As we are only a year and a bit into this new property beside the coast, there are no trees. It didn’t come with trees and I haven’t quite got to the point of planting some – well not quite, but that is a shameful story for another day! Besides, if I had planted any since moving here, they certainly wouldn’t be big enough to fulfil my needs. Obviously, there is the usual benefits – the fruiting that comes from fruit trees and the whole aesthetic appeal a tree can add to the environment and they can also be a place of shade on a hot summer day. Any stick-esk saplings I plant won’t be any good to me for several years.
But at this time of year, a tree – in particular a deciduous one can be of tremendous value, from what the unwary would consider nature’s litter. The fallen leaves. I have long coveted a large tree dropping rake-able leaves so I can scoop them all up and treasure them. Unfortunately, we just weren’t at the last place long enough and now we have to start over.
Fortunately wonderful friends of mine, the lovely ones who helped with my garden beds by making the brackets so I could whip together all the beds in no time at all, mentioned they had a large tree outside their workshop and were getting a little sick of sweeping them up. So, I offered to help them out, if I could take the leaves away.
This may sound like I’m a tad crazy but fallen autumn leaves are like gold – not only in colour but for the potential they hold. You see, if you leave them to rot down – on their own, they can become the most amazing soil conditioner. As I have only seen this happen and helped others make it happen, I’d never really had my very own leaf mould. And this season it is all about to change.
So, I popped along to my friends’ workshop, dragging a couple of unwilling teens with me – but I needed someone to hold open the bag! And we raked up all the leaves out the front of their place and got a large bag full of gorgeous autumnal leaves. Much to the bemusement of my kids, you could even say I was excited.
Once I got by bag of loot home, we poked a few holes in the bag with a garden fork and moistened the leaves with a couple of squirts of the hose and tied the bag shut. Then I popped it behind what will soon be my shed. And now we wait – an entire year, for it to turn into the loveliest well-rotted, crumbly, sweet smelling leaf mould that makes an awesome soil conditioner and is worth its weight in gold.
The science behind it is the leaves no longer contain much in the way of nitrogen, which is pretty much what makes them dry and crispy. All that is left behind in the leaves in great quantities is lignin and cellulose, which are very slow to break down. You can put them in the compost as a brown material in a balanced 2:1 brown : green ratio. However with a mature tree at this time of year and taking into consideration most of the garden will have given up the ghost and fresh green material is sparse and there is only so much that can come out of your kitchen, the balance could easily look like a million to one! If you put too many autumn leaves in your compost, then it is highly likely they will still be there when the rest of the compost is done.
Normal composting is generally done with the help of bacteria who do a great job, however turning leaves into the incredible leaf mould is a job for fungi as there isn’t all that much present in the leaves to interest bacteria. They get onto the task of breaking it down in the material you will often find on a forest floor in the humus layer.
And the reason to go to all this effort is it is an amazing soil conditioner – one of the best. While it doesn’t provide much in the way of increase fertility or nutrition, so it doesn’t replace compost, it improves soil structure, and improves the soils ability to retain moisture and nutrients. It also makes a fabulous home for all the beneficial creatures and organisms that live in the soil.
I hope one day I will have my very own source of autumn leaves from my own trees. In an ideal situation, because it takes so long, if you gather leaves in a bag and pop them behind the shed each year then you will end up with a constant supply. But until then I may just become the crazy lady out there willing to rake your leaves. If you do have too many leaves that need a rake – let me know…
Come again soon – winter is knocking on the door and I’m not sure I’m ready to let it in.
Sarah the Gardener : o)
Thank you to the good people at Gardena, this is a paid post.
Today is a good day. The sun is shining brightly, but more importantly the wind has gone. It was really hard to Make May Count in such non-conducive conditions. However, I did get out there and battle the elements, well the least harsh ones and got some stuff done. But this is just a quick pictorial update to let you know what I’ve been up to…
It is just a short post today because the sun is shining, after the last ten days I now appreciate it all the more and certainly won’t take days like today for granted. So I’m off out into the garden to make things happen.
Come again soon – there isn’t much left of May.
Sarah the Gardener : o)
Today is a special day in my world. It is one year today since I got started on my garden. Before this it was a grazed by cows who didn’t appreciate the best view out across the ocean. But we appreciated the view and set up camp in the caravan, right where I wanted to put the garden, while we were waiting for the house to arrive. The shipping container with all our worldly possessions also took up space on my soon to be garden, which also became a parking lot, building delivery store yard and a dump for the building debris.
But once the house arrived and we moved in, and I couldn’t bear it any longer and organised for the caravan to move off the garden, the container to be emptied and returned to the container company and I cleared up the rubbish and forbade anyone to park anywhere near my soon to be horticultural paradise. Then in came the bulldozer and cleared the land and my garden began. Since then the veggie patch has gone in leaps and bounds and it blows me away how much I have achieved since then and my garden is almost there and looks pretty much like the vision I held in my head for such a long time.
Check out my birthday greeting for the garden, I thought it was about time to update the trailer on my You Tube Channel and this seems like the best time to do it.
But a year in the life of a garden is barely a blink and I still have so many awesome plans for this land and it is such a wonderful place to live, we will be here for a very long time.
Come again soon – this garden has had a great first year.
Sarah the Gardener : o)
NB – click on the images for descriptions of the garden progress.
Ok, so there are 16 days left in May and I’m banging my head against a mid-month slump. It isn’t intentional but is I guess part of the reason I really need to make this month count – in the garden it is boring. There isn’t much to do at all. Certainly nothing challenging. So, I need to make it challenging and fun, so the month doesn’t get wasted. It doesn’t help that the weather is still playing up and howling a gale. It is dark and gloomy, the wind is lashing the house and the rain comes in in squalls, intense but momentary. It isn’t exactly outside weather. The boffins are suggesting it will calm down by the weekend, but we will be swapping wind for cold. I think I don’t mind cold as you can wrap up and be warm. Wind is just annoying.
So, what can I do with the next 12 days – because I don’t do garden work on the weekends – that is for family time. In that May slides by, so do kids. Teenagers with burgeoning career plans and hopes and dreams of their own makes time seem more valuable that a few measly weeks on the eve of winter. Every day is precious in its own way and needs to be made to count in some way shape or form so I can look back and say I didn’t waste it.
So today – it is windy and yucky, and I had tiramisu for lunch… a day not wasted? But I need to make plans for the garden. The shed has been delayed until next week, so instead of jubilantly shadowing my amazing builder, whooping for joy with each nail driven home, today and tomorrow need to count in whole new way.
Of the things languishing on my to do list there are some things that do need to be done…
I have 100 daffodil bulbs to be planted along the inside of my garden fence – it will look fabulous in the spring. I bought the bulbs ages ago and put them in the fridge, because I also bought a bulb planter for a child to give to me for Mother’s Day. So, as it was a gift, I couldn’t very well use it before then… I think I pulled off the surprised – ‘oh thank you, just what I wanted’ charade even though we all knew what was going on. And since receiving this cool gift, I have either lost my mojo or was busy. So, with only 16 days left of autumn, this is a sort of sooner rather than later task. But is it one I can do in the wind and the rain? Just how dedicated am I to Make May Count?
Another task on the list is to take some hard wood cuttings from the wild growing Muehlenbeckia. It is all over the place here and I love the way it cascades down the side of a bank, like a beautiful green lacy veil. I think it is just the thing to hide some building scars that inevitably occur to the landscape in the midst of construction. It just makes sense; it already likes it here and it does a fab job of holding the sandy soil together. But from what I understand the cuttings are best done in the cold of winter… but we’re nearly there. Maybe I could do some now and some later, just for the want of something to do.
I also have a mile of trenches to dig to connect the irrigation together, but I’d really like Hubby the Un-Gardeners help but he has a complex schedule so maybe it’ll be done this month, or possibly next. But speaking of irrigation – where the tap in the garden is – the pressure is awesome, but if left to its own devices accidently it tends to bore a hole in the sand, splashes sand everywhere or overflows out of the garden and on to the lawn. I had a thought I could create some kind of gravel filled catchment zone to soak it up and avoid the damage and be an aesthetically pleasing tap feature.
I also have some paperworky stuff that needs to be and should be done before the end of the month so on days like today where I feel very much like a fair-weather gardener, I can still make things happen.
Ok – so without committing myself to too much and overdoing things, I will endeavour to make the above happen before the end of the month. Alongside anything else exciting that may come along. And of course, my shed office will also be complete and how much of a help or hinderance I’ll be to the construction of it remains to be seen!
Come again soon – without a plan to guide us, we are all just lost (well certainly I am).
Sarah the Gardener : o)
Tuesday could have, but I didn’t make it, and today is halfway through May and so it came as a bit of a wake up call and so I made certain I made it count. The problem is the weather. We have had howling gales and being so close to the sea, this – it would seem is the price we have to pay from time to time for living in paradise. The stormy weather is a lot less frequent that people think, but when it comes, it really comes. But I would say if I was geeky enough to map the weather on a bell chart it would come out quite balanced with excessively windy days matching the barely there breathless days on the other end of the scale. The rest of the time it is just normal weather that you would find anywhere else.
I do have to say, as much as I know the house can stand up to the wind, as it survived admirably up on house moving jacks during a storm with gusts of up to 212Km, so I feel safe, but I have yet to get used to the noise. We have an old house and so the wind tries its hardest to get in. Sort of a bit like the old Wee Willy Winky nursery rhyme… “runs through the town, Upstairs and downstairs in his night-gown, Tapping at the window, crying at the lock…” Although he isn’t checking if I’m in bed, because I was already there – lying awake, worrying about the wind and the possible damage that could be possibly happening. The noise is like a high pitched whistle against the crashing of the wild waves on the ocean below. It makes things seem a thousand times worse than it is. I guess it is something I need to get used to, but I’m not there yet! The key is to make sure that everything is tucked up and put away so there is nothing loose so no harm can come, so there is nothing to worry about.
So, the wee small hours of Monday were spent lying awake thinking about the wind in an anxious way and as a result I eventually emerged to embrace the day in a zombie like fashion and achieved very little. There was no point going out as the wind was still roaring and experience has taught me it is much better to wait until the storm is over before trying to repair damage or you just make it worse. There wasn’t all that much damage – the peas got shredded in the wind and the almost finished zinnias became finished when the plant was uprooted and the last chance – shouldn’t be alive zucchini got snapped. And if that is the worst of it then it isn’t really that bad.
The wind died down enough to make sleep and recovery better for Tuesday, and the day was spent in the garden working hard. There were two things on the go, the first was helping the builder with the foundations for my new office. No more working at the kitchen table for me, I’ll soon have my own space, right there in the garden. I can go ‘to work’. I think this will help in the scheme of things – making time count. It is so easy to get distracted from work and slip into the pleasures of life when you are working at home!
The other part of my day was giving the garden a full whip around in preparation for a garden visit from a lovely local garden club. But thanks to all my efforts the week before, I really didn’t have much to do at all, which was a great relief. The day certainly counted, and I tumbled into bed weary.
Today was busy in all sorts of different ways. Because of my earlier neglectful ways, I had a backlog of indoor paperworky stuff to do, as well as the important task of admiring the work my amazing builder was doing with the foundations to my office. While we are still waiting for the shed itself to arrive, he created an incredible deck around it. I can see myself in the height of summer sitting in the shade with a cool sun tea that would have been steeping all morning with wee Jasper snoozing at my feet, surrounded by plants in pots… just imagine…
The garden visit was a huge success, and hopefully the first of many, although we will need to look into parking as it is currently limited. I do love showing off my garden.
Come again soon – I’m still Making May Count
Sarah the Gardener : o)
It rained in the night. The weather station tells me it was over 5mm so a decent drop. It has almost been two weeks since the last lot of good rain. And before that it before that it was a week and the burst before that was 10 day earlier. It has been a mild and gentle autumn indeed. And it was jolly nice for it to only rain overnight and then be sunny all day. It is a gardeners dream situation and one I have longed for many times.
But it is Friday and the turn of the fruit section of the garden. But to be honest will all the effort of the week and the fact that starting the day in the rain dampened garden isn’t exactly pleasant. Don’t get me wrong – I’m a hardy type and when push comes to shove, I’d be out there in rain, hail, sleet or whatever undesirable conditions if it means getting things done that desperately need to be done. But today no one is pushing or shoving and I’m feeling far from invincible. Sometimes I forget I have MS and the pleasure I find in the garden makes me feel ordinarily normal and I may push myself a little harder than I should. And then my body shouts at me to rest. I’ve had this inconvenience long enough to know, when I feel the call to stop, I stop. There is no point being superman unnecessarily or a simple day of rest become several restful days and who has time for that?
I am still on the journey to Make May Count and while I wasn’t as productive today and the poor Friday bed missed out on little love – it is a hardy section and won’t mind it at all. You’d almost think I’d planned it that way. I wasn’t completely without a spot of gardening in my day. I spent some time looking into Oriental Gardens, because they are cool. It is weird to think in some gardens the plants don’t have centre stage, and there are even some gardens where there are no plants – just carefully positioned rocks. Maybe I need a garden like that for days like these.
I also did go out into the garden – just to look. How can I not? I love the way the raindrops cling to the plants in a way that looks like jewels have been carefully placed overnight!
The upside of the hard work this week, that may or may not be the reason I’m knackered, is next week and in the weeks to come, the garden will only need a slight tickle and as we go into winter the garden, with all 36 beds will become low maintenance. So, it was all worth it.
Come again soon – I’ll still be Making May Count, but just not on the weekends – that’s for family time.
Sarah the Gardener : o)
Thursday in the garden, according to the schedule is the small beds and containers around the dome. Technically it should include the dome itself and anything in it that needs a bit of love but today I had something else in mind instead of doing the dome.
The first thing I got onto was something I’d been curious about for a while now. My kumara containers had by pushed askew by some unknown force, presumably a big fat sweet potato or two, that may have escaped the container and continued to grow in the ground. The anticipation was intense. A sign they are ready to dig up is yellowing leaves, and a thorough inspection found a few leaves were yellow and that was enough for me. Besides today is the day for containers so who am I to argue with the schedule.
I chopped off all the foliage and then carefully and expectantly removed the soil from the pot and found that within the confines of the container was nothing but kumara noodles. Long skinny sweet potatoes that could be cooked as is and fit well within the definition of chips! This is no surprise; it is pretty much the best I’ve ever done. But there was still the mystery of the askew pots… something must be causing it. So, I took my garden fork and starting wide so as not to mistakenly skewer a possible bounty, I dug up the sand beneath the container. And I dug and dug and dug and finally found 5 kumara of I size I’d never grown before! They aren’t huge but good enough for me!
The small beds in the Thursday zone really didn’t need much help. The Jerusalem artichoke bed is empty because they didn’t come up in the spring and the yams are almost done. (I’ve never had much luck with these but will continue to try.) These 1 x 1 metre beds are exclusive for these crops because you can dig them up as much as you want, but they will never be completely gone, so it makes sense to give them a permanent home. The globe artichokes and rhubarb are long term crops, so it makes sense to give them their own space too! The nursery bed is in control and the wild flower garden only just finished being filled. So aside from feeding the still flourishing and watering the lot, I didn’t really have much to do.
I looked at my feijoa trees as they are in the container area and they felt dry again, so I took them out of their pots and found they were a little root bound. I couldn’t leave them like it, so I teased out the roots and repotted them into larger pots. I’ll let them settle down and let the roots find themselves before planting out in the ground.
Before heading inside, I noticed a big fat bumblebee dancing around my broad bean patch, and I felt confident that my beans flowers were being pollinated. But something in the back of my mind niggled at me so I looked it up. Bumblebees have short tongues and can’t get into the broad bean flowers to access the nectar in the usual way so poke holes in the base of the flowers. So, no there won’t be bumblebee beans anytime soon…
Then I came inside to deal with something that was becoming a problem. My red onions were starting to go soft and I’d been meaning to do something with them for ages. The whole Make May Count was just the push I needed and turned half of them into a delish red onion marmalade. I needed to slowly caramelise the onions and then with a few herbs and spiced chucked and some red and balsamic vinegars, the whole lot was reduced to a lovely jam like consistency. I started with a lot of onion and in anticipation sterilised 6 jars. However, the reduction process was quite thorough, and I ended up with only three jars, three very awesome jars of deliciousness.
So I may not have got as many kumara as I would have liked or as many jars of onion marmalade, and the bumblebees have been wrecking my broad beans, I’m still happy because I still have a personal best for the kumara, a limited amount of marmalade is better than none and I don’t actually like broad beans so I’m not bothered.
Come again soon – tomorrow is the fruit section in the attempt to Make May Count.
Sarah the Gardener : o)
I didn’t sleep well last night. I woke for no reason at all at 3am and didn’t see the inside of my eyelids again for another hour and a half, and not for lack of trying either. So, I had to try even harder to Make May Count today. It would have been so easy to just rest this one out, but no, it’s Wednesday and Row Three was waiting.
Fortunately, row three is an easy row. The first bed has asparagus in it, and it has been weeded within an inch of its life for months and so it there isn’t much going on there in the way of interlopers. The asparagus themselves are starting to fade and it won’t be long before they turn yellow and I can cut them down and add goodies to the top of the soil. All the asparagus bed needed was some watering. It doesn’t make sense to feed it as it dies out.
The next bed is pretty much empty bar a few painted mountain corn stalks that are still a shade of fresh green, so there was no point doing anything there, there wasn’t even any weeds. I must be doing something right. The next bed is the garlic which is still popping up causing much excitement – for me. No one else seems that interested!
The leafy green bed is thriving and will provide plenty of winter crunch. Having said that the Asian greens are almost ready and so I’m trying to decide if I should sow more or not. There is time and there is space. At the other end, the celery and celeriac have picked up and look like they much prefer the cooler weather!
Next door to those is the beans. There are a few straggling kidney beans on their second round, but the lima beans and the snake beans at each end are still going strong. I’ll just leave them too it and see what happens. I have no idea what that will be. Hopefully it will end in a large harvest of giant white lima beans, dried on the plant and ready to chuck in casseroles. I know for sure I’ll be starting them much early this season. But there are no weeds in this bed either, so I just watered and fed them.
Beside that is the new carrot and root crop bed and once again it is in good shape. So, I popped in a new row of beetroot and watered and fed the lot!
And the last bed has the last of the carrots and parsnips and a lingering bunch of fennel and nothing else. I watered and fed these as well and looked for weeds. I didn’t really find any there either. Then finally a whip around the paths with the hoe and I was done in no time at all. But as I promised myself yesterday to do something else so I can feel like I’m moving ahead, not just staying in control in the same spot.
I looked about and decided to give the goat a hand. We’d put her down in the garden – brave move but her stake is secure and everything else is tight. She had a job to do to clear the vegetation from the area on the other side of the path to get things ready for the next huge project that all going well will start next week.
After just under an hour I’d chopped down a mountain of lupin and revealed a mountain of boards and off cuts and other building debris that will also need clearing out. But the wasps came out and that was my sign to go in. It was still before lunch and I was just happy to have achieved something at all in my sleep deprived state and grateful the effort required wasn’t that great.
Come again soon – even when sleepy I can still Make May Count.
Sarah the Gardener : o)
I’m really beginning to get my groove back and working in the garden is so energising. I have switched things around – normally I’d get on with the indoor work before rewarding myself by heading outdoors. But often I’d be so bogged down by the indoor stuff I’d barely get out the door to work on the garden, and then I’d convince myself there wasn’t enough time left in the day to really do much so I’d give the garden a spot of lip service and wonder why I wasn’t feeling the love.
This week I have been heading out there first and then doing my commitments indoors in the arvo, when the wasps come out. They are still hanging out in the garden in large numbers, but I have found we get on just fine. So long as I don’t bother them, they don’t bother me. Although I do worry about the wood they are stealing, over time this could be huge.
So today I took care of the needs of the Tuesday row. At first appearance there wasn’t much going on, but looks are deceiving and I was pottering about in the garden until well after two pm. The half leek half wheat bed didn’t need much, just a quick weed and feed and my lonely bedraggled zucchini is still alive and has some baby zukes that will hopefully reach a size worth eating.
The odds and sods bed was fun because the peanuts must have reached their overnight low temperature that is acceptable to them as their leaves had started to go brown. It wasn’t a frost as everyone else is still ok. But that meant I could dig them up. I love digging up peanuts, it is really exciting because you don’t know what you will get. By the looks of my haul, they like growing here. Hooray!
The melon bed got a makeover – I finally took down the netting and put it away for next time. It is a bit of a phaff fiddling about with all the knots, but I will thank myself for it next season when I have to get it out again. I then gave the bed a bit of a tickle, consulted the plan and sowed lupin seeds as a cover crop to add nitrogen rich organic material in preparation for the sweetcorn that will be hanging out in the bed next season.
The other beds, with salad, the broad beans that are supposed to be cover crops but started flowering so may just be an unexpected harvest of beans, and the peppers just needed a handful of tiny weeds removed and then a good water and a quick feed and the row is looking dapper. I also hoed around the beds in the row and there is something calming about this act. You get to slowly contemplate the plants in the beds beside the paths and think about the garden as a whole. I do enjoy this seemingly mind numbingly boring chore.
The last job of the day was to pop the spuds into pots. I’ll keep them in the dome over the cold of the winter so we can have fresh spuds sooner rather than later. Oh, and while we are talking about waiting for things – the first signs of garlic have popped up! Yay!
Tomorrow it is the turn of row three – the Wednesday row and I should think about some other little project to go with it so I’m not just treading water in the same spot but making headway. And speaking of water I really should check the weather forecast, it has been suspiciously nice for too long, surely there is rain on the horizon?
Come again soon – I’m loving my Make May Count idea; it is really motivating.
Sarah the Gardener : o)
In an effort to Make May Count, and not have it disappear out from under me in a blur of lethargy and can’t be botheredness… I am pushing myself to get out there and do things. Any things. Chores that are long overdue and exciting things that I have yet to come up with but will bring joy as I do them. It is hard at this time of year stay focused in the garden. The weather is getting cooler, the sun is getting weaker and it just doesn’t compare with spring.
In spring the expression “ask a busy person” is perfect. A busy person is much more likely to squeeze in one more task, just to get it done, whereas the opposite in autumn is more likely to procrastinate. ‘I’ll just check out one more cool gardening video before heading out to do that job…’ In spring there is no time to lurk and linger on the great big internet, the entire season is counting on jobs being done right now. In autumn there is no urgency, and it is cold outside, well it’s getting that way.
But I’m a hardy sort and anything I do now will make a difference not only to the current season but too the entire growing year. This is no time to sit around, waiting for things to happen, I need to get out there and make them happen! I won’t regret putting in the effort and in light of this decision, today I have:
Taken care of the needs of the Monday row. I weeded, watered and feed the plants that were still growing there and hoed the paths around the beds to keep the tiny weeny seedlings from becoming giant weeds in the way.
As a part of the Monday row maintenance, I wrangled my peas. I love to grow alderman tall, because the peas within the long pods are so sweet, even when they’ve gone that tiny bit too far. The problem is in their name – they are ‘tall’. And the wind here can whip them about, when it gets up. Then I remembered something I did once at the last place that seemed to work well – although I should have done it earlier to keep them in control. What I did was get some garden string and tied one end to the end of the netting and the other to a short-ish bamboo pole and weaved the string in and out of the pea row, gently pulling wayward plants back in tight against the netting. This should not only prevent them from lolling about the place but also if the wind gets up, then they are hugged tight and shouldn’t come to harm.
I also sowed some sweet peas. A little bit later than I would have liked, but I’ve been procrastinating, much to my shame. I have just the right place to plant them out when the time is right – they will look fabulous growing up against the chicken coup at the end of the garden. It will look amazing.
And I gave my new feijoa plants a deep drink in a bucket of water as their pots felt very light. I will still need to plant them out, and all going well this should happen while I’m still Making May Count.
Then it was inside to cross inside jobs off the list, as like the garden there are things that need desperately doing indoors too!
I’m feeling amped, pumped and excited. Well that is what I’m telling myself to feel! I would really like to curl up with a good book or a good movie, but it is Monday and on Mondays work gets done!
Come again soon – I’m off to a good start
Sarah the Gardener : o)