Autumn is with us. Shorter days and longer nights come with a nip in the the distinctive air. It may be time to hang up the jandals and bring out gumboots.
Ripe for the picking
Now is the time to finish your late summer harvesting. Dig potatoes, kumara, and Jerusalem artichokes. Harvest pumpkins when the stalk has gone brown. Carefully clip them from the vine and store them in a warm, sheltered place. Beans, beetroot, the last of the sweetcorn, tomatoes, new season onions, kumara and celery are some of the recently harvested vegetables. Do you know that apparently celery results in negative calories? It takes more calories to eat a piece of celery than it has in it.
As you harvest your crops, re-sow any spare space with winter crops. It is a good idea to replenish the soil with some compost, blood and bone or sheep pellets as you go. You can sow directly outdoors from seed the following plants: beetroot; broccoli; cabbage; cauliflower; bok choy; silverbeet, spinach and turnips. Sowing seeds saves you money and time. They may need thinning out but use these baby plants in salads or stir-fries. Keep an eye out for white cabbage butterfly caterpillars chewing holes in your brassicas. I spray with Organic No Caterpillars from Kiwicare. It is organic and Biogrow certified. Ask for it in garden centres.
Peaches are coming to the end of their season. Have a go at bottling any spare stonefruit so you can enjoy them on your Weetbix in the middle of winter. I just follow the instructions at the back of the Edmonds Cookbook. Prune your stone fruit trees as the last fruit are picked. Cut out the old crossing over wood or any branches which have cracks. Apples are crunchy and delicious. Passionfruit is starting to ripen. Check regularly under the vine for any ripe fallen fruit. Placing straw or a plastic tarp under the vine makes it easy to find the fruit. If you have a glut of fruit, spoon the pulp into ice cube containers and freeze for later.
Horseradish This herb can grow to one metre tall. The leaves look similar to wild dock. It forms a long tap root. The young leaves can be used in salads but it is the root that makes wonderful horseradish sauce for that roast beef. Dig the roots now for future sauces. Store in airtight container in the fridge, until required. This plant can be evasive. Any portion of the root will sprout. Plant in a large sunken pot to stop it spreading. Find this plant in the potted herb section of your garden centre. Rocket This is a fast-growing annual which will grow year ‘round. It adds a wonderful peppery taste to any salad. It produces small white flowers which can also be used in salads. It will happily self-seed. It prefers a position in full sun or light shade. Water regularly during dry periods. You can buy seeds from the garden centre.
Janet Luke is a Landscape Architect with a passion for sustainable living and her business greenurbanliving.co.nz. Her first book, Green Urban Living is available in good book shops.