It is Easter weekend and we are almost a month into the Southern Hemisphere’s autumn.

The summer crops in the vegetable garden are almost at an end. A week or two ago, I pulled the tomatoes and courgette plants out. I left the cucumber, chillis and capsicum in as they are still producing, but the end is in sight for them too. Not so with the spinach and rhubarb which are continuing to thrive.

All these crops were a success. The garlic and the corn too. The failures were the lettuce which I never have any luck with, and the beetroot which produced wizened up things the size of a fingernail.

And the chillis. Yes, they were prolific but they were also far too hot for our palates.  I ended up giving most of them to my daughter in law who is a hot chilli fan, and making the rest into sweet chilli sauce, hoping that the other ingredients would ameliorate the fiery experience!

Regardless, most of our meals now have our produce in it. The other major thing that has happened is that we have changed from meat and three veg to at least half our evening meals being meatless. This was not a conscious choice, it just happened and we are both enjoying it.* Go figure?

Quite a lot of the produce we grew I ended up preserving. With the cucumber I made a couple of jars of bread and butter pickles and the next couple, I will use in a mustard pickle recipe I make. Both these pickles go well with cheese, of which I am a great fan.

I also made some tomato sauce. For one lot, I used the recipe of my grandmother’s which incorporated apples and onions. The other recipe I used was essentially an unadulterated tomato sauce recipe I found in a booklet put out by the NZ Gardener magazine.

So what changes have I in mind for next summer? Firstly,  I need to increase the size of my garden, realistically I  probably will  triple  its dimensions (presently 5 metres x 3.5 metres). I see this as being three beds, but maybe it will be four (gardening is addictive).  I want one bed to be for potatoes, another for onions and garlic. I will plant more tomato plants  than I did this year – this year I had 8 heirloom varieties.  I intend to use most of the crop next year for tomato sauces and pasta sauces. I also have promised myself I will be way more on to it dealing with the laterals. My plants weren’t pretty!

Next year the variety of chilli I plant will be less potent. My peppers will be the sweeter red variety, as opposed to this year’s green variety. My two courgette plants worked out well, as did the perpetual spinach and rhubarb so I will stick with these. I will plant more corn. I will persevere with beetroot and lettuce and I will win (maybe). I will also plant pumpkin and rock melon. Maybe the garden needs to be five times its present size?

Meanwhile I am planting my winter crops. I have planted broccoli, cauliflower, and more spinach plants. I am also trying leek and carrots sown into the garden straight from seed.  Hopefully, this won’t end badly. Fingers crossed!

The self-sufficiency goal continues with the introduction of a worm farm and compost system. It took a while for me to sort out how to approach this, but a conversation with my friendly garden guru at Mitre 10 put me on the right track.  Two weeks ago, I purchased all the components for a worm farm and a plastic compost bin too. Most of my vegetable scraps, egg shells and even the inner of toilet rolls go into the worm farm. It is amazing what it takes and if I am in doubt, I resort to Mr Google.

The compost bin which has chicken wire underneath to stop rodents taking up residence is where the garden waste such as tree clippings goes. Rubbish going into the council bag is now significantly reduced (maybe two bread bags full a week?)

I know I haven’t discussed our fruit trees .. .next time! Ooh, and I have discovered we have an avocado tree, a  large, slightly butchered avocado tree, but there is hope apparently, although I may have to buy it a mate!

The fun continues.

*We do buy vegetables in, of course.

** Alexa Johnson’s ‘Ladies a plate: Jams and preserves’  The sweet chilli sauce, Mrs Paykel’s mustard pickle and the Bread and Butter Pickle recipes came from this book.