From the Kitchen Garden: Matariki and the Gardeners New Year

Here in the southern hemisphere we have just passed the shortest day on June 21st. Our Midwinter’s Day which of course translates to the longest day or Midsummer Day in the northern hemisphere.   It is also around the time when we celebrate Matariki here in Aotearoa New Zealand.  Matariki is now known as the Maori New Year and begins when the star group Matariki (also known as the Pleiadies, or the Seven Sisters) rises in the eastern sky.  It seems eminently sensible to me to continue in this wise tradition of our ancestors and make this the beginning of our gardening new year as well. This is traditionally the time when garlic gets planted and for me this marks the time when I rotate my beds around and the garlic is the crop that begins the new year by being planted in the next bed.

It is also the time when we can complete the previous season’s harvest by digging up any potatoes or root crops that we might have overwintered. You can still store in paper or hessian bags in a cool dry place but if you leave them in the ground much longer they may start growing again.   If you want to put some aside for seed potatoes choose blemish free ones and set aside ready for sprouting in the next few months.

Garlic is one of those must have plants that even the smallest backyard garden should find room for. We all need garlic and with a lot of our commercial plants being imported and chemically treated this is your chance to grow your own super healthy organic flavour bombs. Bear in mind that this crop will be in the ground for at least 6 months so think carefully where to put it – I usually put mine in a side bed where it minds its own business and does its thing until late December.

Garlic is a gross feeder so dig up a trench to the depth of a spade, add in lots of manure, compost, or blood and bone then cover over with a layer of good soil.  Break up your bulbs into the corms and plant each one (pointy bit up!) in rows into your trench.  I plant mine about 10-15 cms apart and the rows far enough apart to hoe between.  Then cover over with soil, topping up good compost if necessary.   Wait until the green shoots have emerged before gently mulching to keep any weeds at bay. Keep weed free, avoid disturbing the roots of the growing plants and liquid feed during the growing season.

What else is in the garden?  I have autumn sown broad beans growing well, adding nitrogen to the soil and getting ready to make delicious home-grown treats come spring.  In the next month or two I will start sowing broad beans and peas into the next bed in the crop cycle for the new year.

For those of you who are new to gardening and are not yet sure of the mysteries of what to plant and where – I still have copies of the Crop Rotation Poster available.  I am about to reprint some more for the coming season so to clear out what I have left over, I have a special offer for those of you who have “liked” my facebook page.   Two copies for $10plus P&P of $10.  Message me or email with your address and I will give you my account details for payment.

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