SARAH THE GARDENER

The state of the Garden   Part Four of Three (or possibly four)

This takes us to the final phase of what I got up to this week.    It got a little muddily towards the end of the week.  The wind died down to just a gentle puff which was lovely.  The first time it happened I remember this weird feeling of something being missing, as the sound of the wind whistling through the cracks and crannies in the house had ceased.  It can almost become like white noise if it goes on long enough.  Aside from the damage it does to the garden, I don’t mind it that much.  When you stand in the face of a bracing wind you know you are alive.  But it is the noise I hate.  It makes it feel so much worse than it is.

Sector three

Sector three is looking pretty good, all things considered

It has been sunny and hot ever since, with just a slight sea breeze.  Gardening in the middle of the day has become a little foolhardy as the sand is so hot on the paths between the beds that shoes are a must, lest you burn the soles of your feet.  It is just too hot and like gardening in weather that is too wet or too cold, more harm can be done than good.

Frog

I have wildlife in my wildlife pond. It is so nice to know I have created somewhere cool for a frog to hang out on a hot summer day.

However, on Thursday I carried on with a sense of determination.  If I can get everything back into shape, then it frees me up to throw myself into all the exciting projects I that may come my way this year, without the burden of lurching from weedy bed to weedy bed.  And in control garden just needs a light tickle from time to time with a few bursts of effort when needed.  Gardening needn’t be a chore.   Although I’m not sure I’ve made it entirely clear, but I didn’t actually do the sectors in order – I picked the easiest one first so on Monday I did sector three, then sector two the next day then sector one, followed by sector five.  I feel like a bit of a rebel to do it out of order!

Sector Three

Asparagus:  This is doing far better than my expectations, but it has coastal origins and so it is like it has come home.  At this time of year, it just needs to be kept moist and weeded while the fronds create energy to take down into the crown and provide shade for Fennel the Cat to loll about in.

Asparagus

The asparagus is magnificent, all things considered.

Leafy Greens:  It is all a bit of a disaster in here.  I got confused with my rainbow beet and my rainbow beetroot.  I normally sow the whole packet of rainbow beet so I can have all the delightful colours brightening up my winter garden with their exuberant leaves.   But unfortunately, I ended up with a pink one and a red one and the yellow, white and orange turned out to be beetroot that need to be eaten and gone and won’t be brightening up anything but my plate.  The Asian greens and the spinach bolted in the erratic weather conditions and celery and celeriac are crying out for more water than I have to give them.  But as thirsty crops I did turn the irrigation on for just a moment.

Rainbow beet

How can you say no to a drooping bright pink plant. Of course you can have some water sweetie.

Garlic:  The only reason this is the garlic bed is because it is what was there.  It has long since been pulled up, dried in the shade – because full sun can spoil the flavour and keeping qualities, and separated into 3 groups:  eat now, save for seed and long term storage.   I’m toying with the idea of pickling some of the eat now ones but peeling enough to make it worth it is such a phaff.  The bed isn’t empty though.  It has overflow corn from the first batch that got wind bashed and the rest is destined for some popcorn that has been germinating in the dome.  It is late in the season to be starting corn, but we don’t get a frost here so it’s worth a shot.

Corn bed

All going well, there will be a successful harvest of strawberry popcorn out of this bed by the end of the season.

Beans:   The kidney beans are great.  I love their set and forget until they are dry on the plant nature.  One less thing to worry about.  The green beans (and purple and yellow) are slow to get going but we may have enough for a meal next week and then they’ll be away, and we’ll have too many.  I don’t hold out much hope for the tall snake and ‘Humongous MegaPod’ beans.  They were looking great before the last wind.  But now…  well it’s a bit of a sorry sight.

Kidney beans

Ya gotta love a crop you can just plant and then come back months later and harvest, with little intervention in between.

Potatoes:  The wind hit the tops of these too, but they were almost done anyway, so all I have to do is dig them up.  I have been rummaging around in the soil for meal sized harvests, but I think I need to just get in there and clear them out.  In our frostless conditions I may even get another full crop out of the bed before it gets too cold.  That should be incentive enough to do a bit of digging.  Fresh potatoes taste so good.

Potato

The Red Fantasy potatoes are delish, but I can’t wait to try the other nuggets of deliciousness lurking under the soil.

Carrots and friends:  The erratic weather caused problem here and I have pulled out more than my fair share of bolted carrots and beetroot.  The beetroot here is not doing well at all.  I should be harvesting by now, but they are still too tiny, unlike the confused ones in the leafy green bed.  I have planted more seedlings and sown more seed in desperate hope of some kind of harvest that I can drop down my front and stain my white shirt while trying to eat it.  At this point my white shirts are looking pretty safe.  I have managed to keep up with succession sowing my carrots, but the fennel is acting more like a windbreak than a potential crop, but I guess that is no bad thing.

beetroot

There should be big fat beetroot beneath these leaves, ready for the picking…. but alas no.

Cucumbers:  These were really slow to get going.  I think I had to replant several times.  But there is a plant in every space that corresponds to my plan, they just aren’t very big.  I am getting a harvest, but they aren’t exactly large enough to be proud of, but they have that cucumber taste and crunch so that makes it ok.

cucumber

I’m surprised these poor bashed up plants have had enough in them to produce any fruit at all.

On Friday I was supposed to do sector 4 – the middle little beds, which was a daunting mess, however I gave in to the cold that has be hounding me all year and took a sick day.  By Saturday was convinced I was cured and threw myself into the mess and made quite the dent in it.  The chicken is still in residence in the worst bed and so it remains a weedy mess.  I only made it halfway across the sector before the heat drove me indoors.  I had hoped to knock it all off today, Sunday, but alas the cold symptoms returned, and I just don’t have enough get up and go to carry on.   Maybe tomorrow.

Come again soon – The garden is so close to being in full control… so very close.

Sarah the Gardener  : o)

If you want to update yourself with the rest of my week you can find it all >here<, >here< and >here<

The state of the Garden   Part Three of Three (or possibly four)

When you are in the garden you lose all track of time.  I was out there the other day watering until 8pm.  I wasn’t in the garden the whole time but in bursts of several hours and with the lovely long summer daylight hours it is so easy to blur an afternoon into an evening without realising it.  It was actually quite pleasant.  I had decided to leave the watering until later as it was just too hot in the middle of the day and wouldn’t have been an efficient use of the water.

Sector 5

This area is a hard area as it is down the back and behind the dome and so a bit of out of sight out of mind, and it is scheduled for maintenance on a Friday. If I’m not strict with myself it could easily get neglected – especially in the winter.

I’m very conscious of water right now as we only have tank water.  We have two 30,000 litre tanks and one is specifically for the garden.  The thing is, it is well enough to have big tanks, but it they have no water the size is meaningless.  We almost ran out of water right before Christmas so we ordered in two deliveries and then had a decent rain fall so at my best guess we had at least 30,000 litres to get us through the summer and I was feeling good.  But then on Christmas Eve the taps stopped working.  It turned out someone had fiddled with a remote tap outside somewhere – not even going to find out who to blame – there is no point.  And all of our water drained away overnight.  In finding out the cause we also discovered there was a slow leak in the pipework from the tanks to the pumps, so this was a bit of a blessing and that has now been fixed.

Gardena Water Distributor

I finally have my Gardena 6 Hose Water Distributor up and running and can water 6 beds at once. However, with our current watering crisis I am watering on a needs must basis and schlepping a lot of watering cans.

Unfortunately no one would deliver water late on Christmas Eve, let alone Christmas Day or Boxing Day.  But we managed with buckets and bottled water and had a lovely, if not a little different kind of Christmas.   The first opportunity we could get we paid a fortune for 10,000 litres.  We have had a little bit of rain since and with strict water usage we haven’t run out yet, but each time I water the garden – irrigation set to exactly 9 minutes per bed or individual plants watered with a watering can, I worry – will this be the time the tank drains?  We could buy more but I’m loathed to spend more money after the wasted amount that hasn’t been paid for yet but will be soon.   The boffins were predicting heavy rain on Monday and I was hanging my hopes on that but another quick check reveals they have changed their minds and Monday is going to be perfect summer conditions.

Blue sky summer day

The boffins suggested it would rain heavily soon and then changed their mind. I’m conflicted here – we really need the rain, but we are well overdue a nice sunny summer.

Now that I have waffled about the weather I’m going to have to jump about a bit and tell you about Sector 5, which I took care of on Thursday as I suspect that would take the least amount of words so I don’t bore you too much.  If you haven’t read about Sector 1 and 2 you can check that out >here< and >here<.

Sector Five

Pumpkins:  The pumpkins are in two beds facing each other about 5 metres apart, with an arch in the middle of it.   The theory being I could guide their rampant growth with landscape staples and encourage them out into the middle and do their wild abandon thing there, out of harms way.  It was starting to look like it would work, after I amended the beds to be more nutrient rich than they were and lush growth was trailing out of the beds.  Then the wind kept coming and knocked them back each time.  But there are some good pumpkins set – even a giant one.  The arch was for the luffas to climb up but I don’t think they are going anywhere as they are quite stunted.  I should have protected them better in the early days.

Lady Godiva Pumpkin

I’m really excited about this Lady Godiva Pumpkin as it isn’t for eating in the normal sense but is grown for its seeds!

Flowers:  There is an unexpected bed I have used for overflow flowers that just get dumped there and they seem to be doing best of all the flowers, with little care or attention.  I did a spot of weeding and some dead heading and they are fine to go again!

Snapdragons

I think I have accidentally become good at growing snapdragons.

Raspberries:  They haven’t come to anything.  There were no summer rasberries from the summer plants, but I can only hope the autumn ones decide to do something.  The boysenberry bush had a few berries and I thought “I’ll leave them one more day to ripe up a little bit more.”  Yeah Nah.  Don’t do that.  The next day they were gone – birds got ‘em.

The raspberry bed

The chickens love it when I work on this bed – they like to hang with me. But sadly this bed is seriously unproductive.

Strawberries:  I am still valiantly trying to save them from their near death experience in November.  I can’t believe I gave over 800 runners away in the spring and I haven’t even had a small bowl full.  Some plants are definitely toast, but others look like they might make it.  The runners I do get this year will be carefully nurtured to restock the bed.

Strawberries

There are splashes of red in the strawberry bed and signs of recovery, but it isn’t a success story yet.

Other fruit:  I have two of 4 blueberries still alive and one of two gooseberries.  They will be ok but I don’t expect fruit for a couple more years.   The cape gooseberries are very slow to get going and I thought they were supposed to grow like weeds!

Blueberry

This is my best blueberry plant. I think with the proper nurturing and plenty of time it will be ok… hopefully.

So that just leaves sector 3 to tell you about, and leaves sector 4 for me to deal with.  I’m not looking forward to that one – it is a mess in the middle of the garden!

Come again soon – you’re almost up to date.

Sarah the Gardener  : o)

The state of the Garden   Part Two of Three (or possibly four)

I just wanted to quickly fill you with what I’ve done in the garden so far this year, and to be honest it didn’t feel like much, but when it came to writing it down I created a mountain of words and so decided for everyone’s sake it would be better to break it up a wee bit.  If I had my wits about me I could have done a quick round up at the end of each day, but with a head stuffed with a cold, I’ve not been thinking straight.   If you haven’t checked out part one you can find it >here<.

Sector two

Overall sector two doesn’t look too bad. I just need to look past the wind damage and appreciate what is there…

So as part of my whip the garden back into shape after the festive season neglect, a bout of head cold and yet another storm, I broke the garden into its sector areas and just dealt with what was in front of me.

Sector Two 

Zucchini:  These haven’t been too bad.  I think I have four too many plants.  I have four plants.  It is a shame you can’t just have a half a plant as this would be more than adequate for a harvest.  We are currently having zucchini in every meal!  One was semi snapped in the storm, but looks like it will limp along if I don’t touch it except to gently harvest.  The rest are receptive to being tied to a post to grow vertically to save space.  Although one has decided to have two growing points so there is a bit of a sprawl.

Tied up Zucchini

Tying the zucchini to a post as it grows saves a lot of space for the normally sprawling plant.

More Onions:  In this onion / allium overflow bed, the elephant garlic didn’t amount to anything so not only do we have nothing worth eating but I’ve lost my seed stock.  I have no idea why it didn’t work – last year it was enormous.   The shallots are still hanging in there, but in the space the red onions were I popped in the left over corn seedlings.  Having paid good money for them I wasn’t about to discard the ones that wouldn’t fit into the other onion bed.

Shallots

The shallots are doing great. I’m trying to leave them a little longer this year as in the past I have possibly harvested them too soon and they end up being too small once all the outer leaves dried.

Odds & Sods:  In this bed the eggplants are ignoring all the neglect and stormy conditions and are just growing.  Still no fruit but I don’t think it will be long.  The peanuts got lost in the wild rocket seedlings from last season that have now become a weed because I stupidly didn’t deadhead them soon enough.  So they are now free from their torment and can see the sun again.  I had presence of mind to pop 3L juice bottles over the okra before Christmas, although this was more to save them as in the erratic weather all the leaves had dropped off! So I released them and they look like they might even bear fruit.  There is also an overflow from the first lot of corn that survived the storm better than their friends a few beds over so all is not entirely lost.

Eggplant Baby Brinjal

This Baby Brinjal Eggplant seems to be ignoring what is going on with the weather and just getting on with the business of growing. I think the spikes send the message – ‘back off – I’m growing here!’

Melons:  This has been mixed bag, some are growing well and others are a complete disaster.  There will be no honeydew melons this year.  The sugar baby watermelons are touch and go and there is a chance for the rock melons.  The country sweet watermelons – the big long fat ones seem to be running rampant.  I guess if only one of your melons does well, it might as well be the biggest one.

Watermelon

It is so nice to see such lush growth in spite of all the season has had thrown at it. I just wish it was like that across the whole melon bed.

Corn:  I don’t really want to talk about it.  The wind shredded it, just as the tassels were releasing the pollen onto the silks.  I’ve left them in to see what happens but don’t have high hopes.

Windswept corn

I have left the bedraggled corn in place … just in case, and having had a quick look, I’m thinking there might just be a slim chance.

Peppers:  The poor peppers.  They have been nailed in every storm, it must be the location of that bed… in line of sight of the gate and beyond that the wind tunnel that is the side of the house.  They seem to be rallying after a liquid feed.  I think at the end of the season I will bring them into the dome and nurse them over the winter and replant them again next season to get a better start and make up for the possible lack of harvest this season.

Pepper flowers

The peppers seem to be rallying… again. It is so encouraging to see them flowering, I may get fruit yet.

Salad:  I am pleased to say I have lettuce plants in various stages of growth – ready to eat, small plants and teeny tiny ones.  It should be enough for us to keep up with.

Iceberg lettuce

It may be a a little battered around the edges, but this iceberg lettuce is good to go.

That was a good day in the garden.  I really thought I was beginning to make some headway and started to feel good about the garden again.  I seem to have a bit of a love hate thing going on here. One moment it is breaking my heart and the next it is inspiring and encouraging me!

Come again soon – hopefully the next post will wrap things up in a neat little bow – but probably not.

Sarah the Gardener  : o)

The state of the Garden   Part One of Three (or possibly four)

Officially it is the first week back in the garden after the holidays.  Last week didn’t count even though I did loiter in the garden a little, but as the first week of the year it was only a half one and to be honest I wasn’t up to gardening much as I have been struck down with a nasty head cold that has plagued me for this entire decade except for a few hours at the start.  I’m still a bit stuffy but I am pushing through.    Oh and storm number seven (although the number could be higher because in an exasperated state in the middle of spring I stopped counting them, but when they didn’t cease into the summer I started counting again.)  rolled on through wreaking havoc, although compared to other areas we got off lightly.  So early on in the year gardening was pretty much off the table, and probably would have been even if it was nice and sunny and I was well as it was summer holiday time.

Windbreak

We put up a wind break after storm seven, and so far it seems to be making a bit of a difference.

However I have been back at work in the garden since Monday and have been trying to develop a good routine between writing in my shed and toiling in the soil.  To start with I was a bit overwhelmed with the garden as there was so much storm damage to deal with.  But instead of jumping all about the place I stuck to my sector system and each day have taken care of the needs of all the beds in each group, including weeding, liquid feeding, watering and any maintenance.  But none of the others, except for harvesting and keeping new sowings and plantings moist.  So now we are in Thursday I can proudly say 80% of the garden is back in control.

Broody Chicken

She is such a determined chicken, but we haven’t had a rooster for 2 years!

There is just all the small beds around the dome to take care of but to be honest they have been neglected much longer than just the festive season and so it will take more of an effort – so much so a chicken has taken residence in one beds and is trying to hatch a brood of chicks that will never be as we no longer have rooster, in the privacy of a weedy mess.

Sector One:

Peas: These have been tied back to their support after the winds and are almost ready for another harvest.  I even ripped out the old dead and dying row and sowed more.  They don’t normally like growing through the heat of summer but the weather is all over the place and it was ‘socks and beanie’ cold the day I sowed the seeds so I figured it was worth a shot.

Peas

It is great having peas this late in the pea season, but that is down to the fact I had to resow so many times in the spring before anything started to grow!

Tomatoes:  I am so pleased I spotted the TP Psyllid on New Years Eve and took action.  The withholding period for the spray is over and the plants look great.  Three plants do look a little peaky but I think that might be something else.  I tied them in to the frame and feed and watered them and the fruit is ripening.  I don’t think it will be my best season for tomatoes but it will certainly be better than my worst.

Tomatoes

Tomatoes are the jewels of the vegetable garden but sometimes they can be so problematic to grow!

Onions:  I pulled out the Pukekohe Longkeeper onions.  They had bent over although I’m not sure if it was because of the wind or not, but time wise it was close enough and they were a good size.  They are now drying in the dome.   The bed didn’t stay empty for long as the corn in sector 2 has been damaged by the wind and so we installed a wind break along the fence and have decided to swap the brassicas for the corn in the next crop rotation cycle so it gets the benefit of the shelter.  But in the meantime, not wanting to be without corn this season, I nipped up to the garden centre and bought all their corn seedlings and popped them in where the onions were.  Hopefully the wind will be more settled for the rest of the season.

Corn

I may end up with a little bit too much corn, but better that than none at all!

Brassicas:  These are doing ok.  There is a bit of caterpillar damage but I gave them a bit of a spray with an organic Pyrethrum and Oil combination spray and hopefully they can continue growing in peace.

Brassica

I’m glad I gave my brassica seedlings plenty of room when planting them out as they have certainly taken their place and filled the bed.

Squash:  They were looking good before but their great elephant ear shaped leaves make great sails and so in the wind they got significantly bashed.  There wasn’t much I could do but give them a liquid feed with seaweed in it an hope for the best.

Squash

This baby bear pumpkin in the squash bed is starting to put on some orange colour, but behind it is a collection on wind mangled leaves.

Flowers:  They weren’t too bad, but it took forever to do the deadheading but I’d been avoiding it as it is a tedious job.  But where I had done a small patch earlier I could see the benefit as that bit looked so much better than the rest.

Dahlias

The dahlias look lovely, but will look even better once the affects of the deadheading kicks in.

Herbs:  I pulled out the gone to seed coriander, dill and parsley and popped in a new parsley plant, and sprinkled dill and coriander seeds liberally about.  I planted basil seedlings as I have really struggled this year to get them going, and then I gave everything else a bit of a haircut and it all looks presentable again.

Herb garden

Grow little parsley plant, grow. And also grow little garlic chive plant, now that that thug of a old parsley plant that was planted too close has gone away.

And now I’m rambling on and on and still have much to tell you about, so I’ll break this up so I don’t bore you to death.

Come again soon – I’ve done so much in such a short space of time.

Sarah the Gardener  : o)

Word for 2020: Overcomer

Things haven’t been off to a great start.  2019 ended promising with the early discovery and treatment of the Tomato Potato Psyllid.  Last year, due to the holidays I found it too late and I fought a brave and brutal battle, but one by one my tomato plants succumbed to its enemy and I was left without a tomato harvest as they had barely found their fruiting feet, let alone ripen an abundant harvest.  Fortunately, the zucchini was in abundance and I found that replacing them for tomatoes in my favourite tomato relish recipe worked brilliantly and I had that delish taste of summer all winter.   Sometimes plan B can be more than ok.   This year my hopes are high for my tomatoes.

Tomato potato psyllid eggs

Hopefully I have done enough to save my tomatoes from the Tomato Potato Psyllid.

It was with a grateful heart that I relaxed into new year celebrations and even set myself a few resolutions.   The last quarter of 2019 was hard in so many ways.  Not only did we have terrible weather, and my Dad died and the Dr with no bedside manner told me I had skin cancer, which turned out not to be a thing at all and has been treated and is gone!  Yay.  I need to remember to slip (long sleeved flowy shirt – must go to the op shop), slop (sunscreen – plenty and often – even on cloudy days) slap (know where my wide brimmed hat is at all times and use it!) to avoid a repeat of that scare!

Sun Hat

My much loved sunhat should be on the hook or on my head!

But I also discovered – thanks to my MS and its regular MRI monitoring that my MS was stable but there was a lump in my brain.   I was told it wasn’t serious and not to worry…  but with no real info and Dr Google between being told and actually seeing a brain surgeon 3 months later….  I worried up a storm!  I just wanted it gone.  Apparently, it is so not a thing and so we will live with it for at least a decade, which is when they reckon it will be big enough to get rid of with risky surgery.  I am now trying to undo the worry and forget I ever knew that it was there.

pepper

In spite of the windy torment, the chilies are still producing something.

It makes sense then that my new years resolutions would be a focus of health and wellbeing with a bit of mindfulness thrown in for good measure.  I spent so long worrying about my health, that I feel like I have been given a fresh start to be intentional about what and when I eat and establish good routines so I am approaching my work and my life from a proactive rather than reactive direction.  I envisaged a sense of calm and slow gentleness where life falls into place perfectly and the garden will flourish under this new approach.

resilience

I really need to be like this bean and face adversity and grow anyway!

So here we are on day 5.  We are only 5 days in, and I am as far from healthy, calm and mindful!  On the 1st we went on a lovely long walk along the beach and I thought “I’m doing it – I’m taking care of me.”  But when we got back, I felt unwell and headed off to bed and I have been plagued with a summer cold that has robbed me of my voice and left me weak and headachy.  So much for health and wellness.

windswept corn

I am as heart broken as my corn is broken. I doubt it is worth saving.

Just to twist the knife into my plans for a better future, storm number 7 rolled through.  I saw it was coming but felt too sick to prepare the garden for its arrival with my intended proactive new self.   And so, it roared through the garden and took out the corn.  I’m gutted.  It was just beginning to drop the pollen from the tassels.  I think I may have pollinated the neighbour’s corn!  The stalks are broken and shredded.  But there is still time to grow more and so I will drag myself to the garden centre to pick up as many seedlings as they have.  I have also acquired some wind break fabric and have finally admitted to myself that it needs to be a permanent feature not a temporary one I can put up when the wind comes – as sometimes the wind comes when you aren’t ready for it.  Ok – I may not be able to see the ocean from the garden, but nine times out of ten I don’t look at it anyway, I’m too busy tending my plants.  It was a delusional idea I had to preserve the view and in hindsight I should have fought harder for my plants.

Garden fence

I am so pleased I incorporated the up right posts on the fence design. It will make it easy to attach the wind break

So, before the first week is even out, I understand what needs to happen this year.  I have two choices – I can look at the adversity life throws at me from all direction and I can choose to become defeated, give up and complain bitterly, or I can choose to pick myself up by the boot straps, look for a solution – and a back up solution and possibly even a spare one, just in case, and get on with it, all the while looking for blessings.

Australian smoke in NZ

However, my problems seem insignificant compared to those of our friends across the ditch. The smoke from the Australian bush fires have filled our skies with a sepia tone. It is an absolutely horrific event I can’t even begin to imagine what it is like for them. (no filter)

I am determined to be an overcomer this year.  Life will not grind me down – no matter how hard it tries.   I think last season with its more than ideal weather lulled me into a false sense of security, but the reality is more likely to be like this season.  So, I doubt very strongly it will be a year of posts of lovely luscious plants and bountiful harvests from a perfect garden, but full of trial and error, failures and successes and a whole lot in between.   I will not give up; I have come too far for that.

Come again soon – windbreak is going up…  TODAY!  Sore throat or not.

Sarah the Gardener  : o)

End of a decade – Part Two of Two

Welcome to the second installment of my gardening journey over the last decade.  In the last post we explored the first half of the Norties where I started out as a home gardener entering a competition and found myself being propelled on an incredible journey I couldn’t have foreseen from those early days.   (If you haven’t read it yet you can check it out here >End of a decade – Part One of Two<)  Now we pick it up again halfway through…

2015

This was a fun year and it was highlighted by a trip to the United States of America for a three day Garden Bloggers Conference.  Seriously – I couldn’t believe there was such a thing for people who shared my love of all things gardening and all things writing.  I had the best time and met some wonderful people.   You can read about that here: >Garden Bloggers are the nicest people<  This year was made all the more exciting when I was invited to be a guest speaker at the Whanganui Literary Festival, which was an extraordinarily cool thing to be a part of as well.

Garden Blogger Conference

I had such a great time at the Garden Bloggers Conference. If it didn’t take 36 hours each way to get there and cost a small fortune I’d go to something like it again in a heartbeat.

My most popular blog post for that year, which continues to be popular to this day is >My Mum’s one pot sultana biscuits< and it isn’t even about gardening!

2016

By comparison this year wasn’t quite as exciting, but I did write another book – Growing Vegetables.  Actually, that was quite exciting.  I think it is my favourite book, as I get frustrated with the myths and well intentioned but bad gardening advice out there.  So, I just wanted to scrape ‘how to garden’ back to the very basics and then lead the reader on to discover their own journey with a solid foundation.  There is no right or wrong way to garden.  At the end of the day if you put a seed in the ground and water it, chances are high that you will get something to eat.

Oh, and this was the year I became a brand ambassador for GARDENA.  I get approached a lot to showcase products but I don’t want to represent any old brand so I have carefully decided on my partners and I feel privileged and honoured to have Yates and GARDENA on my team (although probably best described as me on theirs).

Toast the Cat

Oh how I miss Toast the Cat. She was such a sweet wee thing

Despite the 94 blog posts I lovingly crafted that year my mum’s sultana biscuits remained my most popular post – and it wasn’t even about gardening!  Although that was the year we lost our much loved Toast the Cat and so we can’t not review this year without paying our respects.  >A tribute to my fluffy garden buddy<

2017

This year was a quiet year – nothing major happened.  Just gardening, writing, speaking and more gardening.  Although this was the year that I went as close to viral as I’ve ever been with my April fool’s day blog post!   >They’re up< (My mum’s sultana biscuits were the second most popular post and there were 93 great gardening posts to choose from!)

Growing pasta

My almost viral pasta seedlings… oh such fun!

By this stage my garden could be considered mature.  I had been there 10 years and it was just how I wanted it to be.  It was the right size and things grew well there, although it could have been a little less damp, but that is the joys of swamp living for you.  I was a very happy gardener.

The old garden

The old garden never looked so good as it did in that last month. I miss it, but it is in good hands.

2018

Now this was an exciting year – I was a judge and a speaker at the New Zealand Flower and Garden Show, and I headed across the ditch and spoke at a garden club in Australia.  I had gone international!  And I started writing for Kiwi Gardener Magazine as a regular contributor.

Sarah the Gardener speaking

I loved speaking at the New Zealand Flower and Garden Show

Oh yeah – and we up sticks and moved from the 3 acres in the swamp to 10 acres on the coast and relocated a house by chopping it in half and dragging it halfway across the country and started a brand new garden from scratch!  Little things.

Moving house

We don’t do things by half around here – so when we move house we really move house.

Annoyingly my Mum’s bikkies are still my number one post!  Even though there were 65 posts that year about the move and setting up a new garden!   There weren’t as many as previous years as I was rather busy building a new garden.   The 2nd most popular post was >A Sea Change<

2019

This year was all a bit quiet, aside from the writing, speaking and publicity side of things, and to be honest after the previous year it was a breath of fresh air and allowed me to scratch the surface of embracing the challenges of growing in this new and rugged environment.   Although it wasn’t without an exciting development and I have taken on a new role as a Botanical Tour Guide for Botanical Worldwide Discoveries and getting to visit some amazing and inspiring gardens with passionate fellow travellers is such a pleasure and a privilege.  It fits in so nicely with what I already have going on.

The new garden

I love the new garden so much, although a little less wind would be nice

The best post from 2019 was …  you guessed it – those blimmin biscuits!  The next best was a favourite of mine >Marrow Chips< and I as a result of taking my eye off the garden over Christmas, I have some zucchini turned marrow in the dehydrator right now with several others ready to take their place once the first lot have been done!

Looking back over the last decade has reminded me of the whirlwind journey I am on.  I don’t imagine for a minute that the next 10 years will be spent with my feet up after sowing a few seeds or pulling a few weeds.   I think I quite like the excitement and challenge of a life lived to the full.  Although I do feel a little trepidation for what may occur as this time 10 years ago, I didn’t see any of this coming and it certainly wasn’t in my plans at that point.  I am so grateful, thankful and delighted that my life has taken this path and I look forward to seeing where it will go from here.

Sarah the Gardener

Looking forward to another great decade

Thanks so much for all your support over the years – if it wasn’t for you, much of this wouldn’t have happened at all.

Come again soon – because 2020.

Sarah the Gardener  : o)

End of a decade – Part One of Two

As the years go by, I much prefer to let the days wash over me and just make the most of what is in front of me with a bit of planning for next season and beyond.  But marking down time with the passing of a calendar can be a bit stressful, it makes us aware of our age and adds a degree of pressure to get things done by a certain time or day and changes our focus from the moment to the minute.

Sarah the Gardener in the garden

It has been an interesting journey to get this far but I am so pleased it has happened the way it did. I wouldn’t change a thing.

But here we stand on the last few days of a decade that have shaped me the most, so the timing is right to do a bit of reflection and appreciate where I have come from.  It has been a bit of a journey.  Sometimes I made deliberate and intentional decisions and other times life just took me and I regret nothing.

2010

This time 10 years ago I was waiting with a held breath to find out if I had become a winner in my first ever Yates Spring Vegie Growing Challenge.  This was a blogging competition where you needed to write about your spring garden, sharing all the ups and downs, and encourage friends, relatives and random strangers met on the street to vote for you.  It was worth every effort as there was $1000 cash up for grabs.  Sadly, I didn’t win the competition, but I did win in other ways.  Firstly, they ran a once only Autumn challenge that year – which I entered with determination and won!  I continue to be involved in this fabulous challenge and we have just wrapped up our 10th  Annual Spring Vegie Growing Challenge and I have been the moderator for the last seven years and I love it.   But the best treasure to come from a decision to enter this competition all those years ago was the combination of writing and gardening.  It was the discovery of two loves and was the first step of a very satisfying journey.

The old garden

The old garden grew faster than I could take the fences down to build raised beds. Back then weeding was a chore I hadn’t yet mastered

2011

After the completion and win of the Autumn Vegie Growing Challenge, I found myself at a loose end.  I had shared every gardening thought and idea every day for an entire spring and autumn and I had gotten into the habit of sharing these things.  Without this outlet the thoughts got stuck in my head and spun around and around or worse – fell on deaf ears as I explained in great detail my latest creative endeavour in the garden to Hubby the Un-Gardener.  Something needed to be done to free my mind for more ideas and schemes, so I launched Gardeningkiwi on WordPress and loaded my first post >Hello World<.  I haven’t looked back.  I had been intermittently and tentatively loading videos to You Tube since 2009 under the name Gardeningkiwi so blogging became a technically easier extension of what I was already doing.   You can check out my first ever You Tube Video here. > My first You Tube Video<

The old garden

The old garden was taking shape, but was still a long way from its final incarnation.

It was also at this point I decided to take my gardening journey seriously and studied a National Certificate in Horticulture, which I passed with flying colours.  It is so easy to study something you are passionate about.

2012

The following year wasn’t as exciting as far as the level of interesting things that have occurred over the decade, but I continued blogging and racked up a whopping 67 blog posts for the year.  For some unknown reason my most popular blog post for that year was: >Goats love Kale<.  It continued to be popular for a few years afterwards as well, but I have no idea why.  During this year I threw myself into my garden – extended it a little with a few sneaky land grabs and picked up my first paid magazine article gig that lasted quite a while.

Goats love Kale

Strangely enough goats loving kale is a popular thing.  Sadly Sweetie (without the horns) is no longer with us.

2013

This is when things got exciting.  This was the year I released my first book The Good Life.  It is a memoir style with combination of all the blogs I had previously written plus some new stuff.  I have a lot to thank Hubby the Un-Gardener for what he has done for me over the years, as he recognised my writing as ‘quite good’.  I still don’t see it, but I like doing it, so I keep going, wearing out the keys on my laptop…  When he wanted to make the initial contact I said, “don’t bother them, they are probably busy.”  If he had listened to me, you would be reading a very different blog post right now.

My first book

There is nothing prouder than seeing your first book stacked up in a book shop alongside Clive Cussler!

This was also the start of my speaking journey.  Even though writing and speaking are two different things, if you write a book, people ask you to speak about it in all sorts of places.  Fortunately, I found I enjoyed that too.  I love speaking to  garden clubs, at events, on the radio and all sorts of places, although cruise ship speaking has to be a highlight!

Speaking on cruise ship

Speaking on cruise ship is loads of fun with the extra benefit of being on a cruise ship

My most popular blog post from this year was all about the chickens:  >I have achieved something pretty cool<

2014

By now I was on a roll…  I released book number 2 – Play in the Garden.   When I was approached to write a kid’s gardening book, I almost said no.  The boys weren’t into gardening, but when I saw how much they were into their screens, I decided they needed some outside time.  So, we wrote a book about getting kids out into the garden by creating some family time.  I paid them for their reluctant effort, and they turned the tables back on me by spending the money on an X-Box!

The boys

These poor wee boys were dragged through a season of gardening for the sake of a book. Looking back now I can’t believe how much they have grown

I also got on the telly a couple of times.  Twice in a current affairs news slot and once in a legit episode of a cooking show…  where I made halloumi cheese and a beetroot salad from the hungry gap in a bereft spring garden.  The show was called Cook the Books and I qualified for a segment as there were recipes in The Good Life – so I kinda had a Cookbook.

Filming in the garden

Being on TV was quite exciting

It comes as no surprise that the most popular post that year was my about page.  >What’s this all about then?<  Although it mortifies me to see that it is desperate need of an update, so please check on this again sometime in the near future for something more relevant to what I am doing now….

I don’t know about you – but I think I need to take a break here.  When I started writing this, I honestly thought I could fit it into one good sized post.  Unfortunately, I didn’t fully remember with clarity the scale of adventure my garden journey has been.

If you don’t make it to the next post, I just want to say here and now thank you all so much for your support over the years.  Things may have turned out quite differently without you.

Come again tomorrow – the best bits are still to come.

Sarah the Gardener  : o)

Christmas Blessings

This growing season hasn’t been the easiest and having the Christmas holidays right in the middle of it all can be a tad problematic, with all the shopping, partying, the end of year rush and general festivities and craziness.    Add to that the terrible weather that just won’t settle down into the never ending blue sky summer we have been expecting and it takes all self control not to get despondent over the state of the garden.

Pukeko in a Birds Eye Pepper plant

A Pukeko in a Birds Eye Pepper plant is rather festive. I miss Pukeko’s a little as we don’t get them here, but then I am looking at things with rose coloured glasses as they were quite the pain in my old garden.

But Christmas isn’t supposed to be a burden, it is supposed to be a time of hope, peace, joy and goodwill.  It is a time to count your blessings and look forward to a better tomorrow thanks to a small boy’s birthday.  So, in light of a tumultuous season that has caused more heartache than joy I am going to count my Christmas blessings.

Kiwi in jandals on an artichoke flower

Nothing quite says Christmas like a kiwi in jandals on an artichoke flower. Actually I don’t think anything does… except maybe in my garden.

  1. I have a beautiful garden, that when in full flourish is productive and delicious and provides most of our vegetable needs for most of the year.  It may be hard work and sometimes feel like an uphill battle, but I would be completely lost without it and it is my happy place (99.9% of the time!).
  2. We live in the most amazing place, with the most incredible sunsets as the sun sinks into the edge of the ocean every evening.  No two are alike.  Watching waves crash on the shore from the kitchen window is such a privilege.  I must remember never to take it for granted.
  3. I get to do what I love for a job, gardening and writing about gardening, and I can do my writing right there in my garden office, overlooking it all.  I have a dream job.

    Peas on earth and goodwill to mankind

    Peas on earth and goodwill to mankind

  4. I have a wonderful and supportive family and without Hubby the Un-Gardener none of this would have happened at all.   The boys have grown into such wonderful young men and are capable of lifting more bags of compost and digging quicker than I ever could.
  5. I even want to count my Multiple Sclerosis as a blessing as it was what prompted us to move to the country in the first place and live a different life from the path we were on before.
  6. Having a dog.  I have never been a dog person before but since Jasper the Dog came into our world I have become a sucker for a goofy, delightful fella who thinks I am the bees knees!
  7. I still love cats too.  Fennel the Cat is very much my cat and adores being in the garden with me.  Due to her bitey, scratchy kitten stage, that has long since passed, some of the family give her a wide berth.  But that is their loss as she is such a smoochy wee thing.

    Under a star a baby was born

    Under a star a baby was born. This Solar Flare Zucchini is a perfect garden backdrop, the flower looks like a perfect star, and the prolific zucchini are a great example of the overwhelming love!

  8. My faith is a blessing, giving Christmas a reason deeper than just exchanging gifts, but gives me a hope that all things are possible and I am equipped to do what I need to do, and if the love of my family wasn’t enough, it is comforting to know I am deeply loved.
  9. I get to work with some really lovely people in my working relationships with Yates NZ, Gardena, NZ Herald, Kiwi Gardener Magazine and my new role with Botanica World Discoveries.  Not only to they allow me to get the most out of my garden, and provide me with an opportunity to do more of what I love, but they provide me with the resources to support my garden and my family so I can just share my love of gardening on my social media without asking for anything in return.
  10. The people who take the time to follow what I am up to on my social media.  I’m not a stat counter or a like chaser, I just do what I do because it makes me happy and I want to share the joy so maybe, just maybe one person picks up a spade, turns over some earth and plants a seed and discovers the joy of growing something wonderful to eat.
Gardening Kiwi ready for Christmas

Gardening Kiwi is all set and ready for the festive season with the pohutukawa by her side making things feel all summery.

This was a wonderful exercise, and I can feel the joyous spirit of Christmas grow within me.  I am ready for this fabulous season and looking forward to spending it with friends and family… and maybe some stolen moments in the garden (well, someone has to dig up the fresh spuds on Christmas day!).

Merry Christmas from Sarah the Gardener

Another blessing is – it isn’t too hot to join in with the ugly sweater thing. Sending you a big Merry Christmas from my garden to yours.

So, from Me and my family, I would really like to wish you and your families a very Merry Christmas.

Come again soon – it is almost the end of a decade, and yet I haven’t aged a bit!

Sarah the Gardener  : o)

Spreading the love

With the summer holidays fast approaching the lawn becomes more than the grassy area between the house and the garden.  Being the only flat area of land we actually have, it is quite useful.  It started out flat and grassy before the house.  And to be honest it stayed that way until I created the garden.  I needed to remove a good layer of earth from the site of the garden to remove all trace of the kikuyu grass that holds the sand in place around here.  So, with the help of a bulldozer, the garden was stripped and smoothed out to give a level, but slightly sloping blank canvas for my garden.

Land before the lawn or the house

To be fair, the land before the house and the garden could have easily been mowed to make a nice lawn. In fact in that first summer of caravan living while waiting for the house Hubby the Un-Gardener did keep this area nicely mowed.

This didn’t help the poor back lawn, that suddenly found itself mountainous with great mounds of earth across it.  We couldn’t leave it like that and so the kikuyu filled soil was spread flat to define the area that would be our lawn.  Although it was no longer a grassy former paddock but a flattened sand dune ready to whisk sand about the place in the strong westerly that likes to make itself felt about here.

The before lawn

While the before lawn didn’t look too bad, there were at lot of weeds in it .

Fortunately, Kikuyu is a determine grass and soon found the surface and began to return the area at the back of the house to a field of green.  Although we did have to resort to grass seed for some areas that just didn’t seem to want to revegetate naturally.   It felt so weird to be freely scattering seed for a grass I was determined to keep out of the garden, separated only by a fence!  But it is the right kind of grass for here.  I just need to be extra vigilant to keep it out of the garden.

Measure the lawn

Before beginning it is important to measure your lawn so you know exactly how much Weed n Feed to apply.

Approaching the summer, the lawn no longer looked patchy and was a lush green vista. Although on closer inspection it would seem that not all of the green was good.  As it was a former pasture and the ground wasn’t prepared as thoroughly for the new lawn as if could have been, a lot of the green was weeds.  I’m not normally house proud for my lawn – I don’t have the time, what with taking care of the garden and all that entails.   The last place had a reclaimed paddock for a lawn and that was just fine.    However, as I was kind of responsible for its initial demise and restoring it back to what it was, I have a vested interested to make sure it is healthy.

Make sure the lawn in moist before applying the Weed n Feed

Make sure the lawn in moist before applying the Weed n Feed

So, before the height of summer when the grass was still actively growing I decided to give it some love in the form of a Yates Weed n Feed.  This most commonly comes in an easy to apply liquid state, however with the garden so close – separated only by a fence, I would need to wait for one of those perfectly rare super still days to ensure the weed part of the Weed n Feed didn’t drift beyond its boundaries.  These conditions were highly unlikely in the turbulent season we’ve been having.  Fortunately, this great lawn product also comes in a granular form so it much safer for using so close to my precious garden.

Gardena Spreader and Yates Weed n Feed

I love it when my two favourite gardening companies work so well together. It is almost like the GARDENA Spreader L was made for the Yates Weed n Feed.

To reduce the risk even further I was able to use my new GARDENA Spreader L, that I had been given quite some time ago but was waiting for the right conditions.  As the granular Weed n Feed is delivered just centimetres from the ground it is much less likely to end up in the garden, than being flung about at elbow height from a gloved hand.  The great thing about the spreader was I was able to adjust the settings to suit the size of the granules and the control the amount that was released from the hopper.   The best feature was there is an open / close bar controlled from the handle, so every time I had to stop I could easily stop the release of the Weed n Feed and prevent it from spilling out in excess on the lawn and wasting it.  And it was kind of fun walking up and down the lawn in rows knowing just the right amount was being delivered.

Weed n Feed being accurately delivered by the Gardena Spreader

Yates Weed n Feed being accurately delivered by the GARDENA Spreader L

Reading the instructions on the bag did warn me that the lawn may go black, so it didn’t come as a shock when large swathes of weedy lawn curled up its toes and died leaving blacken carcasses in the lawn within hours of application.   A couple of days later after a good watering the dead plants began the fade away and the ‘feed’ part of the product kicked in and the grass started to green up and slowly but surely fill the spaces left behind.

Dead weeds

Gosh – that didn’t take long for all the unwanted occupants of the lawn to shrivel up and die!

I may need to do it again, as it was a pasture and the old adage one year’s seed is seven years weeds, and so they will be back.  But it was such an easy process combining the spreader and the granular product, that one day soon I will be able to lay claim to a most magnificent lush and weed free lawn.

20191207_083135

Now how lovely does this after shot look. I think I may have found a new obsession – achieving the perfect lawn!

And so now as we go into summer with a respectable lawn, it will become a place for entertaining with a blanket spread across it for picnics held in the lee of the house away from the westerly wind, a sports field for backyard cricket and backyard tennis.  Although I’m not sure about the possibility of tents pitched upon it when friends come to stay, and the house is full to brimming.  But at least it looks good now.

Come again soon – Christmas is coming!

Sarah the Gardener  : o)

Change Comes Quickly

There has been an imperceptible shift in the garden.  Up until this point I feel like I have been managing tender young seedlings, doing what I can to nurture them into independence.  They have been scrawny, scrappy and poorly and several even died.   I replaced a few, more than once, to ensure the garden matched the plan I drew up during the long cold winter months.

Sunflowers

Such a delightful sight – sunny sunflowers. It only seems like yesterday I’d planted them out!

There are still gaps where the window for popping in a few extra seeds is closing fast and a few poorly looking plants who need a boost of love to see them through the next week or so without expiring.  Suddenly these are the exception and not the norm.   I’m not sure when this happened.   But sometime, beneath my very eyes in the last week or so, the plants got their wings and took off.  They are strong, robust and full of life and full of fruit.  This was completely unexpected.  You can be too familiar with what is in front of you that you don’t notice the changes.

Spaghetti Squash

I am bracing myself for an over abundance of spaghetti squash – and I only have one plant!

I have been looking at the big picture – removing weeds, which have also exploded everywhere, but also keeping things watered.  Until we ran out of water!  I wasn’t looking for the harvest because I wasn’t expecting it just yet.    From now on I shall be paying closer attention.  If the development of fruit can easily escape my attention, then there is the potential for pest and disease to do the same, and that is certainly not going to happen. I won’t allow it.

Pepper plants

After a particularly rough start the peppers are starting to bulk up and are flowering their little hearts out. There will be peppers in my harvest basket this season!

For the first time ever – I harvested all the zucchini on the plants while they were small, once I noticed them.  Normally they escape my attention for half a day and go from too small to too large! I made delish zucchini fritters with them all.  We ended up with too many zucchini fritters, but leftovers make great lunches.  Too many zucchini is a problem in the waiting.  I may regret planting four different varieties, but one summer a friend of mine made a lovely chutney with sliced zucchini of different colours and I thought it would be nice to try it.   Besides – I do have a backup plan for marrows – dehydrating them into chips is a delish treat in our house.  You can find out how I do that > HERE <.

Onion and garlic curing in the greenhouse

Onion and garlic curing in the greenhouse – each with their individual needs met.

Aside from the zucchini which are in edible form, the onion and garlic are curing in the greenhouse.  The onion on the top shelf in full sun and the garlic on the bottom shelf in the shade.   Garlic can lose flavour if left in the sun to dry.  I harvested a load of peas but missed the signs and so some are a little older than need be, but still edible.  They may work well in a lovely pea risotto, slowly cooked in butter and white wine, with a bit of cooked chicken added at the end.    The rhubarb could have a few of its fat stalks harvested for a tart but sweet treat and the salad leaves are ripe for the picking.  I will need to sow more lettuce to ensure there is always leaves available for summer salads.

Spinach

Not long now and this luscious looking spinach will make its way into the kitchen!

The pumpkins have gone nuts and have strong sturdy shoots scrambling across their allotted space.  Not only that, but there are baby pumpkins that have, for certain, been pollinated and are increase in size daily – well daily since I noticed them!  The spinach is almost of an edible size, so I need to whip up some homemade ricotta cheese so I can make chicken, spinach and ricotta pasta rolls, with a rich tomatoey sauce. I can almost taste it now.

Valentino Tomatoes

These Valentino tomatoes may only be a small plant, but they are heavily laden with sweet little heart shaped fruit!

The tomatoes are still a way off, but they are there in the green.  Even in their unripe stage, the variety of shapes and sizes are being revealed.  I can’t wait for a basket full of tomatoes of all colours and styles.  Not only will it look fabulous, but it will be a taste sensation!  It feels like every day one or more of them need tying into the next rung on the tomato structure.

Poorly strawberries

I’m not giving up hope on these poor unfortunate berries. They will recover with the right care and attention…. hopefully…

Some things aren’t doing so well though.  The strawberries are still struggling since they nearly died in the spring when it was unexpectedly dry for the 10 days I was out of town.  We almost got a small harvest the other day, but the chickens got out and gobbled them all up.  It is probably for the best, so they can recover without the burden of bearing fruit.  Just so long as we get some for Christmas.

Poorly Okra

Through sheer determination – I will bring these okra back to health – I haven’t been nurturing them for months to give up now.

The beetroot bolted to seed in the midst of the strange weather. I have sowed more, but in the windy conditions since, it has been hard to keep the soil moist and so not all of them have popped up.  I need to fill the gaps.  I think the okra is being targeted by snails and then in their vulnerable state, not coping with the wind buffering them about.  So I think I’ll give them a good liquid feed – once we get more water and then pop them under a 3L juice bottle with the botttom chopped off to create a warm and still micro climate and maybe even slip a few slug pellets in there too – where they are safe from the curious snout of Jasper the dog.  Normally I happily protect my crops with the pellets, however as Jasper finds the well-rotted manure mixed into the soil fascinating and worth a taste (dogs can be so disgusting at times), I can’t take the risk of using it as freely as I did before.  But for the sake of the okra I need to do something.

This has been a funny season, but I think it may end up surprising me with its bounty.

Come again soon – I may even share a few recipes that my family actually enjoy!

Sarah the Gardener  : o)

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