Goran and I arrived at Lux Organics at the end of August. At this time of the year we were seeing the end of the winter crops with eager excitement for spring crops. Rotorua has quite cool days and evenings in August and the soil remains cold making it hard to start anything outdoors. For the end of the month I would say we were learning the ropes of harvesting and prepping beds. A lot of the beds had winter crops that had been in for months so we used the machete to take the tops of broccolini crops while leaving the roots in place to continue to build soil structure. The end of the month was also about trimming the fruit trees before they set there spring growth. We learned how to trim and shape apple and pear trees. (Plums and peaches should be pruned before winter) If you really want to manage your fruit trees and build an organised shape to them it is best to start when they are young and make sure you get it done every year. Ideally you don't want to be pruning more than 20% of the tree at a time. Also in the orchard we made sure to fertilise all the fruit trees with a large heaping of compost.
We harvested the end of the cabbages and made sauerkraut, such a simple way to preserve and enjoy all year long.
We started to see warmer weather but still a lot of rain. It was a busy month for starting seedlings in the greenhouse. Tomatoes, Peppers, Eggplant, Broccolini. Crops like brocolini are great to start indoors when its still too cold to plant out and it will give them a head start once they go in the ground.
We are also planting potatoes mid September. 5 different varieties of potatoes, 1 early variety called Liseta which should start producing before Christmas.
The end of September we started our project of double digging 5 garden beds. 8 hours of combined digging to produce one light and fluffy bed with heaps of compost. The double dug beds take a lot of time and energy to prepare but they also create an environment for the new seedlings to flourish.
It was wonderful to start to see all the fruit trees starting to bloom. Beautiful pink flowers on the peach tree.
I was including a lot of flowering veggies in my salads, broccolini, collards, & kale flowers.
Double digging continues. We have now double dug 5 garden beds and have started to plant in them. The remaining 20 beds are starting to be planted as well, 10 no dig beds and 10 tractor power harrowed beds.
Potatoes are starting to put out green leaves and the broccolini that we planted last month is starting to crown.
Asparagus are starting to pop out of the ground, pure magic!!
The first week of October I went through and pulled off the first of the strawberry flowers to allow them to put more energy into the roots but from now on we will let them flower and fruit!
We also transplanted all the onions this month. We planted them in bunches of 3, this is an efficient use of space and as they grow they will form a triangle.
Frosts are always still a possibility and when the forecast mentions cool evening we have taken action by covering all the senitive crops. The tomatoes in the greenhouse got covered with shade cloth. The beans and zucchini outdoors also got covered to provide a blanket barrier against the cold nights.
The broad beans are starting to take off and need to be tried up regularly before they create a jungle.
By the end of the month we were building the outdoor crop protector to cover beds 1-5 which will be planted with cucumbers, tomatoes, eggplants and peppers. I have to say this was more difficult than any of us had planned but together with team work we got it up and it will provide great protection to the veggies. Ideally it will be moved to follow these crops as they rotate through the garden.
We are still cooking a lot of hearty meals and keeping warm on the cooler nights. Collards, cabbages, carrots, turnips & radish provide the base to many of our meals.
With the crop protector built we can now transplant all the seedlings that are ready and waiting to get in the ground, this includes the cucumbers, tomatoes, eggplant & peppers.
Snow peas are starting to produce in full force and are deliciously sweet. They have been great in salads on the warmer days but have also been great in curries on colder nights.
We have started planting in the no dig bed and tractor beds. We are comparing two materials as mulch, biodegradable film made from corn starch and cardboard. Both are placed on the surface and then piled with compost and planted into. We have poked holes in the some of the film to see which plants are able to break through on their own. The cardboard will breakdown fairly quickly but will keep the weeds down in the meantime.
The beans in the greenhouse are starting to climb after a rough start to their life being threatened with late frosts.
The fruit trees have all flowered and started to set fruit. I love seeing all the mini fruit!
The zucchini are starting to fruit. Getting them in early and protecting them on all the cold nights has paid off.
On the rainy days we spent some time building the new irrigation lines for the 25 new beds.
The beets we translated are ready for harvesting. They have beautiful roots but also very tender tops perfect for cooking, easily replace spinach in a meal.
The tomatoes and cucumbers are starting to climb in the greenhouse, and are flowering. As they climb we have been training them up the tomahooks as well as trimming off the lower leaves to maintain airflow.
They harvest days are getting busier as the CSA picks up. Most harvest days are spent in the field but occasionally Goran or I will help in the wash station. Wash, spin, dry, pack, seal bags, repeat!
We went to the neighbours and had a cheese making lesson. Lesson 1 was feta. It was so fun to make and is delicious to eat.
The flowers all around the garden are blooming and attracting beneficial bugs & insects.
Strawberries get harvested nearly every night and are super sweet.
The broad beans are coming to the end of their lives but we have made some great pestos and stir fries.
Starting to feel a lot like summer time. Strawberries are pumping, we love going on an evening walk around the property and finishing it off with a few strawberries for dessert.
Tomato, zucchini, cucumber & bean harvesting is happening daily or every other day. The basil is growing in around the chilis and tomatoes and is wonderfully fragrant. The two maize patches are taking off. The apple and pear trees are growing fruit that looks delicious. The early plums are not far off. The birds have started to peck them, which means they can tell they are getting sweet!
The cabbages have gone from looking like they weren't going to do anything to producing hearty tight cabbage. They are super sweet and a great addition to salads. We have harvested the first of the early variety potatoes. They are so tender. Great in salads and roasted. Mid month we harvested the garlic before the rust got it and spread. After letting them dry a few days we braided them to store for the year. The first eggplant are not far away from being ready. Feels like things are changing over night. Zucchini go from being just the right size to huge in a few hours!
With all the growth the weeds have also been growing. Our trial area in the no dig beds got over taken with weeds. The crops on the mulch film also struggled to take off so it was not a huge success. Rather than labouring on with them, it was decided to cover crops and start over. Nothing in gardening should be thought of as a failure, more just a learning experience. In a few weeks when we uncover and replant we will make sure to mulch the paths quickly and stay ontop of the weeding.
We started out the New Year watching the stars and housesitting the farm. We built a frame for our pickle patch and spent the weekend harvesting tomatoes, beans, zucchini and cucumber. I have been fascinated with all the different flowering vegetables. The different varieties of zucchini have uniquely different flowers. The bees have been busy all around the property. We harvested the first of the Kamokamo, a Maori squash variety. It has a hard skin with a soft interior. They can be harvested at different sizes but we have been letting them get a little bigger. They roast nicely and I will try stuffing one with veggies. The onions are starting to flop over. This is a good sign that they are nearly ready. We will wait until their necks get fully dried off and then we will harvest them and leave them dry in the sun for a few days before storing them. We have been watching the monarchs land on the swan plants in the garden. They are so beautiful. The weather changes quickly here, NZ has always been known for 4 seasons in a day but Ive never paid as much attention until now. We can have hot windy mornings, followed by thunderstorms and rain, only to clear again in the evening with beautiful rainbows. The plants love the warmth and the rain but everything in between can make them more susceptible to disease. Luckily nothing too bad yet. We are keeping the tomatoes well trimmed to keep the airflow in both the greenhouse and the crop protector. We still take our evening strolls through the garden. We saw the first early plums and were able to harvest some but the birds got to the rest before us. We will have to be faster with the next variety. The apples and pears are starting to size up but won't be quite sweet yet. We have started to harvest the eggplants, we have a few varieties which will continue to ripen at different stages. Over the period of 3 days we managed to harvest all the potatoes. The foliage has all but died down so you follow each stem and dig underneath, each time its a surprise to how many potatoes you will find. Some plants had as many as 15 medium potatoes, while others had 4 large potatoes. With so many planted we have a wide range of sizes and varieties that are all different qualities when it comes to storing and cooking. We planted 16 spaghetti squash in the home garden. I am super excited to watch these grow and can't wait to try them. I love cooking them but they are not very common in NZ so I haven't had one in ages. They will be extra special since we grew them ourselves. The first bed of beans in the greenhouse came out as they were finishing up their production, but they were also shading the cucumbers. Once they were out we planted cucumbers in their bed. This will extend the production of cucumbers! Its pretty funny how quickly we go from cherishing the first of the summer produce to having bucketloads!!! Nothing will go to waste but we might have cucumbers coming out our ears by the end of the season! Our pickles have started to produce and we have made our first batch of Kosher Dill. Batch one made 5 jars, they have been ready for a week and we only have 1 left! Technically they were the test batch but at this rate we won't be storing any for long. Beets and carrots are pumping. In one bed of carrots that got attacked by slugs early on, we sprinkled some purple turnip seeds. I was very excited for these as turnips are my favourite!! Little did I know not all turnips are the same. These are very spicy, which I liked raw but when I cooked them I was not a fan of the bitter taste. You live and you learn. Im glad we don't have a whole bed of them. But what's wonderful with vegetables is they all suit someones taste. The heirloom tomatoes are still a highlight. We have had a few but they are in such demand for sale we haven't had too many yet. Our day will come. Thats all for now, check back in next month.
If I thought time was going fast before, February has been the fastest yet! (All 28 days of it) Part of maintaining healthy basil plants is trimming them back when they start to flower. A wonderful thing to do with heaps of basil is make pesto!! Purple pesto has been fun to experiment with as well. Some of the sunflowers have fallen over and lost their petals which means we can save the heads and dry them to harvest the sunflower seeds! How cool is that. Part of being self sufficient means putting in the extra hours at the busiest time to store everything. The potatoes were harvested last month, washed and left to dry for 10 days before being packed in recycled banana boxes and stored in a cool dark room. I also experimented with making my own feta this month. It turned out amazing, I sliced it into 8 pieces and froze 6 of them to be able to make it last longer. I am fascinated with milk and the ability to turn it into cheese, yogurt and butter. The days have warmed up enough that the spinach has given up, we made the most of it while it lasted and will look forward to it again but in the meantime Goran used the lawn mower to mow it down and cover it with a weed mat. All the nutrients from the spinach will go back into the earth and feed the soil. Nothing goes to waste. Our evening walks are getting tasty, the omega plums are delicious! We will harvest them all in one go to avoid missing the opportunity to the birds. The chestnuts are doing their thing in the spiky balls. These are the edible kind unlike the horse chestnuts that I spent hours harvesting and roasting last year only to find out they are poisonous!!! We are loving all the eggplant, both the long Japanese ones and the traditional globe ones. They look beautiful and cooking them when they are so fresh is incredible. Highly recommend them for a home garden. One or two plants can be quite productive. Our pickle patch just keeps on pumpin out the goods, we have to harvest daily otherwise they get too big, we have missed a few which turn out to be huge but it doesn’t really bother us for our home pickles. Ive been loving watching the spaghetti squash grow. They are nearly ready to harvest. We planted two varieties, one sprawls like a pumpkin while the other puts out the fruit at the base like a zucchini. I initially thought the sprawling one was going to more successful as more seeds germinated but it turns out the other has been able to produce a lot more fruit. The sunflowers around the property are beautiful and keep the bees and insects happy. Mid month we harvested the onions, crates full we left them to dry in the sun for a week. This only meant running them inside when the rain started. Tomatoes are definitely starting to out produce the sales, which means getting creative with storing them. Making sauces for the winter is great. I have also experimented with dehydrating cherry tomatoes. I didn’t want them too crisp so I left some juice in them which means storing them in the fridge so they don’t grow mould. Goran is loving having all the chilis he could imagine on his door step. He eats them as a side bite to most meals, and I love cooking with them to divide the heat between a meal. We are also drying Cayennes to make chilli flakes. The fruit is getting ripe, the plums have been amazing and sweet and now the apples are starting to fall. Nothing better than fresh fruit to add to all the good veggies. It is also the time of year to start planting winter crops, all the brassicas have been planted. Broccoli, Cabbage, Kale, Collards... they get planted out under covers to help them get nice and strong. At this time of the year the white butterfly is everywhere and loves brassicas the most. Pesky caterpillars can do a lot of damage to small plants. I am taking an online course and one of my papers is on composting so Goran and I spent the weekend making a compost pile. We visited the neighbours cows and collected their poop to add vital nutrients to the other garden scraps we have. Ill report back on how it turns out. Goran and I both find the best thing to do at the end of a gardening day is lie with our legs up the wall, some days for 5 minutes others for 20. It helps relieve your back of pain while also giving your feet some time to drain the blood and flush new blood to them. The end of the month we took a trip to Queenstown and loved helping friends with their lavender harvest. We also went and gathered pears at the largest pear tree (maybe in the world!!) And spread the wealth to friends. A wonderful productive month, most meals include eggplant, zucchini, tomatoes and cucumbers!
March has been the month of abundance. The peaches, plums, apples and pears have been delicious. The carrots and beets are being harvested by the kilos and barely make a dent in the garden beds. Tomatoes, eggplants and cucumbers are being harvested regularly. Its wonderful to see so much healthy food going into the community. The day came to finally harvest the spaghetti squash. Some are ripe while others will need a little longer to ripen in the green house. We finally saw the end of our pickle patch and made a large final batch. We have loved pickles and its safe to say we tried a fair share of recipes and found a favourite. The monarch caterpillars have finally been able to get big enough to form chrysalis. We are waiting for them to turn into beautiful butterflies now. We also harvested the pumpkins this month. About 350 pumpkins!! Some are better for eating now while others store well and will be great over the winter. We took a trip down to Nelson this month to check out our new home. It was beautiful day to fly down and always cool to see the country from the sky. We are excited to move and are looking forward to another growing season, this time left to our own devices! We will be putting everything we learned into action to operate a market garden! The adventures continue…..
We have been loving the Jimmy Nardello peppers. They are a sweet variety and great in salads as well as cooked in stir fry’s and sauces. Ive made two big batches of Moroccan chutney which will be a nice taste of summer when tomatoes and peppers are not around. We have been watching 4 chicks grow, they were hatched from eggs and now live in our garage at night. They have a cage outside during the day where they are learning to eat grasses and bugs. They will join the main flock when they are bigger and hopefully they are female so we get eggs! We are experimenting with growing soy beans. The plants are looking healthy and starting to produce pods. Would be cool to eat your own edamame. The onions have all dried and been cleaned and stored.
Fennel has become one of my new favourite flavours. I love it sautéed with onions, raw in salads and roasted in the oven. The last weekend of March we went to Raglan for Goran's 30th birthday. We had been planning to visit for 2 years but hadn’t gotten around to it, so we were glad we finally got to spend some time there. A very small surf town with an artsy flair and great food. We took a beautiful hike up Mount Karioi, which had 360º views.
March officially marks the turn of the seasons and start of autumn. We have started making a lot more soups and comforting meals. I also experimented with making my own nutella!! Hazelnuts from friends in Queenstown with a tablespoon of cocoa powder blended until smooth. Goran gave it a two thumbs up!!
April was an interesting month, a change of seasons, mixed emotion knowing our time was coming to an end, but also knowing the next adventure was just beginning. We were still enjoying most of the summer bounty while also starting to harvest the start of the leafy greens which will continue to be harvested through winter and into the spring. In March we planted many beds of brassicas, brocollini, kale, collards, as well as getting in the last of the carrot and beetroot beds before the soil gets too cold. Planting bok choy and daikon to make kimchi to enjoy through the winter, and keep a healthy gut. Goran was also enjoying the full harvest of his chilli, eating them fresh but also dehydrating them making chilli flakes to last us until next chilli season.
We were left in charge of the farm most weekends in April which was nice to test everything we have learnt through the season. The last week of April we were in charge of managing the farm, so we invited good friends to come help us out for the week. It was a wonderful experience and learning lesson to how it will eventually feel to be managing our own property one day. I have throughly enjoyed eating my way through the season, incredible to start with so many leafy greens and crave summers bounty only to be craving leafy winter greens by the end of the season. I feel healthier than ever before and I have to thank the garden and veggies for most of it. The CrossFit training would have also helped but I truly believe that the seasonal eating has created such a natural balance in my diet and lifestyle that I always strive to live this way.
MAY & JUNE
May 3rd we packed our car and headed to New Plymouth to spend two months at Roebuck farm. I am now writing this June 20th, the 8 weeks has flown by. It has been a huge learning experience and we leave here more skilled on growing micro greens and fast crops. It has been a time to reflect on all that we learned and start planning our next venture. July 1st starts our contract in Riwaka where we will be managing a market garden to the best of our abilities with our own 4 hands!!!