What we can harvest in a June winter

What we can harvest in a June winter

The weather has turned cold here in Auckland.

Is there still anything to eat from the garden?

When I wandered around, this is what I found:

  • Gorgeous red-stemmed silver-beet,
  • rocket,
  • endive,
  • parsley,
  • gotu kola,
  • choko,
  • apples,
  • mandarins


Gorgeous red-stemmed silver-beet, rocket, endive, parsley, gotu kola, choko, apples, mandarins

Then I went hunting further under some plastic shelters I had put over some beds and found:

  • Beans,
  • tromboncino squash,
  • silver-beet,
  • lettuce
Beans, tromboncino, silver-beet, lettuce



Looking further: a tiny, tiny zucchini – in June!

And a few carrots

carrot – ‘Egmont gold’

And the last of the apples



Look – the mandarins are starting to ripen! The tree is loaded so we will have citrus for a while now. The lemons and oranges are still unripe so we will wait further for them.




And persimmons starting to ripen too. They are so delicious we really look forward to their sweetness in the winter.



We have broccoli coming soon. Other brassicas [caulis, cabbage etc] would too if we’d planted any!


A bit more on beans:

I am so pleased with them – they were a late sowing in March,  a dwarf variety ‘Prince’. Stella had commented that these ones ‘tasted OK and grew better than others in cooler times, early and late in the season’. So I tried them.

One lot in the ground and another lot in a planter-box which could be moved onto the patio for extra heat if needed.

They grew well, lots of leaves. Then flowers appeared.

As the weather got colder I put plastic covers over them and waited and watched.




The plastic tunnel gives OK protection from cold winds of winter and frosts [which we may have soon].

And it worked – real beans to eat in June – lots of them!



So if you have a way of covering a late planting of dwarf beans, they are worth putting in.  Our own beans in winter – so nice.


So even though the snake-beans and climbing beans have finished – they were great and powered on until a few weeks ago, tomatoes are faint memory, there is still a lot we can find in a winter garden which is wonderful.


Sometime before Spring, I’ll look into a post about the range of beans we plant, how and why – there are a few!


May you and your garden flourish





Harvest Time – love, love, love it!

Harvest Time – love, love, love it!

Nature is so generous when there is space, water and nutrients available to plants. I find the joyous abundance of plums, cherry tomatoes, beans, silver-beet and zucchinis remind me of what a wonderful world this can be. There is enough for us and for birds and beasties too.

Here’s a quick overview from ‘top-of-mind’


Cherry tomatoes have grown wonderfully and are continuing to produce great crops.

So nice for salads! Not so good for preserving so we will wait for the larger main crop tomatoes to ripen for making sauces, pastes, spicy chutney etc

cherry tomatoes harvest!
cherry tomatoes harvest!

The bird netting went over the bed when the birds found the little fruits and decided they were tasty. We have a good crop underneath the net. Wonderful stuff bird netting – pulled tight and tied it down so birds don’t get caught in it. We appreciate their efforts in pest reduction so this gives the best of both worlds.


Cucumbers are giving us enough for salads and some extra for pickling.



Zucchinis [courgettes] are a favorite staple now – picked very small – so sweet and tasty they can even be eaten raw.

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Zucchini plant growing strongly

I prefer them lightly sauteed in spices in the wok with whatever veg the garden gives now. In a few months their prolific abundance will be – meh – and other veg will take priority instead. For a little while, zucchinis are great.




Dwarf beans have a short season [purple tee pee and yellow butter beans are favorites] and are feeding us well. They go well in our stir-fried veg. The pretty purple-colored beans turn green when cooked, and the yellow butter-beans add a lightness.

Climbing beans.  We planted climbing beans at the same time as the dwarf beans. They take longer to grow and begin to flower so as the dwarf beans are finishing, the climbers are starting to produce now.

‘Emu’ beans are our favorite climber – string-less, tasty, easy to pick, and prolific over a l-o-n-g season. Even when older beans are drying on the vine, they still make more flowers and new beans – great!


Plums are dripping off the trees.


I find stewing a saucepan-full each day or so works best for me as a pleasant way of saving their wonderful-ness  to be enjoyed in winter. The hot stewed fruit goes into [hot, sterilized] jars and is sealed for future use. When heaps ripen at once and there is a big glut, I find our 2 big stock-pots and preserve lots at once – MUCH more effort needed.



Nectarines – yellow ones are ripening and need daily checking as they get brown rot quickly. Pick, wash and eat fresh soon or preserve for winter use.


The tree is a dwarf form – was here when we moved in. I think it is a very old tree and it has perked up with food and water. It’s ‘thank you’ has been a good crop of large, juicy nectarines.

These are a challenge for us in Auckland – brown rot takes over so fast in warm, humid weather. Often we find the bottom of the nectarine is ripe while the top near the stem is still very green, and by the time the top is ripe the bottom has rot. Hmm. So we are experimenting – pick when the bottom is luscious to eat raw and stew the unripe top part for winter stewed, bottled fruit.

Auckland is at the extreme of the productive zone for nectarines so we are glad to get any fruit. Some years when the weather is hot, dry and not humid we might get a great crop.

Silver-beet is still producing wonderfully well.


Strawberries have about finished, and the birds have been very focused on finding the few remaining.

Blackberries are changing color and we hope this thorn-less variety is tasty – third time lucky?

Of pumpkins/squash, fruits and flowers for this week seed planting

Of pumpkins/squash, fruits and flowers for this week seed planting

If we want to harvest the fruits [and veg] of our efforts in future, it’s a week to plant some seeds for above-ground fruits, flowers, seeds.


Best days are Saturday 7th – Sunday 8th January 2017, + Wednesday 11th  [here in New Zealand]

Before the full moon on Thursday 12th January 2017.


For those of you in northern parts where it is cold, either sow indoors in pots/trays [a glass-house is wonderful for extending the season]

Down-under we are in summer.Here in Auckland, NZ, the weather is warm so seeds germinate quickly [when kept moist]. It has been dry, with ‘showers’ rather than soaking rain so seeds and seedlings need watchful attention to maintain soil moisture levels so they grow well.


Now is a great time to talk about

Pumpkins/squashes/zucchini [courgettes] 

We have a sequence to provide these over a longer time span:

First we plant 1-2 ‘Zorro’ zucchinis in pots in early spring, inside a plastic-bag ‘mini hothouse’then transplant them into a rich, protected garden bed when the soil has warmed up. These are amazingly hardy and prolific [and they are bushes rather than rampant vines].

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Zucchini plant growing strongly

Second, we plant a number of ‘tromboncino squash’ seeds into rich, warm soil in the garden in late Spring. These rampant vines will start fruiting later than the Zorro zucchinis – and keep going longer too.


They produce ‘crook necked’ type squash which are wonderfully tasty when small [less than my hand long] – even better than ordinary zucchinis! Sweeter.

A.N.D the ones we miss grow and grow and grow some more so quickly! There’s an in-between stage which is meh – so they go into soup. We leave most of them on the vine to mature. When the vine dies back the squash skin gets harder and harder – these fruit store well. And the flesh gets sweeter and richer – we think they are best baked or made into soup.

There are a number of varieties and we have tried 3 so far:

  1. Our favorite ‘tromboncino squash’ is from Running Brook Seeds [only available in NZ]. It is long, tasty, has a dark green skin and stores well too.
  2. Second is from ‘Diggers Seeds’ in Australia – nice taste, with light-green skin.
  3. Another is called ‘rampicante squash’ [here in NZ] with dark-green skin.


Third, main-crop pumpkins/squash go into warm, rich Spring soil. Their fruit will form hard skins and keep well. There are so many varieties to try!

We do love butternut squash – and some years it’s hot enough to grow some here. Some years not.

We found a standard pumpkin here is a ‘grey’ and can form a nice tasty fruit which keeps well. This one is reliable for us.

pumpkin/squash harvest


Some varieties we used to grow well in Australia do poorly here or are not available at all. This reminds us to choose varieties adapted to local conditions where-ever we are.


Fourth, we use chokos [not a zucc] when and tromboncinos have finished. The chokos are just starting and, when they are very small, thumb-sized, they are delicious replacements for zuccs.


If you wish to save seeds from pumpkins, squash or zucchinis, many cross-pollinate so check out options before beginning.

I’ll put together a post about how to save their seeds to get true-breeding results.


We will also sow

  • Beans [I sow direct and protect from snails and slugs] We will plant more climbing ‘Emu’ beans. [PS -As the young beans appear with their first leaves is a great indicator to me to plant the next generation seeds for a continuous supply.]



  • Tomatoes [also heat-lovers]. Getting a bit late so maybe plant seedlings. The cherry tomatoes we planted in spring are fruiting wonderfully well. Other varieties we planted late October are growing and some have flowers – there’s hope for them yet. I wonder what will grow best this season? For more on our tomato experiments, go here and here.
  • Corn!  Plant into really rich ground. Early Gem and Bantam have grown well here in the past so we’ll see this year.
  • Flowers. More sunflowers. Just because…


Hopefully some of what we plant now will do well so we will have a harvest no matter what the weather does – hot/dry/cold/wet.


May your food garden flourish!

My ‘lemons to lemonade’ recipe – quick and simple

My ‘lemons to lemonade’ recipe – quick and simple

Looking for a recipe to turn lemons into lemonade? This one is my ‘go-to’ recipe

  • 200 ml lemon juice – squeezed fresh from juicy lemons [and we sieve the big bits out]
  • 400 ml water
  • 200 g sugar or equivalent other sweetener [I sometimes use Stevia – add it with the juice]

Boil water in a saucepan. Add sugar and stir to dissolve. Remove from heat. Cool.
Add lemon juice and stir.
Keep this concentrate in fridge [1-2 weeks only].

To serve: in a tall glass/jug add ice, a little of the concentrate, and fill with sparkling spring water or soda water. Stir.

Taste, adjust quantities and sweetness. Some lemons are more sour than others – they need more sweetener to make a nice drink. Taste and adjust until you like the result.



PS  My grand-mother’s original recipe included the lemon peel [zest].

It was boiled with the water for a bit [her measurements varied each time she made these for us as the recipe’s outcome depended on the type of lemon, season and rainfall. So she taste-tested and adjusted until it worked]


PPS If you buy lemons, unless you know they have clean skin without wax or chemicals, use only the juice.


Down-under sow seeds for fruits and flowers this week

Down-under sow seeds for fruits and flowers this week

It’s time to sow seeds for fruits and flowers next week – best days are Sunday 10th October 2016, + Thursday 13th – Friday 14th  [here in New Zealand] All plants with above-ground fruits, flowers, seeds that we eat and enjoy.

Before the full moon on 16th October.

In Auckland the weather has been milder – warm and wet, wet, wet!

I am already noticing molds starting – even on calendulas where, in past years, it had not been an issue. An early start to a warm, moist, humid season?

The grey molds reduce vitality of plants they grow on, so I’ll keep a closer eye on this issue now.

I will sow seeds of

  • Pumpkins/squashes/zucchini [courgettes] – love Tromboncino squash – a long crook-neck type. These green-skinned ones came from ‘Runningbrook Seeds’. We have also grown an orange version from ‘Diggers Seeds’. In Auckland we find  the green variety tastiest. There is another version ‘Rampicante crook-neck squash’ which is similar.


  • Peas and beans [I sow direct and protect from snails and slugs] We will plant more climbing ‘Emu’ beans – a later producing bean which keeps on producing young beans even when there are many older ones drying on the vine! A great asset. Also some more dwarf varieties – I wonder which will do well now? As the young beans appear with their first leaves is a great indicator to me to plant the next generation seeds for a continuous supply.


  • Chilies, peppers [capsicum] and eggplants [aubergine]  They really do best in summer heat and warm ground. Is it time to plant the special little pots from last month out yet? Maybe, as it’s a warm early Spring, I can plant some of them out in the garden now? And leave some to plant in November when it will be warmer again and less likely that storms will flatten them.
  • Tomatoes [also heat-lovers so they’ll go in somewhere warm – maybe some more in seed trays and some direct into warm ground by a warm patio?].  I’ll sow a number of varieties again – the ones that are powering along from last month’s sowing and maybe some others. The orange Moonlight, Oregon Spring [which was prolific last year; a red staking variety], Sweet 100 cherry [one of our favorites] and the ‘Self-sown cherry from the ginger pot’ [from many years ago which grows lovely mid-sized fruit] are our staples. I wonder what else will grow well this season?
  • Corn! Our first sowing can go into really rich ground now. Early Gem and Bantam have grown well here in the past so we’ll see this year.
  • Flowers of all sorts. Especially sunflowers, including ‘Russian Giant’. Just because…


I take indicators from successes and failures from the past month sowing.  If one variety is really doing well this year, we’ll plant more of it – and also plant a variety of other types because experiments to find new options are good fun for us.

Hopefully some we plant now will do well so we will have a harvest no matter what the weather does this year – hot/dry/cold/wet.


Spring is here – come take a walk around the garden with us!

Spring is here – come take a walk around the garden with us!

We took a walk around our garden and it shows Spring is springing! Woo hoo!

South Auckland, New Zealand can be a delight in Spring. Come on a wander around and see what we found.

From tiny little flowers.

Forget-me-nots blue flowers arrive now its Spring
Calendulas sunny blooms and Forget-me-nots blue flowers spreading over the perennial onions [long strappy leaves on the right]

And one of the garlic patches.

Garlic growing well with mizuna, parsley, an orange tree and silver-beet

Oranges nearly all harvested – this dwarf tree had been loaded and has fed us for ages. Nearly time to grow leaves and then blossoms again instead of putting its energy into fruit.

The garlic patch by a dwarf orange tree co-exist well as long as we harvest the garlic gently and minimize disturbance of the surface-roots of the tree.


And leafy greens are powering now – so good to have fresh, vibrant, sweet greens. These have been hiding beside the trampoline, protected from the worst of the freezing winds.

Varieties: Bright Light Beets and Fordhook Giant


Endive self-seeded under another orange tree and is beautiful just now – almost sweet, and such soft leaves. Later, in warm weather it goes bitter and leaves get tough.



And even a chili from last year!

Hard to believe a chili plant survived the freezing cold southerly winds that blow in off the harbor! Yet here it is to amaze us. Maybe the orange tree protected it?

Let’s hope the frosts stay away


And the nectarine has 3 blossoms with more buds forming

The first nectarine blossoms!


Wow – can’t plum trees make so many blossoms! The branches seem to be covered in flowers.


And the plum tree is covered in blossom! All these trees are kept low, yet even so it has masses of blossoms.


And the apricot tree is starting to blossom!

First apricot blossoms

The apricot tree is also just getting its first new blossoms. Here in Auckland with its warm, humid summers, it’s very optimistic to get fruit from a tree which likes hot, dry summers. This one is planted where it gets and see breeze off the harbor waters to minimize the humidity. Sometimes it works and we get great fruit!

‘Espaliered’ apricot tree

We’ll take another walk around soon – there is so much beginning to grow again. See you soon

 Love love love Spring!

Breakfast a la our garden – even in winter!


In winter we really enjoy a warm, sustaining porridge containing lots more than just oats!

Here is our Winter Porridge Extraordinaire recipe:

Heather’s way [and below I have given approximate measured amounts if you prefer that way of cooking]

In a medium-sized saucepan, soak overnight

  • about a handful rolled oats
  • some chia seeds
  • some linseed [whole]
  • some ground LSA [we grind linseed, sunflower seeds and almonds – about the ratio 4:2:1]
  • 3-4x amount of water [filtered preferably]
  • if you have extra yogurt, add a dollop too – the acidic environment it creates means more unlocking of nutrients from the oats.


Approximate measurements:

  • 1/2 cup rolled oats
  • 1 tblspn chia seeds
  • 1 tblespn linseed [whole]
  • 2 tblspns ground LSA [we grind linseed, sunflower seeds and almonds – about the ratio 4:2:1]
  • 1 1/2 cups water [filtered preferably]
  • if you have extra yogurt, add a tblspn too – the acidic environment it creates means more unlocking of nutrients from the oats.]

In the morning, place the saucepan on the stove and bring to boil gently. I stir with a flat-bottomed wooden paddle/spoon to keep it from sticking. When it starts to bubble, turn the heat right down to extra-low and simmer gently until cooked.

Add 1-2 tblspns tahini [ground sesame seeds] which will thicken the mix and give it a creamy consistency. Add more water if it is too thick. Stir.

Turn off the heat and leave sit for a few minutes if you have time – the flavors blend and mellow. Re-assess whether it needs more water to thin it or more tahini to thicken it. Adjust as required to be just how you like it.

Some people like adding a sweetener – stewed fruit works for us – apple, peaches, nectarines, apricots are so sweet. Or add some dried fruit to the dry oats and soak over night [sultanas, raisins, currants, dates, etc all give a different flavor and provide variety]

Other additions we sometimes include:

  • cinnamon
  • cardamon


So, to create a winter breakfast energy boost:

  • 1 apple – chopped [or other fresh fruit you like]
  • Stewed fruit [home grown and preserved plums here]
  • Yogurt  [or whatever you like instead – kefir/milk/coconut milk/almond milk/etc]
  • Add the cooked mixed grains of a delicious porridge.

Optional: serve with a mandarin and/or orange before or after [just because they are so delicious at the moment] and savor!

[PS: Some people like to start the meal with a small glass of water with juice of 1/2 small lemon in it. We like Meyer or Lemonade lemons as they are sweeter than many other lemons.]

[PPS: Apples, oranges and mandarins are from our trees. Orange is just starting. Mandarins nearly finished and so sweet. And amazingly we’re still picking apples from the tree! Crisp and sweet – a real joy]