Saturday, May 26, 2018

Harvesting oca, and mistakes beginners make with their veggie patches

Well, winter is almost upon us and it is getting cold. We have had a couple of very light frosts and a heavier one this morning so  I turned my mattress, got out some flannel sheets, and put a blanket under the doona.

 Yesterday I had to harvest the oca early due to increasing mouse damage. The plants had not died down but the tubers were a good size anyway. If I had left them until they had fully died down they would have been a bit bigger, but I am happy.

I am also happy that most of my varieties managed to survive through the summer heatwave. Next year should be better with my shadecloth plans.
Here are 10 of the 14 varieties that survived, of the ones I kept from last years seedlings. I will have some of these to offer for sale this year from next week on my web site (

In two weeks when they have 'cured' I will taste test them raw and cooked.

El Dorado
Robin Hood

Sun Tsu






Mistakes Beginners Make with their veggie Patches

Here is a list of ten mistakes that I see beginners make with their vegetable growing. I have been there, and made many of these myself. In n o particular order.

1, Being too impatient and failing to plan ahead
It takes time to set out and grow your veggie patch. if you get impatient and start sowing too soon, before your have got rid of all the weeds and grass you will be struggling to get your seedlings going. Plan your planting ahead and prepare your beds well beforehand.
Don't be afraid to let your beds sit under a layer of mulch for a couple of months to clean them before planting. This gives you time to pull out weeds that pop up in the mean time.

2, Failing to succession plan
It is really easy to fall into the trap of getting to a shop and deciding to buy a heap of punnets, which then have to be planted out straight away, using up all the room you have and then having everything ready to pick at once.
If you just bought a punnet of two or three types of vegetables to start, and some seeds then you will hopefully still have some spare bed to plant a few seeds next month, and some more the month after, spreading out your growing and harvest.

3, Sowing, planting too much
As above, it is easy to get excited and plant too much. I know how hard it is to limit yourself to two zucchini plants, and want to put in a couple more, just in case. Then in three months you find yourself banned from the neighbourhood because you have been giving away all those extra zucchinis to anyone who looks your way, lol.
Make sure you limit yourself to what you will actually be able to handle, area wise.

4, Forgetting to protect the plants
Vegetables are tasty. All the local animals know this so you may have to plan to protect your vegetables from rabbits, deer, sheep, bugs, kids. Some you may have to fence out, and make sure you build your fence properly, not a ramshackle job that will fall down in a strong wind, and some insects may have to be netted out like white butterflies.
There are other insects like aphids that you will have to look for before they too much damage.

5, Taking too much notice of garden planting apps and websites
Garden website makers do the best they can but can't take into account the local and microclimates that change with every few km. You may live in, say, a mediterranean climate but within your area the planting times of hills, valleys, coast etc will be different, sometimes a lot different. For example, in my area I have to stop planting brassicas in early March but 100km away by the coast they can still sow into May, and by my local river only two km away they can sow nearly month after me.
Take notice of what experienced gardeners are planting in your area and follow suit.

6, Not reading up on different plants requirements
Different plants can have different requirements. Some plants need shade, some can cope with some shade and some need full sun for example. Some need more water then others, or deeper soil. Luckily most vegetables have similar requirements and will grow quite well together in the same sunny beds but if you do have some differing conditions then you will have to choose plants that love those conditions.
For example, some plants like to grow in part shade like lettuces, cucumber (in the heat of summer), and oca, so if you have a spot that gets shade in the afternoon, they are the ones to grow there, where other plants like potatoes and capsicums will suffer.

7, Taking on too much
It is really easy to get over excited and go overboard in your plans. If you take on too much you run the risk of burning out with the work and giving up on it, or not working your garden properly. It is better to start off small and when it is going well, then expanding a little as you can work it.

8, Planting too early, out of season
When you see tomato plants for sale in late winter it is easy to think that is when you should put them in. In every part of Australia we have a plenty long enough season to grow plants in their natural season. Unless you have a drive to get early tomatoes before Christmas, it is better to wait till the right time to plant - mid October where I am.
You will find that plants put in at the natural time will do better than those you have babied in a polyhouse or window sill anyway.

9, Crowding
It is easy to forget to plant little plants with enough room to grow to their true size. I find that people often grow things like brassicas too close together. Look at a mature cabbage and you will see that they are probably bigger than you thought.
Remember to plant small vegetable well away from larger growing neighbours for the same reason. You would hate to see your beets being overshadowed by large cabbage or zucchini leaves.

10, Getting emotional
Probably the most important lesson. When you are starting out you will probably waste a lot of money and have a lot of failures. If you smile and learn from your mistakes you will find yourself naturally getting better every year without any thought. Gardening does not come naturally, you have to learn from your, and others mistakes.
You will eventually have the garden that your neighbours will admire but give it time and don't give up.


  1. I always find lots to interest me on your blog Rowan. Thanks for sharing it all! I have got involved in Rhizowen's oca breeding project in the UK so always notice your oca developments. These varieties look very impressive. I posted a link to your post on the Ocabreeders Twitter account to inspire us all!

    1. Thanks Alison, it is always nice to hear from my readers. I like to keep up with what other oca breeders and growers around the world are doing also :)