5 February 2022

Hope you’re enjoying the long weekend celebrating the signing of Te Tiriti o Waitangi.

Not sure what your garden is looking like – mine is producing bountifully but looks like a bombsite.  The tomato plants are pretty scraggly and many have peaked, but cherries and Romas are still producing well. 

The pumpkin foliage has by and large turned up its toes.  I’ve only grown buttercup and checked with Rob about whether I should be harvesting it.  He says unless you need the space, leave it on the vines as long as possible, as nutrients are still flowing from the plant and adding flavour to the pumpkins.  They are getting sunburnt which means they won’t store very well, but butterncups are not long keepers anyway.  I’ve put a piece of cardboard under the pumpkins that are growing on the soil to stop any rotting IF we should ever get rain.  The rain situation (meaning the lack of it) is crazy compared to what’s happening in the South.

Everything is else is producing well – beans, cucumbers, sweetcorn, lettuces, beetroot.  And eggplants and capsicums are sizing up well.

Getting back to the tomatoes, we have had a good crop.  In January I harvested 24kg!  I’ve made relish and sauce which lasts us for the year.  With the remaining Romas I’ll preserve them to include in winter dishes.  This bowl-ful just picked today.

If you want to get inspired about preserving tomatoes, check out this post I came across!  Brilliant!  This is about making passata where you remove the skins and seeds.  When I preserve, I only remove the skins by cutting a cross at the base, then dipping the tomatoes in boiling water for 30 seconds, then plunging them in iced water. 

I was delighted to find Agee jars with the seals and screw tops available again at Mitre 10.  It’s getting a good stick with the seal that makes for successful preserving.  You really do need to use a new seal every time and they just haven’t been available to buy separately with other jars I’ve bought in the past.  There’s that “ancient futures” again!

While we have had lovely tasty tomatoes and lots of Romas to preserve, I was disappointed in the actual plants of my other tomatoes and also the size of the tomatoes themselves – mostly I guess due to the blight we contracted.  So this year I’m saving the seeds of them so as to breed a stronger plant which suits our environment.

Have a look at this video of Rob saving tomato seeds.

I’m saving the seeds of Moonglow and Tigerella.  And I’m saving Black Cherry too, just because I think my bought seeds of Black Cherry might be getting a bit old. 

Scrape seeds and flesh out into a jar, fill with a bit of water, cover with some tinfoil so the contents are covered but can breathe and leave in a spot for around 3 days.

Now they have a mould on top which I remove, wash the remaining seeds and flesh in a sieve, then lay out on a paper towel and dry.  Store (in a ziplock bag ideally), well marked and dated, in the fridge.

Onion and leek seeds were sown in January and we look to have a good strike.  Perhaps a bit weak in the red department, but I couldn’t find any fresh Californian Red seed this year.

More seeds sown for lettuces (trying out an Italian heirloom and a French one) and I’m putting a few broccoli in here too, just to see how long the cycle takes by sowing at this time of year.  People in cooler climates should be sowing brassica seeds this month.

The comfrey brew is fully broken down, so with a good stir in one direction, followed by a good stir in the other direction to aerate it, the fruiting plants all got a dose.

The kumara laterals will need a chop back soon and we’re looking forward to our ‘Sugar Baby’ watermelons (tucked in under there)!

Happy late summer gardening!


From Jan and Rob 😊

20 Responses

  1. Thanks for the tip on pruning back the kumeras. Didn’t know that. I will see how it compares to when I didn’t prune them.

  2. I really enjoyed the content of this post from you, Jan, and I am looking forward to using my own tomato seeds for the garden at our new house! I have so much to learn….
    Your garden is looking fabulous!

  3. If you live in the Eastern BOP, Bin Inn in Whakatane have a good range of preserving tools including jam covers, Agee preserving jars & seals. There is a new Agee jar available in various sizes with a seal & clip lid. And of course you can get your pickling spices, vinegars etc. there as well.

  4. Thanks for the tips on saving tomatoes seeds. I hadn’t thought to ferment them. I do food ferments so just another extension.

  5. I have a fabulous book “The Natural Home” by Wendyl Nissen. In there she advocates piercing the base of the tomato stem with a copper nail to stop blight. I tried it this year. Just went to M10 and got a packet of copper tacks and did just what she said. It has worked a treat! Perhaps you should try it.

    1. Great idea Kim, thank you! I will try this next year and see how we go. The great thing with this method is that it’s not affecting the soil microbes.

    2. I’ve heard before that people used to drive a copper nail into the base of citrus trees so the slow leaching of copper prevented fungus. Never tried it because I was worried about killing the trees though!

  6. You can order jars and lids online at Arthur Holmes: arthurholmes.co.nz This is much cheaper than shop bought stock.
    I use them frequently.

  7. If you start removing the bottom leaves of tomato plants as they grow, they are less susceptible to blight as this decreases humidity and increases airflow to the plant. My tomatoes yield greatly with this method as I dont spray with any fungicide and rarely get blight.

    1. Yes absolutely. We encourage delateralling for those very reasons. The intense humidity in Auckland really contributes to blight unfortunately, but I’m working on it! 🙂

  8. A question for Rob please.
    I garden in raised beds approximately 35cm high. At the end of a crop when I aerate the soil (the bottom soil compacts) and want to add more compost, mulch etc there is no room to add it. Do I remove some soil? Reluctant to remove it from the top and difficult to get at the bottom stuff.
    Rob, do you know it the bottom soil gets less fertile?
    I welcome your comments

    1. Rob says forking over a bed will definitely help with compaction. If there’s no room for compost, maybe add some humates which are a great source of carbon. This is sold in powder form and doesn’t take up much space. (Dave’s Humate is a really good brand) or try liquid humates like the Magic Botanic Liquid we offer. This will keep carbon matter in the soil and plants healthy. A well-balanced fertiliser like Natures Organic Fertiliser will also improve the soil without having to add more compost. With regard to whether the bottom soil gets less fertile over time, so long as your soil doesn’t get really compacted when it may become acidic and unable to unlock nutrients, it is good practice not to disturb the natural microbial life of soil more than gently forking it through for aeration in between crops.

      1. Thanks for that, really appreciated.
        I haven’t heard of humates before and will explore this option. I do use Natures organic fertiliser.
        Compaction is an interesting one when you live on the wet West Coast of the South Island. Probably need to remind myself to gently fork deeper more often.

  9. We have just got back from our holiday and found a wasp nest a bit bigger than a fist in our guava bush. The guavas are just ripening and taste much better this year. I think that is down to the magnesium we added as epsom salts. Thanks Rob for that tip. I may add some more soon while they ripen.
    The zinneas are coming to their end so I’m going to try seed saving some.
    I’m wondering if there is an organic method to get rid of the wasps that you find helpful?. Thanks Maree

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