SARAH THE GARDENER

Getting better

It has been well over a week since I felt ‘normal’.  Actually, I never feel normal, let me rephrase that.  It has been well over a week since I felt well.  This cold has really taken its toll on me.  To start with I was resting to recover and did things I never do, like stay in bed all day and intermittently sleeping between watching chick flicks and exhausting every gardening show and you tube video I could find.  Not only was I slowly feeling better, but it was a huge indulgence.  I am normally a productive relaxer and feel most at peace when I’m doing something.  To do absolutely nothing leaves me feeling frustrated.  I really hate being sick.

The more I lay there in the cosy warm, the more frustrated I felt.  Spring is just around the corner and there is so much to do, and it won’t be being done all the while I’m lying there.  I tried making mental lists in my head but having not been in the garden for over a week it was hard to truly visualise what needed doing.  All I could really worry about was the unfinished tasks that don’t need that much of a push to get them done.  Then there is the shelving in the dome to be done, but that requires a clear head to work it all out as it is far from straight forward.

It was good to spend time getting all my paper working things up to date, but they weren’t that far behind as I’d taken care of everything before we went on holiday.  It is weird the way I do that.  I’m only gone for ten days but I tie up all the loose ends like I’d be away for a year or more!  I’ve almost been as unwell for the same length of time and I did no planning or preparation for that absence of leave.  I think the holiday helps and compounds the situation; I wasn’t wildly out of control but the time out of the garden over the last 6 weeks is much greater than the time spent in it.  This is also down to the weather as it is finally behaving like winter.

But enough is enough and while I am not 100%, I am probably well enough to drag myself out there and do something.  So that is what I did.  I didn’t have a plan, or a list and I just went out there to have a look and find a nice gentle task that would leave me feeling satisfied that I’d done something and made some kind of progress.  Wandering around the garden I knelt down to pull a wayward weed and took great pleasure from the ease it released itself from the loose fluffy soil.  It felt good to be back in touch with the earth and have dirt under my nails.

So good, in fact, that one weed lead to another and another and before I knew it I’d weeded and entire bed, moved on to another and then another and before I knew it I’d done eleven beds, before the sky began to darken and threaten to rain.  Being rained on is the last thing I need right now; I might end up catching a different cold.

It doesn’t bother me that I didn’t tackle anything on the list that worried me while lying in bed.  There is still plenty of time and knowing the garden is mostly weed free is one less thing to worry about as we move towards the spring and will be easier to stay on top of than trying to tame an out of control jungle while trying to do all the things the new season requires of us.

In the meantime, I’ll share some of the things I discovered while pottering about in the garden, and all going well I’ll be able to get back out there again tomorrow and maybe even start crossing things off lists.

Come again soon – I am more well than I am unwell and so there is nothing stopping me from doing a spot of gardening… except maybe some rain.

Sarah the Gardener : o)

NB – clicking on the photos will tell you more about what is going on in them.

Seeds and bugs

The first seeds of the season have been sown, with love and care and great expectation. But then disaster struck.  Actually, it isn’t as bad as that, but it is extremely frustrating.  I have picked up some kind of cold or lurgy that has left me unable to watch over my buried seeds with the unnecessary frequency I normally do.  Those first seeds of the season are often checked 3 or 4 times a day for signs of life that often take 7 to 10 days to appear.  Frequent checking on day 3 won’t speed things up but you never know. …

Clean pots and trays

All of the pots and trays have been scrubbed and washed and couldn’t be any cleaner. Sadly I can tell you the seeds sown in October won’t be treated to such luxury as I know from experience, by then I’ll be over the wonder of it all and will just be bunging them in willy nilly!

Instead I’m trying to recover my health and shake the cold that is clutching at my lungs and weighing down my sinuses making me want to sleep deeply during the day and leaves me wide awake during what seems to be the longest hours of darkness to be endured.   But I’m being dramatic.  It just seems to be a cold that has hit me harder than I would like to admit to.

Seed raising mix

After a bit of mental arithmetic I worked out how many containers I needed and filled them with seed raising mix.

Besides the wind and the rain are still raging about outside and gardening wouldn’t be fun.  Although I do despair of the things still to be done.  With the sowing of the first seeds, the tug of spring on the coat tails seems more urgent.

Seed sowing with a pencil

One of my favourite seed sowing tools is a pencil. It is perfect to create drills, poke holes and realign wayward seeds and even helps to cover them over.

The seeds I have sown are the ones that I have decided need the best head start on the season as they take such a long time to get going.  Having said that I normally start them off with great fanfare on the first day of August like a tradition that must be upheld no matter what.  However, these days I seem to be a little more relaxed about things.  The growing season is just that – a season and the period of time when it is ideal to sow seeds is a very wide window indeed.  I’ve always known this but succumbed to the feeling that these things needed to be done at the first opportunity.  Seeing others start theirs, provided it wasn’t way too early, did make me feel a little anxious.  But I need to remind myself.  It is not a race and if I sow seeds last week, next week or even next month, they will still be ok.

Fennel the Cat helping out

Fennel the Cat really likes to be right there beside me when I’m doing things. She’s great company when sick in bed, but probably not so much when trying to sow tiny seeds.

Gardening isn’t a race and I’m not competing with other gardeners and I’m certainly not competing with nature.  So long as her seeds fall into warm soil with the right kind of moisture and daylight and day length, then she isn’t that fussed.

Seeds sown

That should be enough seeds to be getting on with for now. The next sowing in September will be much bigger with the majority of crops sown then,

So, with my seeds tucked up in a good quality seed raising mix on a heat pad with enough water supplied, without being mollycoddled then they won’t even notice I’m not hovering about them fretting over their ability to germinate.  They will just get on with it and knowing this makes it easier for me to recover from coughing and spluttering without worrying about them and before we know it, we will both be out in the garden, enjoying the warmth of the summer sun.

seedlings on heat mats

All tucked up on heat mats. I will need to bring them closer to the light once they germinate to stop them going leggy, but until then they are fine where they are. I really do need to get a wiggle on with the dome shelves.

Come again soon – there will be better days ahead.

Sarah the Gardener  : o)

The wind is roaring

The weather has turned.  Up until recently it was mild, even possibly warm.  The sun shone for more days than it rained to the point the experts were concerned about impending summer drought as the reservoirs were at a similar winter low to the year there actually was a serious drought.

Gloomy outlook

If you look carefully into this gloomy outlook you can actually see the hail on the window!

The sun still shines from time to time as the wind is moving the clouds along so fast, they only cover the sun for the blink of a moment.  The rain is kind of welcome.  It is nice in that it is filling the water tanks, so summer watering of the garden can be done without a care in the world and the plants get their full thirst quenched.  But at the same time, it is a bit of a pain.  It is too wet to work outside, but not only too wet – it is an icy cold wet, the kind of rain that stings your face and hands and any exposed parts.  And sometimes it comes in sideways – and fast.  Often embellished with a touch of hail.   Not pleasant at all.

windswept lupin cover crop

My lupin cover crop is a bit bashed about, but if you need to look on the bright side, they need to be dug in soon anyway.

After such an extended period of mild and balmy weather it was, to be honest, taken for granted.  I kick myself for all the days I chose not to go out into the garden to get things done, just because I didn’t feel like it.  I think I need a big poster on my wall in the winter that says, “Don’t waste nice winter days!”  Having said that some of those days were not my fault…  we did go on holiday and I was also told by a doctor to put my foot up for a week after a final remedy for a sprain that had been bothering me since January.

From inside the Dome

The dome is toasty warm and snug in the face of all of the nasty weather going on around it. Although it does look like I may need to clean the windows soon.

The bit I think is the worst is the wind.  Not only is it a howling gale, but it is noisy.  If it wasn’t so noisy, I don’t think it would be as bad.  Right now, the gusts are 45 km/h.  I would love to find out what they have been, but my poor weather station is struggling to keep up and only intermittently displays the data.  I can’t even tell you which direction it has come from as the wind direction part has long since blown away!  I think if I want to continue to monitor the conditions, I’ll need a more robust system.

Overall outlook

Overall it isn’t too bad and nothing that a week in the sun wouldn’t fix.

I think the blessing comes from the big storm we had when we first moved here – the terrifying 212km/h winds at the start of our project has meant everything thing we have done here has the worst-case wind in mind.  So, our sheds stand strong, the dome is immovable.  It would seem an iron shed 1 kilometre up our driveway has become a twisted heap.  An ordinary greenhouse wouldn’t have stood a chance.  I have to say the spiralling costs of the dome have niggled away at me, tainting slightly the joy I have in it.  But on a day like today I am grateful for it and all that it cost.

Daffodils

No matter how bad it gets with the wind and the rain, I have the daffodils to cheer me up and remind me these times won’t last.

So, the wind from the depths of the Antarctic started blowing about a week ago and the boffins have not suggested a let up in the immediate future.  But it is winter after all.  It is supposed to be cold and yucky.  What I need to ask myself is am I crazy enough about my garden to rug up warm and get out there and get stuff done to prepare for the impending spring?

Come again soon – the weather is raining on my parade.

Sarah the Gardener  : o)

Shelving ideas

We are still in the grasp of midwinter, but the grip of winter is loosening.  Late winter starts in a few days and with that the planning and preparation for the summer garden has amped up a gear.  I have gone through my seed collection, double checked the packets to make sure there are still seeds within the little foil parcels, decided if there is enough or not, and if they would still be viable or would I be struggling in my efforts to see little green shoots rising from the barren seed raising mix in a few months’ time.

Seed tin

The seeds in my tin have been sorted for the new season. The unwanted removed and space prepared for the new. I can feel the excitement mounting.

I have questioned my choices from last season and wondered if I liked things enough to grow them again.  Somethings have been cast aside, never to grace my garden again – well not at my hand anyway.  I found borage to be lacking.  All that effort for some flowers to sprinkling in a summer drink and impress the bees.  That thing took up more than its allotted space in my herb garden and self-seeded prolifically.  I can provide for the bees with something much prettier and with much less problems.  That plant is outta here – well it will be once I get control over its progeny!

Seedlings in the windowsill

Last season I got by with the space in the bay window in the house, but now I have the dome, it does make sense to use it!

I also had a look to see if there was anything new and exciting to try and there are a few things that may end up becoming a shining star among the ordinary things or will be a dismal flop never to be grown again – but you never know unless you try.

Glasshouse shelving

I loved the shelving I had in the last glasshouse. It was perfect!

All of this seed sorting is great to do within the comfort of my armchair in the warmth of indoors, but the time will come soon enough when the contents of these packets become little green beings jostling for space as they grow into the plants that will become my garden.  This isn’t a problem exactly, except I’m not sure where to put them.

Asparagus seedlings

The asparagus plants now well established in my new garden had the priviledge of spending their formative months on the shelves of my old greenhouse. Little did we know what the future held for them. Even at the point of sowing them I had no idea what I would do with them – I just grew them because I could!

Ok – I have the dome, but it doesn’t have any shelves in there.  Not yet.  I have a few stacked crates that kind of work for now, however there is not nearly enough space for everything that will need temporary accommodation in a warm sunny spot.  But I’m at a loss as to how to do it.

Geodesic Biodome

It is a good space, with plenty of room – but just an odd shape.

In the last greenhouse I had a great system.  There was a U-shaped frame around the rectangular greenhouse that created the structure for two shelves.  The shelves themselves were made of decking timber cut to size but only every 6th one was screwed down.  This gave the structure strength, but the loose ones were able to be lifted to be easily washed but also adjusted to improve airflow as the plants got bigger or pushed close together for tiny pots to balance safely without falling through, or removed completely if I chose to grow a tall plant that was happy to sit on the ground.  The width of the shelves was deep enough for two of my largest seed trays and a little bit more.  It was perfect.

Plumbing holes

Once everything is sorted out I think I will be delighted to have a sink with a drain and an in point for water so I can ensure all the seedlings stay moist with just one turn of the tap.

I’d like to recreate something like this for the dome but with its irregular shape I am at a loss as to how to do this.  There are too many possibilities but at the same time the slope and curve of the wall needs to be taken into consideration. Another thing to bear in mind is when the floor was laid, we make some holes in it so water could come and go from outside for irrigation and a possible sink, so I need to incorporate this into the design.

I have a few ideas but I’m not sure.  But I need to think fast as it isn’t long before I’ll be out in the dome pottering about with a multitude of seedlings all vying for the best spot in the sun.

dome shelf ideas

Possible shelving arrangements for the dome. It really isn’t straight forward at all. What would you do?

What would you choose?  A, B, C, D E, F or something completely different?  Each has their advantages and disadvantages and once done, that will probably be it.  I can’t see myself changing it.

Come again soon – hopefully I would have made up my mind and be in the throes of construction.

Sarah the Gardener  : o)

Did the Garden Miss Me?

After being away for 10 days I was champing at the bit to get out into the garden and check out how it fared in my absence.  To be honest I wasn’t really worried as there isn’t much going on compared to leaving a full-blown summer garden.  In winter things are unhurried and harvesting isn’t required on a daily basis and things grow slowly.

Daffodil

A cheerful surprise and welcome back from the garden. So long as these keep emerging between now and the warm weather I will have no excuse to be glum.

 A quick check of the weather station shows it was warm-ish, – for winter and there was a lot of rain and high humidity.  So, it was unsurprising to see a bit of growth.  The onions have settled in nicely and are starting to almost imperceivably thicken up.  They are a long way from being fat bulbs ready for harvest, but they are on their way.

Weeds

There is no escaping it, weeds grow the moment your back is turned.

There are also a few more weeds than I would have anticipated so I need to jump in there and take care of them.   Some things have gone to seed, but it wasn’t unexpected, we weren’t eating enough salad crops or Tatsoi.  But after the magnificent food on the holiday I may need to change that and, shall we say, ‘eat a little lighter!’  There is plenty of time before I have to get my swimsuit out again and a lot of hard work to be done in the garden in the meantime so I’m sure it will be fine.

Romanesco

Romanesco is not only incredibly beautiful is is delicious to eat. I really should grow more of it than I do.

The Romanesco has finally come to a head and I have to say it is such a beautiful thing.  The Fibonacci spirals are magnificently displayed.  There is also some broccoli and beetroot ready for harvest.  We are certainly not short for fresh veggies to grace our table.  But some things have surprised me.  There are broad beans on the cover crop plants that flowered too soon in the autumn.  Not many, but enough for a taster.  The first asparagus is poking through the soil after my efforts to cut back the fronds and freshen up the soil before I left.  They say you can take a few in the second year, so I’m wondering if it is the first few or some from later in the season and just how many is a few, because I have a hankering for fresh asparagus now that I’ve seen it.

Asparagus

Oh my goodness – Asparagus! And it looks like it will be a fat juicy one… I can hardly wait!

On the floral side of things, the daphne that was in bud before I left looks like it is only just in flower, so I get to soak in that incredible fragrance every time I intentionally walk past the plant.  I honestly thought I’d miss it.  But the biggest floral surprise is I have a daffodil up.  Not just a few leaves or a bud about to burst but one in full glory, smiling in the sun.   I wasn’t expecting to see that for another month at least.

Daphne

I am so pleased the Daphne decided to wait for me, the fragrance is intoxicating, it would have been disappointing to miss it!

I checked on the trees in the new orchard and they seem to be doing well, but I do need to make a priority of the staking and setting up the irrigation that I ran out of time to do before I left.  But the peach is in bud already so I can’t muck around.

Peach tree bud

So far so good with the orchard. This bodes very well indeed!

With all of the cool things going on, there is also a battle.  The rust on the garlic has come back.  I spotted it before I went away and trimmed off the affected leaves and gave it a feed and a spray so it could heal in my absence.  I’m so pleased I did spot it as if I hadn’t, I would have come home to a sea of orange and a whole lot of heartbreak.  But this time, there were only a few splodges of tell-tale orange, so I immediate removed the leaves and will do the feed and spray thing again.  This is a battle I refuse to lose, and I will fight for my garlic and beat the rust into submission.

Garlic rust

Grr… garlic rust, my gardening nemesis. We shall do battle for as long as it takes.

But all in all, things aren’t too bad, so as we approach the spring from the remaining half of winter, I will prepare a big long list and work towards it.  It shouldn’t be too hard.

Come again soon – There has been a shift in the atmosphere, spring is coming, hoorah!

Sarah the Gardener  : o)

Under the sun

I’ve been away.  Not only that, I’ve time travelled!  With the garden mostly under control it was the perfect time to have a bit of a holiday.   For the keen gardener mid-winter really is the best time to take a break as there isn’t really a lot going on and besides – it is cold and miserable so who wouldn’t want to go somewhere tropical?  So, we jumped in a plane and after 5 hours found ourselves 22 hours behind, in the day before we even left, in the delightful Tahiti. 

floating in the Pacific

There is nothing like floating in the Pacific to relax completely.

To be honest for me it was perfect, I didn’t realise how much I actually needed a holiday from it all and so there was no gardening, although I did read a fascinating book about the head gardener from the Gardens of Versailles. >Find out more about it here<  I didn’t even intentionally look at gardens.  There were options to visit gardens and agricultural places, but the soft warm waters of the tropical Pacific Ocean called to me and I swam in waters that drifted all worries and cares away.  I was truly refreshed.

I was also truly spoilt and had some amazing food and drink.  There is nothing like celebrating the setting of the sun with a cocktail in hand in the company of lovely new friends.  The French influence interlaced with the Polynesian culture made things feel truly exotic and the food was incredible.  Although I have to say as much as the French enjoy eating snails, they can keep them.  I thought it would be the ultimate gardener’s revenge, but I couldn’t face it, not matter how much garlic there was on them.  I guess ignorance is bliss as I watched non-gardeners gobble them down.  I just kept picturing the slimy buggers in my garden!

20190720_174109

But now I’m back and with just a week left of mid-winter I need to get my act together.  Spring starts is about 6 weeks and the first seeds of the season get started in a week and a half!  So with one hand on the unpacking and the laundry as I wash the salt and sunscreen residue from my clothes – but not my memories, I will throw myself back into the garden with all that needs to be done, should have been done and will need to be done sooner rather than later.  I’m relaxed, refreshed and ready for business.  A new season is coming.

Come again soon – there is much to be done.

Sarah the Gardener  : o)

New Orchard Take Two

After my recent confession on the failure of the first orchard in the new place, I am determined to get it right the second time.  So the first thing I did was research the trees I wanted first based on who needed a pollinator and which varieties were best, then narrowing that list down to the give us something for every season and even in some cases something for early, mid and late season so there is a constant supply of fruit once the trees start fruiting.  That list was then narrowed down to the juiciest and most delicious ones that will give us a seasonal delight that can’t be bought at the store.

So many trees

So many trees… too many trees. I had to use all my self control to stick to the carefully curated list.

Picking the right fruit trees is a complex business and I went through the same processes last time as well, so a lot of my options were still the same, second time round.  The problem was I had left it too late in the season and all the good stuff was gone and I had to compromise dramatically, often searching the great big internet while standing in the garden centre, trying to find any information I could about the obscure and scrappy looking tree lurking in the far corner, that I knew I would probably buy regardless as I was desperate for trees.

Fruit trees in the car

There are only so many fruit trees in the car. I could have squeezed in more but it was quite twiggy in the front seat.

The difference this time is I was early at the garden centre – within a week or two of the arrival of the new season trees and there were plenty to choose from and most were on my list.  I may have had to swap out one or two, but it was nothing drastic, and often for something that was in the final decision category anyway.   I had to make two trips, so the trees would fit in the back of the car and on the second visit I was glad for my prompt action as there were several varieties that had already sold out.  The early bird gets the worm and all that.

Spraying the trees

I sprayed the trees in the fading light of the day when all good pollinators should be well and truly tucked up in bed

Next, I set them off to a good start by giving them a spray for pest and disease such as leaf curl, black spot, scale and mites with Conqueror Spraying Oil and Copper Oxychloride.  I did feel quite proud of myself with this step as in the past I have always been too hasty to get them planted and just bunged them in and left them to fend for themselves in a do or die attitude.  I would prune and spray most winters, but never as often as recommended so there was always peach leaf curl, black spots on the quince and gross pear slugs on the plums making lace out of the leaves.  It is my intention going forward these trees will stay up to date with their spray routine, so they stay healthy.  They are in for a tough life here on the coast so it is the least I can do for them.

Digging holes

Hubby the Un-Gardener did a great job digging holes. He was fast and efficient and mostly agreeable. I’d be lost without him.

Where the orchard is, is up a valley.  In the summer it is mostly full sun as the sun travels across its length but in winter one side is shaded, and as we don’t get a frost here, I was worried about the trees that need a certain number of chill hours to be successful.  So I chose varieties that suit the warmer areas, but the ones that needed things cooler in winter I placed on the shady side of the hill and the ones that weren’t that bothered went on the sunny side so hopefully my plants will enjoy the thought I put into their final locations.

Dog and hole

You would think Jasper dug this hole the way he became territorial over it.

Then, instead of languishing for months in pots – a mistake many of the old trees I have had are familiar with, I got them into the ground within weeks of buying them and bringing them home.  To be fair Hubby the Un-Gardener dug all the holes for me because he is just quicker at it than me and didn’t complain when I suggested one was in the wrong place and could he re-dig it 30cm over.  You see the trees are in a couple of lines up the valley and so it will make it easy to deliver irrigation to them.  I want to run a few lines of 13mm poly pipe up the hill and then have 4mm tubing going to each tree ending in a dripper or two.  The end of the pipes will go through the chicken coop – the apples and pears are in there, and then have connectors out by the raspberries in the garden and so watering the orchard will be as easy and plugging in a hose on a timer and these trees won’t suffer the same fate as their predecessors dying of thirst.

The new orchard

And take two with the orchard, I really hope in spite of all the challenge it will face, it still flourishes here on the hill.

I still have a few things to do to make the orchard right.  I need to give the new pip trees a prune, so they are off to a good shape, and then do the stone fruit from the spring because it is unwise to prune these in winter due to the risk of disease.  I also need to stake them so the roots can settle into the soil without being rocked by the wind, of which we do see more than our fair share.   But at this point I am just pleased the trees I have chosen are in the ground and planted alongside them is a lot of good intentions.

Come again soon – I’m going to do something a tad exotic.

Sarah the Gardener  : o)

FYI:  The trees I now have in my orchard are:

  • Plums – Santa Rosa, Black Doris and Duffs Early Jewel but I still want a Damson
  • Quince – Taihape
  • Feijoa – Unique, Mammoth and Apollo
  • Peaches – Red Haven but I still want a Black Boy
  • Apricot – Sundrop and Trevatt
  • Apples – Golden Delicious, Cox’s Orange but I still want a Peasgood Nonsuch
  • Pear – Red Bartlett and Conference
  • Olive Rakino and an unnamed variety that I’m sure will be fine.

There are still other things I want, like a persimmon, tamarillo and some nuts but they can wait.

Yams – Yay or Nay?

It was with great expectation I approached my Yam bed, also known as Oca.  As far as I was concerned, I’d done all the right things, I’d fed and watered with a frequency that could be described as regular.  I was in a new environment here beside the sea and the soil was more free draining than at the old place and so surely that would have helped.   I waited until the bulky foliage had completely died back, like you are supposed to do.  Surely there was a bumper harvest lying beneath the surface of the soil.

The Yam bed

Sometimes the expectation and anticipation is more exhilarating than actually knowing what lies beneath the soil.

At the old place I never really got a great harvest of yams, but certainly not from a lack of trying, however their bed was off to the side and easily forgotten with an out of sight out of mind cavalier attitude.  It did flood often there as well and what yams I did dig up were mostly pockmarked with the early signs of rot.  It really didn’t bode well, but I can be tenacious at the best of times and there is nothing to be lost from trying this crop again and again, hoping for a better outcome.  It is relatively low maintenance so worth the persistence.

So how did it fare in the new spot?

Yams

And this is it… after 11 months of waiting… for this… hip hip hooray…..

Miserably!  To be honest I think the tubers I planted collectively weighed more than the tubers I harvested.  It is a miracle reducing crop.   However undeterred I shall try again, surely one day the conditions will be perfect and we will get the much longed for bumper harvest.  Conditions swing wildly from one season to the next and I can’t forget the year I could hold my entire pumpkin harvest in one hand, which just happened to be the same year I had the best ever celery crop.

Miniature pumpkin harvest

My miniature pumpkin harvest from back in 2014 isn’t exactly something to be proud of.

I live in hope, although my suspicions are it just doesn’t get cold enough and moving to a frost free spot beside the sea isn’t going to help.  Having said that the boffins are suggesting this is a mild winter compared to most, so maybe next year it will be colder…  I can’t believe I’m actually hoping for a chilly winter.  But its for the yams!

Yams

We were off to such a good start with these seed yams. So much potential locked into these rather large tubers.  What could possibly go wrong?

Yams will always have a place in my garden, not counting the hope of a better crop, but I created a bed especially for it and it is now riddled with measly mung bean sized tubers I couldn’t be bothered harvesting and now they are there they are there for good.  They are related to the dreaded oxalis weed that strikes fear into the hearts of gardeners at the mere sight of a tiny folded trefoil shaped leaves emerging from the undergrowth.  But for now I’ll just have to make do with do with ones from the store grown by folk who know what they are doing in a location that yams actually like.

Come again soon – I need to tell you about my orchard.

Sarah the Gardener  : o)

I have a confession to make

Dead orchard

This is my valley of death, and my greatest shame.

You may or may not remember late last year I bought some fruit trees….  >Read about it here<  Umm…  yeah…. Well…  I killed them, all of them.   Well the olive still has leaves, but it might as well be dead by the look of it!  It isn’t completely unexpected, as I ended the tree purchasing post with the words:

“I do feel a little sorry for the humble collection of trees I have just acquired as I have a ‘do or die’ philosophy when it comes to fruit trees.”

Dead apple tree

As much as the chickens tried, this Golden Delicious tree is dead. The other apple tree in the chicken coop is surprisingly still alive, however, I was in such a rush to plant them I didn’t document who was where, so I have no idea what kind of apple it is!

Although I was referring to its ability to survive here by the sea and not my negligent behaviour.  But the thing is I had that old saying “The best time to plant a tree is twenty years ago and the second best time is now!” ringing in my ears.  I left an established orchard and that was hard to do.  I’d waited a long time to have an abundance of fruit and just when they got going, we got going.  There are trees in that orchard with fruit I never got to try.  So, I was in a hurry to replace them.

pear tree in poor health

It looks like the pear tree is salvageable, which is great news.

But there was so much else going on at that time, what with moving a house and building the entire garden in time for the growing season, so the trees while were on the ‘do it now’ list, I wasn’t really ready for them.  By the time I got to the garden centre all of the good ones had gone already so I had to compromise on my carefully researched varieties.

Anvil secateurs for dead wood

I took the top of the pear tree in sections so I could check the state of it. Anvil secateurs cut through the wood like a knife onto a chopping block but is best for dead wood as it can bruise live branches.

Having secured a motley crew of trees, the poor things then languished in pots for far too long while I tended to the needs of new season seedlings and finishing the last of the beds.  They were moved about the place several times as they somehow seemed to be underfoot and in the way.  The brisk sea breezes enjoyed knocking them over again and again and as they were in small-ish pots they often dried out.   Oh, and then Snowy the Goat gave them unnecessarily pruning – twice as she slipped her collar.  She now sports a dashing and much stronger collar to keep her in control.

dead wood

Yup. The top half of the pear is dead.

Finally, they found themselves in the ground, better late than never right?  Unfortunately not.  Last summer was a very dry summer, compounded by the fact that the water tank for the garden was only installed in September so it didn’t have an opportunity to become filled by nature and we started the season off in a position of shortage and water conservation.  The newly planted trees were thirsty and not having the opportunity to hunker down and get their roots in deep during the winter and spring, come summer they suffered.  I did water them, but not enough.  My watering was sporadic for a healthy orchard, but devastatingly so for a bunch of trees in such an unfortunate situation.  Death happened and much to my disgrace was not unexpected.

Bypass Secateurs for green wood

I then cut the dead part of the tree off, on a slight angle, in the healthy part, just above a small branch with my bypass secateurs. These are the best tools for green wood as they are designed for the job with two blades that slide passed each other leaving a sharp, clean cut, which is best for the plant to recover from.

But I still want trees and I still have my list.  I found it the other day tucked down the back of my seed tin.  So, I have pulled it out, straightened it out and popped it into my handbag ready for the day I can go to the garden centre and restock with trees that will be treated with a greater kindness.  The garden centres are filling with new season trees and this time I am ready for them.  They will be my sole focus of care upon arrival and will be planted into spaces prepared for them.

green wood

Hooray it is alive. The pear lives!

The other key to their survival will be water.  I shall set up irrigation for each tree and the starting point will be accessed from in the garden so I will have no excuse not to connect the pipe to the hose and quench the thirst of these precious trees.

Pruning raspberries

While I had the secateurs out I pruned the raspberries. The autumn ones were completely cleared back, cutting off all the stems. The summers ones were a bit more complex as only the old ones were removed, leaving behind the new stems from the last season.

So, there it is, my shameful secret revealed and my promise and intentions to do better, and the reward will be sun-warmed peaches straight from the tree, crisp apples on crisp autumn days and so many other varieties of fruit.  They will be so loved that it will only be their own internal desire to remain rooted in this spot beside the sea that will let them down.  I will do my absolute best by them.

Come again soon – its tree shopping time – again!

Sarah the Gardener  : o)

Digging

Well I did it, I grabbed a spade and pushed it into the sand, not just once but repeatedly.  At the first metre of trench I celebrated.  ‘This isn’t so bad.’  I may have even done a happy dance.  I laid the 13mm irrigation poly pipe down the bottom of the trench, removed the click-on joiner & bug cap, that was connected to the length of poly pipe coming out into the middle of the path, that was connected to the irrigation system in the bed, and has been a tripping hazard all summer and a constant reminder of the digging that needed to be done.

irrigation trench

My first trench

I softened the end with the click-on joiner & bug cap in hot water and popped it off, then replaced it with a barb elbow and joined it to the long poly pipe in the trench and locked them in tight with pipe rachet clips.  I then filled in the trench burying the pipes deep within the garden and removed the tripping hazard in the middle of the path.  We were one step closer to being connected.  Action was being taken.

irrigation trench

It would seem someone has been ‘helping’ with the digging…..

However, the tripping hazard was moved to the end of the bed as the other 5 beds in the group also needed to be prepared in the same way and then connected across the top with all click-on joiner & bug caps terminating in the same spot.   I was one down, 35 to go…

Irrigation trenches

It was so satisfying to see the paths free from the tripping hazard of a pipe poking out, waiting to have something done to it.

After the second one I decided it was better to just look at it in terms of the groups.  Two down, 4 to go.   Not including the trench across the top.  By the third there was no happy dance….  Digging is hard work.  I began to question myself.  I’d given myself a week to do this job.  A week?! Was I crazy?  I know I sometimes have trouble visualising things, but doing all that digging in a week? What was I thinking?

best practice digging

Halfway. It is best to dig with the developing trench ahead of you so you can see all you have achieved and feel proud, rather than see what still has to be done and feel overwhelmed.

By the 4th trench I wasn’t even burying it back up again… let the wind do it for all I care…  But fortunately, I have a teenager who owes me money who filled in the trenches behind me like he was moving feathers.   Between the two of us we got to the end of the group and he swanned off to do teenage things and I dragged my weary body into the house where I draped myself across the sofa, not to be moved for the rest of the night.  Digging is hard work… well it is for me.  No wonder I’d put it off.

Jasper the Dog

Jasper the Dog decided it was easier to watch hard work, than joining in.

The next day, full of determination and a little bit stiff I headed on back out there to carry on.  I’ve revised my goals.  The aim was first sector completed this week.  The rest, all going well will be done before spring and the start of the growing season.  If I just dig one or two trenches a day, weather permitting, I should get there.

Irrigation trench

There is something deeply satisfying at this point of the project, to see all the pipes neatly lined up.

I thought the hard part would be digging the trench along the top end, by my reckoning it was about 12 metres, give or take, at a spade’s width and a spade’s depth.  But that seemed to go easily as you can fall into a rhythm with digging and you don’t notice you are hot, bothered and knackered until you stop.  So, I arrived that the end of the trench somewhat surprised.

Irrigation trench

It is like a super highway down in the trench as the pipes all come together.

Now the task was to connect the poly pipes so there were 6 individual poly pipes running from each bed joining the top trench and running alongside each other to get to the hub at the end.  This involved cutting the poly pipes to length so they lay comfortably in the trench and joined with an barb elbow and locked into place with pipe rachet clips and pinned into place with rigid pipe stakes so they stay in the right order so I’ll know which bed to water when looking into the hub.

Irrigation trench

And what was a tripping hazard across the garden have now been brought together, tucked out of the way in a corner of the garden, but still able to do the same job.

Once they all met at the end it was more barb elbows, pipe stakes and pipe rachet clips to bring them back up out of the trench standing proud but not too tall, side by side with their click-on joiner & bug caps on.  The hub went over the top hiding them away until ready to be used.

irrigation end point

Finally all the beds in the group are brought together in one spot so the beds can conveniently be watered with one turn of the tap.

All that was left was to fill in the trench.  I have decided digging holes is easy.  It is the filling them back in that is the hard bit.  But desperate to see the job finished I persevered and shovelled it all back in and raked it off.  Now the top sector looks amazing, is tripping hazard free and ready and waiting for the beds to be watered in once easy go.

Irrigation trench

And aside from a nicely raked surface you’d never know the great job I’d done bringing irrigation easily to my beds. But I know and I’m so chuffed.

Come again soon – I understand new season fruit trees are filling garden centres near me.

Sarah the Gardener  : o)

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