I grow vegetables to feed us, make natural ingredient creams, lotion and shampoo, cook all meals from scratch and detest E numbers. I live in the beautiful South Island of New Zealand

Archive for the ‘Growing Vegetables’ Category

Changes, Vegetables, wheat free and Fibromyalgia.

Oh it has been a long time since I have posted. I could come up with excuses I guess but I haven’t really had much to write about. But I plan on making an effort now and try to post something regularly.

In September last (2013), our landlord decided to sell the house we were renting. This really upset my gardening as I had seedlings ready to be planted out at the end of that month. But, we had to move my the 1st week in October, so that meant packing frantically and finding somewhere else to live in s hurry. Luckily I found a lovely little 3 bedroom house on the edge of town. It is in a very quiet part of town, beside a walkway along what is known as Saltwater Creek. The views are stunning over the valleys south of Timaru and around to the Southern Alps. We have so many birds, lots of bees and butterflies and hear the ducks and geese on the creek at night.

I have good neighbours, who like me, also have a few hens (and some roosters) as well as dogs and cats. One neighbour has a rooster with no sense of time. He crows several times between midnight and 3am. No, he doesn’t wake me up, but I often giggle at him if I am still awake.

My garden….. Oh dear… That is a sad story.

I had to leave my wonderful raised vegetable gardens behind, and this summer, it was a ‘make do’ situation. There were no vege gardens here, so I had to make do with what I could and where I could. I only managed to get two small 1.2m x 1.2m gardens assembled and filled and even then it was just before Christmas when they got planted. I also made use of part of the front garden for tomatoes, peppers and beans. But the soil here is very poor and needs a lot of compost and humus added. It will get done over winter when we construct new raised gardens to accommodate a full vege garden next spring.

Tomatoes were planted in buckets and stood against the fence and the house. I used 10l plastic buckets, and unless I had individual dripper irrigation into every bucket, I would not do this again. They got so hot and dry in the buckets, that many just curled up their toes and died off prematurely. The ones what had other plants in front of them did better though, as the buckets were shaded from the heat and the roots did not get so hot. I would certainly advise either digging the buckets in the ground or putting a thick layer mulch or straw around and up the outside of the buckets to help keep them cooler and prevent water loss through the plastic. What fruit I did get, was wonderfully sweet. I do love my heirloom tomatoes.

I did have a very good crop of dwarf beans despite our dismal sunless summer months. My sweetcorn is still struggling to fill out but I had a bumper crop of root beets, red and yellow ones. The yellow ones are quite deceptive. They taste just the same as the red, but are less mess as they do not stain everything red/pink like the red ones do. I will definitely be growing them again next spring. I have winter cabbages, broccoli and cauliflowers of different colours (green, white, orange, violet), both red and green Brussels Sprouts, red and white carrots and leeks growing for winter fare. Alas only one measly parsnip survived the blackbird onslaught. By the time I discovered this, it was too late to plant more.

Health wise it has been an up and down few months. I have only just become free of pain from the shingles I had in May. My fibromyalgia just keeps on keeping on and I continue to cope and do what I can, when I can. Summer was a disappointment to us all. We had a humid, damp summer, with very little sunshine and very little productive rain. We did not have the usual dry heat we normally have for 3 or so months and even March is not our usual ‘Indian summer’. Alas it is very autumnal already and we are noticing the leaves changing colour, we have had two snow falls in the mountains and been very, very close to a frost twice already. We have even lit the fire on 3 occasions. That does not bode well for our winter. We have firewood and an electric heater so should survive.

I have gone back to being wheat free again. With moving and all the disruption from it, alas our meals became lazy and grab on the run variety. Sandwiches were the easiest, although my stomach complained viciously. I tried making standard sour dough bread, and had great success at that, but never felt ‘right’ so I decided it was time to make the change again and for good. I have been developing a Sour dough Gluten free bread. I have succeeded and have a wonderful no knead recipe, that I will share with you including photos.  It is incredibly simple to make and really tastes good so watch this space !!!!


Gardening with Fibromyalgia

All my life I have gardened, but over the last few years, it has been harder and harder for me to get down to ground level. Between Fibromyalgia and knees nearing surgery time and being over weight, kneeling or squatting to garden has become impossible. Since moving into town, my emphasis has not been on flowers as much as vegetables.

To make vege gardening easier, as said in an earlier post, I have had raised gardens built. They have made a huge difference. The gardens have come halfway up to meet me. I have used 150 x 25 mm (6″ x 1″) boards. I brought ones used for fence palings that were ready cut to 1.2m (4ft). Where most raised gardens are only the one board high, these are two high and roughly 33 cm (1ft) high.

I was lucky to be given the bales of hay to use under the soil but I see bales of pea straw are being sold locally for $4-7.00 NZ. I have used meadow hay and barley straw and they are fine. U just want to bulk up the base layer so you don’t need so much soil

The soil was from the local landscape centre and was $7.00 per bag and I used 3 per bin.

The fence palings were just over $3 per board from Mitre 10 Mega so 8 boards = $24.00

Each garden has a double layer of weed cloth and so far after making up 5 gardens I still have about half of the 20m roll I brought for $14.

This makes the cost of each 32cm high vege bin about $50.

The soil is sinking as the hay begins to settle and rot, but this is easily fixed by adding more straw and soil mix before the next (winter) crop goes in. This way means the straw keeps composting and giving you more soil. I have used a lot of sheep pellets between layers of straw and soil and also scatter it on the top to break down with watering. Looks interesting too (giggle) and keeps the cat away.

Here is a picture of how much can be planted in the bins.

This bed contains (from left) 4 cabbages, 2 rows of dwarf butter beans, beetroot ready to harvest and two rows of carrots.

This bed contains (from left) 4 cabbages, 2 rows of dwarf butter beans, beetroot ready to harvest and two rows of carrots.

I find this size of garden is idea for me. Being just 1.2m sq, it is reachable from all sides. For my last birthday I was given a kneeler/seat shown below. It is my best gardening friend. It has a metal frame as when I tried the plastic ones, they are so narrow, I couldn’t kneel and was no way I was risking sitting on one. I can turn it one way and kneel and have the side frames to hoist myself up on, or turn it the other and it is a seat that allows me to reach over the beds. It is a wonderful item and came from Mitre 10.

Gardening is wonderful therapy and eating what you grow is even better. I am very concerned about the processes and additives that are done to and in, the food we buy. I know what my veges are grown in, that they are picked at the right time and washed in nothing but water. It is so good picking a lettuce, pulling some spring onions, picking a tomato and washing and eating them while they are still sun warmed and so so fresh. It is also good to eat by the season or processing your own veges and freezing or bottling them yourself.

I have made the first batch of mustard pickle using zucchini, onions, cauliflower and peppers from my own garden. (recipe will be added) I will make more pickles as they ripen. I have beetroot to do next. That will be cooked and bottled and put thru the water bath, using the same recipe my mother used – watch for the details of this in the next few days.

Homemade seed labels

Today is another lovely summers day. It is too hot to be working out in the direct sunlight mid afternoon so I settled down in the cool of the lounge and cut up a lot of the used yoghurt and ice cream containers.

I have found that buying labels for plants and sowing seed, is an expense I can avoid, so I brave blisters and bruises to my hand and cut them out of the old containers.

Used yoghurt containers

Used yoghurt containers

These are one kg containers and give a nice long label. I also cut down ice cream container which give a smaller length label but are still  ideal.

Firstly I cut down one side then remove the bottom and cut off the double top edges. The top edge is disposed of in the recycle drum.


I straighten up the bottom, sides and do the same with the lid and cut into strips. When I decide my hand has had enough, I cut two angles off one end of each strip to make a point. I admit it is hard work, but considering pile below is only half of what I cut this time, I have a lot of usable name tags,  for nothing. Nothing  it is my kind of price.

This is what they look like when they are cut.


The Sharpie marker gives you and idea of the size.

Yoghurt containers give you one white side and one coloured but they are idea for single use labeling. I give away a lot of my plants so they are ideal for that. Sometimes I have scrubbed the old wording off and reused the same labels. I little bit of baking soda mixed into a paste with white vinegar and scrubbed on does the trick.

When I manage to find old Venetian binds at markets or garage sales, I snaffle them up as they make wonderful labels too. They are much easier to cut and point but usually dearer to buy. I go thru labels by the 100’s so cutting new ones is a job I do regularly.

When I sow seeds I pet the name, variety and date sown on each label. Plus I keep a data sheet of what I planted, when, in what and how many. Then I (try to remember) to add in the date they emerged and the date I potted them on or transplanted them into the ground. I am trying to be methodical.

Does anyone else have any ideas for labels or labeling?

How to build a Raised Vegetable Garden

I now have 5 raised vege gardens. The 5th was moved into place and filled on Sunday. We have used 1.2m x 16cm x 2cm fence palings for the frame. Each corner has block inside, down 1cm from top and bottom so all frames can be stacked and locked together. I have chosen to use them 2 high which gives a good 30cm deep garden. I know this will sink down over the first few months but I can top them up each time they are planted.

Once the frame was in place, I put a lining of black nonwoven weed mat onto the ground and lapping up the sides a little. Next a layer of flattened cardboard boxes followed by slices of meadow hay. I spread some sheep pellets on this and wet it down, then the 2 bags of shredded newspaper I have saved and wet these down also. Another thick layer of straw followed along with the old straw from the chooks nest boxes and this was watered. More sheep poo pellets were sprinkled on then 3 bags of ‘garden gro’ from the local landscape centre. I left this as it was without further water as I knew we had rain forecast for Monday. Yes it did rain.

Latest vege box at the rear.

Latest vege box at the rear, as yet unplanted

I haven’t planted anything yet as I am going to try planting by the moon. I see that Wed and Thurs of this week is the time to sow root veges. I will plant carrots, parsnip, swede, beetroot and kohlrabi.

It will be the first time I have grown swede and kohlrabi. Swede was a vegetable I never liked cooked as a child as it was grown for sheep fodder on our farm. Dad always gave me swedes and one day I roasted some with other veges… I loved it and realised what I had missed all those years. I now eat it mashed on its own or in a pumpkin, parsnip, carrot and swede mash.

I prefer to grow Heirloom seeds where possible and have just received my order from  Kings Seeds today. I have included Belgian White Carrot and Beetroot Golden Globe. It will be strange cooking white carrots as they look very like radishes. I am determined to have variety and colour in my winter veges so have also gone for coloured broccoli, cauliflower and Brussel sprouts.

Does anyone else grow unusual coloured vegetables? Do you prefer heirloom or hybridised plants?



Summer shade solution for raised garden

We are in the middle of summer here in New Zealand – 1st Feb 2013.

This year we really are actually having summer, the first decent one for decades. This is the kind of summer I grew up in, 3 months of heat, well, we have had 3 weeks of it so far. Actually we are doing it hard this year. It’s the first time with out air conditioning for me and I am struggling. The last few days have been in the low 30C and nights have been high teens or higher.

Despite being unconditioned for such heat, it is wonderful, but also destructive. Each day there is a news item of spontaneous fires around the region, controlled crop debris burns going astray and farm vehicles and harvesters overheating and igniting. It is very dry, dangerously dry and there is a complete fire ban over the region.

At the moment my daughter is living in San Diego and says they are having an unexpectedly cold winter. I have a very good friend living in Canada who is also struggling with coldest temperatures for years. Our weather has and is certainly changing, no matter what the experts say.

It is a regular evening job for me to water the vegetable gardens. I am doing this with the hand-held hose as I am unsure if we have hosing restrictions yet. (note to self to find out). It will be strange if we are as it’s a long time since I have had to rely on town water supply, I am used to pumping water from the ground on demand. It is far to hot to garden during the heat of the day here so I wait till after tea to do this.

I had to quickly construct a make shift shade house over my (very late)  peppers, chillies, melons, cucumbers and the late/early variety of  heirloom tomatoes called Sub Arctic Plenty transplanted last night. They had been in the shade under trees waiting to be transplanted and I was scared the wee darlings would curl up and die. I used my propagation tunnel hoops and this is what I did –


Making use of a sheet held on to the frame with clothes pegs.

This worked well for the 3 or so days until we got the shade cloth cover made.


I have used metal arches that have a sprung wire fitted over them . This wire locks into the base of the hoops to hold the shade cloth in place. It can be slid up or down to regulate the amount of cover. I can replace this with frost cloth, a full plastic cover or bird netting according t the seasons and pests.

The Sub Arctic Plenty tomato is meant to be able to cope with autumn conditions out in the open, but my plan is to make a plastic cover to fully enclose this garden before we get frosts. I am also going to try planting some early winter and see just how hardy they are here under cover. Will keep you posted as to how they go.


How my garden grows!

Gardening is a hobby and a necessity for me. With vege prices getting so high, particularly in winter when we need veges more, it is imperative I grow vege all year around.

In Feb 2012, we moved from a small rural property to an inner city rental. Our landlord, who is just happy to have mature tenants, has said we can do what we like with the garden as long as we mow the lawns.

At our last home we had made wonderful raised vege beds that I could sit on the edge of to plant or weed. They were working wonderfully but were left behind in the shift.

This house has a designated vege garden area of about 5m x 4m. Alas it is full of the nasty trailing climbing weed called convolvulus. It is coming thru to our yard from the 3 surrounding properties and the vege garden is riddled with it. Dig it or pull it and the teeny tiniest we bit you leave in the soil, grows and laughs at you. Thinking I had done a wonderful job of removing every wee bit from the whole garden, I went ahead and planted seeds and plants. I grew my sweetcorn with my climbing beans to be self-supporting, but alas convolvulus has over taken the beans and every other plant in the garden too.

Existing vege garden, weeds and all

Existing vege garden, weeds and all

So – it’s now mid summer and I am frantically building vege boxes. The Male of the Species has designed and made up the frames for me, and we are filling them with purchased garden gro mix, bales of straw  lawn clippings, torn up cardboard, newspapers and compost and I am planting them up.

A brand new vege box, just planted out.

A brand new vege box, just planted out.

Once the vege garden is spent, the plan is to make vege boxes on the old garden and put layer of what we call weed mat (landscape fabric) inside each box to prevent the weed coming up thru it. Plus… to my great delight, we are going to build a glasshouse on there as well. My little plastic greenhouse didn’t cope with our gale force nor’west winds and unceremoniously blew out and dumped all my seedlings on the ground.