Nothing to do with my garden but, last Monday afternoon I happened to be driving home from Middlemore via Great South Road when the heavens opened. First there was fork lightening seemingly right overhead. By the time I reached Takanini, the hail had started. It was like someone throwing hands full of slushies at the windscreen and the rain was torrential. There was flooding under the Takanini motorway bridge. The ice built up around the windscreen and all over the bonnet of the car, traffic was at a snail pace crawl. It was fascinating and a bit scary, but I must say that my fellow motorists were extremely considerate and there was none of the usual lane changing and rush.
After I arrived home to Waiuku, which was bathed in glorious sunshine and had had no indication of a storm, I started thinking about the effects that weather would have had on gardens and birds. All gardens would have been covered in ice for at least an hour and many would have been swept by a torrent of water. Bird’s nests would have been flooded as well, especially if they were in trees or on the ground. Sparrows, starlings and swallows may have fared a bit better because most of them nest under rooves or buildings. I was thankful that our garden was not subjected to that extreme temperature drop.
In your patch, sow dwarf beans, sugar snap peas, lettuce, radish, herbs, tomatoes and cucumber for summer salads. Add plenty of compost to your soil and a touch of blood and bone or good general vegetable fertiliser and work in well with a fork. Salad greens planted now will be ready to start harvesting in early December, and should still be OK up until Christmas. Remember to continue planting seedlings every three weeks to keep a steady supply all summer.
Tomatoes need a little extra work but the reward is worth it. No matter what variety you choose, add a good tomato specific manure into the soil. Tomatoes love a good rich soil so try a little liquid fertiliser once a month. Water regularly, preferably in the early morning or evening when the sun is at its lowest in the sky. A good drenching once or twice a week, around 2½ litres per plant per watering.
Stake your plants well with a pyramid style form or a solid straight stake. This is because the central stem is not strong enough to grow upright on its own especially when the fruit is getting heabier as it grows. Break off any laterals as they appear. The smaller the lateral, the easier it is to break out, this will encourage the plant to produce more fruit.
Our early crop of potatoes are doing very well and should be ready for Christmas. Last weekend we planted the main crop which will harvest in February or March. Keep mounding them as they grow to encourage potatoes to form on the stems. Like tomatoes they need to be watered deeply once a week.
Give the lawn a dose of fertiliser now to encourage growth and to help control weeds and moss. Either a liquid or powdered form is fine. It is now imperative that you spray any onehunga weed in the lawn, before the prickly seed develops
Now is the time to plant swan plants to feed the monarch butterfly caterpillars. They take up little space so four to five plants are ideal. If they are small, cover with some frost cloth until they are large enough to sustain hungry caterpillars. Plant flowers that they and the bees can feed on. Such as hebes, lavender, marigold, salvia and any flowers with a perfume work well. Bees love blue so try some blue flowering varieties.
November by the moon:
8-14 Plant all crops that produce their edible parts above the ground.
15-17 Full moon phase; Manure roses and sow root crops.
20- 29 Harvest and maintain your garden. Weed, tidy and feed.
29-30 Prepare to sow early in December
Lemon Apricot Slice
Good for lunch boxes and afternoon tea
Combine 250g malt biscuits, 1 c chopped dried apricots, ¾c coconut, grated rind and juice of a large lemon, ½ tsp vanilla in a bowl.
Slowly melt 100g butter and ½ tin condensed milk and add to above.
Mix well then press into a swiss roll tin. Refrigerate until firm and chilled.
Ice with 1½ c icing sugar, 25g butter, 2 tsp lemon juice and a little boiling water mixed until smooth.
Chill again then slice into 3cm squares and enjoy.
Tomatoes planted early are thriving.
Potatoes will be ready for Christmas.
Swam plants re the favorite food for monarch butterflies.
Ice left on my car after driving through Monday’s storm.