Canterbury Region, Christchurch and Banks Peninsula
The below times are for the Canterbury region and is what we have found works on our farm. We have pushed boundaries and trialed various crops at times of the year where they are not meant to grow in our climate. Some trials were successful, others were not, but it is still good to give things a go and start seeds a tad too early and see what works in your climate with your unique conditions. And hey, climate change will have an effect on what we grow when. Each year is different, so pushing boundaries is not a bad idea.
The below sowing guide is a work in progress and has been developed over the last 10 years, with gardening in an urban section in Christchurch and on our current farm on Banks Peninsula. It provides us, a family of 4, with vegetables year round – yes, winter and spring as well as summer and autumn! The garden feeds us well with seasonal, nutrient dense, and ah so, so fresh vegetables. They are tasty, crunchy, sweet and kids gobble up everything that goes on their plate – even, or should I say especially, the greens like kale and spinach. That’s what a mum wants, right?
The months stated below are the time we start the seeds. For July, August, September as well as April and May we use a heat pad to get seeds started more easily and have found that it works well to get an early start for tomatoes without having to raise them indoors.
In a different climate you may be able to sow a month earlier (up North) or sow a month later (down South). Just experiment, take notes (important!) and see what works best for your climate and microclimate.
We raise all our plants from seeds because then we can raise organic plants and heritage varieties. Seedlings are strong, get transplanted at the right time, had no stress and are therefore less likely to bolt to seed prematurely. The potting mix used for nursery seedlings may also contain synthetic fertilisers, fungicides and herbicides, besides being F1 hybrid seedlings.
Winter (end July/early August)
Winter hardy vegetables like most brassicas (Chinese cabbage, red and green cabbage, broccoli, cauliflower, romanesco), spinach, turnip, silverbeet, and kale can be sown now for spring and early summer harvest. Make sure to keep them somewhere protected from the elements and protect them from birds. They can be pricked out after 4 weeks and transplanted in a bigger pot. Then they go in the garden end of August and September. They like the cool, wet spring weather and are less likely to bolt to seed than when growing them in the middle of summer. White cabbage butterflies will make an apparence when these are mature and ready to harvest. Asian greens like gai lan, pok choi and tat soi work also well to start from seed this time of the year with a high percentage of seeds germinating. They are fast growing and are lovely to harvest from September until November.
Early Spring (end Aug/early Sep)
This is our biggest month for sowing seeds here on KoruKai Herb Farm. Days are getting longer, fruit trees start to swell their buds and everything feels like bursting forth into spring. We raise all our tomatoes, chilli and pepper from seed usually in August as they need a long growing season. A heat pad for outdoors or a windowsill indoors is here key to success. We also sow lettuces, peas, another round of brassicas (broccoli, cabbage, kale, cauliflower) depending on germination rate from the month before and to get a second harvest a couple of weeks after the first crop. Florence fennel are sown, a couple of trays of microgreens, some more silverbeet, as well as celery, zucchini, eggplant, spinach and beetroot. Carrots are sown straight into the garden in September.
We also plant our early potatoes in September (harvest in December and January) and the yams (harvest: May/June)are planted at the same time.
We also start beneficial flowers like sunflowers, borage, phacelia, lupin, viola, calendula, marigold and cosmos. Herbs like parsley, coriander, cumin, caraway, salad burnet, dill, lemongrass, fenugreek, hyssop, chamomile, catnip, tulsi, etc. are also started from seed.
Cuttings from rosemary, sage, lavender and thyme have a good strike rate now and willingly put down roots.
We also sow trees and bushes for our food forrest and native bush. Kowai, kawakawa, tree lupin and tagasaste (tree lucerne).
Late Spring (Oct/Nov)
We have tried to grow beans a couple of times in September and even in August with epic fails. They don’t do well when sown and planted too early and are suseptible to slug attack and succumb fungal diseases. Therefore we sow beans in October (mid to end Oct). End of october we raise our pumpkins, watermelons for the tunnel house, cucumbers and corn. We make sure beds are prepared (topped with compost and mulch) so these crops can go in as soon as they have sprouted or grown sufficiently. We can also do another round of spinach and a couple of zucchini. Heat loving basil gets sown now as well as another lot of carrots (you can never have too many carrots, right?) goes straight into the garden.
Early Summer (Dec)
The majority of seeds for the growing season have been sown and we are now already starting our first winter crops.
Leeks have a long growing season and we start them in December for harvest in June (first baby leek), July, August and September. Brussel sprouts also need that extra time to grow and are sown now. We also sow a few more zucchini for late summer/early autumn harvest before the first frost wipes them out. Florence fennel is also great to do now for autumn and winter harvest. Another few rows of carrots are also sown now.
We usually plant another short season potato crop at the end of December, which will be ready to harvest in April/May and can be left in the ground for harvest throughout the winter period.
Late Summer (Jan/Feb/March)
The winter crops need to get sown now. They need to do most of their growth in autumn before growth slows down or comes to a halt over winter. We do 3 sowings from January until March to stagger ripening/harvest over late autumn, winter and early spring. Peas, cauliflower, cabbage, broccoli, kale, Chinese greens, silverbeet, mizuna, spinach, beetroot, florence fennel, turnip, daikon radish, lettuce, parsnip and swede. In January we start onions from seed. We also sow lots of carrots in January and February for winter and early spring harvets. This is the biggest crop of carrots we do year round and is the last for the season. The next ones get sown in September (harvest: December), so we make sure to sow lots to see us through from July until November.
We like to do a late crop of fennel, spinach, silverbeet and beetroot in March. We pot them up in mid April and plant them in the garden in mid May. This is a crucial crop for harvesting in early spring. They grow slowly over winter and get fat in spring when little other things are ready to harvest.
Cover crops for winter can be sown now into empty beds.
This is the time we plant our onion bulbs (like our Egyptian Walking Onions) and garlic cloves into well prepared beds. This ends our growing season and we start fresh in July.
We sow cover crops in May and June once the tomatoes and pepper have finished fruiting.
June is the only month where we do not raise any plants from seed (except the cover crops in the tunnelhouse) and we can spends some time on tool maintenace, cleaning the garden shed, plant nursery and tunnel houses.
Very important is to stagger your sowings. Do seed sowing once a month and try to just do a punnet per variety (more of a variety you do once of course). Don’t get carried away in early spring and sow too many seeds. A month later you will have to plant all of them out at once! You will end up with a glut of food and might see a lot go to seed before you have a chance to eat them all.
I hope you found this post helpful for your own gardening. It will never be complete and gets updated on a regular basis, but it is a starting point.
If you have further suggestions please comment below and we can include that in the next update.