SARAH THE GARDENER

A Day in the Life of Me

Today was a good day.  Yesterday, not so much.  MS doesn’t cope well in the heat, and it is inclined to drag me down with it, especially if I’ve done too much in the previous days.  I can end up with a frustrating yo-yo effect where I’m well and super productive – mostly trying to catch up on the previous day where I found myself with no energy and spend all day stuck on the sofa.    I trying to be better with my time management and only work outside in the mornings until the sand gets too hot to stand on.    This is a habit in the making and so far, so good – when I’m not laid low.

View from bedroom

I have a magnificent view from my bed!

As today was a good day I though I’d show you what I get up to on a good day.  There is no point showing you a bad day…  there is nothing to see at all.   So below is a pictorial story of my day.   You can click on the images to view them full size.

The first thing I did was to check my To Do list to decide where my priorities lay. I have my list in a glamorous shiny gold folder… because why not. (Actually it was the only one I could find and it was on sale!)

Each morning I set the sprinkler on the native plant windbreak hill going. I’ve accidently lost a few plants here so I’m not taking any chances this time.

Then I do a quick tour of the garden to make sure everything is ok. This morning I noticed all these tiny insects flying together above the dome. They looked like starlings doing their murmuration. I just had to stop and watch.

It is interesting to check out the tracks in the sand to see who has been visiting. It is a good indication of potential problems. But the possum poo on the deck is a good sign of potential problems too!

I’m trying to knock as many projects off my list as I can before the garden club visit next month.  I had a couple of fruit trees on behind the sheds – a tamarillo and a feijoa but unfortunately even with the green mesh windbreak – the wind was just too strong, and they have both perished.  I decided I wanted to make more of this space, so I invested in some willow garden screen to bolster the green mesh.  If it works well, I’ll put it across the main garden too.

The Willow Garden Screen is quite pricey, but it comes as 180cm tall. So by cutting it in half I’m doubling the value and it fits the job.

It is super easy to cut through, which is just as well as it was too early in the day to drag Hubby the Un-Gardener away from his work to cut it for me!

I’m quite pleased with the way this looks. I have also attached a plastic coated wire across the whole thing to help hold it together in strong winds. I really hope it holds up and provides a nice little nook behind the sheds. (This view is down the side of the shed – the back is still a ‘corner of shame.’)

While working on the screen it suddenly got really hot and muggy. I looked up to see a sky promising rain… gosh we need it.

Well – we got rain… this was pretty much it which isn’t a lot of good. We need so much more than that. Hubby the Un-Gardener said my garden is drinking more than an alcoholic!

After finishing up I had a well earned breakfast of tomato on toast. I love those lovely large ones where one slice is enough for each piece of toast!

Next I pottered about doing odd jobs and looking after the needs of the sector of the day. I seem to find deadheading my cosmos quite relaxing.

This is one of my ‘corners of shame’. To be honest I’m not sure how I allowed the path to get this bad – but I just took an alternative route and promised myself I’d get to it one day soon.

Well today was that day. And it didn’t take long at all. I really should have done it ages ago! It looks so clean shaven – like someone who has just removed a moustache! The shallots look like they’re done – I should pull them out too.

During the pottering about I came across a large cucumber I’d missed. It is such a fine specimen. I think I will turn it into tzatziki. Tomorrow we will be going Greek!

The sand became too hot to stand on so I came inside to do some computer gardening. Fortunately the house isn’t one that holds the heat in summer and it is cool and fresh – especially with the windows open letting in a gentle sea breeze. I answered all my emails, whipped up a short article and ticked off all my daily computer gardening tasks from my shiny gold To Do book.

While the house is cool, it isn’t cold and the heat does get into your bones so a quick dip is great to really the only thing for it.

Once the sting from the sun began to lessen, I headed back out to the garden to see if anyone was thirsty and in need of attention. The beans were gasping so I gave them a long thirst quenching drink.

I also watered the seedlings I planted under the arch extension I built the other day.

The irrigation trolley was repositioned to the next hub in the irrigation cycle so the next sector on the list will get a good soak first thing tomorrow morning. I love the irrigation system. It saves so much of my time.

And I gave my seedlings one last drink for the day. Their small pots dry out so quickly I feel like I’m constantly watering them.

The last thing I did in the garden was to gather up all the tools I’d used during the day and put them all away in the shed.

There was just enough time to whip up a quick dinner including this colourful bean and vegetable salad, Most of the vegetables have come from the garden and tasted so fresh!

The very last thing for the day was to host a live Q&A on the Yates NZ Facebook page, answering vegetable growing questions and comments. It didn’t go too late this evening, but was a fun and lively chat. If you want to join in and ask a question or share a success from your garden – I’m there every Wednesday night from 7pm. There is a free pack of seeds to be won each week. (For kiwi gardeners only but overseas friends feel free to stop by and have a look.)

Sunset

After a busy day the sun sank into the ocean. It wasn’t the brightest or prettiest sunset we’ve ever had but the clouds hold the possibility of maybe a drop of rain overnight… you never know.

And that was my day.  I’m pleased with how productive it was, although I’m wary of the possibility I may have done too much and will enter the yo-yo cycle again.  Only tomorrow will know.  I hope I have taken enough care – staying hydrated and having a few short sit down breaks along the way to be able to get as many things crossed off the list tomorrow.

Come again soon – I have more than enough going on to keep me busy for quite some time.

Sarah the Gardener  : o)

Not Panicking Yet

As I mentioned in the last update, I have a wonderful garden club coming to visit the garden next month, and I need to make the corners look nice.  I think in the face of everything else I was in a little bit of denial as to just how bad I’d let those corners get.   Looking at it through the eyes of others and how they might see it – I’d die of shame as it is right now.  And so now as well as chipping away at the daily routine of weeding, feeding, and watering one of the 5 sectors, I’m trying to squeeze in a little project each day to sort out the ‘corners of shame’.

Eggplant

Soon it will be eggplant season – hooray. Although those spikes on the Baby Brinjal do frighten me a little.

If I just count the weekdays without other commitments in them, I only have 15 days to tidy the corners even though the visit is still a month away.  That isn’t a lot of time really – I may need help from somewhere.  I did have one of the teen lads helping me and that was working well until his hayfever got too bad.

Cleared out pond

The wildlife pond was full of scum, covered in duck weed and had evaporated to barely there. Around the outside were too many weeds – it was quite the mess – so I cleared it out and topped it up.

Barley straw for the pond

I made a small bale of barley straw and chucked it in the pond. It is supposed to help reduce algal growth in the water, which would be great, because I’ve had a lot of that in there too!

Dealing with future weeds

After clearing away the weeds there were a lot of weed seeds about the place. So I decided to treat them in a similar way to an old microbiological technique I learned back in the day called Tyndallization. It is how they used to sterilize things before modern technology. They would heat the substance to boiling point for 15 minutes for three days in a row – and the unwanted bacterial spores would germinate and then be subsequently be destroyed by the following days boiling until there were no spores left. So I figure if I water and germinate the weed seeds, hoe them off and then repeat the process a couple more times I should be able to get a relatively weed free soil to plant into. I’ll let you know how I get on.

In spite of being a terrible creature of habit, I have rejigged my days, so I am up and in the garden, nice and early.  I even started with a light jumper on this morning – but that only lasted no more than 10 minutes before I whipped it off due to a bit of a glow on my brow.  It has been a hot summer – even with the gentle sea breezes coming off the coast.  The black sand on the garden paths doesn’t help, and the garden can easily get to the high 30°Cs before lunchtime.   I have found I can be quite productive if I stay out there long enough not to burn my bare feet on the sand – this is normally until about 11am.  Then I come inside and do my computer gardening and head back out again as the temperatures cool down and I can walk on the sand again…  If I’m not too exhausted – that happens sometimes.

Seedling protection

I’ve put the seedlings in a low shallow tray so they can retain any water than drips through or down the sides. In this weather they need all the help they can get. I’ve also pegged a net over the top to stop any Cabbage White Butterflies getting at my brassica seedlings. Having said that I haven’t seen so many about the place lately – it could be down to the fact there are plenty of paper wasps about, eating caterpillars. The wasps and I have an understanding – if I leave them alone they leave me alone. It seems to work well.

It is good to have this long-ish term focus because it does mean the bits I’ve neglected get the attention they need and should have had months ago.  It is easy to think there is plenty of time to sort something out, all the while it is getting worse and worse – weeds have a funny way of growing enormous if you let them.  Especially if you are gardening like a madman in the heat of the day.   I seem to have a clearer head in the mornings so it has always made sense to do the computer gardening first thing – meaning I would just end up dashing into the garden for as long as I could bear the heat.  Which is why I’m in the mess I am with my corners.

Trellis arch

I extended my trellis arch to accommodate some late comers – a new to me variety of Luffa – a Ridge Gourd and some Zucchetta Tromboncino. Hopefully there is enough time left in the season to see a result.

I’m sure the garden will be ship shape and perfect in good time for the visit, and then I will try my best to keep it that way through regular maintenance so I can focus this newfound project time on interesting things…  like Room Two in The Palace.  That inkling of an idea is growing into something more solid and I’m starting to get excited at the opportunity to create another amazing space.

Onions

The Pukekohe LongKeeper Onions have been sunning themselves and will soon be ready to hang up in the shed ready for use.

I think being just over two weeks into to this new year I can safely say things are going well and if we continue on this trajectory, in spite of the chaos and craziness going on around us, my garden will continue to grow and provide me with a sanctuary from it all.

Come again soon – there is plenty to be done.

Sarah the Gardener  : o)

Rinse and Repeat

And just like that we are at the start of a new year, with the festive holiday season behind us and the months ahead stretching out like a blank canvas.  Aside from a smattering of dates beginning to fill the calendar, the year is full of hope and potential and possibly plenty of achievement and reward.

Summer holiday vibes

Although we live beside the sea, it is always nice to go somewhere different for a break. As they say a change is as good as a holiday.

I haven’t set any ‘resolutions’ this year for the garden other than the ongoing ‘To Do’ list.  I guess here ‘Down Under’ it makes it a little tricky to set goals for the garden in the middle of the growing season, unlike those gardeners in the Northern Hemisphere who have gardens covered in snow and plenty of time to ponder the hopes and expectations of the coming growing season.  At this time of year if I can come up with plans for all the zucchini then I’m happy!

Tomatoes

The first ‘decent’ tomato harvest and it looks like there will be plenty more where they came from. The insect netting seems to have held the Tomato Potato Psyllid at bay.

This summer we took a nice long break completely off grid – no Wi-Fi and no power, camping in the bush beside the beach and it was lovely.  I drew the line at staying in a tent after last year’s leaky situation.  So, we were in semi luxury in a rented caravan, and I managed to just completely relax and often found myself in the shade of a tree losing myself in a good book or two while the boys got their fair share of surfing and swimming.  A perfectly typical kiwi summer holiday, but it is always good to be home.

The to do list

It may look like a long To Do list but within a week almost everything has been crossed off.

It can be tricky to leave the garden in the middle of the season, but we had some great house sitters who were left with clear instructions on what to do.  The crops that needed regular picking were picked and the watering was made easy as all they had to do was move the irrigation trolley once a day.  It looked like it may have been a little windy, but no harm had come to the garden at all.   In previous seasons I have come home to weather related damage and devastation as well as well meaning house sitters not wanting to seem greedy, so left things unpicked which ultimately ended up going to waste and caused the plants to stop producing further.  It is good to have people caring for the garden who understand what needs to be done and why.

House plants

I gathered together my meager collection of as yet un-dead houseplants and gave them a well needed drink.

We got back a week ago, but enjoying the offline lifestyle I decided to carry on for just one more week so I could indulge in gardening normally – without thinking about sharing it with the world…  well not at the time it happened – loads of photos were taken as I set about doing what needed to be done to bring the garden from its casual caretaker state to the position that makes it easy for the ebb and flow that comes from daily maintenance and pottering about.

Onions

Thanks to the humidity before Christmas the onions look a little messy, but I pulled them up anyway. There should be more than enough to last us well into the winter and beyond.

Once we got home and we’d unpacked and turned over a mountain of dirty laundry, I wandered about the garden and wrote down every little thing I saw that needed doing.  I ended up with two lists – one for quick and simple jobs like pick tomatoes or sow more sunflowers as well as weed and feed everything!

Succession sowing seeds

I also popped in some more seeds. Most are just succession sowing to replace what has been or is about to be eaten. Although the cool season seed sowing isn’t that far way…

Aphids

Not everything emerged unscathed while we were away – there was a fairly significant aphid infestation in my melons, but they seem to be responding to treatment and I’m not worried.

The other list was more for projects and tasks beyond the general regular pottering about.  Some are big jobs – I need to repaint the sheds.  The expert at the store last year did say I’d need 2 coats, but I was out of time and short on cash.   The lesson has been learnt – do it once and do it right.  Especially as painting is not my favourite thing to do.

The Rock Garden

I gave the rosemary in the rock garden its first gentle trim to encourage bushy growth, but I’ll leave the chamomile a little longer – I’m loving the wild look of the flowers.

Some of the other things on the list will form the foundations for bigger long term projects… The inklings of Room Two in The Palace Garden are stirring….  And others are generally tidy up in the corners where weeds and mess sneak in and in the busyness of spring are allowed to remain unchecked.  However, I have a garden visit scheduled for next month and the corners need to look as nice as the bits I tend to every day.     I think I have enough on my plate to keep me going for a while.

backdoor before

I got a little tired of the sand constantly making its way into the house, so we took the plunge to do something about it.

backdoor after

And now we have this lovely paved path… not bad for a couple of days efforts.

As this new year gets going and the routine and the ordinary resume and restore the daily pattern of life, shrugging off the listless drifting through the days that comes with summer holidays, I have picked up my garden tools and will carry on as usual.

Come again soon – I may not have resolutions, but I’ll still be here…  all year, sharing my gardening journey.

Sarah the Gardener  : o)

Merry Christmas

It has been a hard year of ups and downs but when you have a large bowl of strawberries for the festive table all is forgiven.

Merry Christmas to Everyone and have a Safe and Abundant New Year.


Love from Sarah the Gardener   : o)

Seasonal stuff

This is always the most challenging time of year in life and in the garden.  As we get closer to Christmas, the pressure mounts.   The start of the month is fraught with the tension of end of year deadlines that must be done before everything shuts down for the year.  As a result, computer gardening and ordinary computing muscles its way to the top of the list demanding its attentions be tended to first.  The upside of this is the computer gardening is still enjoyable – gardening without getting your hands dirty.

Raspberries

These raspberries can take their time maturing … until the new year would be good!

Alongside those demands are the other seasonal end of year things – like Christmas shopping (which I still need to finish) and preparing for the great exodus for the summer.   Although this year is a little weird as there haven’t been the usual round of Christmas parties and prize giving’s and celebrations.  It was a little sad as one of the teen lads missed out on his graduation and all the trimmings – but the upside is his future is exciting and ready and waiting for the start of next year.

Peas

I think these peas need picking today in the next break in the rain, but hopefully there will be more coming along.

The garden and the animals – the chickens, Snowy the Goat and Fennel the Cat mean we just can’t go off and away without a care in the world, so we need the help of house sitters.  But it isn’t until you look around with the fresh eye of a potential guest that you notice the cobwebs in the corner – which then demand a full top to toe house clean, so we aren’t seen as feral… So, it has been all hands to the deck, getting things ship shape.  The upside of this we will be rewarded by our own efforts with a lovely clean house to start the year afresh.

Rain gauge

If you look closely you can see the water level right at the top of my rain gauge… all this rain has been so disheartening.

The garden also needs to be low maintenance.  I can’t possibly expect our house sitters to give it the level of care I would.  They just need to take care of the basics – keeping the garden watered and harvest the crops that need regular picking lest they stop producing because they feel they’ve done their job and set seed ensuring the future of their progeny.

Onions

I couldn’t wait the for tops to flop over – the fungal diseases were starting to ruin them so I pulled them all out and now they are drying in the greenhouse. I hope it doesn’t impact their storage abilities…

Although I’m not entirely sure that regular watering will be needed.  The weather has been thoroughly awful.  Thanks to La Niña and tropical storms up in the Pacific we have had days and days of rain.  It was more than 120mls because it overflowed my rain gauge.  And when it wasn’t raining the humidity has been through the roof.  This is not desirable gardening weather.  It has encouraged fungal diseases and turned the garden into a soggy mess.  The upside here is that we live beside the sea on sandy soil.  Back in the swamp this amount of water would have taken weeks to drain away and dry out.

Wong Bok

The Wong Bok look a little lacy around the edges but there is certainly more than enough to share with whoever has been eating them.

rodent vs pumpkin

I’m not happy about this – some vile creature has been trying to eat my pumpkins… I hope the plant seals the damage before the rain rots it. There is still a while to go before it is harvest time.

But I need to put on my raincoat – or dash out in the breaks in the rain and harvest and process what needs it, so it doesn’t go to waste.  I have four wong bok cabbages ready at the same time – I like kimchi but I don’t think I need that much.  Note to self for the future – succession plant the wong bok.   The peas also need picking, but I hope to make them last until right before Christmas as I have fond memories of shelling peas with my Grandfather for the extended family Christmas meal and hope to recreate similar memories for my kids.   The first tomatoes have split so I need to sort them out, the cucumbers, gherkins and zucchini just keep coming and the okra has started early and need regular picking.

split tomatoes

This is so frustrating – I have protected my tomatoes in every way from all the usual problems but splitting is just annoying.

It is always bittersweet leaving the garden at this productive stage in its life, but family come first.  Although sometimes I look longingly at the Northern Hemisphere gardeners with their gardens tucked up for the winter, allowing them time to bake Christmas cookies and decorate every inch of their homes.  One day it would be nice to really focus on the decorating, but for the most part a splash of tinsel is good enough.

Spinach

I managed to salvage the spinach before it bolted and now have them tucked up in the freezer in meal sized packs.

But the upside is, in this crazy world I have plenty to be grateful for – a garden that not only brings me joy and fresh produce but opportunities to help support our family.  I have a lovely home beside the sea, filled with a wonderful family and an extended family that thanks to safety measures and sacrifices taken during the year we can join for Christmas.

Bedraggled sunflowers

The sunflowers may be bedraggled but they stand tall and tenaciously shine hope and positivity across the garden.

This post is a bit smooshy, but it has been a hard year and now we are nearly at the end, the final push is taking every ounce of effort to get over the line, but looking for the upsides and counting blessings are like stepping stones in a muddy garden…

Come again soon – we’re nearly there.

Sarah the Gardener  : o)

Shrouded in Love

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.

Tomato Potato Psyllid adults

The Tomato Potato Psyllid adults just look like little flies

Tomato Potato Psyllid eggs and poop

The Tomato Potato Psyllid eggs are found along the edge of the leaves and poop from the juveniles looks like someone sprinkled sugar over the leaves.

Tomato Potato Psyllid nymphs

Tomato Potato Psyllid juveniles are called nymphs and they can get quite dense on the underside of the 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.

Building an insect mesh frame

Hubby the Un-Gardener was a great help in this project, banging in the rebar poles and helping make decisions.

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.

Building an insect mesh frame

The irrigation hose topped off the rebar nicely to complete the frame. It is a bit wonderfully wonky but that is fine my me!

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.

Building an insect mesh frame with tool clips

The Tool Clips and bamboo pole combination makes a great way to secure the whole thing.

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.

Building an insect mesh frame

And now my tomatoes are safe

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.

Tomatoes

And now these tomatoes can do what tomatoes do best without being bothered by insect pests.

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)

Sunny Days are Here Again

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.

Sector 1

Sector 1 – all taken care of and looking good.

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.

Sector 2

Sector 2 – all taken care of and looking good.

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.

Haymakers Punch

I’m not a fan of just water but need to stay hydrated while in the garden on hot days. So I made some Hay Makers Punch. I’m not one for following instructions to the letter so I checked a few recipes and then gave it a whirl. It is quite easy to make, although I added all the ingredients before the water and then read that the you’re supposed to boil the water and the ginger (- the amount varied so I finely grated a good knob of ginger) first to infuse the flavours then cool and add 1 tablespoon of honey and 2 tablespoons of apple cider vinegar so you don’t destroy the beneficial effects. Oh and the juice of half a lemon juice is supposed to go in there too… I just added boiled water to everything, let it cool and popped it in the fridge. Everyone seemed to like it so I made some more again today, but with only 1 tablespoon of vinegar and a touch more honey and a lot less ginger.

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!

Getting the Christmas Spirit Early

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?!

Hubby the Un-Gardener and his tree

He looks so happy up there in the tree – before he realised cutting trees down by hand isn’t all that easy!

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.

Hubby the Un-Gardener and his tree

Hubby the Un-Gardener and the tree he cut down

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.

Christmas trees in the house

The house smells like a festive forest

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.

Christmas trees in the house

Christmas trees in the house – now we just need to move furniture to make it all fit nicely.

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…)

  • Strawberries should be in full production – if not now then soon so making some Jam to give and popping it in a cute jar with a ribbon makes a delicious gift.  The lovely Kat suggested dehydrated strawberries coated in chocolate – which is probably even better than jam!
  • Elderflower cordial or champagne – as it should be blooming now – easy to make and super delish. Check out one of my old posts to find out how:

A magical drink for Christmas day

  • Zucchini Relish or pickle etc…  As we approach Christmas the glut should be coming along nicely.  It would be a good idea to gift the relish with a nice cheese and crackers – (although maybe don’t give the cheese if the gift will be left under the tree for a few weeks!)
  • Herbs infused in oil or added to a nice jar of salt is an easy gift.   Rosemary sticks could be tied in a nice bundle to make kebab sticks although they will need soaking before being used for the BBQ.

dried edible flowers

A jar of dried edible flowers is a easy gift

  • Dry edible flowers in a nice jar for a bright garnish or sprinkle. If you don’t have a dehydrator – set your oven as low as it will go and leave the flowers in there until they are crispy.
  • Potpourri maybe old fashioned but was a lovely way to bring fragrance into the home. So, dry some flowers and leaves and find a nice container to hold them and add drop or two of a nice smelling essential oil and a tealight or LED candle.
  • There is plenty of time to press some flowers and use them in craft – to decorate photo frames or make cards etc.
  • Simple garden sticks and twigs can be used to make decorations like stars tied together with string.

Stick and string star

With just sticks and string you can make the cutest star

  • The garden is an abundant source of supplies for wreaths and garlands if you want to go for a more natural and less shiny looking Christmas vibe.
  • Give future flowers with seed packets, although it is nice to give seeds that can be sown from Christmas day so they can be planted straight away without having to wait until the spring. Flowers like sunflowers, petunia, snap dragons, cosmos and calendula are perfect for sowing in January, but there are loads more to choose from to make a great seed packet bouquet.
  • For a last minute gift idea pop a potato in a soil filled bucket (with holes in the bottom – and a plant saucer). Wrap it up and put it under the tree and give the gift of future spuds.
  • For a gift to take camping, plant container with all things salad so it can be taken away and used fresh… sure beats chilly bin salad any day!
  • Finally, it is too late for this year, but for next year think about growing some popcorn for your movie loving friends or a luffa to go with some lovely bathroom smellies that is a reliable gift for that distant aunt you never know what to buy for.

Popcorn

Giving popcorn on the cob is an unusual and fun gift.

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)

10 Task Thursday

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.

Dried calendula

The dried flowers are just a hint of what I did yesterday.

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.  

Flanders Poppies

It does take my breath away to see these bright red Flanders Poppies glowing in the morning sun.

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. 

Weedy end garden

I’ve made a great start to the weedy end garden

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.

Nourishing the soil beneath the arch

Nourishing the soil beneath the arch

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! 

33C temp

Yup… 33C is a bit hot for me out 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. 

New Kitchen Shelves

I do love the new kitchen shelves, They are just like I thought they’d be.

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.

Wood for a new project

Oh and I helped Hubby the Un-Gardener unload some wood for a new project. I can’t wait to start this one.

Flower arrangement

Calendula flowers and a quaking grass weed that popped up in the garden is a simple yet pretty display.

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.

Gladioli

The photo doesn’t do this Gladioli justice – it has beautiful deep velvety red blooms. Just a shame about the rusty leaves.

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. 

Trimming driveway lupin

Lopping away the overreaching lupin without bending over!

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.

Okra

I think after today’s temperatures it is warm enough for the Okra.

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. 

Robot mower blades

Blossom’s blades had done a great job keeping the lawn nicely mowed. I’ve been meaning to introduce you formally so stay tuned….

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)

The five things I did today.

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.

Strawberry netting

The netting is up and the strawberries are safe. Now the plants can recover from the constant attacks of fruit and leaves and I will soon be able to get my fill of sweet delish berries.

 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! 

Flower Press

Ok… pressing flowers is hardly a pressing matter, but if I want to have nice squashed flowers for when one day I have time for some craft, I’ll have some!

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. 

Weeding

The carpet of tiny green and purple weed seedlings were quickly disturbed and left on the surface to die.

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….

Asparagus

Asparagus for dinner again tonight!

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.

6 hose water distributor

It was great to pull the 6 hose water distributor out of storage. It becomes a close companion during the growing season as it facilitates the watering of multiple beds!

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. 

Water computer

The first irrigation of the season. 

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. 

Garden and sea view

Ending the day in the swing seat has to be one of my favourite things.

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)

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