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Patch from Scratch – January update

This month we discuss what to plant in January, how to save seeds, offer tips on saving water and tell you why you shouldn’t worry about slaters in your garden.

Seedlings to plant in January

Beetroot, Carrot, Celery, Climbing beans, Cucumber, Dwarf beans, Lettuce, Leeks, Kumara, Parsnip, Pepper, Potato, Pumpkin, Radish, Rhubarb, Silverbeet

Saving seeds

Seed saving is the ultimate in self sufficiency, economy (which is quite topical) and being kind to our environment. With the summer crops so abundant right now, it’s the perfect time to learn how to collect seeds for the next growing season.

But here’s a valuable bit of info for beginners; seedlings bought from garden centres that are not organic are often what is called ‘hybrid’ varieties. They have been bred with an emphasis on a characteristic such as fruiting early, growing oversized fruit, or to fruit with a specific colour. They are often bred so that the next generation of seeds will not grow and you have to go back and buy more seeds next year, keeping the commercial seed growers in business. In addition to this, amazingly, the nutritional value is not considered at all. Personally, if I am going to go to the trouble of growing an edible plant, I want it to be as nutritious as possible and, I want to be able to save the seeds to plant next season. There isn’t enough information on the labels to tell you exactly what the history of the seedling is, so always opt for organic seedlings then you can be sure they are high in nutrition and will have good seeds.

For a beginner seed collector it is ideal to start with common beans. They are amongst the easiest to save. Leave them to dry on the plant, keeping an eye on them. Pick the dry beans before the rain gets to them. Alternatively the whole plant can be hung and left to dry out of direct sunlight in a dry place. Once they’ve dried, shell the beans by hand and store them in a paper bag. – Make sure you label the bag so you know the variety when you come to plant them. The beans can be sown directly into the ground next season.

If you want to learn about collecting specific seeds Koanga have a section on their website which has everything you need to know and in a format that is easy to follow. www.koanga.org.nz/SeedSavingIntroduction.htm. You can also talk to the seedsavers network across New Zealand. Join them and you can learn how to save, swap seedlings with other members and get access to heirloom varieties. http://www.seedsavers.org.nz/index.html

Saving water

Being away on holiday for two weeks with a lovely neighbor watering my vegetables for the first week, and hoping Mother Nature looks after them for the second is not really ideal. After putting so much effort into nurturing these little seedlings, to have them die of thirst is just such a shame. So here are some ideas for saving on water and installing better watering systems for next time. Unlike mine, Sarah’s garden was content over the Christmas break with a self timer watering system giving the garden a drink every morning. These self timer watering systems are really reasonably priced; if you need help installing one Patch from Scratch can set you up.

Collecting rain water in a tank or big drum and drip feeding your garden via a holey hose pipe is featured in the book “Lawns to Lunch” by Jill Finnane. This is a really simple system that can be made with things that you may already have in the shed.

Using mulch on your garden is the first thing you should be doing to conserve water. With the nation-wide pea straw shortage not being over until February/March I used seaweed and thick strips of newspaper all hidden under a thin layer of compost on top just to keep it looking tidy. It has done a great job of keeping the soil moist and cool.

We pour so much water down the drain when we are waiting for the shower to heat up, so why not collect it in a bucket and pour it on you plants each morning.

City roof Gardens

One of our newsletter readers is interested in developing a city roof garden. Apart from the Rainbow Valley one (which of course isn’t a city one), do you know of anyone who has one, knows about council requirements etc or can offer any ideas? Please email scorbett@xtra.co.nz

Woodlice – (Slaters)

With the warm weather our vegetable patches are brimming with insects, both good and bad. As soon as slugs and snails are under control (coffee grounds and a handful of Tuiquash are amazing for this) then there is another battle to fight against caterpillars, passion vine hoppers and aphids amongst others. But woodlice are one bug that we shouldn’t need to worry about.

Woodlice are generally good guys, commonly found in damp in areas, hiding under bricks and things. They are distant cousins of crabs and crayfish, but probably not as tasty. The young look like the adults, minus an extra set of legs.

They are excellent little recyclers in your garden’s food chain feeding on dead and decaying vegetable and animal matter. Occasionally they will feed on roots and stems of your seedlings. So if you have more than your fair share of woodlice make sure you keep your garden tidy, not leaving bricks or logs lying around which provide nice homes for woodlice (slugs and snails too). And if they really are a problem you can kill them by pouring hot water on them – OUCH!

One comment on “Patch from Scratch – January update

  1. I get all confused about when and what minerals and nutrients I should be adding to my new vege garden. It was created in October and had liberal dosings of pig manure and blood and bone, but since then I haven’t added anything else. Should I be adding stuff every time I plant something new?

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