SARAH THE GARDENER

It’s all staged.

Winter is a long drawn out season with limited opportunity to do some real gardening.  However, I don’t like just sit there and do nothing during these months.  I like to do things that add value to my garden space and enhance my gardening season.  Like the winter we built a compost system and wrapped a picket fence around it so it looked like a feature and not an eyesore.  It is compost after all.  You can check out that hair brained project >HERE<, >HERE< and >HERE<.   After that mammoth effort, last year’s project was much simpler and I made some cloches to keep my seedlings in the garden safe and warm.  You can check that out >HERE<.

staging plan

It looks so easy. Designing things is simple when you work with tools you understand!

So this year, when an idea came to me, I thought about it for a very long time before acting upon it, as – even while it was in my head, struck me as rather complex.  I pondered it for many weeks, before sitting down to figure it all out.  I tried to design it on pencil and paper, but I couldn’t make the 3D part work, I didn’t have the skills.  So I did what a writer does best and opened a word document on my computer and using the INSERT SHAPE function I laid out my imaginary bits of wood.  I created images from all angles and used different colours for the bits of wood with different functions.

Lumber

Finally all the wood needed for the project – with the three missing lengths stacked on top!

Once it came together and all made sense, I made a paper model with lots of sticky tape so I could visualise if the 2D designs would work in 3D as I wasn’t quite sure how it would all stick together in the final stages.  Once I was happy with this, I took the designs and worked out how much wood I needed and went to the lumber yard to place my order.  They know me well there and so weren’t at all surprized when I had to call back and order a little bit more because I’d got a decimal point in the wrong place.  Possibly better to have had not enough than too much.  Imagine needing 25 metres and receiving 250 metres!

Cat and Shelves

Fennel the Cat watched the project with great interest – however, settling down for a nap where the saw could actually touch her belly on the down stroke wasn’t the best idea.

So with that hiccup easily fixed I got onto the building and construction stage and to be honest I don’t have great skill and ability here either, but I did my best and Hubby the Un-Gardener did his best.  Bless him.  And eventually after many blisters and a bandaid (not for me) the project was completed and looks awesome.  I really can’t wait to use it this spring.

Chicken and shelves

Everyone’s a critic. Even the chicken had a good look and had things to say!

Builders and those with technical abilities may not want to watch, but I recorded my creative process to show you what I built for my garden this winter.  I may not have great skill, but I have great vision.   It’s probably not so much an instructional video – more of a comedy of errors, so grab some popcorn and enjoy!

Come again soon – spring is almost a week away, then we’ll be back to the proper gardening!

Sarah the Gardener  : o)

Spoiler – Alert:

Hardening off staging

And after a lot of sweat and tears and a bit of blood, I have my outside staging to harden off my seedlings in the late spring. It won’t be long and this will be full of lovely plants that are currently still in their seed packets!

 

Foggy Friday

I suppose it makes a change from rain, and there is something mysterious about the fog. But I half expect Scooby Doo and Shaggy to stumble out of it exclaiming “Zoikes”.  All going well it will clear to a nice blue sky day, which would be lovely as this week I have mostly been behind the computer catching up on all the things that need catching up on before the onslaught of the season kicks in.

A foggy start to the day.

A foggy start to the day. But even in the gloom the yellow of the daffodils still manage to pop.

But it isn’t like the garden is completely dormant in a winter slumber.  In the remaining days of the season spring is absolutely making itself a home.   And I’ve been doing things too:

Chitting spuds

My spuds and yams are chitting nicely in the half light.

Potato seedlings

I have potato seedlings popping up in the greenhouse. I made the mistake of grabbing a bag of seed potatoes with lots of small spuds instead of fewer larger ones, as with three per pot I have a lot of large pots in my greenhouse. They should be gone soon enough – the variety was Swift!

Seedlings and footprints

Hmmm… this looks a lot like a paw print in my seed tray…. dangerously close to my rocket…..

Pea seedlings

The peas are poking through. It is satisfying to know I can get them through to a good size to be safely planted out without them rotting in the ground because of the soggy, or stolen by rodents or nibbled by slugs and snails the moment the show their faces. Now all I have to do is figure out how to keep the birds off them and the soil needs to dry out in time to plant them out.

Pepper seedlings

The peppers that popped up in a timely manner are now off the heat mat and in the greenhouse so they can grow up in full light so they don’t get all leggy.

Pepper seedlings

Typical. All of the other pepper seedlings – the fun ones – popped up right on time between the 10 – 14 days the seed packets suggested. But the bell peppers which I’m hoping for a lot of because their fruit will be frozen to get me through the winter, hadn’t shown their faces by day 16 so I sowed more… well I wasn’t going to wait around. It is like they were waiting for me to do that, because now they are popping up all over the place. I’m going to have far too many now! It’s always the way.

Dahlia tubers

I have dahila tubers to put into pots because it would be cruel and unkind to put them into my soggy soil right now. These will be so pretty when they flower I can hardly wait.

Lambs

Spring wouldn’t be spring without these cute bundles of fluff. Lambo is the one at the front. Lambo is Joeys for School Calf Club and we couldn’t just have one so we got Parsley (at the back) to keep him company. In this photo taken on Tuesday they were 2 days old.

Before long this gloomy season will be behind us and I’ll be basking in warmth eating tomatoes freshly plucked from healthy plants.   But for now the tomatoes are still in their seed packets and I’m wrapped up warm, trying to get as much preparation done as I can.

Come again soon – I’ve been building things again…

Sarah the Gardener  : o)

 

 

 

 

The Gardenerd Guide to Growing Great Vegetables

I don’t know if you remember a couple of summers ago I hosted an American carrot in my garden.   He wasn’t just any old carrot – Gardenerd was a rather large plush carrot in the midst of a world tour.  He was such a pleasure to have to visit and he helped me sow some carrot seeds in my garden and then we took him out on our boat for a tour of the Auckland Harbour.  You can read more about the fun times we had with our little orange friend >HERE< 

Gardenerd

Me and my buddy Gardenerd hanging out in the garden.

But there is more to Gardenerd than a cool travelling carrot.  Gardenerd is also website of the lovely Christy Wilhelmi.   Christy is a little like me, super passionate about growing food and encouraging others to grow their own.  She even runs gardening classes and food garden design services in Los Angeles where she lives and back in 2013 she released a great book called Gardening for Geeks which looks at the science behind the growing your food.   She has been sharing the gardening love for over a decade.

Christy got in touch with me just before we headed off on our holiday to let me know she had an exciting new project and asked if I was interested in checking it out.  Ten years ago, on the Gardenerd.com site Christy published a tip of a week each week for one week only.  Over time this resulted in hundreds of great and trustworthy gardening tips so the logical thing to do was to pop them all together in an e-book where all of the links made at the time could still be accessed.   Today’s technology has made it possible for this fantastic resource to come together as an interactive book:  400+ Tips for Organic Gardening Success.

Gardenerd eBook

Christy’s new eBook, 400+ Tips for Organic Gardening Success.

I just had to check it out and downloaded it for my holiday reading.   It was my gardening fix at sea.  Each morning when I woke up I reached for my phone where I had it saved and eagerly swiped through the pages.  Aside from taking photos, my phone wasn’t good for much else as there was extremely limited WiFi where we were.  This did mean I wasn’t able to click on the links, but I took plenty of notes and jotted down the links I just had to check out once I got home.  This was a book a keen gardener can lose themselves in and with the ability to wander beyond the book, makes it so much more.

While the book is based in the Northern Hemisphere and has a lot of locational tips specific to America, these are still interesting to read for me down under, and often I sigh a huge sigh of relief that I don’t have to worry about some of those pests they have up there!  But aside from the few points of difference – the rest is practical and useful and either refreshed my memory or taught me something new.   For the most part, it doesn’t matter where you are – if you plant a tomato seed then you should get some tomatoes to eat.  As gardeners, we all speak the same language.

Gardenerd

Gardening is for everyone.

With the new season coming up and you are looking for advice on how to get the most out of your garden or maybe feel a tad rusty after the long, wet winter months – Christy’s e-book 400+ Tips for Organic Gardening Success will put you on the right track to a bountiful harvest.  Whether you dip in and out to find the tips you need or devour it whole in one sitting you will really get a lot out of it.  I certainly did.  You can get a copy from >Amazon< for a very affordable price.

I would like to wish Christy all the best with this project, you can see the care and passion behind every hint and tip and can tell she only wants the best for the gardeners who read her words.

Come again soon – Spring is so close now I can see, smell and hear it!

Sarah the Gardener : o)

Yellow

This post has been bought to you by the colour yellow, with a touch of blue thrown in for good measure.

If you were to think of spring, the colour that immediately springs to mind is green.  All that fresh new growth.  The green is luminescent and vibrant and you can almost feel alive because of it.  Its sense of well being and hope for the future is almost infectious.   But we aren’t there yet.  We still have 20 more days of winter. Although the signs are beginning to show.

Daffodil

You can’t beat the cheerful nature of a daffodil

Winter is not ready to relinquish its grip just yet and continues to pour cold water on our enthusiasm.  But as a soggy season, weary gardener it is easy to see beyond the drab and embrace the hints of the new season that are emerging.  And it isn’t the green that is drawing my attention, possibly because it is showing up everywhere, but the yellow.  It is bright and blousy and stands out on a bleak day.  It cuts through and grey and you can’t help but smile at its bravery and defiance.  ‘The conditions are terrible, but that’s ok with me – I’ll hold my head tall in spite of it’ it seems to say and each time I see the amount of yellow sneaking into the garden I feel myself standing taller.

Yellow Iris

I forgot I had this yellow iris. I shall check on it frequently as it emerges as is is a spectacular bloom – Groundsel could learn a lesson or two here about how to be a flower!

Of course the most famous yellow at this time of year is the daffodil and I have loads of them everywhere and some smell so incredible. Being able to stop throughout the day and breathe in the delicious scent, instead of just rushing by, reminds me to slow down.  Nature is calling me to join its rhythm.  At this time of year when the season gets going there is a temptation to rush to get things done.  This season I intend to hurry slowly so I can appreciate all that is going on in my garden.

Flowering mustard cover crop

While making a lovely view and feeding early bees this is not what I had hoped for from my mustard cover crop at this stage.

Other yellows while bright and cheerful and add to the overall enthusiasm of the spring like scene, individually aren’t such a welcome presence.  Firstly because of the incessant rain my cover crops never did very well.  Instead of the tall forest of green mustard plants I have been waiting for, they have all burst into flower while well short of their expected height.   To add to the woes of this situation, the ground is too wet to dig them in lest I destroy my soil structure.  I think I’m going to have to do a ‘chop and drop’ and hope the worms pull their weight and drag the nutrients back down into the soil in time for planting.

Blueberries

These blueberry plants are bursting into life. It will be a delicious season.

The other day – while listening to the BBC’s radio show Gardeners Question Time, I heard that cover crops are ideal for gardens in wet situations over winter as it locks the nutrients into the plants and prevents them being washed away, then by chopping them down and adding them back to the soil the nutrients are returned as the plant rots down and are available to the next crop.  I already knew the benefits of cover crops – that’s why I use them, but this explanation for me was one of those moments when the penny drops and things make even more sense than they did before.

Groundsel

This vision of yellow is not lovely at all. What a horrible little plant. The yellow is a cheeky nod, like popping a dress over your PJs because you don’t really want to go out and won’t be long anyway (not that I do that). The flower, if you can call it that, is a poor effort towards floral beauty but it will be a seed head soon enough so it shines briefly with a token yellow gesture.

The other problematic yellow in my garden is in the flower bed.  It is bed 35 in sector 5 so its care falls into the region of a Friday afternoon.  Which to be honest does diminish its chances of a thorough overall.   So the last time I weeded it I gave it a good going over – but it could have been better.   And now I have horrible little groundsel flowers all over the place and about to burst their fluffy little seed pods all over the place.  This is a nasty little weed because it seeds so quickly.  I’m going to have to do a bit of Friday weeding on a Thursday to nip this one in the bud – and soil structure may inadvertently be destroyed in the process.

Daffodils

I have yellow pockets of gloriousness all over my garden. It helps to make the garden brighter and takes my mind of the muddy mess everywhere else. There are brighter days ahead.

But is isn’t all bad.  My blueberries already look like they are set for a bumper harvest.  This year I may even share them as it is looking like there will be way more than what I can snack on as I go about my gardening business.

Come again soon – I have another project on the go.

Sarah the Gardener  : o)

I need more Broad Beans!

Ok, so I spent ages planning my garden and working out where everything will go based on it’s ultimate size and spacing requirements.   I often tell people, once you have planned your garden then that’s pretty much it – if you want extras, don’t squeeze them in, extend your garden or pop them in containers.   And that still pretty much applies.

Yates Hughey Broad Beans

The new and exciting scarlet flowered Yates Hughey Broad Beans. They are the newest must have in any kiwi veggie patch this season,

But, when Yates, my favourite seed company, decides to release a whole lot of new products for the season, then I just have to make room.  So, while I won’t be squeezing things in, there’ll be some juggling going on.   I really shouldn’t extend the garden and if you asked Hubby the Un-Gardener he would say I wasn’t allowed to.  And to be honest, containers are my weak point.  I do try, but with everything else going on in the garden they can have a less than ideal quality of care, and I’d hate that for these new exciting things.

Yates Evergreen Broad Beans

My Yates Evergreen Broad Beans I planted back in at the end of May are doing well.

I have room in the odd and sods bed which is great.  But that currently has the last of last season’s brassicas in there and they’re not ready yet.  So, I have to get a bit creative to make room for some amazing new Broad Beans.  I can’t believe I’m getting excited about broad beans as I still haven’t completely come to terms with their likeability.  Yet.  But these ones are different.  These are special and have a fabulous story to them and I have to have them.

Broad bean seeds

The beans are placed 15cm a part and sown 4cm deep. It is best not to over water after planting to prevent the seeds from rotting in the soil. I am hoping it won’t rain again before they germinate!

Here in New Zealand our biosecurity is extremely important to us, and as a result our biodiversity in the vegetable range is what it is and I understand this perfectly.  So, when you find a tenacious Kiwi plantsman decides to breed something new to create a Broad Bean with beautiful scarlet flowers, then we need to honour this innovation and grow some for ourselves.

Supporting the Broad Beans

Broad beans grow about a metre tall and need support as they can flop about. I like to build a wee trellis fence around them to keep them contained as they grow

So, I need to make room for my new Hughey Broad Beans, creatively named after the plantsman Denis Hughes. The packet assures me they are tasty and prolific, and succulent and nutty.    You never know – I may just like this variety and if not – they will look spectacular in my garden.

Leeks

We still have a fair few weather bedraggled leeks in the garden that need to be eaten sooner rather than later.

Maybe if I move the soya beans to the odds and sods bed and plant the Hughey Broad Beans in their place in the Bean Bed.  This will mean harvesting and eating a few leeks that are currently languishing in the spot I have in mind.   And the best thing of all is I can plant them right now…  there isn’t a moment to waste.

Come again soon – the weather is holding off so I need to get things done.

Sarah the Gardener : o)

 

Fret not – Plants don’t hurry

Pepper Seeds

The obligatory first handful of seeds for the season image…. You can almost see them smiling! They are as excited as I am after months of sitting in a dark packet in a cool place.

I love tradition and fanfare.  Any excuse for a celebration and I’m all over it.  We need these things to mark the passage of time as life rolls around too fast.  And it is with this thought bouncing around firmly in my head we find ourselves in August!   Seriously – August 2017.  It seems like yesterday I was waking up to a new day of a new year and promising myself this will be a better year, all fine-tuned and full of hope due to my past experiences and learning things the hard way.  My intentions were heavily laced with determination and commitment.   And yet here we are in August.

Seed trays

This year I have a new propagation system for these early starters, so they can stay warm, moist and cosy. The first job was to fill them with a good quality seed raising mix.

Don’t get me wrong – I have done stuff I feel proud of and I look back over the year and can legitimately say the failings weren’t my fault.  If the weather wasn’t so terrible I’d have more tomatoes, I would have had a better garden and I would have done more stuff.   The weather – no matter how frustrating has been a convenient scapegoat.

Labels

Labeling is importing when sowing seeds – especially when you are planting a hot Bird’s Eye Chilli beside a mild mannered Bell Pepper! I also like to sow seed in alphabetical order and take a photo of the seed tray so there is no chance for confusion.

But now we are in August.  I keep repeating this with disbelief.  The main reason I am approaching this with incredulity is that we are standing on the edge of a gardening precipice.  The new growing season is imminent and I’m not sure I’m ready.  Today as the 2nd day of the new month I haven’t done what a usually always do:  That is to start my pepper, chilli and capsicum seedlings off with great fanfare, pomp and ceremony.  I didn’t get it done.  This momentous moment passed me by.

Spacing seedlings

I normally like to sow my seeds into module seed trays so they get the space they need and there is less root disturbance. However, with this new system that isn’t possible so after I gently firmed the soil I made a grid out of some spare chicken wire mesh fencing we had kicking around. Spacing is important when sowing seeds, to ensure the seedlings have good air flow.

The negative thoughts in my head are suggesting it is an omen for the season…  ‘if you start behind you’ll stay behind’.  Of course, I shut them down straight away.   Peppers can be started all the way up to Early Summer in December and you’ll still get a harvest.  But for me it is more about lovingly coaxing this slow growing seedling into life, giving it the one on one attention it wouldn’t get when planted beside the more popular, faster growing and attention seeking tomatoes next month.  It is also about the beginning of the season and all that it represents to me.   And with this tiny peek into the inner workings of my bedraggled mind you can sense logic in my madness.

Date your seed packet

I always write the date I open packets of seeds, because as much as I store my seeds in the best possible way – in an old tin, in a cool, dry, dark place – the viability is on a countdown from the moment I open the packet. It makes things so much easier when I do my annual seed sort through.

Ok – so I missed the first day of my own growing season.  It was raining, non-gardening commitments took precedent and just to add to the frustration I had a bit of an MSsy day.  And I need to be ok with it.  Sometimes life stops gardeners gardening.  But nature is a forgiving thing – my peppers won’t know they started a day late and will still burst into life under my watchful care.  It is very easy to beat ourselves up with our own expectations.  Today, I’m feeling a little better, my non-gardening demands have been addressed and to be honest it doesn’t matter that it is raining (and the boffins are suggesting there will be a lot of rain – again).  Sowing seeds is a gentle indoor job and I will relax and slow down to the rhythm of nature.  Maybe this is a lesson for the entire season.

Fennel the Cat

They say don’t work with animals and small children. Fennel the Cat was determined to help, but she was just a little too helpful for my liking.

“Fret not – Plants don’t hurry”

Propagation system

The seed trays had their fancy covers placed over the top and then placed on my new heated propagator system with capillary matting so it will be watered gently with warm water from below! Peppers do like a nice warm 22C for good germination. I shall probably check for signs of life at least twice a day – if not more from now on! Let the fun begin.

Come again soon – the starters flag has been waved (albeit a moment late) and the growing season is underway.

Sarah the Gardener  : o)

Washy Washy

We are still in mid winter for a couple more days and then there is only August standing between us and spring.  This winter is just zipping by!  My to do list in the early winter seemed manageable, but now I’m not so sure.  I’m beginning to run out of winter!  Who would have thought that I would be considering wishing winter would slow down and wanting to delay the start to spring…

Greenhouse

A good greenhouse is a real blessing

However, the season is marching on and these things need doing and I just need to get out there and get them done.  The weather for the moment is being nice and so it makes the motivation come easier, which is fabulous. With the new growing season so close it is important to get the greenhouse clean, tidy and in order so it is a nice fresh environment for my tiny new seedlings that will soon be there.  It is a little bit like nesting before a new baby, getting the nursery clean, but the seedlings are vulnerable infants and need quality care.  In the dirty world of gardening hygiene is very important!  It does also help to find ways to make the less desirable tasks more pleasurable.

pot washing

Washing pots is important to ensure last season’s pests and disease aren’t introduced to the new season.

In previous years this has been a horrible job that I put off as it usually involve buckets of freezing cold soapy water and blasts of chilly water from the hose adding to the muddy mess.   This year I found a new way to get it done – a much better way.  Cleaning pots has never been such fun!  You can check it out here:

Come again soon – I think there are a few things that can be sown right now.

Sarah the Gardener  : o)

Mixing things up

Who said winter was the quiet season? I feel like I’ve got a list a mile long to get things done before the seasons change into the busyness of spring. I’ve worked hard already this winter to try and keep on top of the beds to stop the weeds from truly taking over and I have the sector systems to thank for having a winter garden that isn’t raging out of control. In the past I have let things go and while it made for an easy winter, it certainly made for a back breaking spring!

Daffofils

The signs are everywhere – spring will be here soon enough. I need to get on with my to do list before it is too late.

Now that the garden has been planned and the seeds sorted, the next task as we head towards spring is to enrich the soil. In an ideal world, we wouldn’t have had so much rain and I would be able to get stuck in and get the garden spring ready. This is supposed to be the time when I can leisurely prepare the beds without the demands of impatient seedlings waiting for new homes.

mowing the bed

Before I knew better, this was how I prepared my garden bed for spring!

Proper soil preparation is important for a successful garden, because you can’t continue to take from the garden. All crops remove goodness from the soil – some parts you eat as delicious food, and others get consigned to the compost heap at the end of the season. Even the weeds left to go wild in the garden over winter can rob nutrients from the soil. This goodness needs to be restored in order to have another successful harvest or you will deplete the soil and future crops will struggle to thrive and the harvest will be poor.

Mud

When the paths look a little muddy like this, I do feel a tad guilty sloshing about on them, but if the raised bed is dry enough to work… well it is just a path….

The soil is pretty much the foundation of the garden and I do love my soil – even if it does get a bit soggy from time to time. This ability to hold an extraordinary amount of water comes into its own in the heat of summer. I feed my plants often throughout the growing season to prevent depletion of easily accessible nutrients, but between the crops is when my soil gets the most love.

My routine is generally to add some compost, well rotted manure and a dash of blood and bone to the surface of the bed and then gently work it in to the soil so it is in the root zone and accessible to the plants. It doesn’t need to be dug right into the depths of the garden – the worms can do that. There is more and more research suggesting it isn’t best to dig too deep in the garden or you will disturb the soil structure and the habitats of the beneficial organisms in the soil that work hard to make things easy for the plants to do their thing – whether on purpose through symbiotic relationships or as a happy accidental biproduct of their activities. So I’m not in a hurry to upset these guys.

Gardena cultivator

My Gardena cultivator is perfect for tickling the soil to incorporate all the lovely enriching ingredients. It has to be my most used tool right now. I love it!

However, the soil does need to be disturbed from time to time – extracting your potato crop wouldn’t be possible without some soil disturbance, but in the past when I’ve dug my garden over it always bothered me to see the unintended harm to many an earthworm. So now I kind of ‘stir’ my goodies into the soil, but with enough time before the crop is needed, to allow them to settle in and become part of the structure of the soil, and allow the underground populations to work their magic.

Onion seedlings

Finally the soil was dry enough to add all of the lovely nutrient ingredients and after mixing well I was able to plant my long overdue red onions and shallots!

It also helps to consider the crops that were there before, when enriching your soil, as a hungry crop like sweetcorn will have made a considerable dent in the nitrogen reserves in the soil, compared to say a bean crop that makes its own nitrogen from the atmosphere through the nodules on its roots. So, you don’t want to enrich your bed and then find it isn’t enough and your next crop suffers, or even worse you wouldn’t want to over enrich things as this is much harder to rectify. A soil test is always a good idea if you are concerned about the quality of your soil.

Fennel the Cat

Ideally the best thing to do in a wet winter is to sit and watch the water drain away.

In an ideal world, it is also important to allow a refreshed bed to settle, so the tender young roots of seedlings don’t stumble across a pocket of pure nutrient that missed being worked into the soil, as this could burn the fragile roots. Having said that, sometimes, when it has been raining for weeks and weeks and weeks and you finally have dry soil and you ‘need’ to get your onions in – if you mix things in well, you can plant directly into the freshly enriched bed and your crop will be fine.

I always aim to do the right thing and I know and understand the benefits of doing things the right way. But sometimes there is a break in the weather and you just have to go for it. Nature is quite forgiving and probably laughs at our ‘rules for growing vegetables.’

Come again soon – there is a bit of tidying up to do.

Sarah the Gardener : o)

Garden Planning – the Final Push

Sector 4 is all fruit so no planning needed there – all I have to do before the season changes is evict the aging three year old strawberries and replace them with their offspring runners to keep the production of delicious berries at an optimum.

Raspberries

I need these in my life

So that leaves the back row that forms sector 5.  If you take the two raspberry beds (27 and 28) out – which I’ll be replacing at some stage soon with fresh canes, there are only four beds in this section so it should be easy.

Parsnip fritters

In spite of what the kids said – these parsnip fritters were delish.

Bed 25 had the carrots and still has the parsnips in there, but we are doing our best to eat them.  Last night I made some great parsnip fritters, but the kids weren’t too fussed about them – I say they don’t recognize quality produce when it is presented to them!  And they should really learn to like them as they are a great way to use a lot of parsnips in one meal.

Once the parsnips have been consumed and ‘enjoyed’ this will become the salad bed.  To be honest in this bed I normally like to use the variety that comes from a mixed salad packet, otherwise I’d just be tempted to put in too many of the same thing from the sheer principle that I have all these seedlings and wouldn’t want to waste them.  I only put the salad in a quarter of the bed and then progressively add more across the season so the bed is in constant renewal.  Any that don’t get finished before they bolt are gratefully received by the chickens or the goats.  I also like to grow rocket for its spicy bite and my favourite recipe is roast pumpkin, red onion and feta cheese on a bed of rocket leaves.  I also pop my radish in this bed.  I don’t plant that many as I’m not a great fan of them, but I see it as one of those crops that mark a time and phase of the season and so it is more of a nod to the passing of time.  Sometimes the days, weeks, months and seasons pass by so quickly that you need to stop every now and again and savour a radish.

Radish

Radish have a place in my garden – albeit briefly

The next bed (26) is what used to be my teaching bed – I’m not doing any teaching program this year which will be a refreshing break.  But I do like to share my knowledge with people – just to get them growing something.  It is a 2 x 3m bed in the ground and I pretend it is all I have in my back garden and grow crops in that space to suit a normal family.  Maybe this year I’ll plant it out the same, but send the produce to the food bank or give to a needy family.   Yup – that’s what I’ll do.  The bed usually has beans, carrots, peas, peppers, tomatoes, corn, zucchini, salad and cucumber.  I’ll rename it The Giving Bed.

cosmos

I know cosmos should be a given in the flower garden but I’m still unsure about the rest… but there will definitely be zinnias – I love Zinnias!

Bed 29 is still a struggle for me to get my head around – it is the flower bed.  I have good intentions about this, but may remove it from my generally planning or we will be here for months while I continue to wrap my head around the art of growing flowers!

Buttercup Squash

These buttercup squash don’t grow too big but give a fabulous burst of flavour in the middle of winter.

The final bed in the sector system is the pumpkin bed.  It is in ground as well as I want to encourage their roots to go down into the soil to find a consistent supply of moisture.  Currently this bed is a bit of a weedy mess – but the bed that gets done last on a Friday does tend to suffer a little.  Once this bed is planted out then I’ll put down a deep layer of mulch.  There are so many varieties of pumpkin to grow and I have tried many of them.  Many of them disappointed with their flavour and ended up rotting in storage or shrivelling up in the back of the fridge.  So, it might sound boring but I grow what I like and these are the ones that are often found in the store.  The only difference being I won’t need to pay for them.    I like to grow Crown Pumpkins and Buttercup Squash.  Add this to the Butternuts growing in bed 10 and we have a good supply for winter and they store well enough so I can have my roast pumpkin salad in the summer.

Giant pumpkin

I don’t think I should speak of this giant pumpkin again

We also like to grow a few Atlantic Giants and after last years shameful 1kg effort the challenge is on – I shall grow a whopper.

And that’s it – my garden for 2017.  It will be fabulous.

Come again soon – hopefully the storm the boffins are predicting will miss us completely.  I’m over storms.

Sarah the Gardener  : o)

Planning the Garden – Sector Three

Sector three was once the outer edge of the garden.  I’m not entirely sure how it has become part of the heart of the garden, but I think I may need a fence.    I’m really pleased with my sector systems as it helps break down my large garden on so many levels – weeding, watering and feeding a sector a day makes the insurmountable achievable.   It doesn’t matter that there is a raging weedy mess in bed 30 zone 5 – that can wait until Friday.  But I found in the height of the season the little and often approach almost completely eliminated the weedy mess situation.

Garden beds

Sector three with the successional planting of the salad bed in action.

But also, as I plan the garden, I’m able to break it down into manageable chunks and make sure I have a good understanding of what I want to grow and where it will be put instead of creating a giant list of ‘ohh I want that’ and ‘I must have that’ that ends up causing problems later on when it comes to emptying the greenhouse of thousands of lovingly nurtured seedlings with nowhere to go.  I may be a bit of a geek, but as well as creating a list – I’m also creating mini maps for each garden bed so I know not only what goes where, but how many seedlings I’ll need.  I normally grow a spare and a back up for each seedling needed.

I’m also examining each option to make sure it fits in with how we will end up using the produce in the end.   It isn’t really ideal to have a glut of something you don’t like or won’t use in more than one dish.  And while friends and neighbours often appreciate your excess common veggies, they may not share your enthusiasm for the weird and the wonderful.   I need to remember – at the end of the day my main aim is to feed my family in a self-sustainable way.

Not a bad carrot

Not a bad carrot

Good things take time – and I’m enjoying turning this into a drawn out process, savouring the moment, especially as  the garden is still drying out.   Bed 13 is the first one in Sector 3 and it has already started to be filled with a row of carrots.   Last year it had the spuds because the spuds are great for loosening the soil and it just so happens carrots like loose soil! Last year I vaguely recall some kind of bottle neck between these beds and the salad crops that will go into the bed the carrots were in.  We weren’t eating the carrots or the parnips fast enough which held up moving the salad crops which don’t mind the cool of spring and this in turn held up the brassicas.  My crop rotation wasn’t happening fast enough.  So I started my autumn carrots in their new bed not their old one, but the parsnips need a bit of a hurry up – they’ve been in since spring and have had several frosts on them and are in prime condition to eat.  Maybe we’ll have parsnip fritters tonight.

Parsnips for dinner

Parsnips for dinner

We do love parsnips but I just forget to eat them.  So bed 13 will have the already existing carrots, some fennel and beetroot, which just happen to be there already too and parsnips which will be sown in the spring.  There is enough room in this bed for plenty of succession planting.

Potato Harvest

Not a bad harvest – I’m looking forward digging up this kind of bounty again soon.

Then the new potato bed is number 14.  The spuds go in on the 16 September because I’m a creature of habit and the Jersey Bennes are a Christmas favourite that take 100 days to grow and the 16th September is 100 days before Christmas.  Not only is it cool to dig them up moments before Christmas dinner, but they charge a fortune for these in the days leading up to Christmas and so I feel good in a financially challenging festive season I’m actually saving money.   This is also when I plant the other varieties that take a little longer.  The choice is usually based on what is available and how best they can be used in our kitchen.

Beans

I grow beans the easy way. Pretty much set and forget!

Bed 15 becomes the bean bed and the broad beans have been in there since the autumn.  I am a sucker for punishment as these have to be the least liked things in the whole garden.  But one day I might just like them – you never know…  I tend to grow an ordinary dwarf green bean, a yellow one and a purple one for the token bean eating business as we don’t really like beans all that much.  But we do eat a lot of kidney beans.  I have grown them for several years and they are so simple – just plant them and then leave them until the pods rattle!  This year I’m also going to try a Cannellini Bean because sometimes you don’t want a large red bean in your dish.

I’m terrible at meal planning and often decide hours before we eat what we are having and the concept of dried beans doesn’t fit with this approach.  So what I do is I soak all of the beans for the required time and then drain them and freeze them.  When I decide on a whim I want to use them I just chuck them in a pot and boil them until soft and then add them to my dish.  It seems to work well.  In the meantime, I have to eat a lot of leeks because they are still taking up a lot of space in the soon to be bean bed.

Leeks

There are always leeks in garden. They come in so handy in winter meals.

Following on from the beans is Bed 16 which is the onion overflow bed.  It should have things in it at the moment but the weather has conspired against it.  So what will go in there soon are some shallot bulbs saved from last year, some shallot seedlings, Red Onions, and maybe the left over Pukekohe Longkeepers and Hunter River Whites – if there is space.  I have to also leave some space for the leeks that will go in in the spring.

Okra flowers

Okra flowers are so beautiful

Next to the soon to be onion bed is last seasons brassicas, which are still host to the autumn ones.  They should be well gone by the time we need the bed for the odds and sods.  This is generally for things that don’t fit in anywhere else, like the eggplant and okra but also for fun things like popcorn and peanuts.  There is also a bit of space for something fun.  Last year it had tomatillos in there but I had to admit I don’t actually like them enough to grow them again so the seeds will be off to the seed swap at the library.  I’m not sure what I’ll put in there yet…  In the past I have tried asparagus peas, marshmallow, epazote, sugar beet, caigua and some I even gave a second chance but all won’t be back in my garden.  Maybe I’ll just save the space for an extra left over favourite thing.  I must be getting more sensible as I get older…

Tomatillos and okra

Next season I need to pick my okra shorter and my tomatillos never…

Then the new brassica bed is the old salad bed.  This also has the usual suspects – broccoli, Romanesco, cabbage and a red cabbage or two for good measure, possibly a cauliflower, kale and kohlrabi and that is about it.  There is space in the bed for 16 brassicary things.  So it will be a mix of these, depending on which ones we eat the most of.  Brassicas can all be a bit boring to be honest.

Cabbage

Some cabbage can be good looking

After this there is only one last push on the planning front.  It does include the flower bed and goodness knows what I want in there.  It should be interesting.

Come again soon – The planning stage is one of the bigger winter projects – after this I’ll have to do things like cleaning the greenhouse.

Sarah the Gardener  : o)

%d bloggers like this: