This week in the garden – spring is still here, but it seems to be having a rest today!

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Although it is decidedly chilly out today, everywhere you look, the signs of spring are still there – the fruit trees are blossoming and as it is the first year we will (hopefully) get fruit from the orchard, it is all very exhilarating to watch them blossom. And with the daffodils are sprouting up all through the lawn, one thing that we can be thankful of is the previous tenant who had the fun and foresight to plant bunches of daffodils all through the lawns, they spring up in spring and always cause me such delight!
They are so random but really precious 🙂 IMG_8040

Elsewhere in the vegie gardens, all the signs of spring are there to see as well. The Strawberries are flowering madly and starting to grow us stunning strawberries and the Florence Fennel is growing bigger bulbs by the day, plus the very first Burdock will soon be big enough to dig up and harvest the root; its all very exciting :). There are small chew-holes on the Burdock leaves, but nothing to worry about, as we don’t use the large leaves, only the smaller ones in salads and the roots for a medicine. I don’t panic about insects – if they are causing no harm, we allow them to stay in the garden as they are part of a natural and healthy eco-system. We find very little insect damage with our Companion Planting, and we have hardly any diseases either. 🙂 IMG_8076IMG_8075

The new seeds spring and summer vegetables and herbs are mostly sprouting, the seedlings that are already planted are growing and everything is looking good…

I know that other people in warmer more northern areas of NZ already have all their solanacea and curcubits in the garden outside growing happily, but down here in the cold south we feel very happy to just have them actually sprouting so early this year! Until I can find an alternative to re-cycling plastic plant pots from earlier purchases from the garden centres, I am always happy to get my plants out of them and into the garden, although we cannot put our summer frost tender plants outside just yet.
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There has not been an awful lot going on harvest wise in the gardens this week, so we have reverted to using some of our stores of food – both dry store from the cool room in the laundry out the back of the house, and from the freezer from last season. It is important to keep all your food stores checked, especially the ones in dry/cool store, as this is the time of the year that they can start rotting and/or going to seed. I always use up the ones that look a bit suspect (starting to go soft or starting to go to seed) and then use the ones that have already gone to seed, to grow more crops. 🙂

With the Yams, I removed the roots from the still hard larger ones and cooked them, and saved the rest to go into the garden to grow more. The Potatoes, I cut slivers off them where the eyes are sprouting and put them in a tray of water for a few days, then plant in the garden. I use the rest of the Potatoes left over and mash any mushy ones and boil and roast the still hard ones. I check every couple of weeks for rot, and use the ones that are going soft and keep the harder ones to store for later use. We had thought we did not grow enough Potatoes last year, but we still have a half a basket left, so if we do not eat too many, we might just make it through! (see below)
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It is a bit of  a funny time of year in the garden; even if you have grown all year and all through winter, it is about now when the winter grown crops are not quite ready and the spring ones are still a while away. It is a tricky time, so reserves are good. We have quite a bit that is nearly ready, so in a week or two our stores will be all overflowing yet again! It is such a wonderful feeling to be growing what you eat. 🙂
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We have continued to harvest all our Brassica heads and sprouts – we always leave our Brassica’s in the ground until the very last minute and only pull them out as we have to plant more in their place. This way the flowers attract the bees to the garden and we continue to get crops to eat! I have continued to get at least 2 pickings a week which is 1 meal each worth of the Brassica heads and sprouts with baby leaves, which is well worth keeping the plants for. All this helps us be self-sufficient, by using everything we grow and attempting to waste nothing – (see below left).
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I have also used up some of the left-over winter greens from the fridge that we picked last week, which is something I would not usually do (I try to pick only what we can eat fresh and immediately for each meal), but at the end of each season I do take plants out ready to make space for more, and often they have produced more than what we can eat at that time, so I preserve, pickle, ferment, freeze, fridge, store and give away. This time we had left over Mustard, so have been eating them up. I often chop them into pieces and freeze in enviro-bags to use later – see below right.
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There have been a few other things going on in the garden, with more seeds sown, pricking out, planting, pruning and general spring tasks of continuing to clear up after winter and prepare the ground for upcoming crops. It is sure a very busy time! 🙂 The early Potatoes are looking really good and the Broad Beans are growing like crazy! They have their first flowers on too, which is great – that means only a few weeks until we can have Ful Medames for breakfast again (a spiced middle eastern dish).

The Carrots are also coming up around the Winter Greens, and will soon be ready to start picking. And when they come out, it is in with the Dwarf and Bush Beans! My next job is to plant Kale and Marigolds among the Potatoes now they are up, and to put Silverbeet through the Broad Beans. We always companion plant our gardens. We have found that it increases both our yield and the flavour of the plants, plus it increases disease resistance and insect infestations – it is win/win for us, all around. IMG_8072IMG_8077

I will also sadly have to start removing the last of the Brassica’s too, as the Celeriac is about ready to plant out and the Onions and the last of the Garlic need to get in, and they will be planted all together. They will also provide protection from bugs for the Strawberries which are next to them, that will have Lettuces inter-planted with them, as Lettuces and Strawberries increase both the size and the juiciness of both of the crops. We did this last year for the first time and were SO impressed, we will be doing it every year from now on! We also plant Silverbeet with our Strawberries and Marigolds dotted around will help prevent pests and diseases as well. A good reminder that if you need a Companion Planting guide, this here is the best one I have ever seen – and if you find anything that is not on there, just add it in yourself:
http://www.idepmedia.com/images/free_media/idep%20media_poster_companion%20planting%20chart_eng_web.pdf

Have you got a glut of Mint, or any other refreshing herbs?  This is something else I came up with too: Cut off all your spare Mint and put it in glass jugs of filtered water in the fridge to make a cool and refreshing drink for when you are hard at work in the garden… it not only tastes great it is very invigorating too, which you need when expending energy!

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I think that are all the updates for this week, so that being done, I will get back out into the garden and keep planting! I have a lot of seedlings that need my attention.

Wherever you are and whatever you grow, may your gardens and lives be blessed.
Suz

© 2014-2015: “Garden to Kitchen” with Suz – All content on this blog is Copyright.

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