Tuesday, 27 November 2012

DIY Herb Shelf!

Herbs! I've love the idea of having a full garden filled with every different herb - both culinary & medicinal. But realistically there just isn't the room to have such a plot in the city! I tried growing a few intermingled with the flowers at our last house. But realistically they didn't look right where I put them and I either forgot about them or the died! 

This year, I've decided the way to go is pots! The previous owner has left some rubble around the property  so I've managed to recycle the building blocks & pieces of wood to make the shelves. So, after doing a bit of DIY'ing here is my make-shift herb shelves! They sit in between two windows alongside the house. Its made it much easier to grab some herbs to add to dinner too!

The blocks were REALLY ugly - but beggars can't be choosers! Especially when you don't have a heap of space to use! So I've filled them with potting mix & planted out some marigolds in them - even in the smaller ones on their sides! Practicality of watering these side-ways plants is a bit on the harder side.... but it spruces them up! To my surprise they are all growing too!

So what have I used? I've put lettuce on the top & have some more waiting to be transplanted for the right hand side. A mixture of basil, mint & parsley make up the rest of the pots with a couple of random orchids to enjoy the sunny spot!

In a larger pot  next to the shelves I have coriander, oregano, thyme & flat leaved parsley. 

I also plan to put a small rose climber on the trellis in the middle just to add something beautiful to a somewhat ugly shelf!

The rest of the shelf space is awaiting some new & unusuals! I have some lemon balm seeds & I think I might try some medicinal herbs too.

I've been told that mint is best grown in a pot since it spreads everywhere, but I've never had luck with this - its always straggly & doesn't live to give me much harvest. I'm having the same problem this year with it - it just isn't happy in a pot! But it dosen't have much choice! So it may be a mintless summer!

After this project I've discovered you can do anything with junk! Even random concrete blocks! haha! I have a feeling there will be a gradual increase in pots & decrease in paths soon!!

Friday, 16 November 2012

All Things Tomato!

Tomatoes are one of my favourite things to eat in a salad! I love them raw but they are such a versatile vege - you can almost eat them in every meal.

Big Beefy Tomato
My plan for tomatoes this year is to have such a wonderful crop that I'll have so many left over to preserve for the rest of the year! I have staggered the planting out a bit so I'll hopefully have an endless supply over summer too. I chose 'beefeater' and 'cherry sweet 100' as my types this year. There wasn't much thought into my selection. I love cherry tomatoes & my kids love eating them, and the beefeaters just looked really.... beefy! I've planted out 14 plants over the course of the last 6 weeks. The original plants are about a foot high now & I just put out the last seedlings yesterday.

Tomatoes can be grown pretty much anywhere... the main garden, a pot, hanging baskets even upside down! So everyone can have one no matter the size of their garden!

What I did learn was there are two types of tomatoes - indeterminate and determinate. Indeterminate tomato plants are vines. They will grow and produce fruit until the first frost appears and can grow up to 3 meters high, although around 2 meters is about the average. They require substantial staking and support. Determinate are bush tomatoes and only grow to about a meter high. They stop growing once there is fruit on the terminal shoot (the top of the plant), ripen all their fruit at the same time and then die. If you prune these, you wont get much fruit! They do better than vine tomatoes in containers.

What I did get confused about last year with my tomato plants is the pruning. When people told me to prune the laterals... I tended to prune off most of the branches! So they were quite tall & lanky. This year I've looked at many Youtube videos on how to do it & found some good diagrams which have given me a much better idea about things. The pruning is important in square foot gardening as there are more plants in one area, so I need to protect them from getting too overcrowded which would make them prone to disease.

There are some basic pruning things you need to do;

Lateral at 45 degree angle
1. Prune the Laterals. The laterals grow in between a branch & the main stem on a 45degree angle (see real picture & diagram below). To get rid of these it is better you pinch them out or break them off. This prevents disease spread which can happen using pruning shears. The basic reasoning is for the tomato plant to use its energy into producing fruit rather than branches/foliage.

Laterals diagram

2. Remove dead or diseased leaves. Some of the lower branches leaves will yellow when the plant reaches maturity, which is natural. Other times you may have a disease or bug ridden branch. To protect the rest of the vine it's important to get rid of the diseased parts of the plant.

3. Tie them Up! Tomatoes are a vine & need to be tied up at regular intervals to grow a healthy tall stem & to support the weight of the fruit.

Removing the branches 
below the first fruit Cluster diagram
4. Take a step back Take a look at the tomato plant as a whole. There should be one stem with branches coming off them. Often you will see a second lateral that's grown up from the base or branch that you've missed. You can see this in the  laterals diagram (its marked with an 'X').

5. Remove the branches from below the first fruit cluster. This makes the vine into a single stem & focuses all the nutrients and energy on the fruit. You need to wait until there are 4-5 fruiting trusses/clusters on the plant before doing this.

6. Top the vine. Towards the end of the season (about a month before the first frost) you remove the plants terminal shoot. This is because at this point, the fruit needs all the help it can get to reach maturity before the end of the season. Often people will do this because the tomato plant has hit the top of the greenhouse roof! The terminal shoot is the top part of the stem. You prune it back to the next branches (like you would a lateral, but the shoot is going straight up, not at an angle).

Pruning the terminal shoot

There are specific tomato fertilisers that you can buy & use. A high nitrogen fertiliser will get the plant off to a good start. Once it starts to fruit a fertiliser high in phosphorous & medium-high in potassium will boost your fruit along (See fertiliser blog for more information on this). I personally haven't used a specific tomato fertiliser. I've stuck with what I have which is the worm tea & I plan on giving all my vegetables a dose of Thrive liquid fertiliser this week to give them all a boost.

I also learnt that basil planted with tomatoes can enhance flavour and repel bugs! So I've planted basil in between the tomatoes and around the edges of the garden bed.

I can see that my early planted tomatoes have their first yellow flowers appearing! Wont be long before that fresh out of the garden salad will be here!

Wednesday, 14 November 2012


Help! Its killed my cabbages, it's starting on my cucumbers, zuchinnis & pumpkin!

What is it?! The best guess that I have is downy mildew...... but there is nothing fuzzy underneath the leaves! Anyone out there know what this evil burnt looking problem is??

Sunday, 4 November 2012

Berry Berry Nice!

I LOVE BERRIES! So I therefore believe that you can never have enough of them! Strawberries, raspberries, blackberries, gooseberries! Bring them on!

In my garden I have a big half wine barrel (pic left) which has a thorn-less raspberry & a blackberry, guarded by a vigilant pukeko! I also have 2 strips of retaining wall that I've made into berry patches around the courtyard. One is a strawberry patch which has about 10 plants in it. The other has a couple of small blueberries & a Goji Berry.

Goji berries if you've never heard of them are the latest power berry. They orignate from China, Tibet & India & are supposed to be wonderful for your health. They are also supposed to be hardy plants & survive the toughest conditions (perfect for my garden!). I haven't seen a berry yet - but this is the year I'm sure! :)

So in my opinion I defiantly DON'T HAVE ENOUGH BERRIES! The problem with berry bushes is that you only get a few at a time - only enough for a short snack! :)

Goji Berry

I really need a berry orchard!

I do love the flowers on the plants & love the rambling bushes that they turn into. I'm sure you can interweave the berry ramblers through a rose on an archway or get a bit creative with them! Plus they are just all small bundles of goodness for you!

I do have berry nasty (haha) memories when I was young - where the thorns would slice you & the berries would be as sour as anything! But I think a bit of modifying on behalf of some horticulture genius means you can get plants without thorns on them now.

Some of the berry plants are a bit tempermental - like blueberries! I'm sure everyone I know who's had a plant has had it just up & die for no reason. Others like raspberries spread & put runners out & are theoretically quite resilient!

One of the major problems to berries are trying to protect the fruit!

* Birds: Those greedy things want our precious berries & are way too clever, finding ingenious ways to break through nets & barriers alike! The only preventative as far as i know is netting & lots of it!
* Rotting: Plants like strawberries that sit on the ground rot when touching the dirt & need straw or mulch to protect them. I think root rot during winter is another problem with them.
* Common diseases: like powdery mildew, rust etc.

So here are my beds as they stand. 
My plan: To prevent those nasty birds major structures are to be constructed!

Strawberry patch

I had leftover bamboo from my trellis projects which has come in handy! I found some cheap bird netting & it sticks relatively well to the bamboo! I did try to get it to bend around over the beds in a semi-circle, but it just broke, even though it was green bamboo! So this is the next best option! To make it tight to the ground I just pegged it in with some smaller pieces of bamboo like stakes. I didn't end up doing one over the wine barrel, as last year I never had any issues with 'things' eating those berries! Maybe they are just a bit too tang for the average bug! :)

Pity that its not going to stop the pests or the ant colony that's decided my strawberries are theirs for the eating! 

Thursday, 1 November 2012

Spoon Art!

A bit more art for the week! 

I finally finished some of the spoon labels for the garden! Don't they look great!?
I got the spoons from the Salvation Army for cheap & the kids helped me paint them. 
They look great in the garden! Great to finally know what the plants are! Haha! :)