My Garden ~ a Kiwi's take on life

"I wandered lonely as a cloud That floats on high o'er vales and hills," William Wordsworth


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New Potato Salad

Yummy garden-to-table meal tonight.

Lifted some new potatoes: heritage Maori blue New Potatoes in groundand early white potatoes – grown in time for Xmas. Picked a bunch of herbs. Mixed toasted cumin seeds, turmeric and olive oil then stirred through the cooled cooked potatoes with chopped mint and parsley.

New Poatato Salad

 

Arranged over steamed green beans and garnished with crumbled feta cheese.

A finger-licking good salad.

 


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My Garden ~ something special for Christmas dinner

We’re getting ready to drive south to join my family who live in a dairy farming community near Matamata in the Waikato. This will be the first Xmas we’ll have spent together in my old home since we moved to Northland some years ago. My brother will celebrate a significant birthday in the New Year and I suspect an Uncle may surprise us and fly out from England for the occasion. I want to take something special for Christmas dinner that my family would not normally eat. So right on cue, my heritage potatoes were ready for harvesting this afternoon.  They’ll go nicely with roasted spring lamb. I’ll steam these potatoes with mint leaves and arrange a colourful platter display of the five potato varieties. I like to cook the blue potatoes separately because the colour  ‘runs’ and tends to stain. 

heritage-potatoes.jpg The soil is warm and friable and the potato growth has been prolific. This is the first time I’ve grown these two potato varieties. Top row: Kowiniwini (some refer to this as ‘zebra’).  Bottom row: Maori.

potatoes-for-christmas.jpg I’ve written about Swift (an early variety) and Red Rascal in a previous post. Similarly, I’ve described Urenika (a blue tuber-like potato). I prefer to harvest these at an early stage when they are fairly small before they get too large because I find they tend to be floury when cooked.


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My Garden ~ too busy in the vegetable patch to write about much else

It felt hotter outside than the official 20C today. The ground is dry and surface cracks indicate the need for rain. Never-the-less, early summer is here and this gardening month is busy with successive sowings, cultivation and harvesting.    

I checked the growth of my potatoes planted 30 September.  The Kowiniwini, Urenika and Maori  heritage potatoes are about to burst into flower. I was somewhat surprised to find the Swift (early variety for Xmas ) potatoes are almost ready to be harvested. Two-year-old Grandson who became an expert ‘tato inspector last year, inducted baby brother in the art of choosing the biggest and the best ‘tato for dinner tonight. He also picked the very first tiny courgette of the season (as you do) when you’re a connoisseur of baby vegetables. The early potato crop probably thrived because of the thick applications of mulch. The soil around the plants was friable, warm and moist despite no watering and drying conditions. We are careful how we use water because our domestic water supply is from rainwater collection. We pump water from the stream to the troughs for the animals. So gardening for me must be about conserving moisture and mulching. Our predominantly clay soil becomes rock hard in the summer – digging is a no go – hence I follow a permacultural approach to diversity and building up soil to encourage worms and beneficial insects.   

The Calendula are making a great show among the potatoes. With that in mind today, I filled gaps among the other vegetables with more heat-loving flowers as companion  plants Rudbeckia, Zinnia and French Marigolds. That should make the friendly insects giddy with delight (or confused should the pests have pesky intentions).  November here is a great month for flowers – I use different edible flowers in salads and drinks.  

I under-planted the sweet corn with a long green cucumber – my Dad used to do this as a living mulch so I though I’d give it a try this year as well as letting pumpkins sprawl under the corn plants.  I could have used beans – but I have these growing elsewhere. My last tasks today were to plant Sweet Peppers and to stake Beefsteak tomatoes – under-planted with Sweet Basil of course as I have visions of home-made pesto in mind.


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My Garden ~ Mulching

The Swift, Kowiniwini and Maori heritage potatoes mentioned in my previous post are showing lots of healthy young leaves. Rather than earth the plants up, I’ll mulch each plant with rotted organic plant material. Our 6.5hp heavy duty petrol -powered chipper/mulcher machine has proved its value for many years (though now in the light of fuel price hikes, I’ll have to think about the cost). We recycle tree prunings (the machine can take branches up to 70mm in diameter) and other plant matter  into mulch – the processed chip size is about 10 to 15mm . We can  either directly feed the shredded matter onto a specific garden site or create a new compost pile. It is this organic matter that I’ll put round the potatoes. Today I’ll plant my Agria seedling potatoes. These are another favourite. They mash or crush well once cooked. The taste is great when combined with extra-virgin olive oil and freshly ground pepper. We sometimes use locally produced avocado oil. Now that’s a treat – we love this oil infused with lime – especially when cooking fish.  

Broad Beans are another wonderful fresh garden taste we’ve been enjoying.  I like to steam the beans with a sprig of savoury and then toss with crisp grilled bacon pieces through a pasta such as fettucini.  The beans are just about finished and my other bean seedlings are ready to transplant. Today, our Labour Day public holiday is a traditional time to plant tomotoes. But the weather doesn’t know that and the winds here are westerly and cooling the temperatures.  I’ll hold hold off planting tomatoes outside for a while. There’s lots of other gardening tasks to do.


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My Garden ~ planting and preparing garden beds

My back tells me I’ve shovelled too much compost.  

mesculun-2.JPG chives-and-lettuce.JPG For the last three days, I’ve laboured, clearing garden beds and getting  plants into the soil as well as preparing for later sowings of other vegies . I’m encouraged by the sight of all those wriggly worms, large and small, burrowing and digging for all their worth. I’ve delegated them the task of doing the serious work.  

italian-herbs.JPG strawberry-3.JPG The old strawberry bed has had an overdue tidy-up and the runners now have nice sunny raised beds to grow in. Visions of lots of juicy red strawberries in time for Xmas, and jam-making …..  Still on my To Do List is a make-over of my Italian herbs in the pots.

kowinin-kowiniwini-potato-plot.JPG I’ve mentioned in previous posts I can’t imagine not growing potatoes. I planted Swift as the Xmas new potato. This season, I’m trying Kowiniwini and Maori  potatoes as additions to my small collection of heritage seeds. According to the information I got from the nursery about Kowiniwini is that it’s a good all rounder and keeper, crops well, is purple with white eyes. The Maori is round and large, with no inset eyes,has white flesh and a purple skin. I’ve been trying to get hold of King Edward seed potatoes. My Dad grew these when I was a kid. I’ll also plant Red Rascal later on.

I love to traipse around garden centres to see what’s new, read the labels and so on. Yesterday, I happened on a delightful floribunda rose Betty Boop. It struck a chord because of my mother’s given name and because I recalled her telling us once about similar sounding childhood nickname she was called by her brothers. I searched the history of this rose and found Betty Boop to have been a delightful Paramount pictures cartoon character in the 1930s – the time of Mum’s girlhood in England. I’ll buy this rose for Mum – she needs cheer in her life because of her declining health, and she does love her roses.  


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My Garden ~ crop rotation

I like to rotate where I grow the vegetables in my garden. I have no hard and fast rules and tend to do what my father did. He grew potatoes to clear the ground and condition the soil in preparation for another crop. It’s a common sense approach to organic principles of avoiding the build up of disease problems in the soil. The brassica seeds have sprouted in time to be planted for the winter months ahead. I’ll plant these where I grew the potatoes in rotted hay layered on newspaper.

 Rotted hay and manure The hay that was mixed with weathered animal manure is now a crumbly structure and is full of worms.  The newspaper that I’d layed down before I planted the potatoes has broken down and is part of the organic matter.

As is my practice, I applied a dusting of dolomite lime in preparation for planting the broccoli, cabbages and cauliflower seedlings and  I’ve spread more newspaper around the edges of the new growing beds to suppress weed growth.


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My Garden ~ potato harvest

I can’t imagine not growing my own potatoes. There’s always a space somewhere in my garden. As usual, I spread newspaper on a patch of ground and then layered rotted hay. I layed each sprouted seed on a wilted comfrey leaf and covered them with a deep layer of hay. As the shoots grew, I piled more hay around the growing plants. Fertiliser was cow manure collected with the rotted hay from the paddocks.

We enjoy the varieties and flavours. The different textures lend themselves to different ways of cooking. As I mentioned in a previous post, we simply steam Urenika (Maori blue potato) as we do with the early variety ‘Swift’. I add sprigs of mint (and of course there has to be a knob of butter and black pepper over the cooked potatoes).  

I tried growing three varieties new to me this season.

‘Heather’ is described as a main crop with a purple skin, smooth skin and white flesh, great taste and good cooking qualities.

‘Moonlight’ is described as new in 2000, white skin and flesh, high yielding, excellent boiling quality. Excellent drought and wind tolerance.

‘Red Rascal’ is described as improved Desiree with a deep crimson skin and white flesh. Excellent baking and roasting.

Potato Harvest

Today I harvested the crop. All I had to do was pull the hay away – no digging and the potatoes are clean. I left them to dry in the polyhouse before sorting according to size and variety. I keep some aside for the next season’s seed crop. I was pleased to note no blight or disease and minimal physical damage that seems to have been caused by slugs.

I store potatoes in shallow polystyrene boxes (used by growers to transport grapes to supermarkets and then discarded) and keep them in a cool and dark place.