SARAH THE GARDENER

Change of plans… again

But that is the beauty of the garden – it is completely forgiving.  Plans can be made, but nothing is set in concrete – except the things actually set in concrete like fence posts!  Over the last year I have spent ages pouring over my plans, making adjustments, then working on the crop rotation and then hoping to never have to plan again.  It can be a logistical nightmare and I get myself in a muddle and come to a great sense of relief once I can put the pen down and know my plans are sound.

Carrot seedlings

The new carrots are settling in, in the old potato bed

Except that isn’t always the case.  My garlic should be in this month and I’m running out of month.  But I have wrestled with their new location.  They are supposed to follow the carrots, parsnips, beetroot and fennel for reasons I have long forgotten.  The carrots follow the potatoes as it makes sense to have the nicely dug over soil, required to ensure every last spud is removed, to grow the carrots who like it nice and fluffy without lumps and bumps.  That is a logical reasoning.  And as there are no spuds currently being grown – well not in the beds – I picked up a bag of seed potatoes at the garden centre just because they were there and will grow them in pots over the winter…  The old spud bed is now nurturing juvenile carrot seedlings that reflect the more mature ones still lingering in the bed beside it, out staying their welcome as the garlic are ready to set up home in a spot not ready for them.

Parsnips

I can’t sacrifice my parsnips for the garlic when I haven’t even made a dent in the row? Parsnips you can stay. Garlic find somewhere else!

So I cast my eye over the row – what else could be done?  The bean bed beside the spuds on the other side still has beans lingering in it.  This was also completely unexpected as the snake beans are still going great guns and then at the other end of the bed, the Lima beans I picked up at a bulk food shop with the thought…  ‘hmmm….  I wonder…’ are still at the lush green foliage stage with a multitude of flowers and a few beans in the early bean stage.  If they are to dry on the plant, then they’d better get a wiggle on.  So I can’t give up on my beans.  Not yet.

Lima beans

The Lima beans are taking ages and are a long way from being a dried bean!

Beside that are the leafy greens, a mix of rainbow beet that will be there until the spring when they will begin to bolt and while this will remain the leafy green bed for some time, it also has some fledgling leafy greens to provide some winter goodness.  So that is not an option for the garlic.

Cucumber

The cucumber has made a great last effort but it is pretty much all over ….

The far side of the row is the asparagus and no one is leaving this bed, not for another 20 years or so.   That leaves me with a couple of options – I could put them back in the bed they just came out of, but the painted mountain corn is still being dried on the plant and while only a couple of weeks will do it, the garlic is getting urgent.  Besides its not good to have them in the same place as there are root rot related diseases that can build up.  And then when you think about the next season what is the knock on affect.  The cucumbers were supposed to go in there next.  But the garlic won’t be out of the garden in time for the cucumbers to be planted out – so there’d be a bottle neck.

Cucumber

…. or is it…. can one late season cucumber stand in the way of an entire crop of garlic???

So that leaves one possibility.  The cucumbers bed between the leafy greens and the old garlic bed should have come out ages ago, but the brave leaves put on a second flush and produced another couple of cucumbers.  Who was I to stand in their way?  But I think it is time to call ‘time’ on their efforts and take down the frame.  This would create an empty bed in the right window of time.   The cucumbers next season would move on to the old garlic bed as usual and next season will not get into a complex relationship with the carrots.  I’d have all winter to eat the carrots before transitioning them across to the new / old potato bed.  So it would work going forward.

Peppers

The peppers are loving their location way too much, but who am I to argue. The onion overflow will need to find alternative accommodation

But will the leafy greens wait for the garlic to come out…  I think they’ll just have to.  The spinach may have to maybe move to the salad bed in another row as it can bolt quickly especially in a hot dry spring which is a possibility.  But the rest can wait.  Garlic planted in autumn is harvested early anyway so it should work.

Zucchini

I think it is fair to say the zucchini are done…

Ok decision made.   And without explaining the similar problem I have with my onion overflow bed, I’ll just say after much pontificating, the zucchini are on their last legs and can come out and make room for red onions, shallots and leeks.  This also moves them back in their crop rotation one slot but if the peppers weren’t enjoying life so much it wouldn’t be necessary.

zucchini

… having said that… this plant still has signs of life

Hopefully this will allow for a smooth transition between the seasons and hopefully will be the last time I have to rejig my plans.

Come again soon – things are really cooling down, I’m back to wearing socks and a jumper!

Sarah the Gardener  : o)

Glazed Above

My greenhouse journey has been long and arduous, fraught with horrifying drama – mostly occurring as a shock to the bank balance!  To be honest I’m not sure how much it cost and really don’t want to know.  So after what seems like forever, the dome is done and I’m back in greenhouse business!  Having somewhere safe to grow my seedlings and over winter tender plants is even more appreciated after having gone a such a long time without a sanctuary for my green buddies.

Glazed Geodesic Biodome

The dome is an amazing centrepiece in the centre of my garden, I’m so glad I naively embarked on this journey, in spite of the cost!

This last stage was held up by two things, finding glass at a good price and then waiting for it to arrive on a slow boat from half a world away, but some things are worth waiting for.  And the other thing was the search for some brave glaziers who were willing to take up the challenge and do something a little bit out of the ordinary.  I am extremely grateful for the team at 15 Star Glass and Glazing Services.  They were so lovely and did and amazing job.

Geodesic Biodome being glazed

It wasn’t an easy job to glaze the dome, but the team were wonderful.

You can check out a time lapse video of the glass being added to the dome.  Stay watching until the end for a tiny bit of cuteness from Jasper the Dog and Fennel the Cat.  Also in the description below the video is a link to the dome being built,  if you are interested.

 

Come again soon – as we creep closer to winter the garden tasks are calling more urgently.

Sarah the Gardener  : o)

NB this isn’t a paid sponsored post for 15 Star Glass, I am just extremely grateful for the work they have done for me.  : o)

Raining there not here

Our water tank has a little red ball poking out of the top.  It should be on a long stick as the internal part is floating on the surface of the water letting us know just how much we have left.  But it seems to be constantly positioned on a short stick as we ride the rest of this season of little rain.  I crunched the numbers at the beginning of the month from my weather station.  In March we had a whopping 52mm of rain, of that 27mm fell in one day and 12mm fell in an hour, so you can see from that it has been a little dry here, with no real expectation of it changing in this mild autumn and so I’m holding out for winter rains to well and truly fill the tank.

Water tank

Ideally the little red ball should be standing tall, so I don’t need to think about every drop of water we use.

It might not seem like it is connected, but we went to visit the fabulous Ayrlie Gardens on the weekend.  I’ve been there before, you can check out that visit >HERE<.   But this time I went for a plant sale with a group of friends.   While it is great visiting gardens with Hubby the Un-Gardener who would much rather be at a boat show, to visit gardens with friends who actually like gardens is so much better.  We discussed the possibility of buying this plant for a corner of someone’s garden over the possibility of that.  We ummed and erred over the merits of one variety over another and even had a lively chat over which shade of bromeliad would go better – the pinky green or the greeny pink.  To a non-gardener the finer points of conversations like that would be lost.  But it wasn’t lost on me.  They went with the greeny pink.

Rain at Ayrlie Garden

Seeing this garden in the rain is just as amazing as seeing it on a sunny day.

But the interesting thing is the garden is situated on the opposite coast from us.  About an hour away on the East Coast.  As we drove across the country from our slightly cloudy but definitely dry place, the conditions deteriorated, and our garden visit was very soggy indeed.  It didn’t bother us in the slightest.  Rain is something to dance in, and what better place to do that but in a garden!

Water trough gardens

Now here is an idea… we have water troughs with no livestock… hmmm… water lilies would be lovely. I just need the lilies and the water!

I was quite restrained in my purchases, not saying there wasn’t the temptation, but I have learnt from experience, if there is no hole ready and waiting – plants die.  I did buy a French Tarragon as it was on my ‘keep a look out for’ list and I was delighted to finally find one.  More often that not I come across Russian Tarragon which grows easily from seed, but the superior French variety comes from cuttings.  So, I was happy.  Hubby the Un-Gardener did join our group of gardeners on this visit and developed a sudden interest in air plants – Tillandsia.  So, I suggested he start small with just a few and then if he doesn’t kill them….   I’m hoping this isn’t the beginning of an Un-Gardener encroachment.  But I only have myself to blame, I’ve been dragging him to gardens for ages so it only seems logical that something should stick at some stage.

French tarragon

Bienvenue. Welcome little French Tarragon, I have just the spot for you. We’ve been saving it for a while.

So, after a fun day out, we headed home, slightly soggy but grateful for a time spent in an inspiring garden with inspiring friends that help to enflame my garden passions leaving me in anticipation for the next time we get together in this way.   But on the drive home, the weather seemed to reverse itself and went from the almost torrential to showers, then to drizzle and dried to nothing at all.  We didn’t get a single drop at home and our little red ball was sitting exactly where we left it, minus the amount used for a load of laundry in the washing machine.

Come again soon – maybe we will get a spot of rain…

Sarah the Gardener  : o)

Sluggish

All things gardening have been a bit sluggish lately.  Fortunately, this isn’t a euphemism for actual slugs in the garden…  now that would be devastating and have a much more dramatic heading.  No, the problems in the garden have been caused by problems outside the garden and things beyond my control.  The worst bit was having a couple of wisdom teeth removed and to be honest it was harrowing and brutal and I’m glad I have none left so I need not go through that trauma ever again.  Although to be fair my wonderful dentist did give me some gorgeous flowers from his own garden when I went for a check-up.  But the recovery was slow, and it took me well over two weeks to feel like myself again.

Lettuce gone to seed

Well it didn’t take long for the lettuce to go to seed, but I wasn’t going to eat it anyway. (I was but I don’t want to come across upset by it)

The measure of feeling like myself was to stand in the garden to see what happened and some days I just stood there looking at it, not even seeing it.  No weeds were noticed.  Some days I didn’t get into the garden at all.  The frustrating days were the ones where I could see what needed to be done but didn’t have the will or the inclination to do anything about it.  Then there was this fabulous day last week where I went into the garden and picked up some tools and started to do things, and I got so lost in myself I spent hours out there, achieving loads without giving the dull ache in my jaw so much as a second thought.  I was back!

watermelon

After months of keeping the watermelon contained within the bed through strategic use of landscape staples, I take my eye off it for a couple of weeks and it goes wild on me!

Then things happened outside my control.  Many things and in no particular order, the things that kept me from the garden included – Wasps.  So many wasps.  It was frightening to be honest.  They are preparing for winter and seem determined to utilise the wood in my garden, of which there is plenty.  All 36 raised beds are made of wood, and the fence and the compost bins.  Wherever you looked it seemed like there were dozens for them dancing and swooping over their chosen spot of wood.  They didn’t seem bothered by me, but I could have easily put my hand on several while working away weeding beds and the sting of my last encounter a couple of years ago is still strangely fresh in my mind, not to mention the awful itching that followed for weeks after.  Reluctant not to repeat that experience, I retreated indoors where I felt completely lost with myself.  After finally regaining my gardening mojo, to not be gardening was very frustrating indeed.  But safety first.

wasps!

Wasps! Eeek! They are all over the place. I haven’t found a nest so goodness knows where they have come from.

Time travel has been another event in the garden. Although at this point it hasn’t been too much of a problem, but it is what it stands for that is the problem.   Daylight savings ended this weekend and it is rather late to be honest.  I don’t think I would have bemoaned the loss of summer had it occurred a few weeks back as we’d lost that summer feeling anyway with dark mornings and chilly starts.  Not chilly by winter standards but reach for your socks stuff.  But this was the final nail in the coffin of summer and by my accounts it has died three times.  First for the meteorological season change on the 1st of March, then with the astronomical change marked by the equinox on the 21st March and now finally with the end of daylight savings.

Zucchini

The zucchini seem to have pushed through the powdery mildew to have a new lease on life… I hope it keeps going for a while yet.

So, the time travelling back an hour in time hasn’t really had an impact other than a much needed sleep in on Sunday morning after the night before.  But it is what it stands for.  There is nothing of note on the gardening radar that stands between now and the depths of winter.  But to start the countdown to spring now would be too much to bear… There are 146 days until the start of the meteorological spring (the astronomical countdown just adds an extra 3 weeks and I don’t have the patience for that in the spring) That’s 20 weeks.  But that is over a third of the year and a huge chunk of my life to be wishing away.  So now I need to find delightful ways – hopefully green fingered ways to make the next 5 months pass joyfully and in a way that enriches the dreary existence found in winter.

Jasper the Dog

Say hello to Jasper the Dog

Another thing that I wouldn’t say has kept me from the garden but has been more of a distraction.  A surprisingly wonderful distraction.  Although not everyone is pleased.  Our menagerie on the coast has been increased by one.  To join the 9 chickens, Snowy the goat, Neville the robot lawn mower and Fennel the cat, we now have Jasper the dog.   I’m never been a doggy person, but when friends asked us if we could help them out by taking him from their family into ours, it seemed like the right thing to do.  Poor Hubby the Un-Gardener grew up with dogs, but has been without all these years because somehow, we were cat people.  So, he is over the moon.  Fortunately, Jasper is a loveable cocker spaniel, who is soft, not yappy, doesn’t jump up, comes when called and loves cuddles.   The perfect dog for someone not used to dog.   Like a cat who can zero in on the one person who is allergic, to smother with cat love, Jasper decided I must be the one to win over and is always by my side.  I think I’ve been won over.  Although I have made it clear picking up parcels – warm or otherwise, is not my job!  Fennel is working on it and is expressing her dominance by staring him down in an ‘I was here first’ death stare, but no one has been harmed.  Phew.

Fennel the Cat

Fennel the Cat is still a little wary of Jasper the Dog but has made it clear she was here first!

But it is a new week and the sun is shining and the birds and singing and the garden is calling out to me like a sea siren from Greek mythology…  I must go to it.

Come again soon – there are other cool things that have happened, and I just have to tell you all about it.

Sarah the Gardener  : o)

Lawn love in difficult times

Having a nice lawn around here is kind of a big deal.  If anyone has ever built or relocated a house will agree that the lawn is the least of tradesmen’s worries.   When we first got the site, it had been grazed by cows and so aside from a few cowpats about the place, which I rejoiced at the sight of – free fertiliser yay! There was a lovely verdant grass, if not a little long.  Before the house arrived, we took great pride in it and even mowed our empty lot with warm fuzzies about how it will be when it is all finished.

Digger on the lawn

Diggers and lawns don’t mix!

Then the tradies arrived.  The house moving truck churned up the surface, the plumbers had great piles of gravel delivered, smack bang in the middle of things and then they took their digger and dug trenches everywhere for the septic system.  The electricians also had a go and dug trenches where they wanted wires to go.  The builder also had stones and sand delivered so he could make concrete and the lovely lawn become unrecognisable.  It had become a building site.  But I reminded myself you can’t make an omelette without breaking eggs and it was a necessity to get the dream house.

weeds in the lawn

If the hot weather conditions in the summer bake the grass dry, more sturdy weeds are quick to jump in and fill their place.

I didn’t help things when I got the bulldozer to level the garden and remove the kikuyu grass as that created a mountain of earth that needed to be pushed across the lawn to level it out to make the tennis court sized back lawn Hubby the Un-Gardener had longed for, and bank up the left over soil in any spot that would look ‘natural’.  So, we were effectively left with bare sand where there was once a good solid ground cover of grass growing happily.

remove dead and dry plant material

Remove dead and dry plant material

And as much as it is despised by many, we reseeded the area in the spring with kikuyu seed and lovingly watered it and it was starting to look good again.  It was the best choice to stabilise the sandy soil and works well in beachy conditions.  At the very least it was green.  Ordinarily you don’t think much about a lawn, you mow it and use it for outdoor living, and it rewards you by being a nice green backdrop.  However, sometimes it can get a bit of a hard life.  As the only truly flat bit of land we have, when we invited friends to camp over the holiday period our new lawn was ever so slightly suffocated by tents, but once the campers left it bounced back… kind of.

give the bare soil a good deep soak

Once the soil in the gap is leveled out, give it a good deep soak.

But then it suffered from a problem we all faced this summer.  A lack of rain.  Being on tank water, unfortunately watering the lawn was last on the list for this precious resource.  Actually, it wasn’t on the list at all!  As a result, our backyard was brown and crispy.   Since then we have had a load of water delivered and it rained a couple of times and the green colour returned.  But the lawn certainly wasn’t as lush as it was.  And to make matters worse, we decided to have just another small job done and the plumbers and the electricians came back, with a digger!  My poor lawn is now in a right state.

grass seed

Scatter the grass seed as per the directions on the packet on the bare earth and around in the existing grass to help the new grass to blend in.

But they have gone now, and I need to give my lawn a bit of love now to get it into shape so next summer, when there will be no more construction work, it will be a stronger, healthier lawn and will be able to stand up to the worst summer can throw at it.

Ideally, if I was to water the lawn over summer then it is the same as for the vegies – a deep watering once a week is better than a light sprinkle daily.  You really want to lock that moisture in down deep.  The Kikuyu grass is a lot tougher and once established I shouldn’t have too much trouble with it and it shouldn’t need as much water, especially in winter when it becomes dormant.  So, I need to take advantage of the warmth of the autumn weather to bring some life back into the lawn before it gets too cold.

Gardena Oscillating Sprinkler ZoomMaxx

As the grass seed germinates make sure the soil stays moist, but don’t overwater. A sprinkler like the Gardena Oscillating Sprinkler ZoomMaxx can help control the direction of the spray so you don’t waste water sprinkling the path or the fence!

The first thing will be to level the bumps and digger tracks and try and get it nice and tennis court level again, and maybe use a fork to loosen areas that have become compacted.  Then it is a good idea water the soil well – so it is moist down to about 15 cm so the seeds we’ll sow in the gaps of bare earth or where it is brown and crispy, have a good chance of germination once raked in and the existing grass can find what it needs deep down.  We will need to bring out the sprinkler to make sure the surface of the lawn stays moist, although overwatering at this point can do more harm than good so little and often is a good idea while the seeds are germinating.   It wouldn’t hurt to feed the lawn to with lawn fertiliser at this time of year to nourish the plants, because we need to remember, the lawn is made up of plants and we wouldn’t treat the plants in the garden the way lawns get treated sometimes.  If we keep taking from them by mowing, then we need to give them something back.

Gardena robot lawnmower

One day soon we can extend Neville’s run to include the back lawn too.

All going well we will have a lawn to be proud of next summer.  A lawn to picnic on and play tennis, with the scent of fresh cut grass filling the air.

Come again soon – autumn is a busy season in its own right!

Sarah the Gardener : o)

Finding Peace in a Garden

This weekend I was in Melbourne and for me one of the highlights was to be exploring every inch of the Royal Botanic Gardens, with the long suffering Hubby the Un-Gardener in tow.  It was an incredible day.  The sky was blue with not a cloud to be seen with a gentle breeze to ward of the heat of the day.  Although the air resonated with a constant buzz – the sounds of the nearby Formula 1 racing, it somehow didn’t detract from the ambiance of the gardens themselves.

Royal Botanic Gardens, Melbourne

The Royal Botanic Gardens are a peaceful haven, in the centre of such a vibrant city.

The gardens were a short walk from our hotel and immediately on entering the Queen Victoria Garden end, there was a huge sense of peace that conveyed a feeling of hushed tones that you would expect from a library.  The magnificent trees had begun shedding their leaves for the autumn and the lawns were a carpet of green grass and brown leaves.  The fountains and waterfalls tinkled and gushed adding to the ambiance.  And dotted about throughout the gardens where people, soaking in the sun, or sheltering in the shade, reading quietly or listening silently through earphones.  Couples in casual embrace and families having picnics punctuated the gardens with life beyond what the plants could provide.   It was a lovely feeling.

leaves on grass

A carpet of fallen leaves stand out on the vibrant green of the grass

As much as I would have loved to linger there, I was keen to see plant collections in the heart of the Royal Gardens I had heard so much about.  And I wasn’t disappointed.  Around every corner was a sight worth capturing – I’d say on film as it sounds so much more poetic, however I snapped away, filling my digital memory with a multitude of pixels.  There were plants I’d never seen before and ones that were shown off in a new light.  I was in my element.

Tea and scones

Tea and scones, the perfect lunch in a garden

After several hours of intentional aimless wandering, our hunger made itself known through increasing rumbles and it was a relief to stumble upon the café in the centre of the garden.  While Hubby the Un-Gardener was ordering the tea and scones that seemed like the perfect sustenance to have in a garden, I made a quick check to see what the increasingly frequent notifications I had been receiving were all about.  It was at this point we were completely dumbfounded by what was unfolding back home in our little corner of the world.   It is hard to comprehend that something so horrendous could happen there.   The unwelcome hate and ugliness of the world has entered our safe haven and caused harm to the very fabric of our nation.  My heart breaks for the communities directly affected by it.  They should have been safe and free to pray and worship, because this is the kind of place we have and the kind of people we are.  Our national anthem, sung with pride carries the words:

“Men of every creed and race
gather here before thy face,
asking thee to bless this place

God defend our free land
from dissension, envy, hate…”

So, it was with shocked and broken hearts, we returned to the gardens, seeking peace and solace.

old oak tree

May light shine through the darkness

There are no more words to even comprehend this tragedy and all I can do is continue to pray.

Sarah the Gardener  : o(

Protecting the autumn seedlings

At this time of year, it is important to get the seeds of the new winter season off to a good start while the soil is still warm.  But there is a bit of a problem with this.  The majority of the seedlings that will grow well over the winter months are brassicas.  They generally do better than then their summer compatriots as they are un-harried by the cabbage white butterfly as the cool conditions don’t suit their tender bits.   It is so refreshing to harvest a broccoli in the winter without spending ages picking out the extra protein and then eating with caution – not that you tell the family…  “Eat ya greens, its good for you!”

Netting cover to protect seedlings

I must admit to a bit of procrastination when it came to sowing my seeds. I was worried the brassicas would get decimated by the Cabbage White Butterflies still flitting about and needed to come up with a plan to protect them.

However, in these early days the butterflies are still flitting about as it is still warm enough for them and just one egg laid on a vulnerable seedling can grow into a caterpillar that can demolish the seedling in just a few days.  But the butterflies don’t just stop with one egg per plant, your poor brassica seedling finds itself food for many, long before it becomes food for you.

I have struggled with this problem for years.  I have used cake nets, kept seedlings indoors until the last moment.  I did regular check and squish inspections.  I’ve liberally sprinkled derris dust and I’ve been at my wits end.

Cabbage White Butterfly

Not on my watch buddy! There are too many of these Cabbage White Butterflies floating about for my liking.

The other problem at this time of year it is still too hot for tender seedlings in conditions where there is no rain and so the potential to fry seedlings in a moment’s inattention after weeks of tender care is huge.  The only really upside to starting from seed at this time of year is things grow so much quicker than in spring so there is less of the ‘will they germinate’ angst and they appear long before you consider giving the soil a bit of a poke to see what is going on.  And of course the obvious…  you get things to eat mid-winter!

Now in my new garden I have the luxury of a nursery bed, one to grow these autumn seedlings beyond the confines of pots, taking advantage of the moisture deep in the soil and reducing the risk of pots drying out.  I’ve always wanted one and am excited to have it.  The soil is low nutrient as the seedlings don’t really need a heavy rich soil.  What that means is I haven’t added compost and well-rotted manure or anything, but I may tickle it with a little bit of something, so it isn’t completely devoid of nutrients – other that what is in the soil.  And it is fully irrigated, so the seedlings can have their thirst quenched easily.

Safe seedlings

Now my seedlings are safe from harm, and the added advantage is the heavy netting will help shade them to stop the worst of the lingering heat from frying them and by planted in the soil they have great access to moisture than they would in seed trays and pots.

So, I was all set to go with the seeds, but the butterfly conundrum held me back…  and I gave the problem a lot of thought.  I did buy a tunnel house to protect the seedlings, but it was too small for the bed, so space was wasted and it created gaps around the irrigation tubes, and I caught a butterfly in there and the few seedlings I was trying to protect ended up with holes in their leaves.

Then I came up with a crazy plan, that actually worked!  I’m so pleased and now I can sow my seeds knowing not only are the seedlings safe from ravenous green creatures and are protected from the heat of the midday sun.

This is what I did:

Come again soon – the seeds are in and the will come alive once again.

Sarah the Gardener  : o)

NB:  clicking on the images will give step by step instructions.

Well autumn aye?!

I always find this a strange turn of seasons. Especially because the transition is so vague. Spring is cut and dried. We are so over winter that we are happy to declare the 1st of September the first day of spring no matter how freezing and miserable it is. It is spring people and we just need to wrap up warm and get on with it. Embrace the cold, it won’t be like that for much longer. We are braver in spring. Each climbing degree is cause for celebration. Each slightly later sunset is a glimmer of hope. We get out there and do stuff because the growing season is upon us.

Pumpkins

Orange seems to be the predominant colour of the autumn season – that and the pale grey of powdery mildew!

At the other end of the growing season there is a reluctance for it to end. Summer just flashed by in the blink of an eye, surely, we aren’t ready to enter the slippery slope down to the chill of winter again. I’ve only just warmed up. Well to be fair, I’ve overcooked. It was a hot summer and despite good intentions, I didn’t do as much as I wanted to do because it was too hot. The season we long for all year turns out to be just as unbearable at times as the one we loath. We just lie to ourselves because summer is better than winter, right?!

Cucumber

The lush growth that once flourished across the garden has taken up an air of fatigue.

In autumn we aren’t as brave as we are in spring. The temperatures drop a couple of degrees and suddenly it is too cold. I saw someone say on social media the other day “apparently 21ᵒC is the new freezing!” Six months ago, I would have contemplated going swimming in temperatures like that. (I say contemplate loosely) and now I find I’m reaching for socks and complaining it is really too cold to do anything in the garden, not until it warms up a little.

empty beds

At this point in the season this is a common sight… beds bereft of their once verdant crops and soil dry from a season of giving.

Summer makes you soft! Well it makes me soft. I don’t feel as fit as I did in the spring either. The garden doesn’t actually require much physical work like digging in the spring (which is just as well as it is too hot!) And the food is good, so good, the desire to over indulge in another heaping bowl of fresh tomato pasta with homegrown onions and garlic and fresh basil and a cheeky glass of red to go with. To not eat the glut would be wasteful, but it turns out eating the glut can full the waist!

Basil

Ahhh Basil, the seasoning of summer

So here we are in this weird twilight of a season and I wonder if I wasn’t such a gardener, ruled by the seasons would I notice the change had occurred at all? Or has it? You see the weather hasn’t really changed. The end of a heat wave made the normal weather for this time of year take on a decidedly autumnal feel, but the sky is still blue, and the days are still long. Or long enough for this weary body to not notice the sun going down is closer to bed time, or is bed time getting closer to the sun going down? Who knows?! The days are still hot, most of the time – the afternoons can be positively sweaty!

Watermelon

And yet some plants carry on regardless of what the season is doing, so long as its needs are being met. This watermelon clearly didn’t get the memo the seasons have changed.

And to make matters worse there is confusion as to when this change over happens. By the meteorological calendar the seasons change every three months on the 1st and for my control freakery in the garden this is perfect. But astronomically we are still in summer for another couple of weeks – Yay! But you can’t really have your bread buttered on both sides – can you? Start spring by the calendar and end it on the equinox? I suppose I could. It would help to ease my angst at all the gardeners in the northern hemisphere counting away my growing season as they countdown to their spring. They are very valiant sticking to their guns and holding out for the later astronomical spring start. I don’t have that kind of self-control!

Broad bean cover crop

But all is not lost, the broad bean cover crop is emerging from the dusty soil bringing with it a promise of something good ahead. (But not the beans themselves as they aren’t all that nice!)

But whatever season we are in, the garden is calling out to me to make a few changes and get it ready for the months to come. There is something in the air that makes this window of transition subtly noticeable, and as a gardener, in nature most days you become attuned to it. Like when you notice your best friend has changed her perfume or has a new pair of shoes. And I wouldn’t have it any other way. For all you non-gardeners out there who barely notice the seasons: “The end is nigh!”

Come again soon – things are come out and things are going in.

Sarah the Gardener : o)

Cycle Three

Finally, we are at the end of my plans for the future of the garden.  It will be such a relief not to have to think about it ever again.  I have my notes and can refer to them each autumn and know exactly where I stand.  Of course, there will be tweaking and changes going forward, especially when I find out how these summer crops linger in a frost free winter.  Unless last winter was a one off and we get hit with a multitude of frosts from April to October!

Garden plan

The final crop rotation cycle is laid out and easy to read.

CROP ROTATION CYCLE THREE

Bed 16:  was carrots and root crops – will be garlic

As I discovered in my original ponderings around this whole crop rotation conundrum, my carrots may be problematic for my early garlic.  I have toyed with the idea since of moving the seedlings across now while they are small, but they hate being transplanted and at this time of year stopping them frying while they re-establish will require constant attention.  Or do I just sow more in the new place now anyway.  But then my parsnips will need to be relocated before the early garlic unless – I leave them both there for the moment and make one more attempt at mid-winter garlic once they are gone and worry about this problem next winter.  That buys me a couple more months for them to mature and be eaten before the spot is needed.  You never know the mid-winter garlic might just work this time.  Or I could start the ones to go in the gap into pots…  that worked last season when I didn’t have a garden.  Hmmm options, options, options.

  • Winter: Before April, empty and eat the crops in the bed and re-enrich the soil and plant early garlic and possibly plant normal garlic midwinter in the problem carrot and parsnip spot.
  • Spring: Just weed, feed and water until the harvest is ready.
Parsnip

Oh my poor parsnip. I may just need to put them into a different bed where they won’t be hurried. There is nothing like a parsnip mash or roasted parsnip in the dead of winter.

Bed 17:  was potato – will be carrots and root crops

I still have half a bed of spuds tucked beneath the soil but only because I didn’t know how I was going to store them.  But on my last trip to the supermarket on the weekend, I saw they had brown paper bags for 20 cents to replace the now banned plastic bags, so a bought a load, much to the bemusement of the checkout ladies when I wouldn’t let them pack my groceries into them.  So now I can dig up the spuds, clearing the way for carrots.

  • Winter: Well – from now, like a carrot fanatic I need to sieve the rows they will be in and revitalise with a meagre handful of blood and bone. And then sow more carrots.  For the rest of the bed I can dig over and add compost and other goodies and sow beetroot, fennel and parsnip.  I’ll start the beetroot and fennel in my nursery bed where I’ll be able to have a closer control over them and all the other winter seedlings.
  • Spring: Come spring I’ll sow a new row of fennel and I’ll continue to succession sow carrots and beetroot.
Potatoes in paper bags

The potatoes should store nicely in the paper bags – away from the light, with the added advantage of seeing at a glance what they are good for so I can make wise choices when cooking my spuds.

Bed 18:  was beans – will be potatoes

Potatoes normally go in around Sept 16 – 100 days until Christmas for those lovely spuds perfect for the festive table.  But I have found I can plant them all year round here. Last year I grew them in containers.  So, I think I’ll pop in a few into containers now to keep them going and if it gets cold, I’ll bring them under cover.  But for now, the bed has beans.  I’m not all that partial to fresh green beans but just found out one of my kids loves them and so I must try better as I’ve sort of denied him all but a taster for the first 13 years of his life.  But for the most part the bed is filled with kidney beans and other dried beans that we use a lot in the winter and they are at the point the pods are beginning to turn so it won’t be much longer and then probably a mustard cover crop to sort out the soil in preparation for the spuds – apparently it can help with wireworm, not that I have it but it would be a good practice to get into to keep my spuds safe should they turn up in the future.

  • Winter: So, I’ll be sowing and digging in a mustard cover crop for the benefit of my spuds.
  • Spring: Then once all the lovely nutrients from the cover crop have rotted down and been incorporated into the soil, I plant my spuds.
Kidney beans

I’m started to pick the beans as they dry, rather than wait until they are all dry, otherwise the pods will pop open and fling them far and wide. This is a lesson learnt the hard way from previous seasons.

Bed 19:  was leafy greens – will be beans

In the nursery bed I’ll pop in some more spinach and Asian greens in the hopes of getting to eat them before they bolt and then put them into the current leafy green bed.  There is no point moving anything before then as the rainbow beet, the celery and celeriac will go all winter and the beans don’t like soil temperatures colder than 18C so for now things stay the same.

  • Winter: Just continue to weed and feed.  Hopefully nature will take care of the watering and all we need to do is to eat our fill of lovely leafy greens.
  • Spring: At some point there will be a small window where things need to come out in time for the beans and so the bed will get a tickle with compost and other goodies to refresh it for the beans.
Celeriac

Maybe the celeriac will take off once the rain becomes a more frequent visitor. The best crop I had of this was the year it rained all summer long!

Bed 20:  was cucumbers – will be leafy greens

I still have cucumbers doing their thing with no signs of stopping, although the gherkins are getting a bit much – there are only so many you can pickle before the larder is full.   But while they are still going, I’ll continue to make the most of them and eventually they’ll die of exhaustion and I can prepare the ground for the leafy greens.  Probably with a lovely nitrogen rich lupin cover crop.

  • Winter: Remove the cucumbers when the time is right and sow lupin.
  • Spring: Dig in the lupin with enough time for it to breakdown in the soil for the leafy greens.  They don’t need it to be really warm like other summer crops and so can go in sometime in early spring.
Lemon cucumber

I love growing lemon cucumbers, they don’t tend to get bitter like other cucumbers can.

Bed 21:  was garlic – will be cucumbers

This bed currently has the 4th corn crop and if I have my timings right, I should get a lovely harvest of Painted Mountain Corn before it gets too cold and without any cross pollination from the other corns I’ve grown.   I did give the bed a bit of love with compost and some other goodies between the corn and garlic, but it wouldn’t hurt to put a lupin cover crop to rejuvenate the soil for the cucumbers after so many heavy feeding crops.

  • Winter: Once the corn is finished sow lupin and dig in before it flowers.
  • Spring: Sow cucumbers and gherkins.
Painted mountain corn

The Painted mountain corn is the last of the 4 corns I have grown this summer. I just hope there is enough time for it to mature and dry on the plant. Fingers crossed.

And there you have it!   But I can’t sit around all day admiring my handy work, I have things to do and seeds to sow and crops to harvest.  I don’t expect I’ll be short of things to do this winter.

Garden beds

The final row in the garden crop rotation cycle. It is lovely to see beds full of life when not so long ago there was nothing here at all!

Come again soon – Autumn starts in a couple of days.

Sarah the Gardener  : o)

Cycle Two

Following on from my deep and slightly obsessive thoughts about my winter crop rotation, today we are looking at cycle two.  This is the biggest one as there are no permanent unmoveable crops in this group.  So, it will be seven years before anyone is back where they started.  No chance for disease to build up or certain nutrients to become exhausted to the point of depletion!  Overkill I know, but just by moving the sign one spot to the right once a year saves a lot of headaches.

Garden beds

This is the group of garden beds with the longest crop rotation cycle.

For the in between mid-winter period for many of these beds, the window of time for doing much more than just adding well-rotted manure and compost is the best that can be done.  Ideally, I’d love to grow cover crops on all the beds to keep the garden feeling alive and doing good at the same time, but it just isn’t practical.

Crop rotation plan

As a visual creature, as soon as I dropped the details into the graphic it all became clear. Prior to doing this I would go and stand in the middle of the garden to do my thinking!

But one of the things I like to try and squeeze in over the winter is wheat, not so much as a cover crop, although it will lock in nutrients and therefore prevent them from leaching out in the winter rains, but to harvest and dry the straw to use a mulch.  While this will eventually return nutrients to the soil, at the point of harvest – but especially if the straw is laid in a different bed, I will still need to enrich the beds before the next crop with well-rotted manure and compost and other goodies just as I would after harvesting a crop, which it is – in a way.

Wheat

I love growing wheat, aside from all the academic reasons, but they are so tactile and I love running my hands across the top of the crop.

CROP ROTATION CYCLE TWO

Bed 9:  was pepper – will be onion overflow

If we don’t get frosts, there is no knowing, at this point, how long the peppers will keep going as they are perennials.  Only time will tell.  But I am hoping they will carry on long enough for a good harvest, yet finish up midwinter for the onions to go in.  I may even just relocate them into their new bed as mature adults but having said that I like starting them from seed in spring – they are the first and it is a tradition….  But for now, I don’t know what I’ll do.

  • Winter: For this bed at some point before mid-winter the peppers will need to come out, the soil enriched and the red onions, shallots, elephant garlic and leeks will go in.
  • Spring: This then becomes an easy bed to just weed, feed and water all spring.
Peppers

I am looking forward to the mulato peppers as apparently the best way to enjoy them is dried and they are supposed to have a chocolatety hint. I have the dehydrator at the ready.

Bed 10: was sweetcorn – will be peppers

The sweetcorn is safely in the freezer ready to bring sunshine to a winter day and the bed has been planted with all my excess broad bean seeds.  I only grow a couple, because I don’t like them that much, but as a legume it just made sense not to waste the rest of them in the packet and I’ll dig them in before they flower.  Hopefully this will be before I relocate mature peppers if necessary or at a more leisurely pace in later on.  Next year, because there is such a huge gap between the sweetcorn and the peppers it makes sense to grow wheat here instead.

  • Winter: I’ll be digging in broad beans and I may be planting peppers.
  • Spring: I’ll probably still sow pepper seeds, in case something goes horribly wrong.  If I don’t need them, I can give them away.
broad bean

The first broad bean acting as a cover crop in a waste not want not way has made its appearance.

Bed 11:  was melons – will be sweetcorn

This bed is currently maturing some rather large watermelons and producing what seems to be an abundance of rock and honeydew melons.  But I’d say there are only a couple of weeks left in this bed before the melons are gobbled up and it gets cleared away.

  • Winter: As the sweetcorn is in a tight schedule for my ambitions to grow 4 different types of corn over the growing season, but there is a fairly long winter window between the melons and the corn, I need to act straight away to get something planted when the last melon is harvested. I was toying with the idea of growing lupin because the sweetcorn is such a tall and hungry plant, but the opportunity to actually get some straw in the time available is too good to be missed.
  • Spring: The sweetcorn plants will be directly sown on Labour weekend at the end of October, so I need to harvest the wheat before then.  If it is still green, then I’ll just dig it in with nothing wasted.
Melons

The melons have gone crazy. I didn’t realise there were so many Honeydews hanging out with my Sugar Baby.

Bed 12:  was odds and sods – will be melons

I have some ordinary popcorn in here that had nicely dried on the plant and can be harvested today. The okra has only just taken off so I’m hoping for an Indian Summer so I can even see a harvest.  I do love a pickled okra.  The peanuts can be dug up when the leaves go yellow, but they are still a verdant shade of green and still flowering so who knows when that will be.  And at the end of this bed one of the eggplants is going strong and the other never really did well.  The frost is supposed to take them out.

  • Winter: It is most likely by winter things will have come to a natural end.  Then I’ll sow a cover crop – probably mustard as the peanuts are legumes and it is good not to do back to back crops in a good crop rotation cycle.
  • Spring: The melons don’t need to go in until things really warm up so there is no hurry preparing their soil.
Peanuts

The peanuts have gone nuts! There are only four plants in there. I’m hoping for good things.

Bed 13:  was salad – will be odds and sods

The salad succession was terrible.  I need to improve.  But as we wind down into autumn I want to try and get into the swing of things so will keep growing them for as long as I can.

  • Winter: Once it gets to a point where it seems like a good time to stop growing them, then I’ll probably go for a nice thick addition of well-rotted manure to prepare the ground for the odds and sods
  • Spring: The ordinary popcorn will be sown from seed in early spring so it can go out as good-sized seedlings on Labour weekend in late October to fit in with the tight schedule from the 4 corns varieties I want to grow.  Other than that, the other seedlings will be started indoors in good time to get them in the ground around Labour Weekend.
Lettuce

I must to better with my salad succession. You really can’t beat some crisp lettuce on a sandwich chocked fill of other summer things like tomato, cucumber, beetroot, cheese, ham and a smear of hummus. I have really let the side down.

Bed 14:  was zucchini – will be salad

Powdery mildew has only just hit these plants and they are slowing down, but I have been making a lovely zucchini relish to make up for the lack of tomato relish that normally got us through the year bringing tomatoey joy until it was time to make it again.  They will get to a point as the weather cools where they aren’t producing enough, but without a frost, I don’t know when that will be.  But they will be whipped out at some point in the winter.

  • Winter: The plants will need to be taken out, hopefully not while still productive as I need to swap over the salad succession planting into their new season home to make way for the soil prep for the odds and sods.
  • Spring: I will continue to attempt to get a successful succession of salad crops across the entire growing season.
Zucchini

I have no idea how long the zucchini will keep going, but I’m looking forward to finding out.

Bed 15:  was onion overflow – will be zucchini

The final bed in this crop rotation is moving the zucchini to the where the onions were – but this is also where the leeks are still lingering and so I will need to seek out as many different ways to eat leeks to ensure they are gone before we need the bed in late October.

  • Winter: There won’t be time to put in a cover crop between the leeks and the zukes so it will most likely need to be an enriching with well-rotted manure and a bit of a dig.  Having said that, the leeks are only taking up half the bed so it makes sense to fill it with something and why not with wheat, so I have even more mulch to spread around the garden.  I’ll need to get onto that straight away.
  • Spring: Once the leeks are gone and the wheat harvested, I’ll need to spread the manure and compost prior to the zucchini being planted.  Nothing like a bit of a dig in the crisp spring air to feel alive!
leeks

The leeks are only taking up half of the bed so it makes perfect sense to utilise the other half with something useful.

And that is the plan for the middle row of the garden.  It would seem the worms have their work cut out for them dragging all that well rotted manure deep into the soil.  But rather them than me!  There is just one last group that needs to be discussed and then I can throw myself into the new season that is just days away.

Come again soon – to find out how I solved my carrot conundrum.

Sarah the Gardener : o)

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