SARAH THE GARDENER

Slowly but steadily the week marched by.

It has been a long week with a lot going on.  When we relocated our house back in April 2018 we made a few unconventional decisions.  We decided if a bathroom or a kitchen needed renovating you would find the money to do it eventually, but the outside of the house is the bit that normally gets what money is left at the end of the renovation.  So, we ended up throwing most of our budget on things outside – for me it was the vegetable garden and the budget blowing geodesic biodome and for Hubby the Un-Gardener it was his dream entertaining area.   We have loved every moment of what we have created.

lettuce seedlings

I’ve begun hardening off the lettuce seedlings – they look so good, but I should really sow some more seeds so I have a continuous supply throughout the summer.

However, in the house it really does still look like a home in desperate need of a reno.  Finally, we managed to get together enough money to make a start on the inside and the bathroom was the first room to be done and it was an easy choice.  When the house was being put back together our fabulous builder and our plumber both said they were uncomfortable putting the old shower back in as it could leak and were encouraging us to put in a cheap temporary one.  But I know us and if we put in a cheap temporary shower I would still be using a cheap temporary shower in 20 years’ time!   So, I have spent the last 2 years worried about the bathroom floor rotting through.

Bathroom renovation

Exciting times ahead – the first indoor renovation is taking place!

The bathroom reno started this week and I needn’t have worried because the floor was fine, thanks to thick layers of silicon holding the shower in place.  Although I’m not sure it would have stayed that way forever.  It isn’t finished yet and I’ll show you when its done, but with all the decisions that needed making and the exciting distraction of it all, I didn’t get as much gardening done as I would have liked.

Liquid feeding the gooseberries

After the winter in the dome, the gooseberry seems to have recovered and has leaves popping through. I’ve given it a liquid feed with a dash of seaweed tonic to give it a boost.

But I did get some things done.   This week was the second of the fortnightly feeding of the garden with a liquid feed and I could tell the plants had responded well to the previous one so that was encouraging.  For some of the more vulnerable, weak, or newly relocated plants I added some liquid seaweed tonic to the mix to help them get over the stress of whatever they have going on and encourage strong root growth.

Raspberries

The raspberries I relocated from a less than desirable spot are coming along nicely. I’m not expecting any from the summer ones as they need a season to establish the canes that will bear fruit next season, but there is a chance the autumn ones will come through with the goods!

The sector system is such a dream, I am so pleased I found an easy way to manage such a large garden because it doesn’t take long to whip through it, weeding, feeding, and tending.  And it is very forgiving if you miss a day.

Jasper the Dog

Jasper the Dog loves hanging out with me in the garden, but I think sometimes he thinks I may be there for a little too long…

There is still a lot to be done.  The tomatoes are now at the stage where they need to be transplanted and so do a load of other things.  I sowed my seeds this year with a heavy hand as my seeds are getting a little old.  I think next season I may need to replace most of them, but I should probably pick up some broccoli seeds as they haven’t shown their face after several sowings.

Tree lupin flower

This is a great mid season spring thing – the tree lupin flowers. This is one of the the first flowers but in a few weeks the whole side of the hill behind my garden will be full of flowers with a bright yellowness and an incredible aroma will fill the valley.

I also need to plan and sow my flower seeds – this is urgent.  I’ll update you on this before the end of next week.  And I need to continue preparing the beds for their new occupants, we’re mostly there – Hubby the Un-Gardener and the Teen Lads have been doing the digging.  I should have more free time in the weeks to come because tonight is the start of daylight savings.  I would normally suggest ‘don’t forget to change your clocks’ but they all seem to do it automatically these days – except the one in the car – but it will be right again in the autumn and it is easily enough to remember it is an hour out!

Come again soon – hopefully more progress will be made next week.

Sarah the Gardener  : o)

A day in the garden

It was quite an ordinary spring day.  The wind (and Fennel the Cat – she has a very loud meow and wasn’t happy the food she had been served for dinner and let me know about it at 3am) disturbed my sleep.  It always sounds so much louder and feels so much stronger when we are this close to the beach.  

plants in the greenhouse

The number of trays and plants just keeps expanding.

So, it was a slow start to a sluggish day.  I started off with my computer gardening while the weather warmed up a little.  Then I decided the garden really did need me.  All the things that ran through my head at 3am needed taking care of so they wouldn’t be there again should the cat wake me again – which she probably well.    Just slowly and gently I began by transplanting the seedlings that needed it from the seed raising mix into a compost / potting mix blend into slightly bigger pots so they could continue to grow and be nourished. 

Next I decided to sow another round of seeds and started off my pumpkins, cucumbers, luffa – to go up my awesome arch, squash, and zucchini.  There are 6 weeks until the safe from frost planting out day and so they should be a good size by then – not too big and not too small.  Not that we get frosts, but the weather is generally more stable after this date so I try not to risk my seedlings in turbulent stormy weather that early spring can bring.  I replaced so many damaged seedlings last season that I almost ran out of spares.   The only seeds left to sow are beans and corn and I like to sow them directly into the soil when it is warm enough for them.

Then I got Hubby the Un-Gardener to give me a bit of a hand as there was digging to be done and he is so much faster at it than me.  We did a bit of bed repair as it turned out when putting the beds together I completely missed more than a dozen screws across the garden.  I have no idea A:  how I managed that, and B: how did I not notice this whole time!  Then I got him to turn over the compost and other goodies in the yam bed so I could plant them as they had sprouted nicely.  I never really get a good harvest of Yams but that doesn’t stop me trying.

And finally, the main point of the day was done – planting the potatoes – there is 100 days until Christmas and Jersey Benne spuds take 100 days and so if I’m to have new potatoes on the festive table then today is the day.  I also got Hubby the Un-Gardener to help me plant all the potatoes and it feels good to have them in.  One less thing to worry about at 3am!  

watering in the spuds

The last job of the day was watering in the spuds

So for a day that had the potential to be a sluggish go nowhere day, turned out to be very productive in a slow and steady way and I am so grateful for the help – I suggested to Hubby the Un-Gardener that I put a sign on the garden gate that says “Welcome to the Gym.”

Come again soon –  This season is coming along nicely.

Sarah the Gardener  : o)   

 

Making Mulch

(A paid post with the good people from GARDENA NZ)

As much as it is still early spring and the weather flip flops between hopefully promising with warm sunny days and a brutal reminder that summer is still a way off as the wind drives cold rain into window panes making indoor computer gardening seem like the best option for the day, it is still important to keep the gardeners eye firmly on the growing season ahead. 

an area to be cleared

This area has so much potential in so many ways – a sunny out of the wind spot and plenty of mulch material!

My limited experience living here has taught me the garden gets hot in the summer.  A digital temperature reading of the sandy paths in the height of last summer had it well up over 70ᵒC.  I also know that the soil I brought with me from the swamp is great for water retention and I only need to water the beds for 9 minutes each and the soil stays moist for at least a week.  This is encouraging because I have a fabulous irrigation system and water computer to control this process each week. 

Gardena Classic bypass secateurs with the soft grip

The Classic bypass secateurs with the soft grip were perfect for chopping up the thinner branches.

But I also know how much a tanker of water costs and how long it lasts in the height of summer as last summer we had the accident where we lost all our water through an unfortunate tap turn last Christmas Eve.   We ended up having several tanker loads delivered that summer.  After some good winter rains, we are off to a good start, but I certainly don’t want to go back to that desperate situation anytime soon.  So, I need to do more to conserve the precious water I have in the garden and that means mulch.

GARDENA Pruning Lopper EasyCut 680 B

The Easy Cut Pruning Loppers made short work of reducing the thicker branches of the tree lupins. The cleared space emerged quickly from the dense growth.

Mulch is great because it locks in moisture and reduces weeds and the right kind of mulch will break down over time and feed the soil.  When you have a garden as large as mine, a good thick mulch can be a costly exercise, unless you get creative.  Fortunately, I am a creative gardener and have come up with a great mulch from what the land already gives us – The tree lupins that grow quickly and easily on our sandy coastal land.   I did a trial run on my rhubarb a while back.  The bed is small – only a metre square and it seemed to work well enough to scale things up and make mulch across the garden.

shredder

The shredder soon turned the branches into useable mulch

a barrow load of mulch

A pleasurable afternoon was spent chopping down branches, shredding them and creating barrow loads of lovely mulch.

It just conveniently happened that I had an area I want to clear of tree lupins as I have decided the garden needs to be pushed out just a little in a direction I hadn’t considered before.   Seriously a garden is never big enough and this side of the garden isn’t fenced so my ambition is not contained.  Before I changed my mind, I set to work and started to clear the space.  With the right tools it was a quick job and before I knew it, I had a better idea of the space I had for my sneaky expansion plan, and had created enough mulch to ensure the onions would have even moisture availability as they headed off into the 2nd stage of their growth and any opportunity for weeds to settle in between the rows have been nipped in the bud. 

watering the bed GARDENA Premium Multi Sprayer

Before applying mulch, it is a good idea to make sure the soil is good and wet, so the mulch locks the moisture in not out!

Mulched bed

And there you have it a well mulched onion bed, now on to the next one… snip snip snip…

I do have lupin seedlings ready to be planted out in my mulch plantation, however while they grow big enough to harvest from, I am turning my eye to other areas that could be liberated of plants to serve my purpose.   Making mulch is one of those rewarding jobs that doesn’t take long to do but the results are immediately evident.  I suspect this will become one of those much anticipated enjoyable tasks across the spring as the beds are filled with plants and topped up with mulch. 

Come again soon – the spring is marching on and there is no time to dilly dally.

Sarah the Gardener  : o)

An Arch to be Rivalled

I have been dabbling a little bit in making my own cold process soap.  It is a bit fun because it reminds me of my time in a previous life working in laboratories.  It is all about weighing out the ingredients exactly and getting all geared up in safety gear – goggles and gloves and using dangerous chemicals.  I love it.  I just make it for us and haven’t been too adventurous with it yet, but there are loads of cool things that can be done with it. 

Broken Arch

There is no recovery for this mangled arch and it never got the opportunity hold up any plants.

Tying this in with the garden, I am really excited to grow luffas this year as this adds a whole new level of fun when processing them.  I have grown then for many years and I found them great to help scrub off the dirt from a grubby gardener hands after a hard day in the garden and as an exfoliator for gently sorting out dry skin.  So just thinking about the combined potential of these benefits and soap making magic!  They are also great in the kitchen as a natural scrubber that can be composted when it has nothing left to give.    

Rebar supports

The rebar poles were measured out and banged into the ground.

Since we moved to this new garden I haven’t had much luck growing luffa.  The first season I grew them as seedlings but dithered about so much about where I would plant them they died, and it was too late to start again.   The thing is they do best when growing up a frame of sorts and I just didn’t have plan for this.

Irrigation hose arches

The irrigation pipe made a great natural arch shape when put over the rebar supports.

Last year I acquired one of those powder coated metal arches and excitedly assembled it and popped it in the pumpkin area.  This was also a little late in the season and so buy the time my luffa seedlings made it into the ground, life was against them as they didn’t get a chance to settle in before it got too hot and they didn’t make it. 

Trellis attached to the arch

Hubby the Un-Gardener was a great help attaching the cable ties while I held the trellis tight.

It was my intention this year to get it right, but we had a storm and it completely destroyed my arch.  I have to say it was a tad disappointing, but on close examination it became evident the salty sea air had not been kind to my arch and had completely rusted it out.   So, I had to give the arch concept a rethink and came up with what I think is a great idea for an arch to last in this harsh environment.

Cable tie trellis

Cable ties are perfect to hold it all together.

I used rebar to support the old arch because to be honest it did look a little flimsy, so it was an easy leap to think of them as support for the new arch and I spaced them out to suit all my materials and banged them into the ground

trimming the trellis

It turns out I had just the right amount of trellis, once I cut off the little bit extra

Then I got some of my irrigation hose that should probably have been used to finish setting up the irrigation… and threaded it down over one side of the rebar and then deciding on a nice natural looking curve at the top I measured it down to the ground on the other side and cut it off.  I pulled it all off and used the first length to measure another exactly the same side and threaded them both over the rebar to form two hoops. 

bamboo supports

Bamboo supports across the width helps keep it rigid.

I had to get Hubby the Un-Gardener to help out with an extra pair of hands as I attached plastic trellis to the hose hoops with cable ties.  I tried my best to make them evenly spaced on both sides but was generous with the cable ties and used loads of them.  It is windy here so I’m taking no chances.  

home made arch

And there you have it – a wonderful arch ready to give some great support to my luffas.

As I stood back, I realised it was all a bit floppy in places and it needed cross support, so I cut up some bamboo poles to help hold the trellis taught and used even more cable ties.  And just like that I had a lovely arch to grow up my luffa this season.  All I need to do is sow the seed and next week is the perfect time to do that and I’ll be sowing them along with the cucumbers and pumpkins in the 4th wave of seed sowing I’ve done this season.  I’ve been breaking the seed sowing into batches so it doesn’t become a tedious chore, and some do need less of a head start on the season than others. 

And there you have it, a bit of creativity prompted by a need and it is amazing what you can come up with.

Come again soon – things are coming along great as I prepare for what I hope will be a fabulous growing season.

Sarah the Gardener : o)

Hidden Treasure

I do love it when you find an unexpected treasure in the garden.  I’ve been clearing out the old brassica bed to make it ready for the new season sweetcorn.  There is heaps of time before need the bed for the sweetcorn, but the brassica had done its dash.  We had eaten as much as we could to the point that we just couldn’t keep up with the side shoots of broccoli.  Now bear in mind these were the brassica plants I planted last spring.  We sort of let the broccoli go when the autumn broccoli started producing, and now we are enjoying their side shoots. 

The old brassica bed

I left it long enough for the bees to enjoy the flowers, but the time has come to pull it all out before it sets seeds and creates weeds.

Now I have to confess, while it is a good thing to just lop off the head of broccoli for the immediate gratification of fast growing side shoots, for most of the other brassica it is better to have the whole plant out and start again.  But I’d been lazy and in the midst of it all I’d taken to the red cabbage with a sharp knife and left the base in ground, meaning to whip it out at some point.   That some point never happened.

Half a red cabbage

I do love the beautiful patterns found when a cabbage is cut in half.

So, while I was clearing the bed, I found a small but perfectly formed red cabbage.  As we had no immediate need to eat it, and not wanting for it to go to waste I brought it into the kitchen and decided to pickle it.  A quick search on the great big internet told me that I could do a quick pickle that would be ready in three days and would last a month in the fridge and was great to add to sandwiches, salads and as a zing to loads of other meal options.  So, I gave it a whirl.

Wash the cabbage

I gave the cabbage a good wash to get rid of dirt, debris and slugs!

I mashed a few recipes together because I’m not all that great at following instructions.  First I sliced it finely and soaked it in a salty brine solution for a couple of hours – this is supposed to draw out moisture but I also took advantage of the fact any lingering slugs would die and float to the surface.  There seemed to have been hundreds hiding in there when I pulled it out of the garden.  If the family only knew the starting point of this cabbage they probably wouldn’t eat it!  I’m made of tough stuff!  Not that I’d want to eat one – pickled or otherwise…  I did attempt snails at a French restaurant once but could bring myself to eat them no matter how much garlic butter they were soaked in.

Salting the cabbage

Salting the cabbage was a great way to give me confidence that no survivors lingered. That way I could eat it without fear. The family would never know there was even anything to be fearful about.

Then I drained the brine and packed the cabbage into my jar and filled it with water as part of my handy dandy rinse and measure technique.  I poured off the water into a measuring jug to find out how much vinegar I’d need and then put the cabbage into my salad spinner to get rid of as much water (and dead slugs – there was only one, so I must have done a good job picking them out.) as I could.

Vinegar and spices

The vinegar and spices were boiled up.

Next I put the required amount of vinegar into the pot.  Most recipes called for cider vinegar or white wine vinegar, but I only had white or malt vinegar so I went with the white.  Sometimes you have to work with what you have.  I added some caraway seeds because apparently they go well with cabbage; some mustard seeds because they always go well in a pickle, and some peppercorns, some garlic and some chilli for a bit of zing if the vinegar wasn’t zingy enough.  I also added a bit of salt and sugar to taste – to take the edge off the harshness of the white vinegar.  These were all put in a pot and boiled for 10 minutes. 

cabbage, spices and vinegar meet in the jar

The cabbage, spices and vinegar meet in the jar. I gave it a bit of a stir to distribute the spices and remove any air bubbles and made sure everything was submerged.

While it was boiling away I cleaned my jar and lid and soaked them in boiled water to sanitize them.  The white vinegar is quite strong, but that doesn’t mean you should take chances and not use good hygiene practices. 

picked red cabbage

It didn’t take long for the vinegar to take on the pink colour and it has only intensified since then.

With my jar clean, I packed it out with the dry cabbage and then poured over the boiled vinegar and spices.  The amount was perfect, no left-over vinegar at all!   Then I secured the lid and now we wait.  I have such high hopes this will be delish as it is such a pretty pink colour and anything that pretty would surely taste fantastic.  I guess I’ll know on Wednesday.

Come again soon – things are sprouting in the greenhouse.

Sarah the Gardener : o)

 

The Berry End of the Garden

The fruit section of the garden hasn’t always been a success.  We won’t mention the failure of the new orchard… twice.  I think I need to put together a serious plan before attempting again.  It does hurt my soul to think that an abundant supply of juicy sun warmed peaches straight from the tree isn’t an option in my back yard anytime soon.  The sadness comes from knowing just how good an abundant supply of juicy sun warmed peaches straight from the trees are.  Trees that you planted and nurtured from tiny trees, got to enjoy a couple of decent harvests and then sold the orchard (along with the house) and moved to a place that is far too windy and sea salty  for normal successful tree growing without some kind of creative thinking.

New raspberry bed

After clearing the bed out and refreshing the soil there was still a lot of work to do to bring in the raspberries

But I am determined to ensure the garden isn’t fruitless and have put a lot of attention into berries. However last season – the first proper season, things didn’t go so well.  The strawberries suffered terribly.  I went away in the spring for 10 days and didn’t ask the garden minders to mind the strawberries as I assumed – being spring it would rain.  It didn’t and they dried out and never really recovered.  And just to add insult to injury I had given away over 800 runners from the plants that winter! 

Spring a leak

Once I pulled the soil away from the inside of the bed, the leak was clear. I must have pierced the pipe with the spade at some point.

This season hasn’t been the stunning success either.  I managed to recover enough plants from the poorly collection and dug them up and nurtured them back to healthy specimens in the greenhouse.  Then I replanted them and went away for the weekend only to find a chicken had de-leafed every single one.  I built a cage for the strawberries and slowly but surely they have recovered and all going well they will be strong enough to give us a harvest towards the end of spring. 

Frame for raspberries

It makes things so much easier when you have help to put the wire up for the raspberry frame. Thanks Joey.

The blueberries also suffered terribly.  Before I even got them in the ground they suffered a goat attack.  Which was annoying as I had selected the plants with the most immature berries on them so I could at least guarantee a harvest that season.  And then Snowy the Goat got into the garden again and knew what she liked and made a bee line for the blueberries and gave them another go.  So, we haven’t had any blueberries at all.  Instead we have 3 sickly specimens and one dead one.  I had 4 plants of two different varieties as this is supposed to aid berry production. 

Raspberry bed

And now the raspberries need to grow tall and strong so I can tie them into the wires – oh and produce berries so we can eat them.

Determined to have blueberries – especially when you consider a couple of small punnets of berries costs enough to buy a plant it is a worthwhile endeavour, I bought another 2 very healthy plants with loads of flowers and so now I have a chance for some blueberries this season.  But will be keeping an eye out for that goat!

soaking in seaweed tonic

All the plants got a good 10 minute soaking in seaweed tonic to help reduce transplant shock and promote root growth.

I also have a couple of gooseberries – I have a gooseberry pax that is like the classic green one, but the berries are red when ripe.  This poor plant also nearly died.  I think the problem is the berries are in Sector 5, which is the Friday group and often the Friday group don’t get as much love as say the Monday group in Sector 1.  I start the week with such good intentions but I run out of time or energy come Friday and then it spirals out of control and becomes too hard to manage.  I may or may not have neglected it – driven by the ‘what’s the point the strawberries are pretty much dead anyway…’ defeatist attitude.  But seeing the gooseberry nearly die, I pulled it out of the ground and into a pot and into the greenhouse where I could nurture it and it seems to have recovered and has signs of spring life.  Fingers crossed.

Blackberry bed

The blackberry and the loganberry joined the boysenberry in the old strawberry bed. I hope they do better than the raspberries did.

The other gooseberry is a Cape Gooseberry, which isn’t a gooseberry at all but a Physalis.  It is a ‘superfood’ often called a Goldenberry or a Ground Cherry.  Last season they were also touch and go with slow growth, but this season they seem well established and are already laden with fruit.

Chickens

The chickens were fascinated and watched my every move as I sorted out the garden bed next to their place.

Then there are the raspberries.  These have had a hard life.  I bought them before I knew we were moving with the intention of refreshing the raspberry bed, but they ended up coming with us and spent two seasons in containers before being put in a horrible spot they didn’t like.  So, I have moved them in to a spot that had strawberries in it previously.  Hopefully, they will do better there.  I have two varieties summer ones and autumn ones.  I have high hopes.  

Jasper the Dog

Jasper the Dog wasn’t so fascinated and just slept near by.

On the other side of this bed is a black currant, a red currant, and a white currant with the space for a smoke berry – of which the seeds are still lost in the post.  The currants actually replace currants that died there earlier, however their death was down to an unseen hole in the irrigation underground, so they never got the water they needed and turned up their toes. 

Currants

And the new currants are in and hopefully will fair better than their predecessors.

Then in the spot the raspberries were there is a boysenberry that doesn’t seem to mind the conditions, so I gave the soil some love and planted a blackberry and a loganberry.  There is space for another berry of sorts…  Garden centre here I come… 

Blueberries and Gooseberries

The blueberries and gooseberries make up the last of the berries. I’m hoping for a fruitful summer.

So, all hope has been placed in a berry good growing season.  I have put the hard work in to make sector 5 sorted and hopefully easy to manage going forward.

Come again soon – things have gotten fruity.

Sarah the Gardener  : o)

Let the Spring Begin

Day one of a new season and it feels like an opportunity for a fresh start of some sort, so long as I get off on the right foot.  I always start spring on the 1st of September as it feels right for the weather conditions – although parts of the south woke up to snow today – but that is more of an anomaly than the usual.  Besides, I can’t wait another three weeks for the equinox – that is just asking too much from my impatient soul.  So, there it is – spring starts today. 

the first day of spring 2020

The first day of spring 2020 was a mixed bag weather wise – with sunshine, rain and a bit of wind, I hope this isn’t a ‘start as we mean to go on…’

Clean the seed trays

Because I didn’t to a marathon seed tray washing exercise at any point in the autumn or winter when I should have, I’m washing them on a needs must basis with a mild detergent in the kitchen sink… shhhh….

If there is only one thing that absolutely must be done today – it is to sow the tomatoes.  I would be most annoyed with myself if I missed this moment in time.  Not that it is the only day to sow them, but it is a spring day tradition of mine.  It is like the blowing of the starters whistle… ready, set, go!  And to be honest tomatoes are the star of the show really.  All other crops are exciting too, don’t get me wrong, but I will steadily sow them over the next week and get them done that way.  The thought of standing there for hours and hours in the greenhouse no longer seems like a fun way to do things.  So, if I break it into manageable sized chunks they all get done with a degree of enthusiasm. 

Milk bottle labels

My chopped up milk bottle labels have been cleaned up and are ready to go again for another season.

Seed raising mix

It is great to start seeds in a seed raising mix as it has what seeds need in it.

Besides some of my seeds still haven’t arrived and are stuck in the midst of a post office sorting centre.  I have complained and so I wait, hopefully I don’t have to wait too long.  I’m toying with the idea of re-ordering the whole lot again, but that would mean paying for them again and running the risk of them getting lost again.  Fortunately, the seed sowing window is wide open at this time of year.  Fingers crossed they get here before the window closes or there will be gaps in my garden.

Tomato seeds in dirty hands

It feels good to have good honest dirty hands! And I reckon tomato seeds look like teddy bears ears if you look up close!

seed trays

And just like that the hopes and dreams of a new season have been planted! Go well little seeds.

This season has a lot of weight on its shoulders this year, it has been a difficult year and so the hopes and dreams of a garden full of life and produce, to distract from the troubles of the world is a lot to ask.  As always I hope this season is that perfect one, with just the right amount of rain, that falls at night, the pests and diseases are low or even better absent from the garden.  The plants grow big and strong and produce the most bountiful harvest, breaking records and tasting fabulous.  Although at this point I would just be content with no more storms!

Come again soon – spring has sprung!

Sarah the Gardener  : o)

 

 

 

 

Spring Ready

There are only three days until spring and I am super excited.  I have been working so hard recently to get the garden ready for the next stage in its journey.  I have also been working hard to try and make things easy to manage going into a season of busy.  I figure if I have systems and routines in place the garden – apart from bursts of high activity should just require a bit of casual maintenance throughout the growing season.

Old brassica bed

Not all the beds are a blank canvas. This old brassica bed needs clearing out first.

This relies on me sticking to the plan and not being distracted.  The garden is divided into 5 groups that ideally should be tended once a week on its specific day, with the paths hoed, the beds weeded and every other week a liquid feed given to the plants.  Any other things like tying in tendrils or pinching out laterals also get done then.  Of course harvesting will be done daily as a perfectly ripe tomato probably wouldn’t last so well for another week. 

Wildlife pond

I’m checking the wildlife pond every day for signs of tadpoles.

The problem is, I get lulled into a false sense of ‘it’s alright’ and while to the casual observer it is ‘alright’.  But without the regular weekly attention that, when in control only takes about 20 minutes, the whole system flip flops into a boom and bust situation where I have to spend hours putting right what should never have happened as weeds take over and plants sprawl after sudden growth spurts.  And then I kick myself.

Pea  garden bed

The garden bed is ready for the peas and the peas are ready for it!

So this season there are no excuses – the garden is in a good place, and it is up to me to keep it that way.  So as a point of accountability – check out my short video to see the state of the garden as it stands ready for the growing season. 

From this point on the garden should only flourish with desired growth and improvements.  Exciting times ahead.

Come again soon – Spring is almost here!

Sarah the Gardener  : o)

NB: The video contains seeds gifted to me, but they didn’t ask me to talk about them – I just did because I love them! So not an ad or sponsored.

Dome Done

I knew it would be a big job, that’s why I’d been putting it off.  I started half heartedly a week ago, just sorting the clutter that had built up on the benches and trying to find homes elsewhere for it.  That is one of the reasons I pickled the shallots the other day as they were still in the dome from the summer and needed doing and it seemed like a much better idea than sorting clutter.   But I had to come back to the dome eventually, I need to sow seeds and there was nowhere to do it.  Not only that there was nowhere that had been sanitised to a new seedling standard and if I left it too much longer it would be too late.

One of the biggest clutter points in the dome was that last season I didn’t have a tool shed and a lot of the tools had been stored in there.  I’ve never had full use of it as a single purpose greenhouse.  Now I have a shed, which is in desperate need of a clean out, although not with the same urgency as the dome but all the tools and non-propagation items have been unceremoniously sent there.

Then all the old pots and trays were pulled out – they have been stacked but not cleaned.  I think I’ll need to clean as I go and make a note to myself to do better next autumn.  Once I cleared it all out there was a lot of dirt and spiderwebs.  I didn’t evict the spiders as they are great pest control, but I reigned in their webs so they wouldn’t block the light coming through the glass.  It wouldn’t have happened, but it was a good reason sweep them all away.

I donned a mask and swept up all the dirt of the shelves and the floor.   I wasn’t about to give myself a case of legionnaires disease!  The next bit was fun, I got the hose and blasted all the stubborn dirt out of every corner.  It hadn’t been that clean since before the shelves went up.  All the shelves got a wipe down with disinfectant to take care of any lingering disease from last season.  While I was doing that I noticed the wood was looking quite dry, so I gave the shelves a generous coat of linseed oil to help extend the life of the wood.  It smells really lovely in there.

Then it came time to start putting things back in.  I did have my potting station right at the end of the shelves by the door, but I decided to move it further round so I had somewhere on the left to put the seedlings that need attention and then all of the right is for the rest of the seedlings that have been taken care of or don’t need it yet.   It should be like a well-oiled machine once I get going.

Then the existing seedlings that are in desperate need of new homes in the soil went back in.  Planting them out is a job for another day, but I think I know exactly where I’ll put them.   I was finally able to stand back and call the job done!  It is such a weight off my shoulders.   Now I can sow the peas, and a few other seeds, do a bit more computer work and I think we’ll be able to call this week a success.

Come again soon – progress is being made.

Sarah the Gardener  : o)

A lesson in why you shouldn’t procrastinate

So, I’m making great progress with my To Do list.

I’ve been ticking off things left, right and centre in the computer gardening department and we can firmly lay that at the feet of the rainy days we had this week.  My weather station is telling me we had 18.6mm for the week and 16mm was from yesterday.  So, there was no alternative but to be productive in the office.  There is still plenty to be done but it doesn’t feel as daunting as it did in the beginning of the week.

Peas

I’m one step closer to sowing the peas. I want to start them in the greenhouse because I saw some rather large rodent footprints in the sand!

I have finally sorted out my garden plan, going through where everything will go, which determines how many plants are needed and how many seeds I need to sow.  This determines what seeds I need, prompting me to go through my seed collection and weed out the ones that didn’t make the list and which ones and which ones needed replenishing.  Finally, I was able to put in my seed orders.  Although I had a list, I’m a bit like a kid in a candy store when it comes to seeds and so a couple of extra unplanned ones ended up in the shopping cart.  I do have a little spare space for ‘accidents’ like this so, she’ll be right.   I ended up staying in my garden office to well after dark to get this long overdue task done.

garden plan and sorted seeds

After many hours I finally finished working out my garden plan and sorting out my seeds. It feels like a weight off my shoulders – but having said that I haven’t done the flowers yet.

It felt so good to finally have this done.  Normally I do this in early July and for the life of me I can’t work out why I didn’t this year.  It has set me back with a load of other tasks in a giant chain reaction.    All I needed to do now was get seed raising mix and some potting mix, finish cleaning the dome and I can get started sowing seeds.   I headed on into the house and flopped down into a chair in an exhausted state.   I’ll get to the garden centre at some point in the next few days to gather my supplies.  No hurry.

seed potatoes

I also managed to pick up my seed potatoes for the season, although in my haste I grabbed purple passion instead of purple heart and we really love the purple heart ones as they are entirely purple and are tasty and cool. I could try and get some in and grow them in pots – you can never have too many potatoes? Right?!

Nah… wrong.  A couple of hours later I find myself staring in shock at the Prime Minister announcing we’re heading back into lockdown…  How things can change an instant.  Technically we are at Level 2, however it is complicated as everything we do, from getting milk and bread, to the kids’ school, to going to the garden centre is within the Auckland boundary and that is in level 3.   So, this morning before the midday cut off we donned masks and went to the supermarket – not to panic stock up, but we were out of dog food for Jasper and toothpaste and other weird items.  Last time taught us it was ok to ‘shop normal’.  Although the queues were rather long, but fast moving.

Kumara sweet potato

Another thing I remembered to pick up was a kumara sweet potato and I’ve already started it off to sprout. Maybe this time I’ll remember to plant them in the garden!

Then we went to the garden centre… not so much to panic stock up, but rather get what I should have got weeks ago and so with a trolley loaded with seeding raising mix and potting mix it may have looked like I was stocking up, but alas no – this is what ‘shop normal’ looks like for me at the garden centre at the start of spring.   Although I have to say the red, white, and black currants weren’t on the list and kind of some how jumped into the trolley in all the chaos.

currants

I’m not entirely sure how these currants ended up coming home with us….

And hopefully I have all I need to get this season started, whether this lockdown is just 3 days as they suggest or longer as I suspect.  But if I had been more organised and procrastinated less, I wouldn’t have needed to go out at all.   The thing is, if you put off something to do later, you can never really be confident that would even be possible, especially these days.  I think I need to embrace a ‘seize the day’ attitude and if something needs doing just do it.  If something ‘needs’ buying then buy it.  If there is nothing to be gained from waiting then why wait.

Daffodils

Here is a cheery image of daffodils. In all the strangeness you can always find a smile for pretty flowers.

I’m looking forward to a new decisive me, although I may need to force myself away from my old ways.  But first I need to plough through the backlog I created for myself through unnecessary deliberations.   This week’s to do list has just amped up a gear in the sense of urgency, so I can find a more peaceful existence later on…

Come again soon – the new motto is ‘just do it’ before it is too late, and you can’t anymore.

Sarah the Gardener  : o)

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