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Week in Retrospect : 1 Jan 2018 – 7 Jan 2018

Week in Retrospect : 1 Jan 2018 – 7 Jan 2018

And just like that, it is a new year! 2018 marks the 5th year that I’ve lived in New Zealand, the golden year of immigration adjustment, if sources are to be believed. I’ve always loved being a Kiwi, but let’s hope this year will indeed…

Rose Petal Jam – How To

Rose Petal Jam – How To

When life gives you rose petals… make rose petal jam (or jelly)! Every day that my Westerland climbing rose is in flower and I walk up to, or out of my front door, where the scent from it is strongest, I long to capture that…

Chamomile Tea – How To

Their white and yellow daisy heads nod on their stems above the fresh apple-scented ferny leaves as bumblebees and bees flit to and fro. Summertime is chamomile time.

Take the time to harvest and dry some of your own chamomile for a year’s worth of calming and soothing chamomile tea.

For more on chamomile, see:

Chamomile: http://meadowsweet.co.nz/2016/08/05/chamomile/
Chamomile Tea: http://meadowsweet.co.nz/2015/12/10/chamomile-tea/

Chamomile – German (Matricaria recutita syn. Chamomilla recutita)

Chamomile – Roman (Chamaemelum nobile syn. Athemis nobilis)

 

Newsletter – January 2018

Newsletter – January 2018

A brand new year! Happy New Year! This edition of the newsletter is a bit longer than normal, but simply because I’ve got some business news to share. Other than these updates on the running of MeadowSweet, it is full of what is happening in…

Newsletter – November 2017

Newsletter – November 2017

It is mid Spring, and although some days are still terribly cold, it is a very exciting time in the garden! Herbs, flowers, vegetables, and fruit are all starting to grow and flourish and promises of upcoming summer harvests are plentiful! This newsletter focuses on…

Week in Retrospect – Monday, 25 Sept – Sunday, 1 Oct

Week in Retrospect – Monday, 25 Sept – Sunday, 1 Oct

With the wicked wind today, it is best to reflect on gardening last week, than to try and go outside to do anything! Luckily so far my tomatoes and zucchinis seem only a bit windblown, but not worse for wear. I don’t think the colder evening we had last night, nor the hail, would affect them too much. Most of the time the weather is more than adequate for their continual growth, so I’m excited for summer produce to come soon.

In the Nursery

Last week, being a productive planting time according to the moon calendar had me sowing quite a bit (for the latest moon calender see October 2017). This is what I sowed:

Vegetables

  • Artichoke – Purple de Jesi
  • Beans – Heritage Takamatua Black Runner
  • Beans – Heritage Climbing Emu
  • Beans – Heritage Climbing Selugia
  • Beetroot – Colour Mix
  • Caigua
  • Cucumber – Mini White Wonder
  • Cucumber – Telegraph Long Green
  • Cucumber – Richmond Green
  • Cucumber – Yellow Port Albert
  • Eggplant – Ping Tung Long
  • Eggplant – Black Beauty
  • Eggplant – Tsakoniki
  • Fennel – Milano
  • Gherkins
  • Lettuce – Danyelle
  • Lettuce – Aapche
  • Lettuce – Drunken Woman Fringed Head
  • Lettuce – Freckles
  • Luffah
  • Okra – Burgundy
  • Okra – Clemson Spineless
  • Peas – Yellow Sugar Snap
  • Peans
  • Pumpkins, squash and gourds
  • Selection of chillies and sweet peppers
  • Selection of more heirloom tomatoes
  • Silverbeet – Bright Lights Mix
  • Sweetcorn and popping corn
  • Zucchini – Black Beauty
  • Zucchini – Cocozelle
  • Zucchini – Costata Romano
  • Zucchini – Fiorentino
  • Zucchini – Golden Heirloom

Fruit

  • Cape Gooseberry
  • Melon – Italian
  • Pepino
  • Roselle (Jam plant)
  • Tamarillo, Red
  • Tomatillo – Grande Verde
  • Tomatillo – Purple
  • Watermelon – Sugar Baby
  • Watermelon – Gold Nugget
  • Watermelon – Moon and Stars

Herbs & Flowers

  • Anise Hyssop – White & Blue
  • Balm of Gilead
  • Basil  – Selection (Sweet, Fino Verde, Greek Bush, Lettuce Leaf, Lemon, Lime, Thai, Cinnamon, Sacred)
  • Chives
  • Coriander
  • Dahlia
  • Echinacea
  • Elecampane
  • Lesser Calamint
  • Liquorice
  • Lovage
  • Marshmallow
  • Mugwort
  • Parsley – Flat Leaf Italian
  • Rocket – Salad & Wild
  • Sage
  • Sunflowers
  • Thyme
  • Wormwood
  • Zinnia
Sprouted chillies
Tulsi

I potted up some sprouted chillies that I managed to do in zip-loc baggies on wet paper towels on the hot water cylinder. Quite impressed by the success rate of this! The larger chillies got put in their big bags and are ready for markets now.

Sacred basil is coming along nicely, as is the new lemongrass, and even more sunflowers.

 

 

Getting ready to make a lot of cuttings, which I’m hoping to get to in this coming week in the last few days of moon calendar fertility.

“Empty” looking bags of Horseradish are filling out, as are all the Echinacea and Marshmallows from last season. Only one Liquorice seemed to have made it out of dormancy though…

In the Orchard

We (my kids and I) re-potted our two gifted lemons, another Lemonade and Yen Ben, and I finally potted up the finger lime into a bigger pot. We dressed all the other citrus fruit trees with some compost and gave everything a good feed for spring growth.

My potted fig had a fruit on it! But unfortunately it got bumped off when I moved the pot around… luckily there seems to be more coming!

I’m super excited to finally have my insect hotel up! It is still in its building stages, but it is already looking amazing. I hope will add to the biodiversity of the garden, and stand as a learning point for all who come and visit, or at least be a great talking point in the garden.

My grape astounded me (it is an Albany Surprise after all!) with having flowers already! I thought she was late in budding into leaf, but seems she was exactly on time, but I’m sure she is early with her efforts in fruiting!

 

 

 

In the Bee & Butterfly Garden

With the archway in and the sweet peas starting to grow up it, it was lovely to put my two sentinel maypole crab apples to either side of it in beautiful terracotta pots. They are also finally showing leaf budding! I’m so very excited for them. Of my other two dwarf fruit trees, Mischief and Little Rascal, only one is showing buds, I hope the other still wakes up!

The flowers are growing in nicely in this garden, and empty spaces are filling up. In my minds’ eye, I can see how it will look all grown and flowering!

In my Vegetable Garden

Not much planting happened, but a lot of hardscaping – I fixed up the pavers on the walkway around the raised vegetable beds, and remulched around them. I managed to split more lawn chamomile to put in throughout the path as well. 
As for new additions – I got a mustard lettuce plant to go with my red giant mustard, and a hops plant, which is actually a bit from a plant that I gave a friend some time ago when I didn’t have the place to grow my own hops.

Oh! And my zucchini flowered already too – I think about a week after I put it in the ground! And it looks happy. Now just to wait for the female flowers to catch up, and soon it will be zucchini time!

The raised beds are pretty much cleaned out and ready to be planted up, and most of the vegetables that I have planned to go in there are ready and waiting too…I’m just waiting for the weather to play with.

Not that no planting happened – I put in some dwarf beans with my zucchini in the raised beds they’re going to share with my eggplants. , and managed to redo the first two gutter gardens with wild strawberry (Fragaria vesca) and violas.

We (well, my amazing husband) made me more pollinator flower boxes to edge the vegetable garden with. That is going to look epic when its all flowering! Bring on the bees!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Finally, I did spend some time on most days simply watching and enjoying the wildlife in my garden – particularly the bees that went crazy over the red coral mizuna I let flower.

In the Knowledge Base

Newsletter published on Sunday – check out October 2017

Used

This week, I used quite a bit out of my garden for our food, here’s just a few examples:

Lettuce and herb leaf mix for sandwiches – includes Freckles Lettuce, Green Ruffec Endive, Salad Burnet and Red Giant Mustard.
Dressed up egg salad sandwich – mixed in chives and garnished with edible flowers
Ingredients for a lovely South-African Portuguese inspired marinade to make chicken prego rolls
Roast garlic with oregano and thyme to go with our Mediterranean roast vegetables.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Newsletter – October 2017

Newsletter – October 2017

With spring really settling into most of the country, it is full-on gardening time! Get ready to sow and grow to your  heart’s content as we head into summer and and abundance of produce. Check out the monthly calendar for moon-calendar based growing tips, as…

How to grow Chillies & Peppers

How to grow Chillies & Peppers

From bell peppers to Carolina reapers – there’s a capsicum taste sensation to suit every level of heat tolerance, and they come in such an array of beautiful shapes, colours and sizes too, easily making them collector’s plants. Chillies remain one of my best sellers,…

Companion Planting Principles

Companion Planting Principles

When you picture a vegetable garden in your minds’ eye, I am sure that somewhere there’ll be a bright and proud row of marigolds, or perhaps a nasturtium trailing through… and if I would ask whether you plant basil with your tomatoes, most people would nod enthusiastically.

Is there reason behind these common planting schemes other than the beauty of having a few flowers and herbs dotted about your growing vegetables? Is the idea that some plants hinder or help each other all a bit hocus-pocus, or does companion planting have a valid space in the growing agenda?

What is Companion Planting

DICTIONARY: Companion planting is a system by which certain plants are grouped together in the garden, or not planted in close proximity, according to the purported effects they have on each other.

People have planted certain crops with their companions for thousands of years—the mosquito fern alongside rice paddies one example, and the 3-sisters method by which the native Americans grew squash, beans and corn together long before European settlement, another.

Companion planting gained momentum in the 1970’s as part of the organic growing movement, and today is commonly practiced as a part of permaculture methodology.

Reasons to Companion Plant

The phenomenon where different plants thrive more when planted close together, can be attributed to one (or more) of the three “P”s of companion planting: Pest Control, Pollination and Productivity.

Pest Control

Possibly the best known, and most widely practiced companion planting is done toward eliminating insect pest problems. The scent of flowers, or leaves, of certain plants act as natural deterrents for insect pests, e.g. Rosemary (Rosmarinus officinalis) and Wormwood (Artemisia absinthium). Plants used in this way may either smell bad enough (to insects) to discourage them from landing, or it could be that they smell strong enough to mask the food crop’s scent to the pests.

It is not only above-ground pests that are controlled by companions, the root secretions of some plants are said to keep pests at bay, e.g. Marigolds (Tagetes spp).

 

 

 

 

 

 

Planting companions which pests prefer over the original host crop also helps control pest damage in the garden. Nasturtiums
(Tropaeolum majus) is an effective sacrificial crop or trap crop as it attracts pests away from the main crop, e.g. aphids from roses, and caterpillars from cabbages. Oftentimes the ladybug-lookalike juvenile stink bugs can be found en masse in flower heads of calendula (Calendula officinalis), making it easy to pick the whole flower head and discard the insects before they grow up to wreak havoc on your crops.

While some companions deter the bad insects, or attract them away from your main crop, another set of companions can be
chosen because they are a perfect habitat for beneficial insects, particularly those that prey on insect pests. The flowers of yarrow (Achilliea millefolium) and lacy tansy (Phacelia tanacetifolia) attract hoverflies for example, while dill (Anethum graveolens) and fennel (Foeniculum vulgare) are good for lacewings, and ladybugs find golden Marguerites (Anthemis tinctoria) and tansy (Tanacetum vulgare) irresistible.

Pollination

Planting ornamental plants between your herbs and vegetables (or vegetables in your aesthetic garden) has become quite fashionable. And for good reason too – all the pretty and perfumed flowers attract pollinators! These days there’s a lot of media attention about planting for bees, and the list of plants that attract pollinators such as birds, bees, bumblebees, butterflies, moths, and even beneficial wasps to our gardens, is very long – a few examples of which are borage (Borago officinalis), bee balm (Monarda didyma), calendula (Calendula officinalis), alyssum (Lobularia maritima), thyme (Thymus vulgaris) and lavender (Lavandula spp).

Planting guilds for fruit trees, as proposed by permaculture principles, always make lots of space for these pollinator attracting plants.

 

 

 

Productivity

Intercropping companionable plants allows gardeners to use space most effectively without compromising on crop quality. Planting radishes and lettuces in close proximity, for example, or lettuces in the shade of a cucumber trellis, are good examples of using plants beneficially alongside each other to maximize use of space. A classical example of this is the 3-sisters method of growing beans, squash and corn together. Many square foot garden plans and food forest gardening takes intensive intercropping into consideration.

Productivity is also naturally increased by the other two p’s of companion planting – preventing pests and providing pollination – resulting in happier plants and abundant produce.

 

 

 

 

 

 

The fourth “P”

There is another set of plants I would like to include in the companion tables, a group I’m going to call imProvers as they can be used to improve the plants and soil in your garden. Comfrey (Symphytum officinale) is a good companion to bring up mineral nutrients from deep down as their tap roots can extend more than 3m! The leaves are great in the compost pile, or to make a foliar feed for the garden. Yarrow leaves (Achilliea millefolium) activates compost and is said to speed decomposition too. Chamomile (Chamaemelum nobile and Matricaria recutita) are physician plants – said to revive any ailing plant grown in its proximity, while Foxglove (Digitalis purpurea) is noted for its growth-stimulating effect on nearby plants.

From planting to plate

Some garden friendships carry through to the table – not only do tomatoes and basil grow well together, but they pair beautifully in food too. Another that works well in the garden and the pot, is beans and savory, and if you have lavender growing around your peach or nectarine trees – try a few lavender blossoms in your next fruit dessert, they go magically.

Does it really work

Companion planting has many skeptics, and while some claims have been scientifically proven to be at least somewhat true, planting companions together is by no means a miracle cure, or the complete answer to all your gardening problems. A garden should always be considered as a whole, and companion planting should be considered as another tool with which the gardener can work toward the end result they desire.

I personally have always gardened according to companion planting principles, and have had really good results in my garden. I firmly believe that the combinations that I have trialed have led to crop plants that grow optimally.

Charts and lists

Don’t be put off by the long lists and complicated charts on companion planting that are rife through the internet. Start small, and basic, and expand as you gain confidence. And don’t be afraid to try new things, or test “given” companion plant combinations – you may just be rewarded with an extraordinary crop, or if not, at least have gained the hands-on knowledge.

My go-to companions

Here follows a list of things I have planted together to great success before:

Apples with lavender (Lavandula spp)

Tomatoes with a selection of basil (Ocimum basilicum), in particular sweet basil, mini bush basil, lime, Thai (liquorice) and cinnamon basil. Quintessentially I always have Marigolds (Tagetes spp) dotted around my tomatoes, as well as chives (Allium schoenoprassum), lettuce (Lactuca sativa) and chamomile (Matricaria recutita). I have had self-seeded Heartsease viola (Viola tricolor) coming up under and through my tomatoes and lettuces last year, and they looked so delightful, that I’m going to continue with that, at the very least it forms an edible flower living mulch.

Beans (and broad beans) with creeping winter savory (Satureja montana ‘Prostrata’) and marjoram (Origanum majorana) with a large Rosemary (Rosmarinus officinalis ‘Tuscan Blue’) and Sage (Salvia officinalis) close by.

Brassicas with dill (Anethum graveolens), nasturtium (Tropaeolum majus) and marjoram/oreganum (Origanum spp).

Chillies and Peppers with Oregano (Origanum vulgare)

Cucumber with sunflowers (Helianthus annuus) and lettuces (Lactuca sativa)

Eggplant (Aubergine) with dwarf bush beans (Phaseolus spp), spinach (Spinacia spp), thyme (Thymus vulgaris) and French tarragon (Artemisia dracunculus)

Grape with scented pelargonium (Pelargonium spp), in particular I have an Albany Surprise grape planted with citronella scented pelargonium). I also have Hyssop (Hyssopus officinalis) with my grape, and a comfrey (Symphytum officinalis) as well as tansy (Tanacetum vulgare) growing nearby.

Lettuce with radish (Raphanus sativus) and chervil (Antrhiscus cerefolium) and using lettuce as a companion for various other plants

Lemons with borage (Borago officinalis), thyme (Thymus vulgare) and yarrow (Achillea millefollium)

Peas with celery (Apium graveolens), sage (Salvia officinalis) and lovage (Levisticum officinalis)

Roses with chives (Allium schoenoprassum), garlic chives (Allium tuberosum) and parsley (Petroselinum crispum var. Neapolitanum), as well as catmint (Nepeta faassini) and lesser calamint (Calamintha nepeta) in close proximity.

Zucchini (Baby marrow) with peppers (Capsicum spp), beets (Beta vulgaris ‘Bull’s Blood’), and Lovage (Levisticum officinalis)

 

 

Week in Retrospect (18 Sept – 24 Sept)

I thought I’d mix it up a bit and simply do my week in retrospect in pictures – like a little picture tour of my garden,  nursery and doings. Sometimes showing is better than saying, but if you want to know more, hovering over the…