear a very shady hat and use sunscreen regularly.
What to plant
This month plant seeds of: beans*, beetroot*, broccoli, Brussel sprouts, cabbage, cauliflower, carrot*, kohl rabi, leek*, lettuce, spring onions*, early white onions, parsnip*, radish*, shallots, silver beet, spinach, swede*, rocket*, turnip* as well as the Chinese green*s such as bok choi, mizuna.
* These seeds are best planted directly into the garden, others should be sown in containers for transplanting later or use purchased seedlings.
Plant seedlings of: broccoli, Brussel sprouts, cauliflower, celery, leek, lettuce, spring onions, silver beet.
The to-do list
• Water and weed your garden as required. Pick crops regularly
• Enrich soils with lime and organic matter before sowing broccoli, cabbage, cauliflower and Brussel sprout seedlings. It is always important to replenish your soil before planting new crops, especially gross feeders such as these type of plants.
• Lettuces must be grown quickly to stay crisp and juicy. Feed with liquid manure every 10-14 days.
• Pick silver beet regularly leaving 4-5 leaves at the centre for quick regrowth.
• Pinch out the growing tips of runner beans once they reach the top of their support. Pick beans regularly.
• Thin vegetables sown earlier before they are large enough to compete with each other.
• When planting beetroot seeds water them in with a solution of 1 dessertspoon of Borax (available from most grocers and hardware shops) to 5 litres of water. This provides the emerging seedling with an essential dose of boron – something that is in very short supply in the soils around Wooragee – and will result in bigger, better and sweeter beetroot globes. My favourite variety of beetroot is Bull’s blood.
• Continue to tie up tomatoes to their stakes as they grow. Harvest regularly.
• Harvest herbs regularly and keep trimming off flowers as they appear. Don’t let the leaves get too old. Excess leaves of basil, coriander etc. can be chopped, placed in ice-cube trays, covered with water, frozen and then transferred to plastic bags or other containers for a ready supply over winter,
• Lift shallots, onions etc. and hang to dry out of the sunlight before storing.
• Thin apples, persimmons and pears
• Tidy up summer-flowering strawberries that have finished fruiting. Cut off old leaves and unwanted runners, control weeds, feed and top up mulch
• Top up existing mulches that have rotted down over the past months. Happy gardening Mary

November in the Veggie Patch

September, October and November are normally very busy months in our veggie patch. However, not much has been happening here, mostly due to work pressures and a 6 week holiday overseas!! Despite this, I was very pleased to be able to wander down to the veggie patch and pick lettuce, spinach and strawberries for our lunch and then some broad beans, asparagus and Kale for dinner! Of course, it was only possible to find the veggie beds because our wonderful neighbour had mowed our lawns for us. Thanks a million Rheino!!
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After a few days hard weeding – 9 barrow loads of weeds to the hen house to date – the garden is now looking as if some one actually takes an interest in it. You can even see past the weeds to the rest of the garden now!
We have also added compost and lawn clippings to some of the beds and will start planting later this week.
After weeding, the strawberries were given a feed of liquid manure and sea sol with some mineral elements stirred in and then a mulch of lucerne hay was added.
On checking the forecast, I see that the next few nights are going to be rather cold, so I will delay planting any cold-sensitive plants for a week or two.
Tony & I have made a detailed plan for each garden bed, so that we continue to rotate the crops and avoid planting related species in the same bed.
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Soon I will be planting seeds of beetroot, cabbage, carrot, celery, Chinese cabbage, endive, kohl rabi, leeks, lettuce, parsnip, bush and climbing peas (earlier in the month), spring onions, radish, rocket, silver-beet, spinach. Seeds or seedlings for frost sensitive plants such as Button Squash, pumpkin, tomatoes, melons (watermelon, rock melon and Honeydew melons), capsicum, chilli, eggplant, zucchini etc. can be planted in pots in a sunny window or other warm, protected spot – they can’t be planted out into the garden until after frosts are finished and the soil has warmed up – usually after cup day in Wooragee.
Tasks in the garden for this month:
• Feed veggies with liquid fertilizer fortnightly to keep them growing especially the leafy ones. Don’t liquid feed tomatoes until the first flowers appear – we want fruit not leaves here.
• Pick off or brush off any caterpillars, aphids and other insect affecting your plants. This reduces chemical usage and saves water.
• Protect seedlings from slugs and snails by using home-made traps such as saucers of beer. Rows of crushed egg shells or sawdust will make it uncomfortable for snails to travel across.
• Always use seed well before its use-by date check the packet for the sowing time in your area.
• Spray fruit trees with a preventative spray such as lime-sulphur for healthier fruit trees.
• Mulch strawberries and rhubarb now, and cut off any rhubarb heads going to seed. Mulching now prevents leaf disease later.
• Start preparing sweet potato tubers to produce the offshoots needed for this summer’s plants. Do this by burying the tubers into moist sand and keeping them in warm place until shoots appear. Snip the shoots off when 6cm long and plant into pots of rich soil and allow to continuing growing until the weather allows them to be planted into the garden.
Happy Gardening Mary Prowse.

September in the Veggie Patch

asparagus shoots

September in the Vegie Patch
In many areas gardeners will still be experiencing low temperatures and frosty conditions for a while longer. However, the good news is winter is almost over, so it’s time to get ready for a delightfully productive spring.
Now is the time to peruse the seed catalogues and order your requirements for your spring planting.
It is always good to start some seeds off in punnets stored in a warm spot, ready for planting out after the frosts have cleared.
Thinking of starting a new garden bed? Try planting some potatoes!
Planting potatoes
Potatoes are the ideal first crop for a new bed. They are incredibly good at breaking up compacted soil and this method is far easier than using a shovel!
To plant your crop – whether in a new area or an established garden bed:
1. Choose a nice sunny spot and then chip away most of the weeds & grass. Add some gypsum if the soil is high in clay or some lime if the soil is very acidic.
2. Cover the area with a layer of newspaper and wet well – this will suppress the weeds and prevent them growing up through your potatoes. If you have tough weeds like Kikuyu – make this a thick layer.
3. Add a layer of compost and snuggle your seed potatoes into the compost.
4. Cover with another layer of compost
5. Next add a 40cm layer of pea straw or lucerne hay.
6. Over this layer, add some sheep manure and some blood and bone, and then finally, another layer of pea straw or lucerne hay ~ 50cm thick is ideal for this layer.
This will make a nice high pile but it will quickly settle down and your new potato shoots will be protected from cold winds and frost for the first few weeks.
Although potatoes need a sunny spot, it is very important that the potatoes never see the light of day when they are growing. Sunlight turns them green and they produce a toxic substance, making them inedible. If the straw layer thins out on top, add more straw along with chopped up leaves or grass clippings; also extra compost or manure never goes astray.
You can start harvesting your potatoes 2-3 months after planting if you don’t mind small potatoes and will use them immediately. Simply “bandicoot” the established plants by burrowing around the roots and harvesting some potatoes from each plant – don’t disturb the plant too much and always leave some tubers to continue growing.
If you are going to store the potatoes – wait until the plants have flowered and the foliage has died down (avoid watering the plot at this stage). Loosen the plants with a fork, clean and dry your crop and store carefully in a cool dry spot away from direct sunlight. Enjoy your spuds!!! My favourite varieties are Dutch Cream, Nicola and Ruby Lou.
The “to do” list:
• Currently we can plant carrots, beetroot, peas (coating the seeds in some olive oil before planting to help prevent the seeds from rotting), Kohl Rabi, radish, silver beet, rocket, lettuce and Chinese greens. Don’t rush into planting the frost sensitive varieties until later – in this area they can’t be planted out until November.
• A few early potatoes can be planted under a thick layer of compost and mulch in a less frost prone area of the garden. The growing tips may get frost bitten but the thick layer of mulch should protect the bulk of the plant and allow it to reshoot later. Save the majority of your seed potatoes until later.
• This is your very last chance to get those bare-rooted fruit trees planted – it appears to be going to be a very kind spring/summer season this year, so it would certainly be a good time to plant those delicious fruit producing trees. There is nothing quite as wonderful as picking and eating your own fruit direct from the tree – fruit which is fully ripened on the tree has so much more flavour!
• In the herb patch pop in some chamomile, dill, coriander, Echinacea, catnip and thyme. Also try lemon balm but keep it in a pot, as it has a tendency to take over! Plant these after the frost risk has passed.
• Time to pop in some sunflower seeds. Find a sunny spot where you would like to see some happy sunflowers later in the year, and plant the seeds to double the depth of the seed. Cover lightly with dirt and wait….they’ll be popping their heads up in no time! These flowers are great for attracting bees to your garden
• Check your citrus trees for gall wasp and remove affected sections by pruning well below the gall. Don’t compost this. Just pop it in a bag and toss it in your normal bin. This is your absolute last chance to do this before they hatch out and take over the world, so don’t put this off!
• Top up mulch on your vegie patches, herb gardens and fruit trees. Choose sustainable, low environmental impact mulches, ones that will enrich your soil as they break down. Feed those fruit trees too.
• On really cold days, why not head out to the shed, and sharpen, clean, oil and maintain your garden tools. Sounds tedious, but it’s really rewarding, and will save you frustration, cash and plant illness in the long run.
• Asparagus may need some protection from frost; the new shoots are susceptible to frost damage – place a frame over the bed and cover with clear plastic or frost cloth until the frost season is over.
• Pick broccoli every day so it doesn’t toughen or go to seed- feed and water it well.
• Pruning your fruit trees should also be well under way by now.
• It is time to start regular spraying of peach & nectarine trees with lime-sulphur to prevent curly leaf – remember there is no cure for this ugly, leaf-distorting disease, only preventative spraying at this stage is effective.

August in the Veggie Patch

planting-fruit-tree-2x

The month of August means that we are moving through our winter. As such, August is all about getting ready for the next season, SPRING! The important jobs for this month centre on planting bare rooted fruit trees, rhubarb & asparagus crowns and berry canes; preparing garden beds for summer crops and pruning & preventing disease in our fruit trees.rhubarb-plant-s
A crop to consider for this spring is Sweet potato. We have been growing sweet potato for the last five years very successfully. YUM!! YUM!! They are very hungry plants, so the site needs plenty of compost and well-rotted manure and the plots need to be prepared well in advance but the rewards are well worth the effort.
The “to do” list:
• Plant the last of the deciduous trees & rhubarb and asparagus crowns if you have not already done so. Time is running out for this task, so this needs to be done sooner rather than later.
• Spray peach & nectarine trees at bud swell with lime-sulphur for early control of curly leaf. This is the only effective treatment for this insidious disease which can ruin your crop. Once the disease is in full swing there is no treatment. ACT NOW!
• Check plants for scale – particularly a problem for citrus and olives. These plants are prone to attack by scale and the subsequent sooty mould. Sooty mould is nothing more than scale or aphid droppings gone mouldy. Get rid of the underlying disease and you get rid of the mould problem.
The best way to kill scale insects is by using white oil emulsion, or pest oil, to suffocate them. An economical white oil can be produced with this recipe: Pour a cup of cheap cooking oil into an empty, litre size plastic water bottle. Add half a cup of water and three to four drops of washing-up detergent. Then put the cap on and shake vigorously. The liquid will turn white – this is white oil emulsion (the detergent acts to prevent the oil/water mixture separating). This simple mixture works perfectly as a scale killer when diluted with about 40 parts of water.
Spray it under and over infested leaves, branches and trunk. It acts by sealing the edges of the little scale humps thereby suffocating the insects hiding underneath. Use the spray two or three times over the next few weeks and watch your plant’s health improve each day.
• Common problems for pear and cherry trees are the pear and cherry slug (which can rapidly skeletonise the leaves) and pear scab. Both can be controlled by spraying the foliage in late spring and early summer with a solution made by dissolving a big handful of builders’ lime in a bucket of water. Alternatively, through fine wood ash over the leaves.
• Pruning: This month is an excellent time to prune deciduous fruit trees such as apples, pears and plums. Pruning is not essential for fruit production but it will ensure that your trees will remain a manageable size and still produce a reliable crop of acceptable size and quality with a minimum of disease.
• Sharpen tools and oil handles to have them ready for the busy spring season.
Crop rotation
It’s important to avoid growing successive crops of the same type of vegetable in the same spot in the garden. This practice, which is called crop rotation, helps prevent build up of soil diseases. Seasonal crop changes often lead to natural crop rotation.
Each family of plants makes a unique set of nutrient demands on the soil hence it is essential to change the type of vegetables grown in a particular area over consecutive growing seasons.
This can be achieved by rotating distinct plant families in a logical sequence. For example, vegetable crops in the brassica family (cabbage, broccoli, kale) are heavy feeders which require plenty of nitrogen for rapid leaf growth. At the conclusion of their growing season it is beneficial to replant the area with legumes such as peas, beans, and lentils. Legumes have fewer nutrient demands and actually initiate an enzymatic process which fixes nitrogen, improving its availability for future crops. In addition to preserving the nutrient profile of extensively cultivated soils, crop rotation can offer protection against various toxins which are released by plants themselves. When allowed to concentrate in a soil, these toxins may restrict the normal activity of soil microbes and thereby disrupt the healthy recycling of plant nutrients.
Crop rotation will also assist in pest and disease control. In order to survive and thrive, a majority of plant destroying pests and disease pathogens must concentrate and establish themselves within a particular territory. Insects are usually attracted to suitable host plants by visual characteristics, smell, taste, and other chemical signals. When their favoured crops are rotated to different locations, the destructive organisms have their breeding cycles disrupted. With few exceptions, juvenile insects and larvae are particularly vulnerable to relocation of their normal food supplies. In attempting to overcome the barrier of distance, many will be taken by garden predators such as ants, spiders, lizards, and birds.
Pruning
This month is an excellent time to prune deciduous fruit trees such as apples, pears and plums. Pruning is not essential for fruit production but it will ensure that your trees will remain a manageable size and still produce a reliable crop of acceptable size and quality with a minimum of disease. An excellent fact sheet is available at: http://www.abc.net.au/gardening/stories/s1386719.htm