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Monday, February 24, 2014

Vegetable Garden Activity, Composting and Perry

Our work in the garden continues. Seeds for Kohl Rabi, Wong Bok and Bok Choi went into punnets last week and germinated within days. Jean pricked them out of their trays and planted out today. A good early start. With the exception of Brussels Sprouts and Cauliflower all the Brassica are in the ground. We had real success last year with Brussels Sprouts from seedlings purchased at Aldi. Because of their quality we are hanging in waiting for them to come in to the shop.

Kohl Rabi

Now that we have commenced planting out seedlings it always seems that we don't have enough in the way of garden beds but I'm sure that is an illusion.

We also put down a punnet of Onion seeds last week which has been kept in the kitchen. Normally Onion seeds are a real issue with us with only one or two plants popping up - eventually. But not this time. It looks as if all the seeds germinated. Part of the solution is getting fresh seed. After an intense study on the subject of Onions we realised that the seed has a very short shelf life. Now add into that mix the fact that there are early, mid and late varieties and some are suited to cold climates only, you get the impression that this is a complex subject.

In the past years our failure to germinate Onion seeds meant we were reliant on bought seedlings. Well last week we checked in all the stores and couldn't find any. We did find Leeks and took those as we always do well with them. Yesterday Jean was looking through our Garden Diary and saw that we had purchased and planted Onions a week ago last year. So what is happening? Has the weather affected the grower/suppliers?

Leeks in Troughs

At the end of last week the final massive vegetable garden weeding exercise was completed and with the last bed, the weeds were just dumped in a pile. Today was the day to assemble another NZ Compost. Layer by layer it was compiled. The hard stick like items went through the chipper side of the mulcher while the long strands of grass and other weeds which were still quite green and soft went through the mulcher opening. The secret here is to not have the exit plate in place otherwise the green material chokes the mulcher. By the leaving the plate off the weeds get a good thrashing on their way, through making them easier for bugs to digest, and shoot out the bottom without clogging.

Another secret is to make sure the bottom plate and its fixing bar are put in a safe place. Last week I managed to accidently put the fixing bar into the earlier assembled compost. Rather than disassemble the compost to find the bar a replacement was manufactured in the workshop. I'm sure the other bar will turn up later.

Bottom plate and new locking rod
After a solid afternoon's work the compost bin is over half full and all the material at hand is used. Looks like some hand mowing tomorrow to source the remaining green matter to mix with mulch hay.

In the Cave the Beurre Bosc finished pressing last night and we ended up with about 20 litres of juice. The pH was a bit high at 5.03 and Tartaric Acid was added. Also some Potassium Metabisulphite. The pH meter was playing up even though quite some time was spent calibrating with special solutions. At one point in desperation I resorted to the old pH papers. They are useful but getting a precise reading is impossible with the papers I have. Even with finer graduation papers it is difficult with red wine. In this case they at least confirmed that the reading was up in the high 4 to low 5's.

pH papers

In the end it dawned on me that maybe the battery was weak. A replacement battery soon solved the problem. This has happened to me before with other instruments. The battery still works but random results begin occurring. From now on I'll start each season with a freshly charged battery.

pH Meter

Buffer Solution for Calibration

This morning some fresh wine yeast was added to the demijohn and by this evening the airlock was bubbling comfortably. The demijohn is now in a refrigeration unit with the controller set for 12-15 C. This low temperature for a week or so should allow the yeast to bring out the wonderful Pear scents.

The goodly pile of compressed pulp went into the chicken run and delighted the girls.


  1. Hmmm! I've been thinking I should sow my winter seeds. I think this post has finally convinced me. I might forgo a lesson or two for the kids today and get out in the garden.

    1. Hi Linda, Turn the garden work into a lesson in seed starting for the kids.