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Edible summer garden

The cold is (meant to be) behind us, which means in the garden, it’s time to look forward. Look forward to our homegrown fruit and vegetables, that is. From basil to beetroot, lettuce and zucchini – it’s all happening in the fruit and veggie patch this December.




The end of the cold means it’s finally time to sow veges from seed. In particular, basil, beans, beetroot, carrots, corn, cucumbers, lettuce, parsnip, pumpkin, radish and zucchini can all be popped straight into the soil as seeds.

All summer gardeners know how important it is to conserve water during these hot months, as we all must do our part. So gardening becomes smarter. Enter mulch, it keeps the soil damp for no-water days.

If you prefer petals over produce, or want to produce something ornamental alongside your edibles, sow seeds of ageratum, cosmos, cyclamen, rudbeckia, salpiglossis, and zinnia. Or, visit your local garden centre for some already-flowering options.
If you are a Kiwi gardener in possession of a warm, sunny fence – you must consider planting it with passionfruit. It’s also a great time to plant subtropical fruit like natal plums and tamarillos – don’t forget compost and sheep pellets, or to keep well-watered.

Prepare now for citrus season by planting citrus trees throughout summer. Or, add instant tang to your summer menu by planting an already flowering, large-grade lemon or lime tree. Your 5pm G&T will thank you for it.

Don’t sacrifice the fruits of your labour by letting the bugs, or poor care, compromise your crops. There’s plenty of organic options for keeping summer slimeys, like caterpillars, or fungus at bay – as well as nets to dissuade birds. Water – and mulch – will prevent fruit drop.


In season

As the days continue to warm and the sunshine hours increase, summer fruit and vegetables flourish to provide us with deliciously ripened produce for our plates – often ready to just be rinsed and eaten right away.


Not only does our produce taste better when in season, but the fresher the fare – the higher its nutritional value. Studies show fruits and vegetables stored, for example while being transported long distances, can lose nutritional value.

Prices tend to be lower with in-season produce because there is more of it and it doesn’t need to travel far to arrive still fresh for your plate. And as we head into summer, that means no more extortionate courgettes.

Look forward to locals like courgette, avocado, tomatoes, artichokes, eggplant, asparagus, beans, beetroot, peas, butternut squash and capsicum to fill your vege drawer. While the fruit bowl bursts with blueberries, apricots, cherries, apples, peaches, raspberries, blackberries and plums.

As the warm weather approaches, summer vegetables not only act to cool down our bodies, but they provide us with the vitamins and minerals needed to get through the typically more active and longer summer days.

Eating seasonal also means consuming local, which not only means a reduced carbon footprint as it travels less, but also a reduced need for preservatives. And not to mention the support you’ll be giving local growers!

Serving suggestions:

Grilled eggplants, asparagus and capsicum are an instant flavour and nutrition boost to any meal

Try some inventive salad combinations like those mentioned on page 46

Replace winter comfort foods like pasta with vegetables like eggplant or courgette

Try and start your meal from a vege base instead of a protein

Freeze fruit which is about to turn and use it for making smoothies


Sustainable Spaces

Creating food in your own backyard is a great way to minimise your environmental impact. And it’s not as time or labour intensive as you might think!


Raised vegetable gardens, homegrown herbs, low-maintenance fruit trees, backyard beehives and DIY compost – they are growing in popularity as we increasingly seek sustainability from our spaces.

Growing your own food is a great way to limit the contaminants, such as hormones and pesticides, you’re exposed to, and, with fewer resources required to reach your plate, they are less taxing on the environment.

When you’re starting out, seedlings can be a safer bet than seeds and those from a nursery even more so. Don’t go crazy on specialised supplies; start with the basics and learn as you go. You’ll find plenty of information online or you can head into your local nursery if you need to talk to the experts.

Tomatoes, cucumbers and lemons are a mainstay of Kiwi gardens, but there are more exotic, high value plants that can also be grown easily, such as berries, avocados, limes and cauliflower. Fruit trees are a great addition to the backyard and can be grown up or along fences in smaller sections, or miniature varieties are available.

There’s a reason compost has been called black gold; it’s the single most important supplement you can give your garden. Transforming your food scraps and other natural waste into this nutrient-rich, organic fertiliser is also free, easy to make and good for the environment. Just jump online and you’ll find plenty of easy to follow instructions.

Meanwhile beekeeping may require a little more research – and space – but is well worth the effort. Beekeeping supports community pollination, food supplies and fosters bee populations outside of the commercial beekeeping industry. Plus who doesn’t love honey? Need we say it’s the bees knees? You’ll find plenty of support at the Christchurch Hobbyist Beekeepers’ Club.

The garden doesn’t have to be just a place of peace; it can also be a place of purpose. So why not get out there and make the most of the warm days, after all, you reap what you sow!



All a-skew

Colourful, sizzling, tasty skewers. As the weather warms up, so do our backyard barbecues. These simple and fun crowd pleasers set the chef’s creativity on fire – and everyone can pitch in with the preparation.


MEATY MOUTHFULS: Pairing up bite-sized morsels with their likely partners always wins. Chicken and red pepper, lamb and onion, pork and pineapple, beef and mushroom. However, marinades are the success secret, helping meat char less, tenderise, and doubling as basters for a gorgeous glaze. To sizzle up this timeless trend, plate up with a flurry of fresh herbs or microgreens, and dollops of artisan dipping sauces.

A STRING OF SEAFOOD: The smoky flavour achieved when barbecuing kaimoana is a warm weather favourite, and seafood addicts will appreciate the simplicity of four fat, juicy scallops in a row on a bamboo or metal skewer, or garlic butterflied tiger prawns – perfect with a glaze and lively salad. To stretch out these delicacies, thread skewers with pineapple, peppers and red onions and pop a cherry tomato on each end.

GIVE VEGES A GRILLING: Add crunchy rainbows of veges to your repertoire. From red, green, orange and yellow capsicums to cauliflower, zucchini, mushrooms, corn and onions. Top with tasty sauces like a lemon herb drizzle or tzatziki. Firm tofu packs a protein punch, soaking up seasonings and marinades. Try different mushroom varieties, such as oyster, for textured intensity, or the mouth-filling decadence of halloumi.

SWEET STICKS: The BBQ needn’t power down at dessert time. Firm fruits caramelise beautifully on the grill, from peaches, apricots and nectarines to exotic mango. Decorated with edible flowers, and pots of melted chocolate, yoghurt or whipped cream for dunking, or drizzle a lime and ginger marinade for a piquant zing. Add some sticky marshmallows for the kids, or, pair with a balsamic drizzle to keep things interesting.

Warming up to salads

Gastronomically speaking, it can be a confusing time of year. Longer days and slightly balmier temperatures tell us salad season is near. But the fact we still need our jumpers and coats leaves us equally in want of warming comfort foods. Enter the warm salad: A happy medium between crisp freshness and hearty wholesomeness.


Warm salads help administer your 5+ a day, with that comforting temperature we can’t help but crave in cooler times. Here’s some ideas for creating your own colourful, all-season salads.

LAMB AND ROAST VEGETABLES: Healthy and hearty is covered with a Greek-inspired blend of pan-fried lamb and oven roasted pumpkin, onion, and beetroot, all seasoned with cumin, chilli, and cinnamon. Add crumbed cauliflower (pan cooked for a quick 5 minutes) and pistachio, walnuts, linseed, mint leaves, and a tangy tahini dressing.

ROAST PUMPKIN AND PEPITA: Reduce your food waste by roasting pumpkin seed pods alongside the flesh from the same vegetable. Wash and pat the seeds dry, and roast for about half the time as you do the flesh. Drizzle the finished results with honey, apple cider vinegar and top with labneh or feta, and refreshing mint.

BUCKWHEAT AND BEETROOT: This salad (pictured) is an easy combo of roast beetroot, sautéed mushrooms, and onion, all mixed with cooked buckwheat and topped with fresh herbs and roughly chopped, lightly toasted hazelnuts. Sprinkle with feta, or add some fried haloumi, and finish with a chef’s kiss.


Sow what?


The winter chill will be with us a while yet, but the slightly longer daylight hours are a sure sign spring is on its way. So, it’s time to get the last of your pre-spring gardening done so you can sit back and enjoy the fruits (and vegetables) of your labour come warmer weather.



Here’s the rundown on what to be planting, pruning and prepping in your garden right now.

Planting new roses in rich, well-drained soil with plenty of compost now will lay great foundations for summer flowering. For those existing roses, it’s time to finish pruning while the plant is dormant so new shoots can start sprouting at the first feel of warm weather.

Protect your pre-Spring tree planting from those blustery nor’wester by securing them with some garden stakes. Avoid damaging the trunks by using a soft material to secure trees to the stakes, but don’t tie them too tightly. Trunks should still rock a little, as this helps strengthen their roots.

If you want to give you garden a boost of groomed greenery, it’s a great time to grow hedging. Popular hedging varieties include griselinia and corokia, but you can branch out with an edible option by using feijoa.

These usually arrive in garden centres about now, so it’s a great time to stock up on your preferred varieties – just remember to check if your chosen tree requires a pollinator. When it comes to planting, you should aim to dig a hole twice as wide and deep as the one it comes in and backfill this with a mix of topsoil, compost, sheep pellets and feed or organic fertiliser.

Planting strawberries now gives them time to root during winter, ready for Spring growth. Choose a sunny spot for your strawbs, and prepare the soil with organic matter like compost and sheep pellets. Water them well – using a straw can help keep the roots moist and ensure the fruit stays off the soil, too.

It’s also an opportune time to plant up your pots, containers and hanging baskets. Add an instant pop of colour with flowering favourites like Viola, Polyanthus, Poppy, Gypsophila, Hollyhock and Carnations. Add a thick layer of mulch or pea straw to conserve water, reduce weeds and cycle nutrients back into the soil.

Early August is an opportune time to sow seeds of tomatoes, cabbage, celery, spring onion, onion, silverbeet, melon, spinach, cucumbers, capsicum, and lettuce. Sow your seeds in trays of seed raising mix to get them ready for later transplanting.


Thrive through winter

Your little garden projects don’t take a break just because it’s coming into winter… and neither should you. We’ve pulled together all of the tips and tricks to making sure your Garden of Eden stays alive and thriving.



  1. Don’t forget your roots: While we’re certain Six60 wasn’t being literal… in this case, we are. Winter is the perfect time to replenish your soil and make sure that it has all of the nutrients it needs to fight off that winter weather. Just as we need lots of vitamin C in winter, your garden needs good fertiliser.
  2. Catalogue your crops: You wouldn’t go out in the snow in your swimmers; the same goes for your choice of vegetables in your garden. Make sure you plant the appropriate crops to the season – broccoli, garlic, kale, onions, silverbeet and spinach are just a few.
  3. Too much at stake: Understandably you can’t be in your garden 24/7 to hold down the fort. Ensure your plants are protected from the cold winter winds by staking them – it’ll provide them with the extra support they need to make it through the chilly months.
  4. Ring-a-ring-a-roses: The colder months are the best time to plant your new roses. It’s also a perfect opportunity to prune any existing ones you have growing. This will help them with growth and help them avoid any pesky diseases.

If you want more help and advice, head into Terra Viva Home & Garden. They have all the tips, tricks and tools to meet your gardening needs, while also offering a full landscape design service that is very popular with customers.


Top Picks

When it comes to summertime fresh fruit and vegetables, we Kiwis are truly blessed with the bountiful best. But what of late summer and beyond? Will there still be rich pickings? You betcha!



Below is an A-Z of what’s on offer.

A is for apple. Harvested between February and May, varieties such as ballarat, braeburn, cox’s orange, fuji, gala, golden delicious, granny smith, red delicious, and royal gala ensure to ‘keep the doctor away’.

The avocado is a fruit (yes, fruit!) that, due to being harvested at different times of the year, is another all-year goodie.

It’s one of the few fruits that contains monounsaturated fat – that’s the good fat that helps lower blood cholesterol.

Look for varieties such as hass, reed, fuerte and carmen.

Beans are a protein-rich superfood. High in fibre and antioxidants, these mighty legumes are great for the waistline, and may aid in disease prevention.

Take your pick from green, French, butter or broad beans.

Beetroot is another superfood readily available.

Studies have shown beetroot helps lower blood pressure, reduces cholesterol, and is rich in potassium, folate, vitamin C and other important minerals.

Berries are a great source of antioxidants, so not only are these little darlings delicious, they do heaps to protect body cells and control free radicals.

Make a berry delectable dessert of whipped cream, blackberries, blueberries, blackcurrants and strawberries. Yum!

Bravo for brassicas, broccoli and broccolini, while versatile veges buttercup squash and butternuts can be baked, boiled, sautéed, added to salads and stir-fries, or made into a nourishing soup.

Cabbages and cauliflowers can be found all year round, as can celery, capsicums, cucumber and carrots.

Heirloom carrots, in colours of orange, cream and purple, look beautiful and taste sensational.

Eggplant (aubergine to the French), especially the purple variety, is an all-year star. “Bring on the ratatouille, René!”

Garlic and ginger may be like chalk and cheese, but they’re always available, are vital for health and, let’s face it, no meal is quite the same without ‘em.

Grapes, honeydew melons, mango, nashi pears, nectarines, passionfruit, peaches, plums are all available through to March, and last but not least is the mouth-watering watermelon.

Check out the 5+aDay website for seasonal inspiration.


Growing vegetables = Growing health: Terra Viva Home and Garden

Growing your own vegetables is a win-win all round. High in vitamins A and C, antioxidants, minerals and fibre, vegetables protect against heart disease and cancer. The mental health benefits too have been well documented.



By Terra Viva Owner Peter Worsp


The 1959 rehab programme for war veterans included working in the garden as part of a physical and mental wellbeing programme. You’ll also find that children growing vegetables are much more likely to eat them. If you’ve grown your own vegetables you know exactly what’s gone into and onto them.

Growing vegetables gives you a healthy body and mind, a great sense of satisfaction and a healthy pocket. That convenient back-garden vege patch can save you big bucks, especially at this ‘in between’ season of the year. So here’s a few tips, and always remember: plants were designed to grow – it ain’t rocket science!

Herbs are one of the easiest, even in the smallest patch. Parsley – great in the ground or in containers in full sun/part shade with plenty of water. The secret for basil? Maximum heat and shelter from cold wind. Picking mint? Always cut stalks off right at the base and use only the tip to keep plants clear of rust – mint loves water and is happy in part shade. Coriander is such a useful herb which also loves part shade and is at its best grown from seed in spring and autumn. Sweet rocket transforms an average salad into a culinary masterpiece.

As winter veges finish and summer is still a way off, plant pak choi, silverbeet and spinach, which all grow fast and are happy in the cooler temperatures. Beetroot is delicious and versatile – the young foliage as a microgreen, the small beets roasted or grated, and for preserving at the end of the season. Did you know that any of the beets are good for lowering blood pressure?

Soil preparation is the key, so dig down to a spade’s depth and mix in blood and bone, a dusting of lime, and sheep pellets, to provide loose and fertile earthworm-attracting soil. Regular light side dressings of crop-specific fertilisers and a top-up of Tui Seaweed Tonic will give you bumper crops. Marigolds, sunflowers and cleomes keep the bugs at bay.

Along with lettuces (plant every two weeks for a continuous supply), tomatoes are the top summer crop. Good heat, good soil and regular feeding give lots of sweet juicy fruit packed with goodies like lycopene, a powerful anti-oxidant for prostate health. In cooler climates, grow the smaller-fruited tomatoes –Sweet 100, Sungold, Berrytoms – as they ripen much quicker. Feed tomatoes regularly and use the same fertiliser for eggplants (aubergines) which love heat, along with chillies and capsicums (Target is an easy variety). Climbing beans and dwarf beans love well-composted, damp but well-drained soil, and once again…heat!




Ugly Food

Ugly Food

The ugly food movement – this decade’s term to describe fruit and vegetables of the knotted, gnarly and spotty kind –is taking over our soils.


Ugly Food


Although an unflattering title, ugly food is a new food group we can include in our shopping baskets. People are saving on pennies whilst simultaneously saving the world food-shortage and wastage problem. As a growing trend, with those like Jamie Oliver spreading the word, this is really just a reversal back to the good old days.

In decades passed, a child’s image of an apple included a worm peeping out the side. Now it’s more likely the Apple logo. Cut out the codling moth, peel away the brown patch and pop that puny cast-off into the lunchbox. Take a large perfectly spherical Californian orange for instance and a local, small organic blemished one. Cut both into quarters and compare. It’s likely the later surpasses in intense juicy flavour.

Every year reportedly 2.9 trillion pounds of food gets dumped, according the Food and Agricultural Organisation of the United Nations – ‘ugly food’ is a big part of the problem. The EU, until recently, imposed rules on the length, size and condition of what fruits and vegetables retailers could sell. Big is not necessarily beautiful, but the food industry has been conditioning our eyes over our taste buds. New Zealand produce, such as kiwifruit, sells overseas as voluptuous clones in a row – for an arguably brazen price-tag. The tasty small fuzzy ones left behind, can sell for a song.

However, times ‘they are a changing’. It’s been a couple of years since Countdown introduced The Odd Bunch – asymmetrical avocados, odd-ball kumaras, hail-stone pocked stone fruit, or apples that would not otherwise make the grade. Until wild and interesting becomes the new normal, they sport a cheaper price tag – a great way to save money.  In many remote parts of the world, living off the land correlates to longevity. Food in its heirloom ancient form is unrecognisable to many of our purposely bred next-gen varieties and those pumped with chemicals to increase shelf-life and aesthetic value.

Thankfully, in many a home vege garden in New Zealand, it’s often taste before beauty. It is at the retail stores where we often have our aesthetic-appeal radars out. Carrots spring to mind in the funny deformity stakes – the Frankensteins of the vege world. The tangled multi-limbed vegetable has simply just struck a pebble or stick while growing, then branched out to save itself. Capsicums come a close second in hilarious, but harmless, renditions. Strawberries and tomatoes can split or fuse together or sprout extra ‘bits’.

Share your comical food photos on Instagram, support farmers’ markets and ask for their more aesthetically challenged items, grow your own and shop for what’s on the inside – not the outside. There is in fact a fruit called Ugly Fruit, which interestingly has exotic-food status. This bulbous oddity is a hybridised Jamaican grapefruit, tangelo and orange mix.

It might be a while until we see Master Chef: the ugly edition, or warty root vegetables in Michelin Star dishes – but watch this space.