September In The Vegie Patch

broccoli shoots

September is all about greens – broccoli shoots for africa (so useful aren’t they!), cabbages, leeks, celery and leafy greens galore.

Leafy greens are the best! They may not be as glamourous as a tomato or trendy as a kohlrabi, but they’re the easiest, by far and away the most nutritious and so very generous. If you keep up with picking the outside leaves for dinner and removing the old ratty foliage regularly from the bottom, they’ll go for ages. Some over one whole season, others over 2 seasons and many for years! If there’s one thing worthy of your gardening time, let it be a swag of greens.

Try a few new ones each season and steadily build a diverse collection that’ll take you through the year. That way, no matter what happens in the outside world – you’ve got nourishing fresh greens, every night for tea.

cavalo nero, bishops flower, borage and dahlias
Cavalo Nero, bishops flower, borage and dahlias

Go diverse and grow lots of different ones. Stirfries and salads are much more flavour-some and exciting with a bunch of 12 or so different greens. Spunky ones like cavalo nero, bronze fennel or russian red kale, spicy ones like land cress, mizuna or rocket, creamy ones like miners lettuce bok choy or komatsuna, crisp ones like little gem lettuce or gai lan, bitter endive, dandelion or chicory for inner mojo, pretty ones like chard, coriander or italian parsley, nourishing chickweed, lovely lemony sorrell, refreshing mint and fragrant dill …. so many cool ones to choose from.

Chard seedlings for winter greens planted in the flower garden

Grow them in containers or along the picking edge for ease of harvest with herbs, flowers, roses or under fruit trees as well in the vegie patch. Leave the ones you love to eat, go to seed and let them resow themselves everywhere. Free seedlings! There’s nothing cooler than a forest of useful leafy greens turning up right when you need them, without even lifting a finger.

Eat Up Winter Crops

harvest all the roots before the weather warms up edible backyard nz

Put a concentrated effort into eating overwintering rootcrops still in the ground. As weather warms they’ll gear up to seed getting a hard core up the centre or they’ll start to crack and split and do other crazy things – get them up before they go past their best… 100 ways with carrots!! Keep an eye on your leeks as well. Better to eat them small than with a hard core.

Keep the Soil Covered + Fit Heaps in a Small Space

Living mulch of chicory, parsley + naughty marietta marigolds. No room for weeds! Harvest a chicory and cover the space right away with a new plant or seed or some mulch. When parsley gets too rambunctious – simply snap off the extra and make pesto or use it for mulch.

Make this your garden mantra. This one simple thing brings so very many benefits. The less we bare our soils, the stronger the soil life ergo the less pests and disease we have and the less fertilisers we need.

Mulch is easy, just spread it on in any gaps, its so fab for soil health, especially if its a mixed, varied mulch and not the same one season after season.

April in the berryhouse - salads brassicas leeks and leafy greens planted amongst zinnias and marigolds

Breathable fabric like sacks, shadecloth, old sheets – are also awesome. A collection of bits + pieces of fabric is super useful in the garden shed. I always cover freshly sown seed with fabric. This keeps the moisture in and protects seed from birds, rain, wind et all making for faster germination. I also use fabric as an emergency soil cover when I run out of time to finish my garden missions or can’t be bothered gathering mulch.

Plants though (include weeds in this lot) are the very best soil cover of all, because soil life – those ambassadors of abundance – gather on plant roots. The more plants you jam in an area the more soil life collects. The greater variety of plants you grow in an area the greater variety of soil life.

greenhouse tomatoes planted amongst saladings ediblebackyard nz
Greenhouse tomatoes planted amongst existing saladings

Keep the soil covered with plants by sowing or planting new crops at the feet of finishing crops. Trim off older ratty leaves on the older crop to give a bit more light and once the new crop is established chop the old crop off at the soil line, leaving its roots in place. This continuity of cover is called a living mulch. It takes time and practice to get into the rhythm of it, but once you get there you got it all going on. Very little weeding to do and best of all you start to pump out an incredible amount of produce in a very small space.

A Quick Fix for Weedy Spots

Black plastic covers a weedy patch

Sort all the weedy spots in your garden this month so the ground is ready to plant next month. Dont put your back out and ruin your soil structure by digging the soil out, grab a bit of plastic, lay it on top of the weeds and weight it down. You could also use card and mulch or just thick mulch. Forget about it for a while and when you return all the weeds will have melted into the soil in the most nourishing of ways. Spread some compost and get ready to sow or plant!

Beneath black plastic the weeds are cleared
After the plastic is removed – weeds are melted into the soil and hello worms!

In the Vegie Patch

bee on borage edible backyard n

Take your cropping success next level and check your soil temperature before planting or sowing anything. Align your crop choices with it. Nature is finely tuned to temperature and one of the biggest reasons for crop failure is that they were planted in soil thats too cold for them.

In the Garden

Purple Sprouting Broccoli underplanted with redclover parsnips and red clover

Plant out celery, broccoli, cabbage, bok choy, kale, silverbeet, parsley, salads, onions, leeks, potatoes.
Direct sow carrots, kohlrabi, beetroot, turnip, parsnip, rocket, chicory, endive, spinach, mesclun, miners lettuce, corn salad, salads, bok choy, gai lan, kale, cress, komatsuna, snopeas, peas, broadbeans, fennel, dill, coriander, shallots, spring onions.
Tray sow celeriac, salads, silverbeet, parsley, chervil.
Companion flowers Direct, or tray sow, or plant as many as you can cram in! eg: calendula, cornflower, poppy, nasturtium, borage, sweet pea, snapdragon, aquilegia, viola, wallflower, larkspur, hollyhock.

In the Greenhouse (or under cover)

greenhouse toms1

Tray sow tomato, chilli, pepper, aubergine, zucchini, cucumber, melon. Because I live at the foothills of the Tararuas, these will all be grown in my greenhouse.

Don’t jones out and rush into summer crops if you live somewhere cool. Patience grasshopper. Planting heat lovers when its hot means less stress, less pest, more crops, happy gardener.

Direct sow dwarf beans, salads, courgette. Love my greenhouse for providing a warm place to grow these guys in this early on.

Begin your kumara shoots.

Lay the mother kumara in a sandbox

Here Comes The Asparagus!

asparagus-november

Blimmey, could it get more exciting! Asparagus is popping up and soon to be part of dinner. Hopefully your patch is weed free, composted, mulched = ready for a productive season. If you’ve yet to weed be ever so careful – the spears are super fragile and break off with the slightest knock.

New Potatoes For Christmas + My Potato Planting Plan

spuds in buckets

Having spent a good portion of my life coaxing vegetables from soil, I’m weather wary. Between now and the arrival of summer there will be days for shorts, days for raincoats, and days for beanies. I’m cautious with the planting out of tender crops like potatoes – such a waste when they get bowled over by late frosts.

If you live in warmer climes you’ll be able to get your spuds in ground. Steer clear of cold, wet soil though, potatoes prefer loose soil at 10 – 13 degrees. Or even better, if you have a stash of organic matter, grow them under a pile of it. One desperate spring I poked some spuds under a pile of old grass clippings and got a decent crop – they’ll grow in anything! As you’ve probably already noticed – those rogue potato seedlings turn up in the strangest of places. I leave these where they are by the way. Every extra kilo of delicious homegrown potatoes is most welcome in my house.

potatoes growing in a pile of weeds and hay
Potatoes growing in a pile of weeds and hay

We’ll likely get a few decent cold snaps in Horowhenua in the next month or so, so my first lot of spuds go into buckets – a great use for cracked, broken buckets or sacks, boxes anything that’ll hold soil is fair game.

If you want spuds for christmas then choose fast growers like Rocket, Swift, Liseta or even Cliff Kidney. Otherwise take your pick.

Make holes in the bottom for drainage and line with about 10cm of compost or good garden soil.

seaweed potatoes

Lay your seed potato in (one per 10litre bucket), on top of a few bits of seaweed if you’re lucky enough to be seaside or a bunch of comfrey if its up at your place. Top the bucket up with compost/ or straw/ or old hay or a mix of the above to bury the spud – and you’re off!

When the weather starts to heat up you’ll need to move the bucket amongst taller crops or flowers to keep the soil cool but leave the tops in the light. This is never going to produce the same amount were the tubers in the ground, but it gives those of us on heavy wet ground the opportunity for early potatoes.

planting seed potatoes

Potatoes are the only crop I dig the soil for. I plant my first inground lot in October, again in November and if summers dragging her heels, again in December. Potatoes aren’t fans of heat. In recent years I’ve also done an autumn lot, depending on how the soil and season is, in my attempts to spread the harvest because storage is difficult.

Another string to my bow are the potatoes that are happily growing semi wild beneath my deciduous fruit trees. They began in the way of all my gardens – with cardboard laid on top of the ground. A generous shovelful of compost or good garden soil or a layer of seaweed or comfrey beneath the seed potato and on top, a mash up of whatever organic matter I could scrounge piled about 1m high. That’s it. A handy dandy supply for between harvests.

Wild potatoes growing beneath figs

Left alone they’ve spread about the place, winding amongst all the fruit tree companions. Fossick about beneath the mature tops to find the purple delights within. Wherever you remove potatoes be sure to replace with a bucket load of mulch as a sign of your gratitude, a lovely bit of give and take and impetus to keep up the good work.

Comments

  1. hi Kath, last year my raspberries, boysenberries and hortberry had an infestation of caterpillars in them and rendered the majority of the fruit inedible. The thing burrowed its way down the centre of the fruit to lay its eggs. Would you know what this is and how to avoid it this season?

    Warmest regards,
    Jo

    • Hi Jo – that’s a real bummer! Let me know if it was a small white worm or a caterpillar?

      • hi Kath, I think it was a small brown caterpillar from memory. There were lots of moths around the berries and we wondered if that was the final product?
        Warmest regards
        Jo

        • yip that’ll be it then raspberry bud moth (was ruling out the other option – a fruit fly relation).
          Begin with pruning and burning your prunings. Tie your raspberries to the frame keeping them open and well spread so that the spray is effective. I’d use dipel or any spray with the active ingredient BT bacillus thurengensis, a caterpillar specific spray. You need to achieve good foliage coverage. When the eggs hatch out they bite the foliage and die – hurrah! Fortnightly sprays will keep up with egg hatchings. I hope you have a backpack sprayer to make this job easy.
          My raspberry pest is shield bugs who suck the life out of them leaving corky berries – I too have to spray every fortnight but with Neem. Its a mission but Raspberries are so worth it!
          hope this helps
          love to hear how you get on
          kind regards
          Kath

          • hi Kath, thank you!! I’ll get spraying with dipel and let you know how it goes.

            Happy gardening!
            Jo

  2. Spring is such an exciting time of year. I’m from the northern hemisphere and I get such a kick out of seeing your season ramp up (asparagus!) while ours is starting to wind down (garlic!). Good luck in the garden!

  3. I would like to have a contiuous supply of leeks through the winter and into the spring,I live in the Waikato.When should I sow the seeds?

  4. Hi Kath
    Could you recommend an alternative to pea straw to use around potted strawberry plants, hard to buy locally so wondered if seaweed would be ok..though it dries hard and woody? Much appreciated

    • Seaweed is best under the mulch to make the most of it, but you can get what locals call tea leaves from the beach which is the broken up woody seaweedy brew dumped at the tide line. Also you can use any runings/ crop waste/ leaf litter/ grass clippings and mix them together for an excellent mulch.
      Happy gardening Kath

  5. Hi Kath, I planted out broccoli about a month ago and it had bolted and is starting to flower. Would you know why that could be?
    Thanks, Holly

  6. Yes that’s probably it! We had a couple of nice warm spring weeks then turned cold again a few days ago. I’m in the top of the South Island so it fluctuates a bit at this time of the year.

  7. Annie Cochrane says

    Hi Kath
    Great to get your newsletter this morning, giving me more ideas to add to the spring growth. I have a problem with tomato/potato psyllid here. ( I live in Raglan). So each year is a battle to keep my tomatoes producing. Potatoes arent a problem as they are easy to cover with fine mesh, and I grow them early. With Tomatoes, I add Need granules to the planting hole, and then spray with Neem and this does help – but its hit and miss. The only sure fire solution is to cover with mesh, but this makes it hard to access the plants to nip out side shoots and inhibits their growth (mechanically). Do you have this problem, and any solutions?
    Thanks, Annie
    Thank you!

    • Hey Annie – psyllids are a trick for sure. Neem is awesome though not hit and miss at all! You need to spray regularly to keep up with hatching eggs, start early – ie dont let the population get away on you, prune tomatoes so when you do spray you easily achieve complete cover, build beneficial insect populations up and use Naturally Neem cos not all Neem is made equal. Sucking insects are attracted to high nitrogen soils so think how you can pull back here and create a more balanced approach to soil care – mean time get on with the Neem 🙂 https://www.ediblebackyard.co.nz/5-ways-to-beat-the-tomato-potato-psyllid/. Wishing you beauty tomatoes this coming season! Kath

      • Annie Cochrane says

        Thank you Kath, I”ll be persistent in regular sprays of Neem this season. And will mix it with EM and Ocean organics seaweed. I use organic Neem oil from Green Trading so hopefully it is one of the superior brands of Neem. Will check out Naturally Neem also. Thanks for all the good advice – may my beautiful heirlooms survive this season.

  8. Michelle Scofield says

    Hi Kath,
    I hope that you and your whanau are all well! Just wanting some clarification around which part of the ‘j’ of the kumara seedlings you face to the North when planting out please. Do you mean the tail piece? Many thanks

  9. interested in your intercropping suggestion. My garden tends to get rather weedy as the season wears on, and I have found that this ‘biodiversity’ is not are bad as I once thought. It is surprising what comes out of it and in the dry of summer, bare soil dries really quickly, the less beautiful but somewhat untidy weeds keep everything damper. However, planting closer (i.e. with different plants) would be a better idea! The potatoes in buckets in the glass house are a great idea – i might try it with yams as well. Our frost free season is a bit short for yams, but this might lengthen it a bit at either end, I hope, as the huge dark red yams available at supermarkets are nothing like as good as the older, smaller pink yams of days gone by.

    • I agree about the yams! Grab some from Sethas seeds, the yams they sell for seed are the best tasting ones I’ve grown. And they work really well in buckets too! Piling mulch on top of the weeds is much better for soil health and back health – its a win win. So too the paradigm shift from tidy to alive 🙂 Nice to hear from you, Kath

  10. HI Kath, The interplanting makes perfect sense. We are in South Auckland on a small block sloping gently nor/west with a clay base soil. I wanted to start a food forest and 5 yrs ago on a 1/4 acre patch planted natives for wind filter from the south, then some nikau palms for sun/wind filters and then in the centre…bananas, sugar cane, babaco, with lemon balm as ground cover and canna lilies for chop and drop mulch in situ. It was all growing incrediblly well, till we added Kune kunes to eat the surrounding grass. They’ve destroyed most of it by ‘ploughing’ everything up and completely eaten all fruiting 20 bananas. I’m wondering if its a silly idea now to let them continue ‘ploughing up’ the 1/4 acre, and then come autumn heavily plant the whole area, so there is little or no grass and then re home them?

    • Ah yes – pigs are in heaven! Pigs root ground, its how they roll so if you dont want the ground turned over then pigs aren’t suited to your site. Such great animals to have on the team though. Unless you can make them work for you – fence off the bananas or grow them their own forest or rotate them through seasonally to help … too hard to say remotely Tricia. Theres no right or wrong though aye – you’ve tried the pigs and now know how they behave. If you cant make them work for you then may as well re home them for sure. The food forest sounds primo 🙂

  11. Hi Kath thanks for that, I’m going to dig up all my root veg this afternoon! I have a question: I have a row of brassicas that I planted a couple of months ago in part of the garden that doesn’t get very good sunlight so they are still very puny specimens. Is it worth digging them up and replanting in places where I had really good brassicas that are now gone? Or are the plants doomed after languishing for so long? Thanks!

    • Have a play Alana – this is golden! Brassicas can transplant and produce – though in my experience brocolli will go straight to shoots rather than head, but shoots are still super valuable. Dig a few, leave a few – watch it play out. A bit of compost with the puny ones probs not a bad idea. Happy days!

  12. Hi Kath.
    I’ve just set up a raised bed system and trying the rotational crop method. Anyways my first two beds up and running have peas/beans and the second carrots and onions.

    What companion planting woudl you reccomend? Do I ley them grow over each other or is it planting them next to each other in their own space if that makes sense. All new to me.

    Cheers

    Mel

    • Its over whelming when you start out aye! I’m probs going to annoy you by saying there is no definative answer!! Best way to learn is just to try things out and watch and learn. Heres my simple crop rotation method to help you work out what order to plant things in and get you on the road https://www.ediblebackyard.co.nz/?s=crop+rotation
      My advice is keep it very simple at the start. Just grow one crop at a time while you find your feet. Getting to know each individual crop comes first ok – then once you feel comfy here spread out into layering up intercropping and mixing things up.

  13. Hi Kath,

    I trimmed down my asparagus fronds back in winter. Fed with manure and added a little extra sand where the crowns were exposing themselves. Then chopped the cut fronds into 10cm lengths to top the patch as a self-mulch. The first shoots are showing now but they’re struggling to break through the thick mulch layer and when they do appear, are not straight but all bent and squiggly. My patch is wild and hairy looking. Nothing like your picture above with tidy straight shoots breaking through a fine homogeneous mulch layer. Should I lift the mulch so they don’t have to work so hard to break through?

    Thanks,
    Kirstie

    • Hey Kirstie. Asparagus has a strong spirit and will push through a cow pat, deep mulch …. all manner of things. There is something else going on here. Poor drainage is the most common issue. Check in with the soil first of all – smell it and feel it. How old is your patch? How did it grow last year? Ponder these things and get back to me if you like.

  14. Nan Sinclair says

    Morning Kath, I’m way down south and have a healthy crop of broccoli and cauliflower just about ready to harvest in my glasshouse. Have I got time to do a crop of buckwheat before I plant tomatoes? Thanks

    • Oh yes, then sow the greencrop at the feet of the brassicas. Add in phacelia and or crimson clover if you have then to hand – they will also go down a treat. If you need to create a bit more space break off the lower, ratty leaves. You can plant your tomato seedlings into pockets in the greencrop, slashing back the greencrop as it grows. Enjoy!

  15. Having recently found your blog and ordered you book online. I want to say how much I’m enjoying this newsletter and all the useful links. Also loving your fruit growing video. It’s provided a feel good focus at a time when there’s lots of negative news. I can’t wait for the book😊 ……thanks 🌿

  16. Hannah Styles says

    Hi Kath.
    I love reading your blog and getting lots of tips and tricks to use in my own garden.
    I cut back my asparagus when it had died back and chucked them in the compost (I know to use them on the bed next time). I added some compost a few months ago and now that things are warming up the weeds are starting to creep through. I’d really like to add a mulch to slow the weeds.
    So could I add on a mulch now even though the asparagus is coming through? And what would be the best mulch to use?
    Thanks!

    • Oh yes great idea to get a mulch on now Hannah. If you by chance live near a beach then seaweed or the beach “tea leaves” that wash up is awesome – asparagus loves stuff from the sea seeing as thats where it originates from. If not then a lovely brew of grass clippings and leaves and whatever youve got that can create a dense cover to block light.

  17. Hi Kath
    I’m looking at purchasing a heating pad, can you tell me what brand you use please. Also what would be your recommendations on organic fertilisers both solid and foliage feed for Vega gardens and fruit trees. Looking forward to the arrival of your book loved the video….thanks so much

    • Mine has an eagle on it – so perhaps the brand is eagle 🙂 I’m pretty sure if you buy from a good NZ shop itll be a good un.
      For fert I’m a huge fan of compost, mixed mulch and full spectrum mineral fertiliser FODDA – youll find it online.
      Enjoy K