SARAH THE GARDENER

Late Again Tour

It has been my intention this year to do a video tour update every month, but I was a bit slow getting the end of May video done.  I put it down to the nasty lurgy I had in between the months.   But better late than never, here is my end of autumn / start of winter garden tour.

I think I’m in a good space as far as getting things done since I came up with my plan to get through winter.   The best bit of the schedule is putting the expected end date of projects in the week I’d like it done by, rather than giving it an open-ended start date.  According to the chart by the end of this week I should have sorted the bulbs and put up the shed guttering and I’m pleased to say I’ve done both.  I talked about the bulbs last time, but today Hubby the Un-Gardener gave me a hand and the guttering went up on both sheds.  I just need to come up with a collection system, so no water is wasted.

Guttering on the sheds

It turns out guttering isn’t that difficult to install.

Next week I’m hoping to get the back door garden done. It sounds like a big job but if my planning isn’t too optimistic it shouldn’t take long at all.  Aside from that, the expectations aren’t too great so I can progress without having too much on my plate.  So far so good.

Come again soon – if the end of the month tour is to be different from this one, I’ll need to make some good progress.

Sarah the Gardener : o)

All Hands on Deck…

Well actually, just my hands on deck.   The deck in front of the sheds is wide and expansive and well worth every extra dollar it took from my meager budget.  Although at the time it was a bit of a shock.  But it makes such a great working space where I either sit beside my project comfortably at one end or stand beside it like a bench at the other end.   And I have well and truly taken full advantage of the space right across the seasons with the remains of one project blending seamlessly into the start of another. 

Tidy Deck

It feels long overdue to have such a nice and tidy deck!

The problem is, it can become a bit of a dumping ground for the odd item waiting to be tidied away but forgotten about in the excitement of a new project.   Plants up on the deck are less likely to be bothered by problems found down on the ground and collectively having plants together makes them easier to manage.  But this brings its own problems, a plant pot left too long in one spot without pot feet marks the deck.  This comes about for one of two reasons – I didn’t expect it to be there that long, or she’ll be right…  hopefully.  

plants in pots

The plants in fancier pots will get to stay on the deck, but up off the wood. Once the guttering is attached I’ll push them back against the wall.

The thing with a mess is there is a tipping point, when even for a creative clutterer, it becomes too much.   The pots up against the side of the tool shed, being diligently watered by the solar powered Gardena Aquabloom, loved their position over the summer and my pots have never been so well cared for.  However now we are in winter and watering from the sky is reliable enough to keep them alive, I wound up the irrigation tubing and put the Aquabloom away until next season.  

Tulip bulbs

The boofy Red Princess tulips will look fabulous in these black pots. The are mid – late season flowering so hopefully won’t mind their late start.

But what I did notice aside from their bottoms directly on the deck marking the wood was, with no guttering on the shed, they got a lot more water than was desirable.  So now I need to add guttering to the sheds so I can store plants there without fear of drowning.  It would also be good to find some kind of way to collect the water, to use in the dry days.  So, one project always leads on to another.

Making bucket pots

This is the most affordable way I know to get loads of good size pots. I was careful to pick up all the swarf as with the waves so close you are all the more conscious of not allowing plastic to get into the ocean.

Another reason for this drive to tidy the deck was I ended up making quite the mess with my bulbs.  Not only did I have some tulips that were long overdue for planting, although that was down to the very late delivery of my order, but on my list was the vague instruction ‘sort bulbs’.   Some of the daffodils in pots came up blind last season with no flowers and overcrowding was the most likely reason so 6 months ago I made a note to myself to thin them out.  

repurposing bucket handles

I had a lot of bucket handles left over, so I decided to drill holes in each end and will lash them to bamboo poles and use them as plant supports to stop plants from flopping – well that is the plan.

I pulled one lot out of their container and found it would be best to divide the bulbs by quarters.  That would mean at least 15 new pots.   The problem is pots that size are generally not the cheapest, especially when you have to buy loads of them, so I popped along to my hardware store and bought enough cheapy buckets and a handful more for just in case.   Holes were drilled in the bottom, and I set about potting up all the daffodils, a couple of lilies and a few other things in desperate need.  It was probably the wrong time of year to do it, but I had nothing to lose as if I had ignored the problem the plants would have thanked me even less. 

Plant storage area

All the bucket bulbs and a few other plants will hang out here, out of the way until it is their time to shine.

At the end of three messy but fulfilling days, I looked about and saw I had created a bit of a bombsite, there were pots and spilt soil everywhere.  And it just needed a jolly good clean up.  Now when I sit on my deck, I can enjoy the view instead of being overwhelmed by what needs to be done, and there is great satisfaction in removing ‘sort bulbs’ from the list.  It had been there too long.

Come again soon – winter progress is being made.

Sarah the Gardener  : o)

No Hibernation for Me

I have spent a lot of time trying to put all my ducks in a row so I can stay on top of things this winter.   Ordinarily winter is a time to wind down and ease up on the gardening, however, I have an exciting project in late spring that will take me away from the garden for 20 days.  This is a long time in late spring to be away.  However, if I am organised this shouldn’t be a problem for the garden.  Once the garden is planted out, it enters a brief sweet spot when it just needs watering, weeding and a tiny bit of tending.   I suspect Hubby the Un-Gardener will get a crash course in gardening and will be required to send daily updates.

winter plan

This is my schedule for the next 14 weeks. I made the items ‘do by’ dates instead of starting points so I know when it should be done by to stop me dragging my heels.

The key to this is being organised.  I have had springs in the past where I constantly feel like I am behind where I should be and often this is down to my own procrastination or inadequate sense of timing where I feel like winter is a long season and I’d have plenty of time to do things.  If you are on a mission, winter is actually a short season when you take out the bad weather days.  It is in these ill prepared seasons that I’m preparing beds moments before planting seedlings.  In an ideal world it is good to allow prepared beds to settle for a week or two to take care of opportunistic weeds, but also allow the micro communities to make the soil all the more welcoming to the new plants.

Onion seedlings

In the spirit of staying one step ahead of the season, the onion seedlings are ready to go into prep-prepared garden beds in a couple of weeks.

Plants still do well in hastily prepared beds, but if the beds were pre-prepared then there is one less pressure in a hectic spring.  At this point a lot of the beds are in a state of control for this time of year – which essentially means, they have been cleaned of all the old crops and are now supporting luscious looking cover crops.   This is great because the nutrients bound by the plants and the soil itself are protected from the harmful effects of the winter weather.

Lupin cover crop

The cover crops do make the garden look lush and alive.

But at some point, it will need to be removed.  I have given up digging them in as that is as tedious as trying to herd kittens and is hard work.  My new plan is to chop them up small enough to drop on the surface, add the other enrichment ingredients and top it off with a nice thick layer of compost.  The key to this is to get it done in good time for the cover crop to rot down and be absorbed into the soil structure.  It is supposed to take 6 – 8 weeks.  But also, it needs to be done if good timing for the cover crop itself – before it starts to flower and become all woody.

Mustard cover crop

This flowering mustard cover crop is ready to be ‘dug in’.

So, it is my plan to form another routine alongside the hoeing and the weeding to prepare a bed or two a week for the spring.  Currently I have 9 beds with cover crops, 3 that a good to go for the new season, 8 that need a good tidy up and will be made spring ready without the cover crop and 5 that are ok for now but will need work later.  And a handful of small beds that need varying degrees of love.   It does seem manageable, but only if I break it up into small bursts of effort.

Garden plan

The state of the vegetable garden right now at the start of winter.

Aside from the vegetable patch, there are other things that need to be done.  Some are larger maintenance tasks.  I need to finish irrigating the entire garden.  I have 2 sectors left but have been put off by all the digging needed to connect all the beds underground.  Winter is the best time for this as the wet sand makes a good trench and won’t cave in on itself as it does when the sand is dry.   Also a complete irrigation system will make it easy for Hubby the Un-Gardener in the late spring.

irrigation

It would be nice to remove these tripping hazards as well as being able to water 6 beds at the touch of a button.

I also need to do some serious work in the sector five, starting with a windbreak.  The wind rolls off the dome and has undermined the strawberry bed which is in desperate need of a repair.  This can coincide with doing the winter sort out of the berries, so I’ll need to fit this in somewhere.

Tractor

I feel confident The Palace is on track because I had a little help.

Then there is building the rock and completing the first room in The Palace.  There is an actual deadline for this so I can’t be tardy.  But I feel confident I’m tracking well to get this done.   Optimistically this winter I also want to landscape at the back door because I’m sick of the sand coming in the house and the wildlife pond needs a bit of love.

Wildlife pond

I have a few plans to spruce up the wild life pond.

And of course, all the computer gardening that is required of me.  Some I enjoy immensely, like writing blogs and articles and some not so much, like doing the weekly accounts for our family business.  But all of the computer gardening falls easily into a rhythm due to the nature of deadlines, and in winter can take priority on frosty mornings.

Heuchara

I am trying to gather my resources well in advance so I can tackle projects without delay. These Heuchara are destined for the backdoor project.

As much as it would be good to stay in bed a little longer on a cold winter day, I need to wrap up warm and push ahead.  I’m not sure if I’ve taking on too much, but if you don’t try you won’t achieve.

Come again soon – this winter needs to be productive.

Sarah the Gardener  : o)

And so, in summary.

You may be wondering where I was over the last week.  Certainly not in the garden.  I have been nursing a bog-standard ordinary head cold.  So, the last week after all that effort of trying to #MakeMayCount came to nothing in the final days.  As I look back, I have to ask myself, did I actually make a difference?

rainbow

I hope this rainbow from this morning is a promise winter will be kind.

In previous years I definitely made a difference.  As by the time I got to May, I had lost my gardening mojo and there were a multitude of tasks that I hadn’t got round to doing.  So, it was all a matter of making a giant list and crossing things off one by one.  I think this season was different, because I have some big projects scheduled for later in the year.  I knew from the beginning that I needed to be on top of my game so most of the little tasks were already well taken care of.  And it was the projects I wanted to sink my teeth into.  It is a lot easier to report on progress with loads of little tasks.  But when you’re in the throes of a big project often there isn’t a lot to say except more of the same.  This did frustrate me in May because it made me feel like I wasn’t achieving much.  But when I look back over the whole month. And see where I’ve come, I’m actually quite pleased.

Dead plants

In winter the jobs often aren’t nice to do, but you just need to wrap up warm and get stuck in.

And now here we are. Day two of winter. And I need to keep the pressure on so when the projects for later in the year come round, I’m ready for them.  There are 12 weeks in winter. Not all of those days will be suitable for gardening.  In fact, I suggest more than half of them probably won’t be.  Which is all the more reason to keep the pressure up.  So, what I’m thinking I’ll do is write a giant list with timelines and be super organized.  There are tasks that I can do indoors if it’s rainy to get ahead.  And then there are tasks that when the sun is shining… those magical blue sky winter days, I know exactly what I should be doing.  By putting timelines beside each project, it should also help to keep me where I need to be and not fall behind.

Garlic

There is still plenty of new life in the winter garden and the garlic is looking great but I’ll need to start preventatively spraying for rust so I get a good crop.

Aside from the possibility, well, reality really, of bad weather days there are other things that will hold me back.  Firstly, my own procrastination which frustrates me so much.  But also, my unreliable perception of how long a task will take.  Often, I’ll think to myself that shouldn’t take more than an afternoon or a weekend, but I find myself still toiling away at the same tasks for days, and sometimes weeks.  I need to be honest with myself when making this chart.  And then I actually need to knuckle down and follow my own rules. I am my own boss. But this boss needs to get tough. No slacking is acceptable.

Onion seedlings

The onion seedlings are looking ready to go into the garden in the next few weeks.

So, all in all, May did count. It kept pushing me forward and I need to continue to apply that pressure to myself to ease infinitely more stressful pressure in the coming months. So fun times ahead.

Come again soon – I’ll bring you that list.

Sarah the Gardener  : o)

The last week of May

As I have sunken my teeth into a large project, with a couple of minor projects on the go, a few projects I’m champing at the bit to start, and a veggie garden that is largely under control as it approaches winter, there aren’t many short and sweet activities going on at all.  Aside from hoeing and weeding regularly, which is helping the vegetable patch stay in control.

Late autumn to harvest

Not a bad harvest at this late stage of autumn. I wasn’t quite expecting as much and so lined an open tray with my jumper and picked beans into an old egg carton. I could have gone inside for suitable containers but I was in the zone….

After the wind died down, I got into the garden and did three days garden chores in an afternoon and now the garden looks good again.  I did notice the peanuts are ready for harvest so that is on the list for this week, and I harvested a load of peas and podded them and put them in the freezer in vac-packed meal serving sizes to make it easy for whoever is cooking to be able to easily add a veggie to the ‘meat and three veg’ premise I’m trying in install in my teen lads before the fly the coop.

Bean flowers

These beans are crazy… either that or the weather is crazy.

I had a good tidy up of the beans.  The kidney beans have finally come to and end and I pulled the plants out, but some of the others appear to be still keen to keep going and are lush and green, with flowers and pods at all stages, so I have left them there for now.

green chilies

Hmmm… these could be popped in a brine…. I hadn’t thought of that!

I’ve been waiting for the chilies to finish and are harvesting them as they become red.  However, while in the supermarket the other day I noticed a jar of pickled green chilies and saw the ingredients were just chilies, salt, and water.  This may need further investigation for recipe ideas as I could clear the plants of their fruit which are taking forever to ripen in the cooling weather.  This would allow me to whip the plants out and prepare the beds for next seasons crops with enough time for the worms to do the digging over winter.

Salad

The salad crops look good, but the question is, if the temperatures drop will we still want to eat them. Salad isn’t exactly comforting

I have also reached a milestone in the rock building.  I am now at a point where the cement mache layer is complete on phase one.  So, the next stage is to coat the rock with a thicker cement to encase the previous layer so you can’t see the fabric and help give it strength.  I think I’m looking forward to this bit as attaching all the little pieces of cement soaked fabric to the chicken wire was quite tedious.

rock building

It was really satisfying to reach this point in the rock build but we are a long way from calling it finished.

Another phase of this large project has begun after much procrastination.  And for once I am doing things in the right order.  I am building a windbreak at the top of the stairs that will protect the garden that will hopefully come together nicely with all the bits and bobs I have been accumulating, making, and growing.

Clean earth

It has been surprisingly easy to clean the earth at the top of the stairs and remove all trace of kikuyu grass.

So, another week has gone by, and another is to come, with a lot of gardening being done, but not much to speak of.  The good thing is progress is being made and I do actually feel like I’m getting ahead.  It is also important to bear in mind that we are a week away from the end of autumn and without the projects I would probably be winding down for the winter.

dead dahlias

I do need to do something with these dahlias. They are pretty much done. The question is – do I want to move them and try something else or just cut them back and leave them?

But the problem with that is, winter is always seen as a long slow season and the few tasks that need to be completely aren’t treated with urgency, until spring is knocking on the door and by then those few tasks are competing with more exciting new season tasks and it all becomes a panic.   I am determined this winter to meet spring with everything aligned and ready to go and avoid the usual stresses that can easily build up in an unprepared spring.

Okra

This poor okra is still trying it’s best. I should put it out of its misery as it isn’t going to get any warmer, but it is trying so hard to be a productive plant, I don’t have the heart.

This year I am playing the long game and looking far ahead of myself as well as what is needed to be done in the immediate.

Come again soon – lets hope the last week of autumn is kind because I’m still #MakingMayCount.

Sarah the Gardener : o)

Windy Woes

There has been a major spanner in my #MakeMayCount works.  We have had horrible weather.  Now I’m not adverse to a bit of bad weather but to work in this would be madness.  It has been 3 days of super windy conditions.  The strongest it got was gusts of 98km/h.  While not the worst we’ve had – that was 212km/h gusts while our house was still up on jacks during the relocation process.   As a result of that storm everything has been built strong and sturdy.  So, this week has been annoying more than devasting.   But it has meant I’m indoors and needed to get a bit creative.

Windy day

The blue sky patch looks promising but the churned up ocean and incoming squall on the horizon tells another story.

I took care of all my computer gardening and for now there is nothing to do or be done.  There isn’t much kitchen gardening to be done due to the waning season, although I did make a lovely warm and nourishing soup to eek out for lunches all week.  It feels like the best thing to be eating in adverse weather.

Homemade vegetable soup

You really can’t beat a delish bowl of homemade soup from homegrown vegetables as you begin to face the reality of what winter will really be like.

I made some soap.  That was fun.  Getting all dolled up in googles and long gloves reminds me of my former life in laboratories.   I’ve made soap quite a few times before but I’m no expert, not by any stretch of the imagination.  But I tried making my first swirl with a coloured mica.  It isn’t quite as pretty as I wanted it to be but there is a swirl.   It will be 6 weeks before I can use this soap while it cures.  The best thing about this project is I had previously gathered all the supplies I needed but hadn’t got around to whipping up a batch.  But there is enough to make more so if the weather doesn’t improve, I may be tempted to have another try.

Another project I found myself doing was also something I had prepared but never indulged in.  Months and months…  and months ago, I acquired 2 Black Prince Echeveria, and around the same time my lovely Mother-in-Law gave me an overgrown pot of what I can only assume are some kind of pink Echeveria, but I’m not a succulent expert so who knows what they are, but they were in a bit of a state.  I bought some lovely terracotta pots at the time and thought it would be nice to combine them. I also receive 3 cute little terracotta pots for Mother’s day.  But that was as far as I got.  Until recently when I bought some cactus mix.  I don’t even know why I did, but it was last week, before the storm.  Little did I know I would actually use it in a respectable time period since purchasing it.

succulent rescue

And what we have here is a lot of good intentions – lovely mother’s day gift pots and a succulent in need of rescue

Out of a frustrating desire to itch my deprived green thumb I gathered the supplies together and then watched a bazillion instructional videos on how to save the overgrown ones and how to repot the healthy ones and along the way refreshed a long-lost memory for how to get new plants from the excess leaves.    Bolstered with confidence and a desire to bust boredom, I threw myself into giving these plants a new lease on life and thoroughly enjoyed myself.    All I need to do is figure out what to do with them now…

succulent rescue

It was fortuitous that I had everything I needed for this succulent rescue

I sincerely hope the weather improves, because I’m dying to get back out into the garden – I have things I need to do.  The boffins are suggesting there will be no rain tomorrow but more importantly “Southwesterlies dying out in the afternoon.”  Which does suggest it will still be windy in the morning…  but if the sun is out maybe I can cope with that.  And with a clear workload elsewhere I can throw myself into what needs to be done in the garden.

succulent rescue

Not a bad afternoons work rescuing succulents and making pretty things with them.

Each season I forget what winter can throw at us, but this last few days has been a bit of a reality check.   I am hoping this won’t be a taste of what is to come, and the winter is kind and gently in its chill and rain.

Come again – I need to get back into the garden sooner rather than later.

Sarah the Gardener  : o)

Still Counting

Last week disappeared in a complete blur.  There was lots of the usual hoeing and rock building but that’s kind of becoming a bit boring – well not boring to do but boring to talk about.

rock building

The rock is coming along nicely

The weather has thrown some excitement into the mix.  It has been a really warm autumn with winter just over 2 weeks away we are still experiencing temperatures in the 20°Cs or thereabout.  But then on Thursday it dropped dramatically.  We woke up to a chilly 5°C, and it didn’t get much warmer than 16°C.   It was quite the shock, but it was, to its credit, one of those magnificent blue sky days that often accompany days like that.   The next day I woke up thinking I was ill because it was so hot.  The temperatures had bounced back up to the 20°Cs!  Goodness knows what this confusion is going to do to my plants.   Today is rainy.

pumpkin seedlings

The weather has been so confused that pumpkin seedlings from the home made compost that has been spread across the beds are making an appearance.

The highlight of the week was speaking to the lovely folk at the Howick Horticultural Society.  Gardeners of the loveliest people and they all seemed to enjoy my talk.   I took advantage of being in the city to stop at a garden center and place called Pots and Things to see if there was anything there, I could bring home.  I was tempted at the garden center to buy a plant called Bonking Grass (Selliera radicans) apparently it is a NZ native but also found in Australia and Chile and I probably should have brought some because it does really well in coastal conditions, but it likes damp coastal conditions.   It did feel rather soft and spongy and quite luscious and would invite you to lie upon it.  I didn’t come home with the Bonking Grass, but I did come home with a duck.

duck statue

I do love my new duck!

Last week I decided to throw myself into a rather large project that I had been putting off for ages, but the time was right.  I needed to reinstate Neville.   Neville is our cute as a button Gardena robot lawnmower.  We’ve had him for years and to start with he was at the old place and then operating on the front lawn here, but we’ve decided to move him around to the back lawn.  It did take a lot longer than I thought for this project because it required a bit of a lawn makeover before we could even think about Neville’s needs.  I wanted to do a big DID DAH… moment at the end of the project but we still need to do a few more tweaks so I will fill you in more on this project once it is completely finished.  It took a lot of time and a lot of hard work which to be fair for most of my projects I completely underestimate what it would take in time and effort.  But I get there in the end.

weedy lawn edges

The lawn project started with some really weedy edges.

The worst part of this project was down to my impatience.  I was attempting to tidy up the edges, so the kikuyu grass doesn’t sneak into the garden under the fence.  it turned out the weed eater had a flat battery, and I was too impatient to wait to wait for it to charge and started trimming away at the grass by hand only to disturb a wasp who let me know he was there by stinging me on my wrist.  Normally we have a bit of an agreement the Wasps and I, I don’t bother them, and they don’t bother me although it would seem I bothered this wasp.   Of course, I dropped tools and ran inside to get antihistamine, painkillers and anti inflammatories because I’m a sweller.  It did put a bit of a spanner in the works for a while as I gently healed from the dramatic event, but by then the weed eater had charged and I was able to finish tidying the edges without further incident.

very late autumn garden

All in all the garden isn’t looking too bad – largely thanks to the mustard cover crops that give it a lovely lush green look.

So aside from the project that isn’t finished and the routine stuff that, while enjoyable, is becoming mundane, it is hard to say whether or not I have been doing justice to #MakeMayCount as it seems to fit better with a whole lot of small punchy projects that I can a make a dramatic dent to my To Do List with.  It feels like large projects defeat the purpose because it doesn’t feel like you’re getting there for days on end with nothing much to report about.

peanut plant

This is a good sign the peanuts are almost ready for harvest.

The cold snap has caused chores in the garden.  The Jerusalem artichokes have pretty much died off, so they’ll need digging up and possibly eating and the peanuts are looking a little bit manky on the leaves, so they’ll need pulling out, which is always exciting, I love growing peanuts.  And the eggplants are actually starting to give up the ghost, so they’ll need pulling up sooner rather than later.

Chillies

Slowly but surely the hot peppers are ripening up, but it may turn out to be too slow…

I’ve been picking the peppers as they become red and bunging them in the freezer so I can make a sweet chilli sauce but at this point I think I’ll be making a green sweet chili sauce.  Other than that, it’s pretty much under control.  I just need to keep up my vigilant checking because even though there isn’t much to do it can suddenly get away on you.

aphids on kohlrabi

I have to remain vigilant and keep my eye on the garden or I’ll miss things like these aphids on my kohlrabi.

I’m hoping for a much more productive week ahead of me, not that last week wasn’t productive, it was productive in a different way.

Come again soon – is only two weeks until winter.

Sarah the Gardener   : o)

Slow and Steady

To be honest I think the brick saga has had more of an impact on my #MakeMayCount timeline.  Up until the bricks entered my world, I was making great progress, but collecting them was a huge effort and then they sat in the back of Hubby the Un-Gardener’s vehicle for a couple of days while I recovered and then mustered the strength to unload them.  He didn’t mind using my car for a short while but one of the teen lads is now newly driver licensed and wanted to borrow my car when Hubby the Un-Gardener needed to be somewhere too. It couldn’t be avoided any longer and I set about unloading the bricks.  I managed to move 430 of them before I got a bit of help.  There were 655 all up so should be more than enough for the project I have in mind.

Bricks

These bricks can stay put for now – I’ve done moving them about the place for now.

I didn’t want to completely rest and recover because in the spirit of the month I wanted to be productive, so I kept up with path hoeing and rock making, and it is becoming a nice little routine at the start of the day.

peas

Not a bad first picking of peas, even if they didn’t last long!

On Thursday I made the first picking of the peas for the season and brought them in and popped them on the bench to pod them and get them ready for the freezer, but the kids came home from school and pretty much demolished the lot!  At least they’re eating their greens.

Rainy day in the dome

There is nothing better than a rainy day in the dome

Friday was another slow day as I recovered from the brick moving and I took it easy by preparing a presentation for a talk I’m giving next week.  I got some more rock work done and that was about it.

autumn seedlings

My autumn seedlings – mostly onions but also some lawn chamomile, and some other bits and bobs look like they needed potting on.

Today – being Saturday I don’t normally garden, as weekends are for time with the family.  But this weekend is Mother’s Day Weekend, so I was able to indulge in some guilt free weekend gardening and I felt like it was a bit of a catch up from the brick drama.  The skies have been spitting and spotting all day, which is good as we haven’t had a lot of rain lately, but it isn’t enough to really make a difference.  I may need to drag the hose out next week.

autumn seedlings

I love repotting plants, when there aren’t too many. The results are so satifying

I had several lovely hours in the dome that disappeared in a flash.  I decided to transplant my seedlings.  My lawn chamomile, needed for the project, had come up quite thickly so I separated them out into small clumps and planted them out in pots. I’ll probably be able to separate them out a couple more times as they get bigger before I eventually plant them out.

Iris bulbs

I know where my iris bulbs are to go, but I’m not ready to put them there so its pots for now.

The onions also looked like they could do with moving on from the seed raising mix into some more nutrient rich potting mix so they could continue to grow on in strength.  I did have them all in seed trays, but they can be a bit fiddly to plant out, so I put them together in groups of 7 in individual pots as that is how many I need to put in the rows in the garden beds when the time comes.  This should make things a lot easier.

ranunculus tuber

I’m not sure where I want to put my ranunculus as I bought them on a whim so I’ve soaked them and planted them in pots to give me some time to think about them.

I also popped the iris and ranunculus bulbs and tubers into pots to buy me some time before I prepare where I want them to go, and I gave all my rosemary cuttings a soak in seaweed mix to help strengthen them up.

rosemary cuttings

I’m beginning to really understand the needs of my rosemary cuttings. I’ve lost a few, but not recently.

I think this will do nicely for now.   A week in with the intention of being as productive as possible has helped me to find my limits, but at the same time has helped push me forward and getting the most out of the last month before winter sets in.

Come again soon – week two is like a fresh start and all going well will be as productive, if not more.

Sarah the Gardener  : o)

Wednesday didn’t Count.

I set off into the #MakeMayCount with a whiz and a bang with a superhero mentality of all things are possible.  In my head I can see each of the projects I want to achieve broken down into individual chores and it does all seem possible, and I get all excited. 

End of season Gaura

Every time I walked past this end of the cut flower bed I’d tell myself I’d get onto tidying them up soon.

And then I race off like a bull at a gate and throw myself into it all like I have boundless unlimited energy.  Only I don’t.  I was lulled into this false sense of my abilities due to the slackness of April.  I didn’t push myself at all so there was no opportunity to be reminded of my MSsy weakness and for a while there I felt normal which was actually really lovely despite the lack of productivity.  

End of season Gaura

It didn’t take long at all to trim up the Gaura and I discovered some aquilegia that now have the freedom to prepare themselves for spring blooms.

It isn’t like things weren’t done at all recently, which is probably part of the problem – I’ve pushed myself too hard.   I have been chugging away with my path hoeing and rock building routine.  Having clear paths is great as, like I mentioned, I can see ‘other creature’ footprints and it looks like the rats have been having a right old party so I think it may be time to move the rat trap to an area of more intensive activity.  I also only have 5 shots left in the rat trap, so I need to get a new gas canister.  This is a good sign as it shows I’m making a dent in the population.   It also means I get to visit the garden centre.  This is probably not a good idea as temptation has no limits there.

Good Nature rat trap

There is always something a little weird about getting a notification on my phone to say something had died. But it feels good to know it is humane and actually working… most of the time there are no dead bodies as they are dragged away by mourning families.

I also made good progress with the rock and have managed to encircle the frame and meet up with the other side.  So now all I need to do is go up.  I’m really impressed with how it is coming together.  I can’t say it is like the vision in my head yet, but in my extensive research – looking at large rocks up and down the country out of the car window, wishing I could just bring one home, they come in all shapes and sizes and shades of grey so anything random I come up with is going to be perfectly fine, so long as you don’t see the fabric beneath or any fingerprints. 

building a rock

The slow and steady progress building the rock is getting results and is strangely satisfying.

I also got a delivery of some spring bulbs I have been waiting a long time for.  I was starting to get anxious, especially for the tulips.  Because we don’t get frost here on the coast, I ordered them nice and early to put them in the fridge for 6 weeks to simulate the cold.  Given that the weather has continued to be quite mild apart from a blip a month or so ago, it is probably a good thing.  So, once they emerge from the fridge where I put them straight away, they will find themselves in consistently cold weather and not yo-yo from the chill of the fridge to warmish weather and then find themselves in the cold again, so it was probably for the best.

Spring bulbs

Finally my spring bulbs arrived and have now been bumped up the to do list as I give them the attention they need.

Also in the package were some ranunculus tubers that I want to soak and plant out sooner rather than later and finally some iris bulbs that are beginning to sprout so I need to do something with them in the immediate.  But I want to incorporate them into a wildlife pond makeover.  I hadn’t had this high the #MakeMayCount priority list, so I guess this list needs a rejig or I need some help or set it aside for now.  I could plant the sprouting bulbs into pots for now and plant them later.    I’m just one person with an enormous vision that is too big for my limited capabilities.  But how to you eat an elephant?  One spoonful at a time.  Not that I’m advocating eating elephants. 

City traffic

Often a simple task like ‘collecting some bricks’ is a lot larger than expected – not only with the collecting but also the getting there and back. That is the consequence of living out in the back of beyond. We travelled for at least 3 hours that day after being caught in rush hour traffic in the city.

Then I got a call from Hubby the Un-Gardener that he’d found some bricks I’d been looking for, so we dropped everything and raced out to collect them.  ‘Collect them’ doesn’t describe it.  I needed about 600 for my project and it was one of the last pieces in the gathering of supplies before I can throw myself into the creating of the new garden project.   This meant picking every single one from the neat pile they had been stacked in and moving them to our vehicle.    I have to say, several days later, they are still sitting in the vehicle as we muster the energy to repeat the process and put them in the garden.  And they will need to be moved at least once more to end up in their final spot.  Sometimes I can see why it is easy to shy away from big ideas. 

Bricks

The offending bricks. Now I just have to muster the strength and enthusiasm to unload them. Hubby the Un-Gardener can’t keep using my car forever.

Since then, I have fed and watered my lime tree in a pot and my new port wine magnolia as their leaves were looking a little less green than they should be, watered the seedlings being nurtured in the dome and because I had a spare 15 minutes, I trimmed all the spent flower stalks off the Gaura.  This was a good example of what I intended with the #MakeMayCount thing.  Ordinarily a 15-minute window would be written off as not big enough to do anything worth making a difference so nothing would get done.  The Gaura has been on the list for a while and now it has been done without much fuss at all.

Fire pit area

Last year for Mother’s Day I got this lovely fire place that required somewhere to situate it, which ended up in a full blown project that ended up as an article in Kiwi Gardener magazine.

And then at the end of the day I did my weekly Q&A live chat session on the Yates.co.nz Facebook page.   I’ve been doing this, talking all things vegetable gardening since 2014 and enjoy chatting with other keen gardeners in the comments section.  Although this week we talked about how to spoil a gardening mum for Mother’s Day.  Speaking of which I sent my Mum’s gift off – I hope she likes it.  Hubby the Un-Gardener asked me what I would like.  Last year the gift turned into a project that ended up in a magazine, so I have to be careful what I ask for…

And now it is another magnificent blue sky day and the garden is calling to me…  I think it missed me.

Come again soon – I’m back on track.

Sarah the Gardener  : o)

Making more work for myself.

During #MakeMayCount, I need to embrace activities that happen beyond the garden and value them as productive time.  Yesterday I spent several hours in the morning doing some computer gardening but found myself getting frustrated at being indoors because I had to do some gardening to make it count.   But what I was doing was the kind of things that pay me so I am free to garden to my hearts content and it is all gardening related so I need to embrace computer gardening in the same way I would embrace scrabbling about in the dirt as gardening.  Besides, it is a lot cleaner and a lot warmer – especially at this time of year.

Weedy bed

It shouldn’t take too long to clear up this messy bed.

So, a larger chunk of my day than I intended was spent in creative computer gardening, but it was fun and satisfying to see the job completed.  I emerged out into a sunny day with a bit of a breeze with a slight bite in it with the feeling of making up for lost time.   But I still needed to reign myself in a little.  I want to use this month to reset bad habits.  Isn’t it if you do something 21 times in a row it can be considered a habit?  (A quick google check reveals that is a myth and you need between 66 and 254 days.) 

Inkweed

I have a considerable sized pile of Inkweed that will need dealing with very soon.

Either way, I need to get back into good routines I’d fallen out of the habit of doing.  First thing should be hoeing the paths in the sector of the day.  So, for a Monday it is sector one.  This is generally the group of beds in the best condition as I’m normally rearing to go on a Monday.  The Friday sector is in a bit of a state, but we’ll come to that later.  I do enjoy hoeing the paths and normally it is just lopping off the head of a weed here and there that decided to come up.   But at this time of year there are hundreds of tiny weed seedlings that seem to pop up every day and it isn’t a good idea to skip this step.

animal tracks

Goodness knows who made these tracks but there didn’t seem to be any noticeable harm done to the garden where it passed through.

The other benefit of a sand path, other than being hoe-able, is I can see who has been wandering around the garden, from the size 11 shoes of a teen lad off to feed the chickens and the footprint of the chickens that invariably escape during said feeding.  Sometimes I see a well-worn rat path that tells me it would be a good idea to move the rat trap.  The insects make interesting trails and then there are the unidentifiable that you hope don’t belong to something that could destroy the garden in an afternoon.

Rat hole

The cheek of it… digging a nest on the other side of the wall to the rat trap!

While hoeing the paths I get to look at the sector as a whole and decide what needs to be done and I return to my garden office to make a list.  At this time of year there isn’t that much to be done in sector one although the cut flower bed needs a major overhaul – but that is a project, not a task, so I leave it for now, until I have the time.

dead rat

I always feel a little sad to see a dead rat, but at least with the Goodnature rat trap it had a tasty bite and didn’t see the swift end coming.

Then I’m supposed to go through all the beds in the sector to whip out weeds and tend to needs.  But there isn’t much going on there at all right now.  Although I noticed the peas will need picking soon.  I’ll need to check this every day, so I get them at peak perfection – still sweet and tender and not to big and hard.

Making a rock

I’m making great progress on the rock, although the under hanging bits are a little tricky to make stick.

Then I am training myself to spend some time working on the rock.  It is a large project and I’ll need to install it in the garden sooner rather than later so I can’t afford to dilly dally.  I find I can manage to do 3 batches of cementy fabric mixed in 2L ice cream containers before I get too bored with the process and it is enough to make it feel like I’ve made a good amount of progress.

Spreading the mustard seed cover crop

I love using my hand held spreader to distribute the seeds – it makes an even spread and it is fun to use.

Due to the late garden start I looked about the garden for a quick and easy project that would be all show for little effort, and I spied the small pumpkin bed.   It maybe because it was in the Friday sector, but it had become quite feral since the pumpkins were removed, and in my April tour video I noticed a rat hole in it – right beside the rat trap – oh the audacity!  So, I thought I’d quickly whip the weeds out, cave in the hole and sow a cover crop.   That shouldn’t take more than half an hour and look impressive. 

firewood from prunings

I found myself with a nice pile of firewood from the prunings to fuel the fire pit for lovely autumn evenings around the a warm glow with a glass of something warming.

But when I am immersed in a project, I find myself being very thorough and can’t bring myself to cut corners.  Well, I am working for me, and as a boss I’m quite the stickler for a job well done.   So, as I was weeding the far end of the bed, I noticed the tree lupins had self-seeded during the growing season and were significantly overhanging the bed.  This couldn’t be allowed, so I grabbed secateurs and loppers and cleared them away. 

weeded garden bed

Job done…. the bed is weeded, seeded with a mustard cover crop and watered. Although there is an unexpected large pile of lupin branches that need to be shredded.

I also noticed some Inkweed which seems to really like it here, but it spreads easily and is toxic, so it needed to go.  This found me scrambling about up the hill behind the pumpkin bed pulling it all out.  I got most of it by the tap root although a couple of spots need digging out. I’m not sure what I’ll do with it as I’m not going to add it to the compost, and it has ripe seeds on it.  I think I might let it dry out and then burn it. 

carrots and parsnips

There is nothing like gathering some fresh vegies at the end of a hard day in the garden to make a delish meal for the family.

Eventually as the sun was beginning to go down, I spread a mustard seed cover crop over some clean weed and rat free soil and looked at the mountain of lupin branches that need to be run through the shredder.  So much for a quick and easy job, I now have shredding to add to the ‘to do’ list. 

Come again soon – it is another blue sky day full of opportunities to get things done.

Sarah the Gardener  : o)  

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