November 2009.
I planted two plants that I purchased from a local nursery. One I planted in the herb garden, which tends to be dry, and the other in the vegetable garden.

According to the book "Herds" by Lesley Bremness, the stems should be cut before mid summer for crystallizing. This means I will have to wait until next year to let the plants establish.

February 2010. The plant in the garden is twice the size of the one in the herb garden (see photo).

Research tells me that angelic prefers semi shade and damp moist ground conditions. I will have to consider moving the one out of the herb garden this autumn. Both are pale green - my wife and I remember plants at our parents place and they were dark green!



We love fresh basil so grow 6 to 8 plants every season. My wife harvests it and makes up basil pesto storing it in small jars in the freezer and freezes chopped basil mixed in water and frozen in ice chubs for cooking out of season. Just great in tomato dishes.

August 2009. Seed was sown in small individual seed raising containers. These were put in the hot water cupboard until there were signs of sprouting and then moved to a sunny place inside. It is still quite cold outside. I do not always grow them from seed but the seedlings you buy in spring are grown in glass houses and tend to be very tender having never been exposed to the weather.

November 2009. Tradition has it that we plant warming loving seedlings on Labour Weekend which is near the end of October but we are having a cold spring so I held up planting for a couple of weeks.

February 2010. We have started to harvest. Made the first batch of Pesto and ice cubes.

basil 2011
January 2011.

In July 2010 seed was planted indoors with the intention of having early kitchen plants growing in a pot to use fresh.

This worked very well and was very prolific and has taken pressure off using our stored basil (ice blocks) from last season, because of this we have planted less basil in the garden.

scarlet runner beans

Beans, Scarlet Runners

Without doubt I am having the best season I have ever had with Scarlet Runner Beans. The heavy shading of the garden in the winter it is left to fallow hence the weeds (mainly Chick Weed) get away a bit around early spring.scarlet runner beans

One end of the garden is a bit sandy so I dug a trench and buried all the weeds in it. From this some self seeded beans appeared. Rather than pulling them out a bamboo tepee was built over them to climb up.

Normally beans do not do well in cold spring conditions like we had this season but the Scarlet Runners never looked back. I have been searching out recipes and made some up so I can take full advantage of the crop. I have tried freezing other seasons but have been disappointed in the quality.

March 2010. The beans are still heavy in flower.

April 15th 2010. Last picking for this season.



Capsicums like more heat then tomatoes. This makes their growing season shorter. I find it a real advantage to grow my own plants from seed. This is because if they get a knock in their growing cycle the season can be too short to get a decent crop.
Growing my own ensures they are a good size and acclimatised when they are planted out in the spring.

August 2009. The variety I used this year is "Napoleon Sweet" marketed by niche Imports an Ashhurst (by Palmerton North) based company. There is a good germination with strong healthy seedlings. The seeds were sown in small individual seed raising containers. These were put in the hot water cupboard until there were signs of sprouting and then moved to a sunny place inside. It is still quite cold outside.

November 2009. I held off planting out in October. The cold spring is causing problems. The plants are getting too big for their containers. They really do need planting.


Chillies Hot - growing in temperate climates

Small hot chillies are a hot climate plant. To successfully grow them in a temperate climate they need to be grown indoors in a pot and put outside on a hot days but do not leave them out over night. The pot should be a generous size. An average bucket size per plant would do nicely.

The seeds are sown in August, left to sprout in the hot water cupboard then grown in a sunny window gradually re-potting them as they grow until they were in their final pot size. I grew two plants seven years ago and got enough chillies off them to freeze down to last till this year.



Last season I grew yellow courgettes because that was the only seedlings available at the nursery. They did not crop well. Some years ago I tried yellow ones as well and was disappointed in the resulting crop. This season I grew my own (green) from seed. I have no record of the variety name but they are cropping very well.

February 2010. As happens every year the pumpkins, cucumbers and courgettes get powdery mildew. Each year I spray with Zineb, an all purpose fungicide or Copper Oxychloride but it never seems to make much difference.



I am going to try and grow cranberries to dry for my muesli. The variety is Bergman. The information on the tickets reads, "Mid season fruiting variety of medium colour. Lower chill requirement than Crowley. Needs full sun and summer moisture".

I collect old agricultural publications and in a book called, "A Practical Guide to Successful Farming", published in 1943 USA, there is a whole chapter on growing cranberries commercially. A very quick summary is they are planted on peat which is very water retentive and the climate is very cold. So cold they suggest you do all the tractor work during the winter when the peat is frozen. Sawdust is used a lot as mulch. This keeps down weeds and the cranberry laterals send down roots into it which can be used as a way of propagation.

I can not exactly replicate these conditions. I would like to grow the cranberries as a ground cover. This would mean semi-shade not full sun. I have been preparing the grown by mulching the area with grass clippings (instead of sawdust) with the intention of planting in the autumn when the rains come.



Every house should have, as a very minimum, a lemon tree and a feijoa tree. Both are very low maintenance. Neither requires spraying for insect pests. The only pruning necessary is to shape or contain the tree size.

It is reputed that feijoa trees have higher yields when there is another tree to cross pollinate with. They do end up quite big shrubby trees so having two in an urban environment is often not a good use of the area you have for planting.

My tree grew with a lean to the north so two autumns ago I planted another Feijoa tree seedling on the south side tucked right up to the trunk of the original. The result will be two trees growing together as one. This could be successfully done by planting two together at the original planting. Even without the cross pollination the Feijoa tree produced a good yield last season so I am not altogether convinced that the second tree was really necessary.



The winter garden is pretty uninteresting but THIS is the time to plant your garlic.

As a guide, plant garlic on the shortest day and harvest on the longest. The main thing is that the garlic cloves get a winter chill to initiate the bulb growth.

Select good sized, locally grown, garlic bulbs from your garden centre or supermarket. From the bulbs select the large fattest cloves to plant. Garlic does best in well drained, fertile, organic soil with good winter sun. Plant the cloves root end down about 50mm deep and 100 to 150mm apart. Keep weeded. Garlic does not like the completion. Apply a general purpose garden fertiliser when the shoots are well through and again in the spring. Harvest when the leaves start browning off and dry in a shaded spot. Store the bulbs in a net bag or tie them into a spring. Select your best bulbs to plant the next season.

goji berries

Goji Berries

I am going to try and grow Goji berries to dry for my muesli. I have potted a plant but this winter I intend to transplant it into the garden.

The label reads: "They like full sun or semi shade. Apply a general fertiliser in spring. Lightly prune in winter when it is dormant (deciduous).

Goji are patio pot plant friendly. They grow well on trellis, fences or free-standing. It is hardy, dry tolerant, profusely crops delicious cherry/cranberry-like red berries during spring-summer.

Uses include: eating straight from the plant, drying for breakfast cereal, add to smoothies, make Goji tea, make wine, juice or dried and coat in chocolate.

They are rich in unique polysaccharides and nutrients which have been studied for their ability to strengthen the immune system and fight chronic disease."



The house that my daughter is renting has this large old Grape fruit tree. For the last two winters we have enjoyed the fruit for breakfast. We would cut them in half, cut free the segments and round the edge with a specially designed knife, sprinkle with a little sugar and refrigerated overnight to be ready, nicely chilled, for breakfast the next morning.
Being a rented house I do not expect the supply of fruit to continue so this motivated me to plant a seedling tree last winter. I selected the variety "Golden Special, which ripens in August, has large, very juicy fruit, is a prolific bearer and holds well on the tree". It has established itself well. Over the dry summer months I trickle the hose round the roots for a couple of hours at a time to give it a good deep watering. With this and mulching round the base the growth has been excellent right through summer.


Lemon trees fruit almost all year round. It is not unusual to have flowers, small green fruit and full ripe fruit on the tree at the same time.

The stress time tends to be over the dry summer months. If the tree dries out too much it may drop fruit that is forming from the pollinated flowers, this will cause an interruption to your harvest during the winter. To overcome this deep water by trickling the hose on the roots for two or three hours at a time. It is great to be able to go and pick a lemon off the tree when one is required in the kitchen.

I favour the Lisbon lemon rather than the New Zealand cross, Meya. The Meya is not strictly speaking a true lemon and tends to be sweeter. However, that said, Hamilton is only just mild enough for Lisbons and for young trees they should have protection from frosts for the first couple of years. Meyas are hardier so in colder parts of New Zealand the options are somewhat limited and Meyas are better than no lemon tree at all.


August 2010
Mid winter and early spring is the time to prune lemons and give it a spray of Conqueror Spraying oil to control scale and other pests. Lemon trees do not require pruning to fruit but it is a good idea to open the centre of the tree to sun light and good air flow. Cut out any dead wood, damaged wood and branches that present a high amount of pest (borer) or disease.
Lemon trees are great feeders. It is a good idea to apply a citrus fertiliser in early spring and again no later than February each year.



I remember many years ago seeing a passionfruit vine that had been trained along the top of a veranda. It was winter time and the vine had been pruned back to the main trunk and one single vine running along the top of the veranda. The trunk and vine were quite thick indicating that it was at least a couple of seasons old.

I've tried doing this with my vine at home. For two seasons I have had lots of vine growth each season but only a small number of fruit. This season the vine is only about a third of what it has been. There is still not a lot of fruit. I have decided not to prune it so severely this autumn and see what happen next summer.


January 2011
Passionfruit 2011

At the end of last season the trunk of the passion fruit vine showed severe signs of decay. It was the intention to pull it out during the winter but as things happen I did not get around to it. I did not even prune it. The result is the best harvest of fruit that I have ever had! My recommendation from my experience would be to lightly prune the vine each year just to contain it. That should produce more fruit.



I plant 4 or 5 seed potatoes each year in the ground the conventional way so that we have new potatoes for Christmas dinner and then for our salads during the summer months that follow.

While out cycling I saw the old basket in the drain beside the road so went back in the car to pick it up. It had no bottom in it so I placed it directly on the ground and planted two seed potatoes in it. As the green tops grew I gradually filled it up with garden soil, adding some general garden fertiliser each time, until it was at the top. This is the same as using tyres. I can see the advantage of using tyres in that when it comes to harvest the tyres can be just unstacked. The other advantage in tyres is you can keep going up until you decide you are high enough.



Normally I would grow the common "Wangapara Crown" pumpkin. It has proven storage ability and produces a vigorous plant.

Because the fruit of Wangapara Crown is quite large and there are only the two of us at home I thought I would try a new variety called Baby Bear marketed by Niche.

The packet said 8 small 3kg pumpkins per plant with good keeping qualities. Just right for us.


May 2010
baby bear pumpkin


Baby Bear turned out to be a total waste of time. There was very little fresh on them so little, in fact, they were not even used for cooking.

August 2010
The varieties selected to grow for this coming season are:

Pumpkin Confection F1 Squash Kurinishiki F1 Squash Hubbard Chicago Warted
Confection F1 Pumpkin Kurinishiki F1 Squash Hubbard Chicago
Warted Squash

All these varieties have been picked for their moderate size and good storage ability.
The plan for this spring is to put two car tyres on the garden and fill them with compost. One of each of the three varieties will be planted in each. (That is three plants per tyre). The seed will be sown in seed raising containers in late August for October planting into the garden

January 2011
Pumpkin 2011 Growing the new varieties this year was only partly successful. The number of pumpkins per plant is disappointing. I have six plants and only six pumpkins. There seems to be lots of male flowers but very few female.Pumpkin in tyres 2011

My daughter is growing the same varieties across town with the same results.

Using tyres was successful. Pumpkins like plenty of organic matter so I used each tyre as a compost heap prior to sowing the seeds.



At one of our previous properties we had a really good raspberry variety that fruited well in the spring and autumn. The root stock was given to me so I never knew the variety name. When I decided to plant raspberries at our present property I looked for the same fruiting characteristics.

I selected Aspiring; summer and autumn dual cropper. Summer fruit produced on last year's canes where winter chill is adequate. Autumn fruit produced on the top 10-20 buds of new canes.

February 2010. I planted a small cane root in Oct 2009 not expecting fruit this season. To my surprise there is a pleasing crop from the canes for it size. This looks really encouraging for future seasons.



I am never without my rhubarb patch. I acquired a good root many years ago and whenever I move house a chunk of rhubarb root comes with me. The best crop comes in spring with the thicker stalks. I harvest my winter stores at this time. I just cut the stalks up as if I was putting them into a pot to cook but instead portion them into the required volume and put them into plastic bags in the freezer. No cooking.

The rest of the summer produces ample thinner stalks for my muesli, yoghurt and stewed rhubarb breakfast requirements.

salad greens

Salad Greens - container grown

If you like salads every home should have a container of salad greens growing by their kitchen outside door. You do not need a garden for this.

I three quarters fill my container (a polystyrene container obtained from a green grocer is just great) with compost but friable organic soil would do. This is really a filler so I don't have to buy enough potting mix to fill the whole container. I then put a layer of potting mix over the compost / soil and sown the seeds into that. This help prevents any weeds from growing and gives a good base for the salad plants to grow in.

Some salad plants, like rocket, attract white butterfly during mid to late summer, so cover with net to prevent the salad greens getting grubs on them. After sowing all I have to do is to keep it watered, which is daily during the summer months.

salad greens What seed mix you sow is up to you - You can buy a packet of mesculin mix or go through the seed rack and pick out three salad variations and mix them together yourself. Things like spinach, red beet, rocket, land (American) cress and any of the large variety of lettuces are all good.

When harvesting the greens snip the plants off about 20mm/3/4in from the base of the plants with kitchen scissors. By the time I have harvested to the end of the container the plants have re-grown and are ready to start harvesting again from the other end.


Sprouts - growing your own

You don't need a garden or even green fingers to grow sprouts. I get my supplies from King's Seeds in Auckland, NZ. Their website has all about growing them as well.

I have only used Alfalfa and Mung beans but there is quite a range of seeds to pick from. Alfalfa is for salads and Mung can be used for salads or stir-fry.

A little seed goes a long way. I use the half sized preserving jars and put in one tablespoon of seed. There is only two of us. If your family is larger then go for the larger jar.

Growing a little and often keeps the sprouts nice and fresh. Once they have grown to the required size (the jar is full) drain well, replace the mesh lid with a normal screw cap and store in the refrigerator. They will last well over a week. for Sprouting.html



My tomatoes have been a total disaster this season.

The variety, Dreena F.1. Hybrid, lacked flavour although they were large and meaty as described on the packet.

The other problem was the plants never really got going once planted in the garden. I had sown the seeds in August and had good healthy seedlings at planting time. The spring was cooler than usual so I held back a couple of weeks.

I planted them hard up against the fence - I have never done this before. The neighbour has a gravel path right up to the fence on his side and I just wonder if they had either sprayed the path for weeds or sprinkled the path with herbicide granules allowing the herbicide to leach into my garden. I had put plastic along the fence to prevent any spray drift through the gaps. The plants have either been affected by spray or a virus. Hence we have only had enough to eat fresh with no surplus for freezing off 6 plants.

March 2010. Interestingly my wife was talking to a colleague at her work who we had given some of our surplus seedling tomato plants to and she reported that they had a really great crop off them.

Yacon plant


Yacón is a coarse textured, robust perennial herbaceous plant with large leaves and little yellow daisy flowers. The plant gets up to 6 ft (1.8 m) tall with an equivalent spread. The stems are thick, hairy and streaked with purple. Yacón produces spindle shaped storage tubers typically less than 0.5 lb (0.2 kg) and 6-8 in (15.2-20.3 cm) in length. They are attached to the swollen stem just beneath the ground surface and point outward like the spokes on a wheel. The tubers have a tan to purplish brown skin and the inside can be white, yellow, violet or orange.

Yacón grows fast in loose, well-drained acidic to alkaline soils rich in organic matter. You can get good tuber development but frost may kill the plant before it blooms. Yacón does well in partial shade to full sun. Yacón grows best in a slightly moisture retentive soil with regular watering. The storage tubers allow it to survive periods of drought. Yacóns in cultivation rarely set seeds. They are propagated from offshoots or "plantlets" removed from the base of the main stem just above the ground; or by dividing the rhizomatous underground stems; or by dividing the the storage tubers; or by rooting cut stems.

Yacon tubers Yacón tubers are incredibly sweet. The flesh is white and crispy, a little juicier than an apple, but every bit as sweet as the sweetest Red Delicious. Some say they taste like sweet water chestnuts; others compare the taste to an apple and watermelon combination. The tubers get even sweeter after curing in the sun, but they may not be as crisp. Yacón tubers are usually eaten raw. They are good sliced and added to green salads, or shredded with carrots and raisins for a sweet slaw. In Peru yacón tubers are grated and squeezed through a sieve to make a sweet drink, and the juice is concentrated into blocks of candy called chancaca. Tubers are also boiled or baked and the stems and leaves are cooked and eaten as a vegetable. Yacón retains crunchiness during cooking and is just beginning to come into favour for Asian stir-fried dishes. The leaves contain 11-17% dry weight protein and are useful as a livestock feed.

Most roots and tubers store carbohydrates in the form of starch, a polymer of glucose. Yacón tubers store carbohydrates in the form of inulin, a polymer of sucrose that the human body cannot metabolize. Yacón is therefore an acceptable sweet and starchy food for dieters and diabetics. Although it has few calories and little food value, yacón is an easy to grow sweet treat, and a sure conversation starter. Yacón is native to the Andes from Columbia and northern Argentina to Peru and Equador. Yacón has only recently been introduced to other parts of the world as a novelty root crop and as an experimental source of natural sugars. It is rapidly becoming popular in eastern Asia and New Zealand.

“Fresh is best”


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