To be honest I think the brick saga has had more of an impact on my #MakeMayCount timeline. Up until the bricks entered my world, I was making great progress, but collecting them was a huge effort and then they sat in the back of Hubby the Un-Gardener’s vehicle for a couple of days while I recovered and then mustered the strength to unload them. He didn’t mind using my car for a short while but one of the teen lads is now newly driver licensed and wanted to borrow my car when Hubby the Un-Gardener needed to be somewhere too. It couldn’t be avoided any longer and I set about unloading the bricks. I managed to move 430 of them before I got a bit of help. There were 655 all up so should be more than enough for the project I have in mind.
I didn’t want to completely rest and recover because in the spirit of the month I wanted to be productive, so I kept up with path hoeing and rock making, and it is becoming a nice little routine at the start of the day.
On Thursday I made the first picking of the peas for the season and brought them in and popped them on the bench to pod them and get them ready for the freezer, but the kids came home from school and pretty much demolished the lot! At least they’re eating their greens.
Friday was another slow day as I recovered from the brick moving and I took it easy by preparing a presentation for a talk I’m giving next week. I got some more rock work done and that was about it.
Today – being Saturday I don’t normally garden, as weekends are for time with the family. But this weekend is Mother’s Day Weekend, so I was able to indulge in some guilt free weekend gardening and I felt like it was a bit of a catch up from the brick drama. The skies have been spitting and spotting all day, which is good as we haven’t had a lot of rain lately, but it isn’t enough to really make a difference. I may need to drag the hose out next week.
I had several lovely hours in the dome that disappeared in a flash. I decided to transplant my seedlings. My lawn chamomile, needed for the project, had come up quite thickly so I separated them out into small clumps and planted them out in pots. I’ll probably be able to separate them out a couple more times as they get bigger before I eventually plant them out.
The onions also looked like they could do with moving on from the seed raising mix into some more nutrient rich potting mix so they could continue to grow on in strength. I did have them all in seed trays, but they can be a bit fiddly to plant out, so I put them together in groups of 7 in individual pots as that is how many I need to put in the rows in the garden beds when the time comes. This should make things a lot easier.
I also popped the iris and ranunculus bulbs and tubers into pots to buy me some time before I prepare where I want them to go, and I gave all my rosemary cuttings a soak in seaweed mix to help strengthen them up.
I think this will do nicely for now. A week in with the intention of being as productive as possible has helped me to find my limits, but at the same time has helped push me forward and getting the most out of the last month before winter sets in.
Come again soon – week two is like a fresh start and all going well will be as productive, if not more.
Sarah the Gardener : o)
I set off into the #MakeMayCount with a whiz and a bang with a superhero mentality of all things are possible. In my head I can see each of the projects I want to achieve broken down into individual chores and it does all seem possible, and I get all excited.
And then I race off like a bull at a gate and throw myself into it all like I have boundless unlimited energy. Only I don’t. I was lulled into this false sense of my abilities due to the slackness of April. I didn’t push myself at all so there was no opportunity to be reminded of my MSsy weakness and for a while there I felt normal which was actually really lovely despite the lack of productivity.
It isn’t like things weren’t done at all recently, which is probably part of the problem – I’ve pushed myself too hard. I have been chugging away with my path hoeing and rock building routine. Having clear paths is great as, like I mentioned, I can see ‘other creature’ footprints and it looks like the rats have been having a right old party so I think it may be time to move the rat trap to an area of more intensive activity. I also only have 5 shots left in the rat trap, so I need to get a new gas canister. This is a good sign as it shows I’m making a dent in the population. It also means I get to visit the garden centre. This is probably not a good idea as temptation has no limits there.
I also made good progress with the rock and have managed to encircle the frame and meet up with the other side. So now all I need to do is go up. I’m really impressed with how it is coming together. I can’t say it is like the vision in my head yet, but in my extensive research – looking at large rocks up and down the country out of the car window, wishing I could just bring one home, they come in all shapes and sizes and shades of grey so anything random I come up with is going to be perfectly fine, so long as you don’t see the fabric beneath or any fingerprints.
I also got a delivery of some spring bulbs I have been waiting a long time for. I was starting to get anxious, especially for the tulips. Because we don’t get frost here on the coast, I ordered them nice and early to put them in the fridge for 6 weeks to simulate the cold. Given that the weather has continued to be quite mild apart from a blip a month or so ago, it is probably a good thing. So, once they emerge from the fridge where I put them straight away, they will find themselves in consistently cold weather and not yo-yo from the chill of the fridge to warmish weather and then find themselves in the cold again, so it was probably for the best.
Also in the package were some ranunculus tubers that I want to soak and plant out sooner rather than later and finally some iris bulbs that are beginning to sprout so I need to do something with them in the immediate. But I want to incorporate them into a wildlife pond makeover. I hadn’t had this high the #MakeMayCount priority list, so I guess this list needs a rejig or I need some help or set it aside for now. I could plant the sprouting bulbs into pots for now and plant them later. I’m just one person with an enormous vision that is too big for my limited capabilities. But how to you eat an elephant? One spoonful at a time. Not that I’m advocating eating elephants.
Then I got a call from Hubby the Un-Gardener that he’d found some bricks I’d been looking for, so we dropped everything and raced out to collect them. ‘Collect them’ doesn’t describe it. I needed about 600 for my project and it was one of the last pieces in the gathering of supplies before I can throw myself into the creating of the new garden project. This meant picking every single one from the neat pile they had been stacked in and moving them to our vehicle. I have to say, several days later, they are still sitting in the vehicle as we muster the energy to repeat the process and put them in the garden. And they will need to be moved at least once more to end up in their final spot. Sometimes I can see why it is easy to shy away from big ideas.
Since then, I have fed and watered my lime tree in a pot and my new port wine magnolia as their leaves were looking a little less green than they should be, watered the seedlings being nurtured in the dome and because I had a spare 15 minutes, I trimmed all the spent flower stalks off the Gaura. This was a good example of what I intended with the #MakeMayCount thing. Ordinarily a 15-minute window would be written off as not big enough to do anything worth making a difference so nothing would get done. The Gaura has been on the list for a while and now it has been done without much fuss at all.
And then at the end of the day I did my weekly Q&A live chat session on the Yates.co.nz Facebook page. I’ve been doing this, talking all things vegetable gardening since 2014 and enjoy chatting with other keen gardeners in the comments section. Although this week we talked about how to spoil a gardening mum for Mother’s Day. Speaking of which I sent my Mum’s gift off – I hope she likes it. Hubby the Un-Gardener asked me what I would like. Last year the gift turned into a project that ended up in a magazine, so I have to be careful what I ask for…
And now it is another magnificent blue sky day and the garden is calling to me… I think it missed me.
Come again soon – I’m back on track.
Sarah the Gardener : o)
During #MakeMayCount, I need to embrace activities that happen beyond the garden and value them as productive time. Yesterday I spent several hours in the morning doing some computer gardening but found myself getting frustrated at being indoors because I had to do some gardening to make it count. But what I was doing was the kind of things that pay me so I am free to garden to my hearts content and it is all gardening related so I need to embrace computer gardening in the same way I would embrace scrabbling about in the dirt as gardening. Besides, it is a lot cleaner and a lot warmer – especially at this time of year.
So, a larger chunk of my day than I intended was spent in creative computer gardening, but it was fun and satisfying to see the job completed. I emerged out into a sunny day with a bit of a breeze with a slight bite in it with the feeling of making up for lost time. But I still needed to reign myself in a little. I want to use this month to reset bad habits. Isn’t it if you do something 21 times in a row it can be considered a habit? (A quick google check reveals that is a myth and you need between 66 and 254 days.)
Either way, I need to get back into good routines I’d fallen out of the habit of doing. First thing should be hoeing the paths in the sector of the day. So, for a Monday it is sector one. This is generally the group of beds in the best condition as I’m normally rearing to go on a Monday. The Friday sector is in a bit of a state, but we’ll come to that later. I do enjoy hoeing the paths and normally it is just lopping off the head of a weed here and there that decided to come up. But at this time of year there are hundreds of tiny weed seedlings that seem to pop up every day and it isn’t a good idea to skip this step.
The other benefit of a sand path, other than being hoe-able, is I can see who has been wandering around the garden, from the size 11 shoes of a teen lad off to feed the chickens and the footprint of the chickens that invariably escape during said feeding. Sometimes I see a well-worn rat path that tells me it would be a good idea to move the rat trap. The insects make interesting trails and then there are the unidentifiable that you hope don’t belong to something that could destroy the garden in an afternoon.
While hoeing the paths I get to look at the sector as a whole and decide what needs to be done and I return to my garden office to make a list. At this time of year there isn’t that much to be done in sector one although the cut flower bed needs a major overhaul – but that is a project, not a task, so I leave it for now, until I have the time.
Then I’m supposed to go through all the beds in the sector to whip out weeds and tend to needs. But there isn’t much going on there at all right now. Although I noticed the peas will need picking soon. I’ll need to check this every day, so I get them at peak perfection – still sweet and tender and not to big and hard.
Then I am training myself to spend some time working on the rock. It is a large project and I’ll need to install it in the garden sooner rather than later so I can’t afford to dilly dally. I find I can manage to do 3 batches of cementy fabric mixed in 2L ice cream containers before I get too bored with the process and it is enough to make it feel like I’ve made a good amount of progress.
Due to the late garden start I looked about the garden for a quick and easy project that would be all show for little effort, and I spied the small pumpkin bed. It maybe because it was in the Friday sector, but it had become quite feral since the pumpkins were removed, and in my April tour video I noticed a rat hole in it – right beside the rat trap – oh the audacity! So, I thought I’d quickly whip the weeds out, cave in the hole and sow a cover crop. That shouldn’t take more than half an hour and look impressive.
But when I am immersed in a project, I find myself being very thorough and can’t bring myself to cut corners. Well, I am working for me, and as a boss I’m quite the stickler for a job well done. So, as I was weeding the far end of the bed, I noticed the tree lupins had self-seeded during the growing season and were significantly overhanging the bed. This couldn’t be allowed, so I grabbed secateurs and loppers and cleared them away.
I also noticed some Inkweed which seems to really like it here, but it spreads easily and is toxic, so it needed to go. This found me scrambling about up the hill behind the pumpkin bed pulling it all out. I got most of it by the tap root although a couple of spots need digging out. I’m not sure what I’ll do with it as I’m not going to add it to the compost, and it has ripe seeds on it. I think I might let it dry out and then burn it.
Eventually as the sun was beginning to go down, I spread a mustard seed cover crop over some clean weed and rat free soil and looked at the mountain of lupin branches that need to be run through the shredder. So much for a quick and easy job, I now have shredding to add to the ‘to do’ list.
Come again soon – it is another blue sky day full of opportunities to get things done.
Sarah the Gardener : o)
Day 2 of #MakeMayCount was starting to look like there would be no room at all for anything ‘planty’. As it was a weekend day, we wanted to paint one of the bedrooms in our house. We haven’t really done a lot to the inside of the house since we moved it onto our coastal property, as the outside and gardens have been our priority. But once we realised the one of the teen lads is preparing to fly to coop in the foreseeable future, we thought, as responsible parents we should at least give him a nice room before he leaves. As much as I hate painting, this is going to be the first of many indoor painting projects for some time to come. Although not remotely horticultural it is still helping to #MakeMayCount as a productive month we can look back on and be proud.
But the afternoon revealed itself to be a fabulous green thing. Friends of ours had invited us to come and explore their avocado orchard. They acquired the orchard at about the same time as we were relocating our house and have immersed themselves in taking care of the trees in order to get a bountiful harvest. They bought trees back from a poorly state, discovered the benefits of planting trees on mounds in low lying spots as avocados don’t like wet feet, and so much more. They also realised windbreaks, while very important to protect the trees, have roots that like to take advantage of the moist nutrient rich soil beneath the avocado tree, robbing it of its vigour.
With three years of caring for and nurturing the orchard, their knowledge is deeply rooted in experience and with the assistance from consultants and experts, the orchard is a thriving place, and it was a pleasure to tour through it and enjoy conversation with people passionate about their livelihood.
While it wasn’t a productive day in my garden, I learnt a lot and it was a lovely way to spend a day. Aside from the painting. We still have one more coat of paint to go on and then do some accessorising – curtains, bedcovers, lighting etc, but it is shaping up nicely. I’ll share a picture once it’s done.
Now for day 3. The sun is shining, and the sky is blue so if I don’t get much done it will be my own fault. The conditions are perfect for a productive day.
Come again soon – so far so good for a productive May.
Sarah the Gardener : o)
And just like that we are a quarter the way through the year. I really don’t know how it happens. I get up every day and try to make the most of the hours ahead of me and go back to bed exhausted. It would seem life is somehow speeding up without me noticing.
I do find April a challenging month though. I seem to unintentionally slow down. Whether it is due to the obvious change in the weather. It isn’t balmy anymore and I have to put on socks so it must be too cold to go out into the garden and do things. Although the ‘cold’ I’m speaking of is only the tip of the iceberg of what is to come so I expect this wussy-ness is all a bit premature and come winter I’ll have to put my brave on.
Or it could be the garden itself isn’t as demanding and so I rest on my laurels and avoid anything really demanding. I have to fight with myself to make progress and achievement.
So, it is with a bit of surprise when I made my end of April video tour, to see the garden looked in order and in control. I didn’t realise I’d done so much. I guess as the last video was only 3 weeks ago, I had subconsciously put myself under pressure to get enough things done so there’d be a noticeable change in the video. Nothing like public shaming for motivation.
But this April apathy is catching and historically has done terrible things to my productivity in May. So, for the last couple of years, I have launched my #MakeMayCount program to ensure this potentially slowest month of the year, that has the last of the good-ish weather, is as productive as it could possibly be. This means lots of garden tasks, chores and activities including those that have been long put off. It also means new and exciting projects and I have a few ideas. But importantly it means lots of updates and sharing of content because let’s be honest, I’ve been a little slack lately. April has a lot to answer for.
So, sit back and join me in my latest garden tour. You may want to make a cuppa or pop some popcorn as it is just shy of half an hour, but it is full of tips and hints and a sneaky peek at one of the new projects.
Come again soon – I’m going to do my very best to #MakeMayCount.
Sarah the Gardener : o)
I’m not sure what is up with time lately. One moment it feels like it is dragging and taking forever to pass and the next I find myself dazed and exhausted days later and shocked to find it is Friday! I think it has something to do with the school holidays as the routine is gone and all sense of normal along with it.
Last weekend included a lovely bush walk with my mum. I don’t often hang out with my mum because she lives so far away, and I don’t often hang out in the bush because I’m apparently ‘too busy’. I need to do both more.
Then I came home to something that has been guilting me since the summer. Pickling the onions and shallots. I figured they could wait until I was ready as they store well. The thing is I was never ready enough for them and then the pearl drop onions started to show signs of green tips at the top. It could be put off no more. The thing is there were loads of shallots and they were small. Taking the skins off them is tricky and I still have strong memories of little shards of onion skin stabbing me under the nail. One stab is nothing, but hundreds of stabs is enough to create memories strong enough to look for alternatives – so I soaked them to soften the skins and they slip off so much easier. However, when you have hundreds of small onions it can take many, many hours and leave your fingers deeply wrinkled. But once you start the pickling process you can’t really stop.
After the exhausting pickled onion experience, I took things a little easy in the garden and sowed a few more onion seeds that arrived in the mail. I have to say I was a little light on the onion seeds that will be pickled next season. If I complain about not having many to pickle next season – point me towards this blog post. While looking for the extra onion seeds I wanted, I also ordered some asters and peony poppies that can be sown now. I seem to be drawn towards bright booffy blooms. I was also pleased to see the chamomile lawn seeds I need for a project had popped up as I was pushing it a little with the sowing dates, but I will need the plants soon. And the first Pukekohe Longkeepers onions have popped up!
At this time of year when the temperatures are mild, but the rains have returned, the sand in the paths is ripe for seed germination. But I like my paths clear and I need to hoe more frequently than any other time of year. I’d dropped the ball a little on this, out of the habit of not needing to. I picked up the hoe and hoed the entire garden, so I had a clean slate to reinclude path hoeing in my daily sector system maintenance. It was one of those cathartic chores and absorbed several hours and I only got one blister! As I went along, I noticed all the little chores and tasks that needed attending – the ones that you make a mental note of, but as they aren’t urgent you immediately forget they need doing. When I finished hoeing, I sat up on my swing seat to catch my breath and wrote a big list of all the chores – divided into short term and long term. Then I spent the rest of the week attempting to cross them all off.
The first was to pick the peppers. The harvest wasn’t as great as in other years, but because of the rough start it wasn’t unexpected. The rains had started to cause rot spots where the insects had been sucking on them and so I had to just get in there and save what I could. I chopped them up into quarters and vac-packed in colour groups and frozen them.
Then I planted my early garlic. I find I get better results by starting early so the plants can put on some good growth before the rust hits. But I have discovered I need to find the balance of being early enough, but as the cold begins to start. Last season I was a little too early and the moist warm autumn conditions were perfect for the rust and it struck pretty much as the plants emerged. I still got an ok harvest. The boffins are suggesting the temperatures will begin to drop dramatically from next week. Although I always get befuddled working out the spacing. How hard can it be – 6 plants in 16 rows in a 1m x 4m bed. I poked all the holes several times and hoed them away as something was wrong. I ended up with 17 rows and thought stuff it, that will do, and I had prepared 6 extra cloves, so I popped them in some pots.
The next task was to remove the solitary Painted Mountain Corn plant and the last Zucchini plant. They weren’t up to much and the rats were getting into them. After I removed the corn, I popped in some mustard cover crop as it isn’t needed until next season for the beans… although, hold on, I need to pop the broad beans in the end there now so I may have to weed some of the mustard out once they pop up.
In the Zucchini bed, the problem came from the lemongrass pots I sat on the soil in the spring and didn’t come back to… until now. It took quite a lot of effort to find and remove the plastic pot. I’ve put them in some of the new large pots I bought the other day and for now they look lovely flanking the tool shed doors.
While I was at the repotting, I separated an Ajuga plant I bought recently at a sale for $5. I ended up with 15 plants! And I repotted some Whau seedlings I grew from seed – but that was by accident because I accidently kicked over the seed tray. And I repotted the Port Wine Magnolia I bought for an Easter project but aren’t sure I know what I’ll do with it. I also took a few more Muehlenbeckia cuttings because you can’t have too many of these and I also need them for the upcoming project.
And I have continued to make great progress on my faux rock. I will outline more of this project as I get going, but for now I’m just gathering my materials.
Come again soon – I have been so busy with the doing but need to get better with the updating.
Sarah the Gardener : o)
NB: To find out what is going on in the small pictures, click on them to reveal the caption.
Next week is the school holidays. Not that the teen lads need much attention during the holidays, but the dynamic changes in the household and so any routine I find myself in during normal weekdays just flies out the window. Recently I have had a good thing going on where I have my little rhythm to what I have to do and I’m making great progress. Earlier in the year I did struggle a bit to find my groove but having a couple of short lockdowns just unsettles and disrupts things.
This week was probably my best week yet as far as structure and order. I wrote my to do list then crossed things off it like a knight in shining armour slashing his sword through the undergrowth to get to the princess. Although my princess is the reward of not emerging from the school holidays in two weeks’ time hopelessly behind on the things that need to be done in the garden.
I started out with some kitchen gardening on Monday. My radish was ready, but there were a little too many for a modest radish appetite. After much investigation I made my first attempt at fermenting in a salty brine. I must have watched hundreds of instructional videos before attempting it. The results were mixed in that the fermentation was successful, but not received well by all the family. Hubby the Un-Gardener hates it, but I think one of the teen lads likes it a lot as a quarter of the jar disappeared overnight.
The other radish dish I made was kimchi radish – which is ordinary kimchi – in my inauthentic style with all the other vegies missing. It tastes fantastic and is so easy to do I have promised myself I’d keep a jar of dehydrated pepper powder on hand so I can make it all the time.
On Tuesday, after I had taken care of boring old administrative stuff that needs weekly attention, I started on an exciting project I have been meaning to do for so long, but the enormousness of the task had me procrastinating. Fortunately, the finished product is essential for a magazine article due on the 1st of June so I can’t afford to muck around any longer. Once I got started, I wondered why I was hesitant to start. I am loving the project so much but am limiting myself to an hour or two a day, so I don’t lose sight of the other needs of the garden.
Wednesday had me chipping away at the project making great progress, but I also went to a fabulous book launch party in America! One of the upsides of this crazy world is events that would ordinarily be held in person are now held virtually. So, I got to go to Gardenerd Christy Wilhelmi’s launch for her new book Grow Your Own Mini Fruit Garden. Hosted by Robin Jones of Honey Girl Grows. It was a great way to spend an afternoon inside while thunder and lightning raged around outside. It is a good book and I look forward to getting my hands on a copy, although I may have to look locally as the postage of a book from the States can cost more than the book!
Yesterday I made even more progress and whipped up a flower press and squashed a few flowers. It was so easy to make, I don’t know why I didn’t do it years ago. I always meant to. Then on the back of that success I sowed some winter seeds in the dome. My onions will hopefully be planted out in mid-June which is about 8 weeks away so by sowing seeds now they should be big and strong enough to be planted out when the time comes. I also popped in some broad beans and sweet pea seeds. I so love sweet peas; they remind me of my Nana. The exciting thing is I found some dwarf varieties that should do better than the tall ones I have failed with in this windy spot.
I also sowed seeds directly in the garden, another row of carrots, peas, and swedes, and popped in some beetroot seedlings. Then noticing the mustard cover crop was not only flowering but starting to show signs of developing seed heads so I ripped out the plants from the former corn bed. Normally I try to dig them in but have decided it is hard work and like herding kittens because it won’t stay buried.
The advice often found in magazines to simply ‘dig in your cover crops’ makes me wonder how many of them have actually done it. This time I’m going to let the worms do it. So, I just chopped it up and left it on the top. I’ll eventually put a layer of compost on the top – hopefully, next week or the week after and let the worms dig that in too. So come spring the bed will be ready. The day ended in increasing darkness with the sky attempting to rain.
Today I was back at it. I took down the flowering cover crop in the old tomato bed. The onions will be in there next which will be in about 8 weeks so plenty of time for the mustard plants to break down and release their goodness for the onions to use. I have found my rhythm with this process now and it doesn’t feel like a daunting labour intensive chore. Buoyed on by my success at dealing with the cover crops at end point I spread more mustard seed in the bed the squash was in and in the old potato bed. I put lupin seed into the old onion / glass gem corn bed to give it a bit more of grunty nutrient boost. Then I came in from the garden and Hubby the Un-Gardener helped me give Jasper the Dog a wash as he was getting a bit stinky, but I wouldn’t go so far as to say teenage boy stinky!
And that was my week. I am now looking forward to a nice relaxing weekend.
Come again soon – hopefully, next week will have a degree of productivity in it.
Sarah the Gardener : o)
NB: To find out what is going on in the small pictures, click on them to reveal the caption.
This is a strange time of year. Daylight savings has ended but it is still warm-ish and we are wandering about our days feeling it should be later than it is, which strangely gives us more time in our days. It won’t last and soon enough we will get used to the new ebb and flow of time and know exactly where we are and we will find ourselves being normal, which for us is often running late. I have to say it is refreshing being early and on time for now.
But speaking of running late, my March video tour of the garden is a week late. But to be honest it isn’t really my fault. Easter was too close to the end of the month, causing a short week and a bottle neck of chores and responsibilities. But on the other side of Easter, this short week seems to be a little more sedate, and I finally feel back in control again.
Technically not a lot has changed in the garden when comparing this week to last week so in the grand scheme of things this audio visual tardiness shouldn’t even matter much as it is all quite same samey. It isn’t too long, probably grab a cuppa, rather than go to the effort of popping popcorn so sit back and enjoy the state of my garden right now.
As the season slows the garden down, I feel a little more control in what I have to do, like plant garlic and cool season seedlings. But also feel liberated to tackle projects I’ve been longing to get my teeth into, but always seemed to run out of time. I’m looking forward to a season of something different.
Come again soon – there is always something to be done in my garden and maybe a bit beyond.
Sarah the Gardener : o)
(A paid post with the good people from GARDENA NZ)
Historically, back in the day I was a bit of a malingerer, I would be slow to clear away the seasons end. Not because I was lazy, but to acknowledge the season was over was too much to bear. I’m just as bad with my Christmas decorations and this year they made it to Valentine’s day before being packed back into their boxes.
Not these days for the veggie patch. I have begun to appreciate how much nicer it is to look upon a garden that is not full of the dead, dying or weedy. A heavily mulched bed with a thick layer of compost is more pleasing than tangled crispy brown vines that have long since given up the ghost. Besides getting in early with the compost layer means the worms and other micro communities have plenty of time to work their magic and reinvigorate the soil ready for next season.
The same can be said for cover crops. There is something lovely about a lush green bed full of life when the options for things to grow is no where near as vast as in the summer. Unless I want a garden filled with broccoli, swedes and silverbeet, the only option is cover crops or let the spare beds lie fallow.
So, I have begun the task of packing up summer and putting it away until next year. The pumpkin bed has been cleared of all trace of the once life supporting vines and any opportunistic weeds that had snuck in there. As the pumpkin isn’t part of the crop rotation, I have sown a mustard cover crop that will help restore the soil.
A mustard cover crop is also a great indication of the quality of the soil. With an even application of the seed, a poor or uneven germination will highlight problem areas in the soil. Then monitoring the quick growing plants as they grow can also give vital information. If the plants struggle, the soil will need more love to be able to support the next crop. If it bursts into life with exuberant foliage can mean possibly too much nitrogen which isn’t ideal, except possibly if the next crop is a leafy green. What you need is a good steady, uniform growth across the whole bed. But make time to remove it before it flowers so it doesn’t become too woody to break down easily and definitely before it sets seed, so it doesn’t become a weed.
As for the cucumber bed, well it wasn’t the best season anyway. At least the lemon cucumbers provided us with an abundance, but the rest of the cucumbers and gherkins had a terribly poor harvest with a mere taster from each plant. The only way I could fill a jars of pickles was to let the gherkins that did show up grow larger than I normally would. I’m in too minds now. Am I being over optimistic and are the net trellises too tall or do they need to be shortened further? (I did drop them down a little bit this season.) Or was it just a bad season and next year they will willingly scramble to the top?
We will have to wait until next season, because for now, in a crop rotation revamp, the garlic will take their place shortly. I had the garlic before the cucumber last season and following the leafy greens. The problem is the leafy greens are still there doing their thing and will be until the spring so the garlic can’t move over into its bed, and certainly not now, the rainbow beet is flourishing. I looked at all the other crops in the sector 3 cycle and the root crops are in all winter, the broad beans, even though I don’t really like them, they are lovely to grow over the winter for a bit of height and will make the bean bed ‘occupied’, so the only logical thing is to swap the cucumbers for the garlic. The cucumbers end long before I need their bed, the beans before them will nourish the soil for the garlic and the leafy greens will be long finished before it is warm enough to plant out the cucumbers.
Sometimes sorting out the finer details can take a bit of fiddling about, but I think this should be the last fiddle in my crop rotation setup. These days my to do list for the week is set with a wander around the garden deciding what crops need to come out next.
Come again soon – I think a garden tour is due.
Sarah the Gardener : o)
At this time of year, the harvest settles down to a trickle. And the immediate demands from the garden aren’t nearly as intense as they were a month ago. Now that we are passed the autumn equinox it is easy to get a little complacent, especially now the mornings are getting a little chilly and there is a heavy dew on the grass. But then you realize we haven’t had rain of any significance in over 10 days. The only telltale sign is things were starting to get a little droopy. How did I not notice we hadn’t had rain? It would seem I have been drifting through the days doing what needs to be done, but not paying any attention.
Fortunately for the peppers they can use bright screaming red to catch my eye and when passing through the garden, all of a sudden, they become obvious. The pumpkins on the other hand. I knew I was waiting for the leaves to die off, but mistook their signs of harvest for plants gasping for a drink. But no, they were done, and good to go.
All of them except the butternuts. They looked like they were heading off in the death throws direction but seem to have found a second wind and put out new flowers and fruit. At the time I wasn’t sure these newcomers would make it, but if this good weather continues, I think I may double my harvest. Some years we aren’t so lucky.
So, for the pumpkins I picked I washed them in a mild disinfectant solution to remove all the dirt and debris and left them in the sun on the deck to dry off and help their skins to cure a little bit. A couple of the buttercups have a few dings in them and won’t keep so I’ll bring them in to the kitchen and we’ll use them straight away. The kids reckon they don’t like pumpkin, but they will also tell you what I have to say about that “If I went to the trouble to grow it, you can go to the trouble of eating it!”
It wasn’t exactly a stella year for pumpkins and a couple of them are quite small. I like to think of them as lunchtime pumpkins that I can cook up and eat, just for me without anyone complaining about how horrible pumpkin tastes to them. I think my big problem is the wind situation – their beds are beyond the protection of the main wind break. I picked up some screens at the garden centre today and so this should improve things for next year.
I still have to remove all the dead pumpkin foliage and clean up the beds. Then I’ll sow a cover crop. I haven’t decided if I’ll go for mustard or lupin. Mustard will help clean up the soil, but the lupin will add bulk organic material. Maybe I should go for both – either together or one after the other? I’m not sure which. But as these beds aren’t in the crop rotation it is important to put something in there in between seasons.
The peppers, because they are mostly shop bought seedlings because of my disaster early on in the season of having to rip them out and burn them because of disease, they are running a little late. But there were enough red ones to get a good harvest, although I’m not sure what I will do with most of them just yet as we still have oodles of chili sauces from last year. Chili sauce isn’t exactly something you rush through, not in the same way that the kids can get through a jar of jam in a sitting if I let them!
I was, to be honest, quite disappointed in my jalapeno. Once again, the harvest was really meagre and after discovering cowboy candy last year, I really want to make a load more. As I was picking the red cayenne peppers, I noticed how fleshy and plump they were looking and did a “hmmm I wonder” So I plucked off plenty of green ones thinking they’ll do instead.
I tentatively sliced one open, just hoping they were indeed fleshy because otherwise I’d need to have a long hard think about what I’d do with half a kilo of green cayenne peppers. The looked just like the jalapeno – well almost, not quite as fleshy but a good enough substitute, just a little bit skinnier.
It wasn’t until I was mostly through slicing them up (bravely or foolishly without gloves – you choose) it occurred to me I should see if in fact they do make a good substitute by checking out the Scoville scale. Turns out Jalapeno are sitting at 2500 – 8000 units so nicely toasty with a good degree of burn. Then I checked out cayenne peppers: 30,000 – 50,000! Opps. But I was committed. Not only had I pretty much chopped them all up, but I’d also prepared the sugar / vinegar solution and it was boiling up on the stove.
It can’t be that bad really? The sugar and the vinegar are supposed to help reduce the heat. But just to be sure, I put all the chopped chilies in a container with a lid and gave it a jolly good shake to release as many seeds as possible. This should help lower the temperature a little… I hope. So, time will tell in 4 – 6 weeks when they have matured. Hopefully, they’ll be edible.
Come again soon – the pumpkin bed isn’t the only one I need to clear. It’s almost time to plant my early garlic!
Sarah the Gardener : o)