It is the beginning of midwinter with just over 60 days until spring – not that I’m counting and as I look around the garden not all is as it seems.
There are the usual midwinter things like onion seedlings still trying to stand up, a vast array of brassica doing their thing and garlic growing from strength to strength. There are empty beds, some that need a refresh for the new season and some that are all ready and waiting.
Ordinarily that would be it for the goings on in the garden but alas no… there are other things from other seasons that surprise me with their presence. I have spring things and summer things blooming side by side in a season that isn’t theirs!
Come again soon – this winter is a crazy season.
Sarah the Gardener : o)
I have to confess the shortest day took me a bit by surprise. Its not that I didn’t know it was coming, but the speed it approached left me feeling a little like Wylie Coyote standing there with tools unused after the Roadrunner zapped by. It always feels like I have plenty of time to do things, however in reality I always underestimate how long things will take. This can be misjudging the task by an hour or even by days and in some cases by weeks.
I may have let the shortest day slip by in a gardenless state, but spring is just over 9 weeks away and I can’t afford to be complacent. I need to make winter count although without the intensity of making May count. And the first thing to be done was to rectify the onion situation. It would be a terrible thing to be in an onionless state.
The day after the shortest day was spent up to my elbows enriching the soil – which should have been done weeks ago, according to my plan and intentions. I am fortunate to have healthy set of seedlings due to the wise foresight I had on the eve of lockdown. My last purchase was onion seeds. I was able to find some Pukekohe Longkeepers from my favourite supplier easily enough, however they no longer do my second favourite variety of early producing Hunter River Whites. They were a perfect combination of onions and the Hunter River Whites, while being ready earlier, didn’t store as long and so by the time they ran out I had the Longkeepers ready and kept us going until they ran out some time in mid-winter. So, there I was standing in the garden centre in the late hours of the last day of being out and about for who knew how long, and I had to make a decision which was to be my backup variety. I did a bit of speed Googling and hastily decided upon a Spanish Sweet Yellow Onion. I’m not sure if it will meet my needs, but apparently it keeps well. We shall see.
Upon sowing the seeds I seemed to be a bit heavy handed with these new seeds and so – to throw the cat among the pigeons of my uncertainty, I have ending up with more of these new onions than my old familiar favourites and so nervously worry about my long term onion supply situation. I’m not a great fan of change. If something works why mess with it.
My healthy (because that’s what counts right now) onion seedlings were lovingly soaked in a seaweed tonic to assist them in their abrupt passage from the warmth of the greenhouse to the chill of the garden. I didn’t even give myself the opportunity to slowly and carefully harden them off. I’m such a bad onion grower. To make up for it I took the time to space them out correctly. I even used a string line and a small bamboo spacer. Although I did throw caution into the wind and spaced them slightly closer than recommended in an attempt to reduce the final size of the harvest and up the number of plants. Last season I grew some enormous ones that would do 3 – 4 meals, but I’m not really enjoying having to store cut onions with their aroma tainting anything in the vicinity. Then I breathed a sigh of relief – my onion harvest was in the ground and in 6 months we’ll know if there were any adverse effects from the rocky start.
But this is only half the story. I still had 4 square metres of space designated to the ‘Other’ onions. The sweet red onions that perk up summer salads, shallots for the much loved pickled onions, and elephant garlic because elephant garlic is cool. I also got carried away in that pre lockdown splash out at the garden centre and bought some pearl drop onion seeds as well. I hadn’t given much thought to how I would use them in our diet, but I had the seeds so I sowed them and as healthy seedlings – it would be wrong not to plant them. I also had some long overdue leek seedlings that have been planted well out of season, but they were there so – nothing ventured nothing gained and waste not want not and all that.
There was one thing standing the way of these ‘other’ onions – a lingering zucchini plant. It wasn’t looking great but it was still doing its thing. I had a decision to make, make the onions wait a little longer, or condemn the determined zucchini to the compost. In the end I relocated it and am hoping for the best! Because of the zucchini this bed also needed to have its soil enriched to replace what the zucchini took. Then the onions were unceremoniously plunged into the earth as the once blue sky began to darken and feel heavy with rain. The spacing started out with tape measures and string and perfect lines and disintegrated into a vague ‘she’ll be right’ approach in an attempt to avoid planting in the pouring rain. If these onions manage to shake off their rocky start I’ll be quite surprised.
With that over I can relax a little – but not too much, the broad bean seedlings grown from seed and repotted several times as they grew are staring at me from the shelves of the greenhouse begging me to liberated them so they can feel the natural soil beneath their roots and the wind rustling through their leaves… there is always something that needs to be done. I need to embrace active relaxing to avoid the boom and bust of celebrating achievement for too long without picking up tools again and move slowly and steadily forward.
Come again soon – why does it surprise me that winter is a busy time in my garden – I’ve been doing it for years?!
Sarah the Gardener : o)
This is always a bit of a grey area as to when the new season starts and the previous one ends. It makes sense to think that when harvesting stops from plants planted in the spring is a logical end, however I still have zucchini flowering and producing edible morsels– albeit slowly and the brassicas are still going with the side shoots like gangbusters providing more than we can keep up with, long after the first head was harvested. But by and large the garden is mostly empty and bereft of all trace of summer. It would be easy to say once these summer crops have gone the season is over. But yet it lingers.
It would be great to have some kind of clear delineation between the seasons, like all empty beds, enriched and refreshed with nutrients ready for the tender young plants in the spring. Unfortunately, nature isn’t that clear cut. While the stragglers from summer are languishing unrepentant, new crops are moving in. There is an overlap.
If we put aside the stragglers as part of a previous era, the question still remains, when does the new season start? Does it start with the early garlic planted almost traditionally on the first of May? It would be easy to discount this as this is still technically autumn and more importantly, still firmly within the first half of the calendar year. Onions find their place in the garden on the shortest day which would seem like an ideal transition, but according to the calendar we are three weeks into winter already and besides seed sowing and garden prep takes place many weeks earlier, back in the autumn. While it is a strong candidate for marking the change in season, I have decided, in my garden, that honour belongs to something else.
The asparagus. This isn’t an ordinary crop; it is once that carries a lot of reverence and expectation. To have asparagus in the garden in the first place, requires so much from the gardener. The care and maintenance required from a crop that can’t be eaten in the first three years making the wait worth its while is indication enough of its status in the garden as a luxury crop.
As the fronds of the previous season begin to fade to a golden yellow around the start of winter, the time comes to cut them down to the ground. A tall stand of growth that had presided over the garden all summer – or since harvesting ceases after Christmas for mature crops. Like the changing of the guard on a chilly day early in winter, the task of removing the foliage is undertaken with a degree of excitement. All the energy from the summer sun has been taken down into the crown to bring forth a strong and bountiful reign in the new season. The addition of compost and other nutrients in a nice thick layer is like making an offering to please this divinely tasty plant. The addition of mulch to prevent weeds is like applying a cloak to prevent invaders spoiling the garden.
Not only is there a degree of pleasure knowing the sun itself has been captured and held deep with the plant during the previous season, but the anticipation that as the last days of winter turn themselves into the optimistic days of spring, the first crop of the season presents itself as tall green spears, standing tall and proud. It is the first majestic crop to rise above the soil for harvest.
Ok I may have become a little bit romantic as I waxed lyrical about asparagus, but this season will be the first season I can harvest each and every spear with wild abandon. It has been a long wait and just the thought of that first spear already makes my mouth water in anticipation.
This is a crop that has a long reign in the garden – up to 25 years and so it deserves to be treated with respect so it can continue to remain strong and healthy and this is why I have decided to mark this task in the winter garden to determine the moment in time when the growing season changes.
Come again soon – other things also happen in a winter garden.
Sarah the Gardener : o)
I have had a lovely week. I approached it with trepidation, but I had no choice. Once again our power was off for maintenance. In an effort to catch up for the time lost during the lockdown, the power company decided to make one final push to get the job done to replace all the power poles in the area for once and for all. We were without power between 9am – 3pm for three days in a row. Initially I was indignant – how could they do this to us?! Don’t they know we have work to be done? For us out here in the country, no power not only meant no power but also no internet and no water. But as resourceful people in an unchangeable situation, we adapted. Hubby the Un-Gardener packed up his office and went and worked elsewhere, where there was a power supply, so he could continue working without skipping a beat.
For me I took a different tack… I decided to leave the office completely. Over the last month, while trying to #MakeMayCount, I had done a lot of extra computer gardening and was in need of a break from the demands that glare at me from the glow of the computer screen. On looking about the garden, while in control, some of the edges were beginning to show subtle signs of…. Of…. well not quite neglect, but love and care had been tossed at it in the haste of the month instead of being lovingly placed and it was beginning to show. I needed some time with just me and my garden, no one else, no distractions so we could reconnect, one on one with each and every garden bed. I needed to feel familiar with each one and recognise its needs.
It may be winter, and I am taking the opportunity to slow down and listen to the suggestion of the season, with its cold sluggish rain lazily and sporadically falling from the sky, the chill of the morning that suggests lingering a little longer in bed and starting the day a little later when it is more comfortable. This all suits me just fine. But the garden is still my baby and it still needs care and attention and will always do so – although fortunately in winter, not as much as in the coming season of spring.
However, in these slow days, there are things that can be done to get ready for the next season. If I prepare the beds now in a no dig fashion, by adding compost, nutrients and goodies to the soil and allow the worms do the work of incorporating it into the structure and making it readily available for my plants to absorb it when the time comes, then I save myself the stress of preparing beds while tending seedlings in the busiest window of the entire gardening calendar.
I need to ensure I maintain my daily sector sessions and take care of tiny weeds and hoe the paths and tend to the needs of the plants still lingering there. It is so easy to look out and think, I did it last week so I’ll be fine to skip it this week, and then something comes up the following week, preventing any gardening being done at all and before you know it, it is a weedy mess again and it makes a complete mockery of the whole sector system that actually works really well when it is used properly. I really need to work on my self discipline and allow it to become a routine in the fabric of my days.
I filled my powerless days with jobs, chores, tasks, and projects. Each with varying degrees of excitement or a reluctant willingness for something simple yet ever so slightly boring. I have stepped up my battle with the rats who have expanding their domain to include living under the dome. They have become so brazen I saw, in the middle of the day, one creature trying to get out of the compost bin through the gaps in the side and he was so fat he got stuck half way and had to wiggle his way like something out of a kids cartoon. Each evening I bury the holes in the base of the greenhouse hoping that they won’t be there in the morning. This is a war I will win, even if I have had to increase my battle into weapons I’m not entirely happy using.
I’ve also repotted all the seedlings I have in the greenhouse, and it surprises me just how many there are. But all going well they won’t be there for long. Then I can give it a jolly good clean out ready for the new season. I’ve also tried to save my strawberries but that is a story for another day because at this point I’m not sure if there will be a happy ending or not. I have enjoyed my downtime in the garden so much I have decided to make one day a week a ‘powerless day’ in the garden and just lose myself to the pleasures of the soil, the pleasures that can so easily be lost when you march to the beat of a different rhythm.
Come again soon – I have also been sorting out the asparagus and I can’t wait to tell you all about that.
Sarah the Gardener : o)
Sometimes you get an idea or see something on the great big internet and something compels you to give it ago. Sometimes this is a good idea and other times it is a case of never mention it again. I have loads of ideas rattling around in my head. I’ve started writing the more viable ones down on a ‘to do’ list so they don’t become forgotten. I also have a few ideas bookmarked on my computer that could be worth my time attempting.
Over the last few months my You Tube feed has been inundated with a similar type of video, tempting me to try and have a go. I don’t know what the internet is trying to tell me, but I felt like it was speaking straight at me and it would be rude to ignore it. Besides, what it was suggesting was it was not only really cool, but quick – most of the videos were only 15 minutes long, and importantly easy – every single version got great results every time!
I rounded up two beach balls left over from the summer and a neglected cheap bouncy ball. The kids have loads of balls – they’d never notice it was gone! I ordered a large bag of cement, dug up a bucket of ‘good sand’ without an excessive amount of plant debris in it and nabbed and old winter sheet that had seen better days an cut it into small pieces. That part was probably the hard part as your really don’t appreciate how large a queen sized sheet is until you have to cut it up into small pieces. I ended up with a blister!
I laid down a tarp, so my nice new deck didn’t get ruined and set to work. I made a 50:50 mix of sand and cement and added water to make a rather runny mix. Then I mixed in a handful of shredded sheet and began applying it to the balls like doing papier mache. My expectations were at odds with reality and I learnt a few things in the making.
It is worth persevering with because eventually you get something to be pleased with. I was at a point where it was almost round enough and every time I applied a new layer it wasn’t smooth and lovely like I wanted it to be so I thought I’d give it a gentle mist with the hose to smooth it over. That didn’t work but I got a lovely texture that disguised all the lumps and bumps and I happily decided I was done.
I didn’t take many photos because with the gloves and the cement and the mess it was a little tricky, so I have a before and after for you. The rest of the images are from yesterdays efforts on the nook. The day was nice and sunny so I was pleased I’d been out on the rainy day before to get paint so I was able to finishing the painting. Then I dug down a spades depth all around where we want to put plants, to remove the kikuyu roots. They don’t seem to go down too deep, but I dug up a mountain of them! I think I’ll need to put in some kind of barrier to keep them away. After that effort I was stiff and sore and a little weary. I’m pleased today is a rainy day again, so I can get a break from making hay while the sun shines to do some computer gardening.
Come again soon – the veggie patch is calling to me and its cries are getting louder.
Sarah the Gardener : o)
Sometimes Making May Count means I’m so busy Making May Count that at the end of the day I collapse exhausted into a comfy chair and remain there until I recharge enough to get up and send myself to bed.
Yesterday was one of those days. The boffins had said it was going to rain all week, which turned out to be untrue and after a bit of a foggy start the day cleared to be one of those fabulous sunny days we have become accustomed to. Unlike today, which is back to the gloomy foggy rainy situation we found ourselves in on Monday. I hadn’t expected to get anything of note done in the garden at all. I’m not mad enough to work in the rain and the risk of catching a cold would mean people looking sideways at me when I sniff or sneeze when I do venture out and about. It is really not worth the risk. So I set myself up for a day of computer gardening in the cosiness of my office.
I do have to say it is a lovely spot and I have the heater going so it is warm and I love my lights, they contribute to the cosy feeling by delivering a warm glow from their chandelier bulbs. Although it does need a bit of a tidy up as Jasper the Dog has made a bit of a mess. (Nothing I have done could possibly have contribute to the mess…) But he does like to pull paper out of my waste paper bin and shred it. And his big boofy feet have tramped sand everywhere. Maybe if I get all my computer gardening done I should probably clean the office… if it is still raining.
But yesterday it was unexpected lovely, so I fiddled about with the beach balls again. Two days ago I was ready to write these off as a failure, but persevered and am glad I did as they are almost how I thought they’d be and all going well will be able to do a bit of a ‘did-dah’ thing very soon.
Then I decided to paint the wall. I was going to break it up into four sections so it didn’t seem overwhelming, but it was actually quite pleasant and I kept going until I ran out of paint almost at the end of the third panel. It looks fabulous, even in its unfinished state. Although it was raining today I decided to go and buy more paint so when it stopped and the wall dried out I’d be ready to pick up where I left off. But alas the store didn’t have the paint I was after so I will need to go further afield to find it. But it wasn’t a wasted trip as I came back with some plants, some hanging basket stuff and other bits and bobs.
And now I need to get on with the computer gardening that I should have done yesterday.
Oh and as a side note… did you know boiled peanuts was a thing? I didn’t until the other day. I had pulled my peanuts out of the ground and really didn’t know what to do with them. Then the lovely Donna from Rainbow Gardens – I’ve been following her on You Tube for probably a decade, well she put up a video all about peanuts including a recipe for boiled peanuts and I thought I’d give it a whirl. Oh my goodness – we have a new favourite in our house! Check out Donna and her peanut video >Here<. Be sure to tell her I say Hi!
Come again soon – I may need to put my eyes back on the veggie patch for a moment to keep it in order.
Sarah the Gardener : o)