If you had told me nine weeks ago that I would willingly give up my garden I would have told you that you were lying. I spent a long time dreaming and planning for this season. I have tomatoes from A to Z. My spuds, planted lovingly in September, aren’t due out until March. And don’t get me started on the sweetcorn. I was not intending on moving anywhere as I entered this new growing season.
But here I am just a week short of two months since the last frost day and there appears to be a rather large SOLD sign at the front of my house! Things have moved extremely quickly, and I’m pleased to say the lovely new owners want to use the garden to the full. That for me is a huge relief as there was the possibility that someone would just rip it all out and put in a pool or large deck or something. I worried all my hard work would just disappear… return to the earth unnoticed and neglected.
But it had to be something amazing that would make me hand over my garden to someone else, and indeed it is something pretty amazing. I will continue to garden at the new place, but I will be starting completely from scratch as there is absolutely nothing there except a whole load of wonderfulness and endless possibilities. I can’t wait to get stuck in.
Come again soon – 2018 is going to be a very interesting year.
Sarah the Gardener : o)
And it isn’t Bug-ger. Although this is the sentiment of the situation. You just can’t win with the weather. This year can easily be described with soggy soggy soggy soggy dry. And not just any dry, but the one tinged with humidity but no useful moisture. Perfect conditions for a bit of Blight in my spuds!
Really. I have been dreaming of a long hot summer for ages and then when one comes along is brings this with it. This isn’t how it was supposed to happen. It was supposed to be that magical season where all grows well and we have a bumper crop and a fabulous time in the garden. It went straight from wet to dry without so much as taking a breath. I promised myself – foolishly it would seem, that if we had a drought I wouldn’t complain. So as water restrictions are reaching out across the country I will hold my tongue and honour my word. I won’t complain about the lack of rain and the heat and still muggy nights making sleep impossible.
But I didn’t say I wouldn’t complain about the effects of this kind of weather and to be honest I am really not happy with this new situation in the form of blight. It is my Heather and my Illam Hardy. It is just early days so I’ll give them a haircut and a spray – gosh it sounds like they are getting all made up for some fancy Christmas doo, but to be honest I’ll do what it takes to save the crop!
It is still quite early days for these poor plants so there is the chance new unblemished leaves could form after the haircut. At this point I’m up for anything thing that will redeem the situation. If its not one thing, it is another.
On closer inspection it appeared all of the potatoes had a touch of the blight. So taking no chances I chopped them all back. It was the last thing I did in the garden and washed my tools in bleach and changed my clothes so I wouldn’t share the blight with the tomatoes. I would cry if that happened. Because of the dry there is a fire ban which means I am robbed of the satisfaction of seeing this dreadful disaster go up in flames. So I’m left with taking the blemished leaves far far far away.
We are a few weeks short of putting the rusty garlic behind us. I just want to pull it up and move on and pretend this orangeness was never there. I worked so hard to try and stay on top of it this season but it seems to have just mocked me. I dug up one row as it was looking terrible and to be honest the harvest was a bit MEH. I took a sneak one out of another row and I’m pleased to see there is still hope. A few weeks can make all the difference to what is going on underground.
It isn’t all doom and gloom – somethings in the garden are enjoying the conditions and if I turn a blind eye I can still be proud.
Come again soon – I may be about to start a disease collection if these conditions keep up – not that I want to.
Sarah the Gardener : o)
NOTE: always get an expert opinion BEFORE doing anything drastic in your garden. As I was reviewing the photos I thought – Hang on that doesn’t actually look like blight. So I spoke to my expert horticulturist and he agreed – it didn’t look like blight. He said “It doesn’t look fungal, the plants look(ed) healthy with no blackening or necrosis of the stems and the damage was not concentric or rounded. Bit of a mystery really.” And wished me a good weekend.
So it isn’t blight, but it didn’t look good, so in a way I’m pleased a removed a potential risk to my tomatoes from my garden. Tomatoes are way more exciting than potatoes. But Bug-ger. If any one knows what it is I’d be grateful to know I’d done the right thing!
After much anticipation, I left my country garden and headed into the big city to check out the NZ Flower and Garden Show. There hasn’t been a garden show on this scale here for a few years, but it takes more than an earthquake and a few soggy seasons to keep good gardeners from gardening. It was a delight and a pleasure to see such creativity on a grand scale. If these amazing gardens can be whipped up in such a short space of time, it gives me confidence that when we head to the coast, making something of the rugged landscape isn’t out of the realms of possibility.
I was fortunate enough to be invited by the lovely team at Gardena to join them on their stand and also get the chance to explore the show and see all the wonders for myself. The tricky part was my invitation was for the last day of the show and so for an entire week before my visit my social media was flooded with amazing imagery from the event. I had to decide if I wanted to indulge in this feast of horticultural gorgeousness that surrounded me at every turn, or would it spoil it for me and take away the element of wonder upon seeing things first hand on the day. I decided photos would never do it justice and decided to use all of my self-control and restraint and waited patiently for the real thing.
And I was so pleased I did. The day was incredible. The sun beat down from the blue sky above and the gardens, even after a week, looked fresh and inviting. There were elements of all of them I enjoyed and wondered how I could work them into the new place. I am allowing myself a little space to dream, but not to plan. Things could still become undone at this stage. However, going to an event like this, while on the verge of something new and exciting, I found myself more open to possibilities that I wouldn’t otherwise be. My current garden is what it is, and I like it that way. The new garden could be anything I want it to be.
Most of the gardens incorporated some kind of water feature, a stream, a pool, a waterfall or fountain and in the heat of the day it was just what any good garden should have. Just standing beside a garden and listening to the water was enough to feel fresh and alive when moments ago I was wilting. I need a water feature in the new garden and I’m spoilt for choice for inspiration.
My eye was drawn to the little details that had gone into, not only the display gardens but into the multitude of stands. I do have to say, while the flower side of things was absolutely incredible and the scent in that area of the show was heady, I found my main interest lay elsewhere. I’m just not that good with flowers. The extent of my flower arranging is to bung them in the nearest container and more often that not it is a jam jar. I am full of admiration for what they can do, but it does show up my inadequacies. Maybe next time I should pay more attention to this brilliant art form.
Much to my delight there was plenty of vegetable growing going on. Now this is where I feel at home and can appreciate the effort and energy required to put together a garden of the calibre seen at the show. It is hard enough getting an ordinary garden to look fabulous without the palaver of getting it looking perfect in a temporary situation in baking hot conditions. The school gardens were most impressive, and it was great to see growing food is in revival among the next generation. We all have a responsibility to ensure this life skill survives into the future. For many it is just a hobby, but it is a life skill nonetheless.
It was an absolute pleasure to have been able to attend this show and thanks to Gardena for inviting me. It was a lovely experience to be able to chat with other gardeners and talk about the finer points of the tools of the trade. Gardening can be a solitary thing, so it is nice to come together and just soak it all in.
Come again soon – Summer is here, and it is a little hot – not that I’m one to complain.
Sarah the Gardener : o)
Everything is changing, but for now it stays the same. It is a really weird time where we know what we want but have absolutely no control over it. All it takes is one person to buy the house. We’ve had a bit of interest, but in the meantime all that can be done is to carry on. And the garden is doing just that. It feels like the rainbow beet has quadrupled in size in a week!
So taking a lead from the garden I am still out there every day giving the garden all the love I possibly could and it is flourishing. I’ve harvested my Hunter River White Onions. It wasn’t my best harvest, but as they don’t keep as well as the Pukekohe Longkeepers, that still have a while to go yet, I’m not to worried about it.
I also took a trip down to the orchard to harvest some elderberries to make some elderberry cordial. I followed the vague recipe from my blog post back in 2015, and it still works and it rather entertaining so there isn’t really a lot of point repeating myself when I can point you to that one: >HERE<
I’ve also repotted my peppers into bigger pots to take with me when we move, because these really don’t get going until well into January and we use a lot of these in our winter cooking so I they’re coming with us.
You can see all of this in live video action – well not actually live, because it was yesterday, but I filmed it all as I needed to explain to our friends in the You Tube community what was happening. Especially as you lovely people have known for ages! So feel free to watch some gardening action, check out the orchard and just hang out with me in the garden for a bit. There is even talk of pickled asparagus.
Come again soon – there is still plenty of ordinary in the midst of change.
Sarah the Gardener : o)
It might sound sacrilegious this early in the season, but I found myself with a rather large bowl of strawberries in the back of the fridge. I had harvested a mountain of berries before heading out for the evening and with the intention of doing something with them the next day, like slicing them with my egg slicers and marinating them in mint and a sprinkle of sugar to go over ice cream. But the next day came and went, I got busy and completely forgot about them.
On rediscovering them in the back of the fridge, they had just passed that moment of being a delight to eat as you bite into fresh, firm, juicy strawberry goodness, and were now a bit soft and – not wanting to insult a fine fruit, but they were a bit rubbery. But all that strawberry deliciousness was still trapped inside and crying out for some kind of treatment that would not only render them edible but amazing as well.
The logical choice is jam, and there was enough to make maybe a half dozen jars of ruby red gorgeousness that would have gone perfectly with a well baked scone and a big blob of whipped cream. However our cupboard is still a bit chockka with jam from last season and it isn’t the kind of thing I want the kids to ‘hurry up and eat’ so I can make room for more. Veggies in the freezer – yes. Jam in the cupboard – no.
In a deep and meaningful discussion with Hubby the Un-Gardener we decided to look ahead towards Christmas and create a strawberry cordial to lace our Christmas day bubbly with. I can almost taste it now, which is now a tad frustrating as I have to wait over a month to release that essence of redeemed berry as pride of place on the festive table.
It is quite an easy recipe and well worth it. I had 700 grams of berries, and got 1 litre of cordial and some pulpy loveliness that may go well dehydrated, frozen or poured over ice cream – I have yet to decide. So I’ll knock the recipe back to 100 grams of strawberries so it is easier to adjust.
Come again soon – the sun has been shining and the garden has been calling to me to come out and play.
Sarah the Gardener : o)
This week, to distract myself from the chaos in my world right now, I took part in the 7 day black and white challenge on my personal Facebook page. But once it was complete and I saw the collection I though I just had to share it here. The rules were: 7 Days, 7 photos of my life in black and white. No people. No explanations. 1 nomination a day.
So without any further words – this was my week.
Come again soon – there are still loads of little jobs about the garden that need tending to.
Sarah the Gardener : o)
This is a bitter sweet moment for me. I love my garden, but life has a habit of creating change.
Ten years ago we were living in the heart of Auckland city with a tiny house – the perfect kind for the first rung on the property ladder. We had two tiny boys and I was recently diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis. We decided we couldn’t stay there, it made sense to move. And so, with nervous trepidation we sold up and moved to the country.
This property ticked everything on the wish list – flat land for a garden, a big enough house for the boys to grow into, great water pressure, its own water supply and so much more. We felt so grown up moving to a home with a ensuite bathroom and walk in wardrobe. The only thing it didn’t have was the sea views that Hubby the Un-Gardener has longed for since before I even knew him. But there were dolphin tiles in the bathroom and that was a good enough sea view for me so I ticked that box too! We have since renovated the bathroom to a more modern style and so the ‘sea view’ was erased. To satisfy Hubby the Un-Gardeners wants from life I agreed we would look at moving again in 10 years to a more coastal property.
But I didn’t know then what I know now, I had no idea how my garden would grow and become part of my life story. Like the miller’s daughter in the fairy story Rumpelstiltskin, I quickly forgot my promise and time is up and Hubby the Un-Gardener has reminded me of it and I have to give up my garden. I love my garden beyond measure. I love that it has provided me with wonderful food – some things I never knew existed, others I never want to try again. It has helped to restore my health, through a good fresh whole food diet, good exercise, being in the sun absorbing all the vitamin D that is healing to an MSsy body. But is also gave me a career where one wasn’t possible in the ordinary sense. Because of the garden I have written three books and won an award as a public speaker. I’ve been on radio and TV numerous times. A career as a garden writer fits in so nicely around everything I have going on. Back then I would have never seen it coming.
The garden has humbly grown from a few small in ground beds to 36 well organised raised beds that are completely sustainable for our family to meet our vegetable needs. We eat like kings. I have found a way to manage such a large garden with minimal effort, and Hubby the Un-Gardener helping with the digging and heavy lifting.
The house itself has served us well, and I love living here. But a promise is a promise and with much reluctance, our house was listed on the market today. I am extremely grateful for the wonderful photos and drone videos taken of the property for the marketing of it. It is something I will always have – a moment in time when my garden was looking its absolute best after 10 years hard work.
But in the words of that great song Closing Time by Semisonic, “Every new beginning comes from some other beginning’s end.” And there will be a new beginning – a new garden. An even better garden, built on the experiences of this garden, all the “I wish I’d done that differently” will be rectified. It will be magnificent, and I’d love to take you with me into this new journey. I can’t say much about the new until we sell the old, but hopefully that will be very soon.
Come again soon – I’ll keep you updated as we ride this emotionally challenging wave down to the coast, but in the meantime we will garden on until the last possible moment.
Sarah the Gardener : o)
Check out here to view the listing and video: https://www.barfoot.co.nz/607476 Someone will be very happy here, just like we have been.
Sometimes you know you need something, but just can’t have it. So you try your best to make do and manage with what you can, but once you get your hands on something of quality then nothing else will do and then you make a way. This could apply to many things in the garden and the amount of times I’m made do with inferior tools only to find expensive things cost more for a reason – they are just better and don’t break as easily and the job at hand is more pleasurable to do and is less of a struggle. Spending a bit more on something long term like a good spade or a stronger greenhouse makes sense. They will last a long time and you enjoy taking care of them because they cost so much, but they become like old friends that you wouldn’t want to be without.
But there are other things in the garden that can put demands on the purse strings and for the less tangible it seems difficult to justify spending much on what can seem like a temporary item, especially when you need a lot of it. This is my problem with mulch.
I understand the benefits of mulch – it keeps the weeds down and locks in the moisture, and the right mulch can add organic material back to the soil and help improve the long term health of the garden. But…. When you have a garden as big as mine it is all very well in theory. So I’ve been a little creative in the past.
I paid a lot of money for a big bag of pea straw that was as light as a feather – but I was desperate – I wanted to mulch my garlic to help prevent the rust fungal spores from splashing up from the soil onto my plants. It didn’t work – my mulch wasn’t thick enough and I didn’t like it enough for my wallet to like it enough too! Several months down the track the pea straw is really thin on the ground, much has blown away and it is looking a tad threadbare as the earth pokes through in more places than are generously covered.
I mulched the asparagus with its own trimmings in the winter, and it must have worked as the beds stayed weed free… well mostly, there were one or two. Although I still wonder if it is wise to mulch something with itself, in case there were pests or diseases hanging in there. What if all I’ve done is given them a nice place to live over the winter, close to their favourite food joint?
I grow my own wheat from the chicken food – not for the wheat, but for the straw – to go under my strawberries. This works well as it keeps a bed active over the winter like a cover crop, gives a nice view of something green when not a lot else is growing, and well, it just seems like the right thing to do to mulch strawberries with straw.
I even use the old Christmas tree to mulch my blueberries! They seem to really like that, judging by the amount of berries fattening up on the bushes this season.
So when I was approached by the good people at Fiber Earth to see if I wanted to try out a bag of their new Lucerne mulch I jumped at the chance. I wasn’t sure how far a bag would go in my huge garden, but some mulch was better than no mulch. Opening the bag revealed a couple of surprises. Firstly – the bag was sealed in a way that upon opening changed it from a dense solid block to a mountain of fluffy mulch. Fortunately I opened it in my wee trolley that I had used to drag the bag into the garden, so I didn’t lose a drop.
The second thing was it was light, soft and fluffy and had a lovely sweet scent from the fermentation process. You could just tell it was going to be good for the garden. It went down on to the garden so easily and once in place it stayed in place. I carefully mulched around the onions in the main garden and then stood back and did nothing for months. There was nothing to weed and the onions grew steadily in their cosy mulched bed.
The mulchless onions in my overflow bed unfortunately didn’t benefit from the same treatment, and comparing the two – I think they flew into a jealous rage. They don’t seem to have thrived as well – they certainly aren’t as advanced as the other onions and they have been on the weeding schedule as there have been all manner of interloper trying to claim squatters rights in that bed.
So once again sometimes, somethings benefit from having the right product for the job, and I am extremely grateful to Fibre Earth for drawing my attention to something I had been looking for, for a long time, but never found anything that worked how I wanted it to. I think this will be a must have in my garden from now on and my soil will thank me for it.
Come again soon – now the garden is in control, mostly, I can focus on other things.
Sarah the Gardener : o)
For more information check out: https://fiberearth.co.nz/
I think this is as close as I will get to a Did…Dah… moment. There are still a few empty beds, but I’m working on it. The grass is cut, most of the plants are in, it hasn’t rained in ages and the boffins were wrong about the rain this Saturday – it completely bypassed us. Just as well I chose to ignore them. However I am a fair weather friend and when they suggest there will be no rain for the next 8 days I will embrace it as fact!
If this is so, then I will need to get the full irrigation system up and running, as the soil is looking a little on the dry side. This is great indicator that summer days are just around the corner. With the watering taken care of, I will be able to fall into the gentle ebb and flow of weeding and waiting, as the real harvest is still a little way off. I am looking forward to this time, as I feel I have worked really hard to get to where we are today.
As my garden is a little on the large side the best way to see it is to come on a tour. So join me as a do a grand review and show you everything that is going on in my garden. I think it will be a fab season in the garden this year.
Come again soon – there are still a few plants needing bigger pots and I need take care of the moisture I apply to the beds.
Sarah the Gardener : o)