This month’s main task has been harvesting and preserving. Pears and apples are being dehydrated, put into cool store or if (Pete’s) lucky made into pies and Jelly’s. Some of you may even have a go at cider and Perry (on the one day list). The freezer is currently full of corn and Beans. I have managed to make a few Jars of tomato and basil sauce…This is the first time I have had enough of my own tomatoes to do so… quite a buzz. Have enough cabbages nearly ready so that this week I can have a go at making my own sauerkraut, which is something I have wanted to do for a while. It is a great time for collecting wild foods too such as Hawthorns for Jelly, and mushrooms. It is also the time of the year for collecting seed from many plants not just our garden veges, but also many other local plants such as fruit and nut tree seeds, and native seed such as flax and toitoi. Toitoi seed collected and sown 3 weeks ago for the Sherwood school Adeane’s bush shade house are already germinating well. Stone fruit and chestnuts are very rewarding and easy to grow. Stone fruit such as peaches, almonds and Apricots will grow true to type so a ‘Golden Queen ‘Peach stone will produce a ‘Golden Queen ‘ tree. These fruit and nut trees like a winter chilling, so either collect the seed now and store with a bit of damp sand or sawdust in plastic bags in the fridge for winter or sow while fresh in pots or a garden bed and leave in a shady spot. They will germinate in spring.
While doing all this harvesting sowing and preserving it is a good time to think about what worked well this season, What didn’t and what can I do better/ differently next season. I have found that setting myself a few small goals for the garden season has produced much better results. I am generally not much of a shopper but when it comes to garden centres , seed and tree catalogues I am definitely an addict thus I end up with too many plants and no organised plan for planting and looking after them. This season I showed a bit of willpower (Planning with a partner helps too) which definitely paid off. The first decision was that this year I wouldn’t even try to grow Capsicums and eggplants as the gardens that were rich enough for these heavy feeders were going to be occupied with tomatoes, consequently I have had the best tomato crop ever and that’s despite the first lot of seedlings planted out being smoted by a late November frost. This year we also wanted to ensure that we had food in the garden for late winter early spring. This is often the leanest time. For us our main greens last year was kale through these months, the challenge was set after having kale three nights in a row one week Pete said to me “You can buy veges you know”. So far we seem to be on track. Brassicas planted in November are coming ready, with the multisprouting broccoli being able to be picked over several weeks. The second lot planted in January are growing well and will hopefully feed us through autumn early winter. The last lot of seedlings have had a boost from this recent rain and should give us some food at least through late winter. Carrots and parsnips are well established too. Combined with corn and beans in the freezer there is no reason for over doing the Kale or silver beet this year.
What would we do differently? Our pumpkins have not done well this year. My observation has noted that the one pumpkin plant which did do well was planted where a pile of horse manure had been dumped, while using it to spread around the garden. We did pile well-rotted manure in tyres as well as compost for our other pumpkins, but they were done immediately before planting rather than left to be incorporated into the soil over several months. We are collecting horse manure at the moment from a couple of locals so a good time to plan where next year’s pumpkins will go, pile the spots with manure and leave till planting in November.
The other main task to be doing now is preparing garden beds for winter resting. Those beds that will be empty for the winter can be mulched heavily or planted with a green crop such as oats and / or broad beans and left till spring.
With all the busyness at this time of the year I look forward to the cooler months to enjoy rich winter soups made from the garden, a good fire and some time spent reading and planning for spring. HAPPY HARVEST