The story of the shapes and sizes of tomatoes There’s beefsteak tomatoes, and then there’s a tomato cultivar called Beefsteak, which is, unsurprisingly a beefsteak type. So when a customer asks me for a beefsteak tomato, and I say “Sure, which one?”, I fully understand…
The spring weather the last two weeks have hindered gardening efforts (the word “appalling” comes to mind, but I know better than to insult Mother Nature!). Periods of warm and sunny weather promises productive days in the garden, but I’m quickly chased back inside with…
I’m a true believer in kawakawa now!
I’ve enjoyed the heart-shaped leaves and peppery fragrance of this native NZ plant (Macropiper excelsum) since I was introduced to it and its healing properties shortly after arriving in my new home country almost five years ago.
But I have only very recently made a kawakawa balm – and as luck (or unluck!?) would have it, I sprained my ankle really badly a week ago, and got a chance to try out the balm!
Every morning and evening, I massaged my sore ankle with the kawakawa balm, and it has healed incredibly well! Everyone still thought I’d be in a moon boot today, but I’m walking around almost with 100% mobility, and I am completely convinced it’s the kawakawa balm that helped the healing!
Okay… perhaps a bit of the healing also has to do with the turmeric tea (golden milk) I took as anti-inflammatory, and that I rested it well. But definitely the kawakawa mostly!
I’ve had great feedback on the balm from other people that have tried it as well, so I can say with confidence that it is truly a lovely healing balm for sprains, strains, aches and bruises.
Aren’t plants just amazing!?
Here’s how to make your own
- 1 cup kawakawa infused oil *see note
- 30g Beeswax
- Lavender essential oil (optional)
- You’ll also need sterilised jars, a fine sieve strainer, and a small pot
- Heat the kawakawa infused oil in the small pot on a low to medium heat until warm (not hot). If your oil has been solar infusing for more than 2 weeks, you don’t need to leave it on the heat for very long, but if you haven’t managed to solar infuse the oil, you can leave the oil gently warming for about 20 minutes to half an hour to heat infuse some more of the kawakawa goodness.
- When the oil is warm, strain out the leaves, and add your beeswax (I have found grated beeswax melts faster) and gently stir until it is all melted together.
- If you are using essential oil, add it now, stirring all the while to keep the ingredients well combined.
- Pour into sterilized jars
- When cooled, seal your balm, and use when necessary on bruises, sprains, strains, stiffness and even eczema.
To make a solar infused kawakawa oil, pick some kawakawa leaves and place in a wide-necked jar. Pick the leaves with holes eaten through them as these are believed to be the ones with most of the good medicinal ingredients. Pour enough oil over your leaves to submerge them, shaking gently to release air bubbles, and leave in a sunny spot to infuse for up to 2 weeks.
To make a heated or warm infusion, put your kawakawa leaves and oil in a double boiler and warm through for 20 to 40 minutes.
Rongoa (Maori mediicne)
It is traditional with all rongoa practice, to say a prayer (Karakia) before harvesting – giving thanks to Io (the supreme being), Papaatuuaanuku (Mother Earth), and Tane Mahuta (Keeper of the forest), and to appreciate the plant from which you are harvesting.
Indeterminate vs Determinate Tomatoes come in two growth habit types – determinate, or bush varieties, and indeterminate or vining varieties. DICTIONARY: Growth habit of a plant in horticulture refers to the shape, height, form, and general appearance of a plant species. Basically answering the question…
Welcome to the first in a series of All Things Tomato Have you browsed your seed catalogs and seen little tags next to plant names saying “F1 Hybrid” or “Open Pollinated”? Have you been told by farmer’s market salesmen about their tomatoes only being “heirlooms”?…
Spring has sprung! Woohoo and Happy Spring Day to you! This was quite a busy week, what with it being slightly warmer and less rainy, and the best time to sow and grow according to the moon calendar I use. For more ideas on what to sow and grow – see my September calendar which was published with the latest newsletter.
In my garden
The roses are all budding profusely, and I’m getting excited about the flush of flowers I’m expecting. My new rose, Scentimental, has already formed some flower buds!
I also planted more peony poppies, larkspur, delphinium, cosmos and sunflowers, and sweet peas in the bee and butterfly garden. I’m enjoying the fern-leaf lavender and rainbow loveliness dianthus, and of course, all the lovely spring flowering bulbs.
Golden moss feverfew, calendula oopsy-daisy, and lady’s mantle are all new additions in my rose garden.
While in my orchard, I made space for two new lemon trees coming – from a friend who is moving to Germany – and I’m still hankering after the two crab-apples I saw last week… The dwarf apples are not budding yet, but I am starting to see fruit trees in blossom all over now.
In the berry patch, the blueberry flowers are fully formed now, promising a good harvest of juicy little berries in summer. The raspberries have finally poked their new growth from the ground and are coming up fast, and my strawberries are flowering (still!). No sign on my red currants yet, or the cape gooseberries, but still holding out hope. I have sowed new cape gooseberry seed just in case.
In the vegetable plot, the constant available harvest of Carouby snow peas and heritage blue shelling peas are the main features. I am letting some rocket and radishes go to seed, as well as my red coral mizuna. This is of course to save seed, and to have some “freebies” pop up all around my garden through summer.
Two of the main garden beds have had their horse manure and bokashi added, and are now lying low for a bit till I start planting them up in a few weeks. The rest of the garden beds will follow soon.
In the nursery
I got some great little F1 seeds of a dwarf variety of capsicum in – especially for those who are pressed for space, and can only grow in containers. The three varieties I chose was an orange sweet pepper, a medium heat green Jalapeno, and a hot yellow Cayenne, and all going well, will be sold as a set of three.
Besides some more heirloom tomatoes, I sowed an F1 hybrid called Tomato – Rapunzel – apparently the trusses can carry up to 50 fruit, creating long “tresses” of “hair” like the namesake fairytale princess. These were chosen by my daughters (11 and 7) to see who can grow the longest tomato hair.
I did an early sowing of popcorn -black popcorn and my favourite from last year, strawberry popcorn. These are already poking up little green shoots. Always interesting to see the difference between a monocot and a dicot when they germinate (for those who don’t know monocots have only one germination, or seed leaf, like corn, while dicots have two germination or seed leaves).
My friend gave me more beautiful fresh curry leaf (Murraya koenigii) seeds to sow, and I’m optimistic because the last lot are all up and growing happily!
New and exciting for me to grow – I have a long-neck dipper gourd seed in a seedling pot, as well as some snake gourds!
For my own garden I got to sow more dwarf beans – purple and yellow, as well as a selection of some good looking aubergines (eggplants) – Tsakoniki (my favourite), Ponderosa, Container pick, and Tonda Bianca. I always sow more than I need, so the extras will be available at my markets once they’ve grown.
More pretty cottage flowers were put into seedbeds too – dahlia, cosmos seashells mix, painted daisies, and gaillardia. As well as some more standard herbs like chives, parsley, dill, fennel, sage, thyme and coriander.
Looking at some seedlings that had been sowed previously, the watermelon, luffah, and cucumbers are doing really well and will be ready to be potted into bigger containers soon. Dahlias are up, as well as a lot of little red Rubin basil seeds.
Sowings of bergamot – lemon bergamot (Mondarda citriodora), wild bergamot (Monarda fistulosa), prairie mixed bergamot (Monarda didyma) as well as Scarlet Bee Balm (Monarda didyma) are showing their first leaves already. Happy to get the bees to the garden soon.
I potted up into bags, almost ready for sale, a whole lot of heirloom tomatoes, purple tomatillo, chop-suey greens, lemon and lime basil, lettuce leaf basil, Thai basil and cinnamon basil as well as sorbet-duet viola, white mignonette, Armenian basketflower, cardoon, green and red orach (mountain spinach) and rockets (wild and salad).
From my main garden, I divided gotu kola (Centella asiatica) and wild creeping thyme and transplanted into bags, and as soon as they get over transplant shock, they’ll be ready for the nursery and markets.
The cuttings of Okinawan spinach (Gynura bicolor) have all now rooted – many have been potted up already, but there’s still lots to go.
New additions to the nursery, are: rose hardenbergia (from seed gifted to me by a friend), horsetail, and bulbine (a South African plant that can be used similarly to Aloe vera)
…and then… I twisted my ankle, and am now in a moonboot, and not able to do too much… and this at the beginning of the most productive time in the garden! Oh well… time to do some admin and paperwork then, I guess, and rest up so I can be back on my feet in the garden as soon as possible!
Welll, two weeks in retrospect actually –
It is definitely gearing up to be spring, and I see my productivity double around the garden from week to week now. It is a gorgeous time to get ready for the new growing season!
In my garden
I have enjoyed seeing more and more of the new life of plants burst forth on dormant perennials. Little bare patches of soil suddenly sport a bit of green, or red, as the stems and first leaves push through – specifically excited to see liquorice, marshmallow, echinacea, rhubarb, horseradish and even a few of my French tarragon come along.
The fruit trees are budding too – my pomegranate, apricot, fig, etc are all happily budding too. I acquired two new apple trees! Which is very exciting! They are dwarf ones – a red and sweetly crunchy medium apple called Little Rascal and another that is more tart in flavour, called Mischief. I’m excited to see how they go. Currently they are still “sticks in the ground”, but soon they’ll have a flush of pretty white and pink blossoms. Very tempted to go back and get two columnar standard crabapples…
I’ve managed to procure 11 bags of good horse manure – gorgeous stuff that is full of earthworms. I’m adding them to my raised vegetable gardens as I get ready to plant them all up for summer again. Already have layers of cardboard, some sticks, homemade compost, seaweed, and some of last year’s soil – now the horse manure goes on top for a week or so, and then a bokashi trench throughout the raised bed, and again a final layer of soil. That should do the trick!
In my knowledge base
I heard and discussed interesting things this past few weeks too – I learnt about watering in an arc which makes the correct charge for ions for better watering results, rather than watering straight down into the ground. Still going to see if I can find out more on this so I can understand the science around it better. Then I had a lovely discussion with my friend, about soil health, and how even organically managed soil, might not be all it is made out to be – that compost has a lot going for it, but that it isn’t all there is to building good soil, soil that will have the required minerals for the produce plants to take up and make available for consumption. Some case studies around this that I’ll delve into deeper, but it is all good food for thought.
In the nursery
It’s been go! go! go! in the nursery! Sowing new seeds, and transplanting little seedlings.
I transplanted almost all of my little tomato seedlings (germinated with their first leaves showing) into larger seedling trays with deep punnet sections for good root development. They are all doing really well, despite me starting them much earlier than normal. I’ll sow some more next week, especially of the popular varieties as I found I had long ago sold out of my tomatoes last year while people were still after some for mid to later season growing.
All the varieties of heirloom tomatoes that I grow are not the only things I’m gaga about – I got even more new chillies to try this season too! The different sizes, shapes, colours and heat levels of the peppers make me super excitable! Brand new for this year are Aji Dulce, Jamaican Yellow, and Passilla biajo. And, because they turned out to be so popular last season, I got lots of super hots in too, more Red Naga, Trinidad Moruga Scorpion, and Carolina Reaper. If you ever wondered what happened to my soaking chilli seeds experiment – more on that next week.
Sow your own
It is prime sowing time, with spring and milder weather just around the corner, and if you plant with a moon calendar, from 24 August to 6 September is best for cultivating above ground food crops. While it is still advisable to hold of for a few weeks until the soil warms up properly, if you have a greenhouse, or any warm and sheltered area like a sunny windowsill, you can start most of your herbs, and summer vegetables now. Among what feels like a million other things, I have sown cucumbers, caigua, zucchini, corn, eggplant, and even a few pumpkins in seedling trays.
A lot of herbs can be sown now too – anise hyssop, angelica, basil, borage, calendula, catnip, chamomile, chervil, chives, coriander, cress, dill, fennel, hyssop, marjoram, oregano, peppermint, rocket, rue, salad burnet, savory, sage, thyme, valerian… etc.
Unfortunately it has been a terribly good time for snails in the garden too – and I battle with them decimating every and all of my sunflowers, sweet peas, every bit of oriental lily coming out, and of course, in the nursery too – they seem to have a super liking to lettuce leaf basil (not so much cinnamon or lemon basil), and all my new spinach seedlings.
I’ve got a few things I try to help minimize their damage – egg shells and sand around new transplanted little plants. And seaweed (unrinsed) scattered about. I’ve also got beer traps (happy that Rick 3D printed me a slug trap to put it into), and I go out every few nights to do a hand pick of as many snails and slugs as I can find (lots!). I have recently heard from a friend that iron phosphate may help – something I need to investigate and try out.
We had great early spring weather, with one or two hot days already. And it is tempting, very tempting to go out and put it all to the garden. But yesterday was cold and windy and I was glad my summer veg were still under cover. Remember that it is important to check several things before deciding to plant outside – your region’s last frost date, cold pockets in your own micro-environment, sunrise and elevation, overnight minimimum temperatures (minimum of around 12C for a few nights in a row will indicate that the soil will be sufficiently warm) and the appearance of self-sown spring annuals, and breaking of dormancy in perennials. Don’t be tempted to go out too early.
Things I used out of the garden this week
A cup each of mixed greens daily for the guinea pigs, bunnies and quail – this includes fennel, dill, lemon balm, salad burnet, lettuce, kale, mizuna, viola and nasturtium flowers, and thyme or oregano.
Calendula petals and heartsease viola flowers go into salads, which are made up of rocket, salad burnet, mizuna, nz spinach, baby silverbeet leaves, freckles lettuce and chives.
Fresh Rosemary, oregano and bay leaf went into bolognaise sauce.
The kids eat Carouby peas fresh from the plant.
I picked pizza thyme for pizza.
Mud. Mud. Mud. Everywhere! It is the bane of living in Auckland in winter when it rains and rains on the clay soil. I honestly did not enjoy being in the garden this past week… a rare occasion, I promise you. I was slipping and a…