Gardening with Ruth
Wow what a plethora of weather nature has thrown at us in the past few weeks! I am thankful we live on a hill and that we have not had the flooding that other parts of Franklin and New Zealand have experienced. The wind has been harvesting our walnuts for us. Every morning we pick up good quantity off the lawn. The keep well in the fridge or freezer for at least 12 months or more.


We weeded and prepared our vege gardens for winter before ‘Debbie’ struck. So they are mulched with straw and now well soaked. I have chilli plants that I planted later in the summer that are looking extremely healthy. I am going to see if they produce over winter or will start early in the spring.
I have the usual winter vegetables growing and am planting new seedlings to keep us going over the winter months. If planting is left too late the plants often won’t be established enough to mature and will just sit right through winter without putting on any growth, then bolt to seed when the weather warms up in October. So April is the latest time to get winter crops into the ground to give enough warmth in the soil for them to establish and grow. Having said that: the seasons are changing and May is often warm enough to still be planting.
In our area plant seeds of cut-and-come-again salad greens, such as rocket, lettuce, land cress and oriental greens now and they will provide a succession of leaves for salads through the autumn and winter. Even spring onions will come again if you cut them off just above ground level.
We generally do not need to cover but in Pukekohe, Waiuku and lower lying areas where frosts can be a bit harsh, it may be a good precaution to put them into a cloche or grow in pots in a sheltered spot. Asian greens are quicker to mature than our traditional cabbage and cauli so why not try a few of these as well if you have the room.
Make sure you protect from slugs and snails as they think your garden is a banquet for them to gorge themselves on. Crops like carrots, beets, parsnips and leeks will happily sit in the ground and slowly mature through the cold of winter, the roots need to be well bulbed up by May for decent winter crops. I have broad beans sprouting nicely and am going to put in another row of seeds over Easter.
The same applies to spring bulbs. They need to be fed and planted by mid to late April for best results. Also plant your favourire flowers to give winter colour. Plant  livingston daisy, poppy (all varieties) and lobelia seeds into seed trays (the seed is so fine that mixing it with fine sand will help to spread them out a bit), ready for planting out throughout winter, into sheltered spots around your flower beds.
Get the kids interested in planting herbs in pots over winter. Chose a reasonably sized pot, it may be plastic, wood or ceramic, whatever fits your budget. Even an old pallet lined with some black plastic works well. Chives, basil, coriander, mint and parsley are all popular varieties to plant. Some upright-growing rosemary with the low growing herbs around the outside will add structure to your herb pot. Use a good potting mixture that contains slow release fertiliser to promote good root health.
Make sure you position the pot to suit the variety of herbs selected as most herbs require sun for part of the day. Keep the potting mix moist while seeds are establishing. Feed the young herbs with a liquid plant food about every two weeks to make sure they grow extra strong and healthy. Begin Harvesting when the herbs have plenty of leaves. If you do use a rosemary in the centre keep it trimmed to stop it getting too ‘lanky’.

April by the moon:

10-14 Cultivate and fertilise in preparation for rotation planting.

15-21 Do not sow or plant – take a break

22-23 Harvest the last of summer’s crops.

24-30 Prepare the garden for planting at the beginning of May


Thought:

When you change the way you see things, the things you see change!


Recipe:

A very simple chicken recipe for busy mums

Apricot chicken

1 can of apricots (size to suit your family)

2 kg chicken pieces (can be cubes, drums or thighs)

The frozen pieces are good and a reasonable price when on special.

1 pkt French onion soup

A little seasoned flour

Roll the thawed chicken in flour, place in a casserole. Drain apricots and place fruit over chicken. Heat the juice and soup until thickened a little and pour over the chicken. Bake 350 for 1-1½ hours. Serve with mashed potatoes and veges or rice.