snow peas

Autumn seedlings are in the ground

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Purple sprouting broccoli seedling

We’ve had more luck with our seed raising this year, and last week I transplanted a whole pile of seedlings out into the garden. The beds are looking pretty bare at the moment, but we have a huge crop ahead of us:

  • Carrots
  • Silverbeets
  • Turnips
  • Snow peas
  • Sugar snap peas
  • Peas
  • Leeks
  • Beetroots
  • Spring onions
    • green
    • red
  • Kale
    • green
    • tuscan black
    • red russian
  • Broccoli
    • purple sprouting
    • di cicco
    • romanesco
    • chinese (broccolini)
  • Cabbages
    • mini
    • chinese
    • red
    • sugarloaf

That should keep us going for a while! This time around, I’ve avoided mass planting, and have instead mixed everything together (except the root vegetables). Hopefully I’ve got the spacing right, but only time will tell…

Chinese cabbages and more

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Chinese cabbages in the ground, sugar snap peas on the climbing frame

It’s surprising how much can be grown during a Sydney winter. With no frosts (at least near the coast), and less bugs, we’re getting plenty out of the garden each week.

The chinese cabbages are my current pride and joy. These grow very quickly, and are just about ready to be harvested. They have, however, had a mixed track record to date. Last year, they rotted in the ground, after non-stop rain for a month. This year I protected them with plastic, but the slugs have found them. Picking 3-4 slugs off them each day has meant they’ve been growing faster than they’ve been eaten, but it’s a close-run race.

I’ve also tried a different approach to climbers. The teepee structures I used last winter were fine, but took up a lot of space. So this time around I screwed together some garden stakes and attached wire mesh. So far the sugar snap peas are very happy!

These are just two of the above-ground plants we’re growing this winter. In addition we have:

  • savoy cabbages
  • mini savoy cabbages
  • purple cabbages
  • silverbeet
  • warrigal greens
  • pak choy
  • bok choy
  • kale (two varieties)
  • snow peas
  • rhubarb
  • salad greens
  • herbs (various)

(I’ll list the root vegetables in the next post.)

Snowpeas have bolted to seed

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The snowpeas that got away from us

Presumably due to the handful of scorching hot days, the snowpeas have decided to bolt to seed. We’ve had a reasonable number of edible pods, but once the they start to swell up (as in the photo above), the point of no return has been passed.

All is not lost, and I’m going to save them for seed. The plants are healthy and vigorous, and according to the Seed Savers Handbook, I should wait until the peas rattle in the pod. I don’t think this will take long if the heat keeps up…

Last orders from our winter vege garden

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The last haul of broccoli from the garden
The last haul of broccoli from the garden

We recently went away for a two week break to Western Australia. Just as we left, the weather was warming up and the garden was delivering its last harvest.

Luckily we lined up our next door neighbours to harvest the garden as well as look after the cat. When we got back, they told us that they had so many sugar snap peas, snow peas and broccoli that their family of four couldn’t get through it all!

Even after that, we still had a huge haul of brocolli, as shown above, plus pak choi, and peas.

But it’s now time to wind up the winter growing season, with spring on our doorstep. We need the space, so I pulled out the sugar snap peas this morning, and the old chinese cabbage. The pak choi will be next to go, along with the snow peas and carrots.

Onto the next round of growing (and eating!).

Our current crop of greens

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The last few day's harvest: plenty of sugar snap peas, snow peas and broccoli
The last few day's harvest: plenty of sugar snap peas, snow peas and broccoli

This is what we harvested from the garden over the last few days. There are four or five good handfuls of sugar snap peas and snow peas, plus a few modest heads of broccoli and broccolini. The broccoli is just coming into its own, so I expect we’ll have quite a lot of this over the coming fortnight.

As it is, this is more than enough to keep the two of us stocked up on green vegetables. And this is without harvesting the pak choy and silverbeet, which is ready and waiting. I might also pick out the two weakest heads of chinese cabbage this week, to give us something to eat, and to leave more space for the remaining plants.

Beginner’s mistake: pruning the sugar snap peas too late

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Despite best efforts, the sugar snap peas grew to 2.5m and then fell over
Despite best efforts, the sugar snap peas grew to 2.5m and then fell over

As I’ve consistently highlighted, I’m making this up as I go, having never had the opportunity to have a real garden before. Of course, that’s the fun of it.

One lesson now learnt: don’t wait until the sugar snap peas grow to the top of the frame before tip-pruning them. The result is that they keep growing, and keep growing, and then fall over. As you can see from the picture above, this looks more like something from Doctor Who rather than a productive collection of peas ready for the picking.

By contrast, the snow peas were a great disappointment at the outset, barely growing at all.To my surprise, when they did start growing, they started producing peas from the outset. Despite being only a foot and half high, they’ve produced more snow peas than the giant pea plants of doom.

My approach for next year: start tip-pruning the sugar snap peas when they get half way up the frame. Hopefully that will generate more peas, and less greenery.

Our first pak choy

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Our first harvest of red pak choy out of the garden
Our first harvest of red pak choy out of the garden

The red pak choy was one of the first things we planted into the garden, and it grew at a huge rate at the outset. Then the rain and cold weather hit, and everything slowed almost to a halt. Still, I’ve been keeping my eye on the pak choy, and tonight was the night.

We did a simple Thai-style stir fry of pak choy, snow peas and sugar snap peas (all out of the garden). Quickly tossed with chilli, fish sauce and lime juice. Served with noodles, yum!

Still plenty of pak choy left, ready to harvest whenever the mood strikes.

The harvesting has begun

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Tuscan kale, the first produce to come from our garden
Tuscan kale, the first produce to come from our garden

The obvious milestone for starting a new vege garden is the first harvest, straight from the garden to the plate. While everything grew rapidly during autumn, the cold snap over the last week has definitely slowed things up.

Still, this was a good week for home-grown food:

Last Sunday: a handful of tuscan kale, sauteed with butter, garlic, verjuice and parmesan. A perfect side-dish with lemony chicken!

During the week: the first small handful of snow peas, stored up for eating tonight.

Today: a generous basket of silverbeet, english spinach and tuscan kale. All of which will be going into spanakopita (cheese and spinach pie). Can’t wait!

A small handful of snow peas, with more to come
A small handful of snow peas, with more to come

I’m hoping that by next weekend we’ll have a good crop of sugar snap peas, more snow peas, and pak choy. Then tomatoes and further silverbeet.

Five colour silverbeet, just about to go into a cheese and spinach pie
Five colour silverbeet, just about to go into a cheese and spinach pie

Sugar snap peas: 2m high and still growing

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There's a climbing frame somewhere under there
There's a climbing frame somewhere under there

When we moved into our new house, I created three climbing frames, the first two for sugar snap peas, the third for snow peas. As you can see, the first bed is growing out of all bounds! Even at 2m high, these plants are still attempting to go up, and would do if I didn’t keep nipping out the buds (apparently this should help to increase pea production).

All three plants are now flowering, hopefully just the start of much more to come. Must remember to mark the first seed pods, so I keep them for seed rather than eating them.

Sugar snap peas in flower
Sugar snap peas in flower

Overall, I’m very pleased with how these have turned out so far, even if I’m not quite at the level of succession trellises. (Maybe next year.)