SARAH THE GARDENER

Radish Relish

Radish is a quick and easy crop, and this is where the flibbertigibbet of season worked in my favour.  I was late getting them in and ordinarily the weather warms up and then all they do is bolt to seed with no sign of a fat bottom at all.  But with the season on constant reset back to very cold after a few days of almost warm enough, I was able to trick my radish into growing perfectly.  And they were fabulous.  Perfectly formed things of beauty.

Perfect french breakfast radish

Perfect French Breakfast Radish. But do the French actually have radish for breakfast?

That is the thing about radish – which are great as an addition to the salad, but they generally don’t sit well as the entire salad…  if you get what I mean.  They are spicy and have that weird brassica flavour that is ok in small doses.   It is funny that everyone recommends them as something for kids to grow because aside from being fast, therefore there is no waiting around for the short attention span of modern kids, but they also look pretty.  But that is where the advantage ends.  Image the disappointment of someone trying this quick growing crop that looks so good you expect it to taste so much better and erring on the sweet side.  I wouldn’t be surprised if the shock hasn’t put would be growers off for life!  It is definitely not a kid friendly flavour and we should get them to grow strawberries or sugar snap peas instead!

Washed radish

They do look deceptively like they should taste of something else

Back to my radish.  I had begun having a few in salads to add their own special something, and the salads were nice.  However, life got really busy for a week or two and my perfect radish kept growing and entered the almost too far gone stage.  I had to act quickly to save the crop and I knew just what I was going to do.  Something I’ve done before.

Topped and tailed radish

The secret to stopping radish going soft after harvest (and other root crops) is to remove the leaves straight after harvesting as the plant is still trying to keep the leaves fresh – at the expense of the bit we want to eat!

Have you ever heard of the tip where you sow radish seeds alongside carrot seeds?  The radish are supposed to help reduce the need for carrot thinning because once you harvest the radish the carrot spacing is perfect.  I’m not convinced on this.  As much as I hate thinning carrots because it seems so wasteful, but I would rather do it than have the alternative.  I tried it one season and ended up giving away radish by the carrier bag full – kilos at a time!  The carrots grew on well enough – but no one needs that much radish.  It was coming out of my ears.

Grated radish and other ingredients

Fortunately I have a device that grates at the touch of a button. I actually hate grating for some weird reason so the device was the best gift ever!

It was then I stumbled across a great recipe for Radish Relish.   You can read more about that over abundant radish situation in my first book The Good Life and find my original recipe for it.  However, this time I didn’t have all the same ingredients so mixed things up a bit.  So long as you don’t alter the ratios for the preserving ingredients – the vinegar, sugar and salt, then you can play with the herbs and spices and flavours to make something different each time.

caraway, dill, fennel seeds and peppercorns

Caraway, dill, fennel seeds and peppercorns are the lucky spices that got to pep up my relish… this time.

So, this is what I did this time.

I washed all the radish and topped and tailed them.  Then I grated them to find out just how much I had – turned out there were 7 cups!  Eek

preserving ingredients

While you can have fun with flavours – follow the amounts / ratios for the preserving ingredients exactly to ensure your relish stays healthy.

The recipe called for a red onion, and I only had a half one in the fridge and some bought browns ones that I need to use up before my harvest comes in – which due any day!  So, I grated those up too.

radish relish ingredients

Radish relish ingredients have to be the prettiest ingredients ever left to soak.

Then I looked at my supplies of spices, which is actually somewhat depleted since our move.  I’m not sure where they all went.  They are probably in a box somewhere, so I had to work with what was there.  I decided on an anise tone and measured out caraway, dill and fennel seeds and some mixed peppercorns.  I used a couple of teaspoons of each.

Santa

Stopping to say hi to Santa in the middle of making radish relish isn’t compulsory but won’t harm the soaking relish.

I also decided to use up some store-bought garlic while mine was curing on the back porch.  Waste not want not and all that.  I also found a lemon in the fridge, so I zested and juiced it and added a knob of grated ginger.  I’m not entirely sure the ginger is a match for the other flavours, but it was in the fridge and I was beginning to be a bit free and easy with things that would be good to use up.  Fortunately, this is where I drew the line.

cooking radish relish

It isn’t exactly festive flavours but cooking the relish fills the house with a delightful aroma

Then the important stuff was measured out accurately – white vinegar, salt and sugar.  For three cups of grated radish you need one cup of vinegar and one cup of sugar and two teaspoons of salt.

Jars of radish relish

Pop into sterile jars and seal with your preferred preserving technique.

Put all the ingredients in a large bowl and leave for three hours.   You can leave it longer if you have to go and watch the Santa Parade in town.  I found it was still fine.  After soaking, it all takes on a lovely pink colour.

Bring it to the boil and then reduce the heat until it thickens into a relish-like consistency – erring on the wet side.  Stir often so it doesn’t burn on the bottom.

radish relish with crackers and cheese

It actually looks quite festive on the plate and will feature along side cheese often during this holiday period.

Then pop into sterile jars and seal.  If you store it in a dark cupboard it can keep for up to a year.  For my seven cups of grated radish I got four and a half cup sized jars.  They look so pretty they would make a lovely Christmas gift…  if I want to share…

But if you can’t wait, it goes nicely with a crisp cracker and a creamy cheese.   It is a delish tangy, sweet and sour flavour with a slight crunch.

Come again soon – the rhubarb is dying for some preserving action too!

Sarah the Gardener  : o)

Back in the garden

It seems like forever since I have been in the garden. Last week I was at the flower show which was exciting and inspiring, and I loved every moment. This week we had a bereavement in the family and while it was a blessed relief from suffering it was still a very sad and sombre week. And the garden waited on the side line for my return.

Onions ready for harvest

And I think they’re done. I shall harvest them tomorrow.

While I was building the garden, a two-week absence wasn’t a big deal and not uncommon. I’d just grab my drill or my shovel and just pick up where I left off. These days it isn’t quite so forgiving. The plants in there have a funny habit of growing and seem to grow even faster when you aren’t watching them. Things have taken off!

Weeds with problems

Normally weeds are thugs that cope much better than precious garden plants, but all my weeds look lacy so I need to seek out and destroy them all, to prevent their infestation spreading!

The biggest difference in growth was the weeds and it made the garden look messy. I really don’t like weeds in the garden. They rob the soil of the nutrients I put there for the plants, they crowd out my desirables and to be honest – aren’t even attractive. So, the first thing I did was whip around the garden and clear all the weeds. I’ve done most of the garden today and it was made easy and pleasurable because the soil was loose and soft. Not wanting to waste the stolen nutrients, I popped the weed seedlings into the compost. All except the grass and the thugs. They went into a different bucket and were dumped far, far, far away.

Sweetcorn on a lean

After a week of wind, the corn was starting to think this was their natural position. It didn’t take much to convince them otherwise. I will have to activate my string control system to stop further leanings.

As I went around, I made mental notes and tended to the needs of my plants. The brassicas have been hit quite badly with a leaf miner and as it is in the leaf structure, I may need to spray with a systemic to take care of it. The harvest won’t be ready for ages. The problem is one of the common weeds around here is a brassica plant and looking around, all of the weeds have been reduced to lace. This is a good reminder to make sure weeds that could be hosts for pests and disease are removed from the vicinity.

Weirdly fused tomato plants

You go away for a couple of weeks and your tomato plants do weird things. The stem seems to have split and then re-fused back together further up. I shall watch this plant with interest.

When I left the tomatoes were too short to tie into the wires of my tomato support structure, but in two short weeks, they were tall enough to tie into two wires. I also managed to nip the laterals out. Some were at the point of almost being too big. I never end up with perfect single stem tomatoes!

Windswept peas

I may have to give up my favourite Alderman Tall peas and stick to the dwarf varieties, they are not coping well in the windy conditions.

The Hunter River White Onions seem to have been blown over, but then on closer inspection the Pukekohe Long Keepers, which take longer to grow, haven’t. So, while it was quite windy this week and all my corn was at a jaunty angle – easily remedied by firming them into the soft soil in the preferable upright position, it was easy to just think the weather was playing games with my crop. But then it dawned on me – they are actually ready. The wind may have helped but they would have gone over any day now anyway. So, I made a mental note to harvest them as soon as I can.

Garlic harvest

Not a bad crop, considering I left it a little too late. They are the biggest I’ve ever grown. Things seem to like in swamp soil here on the coast!

Like the onion, the garlic was acting funny. I noticed it before the busy started and made a mental note to give it a feed. It was just the early garlic. The mid-winter stuff is fine. While I was away, I thought about the garlic and realised there wasn’t a problem – it was also ready. Not all ‘poorly’ behaviour is a bad thing. Unfortunately, it was probably two weeks too late for the Purple garlic as there was no protective coat and the cloves had started to separate so they won’t store well. I’ll have to use them first. But I have to say it is the best and biggest garlic I have ever grown! I can’t wait to see what the mid-winter garlic is like.

Harvest basket

Not a bad haul for this time of the season…

I also harvested the first decent lot of peas, my entire crop of radish that got out of hand while I was away, a bowl full of strawberries and I took the scapes off the top of the garlic I harvested. The wind had been toying with my rhubarb as the leaves are huge and were acting like sails, they were pretty much coming loose so I helped them to find their way into my basket.

The big harvest isn’t that far away, but I still have things to plant out, so I’d better get a wiggle on.

Come again soon – Summer is here and the garden is good.

Sarah the Gardener : o)

Showing off the show

I headed back into town again today to revisit the NZ Flower and Garden Show to take all the photos I forgot to take the other day.   Once again it was a lovely day with the rain held at bay, but very humid and very hot.  I can only hope it continues for the rest of the show, but the boffins are suggesting there will be rain on the parade.  However they have been known to be wrong and lets hope they are wrong this time.

NZ Flower and Garden Show

Sometimes when inspired by great gardens you need to make a very big wish!

They say a picture tells a thousand words so this will probably be one of the longest posts I’ve ever done!  Join me below as I relive a wonderful couple of days through the images I have taken.

Click on the images for full blown pictures and details.  I hope you can find the time to pop along and if not please enjoy the snapshot of my time at the NZ Flower and Garden Show.

Come again soon – Summer starts on Saturday!  I hope the weather got the memo.

Sarah the Gardener  : o)

Delivering Gold

Yesterday I participated in something pretty amazing.  I was invited to join the judging team for the New Zealand Flower and Garden Show.  It was a real honour and a privilege to be involved in this way in such a prestigious event in the New Zealand Gardening Calendar.  The show in its current form is in it’s second year and while last years was inspirational, this year feels even better and in future years will grow to be bigger and more impressive as the amazing garden designers vie to improve their already outstanding gardens.  As a nation we haven’t had such an event since the devastating 6.3 Christchurch earthquake in 2011 stopped it in its tracks.  We should be so thankful to the lovely Kate Hillier for returning show gardening on such a scale to our horticultural calendar.

Lost and Found by Christian Jenkins at the NZ Flower and Garden Show

This wellness garden created by the lovely Christian Jenkins does a great job of imparting a sense of peace and calm after a busy day. It was a pleasure to meet him and his delightful Mum. Congratulations on the Gold.

Being a judge sounds very glamorous and I have to admit I was slightly excited and very nervous, especially as the other judges were the ‘who’s who’ of garden celebrity, people I had long respected and have been inspired by.   I shouldn’t have worried so much as, like in any sphere of the gardening universe, these gardeners were the nicest people and passionate about the same things as me – all things green and good!   But the work of a judge is serious.  The responsibility falls heavily to make the right decisions, and to do a good job an early start is required.  I presented myself to the judge’s tent at 7:30am!  I’m not normally out of bed by then on a normal day!  We were greeted with a breakfast of bacon butties which is apparently an RHS tradition and it felt special to be part of something even bigger than the show we were standing in the middle of.

Lost and Found by Christian Jenkins at the NZ Flower and Garden Show

This  amazing piece of craftsmanship stands at the entrance to Christian’s garden. I wonder if I have the skill, patience and time to attempt to make something that would vaguely compare. Probably not, some things are best left to the experts!

It was a long and rewarding day.  We even had the pleasure to delivering the prize medals to the garden designers once our deliberations were done.  Watching the reactions of folk who had been awarded prizes worthy of their efforts just made it even more wonderful.  Like the roar of delight of the school children who found out they had a golden garden, and the tears of joy, and I suspect relief, when the vibrantly rich Pollinator’s Paradise had gold added to their colourful garden.

NZ Flower and Garden Show

I hastily snapped this creative work of art that caught my eye at the back of an exhibit and I assured myself I would remember which garden as I hurried by. But alas no, it has slipped my mind. So I will update this image once I know who to give the deserved credit to. It isn’t always the big showy things that can inspire us.

Once the judging was done and dusted for the day, it was a quick change into a fancy frock and back for the official opening.  The remarkable Jackie Clark was MC and every time I see her addressing an audience, she impresses me with the ease, grace and flawless humour she delivers her message.  Then it was a delight to see the wonderful Maggie Barry up on stage.  When her TV show was in its prime, I wasn’t a gardener – I was a poor student.  But found myself on the Saturday morning after the Friday night show, unexplainably drawn to a garden centre where I would be compelled to purchase some poor plant that didn’t stand a chance as I promptly ignored it as my studies took precedence…  Until the following Saturday where my collection of half dead plants in pretty pots grew…

Jules' Zen Garden at the NZ Flower and Garden Show

It is hard not to be impressed by an hundred year old tree, with its twisted and gnarled features that sat perfectly in the surrounds of the tranquil Zen Garden that came out as the best in the show.

By the end of the night I found myself comfortably rubbing shoulders with old friends, new friends, those who inspired me, and those who will continue to inspire me.  The designers, fellow judges, media folk, and the unflappable and incredible organisers all came together to make it a day I’ll never forget.

Land of the Long White Cloud by Franca Logan at the NZ Flower and Garden Show

The interpretation of the Land of the Long White Cloud in this impressive floral display takes your breath away. The photos really don’t do it justice and to stand under it fills you with awe. Definitely a golden display.

However, from a horticultural point of view there was barely a moment to sit and contemplate the incredible workmanship and finer details of the gardens as I raced on by to perform my duties.  I barely took any photos, which isn’t like me at all – I’m a happy snapper who clicks with wild abandon.  So, I’m going back tomorrow to soak it all in.

Tony Murrell

My day was made all the more special with Tony Murrell as a judging companion, always ready to spread joy! Here he is playing the jandal pan pipes in the school garden section! Such fun.

I want to especially thank the NZ Flower and Garden Show for inviting me to be a part of something truly special.  And if you are in the Auckland Region from today to Sun 2nd Dec, I encourage you to pop along to the Trust Arena.  You won’t be disappointed.  There is something for everyone.

Come again soon – I’ll do another update after my next visit that will let the pictures do the talking.

Sarah the Gardener  : o)

 

You can listen along to this post here:

I’m running out of spring!

I don’t know if I’m being too hard on myself, but the garden isn’t finished yet and there is only a week left of spring.  Considering there was nothing there at all in mid May I am being hard on myself, but then again, I am so close to the end it seems possible to get there if I garden like there is no tomorrow.

Empty bed

Ready and waiting. All going well there will be irrigation, structures and plants in here by the end of the day!

I have two beds ready and waiting to plant, thanks to the hard work of Hubby the Un-Gardener mixing in all the compost and other nutrients.  Both need irrigation added before I plant them because it is easier to dig the hole under the bed and up the inside for the water in pipe without plants in the way.  In fact, all the remaining beds need irrigation added, but it isn’t a big job, its just another job in a long list of many jobs.

Red Onions

I must be doing something right in my new garden, the red onion love it here!

One of these is the bean bed – it does have some plants in it – a couple of straggly broad beans at the end that have given me hope for most of the winter.  They were one of the first plants to go in and with their magnificent red flowers, they will be there again next year.  I guess I grow them for their presence rather than their purpose as I don’t really like them – there I said it!   In fact, I don’t really like beans much at all, but I grow them, so my kids can try them.  I remember my mum didn’t like Brussels sprouts so never cooked them.  I didn’t discover them until I left home and found I really like them!  It would be odd to have kids who never tried beans…  But what I do like is dried beans and so I mostly grow them.  I normally pick them up at the supermarket, but they are getting harder to find.  I guess modern life isn’t conducive to soaking dried beans anymore.  So, I need to go on a bit of a hunt for some beans to plant.

Red broad bean flowers

These red flowered Hughey Broad Beans make growing them over the winter so worthwhile. They add such a pop of colour on bleak days.

The other one, the poor plants are looking a little lacklustre as they have been waiting such an awfully long time to go in.  It could also be because the weather has been all over the place – super hot and summery one day and freezingly wintery the next – on repeat for most of spring.   I am more than happy to lay blame with the weather, although deep down I know my melons will be pleased to be relieved of their pots.  But first I need to build a structure, so I can send some up a trellis, so I can get the most out of the garden.  I have gathered all the bits together and now just have to bring them together.  All going well there will be melons in the garden today.

Empty spot

And the final bed goes here… when I get the chance.

Then there are the beds Hubby the Un-Gardener needs to dig – the squash, cucumber, zucchini, pumpkin (x2) and I think that is it.  Aside from the bed that isn’t there yet.  I have a bed for wild flowers for bees and butterflies to enjoy but its spot is in a position that would have hindered access to constructionny things, so it was left – until now.  So, it needs building, filling, mixing, irrigating and planting and sowing.  I have the seeds at the ready!

Raspberry plant

Poor raspberry plant – I’ll pop you in the ground very soon.

Oh, and the raspberries are still in their pots, but if they are still in that state by the end of the week, I will be very disappointed with myself as they have a great spot up near the chicken coop, overlooking the entire garden.

Untidy mess

I really should pick up after myself, but right now it isn’t as important as getting plants in the ground.

Once the plants are in then the next job is a big tidy up.  I have been so focused, I haven’t been as tidy as I could have been, and without a shed it does make things a little tricky, but a shed is in the plans, but just not yet.  Soon though.

Salad bed

If I stop and look at what I have done instead of what I still have to do, I would feel a lot less panicked about the end of spring.

And of the week left in spring I only have three full days and two half days available to garden, on top of all the other things I need to do.  I’m not sure I’ll make it, but I’ll certainly give it a good shot!

Come again soon – I have planting to do.

Sarah the Gardener : o)

Five good things going on in the garden

Although that headline makes it sound like everything is going horribly wrong, which couldn’t be further from the truth.  Things are going really well; however I am racing to get it all finished before I run out of spring.  In the haste of it all the only real thing I am lacking is time.

So today I took a quick tour of the garden and decided to show you the first five things that jumped out at me as a good thing.

Asparagus seedling

This tiny little asparagus seedling is something of a miracle. After months of being missing in action, it finally made an appearance. Now all of the crowns I planted have popped up and there are no longer any gaps in the bed. Watering barren spots wasn’t a wasted effort after all.

Sun through salad crops

The setting sun shining through the salad leaves not only looks cool, but it shows the bed is full and almost ready to harvest! Bring on the salads.

Sweetcorn seedlings

The sweetcorn is starting to get past that vulnerable tiny seedling stage and will soon enter the stage where they are vulnerable to being blown over!

Sweet peas

The aroma from this small vase of sweet peas is amazing and as I picked every single one that was blooming, there will be plenty more where they came from.

Tomato flower buds

You can grow tomatoes every year for a thousand years and still get a buzz of excitement when the first flower buds make themselves known.

It is just a short sweet one today, but as they say a picture speaks a thousand words, so it is actually quite long!

Potato flowers

Ok – I couldn’t resist one more photo. Aren’t potato flowers kind of sweet in their own special way.

Come again soon – I am about to pop up some more structures.

Sarah the Gardener  : o)

Nev’s back

Since we moved here back in January there was an important member of the family who came with us.  However we weren’t able to bring all of his bits and pieces with us and had to leave them behind.  We are pleased to see they didn’t go to waste and the lovely new people who bought our house soon made the most of them by getting one for themselves.

Gardena Robotic Lawnmower

It fills me with much joy to have Neville bobbing about the place keeping the front yard looking fabulous.

I’m talking about Neville, our Gardena Robotic Lawnmower.  We’ve had him for several years now and we wouldn’t be without, so when we made the move, of course he had to come with us.  Unfortunately we weren’t able to reinstall him straight away and without a shed he spent many months in our bedroom at the bottom of the wardrobe!  Every day we would promise him he could go outside one day soon.

Gardena Robotic Lawnmower

Taking a well earned break in the shade to recharge his battery

The problem is building work is messy work and we started with a lovely patch of grass we just knew Neville would adore.  But after the house movers had churned it up siting the house, the plumbers dug it up laying pipes and multiple deliveries where dumped upon what should be pristine lawn, it took ages to get the grass remotely movable again.

New grass

This new grass has a bit more growing to do before Neville can tend to it and make it a lovely lawn.

Recently that day came where there was a decent patch of grass that had recovered nicely and had the potential to be lawn, we jumped at the chance to fish Neville out of the wardrobe and set him up.  A quick refresh course was easily found on the Gardena website with videos that were easy to follow and we were away, laying the perimeter wire and making the necessary connections to the base plate.  It was such a simple task Nev was back up and running in no time.  And he has the best view ever!

You can watch how easy it was for me to set him up here:

Eventually we would like Neville to relocate to ’round the back’ so he can keep the large back lawn Hubby the Un-Gardener wants to use for tennis and backyard cricket and other activities with the kids, pristine.  However we have only just sown grass seed there so it will be a while before he can make the move there.

Gardena Robotic Lawnmower

He even works into the night, with a magnificent view to see him on his way.

It is such a pleasure to have Neville back in our garden bobbing about the place keeping it nice and tidy.  We wouldn’t be without him!   And can never thank the good people at Gardena for bringing him into our lives.  We love him so much.

Come again soon – the garden is progressing nicely and we’re on track for a fab summer.

Sarah the Gardener  : o)

 

You can find out more about a Gardena Robotic Lawn Mower and how to set one up by checking out:
https://www.gardena.com/nz/products/lawn-care/robotic-mower/https://www.gardena.com/nz/support/robotic-mower-support-center/robotic-mower-videos/
I wholehearted recommend you get one. It’ll change your life!

It will be windy there

This is the most common comment we have heard when we tell people we have moved to the west coast.  And I have to admit that at times it can be very blowy.  Like that time our house was up on jacks having its foundations put in and we ended up facing 212 km/h winds.  But that was a one off – a one in forty year storm apparently.  The house stood up to it just fine and so when the wind picks up, we can have confidence in the safety of our home.

Rough seas

On days like these days you know you are alive!

So, with everyone declaring our new home as a high wind zone, it is important for us not to take ownership of it.  We don’t have exclusive rights to the wind.  When it is windy here it is also windy elsewhere.  The start of this new month has been a bit of a shocker wind wise and there has been minor damage in my patch, but the goat rampage caused more harm and all going well things will recover.   In the last four days the boffins suggest the wind has gusted between 44 and 85km/h an hour in our area.  Although they are including quite a large part of the region in this area. We are not alone in the windy conditions.

calm seas

On a good day – of which there are many, this is the most amazing place to be.

But looking further afield to the bottom of the country their wind gust averages were the same as ours and in the middle of the country some places got up to 96km/h.  Pictures across the great big internet showed disturbing images of broken plants – snapped off at the base, trees down across roads and greenhouses in varying states of destruction.  But here in our little bubble of paradise with the wind whipping past the house with an angry howling noise, it is easy to claim what has been said about this place with it being a windy spot.  But we need to look beyond ourselves – we are getting off lightly and others have it far worse.  It may be windy here, but we are not the only ones.

But the wind isn’t the only climatic option available to nature and some days you look out onto the ocean and see it as calm as a mill pond with barely a ripple.  You have to question yourself – is this the Tasman sea or are we beside a lake?  There are days with hardly a breath of wind and it is magical, and all things seem possible as the sun beats down on a blue sky day.

Seedlings

While the pallet wrap temporarily wrapped around the dome is slowing unraveling, it has served its purpose in protecting tiny vulnerable seedlings. The glass will be here soon enough.

The other thing that needs to be considered is the area that encompasses this region, also includes our old house and so the data provided is based on averages and already we have learnt things are very different here and there.  Another thing I need to ask myself, as it is our first season here, is it a normal season?  Are having an extraordinary season or not?  It is hard to know.  The best way to really know is to keep records and while the boffin’s data is interesting it may not be accurate for here, so I have asked Father Christmas to consider a weather station for me when deciding if I have been naughty or nice.  I’m not normally this early with my wish list, but while it is on my mind…

Windswept popcorn

I don’t hold out great hopes for this popcorn, but a few juice bottles would have kept them safe from harm. Lesson learnt.

In the meantime, I will need to feel my way around this new season and make wise and calculated decisions to protect my crops.    I already have a tried and tested system for my sweetcorn with a contraption of bamboo poles and string woven through the bed as there was always a wind that came through just as the pollen was falling from the tassels to the silks.  So, it would seem I will still need to do this to keep the corn upright.

Spare tomatoes

Another lesson learnt the hard way from ages ago is to keep spare plants until you know for certain the ones in the garden will be ok.

I think I may need to look a temporary cloche for at risk seedlings when the wind gets up.  Normally when my kids tell me they are thirsty I direct them to the tap.  There is nothing wrong with water.  However, I have an ulterior motive and will become mum of the year as 3L juice bottles with the bottoms cut off will do the cloche job nicely.  A bamboo stake poked through will hold it in place and a ping pong ball on the top will protect my eyes from being poked out.   I shouldn’t need too many and once I have them, I can reuse them time and time again.  And the kids will go back to water.

Garden fence

The gaps in the fence will be a great host to wind break cloth when the need arises.

The tall posts in the fence that will have wires between them to keep the deer out, but not create a sense of an enclosed garden can be used to support wind break material that I can temporarily put up in times of imminent wind.  The house itself goes a long way towards blocking wind but it does whip around the sides so some clever plantings around the place should help.

I suspect I will need to protect my garden in other ways, from birds, from the baking sun and other threats as yet unknown.  But the best part of having a garden is the learning the comes with it.  You never know everything and in a new environment this couldn’t be clearer.

Come again soon – the boffins are suggesting it will be a long hot summer.

Sarah the Gardener  : o)

 

Oh and…  I’m starting voice recording my blog again so you can listen along instead of reading it.  I started this a while ago and then my phone, which makes a great recording, needed to go into the shop for repairs and I stopped before I had even started.

You can check this out here:

How do you eat an elephant?

A spoonful at a time!

While most of the garden is still very new and either recently planted or still to be planted, there are some crops that have been in for ages.  The onion and the garlic were the first to go in and have been there since mid-winter.  The old adage, plant on the shortest day and harvest on the longest is a good guide as these plants really need the winter chill as part of their life cycle.  I like to grow enough onion and garlic to last at least a year and in an ideal season we almost make it to summer before the stored harvest runs out.  One season the harvest was so bad, what was supposed to be a year’s worth of onion ended up as pickles in two small jars!  You win some and you lose some.  This year the crops are looking good and I think the sea air is working its magic to keep the downy mildew out of the onions and the rust out of the garlic.  They are shaping up to be my best harvest yet!

elephant garlic scapes

I made a brave move and removed all the budding flowers from my elephant garlic.

Along side these basics I am also growing some fun onions and garlic, ones that are just a tad more interesting than something that is so common it gets called a pantry staple and not even given much of a thought as it is added to the daily meal.  Fun crops like shallots – I love the way they split themselves as they grow to become so much more than they started as.   And elephant garlic, because it is just so big!  As I dig it up each season, I marvel at the enormity of it compared to the standard garlic.  In some seasons it has been the garlic staple as rust decimated the normal crop, resulting in bulbs not worth the effort peeling to reveal the miniature cloves within.  But as they are more closely related to leek, they don’t have that same pungent flavour and so in a normal season, half a dozen is a good number to grow for the novelty value.

steaming elephant garlic scapes

Steaming them is a nice way to prepare them to bring out the best of the scapes.

Elephant garlic has a dramatic presence in the garden with its architectural structure and one of these features is the beautiful pompom flowers that tower above the plant.  I knew you should remove them as soon as you see them if you want to have bigger bulbs, but to do that would mean missing out on the flower display that can go on for a long time as they make lovely dried flowers for winter arrangements.  So, I’d always left them attached to the plant.

steaming elephant garlic scapes

I steamed them in a large colander over a large pot of boiling water with a lid on, for 10 minutes alongside the asparagus we had been given

For whatever reason with my garlic I had always ended up with soft neck varieties and would go through an envious phase as I saw others harvesting and eating scapes from the hard neck varieties.   This year I am excited to see scapes forming among the leaves of my early garlic planted around Easter, so I can finally find out what all the fuss is about.  But this scape envy got me thinking about the flower buds on the elephant garlic and I decide to see if these could be treated the same way and cooked up and eaten.  There was nothing to lose – except the flowers but had the compensation of bigger bulbs forming deep within the earth.    So, I grabbed my secateurs, in case the stem was woody, which is wasn’t and nipped out all the flower buds just above the last leaf emerging from the stem.  I considered leaving a couple to compare the size of the growth verse the ones that had been cut, but I got greedy – what if they are good?

steaming elephant garlic scapes

Ideally I would have liked to dress them with melted butter and lemon juice because it would have given a lovely clean, crisp flavour but I didn’t have any lemons so I grabbed some balsamic vinegar to go with the melted butter and it gave it a rich coating to compliment the delicate flavour of the scapes.

I thought long and hard about how I would treat this ‘new to me’ harvest.  I could have pickled it, made pesto, deep fried with tempura batter or roasted it.  But I didn’t want to over complicate things.  I wanted these flower buds to be the star, so I could decide whether or not it was actually worth doing.  So, I decided to steam them along with some asparagus from my old garden, kindly brought to me by the lovely new people at our old house.

empty plate

And within moments this new found delicacy was gobbled up, with no more in sight for a really long time.

Add the verdict – I need to grow so much more elephant garlic just for this simple pleasure.  It was delicious. A light tender garlic flavour but with the texture of asparagus.  It was amazing and now I have to wait a whole year before I can enjoy that delightful experience again!

Come again soon – November has been off to a bit of a rough start but all going well it will settle down soon.

Sarah the Gardener  : o)

There ARE tomatoes in October!

I’ve cut it fine, but it is still technically October and I have just planted my tomatoes in the garden.  This is so much more than the usual tomato planting session that happens every spring.  This one is special and holds such significance for me.

tomato seedling

Ahhwah… bless.  It looks so small and vulnerable

Last season I had to walk away from my lovingly nurtured tomato plants before the fruit had even thought about turning red.  It was a sad moment as there were varieties I’d not tried before and then there were old faithful favourites that I wouldn’t be without.  There were some with an emotional connection like the Linda’s Lemony Tomatoes that were passed down to me in a dried-up tissue from a family member who had saved them one season, only to have lost a rapid battle with cancer before she could sow them again.  I will always grow these in memory of her.   I knew the new folk who bought our house would appreciate my efforts, but it was bitter sweet as I wasn’t able to appreciate my efforts.

Empty bed

With all the goodies mixed in, this is an empty bed filled with potential.

When we first arrived here in the middle of January, I saw where the garden was to be and could immediately see past the rough state of the land and could actually see in my head the finished garden.  I couldn’t even begin work until after Easter and in the enormity of it all I kept telling myself ‘There will be tomatoes in October.’   At times the work seemed insurmountable and I would scarcely believe it and other times it seemed like a given.

Tomato support structure

Weaving the washing line wire through all the holes is a tedious job, but it is worth it in the end.

The effort was beginning to wear me down and my MSsy fatigue was making its presence felt and things were beginning to feel hopeless.  Along with the fact my tomatoes were so much smaller than normal even though I started them at the usual time.  It was a funny old spring.  But Hubby the Un-Gardener has come to my rescue and is mixing in the compost, blood and bone, well-rotted sheep manure and the Yates Dynamic Lifter.  His man strength can do it so much quicker than my weary body.  I have challenged him to two beds a day – give or take and he is mostly keeping up.  I can then follow behind and do the fun part.  The planting.

Tomato support structure

All strung up and waiting for the plants. I do need to add more string to the top layers or rebar but it doesn’t need to be as strong as the wire, it is just to keep the plant tips under control.

He started off with the more pressing beds – brassicas (which I still haven’t planted) the salad, the odds and sods as the popcorn seedlings really needed to get in there so it wouldn’t cross with the sweetcorn, whose bed he also dug over so I could sow the seeds so they wouldn’t cross with the painted mountain corn I intend so sow in a month and plant out once I harvest the garlic.  I think I’ll get him to do the flowers next, the cosmos is trying to bloom in their pots!  But the last bed he did was the tomato one and checking with the plants, I decided the time was right.

Irrigation

Setting up the irrigation first is easier so the plants don’t get disturbed and the spacing is perfect for the positioning of the plants.

I had to go out and purchase my structure materials as my original set was left at the old place supporting the plants.  I have tried all manner of method to keep the plants upright over the years and have found making a bit of a fence out of T shaped warratah stakes and washing line wire works best.  Especially as I aim for single stem plants every season but it never happens but there is plenty of room on the wires to tie in a medusa headed tomato.  I also cable tie some 2 metre rebar to the warratahs so I can string further supports across the length of the bed for that wild whippy growth up tall.  It is hard to imagine at this point the tiny plants will need it, but when they get there it will be hard to imagine they were ever this small.

Tomato seedlings and seaweed tonicTTomato seedlings and seaweed tonic

Once I selected the ‘chosen ones’ it seems like there was quite the excess of seedlings in the dome. After soaking them in some seaweed tonic to help avoid transplant shock and help the roots to establish, they took their place in the garden.

I like to plant my tomatoes in alphabetical order so if anything happens to the labels then I can have a good guess at who is who.  I’m growing them from A to Z starting with a delightful Artisan Blush and ending with a Zapotec.  I grew the Zapotec for the first time last year but never got to try it and then forgot all about it.  So, it is the only one I haven’t planted yet as I started it off late, but it is getting there and there is a place for it at the end of the bed.  I also have spares and backups, more than I need thanks to my impatient and unnecessary resowing earlier in spring so once I know my plants in the garden will be ok then I will gift my extras to deserving people.

Garden sign

The last act I do with each bed as they are completed I take great pleasure in popping in the sign.

The tomatoes are in, it feels like the garden is coming together.  It won’t be long until I enjoy that taste of fresh tomato, still warm from the sun.   Very soon the garden will match the vision I have long held in my head.

Come again soon – with Hubby the Un-Gardener’s help the garden will be planted in no time.

Sarah the Gardener : o)

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