SARAH THE GARDENER

Final Stages of Spring

With less than a week left of spring, it is pretty much safe to say the garden is all but done.  There are a few bits and pieces left to do, like sort out the flowers – but they don’t really count and only one of the Cannellino beans came up and that just won’t do.  You can’t survive the winter on the heart-warming minestrone soups with the nutty taste of a cannollino bean from the produce of just one plant.  So, I have to poke a few extra seeds in.  Aside from these simple tasks, the garden can be called done.

Corn seedlings

And with the planting of the corn comes a sigh of relief – the garden is in!

It is a satisfying feeling to wander among the beds and see the plants really begin to come into their own and begin to fill the space.  In particular the corn bed.  Those poor seedlings have been waiting quite some time to be liberated from their small pots.  And with their planting the garden can be called done.

Repotting

Now the garden is sorted I can turn my attention to the plants that are destined to spend the foreseeable future in pots.

The herb bed is looking lush as the annuals make themselves at home among the permanent residents.  I should probably pop in a few coriander seeds as the others will go to seed soon as this temperature rises.

The leafy greens and cucumbers, zucchini and pumpkins have noticeably grown in the last week alone.  Before we know it, the cucumbers and gherkins will scramble up the netting, like the peas have done.  It is amazing how tall the tall peas can get.  It won’t be long before there will be peas there – possibly for Christmas.

Take care of small weeds with a good forK

As soon as you turn your back, small weeds quickly appear and in no time will be big weeds and a big job. Dragging a good fork through the soil surface uproots these tiny weeds and also prevents a sun baked hardening of the surface of the soil, which can make it difficult for water to penetrate deep down. And it is a quick job that only takes a moment.

The early Hunter River White Onions are beginning to fall over, meaning they are ready, and the Pukekohe Longkeepers are bulbing up nicely.  The garlic still has rust, and I’m at the point where I’m just going to live with it until the bitter end and hope for the best.  It seems like a race, as early one variety looked like it was doing well, only to be surpassed by another.  The proof will be in the harvest, so I will reserve judgement until the sorry day when I dig it up.

Tying in Tomatoes

It is important to be careful when tying in tomatoes – use a soft tie for the job so it won’t cut into the stem. I also twist if a couple of times between the stem and wire to avoid rubbing.

The tomatoes are now tall enough to tie into the first rung.  It really feels like they are no longer babies and are independently heading off to preschool, and bringing me home flowers to be proud of.  Although this metaphor doesn’t really work well as they aren’t really expressing their independence as I am restraining them to a wire so they will do what I want them to do.

Cutting straw for mulch

I maybe crazy but after several seasons of doing this – these snips are the best tool for the job that I have found so far!

The wheat I harvested out of the now zucchini bed has dried nicely and I’ve been chopping it into manageable lengths so I can position it easily around the strawberries.  This is no mean feat and I have had to break it up into short periods, because I’m doing it in the greenhouse as that is where all the wheat is, and it gets pretty hot in there.  And the other thing,  I am so grateful for the right tool for the job.  I’ve done this before with secateurs, but as the bottom blade isn’t so much a blade, but in this instance a ‘mashing’ tool.  It gets the job done, but not well.  Ordinary scissors work well but when used repetitively to open and close the blade can lead to a bit of an ache in the hand.  My favourite ones come as part of a Gardena Garden Tool Kit and have a satisfying snip and an amazing little spring between the blades taking the effort out of my hands.  Then of course we have to remember that I am probably the only gardener crazy enough to manually cut up 5 square metres of straw mulch to please my strawberries.

Mulched Strawberries

The strawberries look cosy with their new mulch and we should get clean strawberries from now on that don’t require wiping on your shirt before popping them in your mouth.

Now I can take my mind off the garden itself my focus has shifted to my plants in pots.  I have way more of these than I normally do.  But because we will be moving, I want to be able to see the harvest from certain crops, so they have found their way into containers, so they can come with me to the new place.  They don’t take up much room right now, but need to be transferred into bigger pots so they can comfortably see out the season. Container plants require a lot of extra attention, compared to in ground plants.  They are completely dependent on me for food and water.  Historically I haven’t been good at this and most container plants end up in a withered sorry state, and barely make it to the end of the season, before expiring of neglect.  But these ones are supposed to be keepers so I have to lift my game.

Gardena Garden Tool Kit

With an empty greenhouse, all the activity of the last few months has come to an end and all that is left is to clean up.

There is a bizarre sense of completion at this early stage of the garden’s life.  As I look around and see order and control across the garden, a few areas call my attention.  All that is really left for me to do aside from weeding, watering and regular feeding, is start the end of season spring clean.  I need to wash all the pots, tidy the shed where the detritus of spring has been carelessly discarded, with the good intentions of sorting it out later.  The greenhouse is completely bare now and devoid of plants.  It is too hot in there now for plants to thrive, and besides outside is more than adequate for the things I have growing on.  So all that is left to do in there is to sweep it up.

Come again soon – there is still plenty to do as we move into summer – just different to what I’ve been doing up until now.

Sarah the Gardener  : o)

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New cordial from old strawberries

It might sound sacrilegious this early in the season, but I found myself with a rather large bowl of strawberries in the back of the fridge. I had harvested a mountain of berries before heading out for the evening and with the intention of doing something with them the next day, like slicing them with my egg slicers and marinating them in mint and a sprinkle of sugar to go over ice cream.  But the next day came and went, I got busy and completely forgot about them.

strawberries

Not the most glamorous bowl of strawberries

On rediscovering them in the back of the fridge, they had just passed that moment of being a delight to eat as you bite into fresh, firm, juicy strawberry goodness, and were now a bit soft and – not wanting to insult a fine fruit, but they were a bit rubbery.  But all that strawberry deliciousness was still trapped inside and crying out for some kind of treatment that would not only render them edible but amazing as well.

Add water to the berries

Add water to the berries

The logical choice is jam, and there was enough to make maybe a half dozen jars of ruby red gorgeousness that would have gone perfectly with a well baked scone and a big blob of whipped cream.  However our cupboard is still a bit chockka with jam from last season and it isn’t the kind of thing I want the kids to ‘hurry up and eat’ so I can make room for more.  Veggies in the freezer – yes.  Jam in the cupboard – no.

Bring to the boil

Bring to the boil

In a deep and meaningful discussion with Hubby the Un-Gardener we decided to look ahead towards Christmas and create a strawberry cordial to lace our Christmas day bubbly with.  I can almost taste it now, which is now a tad frustrating as I have to wait over a month to release that essence of redeemed berry as pride of place on the festive table.

Strain the berry mixture

After adding the sugar and lemon juice, strain the mixture through cheesecloth or a jelly bag.

It is quite an easy recipe and well worth it.   I had 700 grams of berries, and got 1 litre of cordial and some pulpy loveliness that may go well dehydrated, frozen or poured over ice cream – I have yet to decide.   So I’ll knock the recipe back to 100 grams of strawberries so it is easier to adjust.

Don't squeeze the bag

Don’t squeeze the bag – unless you wan’t every last drop and don’t mind it a bit cloudy.

  • Take 100g of strawberries and remove the stalks and wash.
  • Put in a pot with 100g of water and bring to the boil.
  • Mash or blitz – I blitzed because I didn’t want to lose a drop of goodness.
  • Leave to cool
  • Add 100g sugar and the juice of a lemon and dissolve the sugar.
  • Strain through a Jelly bag. If you squeeze it – it will be cloudy.  I have to confess I squeezed the bag once I got the first litre off – so I had enough to fill another bottle – albeit a small bottle because I didn’t want to miss a morsel.
  • Pour into sterile bottles.
  • The high sugar content will help preserve it but if you want to keep it for a longer period then you may want to further process it in your favourite way.
Strawberry cordial

And now we wait. This will be a delight to enjoy on Christmas day.

Come again soon – the sun has been shining and the garden has been calling to me to come out and play.

Sarah the Gardener  : o)

Black and white

This week, to distract myself from the chaos in my world right now, I took part in the 7 day black and white challenge on my personal Facebook page.  But once it was complete and I saw the collection I though I just had to share it here.  The rules were:  7 Days, 7 photos of my life in black and white. No people. No explanations. 1 nomination a day.

So without any further words – this was my week.

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Come again soon – there are still loads of little jobs about the garden that need tending to.

Sarah the Gardener : o)

 

 

For Sale:  Much loved garden…  with house attached.

This is a bitter sweet moment for me.  I love my garden, but life has a habit of creating change.

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Ten years ago we were living in the heart of Auckland city with a tiny house – the perfect kind for the first rung on the property ladder.  We had two tiny boys and I was recently diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis.  We decided we couldn’t stay there, it made sense to move.  And so, with nervous trepidation we sold up and moved to the country.

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This property ticked everything on the wish list – flat land for a garden, a big enough house for the boys to grow into, great water pressure, its own water supply and so much more.  We felt so grown up moving to a home with a ensuite bathroom and walk in wardrobe.  The only thing it didn’t have was the sea views that Hubby the Un-Gardener has longed for since before I even knew him.  But there were dolphin tiles in the bathroom and that was a good enough sea view for me so I ticked that box too!  We have since renovated the bathroom to a more modern style and so the ‘sea view’ was erased.  To satisfy Hubby the Un-Gardeners wants from life I agreed we would look at moving again in 10 years to a more coastal property.

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But I didn’t know then what I know now, I had no idea how my garden would grow and become part of my life story.  Like the miller’s daughter in the fairy story Rumpelstiltskin, I quickly forgot my promise and time is up and Hubby the Un-Gardener has reminded me of it and I have to give up my garden.    I love my garden beyond measure.  I love that it has provided me with wonderful food – some things I never knew existed, others I never want to try again.  It has helped to restore my health, through a good fresh whole food diet, good exercise, being in the sun absorbing all the vitamin D that is healing to an MSsy body.  But is also gave me a career where one wasn’t possible in the ordinary sense.  Because of the garden I have written three books and won an award as a public speaker.  I’ve been on radio and TV numerous times. A career as a garden writer fits in so nicely around everything I have going on.  Back then I would have never seen it coming.

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The garden has humbly grown from a few small in ground beds to 36 well organised raised beds that are completely sustainable for our family to meet our vegetable needs.  We eat like kings.  I have found a way to manage such a large garden with minimal effort, and Hubby the Un-Gardener helping with the digging and heavy lifting.

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The house itself has served us well, and I love living here.  But a promise is a promise and with much reluctance, our house was listed on the market today.   I am extremely grateful for the wonderful photos and drone videos taken of the property for the marketing of it.  It is something I will always have – a moment in time when my garden was looking its absolute best after 10 years hard work.

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But in the words of that great song Closing Time by Semisonic, “Every new beginning comes from some other beginning’s end.”  And there will be a new beginning – a new garden.  An even better garden, built on the experiences of this garden, all the “I wish I’d done that differently” will be rectified.  It will be magnificent, and I’d love to take you with me into this new journey.  I can’t say much about the new until we sell the old, but hopefully that will be very soon.

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Come again soon – I’ll keep you updated as we ride this emotionally challenging wave down to the coast, but in the meantime we will garden on until the last possible moment.

Sarah the Gardener  : o)

Check out here to view the listing and video:  https://www.barfoot.co.nz/607476 Someone will be very happy here, just like we have been.

You can’t beat a good mulch

Sometimes you know you need something, but just can’t have it.   So you try your best to make do and manage with what you can, but once you get your hands on something of quality then nothing else will do and then you make a way.   This could apply to many things in the garden and the amount of times I’m made do with inferior tools only to find expensive things cost more for a reason – they are just better and don’t break as easily and the job at hand is more pleasurable to do and is less of a struggle.  Spending a bit more on something long term like a good spade or a stronger greenhouse makes sense.  They will last a long time and you enjoy taking care of them because they cost so much, but they become like old friends that you wouldn’t want to be without.

Straw mulch

Growing wheat over the winter can provide interest from the landscape point of view – it can also provide interest for Fennel the Cat.  

But there are other things in the garden that can put demands on the purse strings and for the less tangible it seems difficult to justify spending much on what can seem like a temporary item, especially when you need a lot of it.   This is my problem with mulch.

I understand the benefits of mulch – it keeps the weeds down and locks in the moisture, and the right mulch can add organic material back to the soil and help improve the long term health of the garden.  But….  When you have a garden as big as mine it is all very well in theory.   So I’ve been a little creative in the past.

Pea straw mulch

The pea straw mulch is a bit thin on the ground.

I paid a lot of money for a big bag of pea straw that was as light as a feather – but I was desperate – I wanted to mulch my garlic to help prevent the rust fungal spores from splashing up from the soil onto my plants.  It didn’t work – my mulch wasn’t thick enough and I didn’t like it enough for my wallet to like it enough too!  Several months down the track the pea straw is really thin on the ground, much has blown away and it is looking a tad threadbare as the earth pokes through in more places than are generously covered.

Asparagus mulch

In hindsight I’m not sure mulching the asparagus with itself was a good idea… it did keep the weeds down though.

I mulched the asparagus with its own trimmings in the winter, and it must have worked as the beds stayed weed free… well mostly, there were one or two.  Although I still wonder if it is wise to mulch something with itself, in case there were pests or diseases hanging in there. What if all I’ve done is given them a nice place to live over the winter, close to their favourite food joint?

Straw mulch

The strawberries will love this mulch

I grow my own wheat from the chicken food – not for the wheat, but for the straw – to go under my strawberries.  This works well as it keeps a bed active over the winter like a cover crop, gives a nice view of something green when not a lot else is growing, and well, it just seems like the right thing to do to mulch strawberries with straw.

Christmas tree mulch

The Christmas tree makes an excellent mulch for the blueberries

I even use the old Christmas tree to mulch my blueberries!  They seem to really like that, judging by the amount of berries fattening up on the bushes this season.

Fiber Earth Mulch

Fiber Earth Mulch has a feel that you know it has to be good for the garden

So when I was approached by the good people at Fiber Earth to see if I wanted to try out a bag of their new Lucerne mulch I jumped at the chance.   I wasn’t sure how far a bag would go in my huge garden, but some mulch was better than no mulch.   Opening the bag revealed a couple of surprises.  Firstly – the bag was sealed in a way that upon opening changed it from a dense solid block to a mountain of fluffy mulch.  Fortunately I opened it in my wee trolley that I had used to drag the bag into the garden, so I didn’t lose a drop.

Fiber Earth Mulch

The mulch goes down so easily

The second thing was it was light, soft and fluffy and had a lovely sweet scent from the fermentation process.  You could just tell it was going to be good for the garden.  It went down on to the garden so easily and once in place it stayed in place.  I carefully mulched around the onions in the main garden and then stood back and did nothing for months.  There was nothing to weed and the onions grew steadily in their cosy mulched bed.

Mulchless onions

My Mulchless onions haven’t fared as well.

The mulchless onions in my overflow bed unfortunately didn’t benefit from the same treatment, and comparing the two – I think they flew into a jealous rage.  They don’t seem to have thrived as well – they certainly aren’t as advanced as the other onions and they have been on the weeding schedule as there have been all manner of interloper trying to claim squatters rights in that bed.

onion

And now I have some big fat onions almost ready to be harvested.

So once again sometimes, somethings benefit from having the right product for the job, and I am extremely grateful to Fibre Earth for drawing my attention to something I had been looking for, for a long time, but never found anything that worked how I wanted it to.  I think this will be a must have in my garden from now on and my soil will thank me for it.

Come again soon – now the garden is in control, mostly, I can focus on other things.

Sarah the Gardener  : o)

For more information check out:  https://fiberearth.co.nz/

Almost there

I think this is as close as I will get to a Did…Dah…  moment.  There are still a few empty beds, but I’m working on it.  The grass is cut, most of the plants are in, it hasn’t rained in ages and the boffins were wrong about the rain this Saturday – it completely bypassed us.  Just as well I chose to ignore them.  However I am a fair weather friend and when they suggest there will be no rain for the next 8 days I will embrace it as fact!

Hanging baskets

It is so lovely to have warm balmy late afternoons pottering about in the garden – I even made some hanging baskets for around the house.

If this is so, then I will need to get the full irrigation system up and running, as the soil is looking a little on the dry side.  This is great indicator that summer days are just around the corner.  With the watering taken care of, I will be able to fall into the gentle ebb and flow of weeding and waiting, as the real harvest is still a little way off.  I am looking forward to this time, as I feel I have worked really hard to get to where we are today.

Fennel the Cat

Fennel the Cat, my garden buddy loves hanging out with me in the garden, and I love having her join me.

As my garden is a little on the large side the best way to see it is to come on a tour.  So join me as a do a grand review and show you everything that is going on in my garden.  I think it will be a fab season in the garden this year.

Come again soon – there are still a few plants needing bigger pots and I need take care of the moisture I apply to the beds.

Sarah the Gardener  : o)

 

 

Something to eat

These days I tend to fall into the bed at the end of the day exhausted.  I have been working hard.  The spring has not been kind to me, but together we fall in to rhythm that seems to work well for both of us.  Spring rains heavily leaving me pretty much locked out of the garden while I wait for the soil to dry out enough to work without damaging the soil structure.   This normally takes about a week – but as we get closer to the summer it seems to drain quicker and now, depending on the size of the deluge, it only takes about 4 – 5 days compared to the previous downpours in early spring which could take 7 – 10 days.

Peas

Finally after a hit and miss start to the season, there are fresh peas to be had in my garden. They are so sweet and delicious and I have missed them very much!

Beetroot

I think it is safe to say this beetroot is ready. But how will I eat it? raw in a salad? Pickled? Roasted or thinly sliced and baked into chips? hmmm too many choices. I like to grow the cylindra variety so it doesn’t get so fat that is won’t fit into a pickle jar!

Carrots

I still have autumn carrots that desperately need eating, and I should probably pop in a new row to ensure I have a constant supply. It’s on the list.

Asparagus

I still get a wee skip in my step as I see more and more asparagus spears make their presence known, I seriously thought they were a gonna.

Once the soil is dry enough, I race out enthusiastically and work myself into a frenzy turning over soil to get a nice fluffy tilth from a heavy rain compacted earth.  I tend my seedlings out in the hardening off area and repot if necessary so they don’t become root bound in the waiting.  I mow the knee high grass and trim the edges.  And I rue the fact I have such a large garden and despair that I’ll ever get it weeded and prepared before the start of summer.  With one eye on the weather forecast and another on the work ahead, I probably push myself a little too hard.

Artichoke

These are another delightful sight as the weather has treated these perennials cruelly this year. But yet they soldier on and are still as delicious as ever!

Strawberries

The strawberries are starting to become the proper shape, unlike the mishapen ones from a still chilly few weeks ago, but it still isn’t quite warm enough yet as, while they taste good, aren’t quite as sweet as those lovely sun baked ones you get in early summer.

Rhubarb

While I could technically take this rhubarb stalk and make a small crumble, I don’t think I will – this plant has been through enough and needs time to recover. So I’ll just love it horticulturally and not with culinary love this season.

Onion

This could be storm damage as a result of last nights wind, or it could be the onion is ready as bent over stalks are a sure sign. That onion looks like it might be done…

And then the next lot of rain comes as a bit of a relief and drag my fatigued MSsy body back inside to sit out the next soaking and drying cycle.  By the time it is dry again I am restored, relaxed and ready to go again.   So I have come to appreciate the rhythm of nature, instead of fighting it, I’m working well with it.  And we must be doing something right because I’m starting to get things to eat.  Not a great abundance at this point but a harvest nonetheless.

Boysenberries

These are almost ready – but not quite. I know this for sure because I tried one! Sometimes it would be good if you could somehow taste test before buying plants. While these look amazing, the flavour is okish… but not in the super delish category.

Blueberries

Soon my pretties! I’ve had so many blueberries before. I must have found their sweet spot!

Pepper flowers

It won’t be edible for a while, but it is always great to see peppers in flower.

Tomato flowers

A sign of yummy things to come. The tomatoes are beginning to flower. Hooray.

Come again soon – I am so close to having everything planted out, that I’d like to do a big picture reveal and show you the garden in its entirety.

Sarah the Gardener  : o)

Finer Details

The garden is coming along nicely, but don’t feel like I am in a position to stand back and look at it as a whole.  It just overwhelms me with what still needs to be done.  But taking the time to catch a breath and look into the finer details always makes me wonder at the marvel of nature that is going on in my garden.

Soil

You can never get close enough to soil to see what is going on. It looks like a lovely soft friable tilth In this image. You can see the difference between the moist soil and the soil that has been touched by the wind and is drying out. You can make out the lumps and bumps of the organic material and the granules of the inorganic earth from rock origins. But what you can’t see is so much more – the earthworms below the surface, the relationship between microorganisms in communities more densely populated that our busiest cities, all with vastly different jobs to do. This isn’t a dead substance you put living plants into as a growing medium, but an entity very much alive in its own right.

Love in the Mist

How can you not Love this beauty in the midst of a Misty green background. It brings something ethereal to the garden, like a host of floating angels dancing and watching protectively over my endeavors.

Pea tendrils

The intense pea tendrils of the Novella Pea variety always amazes me. They look so delicate, but are very strong. On close inspection each intricate little tangle could form a blown up piece of art that would look fabulous on my living room wall!

Onions

I always get a small buzz of excitement when I see the onions begin to bulb up. It seems to happen so quickly. They have been all stalk and leaf for months and then in the blink of an eye these gorgeous voluptuous curves begin to take shape.

Pumpkin seedling

Most seedlings start as soft and delicate, and the same can be said for the pumpkin seedlings, but the little hairs that line the stalks aren’t as benign as they may seem. They are like the fuzzy across the lip of a preteen boy, but given enough time will become as prickly as a 5 o’Clock shadow on a weary businessman’s face. Not bad enough to spike you like a thistle, but abrasive enough to be wary of when you brush passed to check how your pumpkins are growing.

Strawberry

On close inspection it would seem strawberries are shiny and the seeds appear to keep them tight like one of those buttoned down Chesterfield sofas.

Artichoke

Bundled together in a tight ball, closely hiding the brilliant soon to be purple hairy flower, the artichoke always amazes me. It it such a strong architectural plant with its bold features. But I do wonder, who was it who decided that it would be a food. It is such hard work to extract such a small amount of edible content from the base of the globe. Having said that – dipped in melted butter and lemon juice the effort does seem worth while. But then again – lashings of melted butter can make anything taste good!

Corn seedlings

As much as I know corn prefers to be sown directly into the garden, circumstances beyond my control this season meant it was just better to start them indoors. This brought them up to eye level and made it easy to watch them begin to reach up out of the soil on their way to becoming a mighty and tall feature in my summer garden. The way the corn grows – pushing the new growth out of the centre of the stalk reminds me of – I’m not sure if it happen to you – it could just be a ‘me’ thing, but sometimes when you have a roll of something – like baking paper, the middle begins to protrude out the end and it is impossible to poke it back in. Even the slightest touch makes the centre poke out more and before you know it it is twice as long as the original roll. And then the kids start using it as an imaginary light saber…. actually I think this might be a ‘me’ thing that just happens in our house and reminds me of how corn grows.

Lavender

The lavender flowers are beginning to burst forward. Blowing about in the wind they look like a multi headed medusa ready to create stone features in my garden.

Boysenberry

These dense green berries will continue to grow on and ripen in to almost translucent jewels of the deepest red. Almost too beautiful to eat.

Fennel

Fennel is a magnificent plant – it starts with a solid fleshy bulb at the base of the plant and to hold one in you hand can feel as weighty as a cricket ball. But allowed to grow beyond this stage you get a tall, majestic fernery being, with the buds of something even more spectacular, tightly packed like fireworks about to explode in a delightful yellow starburst, contrasting with perfection against the lime green of the soft foliage.

Kumara slips

This tangled knot of white roots is the result of months of care. My kumara has been balanced over a jar of water for what seems like an age as I waited for roots and shoots to grow. Then each sweet potato shoot was carefully removed and placed in their own jar of water and slowly and surely, individual plants began to form as the roots appeared from the base of the shoots and grew to fill the jar. Now I have to find the time to plant them out, and then hope for the perfect conditions for a perfect harvest.

Come again soon – all going well there will be some kind of did-dah grand reveal moment…  well as close as we can get, as a garden is never in a state of complete done.

Sarah the Gardener  : o)

Wishful thinking

Since I have had my wonderful new irrigation system installed in my garden, late last year > you can read about it here <, I have had the pleasure and privilege of using it in a full weekly cycle a sum total of once!  And then the rains came and didn’t stop.  So, I didn’t need to use it at all – which was very frustrating as you can imagine.  It is like giving a kid the latest must-have toy and then not letting them play with it, or going to your favourite restaurant and not being able to eat anything.

Irrigation computer

Firstly, open up the water computer and evict any unlawful residents and replace the battery.  It is best to bring these indoors in the autumn to protect them from the frosty conditions of winter.

But I declare the new season starts now and this irrigation system will be used every day throughout this growing season.   This rain can’t go on forever and I am going to prepare for drier days so I’m ready and waiting and my plants will get the best moisture support I can give them all summer long.  Rain you can stop now…  I’ve got this.

Plug in the hose to the irrigation

With the tap turned on gently with the pressure as low as you can, connect to the irrigation system

Before I race out there and pop all the dripper spikes where I want the plants to be and where they will be well positioned to distribute the water best throughout the bed, there are a few things I need to do.   It isn’t quite that simple.

Prime the system

Remove the top from the dripper the furthest from the hose and allow the water to slowly refill the pipes.

The system has sat there all winter, with empty pipes, waiting for a chance to be used.  However, to just turn on the tap to full, can actually do a bit of damage.  As the water rushes in to fill the void it can create a water hammer effect that can be a tad violent and can cause valves to burst, connectors to pop, break seals and damage the working mechanisms of the drippers.   Add to that, some of the dripper holes may be blocked due to a season of inaction and so this all adds to the pressure build up within the pipe as the water rushes to find a way out.

Check each dripper

Check each dripper to make sure the water is flowing freely out of each hole.

The key is to remove the top of the dripper on the farthest end of the system and then slowly and gently turn the tap.  Watch the open dripper for the water to come out and let it run until it is clear and free from air bubbles.  This is a good sign the water way is free of blockages and the system has been primed.

Clean blocked holes

Clear any blockages so the water flows freely from all of the holes

Then it is important to check all the drippers to make sure all the little holes are not blocked and are free flowing, so it can distribute the water across the garden bed as intended.  As there was period during the winter where my beds were actually underwater due to the worst flooding in a decade of gardening here, it is especially important for me to double check each one.  Ordinarily the risk is bugs, webs and dust that can cause blockages, but for me there is the possibility that silt could have washed into the sprinkler head!   Each of my sprinkler heads has 8 holes, and each bed has on average 16 sprinklers, so this may take a while.  But it is a job worth doing.

Loose connections

Check all the joints for loose connections and make any necessary repairs so you don’t waste water.

While the tap is running through the system is it also a great time to look for damage, water pooling in places it shouldn’t and check for leaks.  Having a system out in the elements all winter long, can make it susceptible to damage – it is just the nature of things.  I’m not sure I’d fare very well if I had to stay outside all winter in the wind, rain and freezing conditions.  It could be a matter of just unpopping a 4mm tube, trimming the end and resetting it on the connector against the 13mm pipe so it sits flush.  In some situations, the freeze thaw process may have actually broken something, and it will need replacing.   Taking the time to check the system will ensure a trouble-free irrigation season.

A garden ready for some plants

And with a well working irrigation system the garden is now ready for some plants.

So, while I wait for the weather to settle down, I’m going to grab an umbrella and play with the water!

Come again soon – I’m believing for a drier season ahead.

Sarah the Gardener : o)

Birthday Surprise! 

So much for a glorious long weekend building structures and then planting out the plants that are to be supported by them all season long.

Well after the debacle of the cucumber frame, I went to bed scratching my head and excited about the following day.  What could be better for a gardener than to have the official last frost date, a public holiday and a load of plants to plant on your birthday!  As far as I was concerned the planets were aligned.

Flooding

Who needs a lawn when you can have a lake!

The problem is – it rained on Sunday night.  A lot.  And didn’t stop until well after midday on Monday.   So, the puddles I woke up to, on the lawn, rapidly spread to form an ocean by the end of the day.  Poor Fennel the Cat thinks this kind of thing is normal as we have pretty much had constant wet weather her whole life and thinks nothing of walk through a puddle instead of going around it!

Birthday breakfast in bed

Birthday breakfast in bed – I couldn’t have asked for anything nicer

So, I didn’t even go outside – well I did once as Hubby the Un-Gardener didn’t trust himself to do a good job of picking the asparagus spears for my breakfast in bed.  There were two spears that were ready, and they were so good, and I am so delighted they are showing themselves as I’d begun to think they were gone for good.  I did make the mistake of nipping out there in bare feet and that was when I discovered it was not only soggy, but freezing cold as well.  I consoled myself that at least I hadn’t actually planted anything out yet or they would have drowned, as I tucked into my fresh poached eggs and bacon on bagels with hollandaise sauce and two spears of steamed asparagus on the side.  A birthday breakfast fit for kings!

Birthday gifts

I am very pleased with these gifts.

I was completely spoilt over the course of the day – I didn’t need to lift a finger to do anything at all.  I think my family sensed my frustration over the weather and may have been walking on eggshells so as not to make the day any worse!  And I received some cool gifts – A vacuum pack food saver so my produce can stay fresher for longer, James Wong’s new book which is absolutely fascinating, and I will be dipping in an out of it for weeks learning scientific facts about the things I grow.  I also got a gardening mag and chocolate – lots of chocolate.

rain gauge

I don’t even know why I bother to check – there always seems to be something in there. Having said that – I think there might have been 16mm in there from the last rainfall so it isn’t as bad as it looks – although it still looks pretty bad.

The upside is the ground seems to be draining a lot faster than it did a month ago, and with the patience of a saint, I think I may be able to attentively start work on the garden again tomorrow.  The boffins are suggesting I have 10 days before the next burst of outrageous rainfall, so I’d better make the most of it.  That cucumber frame isn’t going to build itself.

Come again soon – the garden is almost dry – again!

Sarah the Gardener  : o)

 

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