Let's get our gardens ready for spring

LAURA FAIRE
Last updated 05:00 03/08/2014
Quinoa salad
MICHAEL BRADLEY

SUPER FOOD: Quinoa adds substance, flavour and fluffiness to a winter salad.

Related Links

Recipe: Winter quinoa salad Seeding, weeding and reading The art of making quinoa Crunchy quinoa muesli bars Healthy and tasty quinoa porridge

Relevant offers

Food & Wine

Review: Eden Noodles Cafe, Mt Eden More New Zealand cafes and restaurants going totally smoke free Recipe: Star anise breakfast buns How much fun it is to get drunk? UK scientists have found out Five of Auckland's best cocktail bars to visit in winter Saint Clair Family Estate buys fellow Marlborough wine company Lake Chalice Nigella Lawson on MasterChef Australia is a master stroke Marlborough City: pros and cons with winemaker Josh Scott and National Kaikoura MP Stuart Smith Residents protest pop-up McDonald's in Sydney suburb of Glebe Nigella Lawson: Five dishes every home cook should master

It might be a quiet time in the garden, but some much-needed housekeeping is in order to prepare for the next growing season. 

As August arrives, so does the final month of winter and preparation for spring and summer vegetable growing. Currently the little I have planted in my vege patch sleeps under a thick layer of mulch, warm and cosy tucked up in bed. The only action happening is in my seed box.

My seed box is a large cake tin filled with packets of seeds, nearly all torn open, many with scribbles upon them. A few are decanted into envelopes to accommodate more notes, and those collected from former years slosh about in a mish-mash of containers or knotted plastic bags with barely a scrawled name and date.

This shameful mess is in dire need of sorting and purging. My conscientiousness with storing food and spices makes this behaviour all the more strange. One night this month, armed with spice jars and masking tape, I will sort out my seed storage problems.

Growing from seed is usually a small part of my annual tasks as I love a jaunt round the garden centre, loading the car boot with little plants already revealing a meal in the making. This year, though, getting two moody babies into the car and then wrangling them around a garden centre in a wonky trolley is not appealing. Instead I will be growing many of my annual vegetables from seed. This requires shifting the cavolo nero from its sheltered spot by the back steps to create a seed raising bed.

Although it will be an eyesore near the back deck it will be a reliable controlled growing environment. Close enough that I know I will tend to it and small enough to cover and protect.

For tomatoes, a covered outdoor table will be pushed into action with the aid of a large polystyrene bin I secreted away, along with a messy pile of salvaged plastic pots and ice-block sticks.

When growing from seed I have found it vital to use specialty soil. I will be topping my seed beds with a thick layer of organic potting mix and specific seed raising soil. Using one of these soils is a good idea as they have a fine loamy texture that allows for uniform seed sewing and are tested to ensure they are weed free. In my early gardening days, using soil from the garden, I grew two pots of grass because I had failed to use a specialised soil.

Luckily, when it came to seed saving, Andean gardeners were much more organised and a lot less ditzy than me. The much-loved and ancient quinoa seed (keen-wah) has been saved and cultivated for 3000-4000 years. If you have tried it and found it to be bitter and sludgy then it hasn't been rinsed properly; it is vital to remove the last of the natural bitter coating the seed uses to protect itself.

Rinsed well and cooked with care, quinoa is light, fluffy and nutty.

This salad keeps well as the cavolo nero leaf doesn't wilt once dressed, making it perfect for three to four days of no-fuss lunches.

Ad Feedback

- Sunday Star Times

Recipe search

Special offers
Opinion poll

How does a strong cup of coffee make you feel?

More alert and awake

Jittery, anxious

It gives me an upset tummy

I feel no effect

Vote Result

Featured Promotions

Sponsored Content

Laura Faire Cookbook Promotion