When you move to a new spot it can take a while to get the hang of the new environment and adjust your technique and style to the new conditions. For the most part I have been quite happy with how things grow here, but since we moved I have not had a lot of luck with tomatoes. I enviously watched other people complain about a glut as they harvested tomatoes by the bucket load.
But not me – my plants were fizzling out long before I managed to even full up a bowl. I think it may have been a combination of things. I overcompensated for the harsh environment and loved them too much. I ended up with Pith Necrosis more than once – which is an early season disease that enjoys a tomato plant that has been lavished with too much nitrogen combined with cool night time temperatures and high humidity. This never bodes well for a productive season when the plants are handicapped at the start.
I think this season I have managed to overcome this, and I held back on the excessive nitrogen rich love. I can’t take credit for the temperatures and humidity, but it must have been more suitable this season as my plants are looking the best they ever have at this time of year. They look normal – a lovely shade of green instead of the usual bruised yellow/purple look they have had in previous years across their rolled leaves.
This encouraging start has made me determined to tackle the problem that normally comes next. The dreaded Tomato Potato Psyllid. I don’t know if it was particularly bad here because the plants were already suffering because of the Pith Necrosis. A pest can spot a poorly plant a mile off and a poorly plant doesn’t have what it takes to shake of problems. Or it could have just been here anyway. It could also be that the TPP would have become a problem at the old place as it is a relatively new problem on the rise.
Over the last few seasons, I have been regularly preventatively spraying in preparation for the imminent arrival of this nasty sap sucker and even alternating between two of the best sprays for it – Yates Mavrik and Yates Success Ultra to ensure if and when they showed up, they didn’t become resistant to one or the other.
But my efforts usually unravelled when we went away for the summer holidays and taking my eye off my crops for a couple of weeks was enough for the TPP to settle in and make themselves at home. Not only are they stubborn and difficult to get rid of, but more often than not they carry with them a bacterial disease that once introduced into the plant cause an impending demise to the tomato plants.
So, this season – with the healthiest looking plants I’ve seen in years in my garden, I want to keep it that way, and I decided I didn’t want to mess about with sprays if taking an annual holiday renders the exercise pointless, so I ordered an insect mesh.
It is all very well having the fabric, but I needed to decide how to wrap it around my plants. The plants are still small compared with how big they will grow. I’ve given them much more space than I normally do and have them trained to grow along what is essentially a fence – waratah posts with washing line wire threaded between them. It works well – especially as I never manage to get the desired single stem and already have some multi-stemmed medusas forming where I missed removing some of the laterals by just a few days and they were too big to risk taking them out.
Taking into consideration the height of the support structure and the height the plants could be, I made a frame from rebar and irrigation hose. Then I threw the insect mesh over the top. The next question was how to pin it down. I didn’t want to put holes in it – in case the TPP could sneak in. After much indecision a combination of ideas came from Hubby the Un-Gardener and me. I thought about rolling up the bottom of the fabric around the sides with a bamboo pole but couldn’t figure out how to secure it. Hubby the Un-Gardener suggested Tool Clips – not that we knew they were called that, so had fun trying to explain what we wanted at the hardware store. Turns out Tool Clips were perfect to hold the bamboo coiled fabric in place and help keep the whole structure taut but will give easy access for maintenance and harvesting.
And now my hope for once again joining in the great tomato glut is looking pretty good.
Come again soon – Summer starts next week.
Sarah the Gardener : o)
After a period of life getting in the way of the garden with its dodgy weather, emotionally anxious pandemic, teens and exam related stress and non gardening computer related activities, the pendulum swung back in my favour. All it took was for me to muster up all my everything to tackle all the non gardening things indoors while the weather was less than ideal, the kids to finally reach the end of the dramatic side of the end of the school year, and the sun to come out. The pandemic is still a worry but there isn’t a lot that I can do about that.
Yesterday I gardened. Which felt so healing from the moment I stepped into the garden. I now have 2 sectors in complete control that only need minor adjustment while it heads towards the edible stage. The other 3 sectors aren’t that bad, but do need a bit of love to bring it up to a low maintenance level. And then I can tackle the side mess – the bits outside of the garden. I’m still endeavouring to do my 5 things a day in the garden, but learning not to beat myself up about it on the days it is not possible and allowing myself to stop guilt free if my weary body is telling me too – even if I haven’t finished the task in front of me. Together this makes a nice slow enjoyable pace, without overdoing things yet still making progress, and feeling still human when I come in at the end of the day to spend time with my family.
So here is a lovely summary of what I got up to in the garden for me in pictures:
And now the sun is shining again so I shall head back out into the garden and see what else can be done to bring me joy and pleasure and whip the garden into shape at the same time.
Come again soon – the air has those summer vibes going on.
Sarah the Gardener : o)
NB: clicking on the images will give a small tale to go with each one!
Normally my only early thoughts of Christmas are getting the spuds into the garden on time. Jersey Benne’s take 100 days and so the planting day is 16th September. Then I turn my back on all things festive until about two weeks before and have a massive panic as I cram in everything that needs to be done.
Well not this year. It has been a shocker of a year and so as a family we decided to bring it all forward this year to give us a joyous reason to celebrate, and possibly to help hurry the rest of the year on its way. Surely 2022 will be better?!
It started yesterday when our neighbour let us get a tree from out the back of his farm. Ordinarily we have bought our tree from the Lions Club outside the supermarket, however they don’t start selling until December has started. It feels like the right thing to do – give to a good cause and get a tree at the same time. But over the years the trees have shrunk, and the price has done the opposite and we found ourselves with small yet perfectly formed trees. Nothing like the wild and wonky forestry offcuts of my childhood.
It was a fabulous adventure, with Hubby the Un-Gardener up the tree trying to cut a perfect branch down. As a former city slicker – this was… let’s just say – amusing to watch as our neighbour and I stood by with much laughter! We ended up with two as our neighbour thought the branch behind the one Hubby the Un-Gardener laboured over would be better and whipped it down with his electric saw.
We hauled the trees home and found they were too big for house, so the bottoms were chopped off and now they are resting in buckets of water until our next burst of festive spirit has us decorating them.
The benefit of sparking the joy of Christmas early means I have 38 days to come up with creative gifts and decorations, which can be put together thoughtfully with no rush. Taking care of some of the gifts and decorations now will save time later and reduce the need to panic so much.
With Christmas on my mind, I had a chat with the lovely Tom and Kat from Radio Rhema today talking about how the garden can inspire gifts and decorations that can be given as heartfelt gifts that are sustainable and affordable.
And here are some of the ideas discussed and a few more… I’m really keen to get on with making some of these (although if you are a likely recipient, it is probably a good to pretend you never saw this…)
Ok – now I’m excited… bring on the 38 days of Christmas – surely there is a song about that I can sing along too…
Come again soon – the weather has been all over the place, but the garden is calling to me.
Sarah the Gardener : o)
Yesterday a found myself with a bit of a headache I just couldn’t shake so I erred on the side of caution and didn’t push myself to do much at all. So today was a bit of catch up. It wasn’t like I didn’t do anything yesterday, but I’ve decided to be proactive regarding Christmas and am making a few bits and bobs as gifts. Unfortunately, I can’t reveal all the details or some of the recipients may see in advance what they are getting, which will ruin the surprise. If it is any consolation, I really enjoyed making them.
So today was all about making up for lost time. I was determined to do as many things as I could to push along some progress in the garden. I started out early this morning with a wander around the garden. The Flanders Poppies caught my eye and then I remembered it was Armistice Day, so it seemed appropriate to mention it, given the seeds were sown on ANZAC Day. It does really help to keep things in perspective – life is quite challenging right now. But is nothing compared to what our grandparents and great grandparents had to face in their day.
Buoyed on and encouraged I decided to tackle the weedy end garden. I figure if I just do a small bit at a time, it will be less sustained effort in the long run. So, I gave myself half an hour. It wasn’t that difficult, but I wouldn’t have wanted to have kept at it.
I looked about for my next small task and decided to create a couple of trenches under the arch to mix in some compost and a bit of blood and bone to help with moisture retention and give a bit of love to the plants that will soon scramble up it.
By now it was feeling a little warm. The sand beneath my feet was becoming too hot to stand on. This was a good sign to come inside out of the heat to do something in the cool of the house. I checked the thermometer I have hanging on my shed, and it agreed with my feeling that it was unseasonably hot in the garden!
I left the garden with 3 mini cabbages that were due to come out anyway as they were pretty much done and taking up space in the salad bed and I need to succession plant more rocket.
Once inside I decided to have a go at fermentation with the kit I recently got for my birthday. The instructions that came with it were very thorough and clear and I’d prepared myself by watching a few how-to videos. I had a lovely time in the house in out of the midday sun whipping up my first ever batch of red cabbage sauerkraut. I hope it works.
It was still a little warm outside and I’m trying to avoid the ‘mad dogs and Englishmen’ situation – as I have been that kind of person before and paid quite the price. I found another indoor task that had been taking way too long to do. Months ago, we ordered some wood – well before lockdown. Several weeks later we cut it up, but only got around to painting it on the weekend, because initially we couldn’t find what we’d done with the paint. Someone had moved it, but no one knows where it ended up. On the weekend we stumbled across some different paint that did the job just as well. We had all the bits needed to put the shelves up in the kitchen, so I just got on with it! Job done.
The next thing I did was make a flower arrangement. I’m not a florist. I just wanted to make the shelves look lovely. I am going to try and bring more flowers into the house more regularly – there are enough out there now that I think I can do it without ruining the display.
Speaking of flowers – my favourite Gladioli started to bloom. But I’m not sure I should keep growing them – there is so much Rust on the leaves, it just isn’t fair to keep them hanging around in a poor state of health because the flowers are pretty.
The temperatures had eased a little as the afternoon wore on, so I headed back out in the garden and helped Hubby the Un-Gardener trim the lupin bushes that were encroaching on the driveway. It is one of those jobs you think – ‘I should do that’ while you are in the car, but as soon as you get out, it completely slips your mind.
After a day soaking in water, a few of the remaining seedlings got planted into the ground. After the temperatures today I think it is fair to say it is warm enough for the okra to go in the ground, and the luffa took up their spot under the arch. And last –for now, was the pepino. Hopefully by planting them in the cool of late afternoon they can settle in nicely before it gets hot again.
And finally – the last job for the day was to change Blossom’s blades. Which she was pretty happy about.
It was a lovely long day in the garden chipping away at small things. But I do feel the weariness of a body glowing from the efforts of the day. I think tomorrow I will just drop things back to 5 a day.
Come again soon – there is still plenty to keep me busy as I catch up!
Sarah the Gardener : o)
It was touch and go there for a while as to whether I would actually achieve my daily 5 things. I was slow to get out into the garden due to a load of computer gardening. Some of it was fun and one weekly chore a mundane necessity. Sometimes real life encroaches on the magic of gardening, sucking up time that, if I could, I would spend it toiling in the soil.
Surprisingly this delayed start wasn’t the only reason I almost never made my 5 task goal on day two of the good intentions. Once I got into the garden around midday – it was hot! This was unexpected as the forecast had been promising grey and slightly warm with such consistency, I took it at its word and stopped checking. And in hindsight I should have kept a closer eye on it because it changed!
Although having said that I appear to have created a bit of a microclimate. There was a lovely gentle sea breeze drifting up from the ocean. Sitting in it directly robbed the day of much of its warmth. I sat at the front of the house overlooking the sea to eat my lunch and felt the need for another layer. Then I headed off into the garden for a good push on my 5 tasks for the day. The main part of the garden behind the first windbreak was warmer than around the front of the house. I put this down to the reduced breeze and the black sand paths. It was a lovely cosy warmth.
But my main focus was finishing the strawberry netting so I headed down to the back of the garden behind the new windbreak. The heat there was noticeably warmer than in the main part of the garden. I had been wandering about the place in bare feet, enjoying feeling the warmth radiating from the ground, dissolving any trace of chill lingering from lunch. But down the back of the garden the sandy path was hot – too hot for bare feet. So, I popped my gumboots on and set about covering the framework structure. I may have over engineered it slightly, but I think it might have been worth it as the bird netting was cheap and may not last the season. It is hard to tell when doing the click and collect thing. I am so pleased life is changing from tomorrow and click and collect will be a thing of the past. … for now….
I eventually got it done but I have to say, toiling in the heat made it take twice as long and I needed several breaks in the cool of the house. I think I may need to alter my routine and put computer gardening in the middle of the day when the weather heats up properly.
By the time I had my strawberries protected it was getting late. And I was tempted to call it a day. But my pride wouldn’t let me falter on day 2. So, I looked about for 4 other easy things to do that would count. And they do count because most of those 4 things are things that left undone would need to be done at some other time.
So, I popped some perfectly beautiful cosmos flowers into my flower press, and I weeded the worst bed in sector 2. Unfortunately, sector 2 didn’t get the full Tuesday love it was due, but I had a quick look and it isn’t too bad. I could make clearing up the kikuyu along the fence line as one of the 5 things on another day this week. Then I harvested some asparagus for dinner… that counts as it needed doing.
I then did something I wasn’t expecting to do. While weeding the worst bed in sector 2 I noticed the soil was quite dry in spite of the torrential down pour we had on Friday. So, the last task of the day was the first for the season and I set up the irrigation system – all set to water sector 1 at 7:00am tomorrow morning. I’ll probably move it across the day to other sectors after finishing its cycle and then diligently pay more attention to the weather and begin the process of actually watering the garden instead of relying on the sky.
And that is what I did today – 5 things, just like I promised myself.
Come again soon – I’m half expecting to find a possum has gotten through the strawberry netting.
Sarah the Gardener : o)
Over the last several weeks the focus in the garden has really been about getting it planted. For some reason I have been running behind, even though my intentions were to try and get ahead. In that process I ended up just focusing on the plants and getting them in the ground alongside their support structures and paid little heed to the mess I was leaving in a trail behind me.
Currently if you look around my garden you can see empty pots, tools and all sorts of clutter laying about the place. But in my desire to get plants in the soil I didn’t care, it wasn’t my priority. Now that that stage is over, I look about the garden and think… ‘my goodness, where do I start?’ There is the temptation to create another urgently stressful situation where I convince myself if is imperative I tidy up immediately. I almost went down that path, as I wanted to make a “did-dah” garden tour video with it all looking perfect for all to see. But I realised that would be fool hardy as by the time it was looking perfect it would probably be Christmas.
So, I decided to embrace the mess, knowing it would be taken care of in a slow and steady way, mixed in with fun things like kitchen gardening and admiring the flowers. With this in mind I filmed my video tour, focusing on the plants and capturing this stage of the garden, to mark this point in my progress through the growing season.
I’d love it if you joined me in my garden and check it out – as it is now, warts and all.
Come again soon – there will be a mixed bag of things going on as I make the most of all the wants and needs in the garden.
Sarah the Gardener : o)
Finally, I can put down my trowel and stop lying awake at night worrying about the increasingly leggy plants growing in pots rapidly becoming too small. Everything that can be or needs to be, has been planted into the garden. The beds and my heart are full. The garden is done, and it looks wonderful.
I don’t know what it was about this spring. It was my intention to have it all done earlier than usual. Not only did I want to test our frost free spot by gradually opening the growing season ever so slightly earlier each year until I find the threshold, but I was supposed to be away from the garden right now. I should have left a few days ago and would have been gone for 20 days. However, the current situation meant I wasn’t going any interesting at all – just here, at home. I haven’t even been up the road!
I think the first delay was the wonderful rock garden took longer than I thought it would and while I don’t regret a moment of it as it is a beautiful space, there was some time lost there. The weather also played a hand in the delay, and probably for good reason. We are now in November, and it is still a little cold. Not winter cold – but cold for these days. Aside from these excuses, the strange world we find ourselves in creates a bizarre malaise where some days feel like you are wading through treacle and nothing much of anything gets done.
A lot of things took a lot longer to get around to than they should have but they just weren’t much of a priority. I had a memory pop up today that said this time last year I was BBQing peas in their pods. If you haven’t tried that, I suggest you should – the wee peas are steamed in their own juices and are so sweet and delicious. But this season due to late planting and bird attacks my poor peas are nowhere near flowering, let alone BBQing.
I also dropped the ball over the winter and didn’t keep on top of my routine of tending to each sector each week, no matter how little attention they needed. So, for the sake of 10 – 15 mins a day keeping weeds down and keeping the garden tidy and organised, I left myself with a bit of a hard slog to catch up from.
The garden planting plan was pretty much stuck too, which I’m pleased about. Although maybe a few extra plants got squeezed in here and there. I discovered I’d accidentally given away all my celery seedlings, thinking I had held some back only to find they were all celeriac, so now I need to buy some celery seedlings!
The tomatoes got planted twice. To help defeat the problems that have plagued them since we moved here, I reduced the number of plants – almost by half, so they would have more room to themselves. And then I planted them in one row instead of the usual two only to find myself sat bolt upright in bed in the middle of that night realising I’d given them less space, not more. The next day I replanted them in two rows and feel so much better about them. Although my next move is to get some insect netting to keep the Tomato Potato Psyllid away.
The okra is still in the greenhouse as it really doesn’t like the cooler conditions and will drop all its leaves if it isn’t happy. So, when it warms up outside then I’ll plant them out. The peanuts failed me and rotted in their pots so I’m now trying the damp paper towel in a zip lock bag in a warm place technique as a last ditch effort to fill the space allotted to them.
There are still all the spares to take care of in the interim – in case I need them. All I really need to do is keep them watered and alive. Although some look so good I’m toying with the idea of popping them in pots and having a little extra on the side.
I feel liberated from the self imposed burden of getting all of these plants into the garden, so I shall bask just a little longer in the lack of urgency in my days and then begin the task of tidying up after myself. I may even wash the used pots now instead of in the winter…. Nah, probably not. Then I will look about for the next project to squeeze in before the harvest begins to inundate my kitchen.
Come again soon – its time for a tour once I tidy up a little to reduce the shame factor
Sarah the Gardener : o)
The garden has been so patient, waiting for me and the weather. Getting this garden planted out is really happening in fits and starts. Yesterday was so foggy, misty, and drizzly that it wasn’t worth going out. It was the kind of humid that soaks into your bones and I decided not to attempt it. The last thing I need right now is to catch a normal cold and worry endlessly about it being the ‘other’ one, in spite of no one going anyway except Hubby the Un-Gardener clicking and collecting gardening supplies for me and shopping for food.
Today was a better day. It was still gloomy, but I could see to the end of the garden, which is always good. The upside is the plants are loving the conditions and the ones that are planted are settling in nicely and the ones still to be planted aren’t getting as stressed as they would on a sunny day. It eases my mind a little, although I still feel a sense of urgency and a sense of responsibility. I brought them into this world and now they are sitting around restrained in pots when they should be free and stretching their roots. There isn’t long to go now. The cucumber bed just needs the last crop to be eaten – I think we may be eating celeriac all week! Once it’s gone, I can give the soil some love and set up structures and plant the cucumbers.
The leafy green bed just needs a weed and a love and then they can go in. The Melons need to grow a little bigger and the temperatures need to warm up a little more for the Okra, so their leaves don’t drop off upon planting like they have done in previous years. This year I’m keeping them warm in the greenhouse until it is warmer outside.
And the Tomatoes are getting desperate. But I need give the soil love and build their structures and then I can plant them out. However, Hubby the Un-Gardener had to go back to collect an essential item that got clicked but not collected, so as soon as I have everything I need then they can get my full attention.
The things that have been weighing on my mind lately have been the seeds I like to direct sow. Because they aren’t as physically present and demanding as plants, I put them to one side to sow later. I began to worry if I didn’t plant them soon enough it will be too late. It won’t be too late, as the seed sowing window is open for another month or so, with a good chance of getting a full harvest. But I worried nonetheless.
So today I gathered all the seeds that need direct sowing into the soil and delivered them into their new positions. The soil was warm and damp, perfect for sowing seeds and then as soon as I came inside it started to rain, so they will be off to a good start and I certainly won’t need to worry about them drying out, not for a while if the weather forecast is anything to go by.
I sowed parsnips and radish, that prefer to be directly sown. I’ve been meaning to sow the parsnips for weeks, or probably months. I added more carrots from a fresh seed packet to the carrot row a couple of days ago because the half a dozen that had only popped up from 3 previous sowings were bugging me. Hopefully I’ll get a good thick row there.
Next, I sowed the sweetcorn and the beans. There are too many plants to fill the bed to be bothered trying to manage them in pots. And they do just fine planting straight into the soil I always sow extra, like how a friend pointed out – ‘an heir and spare’ into each hole. I either remove the weakest one or relocate it to a spot nobody came up in. And I like to pop a dozen down the side of the bed in case I need to fill gaps. It is always better to do it that way than trying to fill a gap with seeds that will be 3 weeks behind all the other plants. Things grow fast in the warm weather.
I also sowed a row of peas for succession planting. The current row isn’t looking great – the birds have been pecking at it mercilessly. The new peas have no protection or support structures at this point, but I figure I have 7 – 10 days to worry about that. Other things need my time.
It was a nice time in the garden pushing large seeds into warm soil up to my first knuckle. But even better still, I feel the weight lifted as there is one less thing to worry about as I get closer to having it all done. Not long now.
Come again soon – a couple of good pushes and the garden will be planted.
Sarah the Gardener : o)
Knowing the garden has good access to water is one of those things that takes a weight off my mind for the season ahead. The water tanks are in a good place going into summer. They aren’t completely full; I think we have more storage capacity than our small roof can capture. Maybe we should have moved a bigger house onto the land! But I think we are in the best position we have ever been in before.
This summer is supposed to be a La Niña season which means mild and humid with more rain than usual. And the wind is supposed to come from the Northeast which we are kind of protected from here and is a bit of a relief as it won’t be salt laden. The downside is, I will need to be extra watchful for fungal diseases like blight and powdery mildew. But at least if you know what to expect you can prepare.
But you can’t protect plants you haven’t planted from potential diseases. They really need to get in the ground. Ordinarily, after sorting out the irrigation system and getting it ready to go, I like to build my structures in advance of planting out and my control freakery in the garden (but not anywhere else, strangely enough) would normally have me doing all the structures so I can stand back and look at them all in a plant-less setting.
However due to lockdown and the tedious click and collect system of shopping, I can’t just pop down to the shops when I need something or realise I forgot to get it. Alongside being able to see what you are buying with your very own eyes. Selecting things from dodgy photos on the internet can be misleading. So, gathering the supplies hasn’t been easy. This has meant I have needed to plant plants before I finished with the structure creation stage. Although to be clear, plants needing structures have been left until their structures are in place, as that is good gardening practice. Building structures around plants is asking for some kind of trouble.
With a long weekend and every intention to ‘finish the garden’ I quickly found plans and reality often don’t play nicely together. The first day of the long weekend was the trench digging and irrigation assembly and I took that as a perfect way to spend doing something / anything in the garden. The wind was howling across the land at about 40km/h with gusts up to 80km/h. As much as I wanted to plant plants it was a bad idea. But at least we were doing something, and Sunday was another day.
But Sunday wasn’t to be a garden day at all. The wind persisted and while it wasn’t cold, it was wet and windy. Not a great combination to be outside in, so I sat that one out.
Monday didn’t disappoint. The wind had dropped, and it was eerily still in the garden, after days of the noisy wind. It was perfect planting weather, warm, yet not too hot, gloomy but not too dismal. There was a light mist that was barely perceivable. The chance of plants getting a shock of being out in intense weather was zero. I’ve been giving them a 15 min soak in seaweed tonic before planting out to reduce the risk of transplant shock and stress even further.
Initially I was a little overwhelmed and I stood in the garden not knowing where to start. Who gets to go first? But I grabbed the closest plants on the shelf that just happened to be the peppers. While they were taking their soak, I set up the bamboo poles that will support their growth and prevent them from dragging their fruit in the soil. Once I got them in, I was away. The next choices were easy – anything that didn’t need support and their beds were ready to go quickly took their places.
Everything thing has a spare, to back them up, should anything thing go wrong over the next few weeks. In a previous season I have had to use almost every single backup as the weather pounded the garden without mercy for weeks. So, the spares in their pots will continue to be nurtured for the time being.
I still don’t have everything in. There are still structures to be built and unbelievably there are still a couple of beds that aren’t ready. They still have the crops of the last season languishing there. I’m trying to eat or process them as fast as I can or trying to figure out how to work around them so they can finish what they started. Then I can enrich their beds and get the next season started.
It feels quite discombobulated this season. I have been doing this so long I have a routine and systems, but nothing seems to want to conform to my way of doing things. There is nothing for it but to carry on and do the next thing that calls out to me until eventual I will stand back and see all is done, and I can settle down into that sweet spot of watering and weeding until the harvest begins to show itself.
Come again soon – the tomatoes are desperate to get planted.
Sarah the Gardener : o)