SARAH THE GARDENER

When you’re not you

We have survived our first month living in a caravan with just a handful of weeks left before the house arrives.  We seem to be in a lull in the busyness that has been swirling around us in the last few months and will continue to do so in the months to come.   The weather has yo-yoed between being perfect camping weather with clear blue skies that disappear into our incredible ocean view and pouring with rain so heavily we can barely see the sea at all.  February is ordinarily a very settled month as the summer draws to a close, however this year seems to have other plans.

seaview

I still marvel at our incredible views. We count ourselves as truly blessed.

Since we have been living in the confined space of the caravan it has rained for 18 days and dry for a mere 14 days.  The first extremely wet day was the day we moved with about 20mm – give or take.  The days before and after it were nice days.  Go figure!  Just to make it more exciting two of the 18 days also had rainfall of over 30mm!  And as I write this we are waiting for the impact of the remnants of Cyclone Gita that ravished poor Tonga and Fiji last week.  It is looking like we won’t get a full hit here, but there will be rain and wind, which in a caravan with teenagers, won’t be that much fun, but we’ll live.

Sunset

I’ll never get sick of seeing sunsets like this!

But I’m not here to moan about the weather.  I have something really exciting to share with you.  Although I can’t build my garden yet, due to the caravan and a container with all our worldly possessions positioned smack bang where I want to have my garden, I was feeling a little lost without a garden to potter about in, so did something about it.

Sarah's garden

And just like that, I’m a gardener again!

To start with it was like having a wee holiday, but I found myself at a loose end with nothing to do.  Gardening is what I do, and my identity is wrapped up in that too.  I’m a gardener and without dirt under my nails, I don’t feel like me.  Ok I must admit it was nice to go through a couple of storms without worrying about sweet corn blowing over, tomatoes snapping their stakes or the greenhouse blowing away.  But that isn’t enough to deter me, and I began longing for these worries.  It is part of the gardening journey – it is never smooth sailing.  There is always something, the weather, pests, disease, weeds.  Fortunately, the setbacks always outweigh the benefits and just sinking your teeth into something amazing that has been freshly picked makes it all worthwhile.  I missed that.

container garden

It is cool to have a hill to look down over the garden. It always looks so different from above.

During a recent dry spell, I gathered together all the plants I had bought with me from the places they had been conveniently deposited and gave them some love they desperately needed, some had become quite travel weary.   There were more than I’d realised, so I set about arranging them in a way that would be easy for me to tend to.  One of the lessons I have learnt about the garden is – the easier things are, then the more likely you are to do a good job.

tomatoes

There are only a couple of weeks left in this summer but, I have every hope these tomatoes will ripen and what a reward they will be.

Another thing I hadn’t fully realised was how many ornamental bits and bobs I had.  Spread out across the big old garden they were barely noticeable.  But in a small space, my butterfly windmill, my fountain, the memorial statue of poor wee Toast the Cat and a few other items make it a cheery place and accentuate the garden nicely.  I think I’ll need to look into getting more bits and bobs in the new big garden.

fountain

The fountain is so soothing and a much more gentle sound than the roaring of the waves that now forms the background soundtrack to our lives.

I’m really pleased with how the container garden looks and it is such a pleasure to potter in it.  I’ve elevated the pots off the ground on old bread style trays (that I have a great plan for them in the long term, but more about that later).  This gives the garden a nice defined shape and will be easier to maintain the overall look of the garden without it looking too cluttered or too weedy. It will make mowing in there easier too as moving a tray of pots will be simpler than moving them individually.

Salad

Fresh salad is a must have, and easy enough in a container – so long as you keep them well hydrated!

Finally, I wrapped a fence of sorts around it to keep the free ranging chickens out.  They have already had a field day with my poor exposed plants.

Elderberry

I’m delighted to see the elderberry cuttings I brought with me have taken. I hope they enjoy their new location.

I do have to say, I admire all of the gardeners out there who garden in containers as their only or main form of gardening.  It is actually higher maintenance than in ground gardening.  I knew all of this, however with such a large garden to potter about with, any unfortunate plants under my care inevitably died a sad and lonely death.  Without the vast resource of soil at the roots disposal, these plants are entirely at the mercy of the gardener for food and moisture.  Especially moisture.  In hot summer days, the limited space in modest containers can dry out very fast.  Watering the garden is much more of a life and death situation.  But it does give me the perfect excuse to potter longer in my little garden beside the sea.

Sweetcorn

I think this sweetcorn is more wishful thinking! It is too travel weary and storm beaten to be a raging success!

It is especially important I keep these plants alive as many are destined to go into the new garden, like the asparagus and strawberry seedlings that I have somehow managed to keep alive since the winter.  Others are hanging in there, so I can have a fresh crunch of something – anything homegrown before the season comes to an end.  I’m even growing beans, hoping for a late harvest, and I don’t even like beans!

Gardena Comfort Bed Sprayer

When watering the garden is as essential as keeping a container garden moist, having a good tool for the job makes it so much easier. I love the wide spread of the Gardena Comfort Bed Sprayer as it quickly covers a large area in a satisfying way.

What I am missing is herbs.  I think I need to pick up some to help liven up our diets.  A trip to the garden centre is needed, and just like that my little garden start to grow – in more ways than one!

Come again soon – I suspect things will start to speed up again soon and there will be many interesting things to tell you about.

 Sarah the Gardener  : o)

 

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Wrapped in plastic

It has been two weeks since I left my garden for a gorgeous spot on the coast and it has taken that long to start to feel comfortable with caravan living.  We have slipped into a school term routine, so it no longer feels like we are camping and it seems all the more real that we are doing a peculiar thing that will be worth it in the long run.   The perception of camping was great to start with as the weather was absolutely amazing, endless blue skies and hot days that were softened by a gentle sea breeze.  Swimming in the ocean was a great way to freshen up and the living was relaxed and easy, even more so once we got electricity.  It was nice to take some time to do nothing much at all after months of busyness getting the house ready for sale and then packing up all our worldly possessions.

Sunset

Every sunset is different. I shall never grow tired of watching them.

We even survived a terrible storm with torrential rain and strong winds, although we have had to make adjustments to the way we live.  The earlier sunny days had lulled us into a false sense of security and we had sprawled a little.  But it isn’t for much longer, about 35 days give or take and we should be house dwellers like normal people.  But it was a good wake up call as in these coming days it will rain again.

Easy living

We don’t have many luxuries right now, but we do have our spa pool.

One adjustment has been especially difficult for me, and that is with the cooking.  We have limited space to store things and so all of my pickles, sauces and other things I’d made to enhance my cooking are packed away.  The deep freezer is plugged in, in a location far from here so what harvest I was able to make this season is safe and will bring us some sunshine this winter.  And worst of all, I don’t have a garden as such.  There is no fresh produce for me.

Free range chickens

The chickens are enjoying the free range lifestyle.

So we have been buying things – little and often because of the lack of space.  I don’t think I’ve ever been to the supermarket so frequently ever.  Normally it is just once every couple of weeks for the basics I can’t make or grow and if we run out, then we wait.  Going in every other day leads to spending more than intended as things tend to catch your eye and it jumps into the trolley almost as if by magic.   I’m not entirely happy with what we are buying either, but it is just for a short time.   Having worked in the convenience food industry in a previous life I’m keen to avoid it now and love my whole food lifestyle, carefully making it from scratch.  However, in a caravan this isn’t easy so convenience food it is.

goat

It is surprising how much stuff can be plonked in my new garden. I guess I shall have to wait patiently.

Not only is it a shock as to how little self control I seem to have in the supermarket, but also the price of things – especially veggies.  I can’t remember the last time I bought a tomato or a cucumber as I work with the principle – if it isn’t in season, we’re not having it.  It makes us appreciate the rhythm of nature and things anticipated taste so much better.  Except stuff from the supermarket.  The full and rich flavours experienced with home grown produce is missing from these items.   And as they come unnecessarily wrapped in plastic or have plastic stickers plastered all over them, then I am also concerned at the increased amount of waste this convenience lifestyle is generating.

Limes

The limes are enjoying their sheltered spot behind the container where my greenhouse should be!

I need to make a temporary garden as soon as I can so we can slip back into a way of life we are more accustomed to.  The big garden is coming along nicely in the planning stage and while I had hoped to get started on it straight away I hadn’t anticipated the place for the house and surrounding area needed to be clear for the tradespeople to do their thing.  Meaning the other lovely flat area that is to be my garden is cram packed with stuff – the caravan is where I would like to have my greenhouse, the container is stretched out across several potential beds, the trailer is where my office shed is to go and other items are blocking the possibility of most horticultural endeavour.

seedlings

The start of my temporary garden, may it flourish for me in this place.

It is just for a short time, and so in the meantime I am researching gardening in these conditions, designing and planning the garden and beyond and gathering together all the materials I’ll need.  So once the house arrives and everything else goes I can get started straight away on my forever. garden.

Come again soon – I don’t feel like me if I’m not growing something

Sarah the Gardener  : o)

A Sea Change

Moving day

It does feel weird to have all of your worldly possessions following along behind you in a truck.

After 87 days from idea to realisation, we are now all moved and settled in to our new place.  Well not quite settled in.  We are living in a caravan with all our worldly possessions scattered about the place waiting to be rearranged in a orderly fashion.   We may be there for a short while, the house arrives, all going well in early March or hopefully even sooner.

Moving goats

I was worried the goats wouldn’t want to move house and had visions of chasing them around the property, but they just trotted up to trailer and willingly climbed aboard. Phew.

Our new place is 10 acres on the rugged west coast over looking the Tasman Sea.  The sand is black, the beach is empty for miles and the waves are often wild.  It is a mesmerising sight to sit and stare at.  We’re not on the beach front itself, but we have beach access and I can see the waves break from where the garden will be.  The view is spectacular.  This alone is worth the move.

moving chickens

The best way to move chickens is at night. Just pluck them off the roost and they don;t even know whats happened.

The land, while gorgeous, doesn’t currently have a house.  This is not a big problem for us as we like to embrace difficult situations.  It builds character.   Although I’m not sure our character requires strengthening in the area of building, so yeah nah, we’re not building a house.  We did look into that, and not only is it extremely expensive, but there are so many logistical hoops to jump through and takes a very long time, we decided we’re not up for that kind of a challenge.

House site

Hubby the Un-Gardener is standing in what will be my kitchen!

So we are relocating a house.  That way, we get to look for our perfect house to go with our perfect section.   As there is a lot of development going on in the country where old houses on large sections are making way for numerous townhouses, it didn’t take long to find the perfect one for our place.  All we have to do now is wait for it to arrive, so I’ll share more about that later.  It is the ultimate form of recycling!

Garden site

This doesn’t look like much but if you can see what I see in my head, this is going to be an amazing garden.

In the meantime we are going to live in a caravan that the lovely previous owners have left for us use for the few short months it will take for the house to come.  It is summer and most people about the place are staying in caravans by choice right now as they go off on their summer holiday, it can’t be that much different from that!  We have created several locations beside the caravan – tents and a large gazebo, so we don’t all kill each other in the confined space of the caravan.  It’ll be fine and won’t be for long.

Sunset

I get to watch this incredible event every evening. I feel incredibly blessed.

The place I want to put the garden will be perfect for it – it gets all day sun and is mostly sheltered from the worst of the winds this coastal property will throw at it.  I will need raised beds as the soil is mostly sand.  I will miss the wonderful rich soil we had at the last place, but I won’t miss the mud.  Although come next summer I may be bemoaning the fact there is too much drainage!  I have great plans for the garden and you can check it our here in my wee video tour of the new place:

It is an ambitious plan which is exciting and scary all at the same time.  There is a lot to learn as things are very different, but a gardener is always learning and I am looking forward to the journey.  There will be ups and downs.  Mistakes will be made, but at the end of the day I can sit and let the troubles of the day wash away as the sun sinks into the ocean.   It would have taken a pretty special place to take me away from my old garden and this, I believe, it that place.

Come again soon – it is the first day of an very interesting journey.

Sarah the Gardener  : o)

Last days

Empty Shed

The shed is empty. Even the shed has a history. I had it built with the winnings from my second attempt at the Yates Vegie Growing Challenge back in 2011. So much has happened since then.

There is a strange sense of peace.  I am ready to leave the garden.  Which is just as well as we are out of here on Thursday.   It has only been 85 days since we made the decision to make the move.  It feels like a lifetime, but also at the same time it feels like it was only yesterday.  Parts of me still feel as though it isn’t real, and I’ll wake up surrounded by all my clutter.  But reality hits as the rooms in the house have a distinctive echo as it is denuded of furniture and all our creature comforts.  There is no going back.

The Greenhouse

The Greenhouse – my pride and joy. There are waves of sadness when I think about leaving this behind. So many happy times in here.

The greenhouse and shed have been emptied of all of my things and given a tidy.  This was done over several evenings by torchlight as the daytime temperatures this week have been ridiculous, and it would have been foolhardy and harmful to health to have attempted to work underneath glass.  I was surprised how much I had accumulated in the shed and greenhouse.  Many items were things I thought I’d try but never really got on with.  There are so many amazing things on offer at garden centres and such places and under the influence of the horticultural shopping spree, where all sense of self control gets left at the door, I just had to have these things and try them out.  Needless to say, there are considerably fewer items coming with me than those that languished the shed for the last few years.

Swing seat

The swing seat comes down tomorrow and will be re-erected at the new place – somewhere to sit and watch a new garden grow.

The garden itself looks better than it ever has.  I went into this season with a degree of delight as for once I had no projects on the go, no books to write, no training programs to run.  This was going to be my season to just immerse myself in the garden and nothing else.  It was to have my full attention and I would have been in my element.  Then we decided to move.  The garden, while not receiving the full care and attention it deserved, was still a priority as it needed to look nice for the real estate photos, then it needed to stay nice for the open homes, and then it needed to be maintained for the new people to take over from where I left off without wasting any of the harvest.

Large plants and shrubs

Large plants and shrubs waiting for the move

As I tended the garden in these last days, there was a little sadness, but more an overwhelming feeling that I was caring for it for someone else and hoping it would be a blessing to them.   I do feel a tinge of sadness that I will miss out on the sweetcorn, that is only a few weeks away from being ready.  The tassels are doing a marvellous job of dropping pollen on the silks and all over my pots that I was sorting on the ground beside them.  Everything is covered in a fine yellow dust, thwarting my efforts to only take clean things with me.  I don’t have the energy to rinse it all off, so I have a hazy yellow memory of the garden to take with me.

Container plants

While a little bedraggled and a tad worse for wear, these container plants will soon be the sole object of my attentions as they will be, for the immediate future, my only garden. They won’t know what hit them!

I have been able to sample the first few tomatoes to ripen and I know I made good choices when selecting seeds as they are all so incredible.  Nothing like the ordinary tomatoes most non-gardeners are used to.  They will all be welcome in my new garden.    The new carrot seeds I sowed the other day have broken through the soil surface and it is nice to know there is something for the new people to see there other than bare soil.  The broccoli is ready for them to enjoy straight away, although as I didn’t have my eye on the ball the entire time, it may be necessary for them to pick out a few green caterpillars.  I apologise profusely, but it is an interesting introduction to the reality of homegrown food as opposed to the sanitised versions found elsewhere.  A few holes and bugs never really hurt anyone – just eat around them!

Garden

I have to say I love this garden so very deeply and will miss it terribly. But I know I’m leaving it in good hands.

But in a few days from now, I’ll be waking up to a new future in a completely new place with so much potential around every corner.  There is a new garden waiting to emerge under my loving care, with a lot of learning and possible hard learnt mistakes along the way.   The future is very exciting and starts tomorrow…  well actually the day after tomorrow.

Come again soon – change is afoot!

Sarah the Gardener  : o)

 

The hardest worker of all.

It is fair to say the process of selling a house isn’t a simple process.  Pop a holiday season in the middle of it all and it can really be challenging.

The first step of getting the house ready for sale doesn’t just include the standard decluttering and making a home a house of show room standard, devoid of all but a few personal items to make it seems homely for someone else.  This process while initially challenging if you haven’t had a major declutter in a decade, once it is done it is done, aside from frequently reminding the kids we are to remain in a state to eternal cleanliness until further notice.  It makes you wonder if you actually need all of the stuff you have hidden away.  (Until you start to go through it deciding if it will be allowed to enter the new place.  You need to be ruthless and restrain all sentiment.)

Packing boxes

You never really know just how much stuff you have until you have to contain it in boxes

But the garden is a whole other thing.  It is alive and has its own set of intentions and not as easy to bend to the process of looking like a show home for an unspecified period of time, as the house is.  In the veggie patch, plants come and go and the window of opportunity for that image of perfection is fleeting.  A lush and verdant row of onion may look perfect on day one, but in a few short weeks have flopped over and look all bedraggled.  A sign they are ready for harvest and need to come out – leaving them there would just be a waste.  But then there is a blank spot that will only get filled with weeds if left, so it needs to be replanted with anything that will provide the same healthy verdant growth that was once there.

Potato

New potatoes for the new people

The butternut squash doesn’t understand they are to remain orderly and spill over the edge of the bed, making it impossible to maintain the grass around them.  They are only forgiven because of the bountiful harvest beneath the leaves that will give the new people plenty of comfort food over the winter months.

Butternut

There is no control and restraint when it comes to butternut squash. So disrespectful. Not a team player.

But the hardest thing to remain on top of is the lawn.   Grass doesn’t care what your plans are, and it just grows.   However, when you are selling a house, it needs to be perfect all of the time and the boom and bust of the weekly mow just doesn’t cut it.  You can’t just have it looking good on Sunday after the Saturday mow and have it all dishevelled by Friday.  The far reaches of the property that very rarely see the spinning blades of the push mower gets a close shave every other day.  It is hard work and requires frequent nagging and starts to become costly as our teenage boy puts his hand out for financial reward for his efforts.  But it has to be done.

Mowed lawn

A well cut lawn is important for appearances when selling your house.

The most critical area that needs to stay nice is the back yard and it is a pleasure to say this was in good hands and no nagging was needed.  Neville the Gardena Robotic Lawnmower had this job in hand and was constantly bobbing about keeping the yard cut crisp and fresh.  But not only did he do a superb job of keeping the grass looking magnificent, he also provided a place of peace and tranquillity amongst the chaos.   Just knowing this area was being taken care of was one less thing to worry about.  But also, as he randomly worked his way across the lawn, back and forth, this way and that, he provided a mesmerising moment of calm.  While sitting on the back step with a cup of tea, just watching the lawn silently being cut, you could feel the stress of it all just melt away.

Mowing in the storm

This photo really doesn’t show how wild the weather was, and yet there is Neville, out there, mowing the lawn. That is the kind of commitment you won’t get from a teenage lawn mowing boy.

Once the house sold, there is an expectation that it will be handed on to the new people in the condition it was when they agreed to buy it.   The house bit is easy enough, you just have to remove all of your possessions and present them with an empty place for them to fill with their own things and make it their home.   But once again that independent living thing that is a garden isn’t about to comply.  So as things have needed to come out of the garden, I’ve replaced them with new things that are perfect for now, that I’ll never see come to fruition, but that doesn’t matter to me.  I want to leave a lovely garden behind and I get to enjoy this garden up to the very last moment.

Long grass

There is no one at home.

The problem is there was a holiday in there as well and we headed out of town for Christmas.  This is an invitation for unchecked growth across the whole garden.  In that short space of time, unwatched things grow out of control and in an unruly fashion.  Within days of our departure, anyone popping by on the off chance we’d still be there would be able to tell we were away by the state of the garden.  The plants might as well have had a sign “No one is at home!”  The place would have looked abandoned if it wasn’t for Neville.  He didn’t even take the statutory breaks and continued through the baking sun and stormy weather to ensure the backyard looked perfect.  The lawn looked loved, and we love Neville for loving it for us.

Gardena Robotic Lawnmower

How can you not love such an adorable mower like Neville?

So, as we do the final bits of packing and moving out we know as we hand over the keys, there is one less thing we need to worry about.   And before we drive off to the new place, we will scoop up our wonderful Neville and take him with us, where he will have a well-earned break while we decide exactly where the new back lawn will be.  I am looking forward to seeing him bob about there, making the new place feel homely and a source of calm in the new chaos we are about to embark upon.

Come again soon – the grass is greener on the other side… well maybe not as green but it is still good!

Sarah the Gardener  : o)

Storm weeding

This is the absolute best kind of weeding there is.  After a period of sustained torrential rain the soil becomes so moist deep down that even the nastiest weed like dock weed slips right out of the ground with the entire tap root attached.   This is my bright side to a few days of horrible stormy weather.

Weeding

This was the bed I was most afraid of… it was jam packed with weeds, but in next to no time it was free from the burden of all except the plants that were supposed to be there

It was probably the worst storm we have had in ages.  I was going to say all year, but the year isn’t even a week old yet and it is the only storm we have had… thankfully.  Although I’m not in a hurry to have another one.  It should have been expected, summer holidays are normally ruined by bad weather, although it was late – it normally comes between Christmas and New Year when the maximum number of people are sleeping in tents.

Windswept popcorn

I’ve done the best I could to bring the popcorn back to an upright position, however I think the damage has been done.

I thought it was going to be one of those storms in a teacup that the boffins get wrong and then the media pick up on it in a slow news week.  Everyone gets all excited and secures all their stuff so it won’t blow away and then it fizzles out somewhere over the Pacific Ocean and we get a few spits and spots and a gentle huff and our trust in the boffins is eroded.  These storms normally have a name and memes appear everywhere – especially when it comes to nothing.  So when the mounting panic was being conveyed on the public, they didn’t even give this storm a name.   Judging by the damage it did to most of the country… it should have had a name.  It was just referred to as a Severe Storm.  This didn’t do it justice.

Sowing carrots

The soil was so light and fluffy, I decided to sow a row of carrots… it just seemed like the right thing to do when presented with great soil conditions!

After drought like conditions for weeks and weeks, it started to rain gently and gardeners everywhere rejoiced.  I thought ‘this is nice.’  But it didn’t stop, it got heavier and heavier like some kind of malfunctioning gadget.  It rained for days.  I wouldn’t have minded it so much if that was all the storm had to offer.  But it brought along some wind.  The kind of wind that leaves you wide eyed at 3:00 in the morning hoping and praying the roof stays on, the greenhouse stays up and no harm comes to the garden.  By 4:30 you are convinced there is nothing left of the garden and anxiously wait for the light of day so you can survey the damage.  The wind always sounds worst in the dark.  But I don’t think winds in excess of 85km per hour ever sound pleasant.   We even had the power out for several hours, reminding us how dependent we are on it for everything – even flushing the loo because the water pump wasn’t working.

Cover crop

I even popped in a lupin cover crop to help restore the nutrients to the bed the onions were in. They were there for such a long time.

Just to add insult to injury there was a ‘Wolf Moon’.   I don’t even know what a Wolf Moon is, but it is apparently one of those once in a lifetime super moons that we’ve been getting a lot of lately.   It only comes around once in a blue moon… But it wreaked havoc with the beaches and on top of the storms there were king tides that penetrated in land further than any high tide before, egged on by the nameless storm.

Day broke and the reports began coming in over the internet of the damage done to other places, corn flattened, tomatoes broken, trees felled, roads washed away, homes flooded.  From the minor damage to the major damage, this storm wasn’t mucking around.  Maybe it was upset because it didn’t have a name.

Ripening tomatoes

Not only did the tomato plants come through the storm unscathed they have started to ripen. I did pick the ones that looked close to being ready before the storm in case they split with all the water.

I didn’t even want to look at the garden.  I couldn’t face it.  However I needn’t have worried.  It was barely touched.  Well it did have a few minor dings.  A small lemon branch broke, a lily plant lost its container – I have no idea where it went, but the plant is still there.  The corn looked like it had been blown in one direction and then re-righted when the wind changed direction.  The popcorn didn’t fair so well – it was mostly horizontal.  The timing couldn’t have been worse – the tassels were out dropping pollen on the silks.  I’m not expecting them to be fully pollinated this year.  But all in all everything else was fine.  Phew.

Melon

It is exciting to see melons growing, even if I don’t get to eat this one.

The garden still needed a bit of attention though.  Over the holiday period and with all the packing we’ve been doing, some weeds crept into my recently pristine garden.  I was dreading taking care of them as the soil had sun baked to concrete-esk style and removing even the smallest weed would have been difficult.  However, thanks to the storm with no name, the soil was soft, crumbly and wonderful and weeding was actually a pleasure.  Even the most stubborn dock slipped out with its tap root fully intact.  It was like the storm scared it stupid and it just surrendered.  I was able to whip around the weediest beds in super-fast speed and the garden once again looks great.  There is still a little bit to do to restore complete control, but I’m hoping to get onto this before the sun bakes the soil once again and the weeds become stuck fast.

Come again soon – the moving day is approaching fast.

Sarah the Gardener  : o)

NB:  In spite of all the rain, we are still not out of the woods yet with the water saving, so as soon as things calm down and the sun comes out again – check with your council to see where you are at with the watering restrictions.

2017 – Oh what a year – huge plot twist at the end, which I didn’t see coming.

Normally at this time of year we look back over the previous twelve months and wax lyrical about the mundane goings in the garden, reminisce over the ordinary and set goals along the lines of ‘must keep on top of the weeds this year.’   Life in a garden has seasons and once you get the hang of things it can become a bit of a routine.  It is still exciting to see the first seedling emerge in spring and the first blush of red in the tomato patch, but at the end of the day, the pea season comes, and the pea season goes, the onions get pulled out and the space they occupied is quickly filled with something else, and strawberries don’t last forever.

Jan: new signs for the new year

Jan: new signs for the new year

Feb: brought with it a wonderful new irrigation system

Feb: brought with it a wonderful new irrigation system

Don’t get me wrong, the garden is always a place of great excitement – the anticipation finding out what that new variety actually tastes like after months of waiting, greeting an old favourite like a long-lost friend and cracking into a large juicy watermelon can only be done with a huge grin on your face!  The things I control in the garden bring me great joy.  Just being in the garden gives a sense of peace, contentment and accomplishment.

Mar: tomatoes were plentiful

Mar: tomatoes were plentiful

Apr: all about the pumpkins and something to aspire to

Apr: all about the pumpkins and something to aspire to

However, it is the things you can’t control that can give the greatest frustration.  Namely the weather.   We certainly had our fair share of rain this year.  Oh, my goodness.  It taught me how to have patience as I waited between downpours for the soil to dry out. But there is always a silver lining and although on the surface the ground now looks parched, dry and cracked, deep down there is a good solid moist soil and the plants seem to have sent their roots down into it and despite the baking heat, they are thriving.  Nothing in nature is wasted and even a wet winter can become a blessing.

May: the installation of the swing seat was super exciting

May: the installation of the swing seat was super exciting

Jun: the first month of winter brought frosts

Jun: the first month of winter brought frosts

I have to confess to being a bit of a creature of habit.  I like things just so… well in the garden – elsewhere is a bit chaotic, but I’m working on that, or more accurately Hubby the Un-Gardener is helping me work on that as we sort through 10 years of stuff and try to eliminate anything with the designation “I might need that one day.”  Having said that I bet I will need it one day….   But in the garden, once I find a system that works well for me, I tend to keep it that way.  Over the last decade the garden has been refined and fine-tuned, and it is really only the vagaries of the season, the whims of the weather and the populations of pest and disease that spice things up in the garden.   Pop ups on my calendar remind me when to do things, my crop rotation is pretty much set in stone and at the end of the season everything just moves a bed to the right.  I have my favourite things I like to grow and have long since cast aside the weird and interesting as they were too weird and too interesting, and we never ate them and often didn’t actually like them.

Jul: a tropical holiday was just what was needed

Jul: a tropical holiday was just what was needed

Aug: Spring means lambs

Aug: Spring means lambs

Each season, each bed was starting to look like it did the previous year in the neighbouring bed.  I used to be like that with the Christmas tree.  The silvery tinsel always went on the bottom like a layer of snow, the robin ornament went near the top, so he could look out over the room, the tinkly noisy chime one could go near the bottom by the door, so the breeze could catch it and sound festive….  But then I noticed looking back over the photos was the only thing that had changed was the kids standing in front of it were slightly taller.  Now I get the kids to do it and then I go in and move a few things to balance it out.     The garden, while still extremely challenging and rewarding was starting to feel like the tree.  Only I didn’t realise it.

Sep: this is when the seed sowing really gets started!

Sep: this is when the seed sowing really gets started!

Oct: Oh we can't forget the time the police came to the garden visit!

Oct: Oh we can’t forget the time the police came to the garden visit!

In the time I have had to reflect on the garden over the last two months, I have come to realise I was in need of a new challenge.  Something that would throw me in over my head and terrify and excite me at the same time.  I love my creature comforts and would have been happy to potter about in the garden for the rest of my days, it is the difference between a Ferris wheel and a roller coaster at the fairground.  Both are fun, just in different way.

Nov: The garden was groomed within an inch of its life to prepare for sale.

Nov: The garden was groomed within an inch of its life to prepare for sale.

Dec: in the blink of an eye it was all over... the year and the garden

Dec: in the blink of an eye it was all over… the year and the garden

As I started out on 2017 I would never have picked how it would ended and if you told me I’d be giving up my beloved garden I would call you a liar.  But having come to terms with the reality of it all, I am ready to move on, leaving the garden in the care of others and excited for what this new year will bring.  It is almost impossible to make New Years resolutions as it is impossible to know exactly how it will be.  So, all I can really put on my goal list is ‘to bring it on’.  2018 I am ready for what ever challenge you throw at me.

Thank you lovely garden. I am going to miss you terribly!

Thank you lovely garden. I am going to miss you terribly!

Come again soon – the new garden in the new place is the perfect start to a new year!

Sarah the Gardener  : o)

The in Between

This is a strange time of year in many ways.  Ordinarily we aren’t here at all, but off beside the sea somewhere soaking in the summer sun and doing some well deserved relaxing after a hard year of hard yakka.  Sometimes we’re in a tent – although not often.  I’ve long since decided sleeping on uneven ground under a thin piece of fabric that is freezing cold when you go to bed and boiling hot, yet a little damp when you wake up, having spent the night listening to a mozzie buzzing about your head hoping it doesn’t land and bite your face (the only part of you exposed due to the cold).  Then having to crawl out of bed on your hands and knees to emerge from the tent is the final indignity.  Nope, I think camping is best left to the younger people and I’ve been that young person for my fair share of years.  Fun times, great memories.

Cucumber tendrils

Cucumbers hanging on for dear life.

Other times we would be more civilised in a cabin with essential facilities like electric, running water, proper beds and if we’re lucky Wi-Fi. But in recent years it has been out on the boat that spent several years languishing in my back yard while Hubby the Un-Gardener had it done up.  It makes time spent out on the water in it so much more wonderful because we made it happen – from repairing the rotting sides and replacing almost everything, to choosing sea themed cushions and installing the USB connectors to keep phones charged to take great photos of summer fun.

Green tomatoes

One day I’ll find out what these tomatoes taste like. It may or may not be this season, but I don’t mind waiting.

But not this year.  We took a few short days to spend Christmas with family in other parts of the country and then instead of heading off to the boat for sun, sea, swimming, fishing and fun, we came back home.  It feels weird calling it home.  It is still home, but not for much longer.  Already there is the hint of an emotional disconnect. But then it is still very much the place we love.  My heart often asks, “but why are you giving all of this wonderfulness up?” and I feel momentarily sad.  But then we make a quick visit to the new place and the overwhelming delight that land offers remind me exactly why.  It would have taken a pretty special place to make me give up my garden and the new place is incredibly special.

Kidney beans

These kidney beans will make a heart warming chilli con carne for the new people in the winter. It is like a house warming gift that just keeps giving.

My feelings towards the garden are strange.  In the beginning of the process, I was adamant I didn’t want to give it up and wasn’t sure what I would do.  But in the short days since the sale.  It has only been two weeks; the garden has changed.  It is really strange.  I no longer think of it as mine.  I am a custodian for the new people and I want to make it nice for them.

Popcorn

I probably won’t have a lot of time in the near future to watch movies and eat homemade popcorn so its best to leave these where they are.

So, during this time when we are normally on holiday, we are here doing the arduous task of packing up ten years of clutter and accumulation in preparation for the move that is also measured in weeks, but only just as there aren’t that many of them.  And I am keeping the garden in order.  Normally at this time the garden grows unchecked and unruly without a caring hand to guide and direct its tendrils, remove its weeds and harvest its bounty.

Bee in zucchini flower

The garden doesn’t even realise there is change in the air and continues to do what it does best… growing and producing a great crop.

It is lovely to be here at this time and be among this verdant growth.  But as I tie in the tomatoes, I’m left wondering what the new fruits among the plants named from A to Z will taste like.  But I remind myself there is always next year – I still have the seeds.  As I move onto the next bed and train the out of control cucumbers from going everywhere, except where they should, my mind moves on to other things…  new things and thoughts of the possibilities of the new garden fill my head and I can’t help but feel excited.  The new tastes of the tomatoes will be worth the wait.

Come again soon – the new year will bring an incredible new start.

Sarah the Gardener  : o)

Peas on Earth, Goodwill to Man

Things are extremely busy around here.  Not only is there festive celebrations in the middle of my growing season, but we have a lot of packing to do as well.  We certainly don’t do things by half in our wee world.

Merry Christmas

Merry Christmas

So I am going to take the opportunity now to say a big:

MERRY CHRISTMAS

And also say have a safe and happy New Year.  It has been an interesting year full of ups and downs and a surprise ending I wouldn’t have even begun to imagine when the clock struck midnight last New Years Eve.    Exciting times are ahead and I am looking forward to bringing you all with me as we head off on this next exciting adventure.   Thank you all for gardening alongside me this year.

Please enjoy this very short video explaining to our You Tube friends the news of the sale of the house, some lovely shots of the garden and a cuddle with Fennel the Cat.

Come again soon – the new year will bring a new change.

Sarah the Gardener  : o)

Don’t waste water!

I woke in the middle of the night to the sound of rain bouncing off the roof.  Its deep rhythmic nature sent me peacefully back to sleep knowing I wouldn’t need to worry about the garden for a couple of days.

cracked earth

Things are getting a little dry this summer!

But as the daylight emerged, so did a hearty wind that lasted all day and did a great job of driving off the heat of the last few days, but it also did a fine job of drying out the top layer of moisture that was generously laid about the place last night.  Deep down in the soil it will be ok, but on the surface, there is no sign of any rain at this end of the day.

dry dead plants

There have been casualties already – my poor violas. they were so pretty a few weeks ago!

The rain will have brought a temporary relief from the relentless task of keeping the garden hydrated in increasingly difficult times.  It will take more than a good shower in the night to restore water levels across this parched land.  And it really doesn’t make any sense.  My last descent burst of thirst quenching deep rain was just under two months ago.  I remember it well because it was my birthday and it was the magical last frost date and I wanted to plant the garden out.  It was cold, miserable and just another inundation from above that I was doing my best not to complain about.

Bolting spinach

The hot dry conditions has caused my spinach to bolt much earlier than normal – And I’ve hardly had any for myself. I guess the chickens can have it – nothing wasted.

And yet – here we are on the edge of a drought – no one has declared one yet, but we are close.  The good folk at Watercare have asked me to remind everyone to go easy on the water.  I don’t think there is a single place left in the country that isn’t affected now.  With some areas on the verge of running out and others only just asking people to curb their hose use.

Watering can

This can be a great friend in a dry season. Your garden gets watered and you save money on gym membership.

This is particularly important as you go about into rural communities to go camping and holidaying this summer as the amount of water in these areas is often collected drop by drop from above and is precious.  It is easy to take for granted the water running out of the tap when it flows so freely.  But is soon adds up.  Earlier this month Auckland used 500 million litres of water in a single day!  And in Wellington:  if every household turned on a garden hose for 1 hour a day, 70 million extra litres of water would be used – almost double Wellington’s daily winter use.

It is important to check with your council and find out what the restrictions in your area are, you wouldn’t want find yourself in hot water for not following the rules.

It makes it even harder when we are growing food to feed our families and save a little in the back pocket as well.  But there are things to be done.

  • Gardens don’t really need to be watered everyday anyway. It is much better to water every other day so the water soaks in deep and the roots follow it down deep and aren’t affected as much by the dry surface conditions.
  • Watering early in the morning or late at night gives the water a chance to soak deeply into the ground without being evaporated by the heat of the sun before the roots can get a look in.
  • If you haven’t already – a good mulch can reduce evaporation by 70% which will also leave your plants less dependent on you to be out there everyday with a drink for them.
  • Keep the weeds down in the garden – they need moisture to survive too and you will notice they seem to be better at growing bigger and faster than the crops and that would be thirsty work.
  • If you are still allowed to use your hose, use one with a trigger so you can start and stop it where you need it, instead of running water all over the place unnecessarily.
  • Before watering, have a bit of a rummage about in the soil. If the ground is moist at a depth of 10cm then you could take a break from the watering for now.
  • Aim the water at the root zone of the plant where it is actually needed and water slowly so the soil has a chance to absorb it without it running off everywhere.
breaking a sun baked soil crust.

Give the soil a quick till before watering can break a sun baked soil crust to ensure it absorbs where it is needed.

  • Sometimes a sun baked soil can develop a hydrophobic crust that water can’t soak into. Give the ground a gentle hoe first to break it up so the water can reach the root zone.
  • If things get desperate and you need to reuse water from other uses, make sure they are suitable for the vegie patch. Many of the chemicals and detergents we use around the house can be harmful to plants and the organisms in the soil.
  • Put all of your pots together in a convenient spot so they can be watered together and pop a drip tray underneath so they don’t dry out as fast.
Watering to save water

Watering on the ground by the root zone is more efficient and saves water.

The traditional summer holidays are almost upon us and from what I can remember from almost every camping trip in recent memory, it has rained.  It is pretty much a given. There has been one tropical storm or another and there was an article in the paper today about not expecting these glorious blue sky days for Christmas.  So while it will put a dampener on the festivities, is will be welcome in the garden – not so much above the tent though.

This is the first summer in a while that we have all really had to worry about our water, but it is what it is and we have to work together to make it last.   All going well this dry spell will be gone as quickly as it arrived – so long as it leaves us with enough warm sunny days to feel satisfied that it was a good summer and the harvest was plentiful.

Come again soon – Christmas is almost here, hooray.

Sarah the Gardener  : o)

Councils have great resources to help get through this dry spell.  Here are a few with some great tips and advice:

 

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