I have recently started reflecting on where plants in our garden are originally from, because people often ask me the same question about myself. Most of our flowers, fruits, veggies and herbs in the garden are from other countries. I have started writing a series of blog posts to explore some of the favourite flowers and edibles we have grown over the years which are from overseas. In this post, I would like to cover some edibles we have grown in our garden that are thought to originate from China.
Two years ago, I grew wombok cabbage for the first time. It was incredibly easy to grow and matured much faster than regular cabbage. I grew the following four different varieties from seed:
I sowed the seeds in a punnet filled with some seed raising mix, covering them lightly with a little more seed raising mix, in autumn and left them in our patio. When the seedlings germinated and had grown a bit, I carefully pricked them out and transplanted them into seedling trays filled with some potting mix, so they could grow a bit more before being planted outside. I always line the seedling trays with some newspaper as they contain holes in the bottom and that prevents the potting mix from falling through. I was amazed at how quickly they grew! I planted my seedlings outside in early March and they started to become ready in May on Mother’s Day. This is what I gave mum as a present, along with a bunch of jonquils from our flower garden. Mum prefers receiving things from our garden rather than purchased presents. She also enjoys making a home cooked meal with produce fresh from our garden rather than dining out, both on Mother’s Day and generally.
I really love growing snake beans, which are native to China. They are sometimes called yard long runner beans. They do require incredibly hot weather in order to grow well. Last summer wasn’t a good year for them at all, but they have done very well in previous seasons. Because our summers start quite late and the plants are very sensitive to cold weather, I always plant seedlings outside after Christmas just to be on the safe side. In order to do this, I need to germinate seedlings on our head pad in late November or early December. They usually grow and develop in January and February. By March, the plants start flowering and beans form. We are busy harvesting the beans in April and May. That essentially means that while they are planted in summer, they only start producing in late autumn for us, but it may be different in other parts of the country and will mostly certainly be the case overseas, especially in tropical environments.
When I first started gardening, it was so easy to grow garlic. I simply popped cloves into the ground on the shortest day, covered them with a little dirt and by the longest day when I lifted the plants, there were huge balls of garlic. Unfortunately things have changed and garlic has gone from being the easiest thing for me to grow to now being one of the most difficult things to get right. The reason is because of rust. I have tried lots of different sprays over the years in an attempt to prevent and control rust, to no avail. You can read more about my troubles with rust and growing garlic in my previous blog post. I haven’t included photos because the ones I wanted to use are the same as in that blog post.
Last summer wasn’t a good season for growing onions (as with a lot of edibles) due to the floods and cyclones in Auckland, but the previous season was exceptionally good. I grow both brown and red onions. Brown onions are used in cooking, while red onions are wonderful in salads (my favourite being Greek salad). As with garlic, I always hang our onion harvest on our washing line for a few days so the bulbs dry and cure (in other words, the skins thicken), so they store better.
Afterwards, I place the onions in trays and store them in our greenhouse to continue drying.
Back in 2017, I added a mini orchard to our garden, including some dwarf peach trees. They are planted in large containers. I planted a few different varieties so they can cross-pollinate with each other and produce a better yield. The other advantage to doing this is that they crop at different times, allowing for a continuous supply of peaches in late summer and early autumn. In recent years, they have started cropping really well. Here is a picture of some peaches harvested from our garden.