SARAH THE GARDENER

Herby Haircuts and System Changes

We haven’t had rain for 11 days and I couldn’t be happier!  The boffins are even alluding to there being no further rain for the next four days.  This is cause for celebration.   And what makes me even happier is the soil is no longer sodden.  The beds are pretty much dry and can be considered workable.  The grass around it is still a teeny weeny bit soft, but nothing that can cause harm so I’m back in there getting my hands dirty and having a fabulous time restoring order.

Garden beds

It just makes sense to maintain the beds in this direction

While working my way across the garden I had a thought.  I have decided to rejig my sector system to match the irrigation system.  The watering is done across the garden in quite a logical and orderly way from west to east following the rows of the garden.  My current sector system goes from south to north in a weird way as there is no logical division of the beds in this direction.

Garden sectors 2016

This is the old system from last year. While it worked well it was quite complicated and not logical at all.

It worked before because it was based around the reach of the 6 hose water distributor, as I had found it was easier to water one day and then weed and feed the next as the soil was receptive to the liquid feed in the summer into premoistened soil instead of running off the sun baked surface.  Also, there was the added benefit of weeds come out easier from moist soil.  So, it worked well – if not a little complicated.

Garden sectors 2017

The new sectors for 2017 which all weeding, feeding and watering will be done by. Although this plan will need to be adjusted to take into consideration the crop rotation before the spring.

The sector system worked really well this summer.  In the height of the season when it was working at it’s best I was able to go over 7 or 8 beds in as little as 20 minutes.  If I had an important visit then I could tickle the whole garden in under an hour.  The little and often theory is simple yet brilliant.

Artichoke

Before the rain these artichoke were lush flamboyant plants. Now they are a shadow of their former selves. I do hope they survive.

Even after 6 weeks of neglect due to the rain, it hasn’t really taken much effort to whip through the first couple of the new sectors although there have been some casualties.  I’m not sure if the artichokes will recover, so I’ve sown new seed.  They should be sown in spring but I’m impatient and hoping to trick them in the greenhouse.  Or I could dig up the struggling shoots – I’ll give them a bit of time to catch their breath first and then nurture them back to health and replant on higher ground.

Rudolph potatoes

These Rudolph potatoes managed to survive the flood and the rats. They are a good size too so I’m not complaining.

I had some sneaky late spuds in that in the midst of the rain got blight.  It was only to be expected considering the moisture floating around.  I nipped out between showers and removed the foliage and have only now dug up the spuds.  It was still a good harvest, all things considered.  The potatoes deeper into the mound had rotted, but the ones in the top half of the mound were fabulous – except the ones eaten by rats.  This is rather annoying, but vigilance in the garden can nip this kind of thing in the bud.  Another rain related problem, I wasn’t able to keep a close eye on things.

Rhubarb seedlings

The rhubarb seedlings are coming along nicely and have such lovely ruby red stalks. I hope they will be sweet and yummy.

Some of the herbs positively flourished in all of the wet weather and needed reining in.  Others not so much.  But there was something rewarding about getting back into the garden and whipping things into shape.  You can check out my herb garden here:

Now, with one eye on the weather forecast and another on the sunny weather I’m not wasting a moment to return my garden to a state I can be proud of.

Come again soon – I’m gardening and I like it!

Sarah the Gardener : o)

 

 

 

Keep off the Grass

This is taking all my self-control but the garden is a no-go area right now.  The grass is long, there are weeds, there are things that could be harvested, poorly looking plants and old crops that need to be cleared away.  And it is killing me!

grass

All in all the grass looks lush, but nothing a good mow won’t fix once things dry out.

The sun is shining and under normal circumstances it would be perfect autumnal weather.  But thanks to Ex-Cyclone Cook my already sodden soil got another 76mm of rain over the Easter break.  I wasn’t here to see it, fortunately as it would have just broken my heart.  Where we were, the rain avoided us so I was able to just relax and try not to think about it.  Although I have to say I think I need some kind of hobby outside the garden as I was completely lost!

Rain gauge

Just a bit of rain over the long weekend… considering the average April rainfall is normally 40mm

Since the 12th March we have had approx 467mm of rain.  We’ve never seen this kind of weather before here and is making my gentle descent into winter problematic.    I have beds to clear and cover crops to sow while there is some warmth still remaining in the soil.  Fortunately, things I would have ordinarily sown directly outside have been started in the greenhouse so they wouldn’t be washed away, so all is not lost.  But things need to dry out as the garlic needs the chill of winter in order to make the best leaf growth before it begins to bulb out.

Finished Zucchini

I think it is safe to say this zucchini has done its dash

The beds are raised, thank goodness, and are beginning to lose the sodden situation.   I have nipped out to have a wee look from time to time, but to work the beds before they completely dry out to an acceptable state can harm my soil structure.  I have built my beds so I don’t need to walk all over them.  They are wide enough that I can reach into the centre, and only occasionally do they see my gumboots stomping over them.  If I find I need to walk on the soil, I usually get my cultivator out and fluff the soil straight back up.  After years of tending my garden, the beds are generally in pretty good shape.  This means for the long term health of my garden I have to wait for nature to take its course.

Flowering Broccoli

How quickly it takes for the broccoli to bolt to flower while waiting for the flood waters to recede.

But the grassy paths around the beds is still very squelchy and extremely muddy.  Some of the lower lying areas still have surface water that is beginning to look a tad fetid.  It would be easy to think, this is just aesthetic so walking on it would be fine.  The soil structure there isn’t as special.  Well I’ve wrestled with that thought several times over the past few weeks.  But walking on wet ground can have long term effects that can be extremely difficult to undo.

Drowned Yams

I’m not holding my breath for a great Yam crop, the leaves seem to have turned yellow almost overnight.

This became very obvious recently.  You see back in the spring, we put our tiny wee lambs in a temporary fence on our lawn.  Spring is a soggy time anyway and I’ve made my peace with that.  The kids fed the lambs in the same place each morning and the lambs charged up and down the fence line excitedly, tails wagging.  And in the few short weeks they were there the soft, muddy soil was trampled by tiny hooves and almost imperceivably became compacted.  The lambs moved on to a larger field and the grass regrew across the surface and as the lawn mower buzzed across it all summer there was no indication that this was ever a lamb hotel.  Until the flooding.

Garlic

I’m so pleased the garlic is doing well under cover. In the garden it would have rotted and floated away…

On the whole, the grass coped well enough.  It was underwater for a few days, then it was covered in a dirty scum like the ring on a bath, until the next rain washed it clean.  Some of the weeds in the lawn went a bit yellow and look decidedly peaky, but I see this as a good thing – improving my lawn without having to do anything.    And even as the last deluge ebbs away, the lawn doesn’t actually look too bad.  It could do with a mow, but it is fair to say the grass has bounced back.

Pea seedlings

The peas are at a point they would have never reached if they were out in the garden, but I would like to get them out there sooner rather than later – these are tall ones!

Except in one place.  Where the lambs were.  There is a crescent shaped patch where excited lambs danced merrily along a fence line well over six months ago.  The grass growing there hasn’t had the same resilience.  The soil is too dense and compacted, there are no air pockets where drowned roots can catch a breath. The water wasn’t able to soak away as easily and so the water languished longer, suffocating the poor wee plants.  Damage from flooding is not always immediately evident in plants, and while I have my fair share of droopy plants, it won’t be until much later that the true cost of all this flooding will be known.

Compacted soil damage

Compacted soil compounded by flooding and the lambie legacy lives on

And so I wait, until the entire garden is drained enough to walk about on, because I like my grassy paths to look pretty too.  But if I look on the bright side, most of a vegie garden is made of annual plants that can be grown again from seed.  While it may be hard now, next season you’ll hardly know last season was so HORRIBLE!

over grown garden

This sight fills me with mixed emotions, half of me is itching to get stuck in clearing it out, the other half is disappointed as it was in such a good place before the flooding, and another half is trying to wait patiently for this nightmare to pass.

In the meantime, I need a new hobby as I don’t think waiting and staring longingly counts as one.  Maybe I’ll take up knitting.

Come again soon – the boffins have said it’ll be sunny all week, so the garden has a good chance of drying out so I can get in there and do what needs to be done.

Sarah the Gardener  : o)

 

Picking Pecks of Peppers

I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again – ‘know what you grow!’  The thing is often I get a little carried away with the whole process of growing things, that I forget to follow my own advice.  Most of the time I get it right and do a bit of research if I’m growing something new, so I know it has the space it needs and the soil is perfect for it to grow well.  I find out all there is to know so there is no surprises along the way.  That is the exciting part, that and watching something new unfold across the season before you very eyes.

Dulce Espana

Dulce Espana – not hot at all, which is just as well as they are rather large

But when it comes to something you grow every year, it can get a little boring and so you are always on the lookout for ways to spice things up.   Every year I grow peppers.  They have their own bed and it can easily house 16 plants.  Eight of these are bell peppers because in a good season they are a staple and I can half them, deseed them and freeze them to last the whole year in almost every dish I cook.

Alma Paprika

This Alma Paprika isn’t as prolific as I would have liked. I’m waiting for it to turn red so I can dry it and grind it into my own paprika. Next season I’ll plant more.

The other half of the bed is the fun bit.  There are so many different kinds of chillies and peppers out there are well over 40 varieties available to the seed sowing gardener in New Zealand so it is only natural to want to grow them all.   The initial instinct is to go with all the exciting spicy ones – habanero, jalapeno, rocoto, cayenne among other tongue sizzling delights.  While I don’t mind the occasional bit of spice, you can have too much of a good thing and we have more than enough chilli sauce to last a life time.  I even fermented my own tabasco sauce, but I think 2 litres is probably a tad too much – especially when you consider they normally sell it in tiny 60ml bottles!

Yellow Banana Peppers

I love the pastel orange shade these Yellow Banana peppers turn on their way to red

I didn’t mind the peach and chilli sauce as it wasn’t too hot – spicy enough for a kick but the sweetness of the fruit lifts it into something special.  This year I put away some peaches from the tree into the freezer so I can use them when the chillies turn red as I’m down to the last bottle and am using it sparingly.  I may make some more sweet chilli sauce but there are still a few large bottles in the cupboard from last season.  We haven’t even touched the chilli vinegar.  I think people are afraid of it.

Greek Golden Pepperoni

OK – Greek Golden Pepperoni isn’t for salami. It is for pickling. The small one at the front is probably still a little on the large size…

And then we have to think of poor old Hubby the Un-Gardener.  As in some situations I’m quite brave – I’m not when it comes to chillies and so poor old Hubby the Un-Gardener would frequently be subjected to “can you try this please” and every time he’d just pop whatever it is in and chew.  Sometimes he said, that’s nice, but most of the time he’d run out the house shrieking with the heat of it.  And then I’d know not to put that particular pepper into the family meal.  To be honest I’m not sure why he trusts me every single time.

Anaheim

Anaheim have a lovely chocolate brown stage and when you char the skin it has a fabulous aroma

So this season I have been more restrained and chosen peppers that are lower down on the Scoville scale but more interesting than the standard bell peppers.  But now that they are almost ready I’m not entirely sure what to do with them.  I know I can pickle some, and I have plans for the paprika.  The pepperoni sounds completely intriguing and I’m wondering if I need to find out how to make salami to get the best out of this chilli.  – Actually re-reading the description that came with the seed packet – they are supposed to be fab on a pizza and should be picked when 5 – 8cm in the green / yellow stage.  Opps – I think I’ve let them go too far.  Besides there are loads on the plant and there are only so many pizzas a girl can eat!

Not Mulato

Well this is disappointing. From the plant labelled Mulato I get these?! Now I’m going to have to get Hubby the Un-Gardener to try them to see if they are harmless banana or spicy Hungarian Wax. Lesson for the future: Label with care.

Ok so looking into them all in the kind of detail I should have earlier:

  • Dulce Espana 0  Spanish sweet pepper renowned for its versatility and fruity taste. Ideal for salsa, salads, frying, stuffing, roasting and pickling.  They are a good size too!
  • Paprika 0 – 300  – I have plans for these – they will be dried and smoked and dried for my own special spices.  I’m super excited about this
Jalapeno

Good old Jalapeno… nice and spicy, stuffed with cheese…. hmmm yummo

  • Yellow banana 0 – 500   mild, tangy taste usually consumed when yellow.  But red will do too.  I can use these in cooking for a bit of a zing that hopefully the kids will eat too.   I like a bit of spice to my meals, so need to gently increase the heat levels so the kids don’t even realise it is happening.
  • Golden pepperoni 1 – 1000  These apparently get their golden colour when you pickle them so they are good to use on pizza and on antipasto.  I really should have looked into this information at the beginning of the season as I think I may have let them get a little too big.
Hungarian Yellow Wax chilli

Don’t let its bright yellow cuteness fool you – this is a hotty!

  • Anaheim  500 – 2500 good for stuffing and roasting which is good to know, and is good for Mexican food.  You can get the best flavour by charring the skin first.  Although apparently these are also better when a little immature.
  • Mulato  1000 – 2000  – this is supposed to ripen brown not red and then dried.  It is supposed to have a chocolate hint to it so we shall see about that….
Cayenne Pepper

This is about as spicy as we are going get this season with these cayenne peppers

  • Jalapeno  2500 – 8000 A good old favourite – spicy but familiar.   Delish when stuffed with cheese, but also used as a source of heat for the average person like me who likes a little heat, but not enough to destroy tastebuds for weeks to come.
  • Hungarian Yellow wax  5000 – 10000 – Gosh I didn’t really expect this one was that hot.  The scary thing is it looks just like a Yellow banana so labelling is essential!  These are the ones that enjoy being pickled.
  • Cayenne 30000 – 50000  – Now I know these ones are hot, because I have little packets in my spice drawer.  But I have decided not to buy cayenne pepper anymore – so this will be dried and ground and I’ll put it in my own little packet!
An abundant pepper harvest

An abundant pepper harvest

Armed with this knowledge I sloshed about in the garden and did a bit of harvesting and now I need to decide exactly what I’ll do with my abundant crop.

Come again soon – we’ll know for sure what this second storm decides to do with itself.  Hopefully it won’t decide to flood us again.

Sarah the Gardener  : o)

Stop I say… I can’t take anymore

Now I know I promised not to moan about the weather again after our particularly soggy summer.  But it would seem autumn isn’t playing fair either.

flooding

Yay for raised beds?!

In the 10 years we have been here, we’ve never seen it like this.  And just to add more drama there is more heavy rain expected today and then a repeat again next week.

Flooding

Poor wee Fennel the Cat doesn’t quite know what to make of it all

Hopefully the boffins have it wrong and this is the worst of it.  I won’t go on with all the moaning, I’ll just leave you with a few images. (click on the photos for a description).

Come again soon – I guess I’ll be indoor gardening for a while.

Sarah the Gardener  : o)

 

A gigantic success of sorts.

This weekend was the culmination of months of worry and fretting.   Since the spring, I have been a participant in the Celebrity Challenge of The Great Pumpkin Carnival.   My Giant Pumpkin seedlings were planted with care and pampered with love in the hopes of being able to come out victorious.  In particular, I really wanted to be able to say I had beaten an Olympian at something as one of my fellow celebrities has an actual gold medal from an Olympic Games and is a well-loved household name.  Besides I’m a gardener where none of the other competitors were – how hard could it be?

my 1kg giant pumpkin

My entry. If you get really close with the camera the pumpkin can actually appear larger than life.

We have had success with giant pumpkins before.  Our first one was an astounding 72kg and back then we didn’t know what we were doing.  Each year it became a family challenge with everyone taking on a plant and ignoring it until it was time to determine the winner.  Each year we’d get at least one pumpkin worthy of being called giant at around 20 – 30 kgs.  But nothing like that first year.

Smallest pumpkin

Had I’d known there was a category for the smallest I would have tried harder!

So the only year when it really meant something to grow a biggy and things conspired against me.  The first mistake was I tried something new.  I wanted to grow my painted mountain corn, but it needed to be far enough away from my popcorn and my sweetcorn so it wouldn’t cross contaminate.   So I decided to try a two sisters version of the three sisters technique.  As we don’t really like beans all that much I didn’t see the point of adding to my harvest with a crop that would only be there to legitimise the experience.

Large giant pumpkins

Wow – this is something to aspire too. Maybe next year!

But the painted mountain corn ripened quickly and the Pukeko (well I’m laying blame on these feathered varmits – but I could have easily been rats, but I don’t like to think about those running amuck in my garden) sniffed them out and stripped the cobs.  And in the process completely trampled my pumpkin patch and all the plants withered and died leaving a whole lot of unfulfilled potential.

Emoji pumpkins

How cute are these?!

The first lesson I learnt is don’t try new and fancy things when there is something important riding on the outcome.

The second problem was way out of my control.  This stupid soggy season.  I’ve gone on enough about this so I’ll leave it there other than say it didn’t bode well for my giant pumpkin chances.

Giant pumpkins

There were many entries and had the weather been nicer there would have been more. This was just one of the many categories to enter a whopper into.

However, there was a light at the end of my tunnel.  The weather briefly settled down enough for my poor plants that I’d left to languish, rallied themselves and put out a new burst of life.   It gave me a month to create a miracle.  I wouldn’t have to go to the Carnival empty handed and shamed.   I managed to grow myself a lovely 1kg pumpkin and I was grateful.

Free sunscreen

Even on a cloudy day it is a good idea to protect yourself from the sun

So off we went with my hopes of a win in my handbag for a fun filled day of pumpkin fun.  There were all kinds of pumpkins of all shapes and sizes entered into a vast array of categories.  From baking and cooking, to carving and decorating, to wheeled racers.  There was something for everyone.  There were plenty of pumpkins way bigger than mine and even a couple that were around the 675kg mark.  But in my favour was talk that the numbers were down this year because of the weather.  I could only hope the other celebrities were equally challenged.

Racing pumpkins

Racing pumpkins are surprisingly entertaining.

But it wasn’t to be.  Even the sodden pumpkin that had had an accidental run in with some weedkiller and stored for safe keeping in the freezer was heavier than mine, but not by much.  There was another that could have easily been brought along in a handbag like mine, but even that was heavier.  The saving grace for me was mine was weighed first so I could claim the heaviest weighed pumpkin – if only for a minute.  The deserved winner had managed a whopping 8kg.  My determination for next year is stronger than ever – if they’ll have me back and don’t discount me as not worthy to invite again.

Pumpkin painting

Everyone is concentrating – there is a lot at stake!

All was not lost though as there was one more challenge to put us celebrities through our paces – decorating some pumpkins in 5 minutes.  We could carve or paint.  I figured paint was safer as I’m a tad accident prone at the best of times and wouldn’t want to lose valuable minutes while someone bandages me up and mops up my blood!  I started with blue because it was in front of me, but the brush frustrated me – I could never stay in the lines on paper, let alone on a pumpkin and my carefully thought out plan went out the window as I slathered paint across the pumpkin with my fingers and created a strange blue creature with green and yellow eyes and a dubious pink smile.   I used a fork intended for the carving process to create waves through the gloopy blue paint for a hair like affect.

My painted pumpkin

What can I say – my creative process is always a tad messy, but good things always come out of it.

As they called time I looked across at the other pumpkins and saw what must have been ordered and controlled creative processes.  Mine on the other hand looked like a bomb had gone off.  There was paint everywhere!  It must have been of some comic entertainment value as when the audience were called to shout out the loudest for the best pumpkin, I was surprised to find myself the favourite.  And just like that I picked up the cutest trophy and can now say I beat an Olympian at something – I needn’t say how though… it is the winning that counts.  HEHEHE.

The Great Pumpkin Carnival Celebrity Challenge trophy

This shall be displayed in pride of place to remind me of a fabulous day… and beating an Olympian! : o)

Finally, the event wrapped up with many of the larger pumpkins being rolled down a hill and smashing into smithereens to the delight of all who had enjoyed a marvellous day out.  I have to say – if you do find yourself at a loose end this time next year and can make your way to Hamilton for The Great Pumpkin Carnival, you will have a fabulous time.   Or even better still – come the spring, put a seed in the ground and set a huge goal for growing a whopping pumpkin.  Next year it could be you!

Downhill pumpkin rolling

Downhill pumpkin rolling – This is always a great way to end the day

Come again soon – there are a peck or two of peppers that need attention.

Sarah the Gardener  : o)

 

They’re up!

Oh my goodness I am super excited.  I have tried for so long to get this crop to germinate.  I often look to my pantry inspiration and have successfully grown popcorn, peanuts, chickpeas and kidney beans, among other things.  It is always good to grow things you eat a lot of

Pasta seedlings

I was so lucky to get hold of the extremely rare pasta seeds.

And so when I went into the greenhouse today I was so delighted to find my latest project has come up and I’m looking forward to the harvest – we eat a lot of pasta!

Come again soon – April is a month full of fun things.

Sarah the Gardener  : o)

Bulbous tasks

I don’t know about you but sometimes I tend to put things off.  First it starts with ‘I’ll do it tomorrow’ and moving the intended chore by a few hours doesn’t seem that harmless.  Then life gets in the way and a day becomes a week.  Then other pressing things come up and you’re faced with the choice – ‘which do I move to the bottom of the list – the old stuff or the new stuff?’  And then you figure ‘well the old stuff has waited this long already – another day won’t hurt.’  But it never is just another day.  Then before you know it, it becomes a monkey on your back and you don’t want to face it because it wracks you with guilt.  So, it gets pushed back even further, until it is almost too late.  Does anyone else know this feeling?

Early Pearl Garlic

I’m excited to be growing Early Pearl Garlic as last year they were affected the least by the rust and grew the strongest.

Well, it kind of happened to me, but not quite as extreme, but I’ve had loads of bulbs sitting on my desk in their packaging for too long, begging me to release them into the soil.  The early garlic was purchased nice and early and was ready and waiting, but unfortunately the weather made my procrastination even worst.  But after the rusty fiasco of the last couple of years, my ‘she’ll be right – this is an easy crop that you just plant and forget’ attitude is long gone.  This is a crop that needs to be gently cossetted and pampered so it is as healthy as it can be.

Early Purple Garlic

This Early Purple Garlic is champing at the bit to get going, it has already started to sprout.

After repeated ‘weather events’ as the boffins like to call them, my poor garden is completely sodden.  The first storm blew in 163ml of rain, then two weeks later we had a further 56mls and three days after that we had another 54mls.  The ground can’t take any more.  It is sodden and spent a large part of this week with a shiny, ankle deep covering of water.  So, I’m a bit reluctant to put my garlic into this soggy soil as there is a high chance it could rot before it even starts.   Then my decision was made when the boffins suggested that the horrible cyclone that ravished Australia this week is going to dump its dregs on us next week.  It won’t be much in the grand scheme of category 4, but there will still be a bit of juice in it when it gets here.  But even a tablespoon more water at the moment would cause problems.

Preparing for planting garlic cloves

I have prepared a lovely rich blend of potting mix, compost, blood and bone and a handful of Yates Dynamic Lifter. Besides being too soggy, it isn’t a good idea to use garden soil in pots because it compacts and isn’t suitable. It is also a good idea to make holes in the soil first, because pushing the cloves straight into the soil can damage the base plate where the roots will grow from.

So, I planted my early garlic in pots in the greenhouse.   It isn’t reaching the lofty temperature heights it was a few weeks ago.  We are well on our way into the cool autumnal weather, so it should be fine in there for now.  Once the weather settles down to something less soggy, because surely it can’t rain all through the winter like this, then I’ll transfer it out into the big garden.  Although I am prepared to repot it into bigger pots if necessary.  This year I am determined to get decent garlic.

Garlic clove

Ideally they should be planted 7 – 10cm deep, and I would if the soil wasn’t so soggy

While I was in the garden I planted out my saffron bulbs.  I’m going to be rich because saffron is very expensive.  Having said that I only have three corms and they only produce three strands each so I think I may be a tad optimistic.   They were also supposed to be planted in February, outside.  But my procrastination, busy lifestyle and the rain caused delays.  But I figure in the greenhouse will keep them safe from the soggies and the greenhouse feels like a warm February day so she’ll be right.

Saffron corms

With these corms I shall make my fortune.

Finally, I planted my bonus daffodils that I got in a buy one get one free offer.  I only needed one bag for a community project so was left with a bag with nowhere to go.  Once again, the soggy conditions are not suited to bulbs, and all the areas of higher ground that can host bulbs already have them.  Then I found some lovely green pots in a half-price sale that would do just fine and I popped them in.  I’ve probably put them a bit close but she’ll be right.   I’ve put these out on the deck because if they do get the wet in the next shower they will at least be able to drain away.

Daffodil bulbs

The instructions that came with these daffodil bulbs did say plant in ‘bold clumps’.

It felt so good get my hands in soil that wasn’t sodden.   It will be a long time before I can dig in the garden.  It didn’t feel so good though to have a muddy squelch up between my toes.  I would have worn my gumboots but they may have been a little wet.

Come again soon – I have an exciting crop to share.

Sarah the Gardener  : o)

Irrigating the Garden

When you have a garden as large as mine, ensuring it is all properly irrigated can be a little overwhelming.  To be fair, over the years I did my best with what I could to set up systems and deliver water to my garden.   I came up with many systems that were dodgy, bodgy and completely jerry-rigged, and my garden was watered.   It probably wasn’t the most efficient or even the best way but my plants managed to survive the season without expiring from thirst.

Irrigation plan

Any great project needs to start with a plan

But knowledge is power and you only know what you know, and the good people at Gardena and Neta took one look at my ‘interesting’ system and thought ‘we’d better help this girl out.’  And so, over the summer I have been on a wonderful learning curve to find out how to irrigate the garden properly and I’d really like to share what I have learnt so we can all give our gardens the blessing of water without standing on the end of a hose forever or not watering enough or even worst watering too much – especially if you have to pay for your water!

Water flow from the tap

Understanding your water flow is the key to successful irrigation

The first thing that happened was quite unsurprising when you think about it.  We needed a plan.   All great gardens should start with a plan and while deciding where to grow your plants is important so is decided where to put the irrigation.   You need to know the size of the garden so you can work out how best to irrigate it.

Irrigation supplies

Once you have a plan, gather together your supplies

One of the easy things to get wrong is to not understand your water flow rate.  In my previous attempts to set up systems I just charged ahead and put how many devices in the garden that I wanted.  I turned on the tap only to find that my water pressure wasn’t good enough to run them all at the same time, but also the sprinklers I was trying to use weren’t the right ones for the job.  Just because you can buy a connector for the tap with four hose attachments doesn’t necessarily mean you can use them all at the same time.

Marking out the garden

Transfer your plan to the garden and start the fun process of installation

The bucket  test is a great way to gauge your water flow rate at the tap.  All you need to do is time how long it takes to fill a 9 litre bucket and then using the conversion chart on the Neta Irrigation Planner >HERE<  you can find out what your flow rate is in Litres per Minute.  We used the Neta Irrigation range of products because they are really easy to use and as I mentioned in a previous post, our climate is extremely harsh and so to have something that has been UV stabilised is important so it won’t perish in a season under the sun.

Kitten digging

This whole system is so easy, anyone can do it!

The irrigation planner takes away the difficult part of deciding which sprinkler to use.  The number of times I have stood there in the garden centre with a vast array of sprinklers and connectors before me but without a clue as to which one I need to do the best job in my garden.  I went through a lot of trial and error of bringing just one home – just to see what it did.  But had I known there was a way to plan this out first it would have saved a lot of hassle and I would have discovered I had it all wrong.

Setting up irrigation hoses

Setting up the system that will get the water into the garden

In a vegetable garden the best kind of water delivery is by dripper.  There are so many plants that don’t like to get their leaves wet or they become susceptible to fungal disease.  While some plants don’t mind so much it is best to choose one system as they all have different flow rate requirements.  I do have to confess to having one bed set up with a soaker hose, drippers and sprayers all on one line and now I realise why it never really worked very well.   So, it is best to have a majority rules situation for the whole veggie patch.

Saddle clamp

It is important not to skimp on the accessories if you want the system to be effective and long lasting

To decide exactly what you need, the irrigation planner has a handy guide that helps you to figure out the number of lines, drippers, sprinklers or pop ups you can have in your garden before you run out of pressure.  You may find that you don’t actually need as many to keep your garden hydrated as with a dripper you are only watering where you need it.  We crunched the numbers and my flow rate meant I could have as many of 44 drippers in my tomato bed, but as I only grow 20 plants in there it makes sense to only have 20 and the bed would be well watered.   The drippers we used are adjustable so the water can be delivered over a large area or reduced to focus directly on a single plant, or even turned off.  This will be handy when I rotate the crops so the different needs of the different crops will be met without having to change the system.

Heating the hose

Heating the hose in hot water can help ease the connectors onto the hose

Once you have worked out what kind of sprinkler you need, then the planner helps you to figure out what you need to deliver the water, what kind of hose, any attachments like elbows, ends and a handy connector to attach to your hose.  But then there are other items that you don’t even realise you need, like clamps to hold the hose where you need it, be it in the ground or on the inside of the bed and the extremely important clips to stop the connectors blowing the whole system apart under the pressure of the water.  Seriously you don’t want to skimp on these.  This lesson has been learnt the hard way in my garden over the years!

Punch spanner

The punch spanner is the handiest tool

Once you have made your plan, and now is a good time – if your garden has come to an autumnal end or you are at a spring start and your beds are pretty much empty, then all you need to do is head off to the garden centre with a list and confidently buy what you need.   For my kiwi friends Mitre 10 has the best range of Neta products.  Installing the irrigation couldn’t be easier and is actually a lot of fun.  Having said that I find digging and weeding fun, but there is a satisfaction in the way it comes together without frustration or difficulty.

Spray pattern

To be honest I was a bit sceptical that the garden would be well watered with this spray pattern, but checking below the surface gave me confidence the water was being delivered across the garden and into the root zone

The planner even guides you to when and how much to water your garden so it is efficient for your plants and your supply and takes into consideration the kind of soil you have.  You may not have a garden as big as mine, but even a small garden can benefit from having a proper irrigation system.   One of the keys to a healthy garden is having the soil consistently moist all season, not boomeranging from dry to wet all season.    And the key to this is knowledge.   Knowledge is power.

You can check out how we went about irrigating my garden in my latest video and you can see for yourself how simple it all is.

I’d really like to thank the good people at Gardena for coming to my rescue to help me irrigate my garden properly for once and for all.  That is one less thing I need to worry about in order to have a healthy garden and a bountiful harvest.

Come again soon – there are bulbs and things that need to find their place in my garden

Sarah the Gardener  : o)

An invisible gardening hazard

My smile is about to become inconvenienced.  I could blame Global pollution for my troubles.

But I have to take some responsibility.  I am a child of the 70s.  My childhood was spent outside playing from dawn to dusk in the sun in little more than a T-shirt and shorts.  Or endless days in togs in and out of swimming pools or beside the sea building sandcastles in the beachy sand. Without so much as a hat.

Last chance watermelon

A lot of hope in a mild autumn will bring this watermelon to a harvestable state

As a teenager, we longed for that perfect tan that was perceived as the epitome of good health.  No one wanted to be seen as pasty. We lay out there for hours, friends together listening to the likes of Madonna, Def Leopard and Bon Jovi and turned every three songs like sausages on a BBQ.  To assist with the gradual colour change we would baste ourselves liberally with coconut oil or baby oil.  It was a fine balancing act to bronze without burning.  Burning was painful and the peeling that followed would mean having to start the colouring of our skin all over again.

Late sweetcorn

The lateness of the season doesn’t bode well for this sweetcorn but there is always a chance

And as an adult I found myself back out in the great outdoors, pottering about in the full sun of summer that my vegetable garden demands.  By now the world had become wise to the risks of the harsh sun.  It can kill you, and can take the unwary quickly.  The mantra ‘slip slop slap’ have become ingrained in our national culture.  Slip on a shirt, slop on sunscreen and slap on a hat.  A tan is no longer a desirable look for the young things listening to todays latest music.

Broccoli Broccoli side shoots

It has been a good couple of weeks since I took the main head from this plant and the side shoots just keep coming.

But I have to confess… the habits of a lifetime are hard to break and my hat is often discarded along the way in the garden as a hindrance.  Sunscreen, when I remember to apply it, more often than not is not reapplied as time goes so fast in the garden and as the sun races across the sky in what feels like a heartbeat under the toil of the day, what protection I had applied would have been sweated away.  Not that I sweat, because ladies glow.  I need to take more care.  I protect my garden from all that would harm it.  But I need to take time to protect the Gardener.

Rhubarb

I think the recent rain has a rhubarb seal of approval – this is best it has looked all season.

You see the thing is there is a hole in the ozone right over our beautiful land and the harmful UV rays pound down and cause harm.  They fade the colours right out of plastic.  A red bucket can become brittle in a season.  Polycarbonate greenhouses don’t stand a chance – it isn’t the wind that brings about its demise but the sun.  And it also beats down upon the gardener and penetrates beyond skin deep and damages cells.

Coriandar

Now the temperatures have dropped, the coriander is much happier and not bolting to seed as quickly.

Recently I noticed a patch of dry skin, just above my smile, that had appeared and was always there and showed no sign of leaving.  It soon became a cause for concern and I went to my Doctor who told me if I’d left it, it would become a thing that would turn into the dreaded melanoma.  The big C that could swiftly extinguish the bright light of any beautiful soul.  Fortunately, this is not my destiny.  I have caught it early and with a simple treatment that will inconvenience my smile for a while but I’ll be fine.

Red pepper

The leaves may change colour in the autumn, but to see the peppers change is a wonderful sight.

My message to you is to stay safe.  Protect yourself out there in the garden. Slip slop slap. Re-slop regularly.  Keep an eye on any changes in your skin.  Don’t think yeah nah – she’ll be right because there is a chance it won’t.  Early intervention is important to a long and healthy life.

Bees in flowers

There are still plenty of bees about, which is just as well as there are plenty of flowers too

On a grand scheme of things, you can save lives and reduce the risk for others by the simple act of reducing your waste.  Reduce reuse and recycle.  Don’t send things to landfill that would break down and release greenhouse gases.  Don’t burn plastics, because that is just nasty.  While where you are the sun burn time may be hours, not minutes like it is down here – your actions with your environmental responsibilities can actually reduce our risk or cause us harm.  We are all part of a global community and what happens on one side of the earth can have a knock-on effect on the other side.

So take care of your gardens and in your gardens and stay safe.

Come again soon – something really exciting has been going on in my garden.

Sarah the Gardener  : o)

 

Embracing Autumn

Pumpkins

If autumn could have an iconic vegetable it would have to be the pumpkin

I have been dragged kicking and screaming into this new season.  According to the calendar our autumn is officially three weeks old.  But at precisely 11:28pm last night, the autumn equinox occurred.  I wasn’t really aware of it as I’m not so keenly cognisant of an event that brings about the demise of my growing season as I am something that brings about the arrival of it.   I tend to bury my head in the sand and pretend the leaves aren’t changing colour, the need for socks is just a one off, the dwindling harvest is just an excuse to plant more things.

Echinacea

Even the flowers know when it is time to give up on summer. But still have an elegance about them, like this Echinacea

Astronomically the equinox means the position of the earth in relation to the sun is such that where ever you are in the world the length of the day is the same as the length of the night.  It is like passing a baton in a relay – the baton of long warm summer evenings.  We have enjoyed them down under and now it is time for the north to have them.   I do have to admit to reluctantly noticing the creep towards this moment as the nights are drawing in and more often than not I am waking to something that could be called darkness, but not quite.   So now we have to hunker down for shorter days with increasingly colder weather.

Early Garlic

Now is the time to plant early garlic and after the last few years of garlic rust I am keen to get a jump on the season so my plants can grow well before they hit the soggy season.

However, despite my love of the growing season, and all the wonderful things it brings, I do love the autumn.  The air, while cooling, is still warm and cosy and it embraces you in a way the searing heat of summer doesn’t.   You can’t deny the beauty in the colours of the leaves.  After a season of salad, a bowl of thick vegetable soup is welcoming.  The weather in this season is generally the most settled of all and gently eases us into the harshness of winter.

Daffodil bulbs

I love the optimism of autumn, it encourages us to act now for a brighter spring.

So, from today I will no longer bemoan the loss of a season that never was and embrace all of the wonderful things about the season we are in.   Autumn deserves to be acknowledged for all that is good about it and not as an usurper of summer.

Come again soon – we shall garden boldly into this fabulous season

Sarah the Gardener  : o)

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