Ewen's garden

A collection of columns, paintings and photographs about gardening on an offshore island in New Zealand.

Monday, October 23, 2006

Labour weekend labour

Labour weekend is traditionally the weekend we get our vegetable garden planted. In this climate we are lucky, in that we can, if prudent, get started before this. I have already got small tomatoes forming on the bottom trusses of my plants. The next thing they desperately need is to be trained up stakes (a task for later today) and the laterals plucked out. This allows the plant to put all the energy into the main stem and the trusses of fruit on it. The reason is to allow for ease of management, training the plant up one pole means the bottom trusses are kept off the ground. When the trusses have their fruit set, the leaves from that truss and below can be removed; this allows the sun to get to the fruit. Once the fruit is harvested, the whole vine can be untied and the bare stem wound around the base of your stake, thus allowing the top to keep growing.
As I have pea straw spread all through my vegetable garden, a constant watch must kept for slugs and snails, they will decimate a whole crop of seedlings in a night! I find they are particularly fond of my pea seedlings. I use a slug bait, but organic methods include using beer dished up, to the unsuspecting foragers, in a saucer, into which they gleefully plunge to their unknowing death.
I have beans coming up, saved from last year, they are like French beans but have red flecks on the pods and the beans are red skinned. I don’t remember what they are called, but I am not too worried, as I am fond of this bean, maybe I will just call it freckles! Other seeds waiting to go in are carrot, spring onion, beetroot (for the root and the young leaves for salad) and radish (in short rows sown every two weeks to keep a supply going)
A new crop for me this year will be kumara. I have sprouted some kumara which I left in the sun on the kitchen window sill. These tubers I will split length wise and plant, cut side down, in mounds with the sprouts just protruding above the soil. I will need to mulch well as we may not have enough water for these thirsty plants. It will be interesting to see how they go. Certainly potatoes do not do well for me on account of the blight they constantly get.
Other chores to be on top of at the moment are spraying against such pests as aphids. These sap sucking insects are spread through my garden by the Argentinean ants, the results are curled and distorted leaves on the citrus and malformed flowers on the roses. I use an organic oil and an organic insecticide (pyrethrum) sprayed liberally. This needs to be done every two or so weeks, whether or not I achieve this regime or not is debatable! Other pests to look out for are the lace wings or fluffy bums (passion vine hoppers). These wee insects can quickly do much damage to crops and not only the passion vine. The best time to combat them is just after they have hatched, so be on the look out!
The flower I am most admiring this week is a large bearded iris from my uncle’s garden. The buds are a velvet jet black, opening out to the deepest black purple colour, lovely. Just one final note, not to forget all those gardeners out there getting ready for the Jassy Dean Garden Safari, 11-12 November and also the Art Out There (exhibits in the gardens). Tickets are available from: Retravision (Oneroa), Design Denmark (cnr. Sturdee st. & Pakenham st. City), Waiheke Visitor Information Centre (Matiatia) and Waiheke Art Gallery (Artworks)


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