SARAH THE GARDENER

Shrouded in Love

When you move to a new spot it can take a while to get the hang of the new environment and adjust your technique and style to the new conditions.   For the most part I have been quite happy with how things grow here, but since we moved I have not had a lot of luck with tomatoes.  I enviously watched other people complain about a glut as they harvested tomatoes by the bucket load.

But not me – my plants were fizzling out long before I managed to even full up a bowl.   I think it may have been a combination of things.  I overcompensated for the harsh environment and loved them too much.  I ended up with Pith Necrosis more than once – which is an early season disease that enjoys a tomato plant that has been lavished with too much nitrogen combined with cool night time temperatures and high humidity.  This never bodes well for a productive season when the plants are handicapped at the start.

I think this season I have managed to overcome this, and I held back on the excessive nitrogen rich love.  I can’t take credit for the temperatures and humidity, but it must have been more suitable this season as my plants are looking the best they ever have at this time of year.  They look normal – a lovely shade of green instead of the usual bruised yellow/purple look they have had in previous years across their rolled leaves.

Tomato Potato Psyllid adults

The Tomato Potato Psyllid adults just look like little flies

Tomato Potato Psyllid eggs and poop

The Tomato Potato Psyllid eggs are found along the edge of the leaves and poop from the juveniles looks like someone sprinkled sugar over the leaves.

Tomato Potato Psyllid nymphs

Tomato Potato Psyllid juveniles are called nymphs and they can get quite dense on the underside of the leaves.

This encouraging start has made me determined to tackle the problem that normally comes next.  The dreaded Tomato Potato Psyllid.  I don’t know if it was particularly bad here because the plants were already suffering because of the Pith Necrosis.  A pest can spot a poorly plant a mile off and a poorly plant doesn’t have what it takes to shake of problems.  Or it could have just been here anyway.  It could also be that the TPP would have become a problem at the old place as it is a relatively new problem on the rise.

Building an insect mesh frame

Hubby the Un-Gardener was a great help in this project, banging in the rebar poles and helping make decisions.

Over the last few seasons, I have been regularly preventatively spraying in preparation for the imminent arrival of this nasty sap sucker and even alternating between two of the best sprays for it – Yates Mavrik and Yates Success Ultra to ensure if and when they showed up, they didn’t become resistant to one or the other.

Building an insect mesh frame

The irrigation hose topped off the rebar nicely to complete the frame. It is a bit wonderfully wonky but that is fine my me!

But my efforts usually unravelled when we went away for the summer holidays and taking my eye off my crops for a couple of weeks was enough for the TPP to settle in and make themselves at home.   Not only are they stubborn and difficult to get rid of, but more often than not they carry with them a bacterial disease that once introduced into the plant cause an impending demise to the tomato plants.

Building an insect mesh frame with tool clips

The Tool Clips and bamboo pole combination makes a great way to secure the whole thing.

So, this season – with the healthiest looking plants I’ve seen in years in my garden, I want to keep it that way, and I decided I didn’t want to mess about with sprays if taking an annual holiday renders the exercise pointless, so I ordered an insect mesh.

Building an insect mesh frame

And now my tomatoes are safe

It is all very well having the fabric, but I needed to decide how to wrap it around my plants.   The plants are still small compared with how big they will grow.  I’ve given them much more space than I normally do and have them trained to grow along what is essentially a fence – waratah posts with washing line wire threaded between them.  It works well – especially as I never manage to get the desired single stem and already have some multi-stemmed medusas forming where I missed removing some of the laterals by just a few days and they were too big to risk taking them out.

Tomatoes

And now these tomatoes can do what tomatoes do best without being bothered by insect pests.

Taking into consideration the height of the support structure and the height the plants could be, I made a frame from rebar and irrigation hose.  Then I threw the insect mesh over the top.  The next question was how to pin it down.  I didn’t want to put holes in it – in case the TPP could sneak in.  After much indecision a combination of ideas came from Hubby the Un-Gardener and me.  I thought about rolling up the bottom of the fabric around the sides with a bamboo pole but couldn’t figure out how to secure it.  Hubby the Un-Gardener suggested Tool Clips – not that we knew they were called that, so had fun trying to explain what we wanted at the hardware store.  Turns out Tool Clips were perfect to hold the bamboo coiled fabric in place and help keep the whole structure taut but will give easy access for maintenance and harvesting.

And now my hope for once again joining in the great tomato glut is looking pretty good.

Come again soon – Summer starts next week.

Sarah the Gardener  : o)

Sunny Days are Here Again

After a period of life getting in the way of the garden with its dodgy weather, emotionally anxious pandemic, teens and exam related stress and non gardening computer related activities, the pendulum swung back in my favour.  All it took was for me to muster up all my everything to tackle all the non gardening things indoors while the weather was less than ideal, the kids to finally reach the end of the dramatic side of the end of the school year, and the sun to come out.  The pandemic is still a worry but there isn’t a lot that I can do about that.

Sector 1

Sector 1 – all taken care of and looking good.

Yesterday I gardened.   Which felt so healing from the moment I stepped into the garden.  I now have 2 sectors in complete control that only need minor adjustment while it heads towards the edible stage.  The other 3 sectors aren’t that bad, but do need a bit of love to bring it up to a low maintenance level.   And then I can tackle the side mess – the bits outside of the garden.   I’m still endeavouring to do my 5 things a day in the garden, but learning not to beat myself up about it on the days it is not possible and allowing myself to stop guilt free if my weary body is telling me too – even if I haven’t finished the task in front of me.   Together this makes a nice slow enjoyable pace, without overdoing things yet still making progress, and feeling still human when I come in at the end of the day to spend time with my family.

Sector 2

Sector 2 – all taken care of and looking good.

So here is a lovely summary of  what I got up to in the garden for me in pictures:

And now the sun is shining again so I shall head back out into the garden and see what else can be done to bring me joy and pleasure and whip the garden into shape at the same time.

Haymakers Punch

I’m not a fan of just water but need to stay hydrated while in the garden on hot days. So I made some Hay Makers Punch. I’m not one for following instructions to the letter so I checked a few recipes and then gave it a whirl. It is quite easy to make, although I added all the ingredients before the water and then read that the you’re supposed to boil the water and the ginger (- the amount varied so I finely grated a good knob of ginger) first to infuse the flavours then cool and add 1 tablespoon of honey and 2 tablespoons of apple cider vinegar so you don’t destroy the beneficial effects. Oh and the juice of half a lemon juice is supposed to go in there too… I just added boiled water to everything, let it cool and popped it in the fridge. Everyone seemed to like it so I made some more again today, but with only 1 tablespoon of vinegar and a touch more honey and a lot less ginger.

Come again soon – the air has those summer vibes going on.

Sarah the Gardener  : o)

NB:  clicking on the images will give a small tale to go with each one!

Getting the Christmas Spirit Early

Normally my only early thoughts of Christmas are getting the spuds into the garden on time.  Jersey Benne’s take 100 days and so the planting day is 16th September.  Then I turn my back on all things festive until about two weeks before and have a massive panic as I cram in everything that needs to be done.

Well not this year.  It has been a shocker of a year and so as a family we decided to bring it all forward this year to give us a joyous reason to celebrate, and possibly to help hurry the rest of the year on its way.  Surely 2022 will be better?!

Hubby the Un-Gardener and his tree

He looks so happy up there in the tree – before he realised cutting trees down by hand isn’t all that easy!

It started yesterday when our neighbour let us get a tree from out the back of his farm.  Ordinarily we have bought our tree from the Lions Club outside the supermarket, however they don’t start selling until December has started.  It feels like the right thing to do – give to a good cause and get a tree at the same time. But over the years the trees have shrunk, and the price has done the opposite and we found ourselves with small yet perfectly formed trees.  Nothing like the wild and wonky forestry offcuts of my childhood.

Hubby the Un-Gardener and his tree

Hubby the Un-Gardener and the tree he cut down

It was a fabulous adventure, with Hubby the Un-Gardener up the tree trying to cut a perfect branch down.   As a former city slicker – this was…  let’s just say – amusing to watch as our neighbour and I stood by with much laughter!   We ended up with two as our neighbour thought the branch behind the one Hubby the Un-Gardener laboured over would be better and whipped it down with his electric saw.

We hauled the trees home and found they were too big for house, so the bottoms were chopped off and now they are resting in buckets of water until our next burst of festive spirit has us decorating them.

Christmas trees in the house

The house smells like a festive forest

The benefit of sparking the joy of Christmas early means I have 38 days to come up with creative gifts and decorations, which can be put together thoughtfully with no rush.   Taking care of some of the gifts and decorations now will save time later and reduce the need to panic so much.

Christmas trees in the house

Christmas trees in the house – now we just need to move furniture to make it all fit nicely.

With Christmas on my mind, I had a chat with the lovely Tom and Kat from Radio Rhema today talking about how the garden can inspire gifts and decorations that can be given as heartfelt gifts that are sustainable and affordable.

And here are some of the ideas discussed and a few more…  I’m really keen to get on with making some of these (although if you are a likely recipient, it is probably a good to pretend you never saw this…)

  • Strawberries should be in full production – if not now then soon so making some Jam to give and popping it in a cute jar with a ribbon makes a delicious gift.  The lovely Kat suggested dehydrated strawberries coated in chocolate – which is probably even better than jam!
  • Elderflower cordial or champagne – as it should be blooming now – easy to make and super delish. Check out one of my old posts to find out how:

A magical drink for Christmas day

  • Zucchini Relish or pickle etc…  As we approach Christmas the glut should be coming along nicely.  It would be a good idea to gift the relish with a nice cheese and crackers – (although maybe don’t give the cheese if the gift will be left under the tree for a few weeks!)
  • Herbs infused in oil or added to a nice jar of salt is an easy gift.   Rosemary sticks could be tied in a nice bundle to make kebab sticks although they will need soaking before being used for the BBQ.

dried edible flowers

A jar of dried edible flowers is a easy gift

  • Dry edible flowers in a nice jar for a bright garnish or sprinkle. If you don’t have a dehydrator – set your oven as low as it will go and leave the flowers in there until they are crispy.
  • Potpourri maybe old fashioned but was a lovely way to bring fragrance into the home. So, dry some flowers and leaves and find a nice container to hold them and add drop or two of a nice smelling essential oil and a tealight or LED candle.
  • There is plenty of time to press some flowers and use them in craft – to decorate photo frames or make cards etc.
  • Simple garden sticks and twigs can be used to make decorations like stars tied together with string.

Stick and string star

With just sticks and string you can make the cutest star

  • The garden is an abundant source of supplies for wreaths and garlands if you want to go for a more natural and less shiny looking Christmas vibe.
  • Give future flowers with seed packets, although it is nice to give seeds that can be sown from Christmas day so they can be planted straight away without having to wait until the spring. Flowers like sunflowers, petunia, snap dragons, cosmos and calendula are perfect for sowing in January, but there are loads more to choose from to make a great seed packet bouquet.
  • For a last minute gift idea pop a potato in a soil filled bucket (with holes in the bottom – and a plant saucer). Wrap it up and put it under the tree and give the gift of future spuds.
  • For a gift to take camping, plant container with all things salad so it can be taken away and used fresh… sure beats chilly bin salad any day!
  • Finally, it is too late for this year, but for next year think about growing some popcorn for your movie loving friends or a luffa to go with some lovely bathroom smellies that is a reliable gift for that distant aunt you never know what to buy for.

Popcorn

Giving popcorn on the cob is an unusual and fun gift.

Ok – now I’m excited…  bring on the 38 days of Christmas – surely there is a song about that I can sing along too…

Come again soon – the weather has been all over the place, but the garden is calling to me.

Sarah the Gardener : o)

10 Task Thursday

Yesterday a found myself with a bit of a headache I just couldn’t shake so I erred on the side of caution and didn’t push myself to do much at all.  So today was a bit of catch up.   It wasn’t like I didn’t do anything yesterday, but I’ve decided to be proactive regarding Christmas and am making a few bits and bobs as gifts.  Unfortunately, I can’t reveal all the details or some of the recipients may see in advance what they are getting, which will ruin the surprise.  If it is any consolation, I really enjoyed making them.

Dried calendula

The dried flowers are just a hint of what I did yesterday.

So today was all about making up for lost time. I was determined to do as many things as I could to push along some progress in the garden.  I started out early this morning with a wander around the garden.  The Flanders Poppies caught my eye and then I remembered it was Armistice Day, so it seemed appropriate to mention it, given the seeds were sown on ANZAC Day.  It does really help to keep things in perspective – life is quite challenging right now.  But is nothing compared to what our grandparents and great grandparents had to face in their day.  

Flanders Poppies

It does take my breath away to see these bright red Flanders Poppies glowing in the morning sun.

Buoyed on and encouraged I decided to tackle the weedy end garden.  I figure if I just do a small bit at a time, it will be less sustained effort in the long run.   So, I gave myself half an hour.  It wasn’t that difficult, but I wouldn’t have wanted to have kept at it. 

Weedy end garden

I’ve made a great start to the weedy end garden

I looked about for my next small task and decided to create a couple of trenches under the arch to mix in some compost and a bit of blood and bone to help with moisture retention and give a bit of love to the plants that will soon scramble up it.

Nourishing the soil beneath the arch

Nourishing the soil beneath the arch

By now it was feeling a little warm.  The sand beneath my feet was becoming too hot to stand on.  This was a good sign to come inside out of the heat to do something in the cool of the house.  I checked the thermometer I have hanging on my shed, and it agreed with my feeling that it was unseasonably hot in the garden! 

33C temp

Yup… 33C is a bit hot for me out in the garden!

I left the garden with 3 mini cabbages that were due to come out anyway as they were pretty much done and taking up space in the salad bed and I need to succession plant more rocket.

Once inside I decided to have a go at fermentation with the kit I recently got for my birthday.  The instructions that came with it were very thorough and clear and I’d prepared myself by watching a few how-to videos.  I had a lovely time in the house in out of the midday sun whipping up my first ever batch of red cabbage sauerkraut.  I hope it works. 

New Kitchen Shelves

I do love the new kitchen shelves, They are just like I thought they’d be.

It was still a little warm outside and I’m trying to avoid the ‘mad dogs and Englishmen’ situation – as I have been that kind of person before and paid quite the price.  I found another indoor task that had been taking way too long to do.  Months ago, we ordered some wood – well before lockdown.  Several weeks later we cut it up, but only got around to painting it on the weekend, because initially we couldn’t find what we’d done with the paint.  Someone had moved it, but no one knows where it ended up.  On the weekend we stumbled across some different paint that did the job just as well.  We had all the bits needed to put the shelves up in the kitchen, so I just got on with it!   Job done.

Wood for a new project

Oh and I helped Hubby the Un-Gardener unload some wood for a new project. I can’t wait to start this one.

Flower arrangement

Calendula flowers and a quaking grass weed that popped up in the garden is a simple yet pretty display.

The next thing I did was make a flower arrangement.  I’m not a florist.  I just wanted to make the shelves look lovely.  I am going to try and bring more flowers into the house more regularly – there are enough out there now that I think I can do it without ruining the display.

Gladioli

The photo doesn’t do this Gladioli justice – it has beautiful deep velvety red blooms. Just a shame about the rusty leaves.

Speaking of flowers – my favourite Gladioli started to bloom.  But I’m not sure I should keep growing them – there is so much Rust on the leaves, it just isn’t fair to keep them hanging around in a poor state of health because the flowers are pretty. 

Trimming driveway lupin

Lopping away the overreaching lupin without bending over!

The temperatures had eased a little as the afternoon wore on, so I headed back out in the garden and helped Hubby the Un-Gardener trim the lupin bushes that were encroaching on the driveway.   It is one of those jobs you think – ‘I should do that’ while you are in the car, but as soon as you get out, it completely slips your mind.

Okra

I think after today’s temperatures it is warm enough for the Okra.

After a day soaking in water, a few of the remaining seedlings got planted into the ground.  After the temperatures today I think it is fair to say it is warm enough for the okra to go in the ground, and the luffa took up their spot under the arch.  And last –for now, was the pepino.  Hopefully by planting them in the cool of late afternoon they can settle in nicely before it gets hot again.

And finally – the last job for the day was to change Blossom’s blades.  Which she was pretty happy about. 

Robot mower blades

Blossom’s blades had done a great job keeping the lawn nicely mowed. I’ve been meaning to introduce you formally so stay tuned….

It was a lovely long day in the garden chipping away at small things.  But I do feel the weariness of a body glowing from the efforts of the day.  I think tomorrow I will just drop things back to 5 a day. 

Come again soon – there is still plenty to keep me busy as I catch up!

Sarah the Gardener  : o)

The five things I did today.

It was touch and go there for a while as to whether I would actually achieve my daily 5 things.  I was slow to get out into the garden due to a load of computer gardening.  Some of it was fun and one weekly chore a mundane necessity.   Sometimes real life encroaches on the magic of gardening, sucking up time that, if I could, I would spend it toiling in the soil.

Strawberry netting

The netting is up and the strawberries are safe. Now the plants can recover from the constant attacks of fruit and leaves and I will soon be able to get my fill of sweet delish berries.

 Surprisingly this delayed start wasn’t the only reason I almost never made my 5 task goal on day two of the good intentions.   Once I got into the garden around midday – it was hot!  This was unexpected as the forecast had been promising grey and slightly warm with such consistency, I took it at its word and stopped checking.  And in hindsight I should have kept a closer eye on it because it changed! 

Flower Press

Ok… pressing flowers is hardly a pressing matter, but if I want to have nice squashed flowers for when one day I have time for some craft, I’ll have some!

Although having said that I appear to have created a bit of a microclimate.   There was a lovely gentle sea breeze drifting up from the ocean.  Sitting in it directly robbed the day of much of its warmth.  I sat at the front of the house overlooking the sea to eat my lunch and felt the need for another layer.  Then I headed off into the garden for a good push on my 5 tasks for the day.  The main part of the garden behind the first windbreak was warmer than around the front of the house.   I put this down to the reduced breeze and the black sand paths.  It was a lovely cosy warmth. 

Weeding

The carpet of tiny green and purple weed seedlings were quickly disturbed and left on the surface to die.

But my main focus was finishing the strawberry netting so I headed down to the back of the garden behind the new windbreak.  The heat there was noticeably warmer than in the main part of the garden.  I had been wandering about the place in bare feet, enjoying feeling the warmth radiating from the ground, dissolving any trace of chill lingering from lunch.   But down the back of the garden the sandy path was hot – too hot for bare feet.  So, I popped my gumboots on and set about covering the framework structure.  I may have over engineered it slightly, but I think it might have been worth it as the bird netting was cheap and may not last the season.  It is hard to tell when doing the click and collect thing.  I am so pleased life is changing from tomorrow and click and collect will be a thing of the past. … for now….

Asparagus

Asparagus for dinner again tonight!

I eventually got it done but I have to say, toiling in the heat made it take twice as long and I needed several breaks in the cool of the house.   I think I may need to alter my routine and put computer gardening in the middle of the day when the weather heats up properly.

6 hose water distributor

It was great to pull the 6 hose water distributor out of storage. It becomes a close companion during the growing season as it facilitates the watering of multiple beds!

By the time I had my strawberries protected it was getting late.  And I was tempted to call it a day.  But my pride wouldn’t let me falter on day 2.  So, I looked about for 4 other easy things to do that would count.  And they do count because most of those 4 things are things that left undone would need to be done at some other time. 

Water computer

The first irrigation of the season. 

So, I popped some perfectly beautiful cosmos flowers into my flower press, and I weeded the worst bed in sector 2.  Unfortunately, sector 2 didn’t get the full Tuesday love it was due, but I had a quick look and it isn’t too bad.  I could make clearing up the kikuyu along the fence line as one of the 5 things on another day this week.   Then I harvested some asparagus for dinner…  that counts as it needed doing. 

Garden and sea view

Ending the day in the swing seat has to be one of my favourite things.

I then did something I wasn’t expecting to do.  While weeding the worst bed in sector 2 I noticed the soil was quite dry in spite of the torrential down pour we had on Friday.   So, the last task of the day was the first for the season and I set up the irrigation system – all set to water sector 1 at 7:00am tomorrow morning.  I’ll probably move it across the day to other sectors after finishing its cycle and then diligently pay more attention to the weather and begin the process of actually watering the garden instead of relying on the sky.

And that is what I did today – 5 things, just like I promised myself.

Come again soon – I’m half expecting to find a possum has gotten through the strawberry netting. 

Sarah the Gardener  : o)

5 Things for Today

Now the garden has been planted out, it is easy to think, Nah…  I’ll leave it for today, the garden doesn’t really need me.  Or I’ve worked hard up to this point, and it is the lull time before the harvest, so I deserve a break.    But the key to managing a garden as big as mine is to chip away at it, take care of it with a little and often approach.  I have my sector system where Monday is the first row and Tuesday the second etc etc.  But in the process of getting the garden planted out, everything went out the window and I was just dealing with the most urgent thing in front of me and bouncing from one task to the next, all willy nilly.  And leaving a trail of chaos behind me.

Sector One

Sector one has had all its needs met. There is nothing more that is needed to be done for now. That is a good feeling.

I have decided that I just need to do 5 things in the garden each day – no matter how big or small.  Once I’m in the garden I find I’m away and lose all sense of time and relish a task I can sink my teeth into.   Today I did 5 tasks (although technically it was 4 and a half as I didn’t get the last one finished.)

peanut sprout

It is good to finally have peanuts in the ground.

The first thing I did was a long overdue task.  I had attempted to grow peanuts from store bought raw natural peanuts.  But the seed tray method in the greenhouse let me down twice.  I’m not sure why as in previous years it has been a successful process.  In a last-ditch effort, I put them in moist paper towel in a zip lock bag in a warm place.  It didn’t take long for them to germinate, but it took a little longer for me to get around to planting them.  Today was their lucky day – I popped them straight into the garden.  Fingers crossed they like it there and continue on their journey.

Sunflower seeds

It just took a moment to pop in a row of sunflower seeds along the fence.

Then I took care of the needs of Sector 1, the Monday row.  This included nipping the kikuyu grass that tries to climb under the fence in the bud, hoeing the paths, weeding the beds – not that there are many weeds at this stage and then take care of any of the extra needs.  I popped some marigolds in the corners of the tomato bed as I hadn’t got around to it yet and changed the lure in the rat trap.   Then I supported my flopping cosmos in the cut flower bed with the help of the bucket handles I had saved from the buckets I turned into pots back in the autumn. 

DIY flower support

Use what you have. These bucket handles are going to do a fab job of holding up the flowers. Which is just as well as I have loads of them for all the other floppy flowers.

Then the third thing I decided to do was succession plant some sunflower seeds along the row of existing sunflowers that were transplanted from seedlings.  They got a bit leggy in the greenhouse, so I thought I’d pop more in to ensure some of them managed to get tall before flowering!

Dirty pots

Gosh – these were so essential for the last few months and now they aren’t needed until next spring!

Then I decided to tackle a bit of the mess I had made in the rush to get things planted out.  To do it all in one go would be a tad overwhelming, but if I take the little and often approach I can just slowly and steadily take care of things.  So today I gathered together all of the used pots from all over the garden and stacked them together in a tray so they are all tidy and ready to be washed on a day when it feels like it would be a good thing to do. 

Strawberry cage supplies

These are the supplies I needed to keep the birds off my berries.

The fifth and last task I tackled was the biggest of the day and most pressing.  I needed to create a cage / net structure over the strawberries to stop the birds.  They have stolen the lot.  I’m trying not to think of how many they’ve stolen.  I tell myself that those early ones that haven’t been kissed by a warm sun aren’t as nice as the ones that are still to come.   The first thing I did was give the bed a good thorough weed as some cheeky ones had snuck in there.  The soil was a little hard and historically this bed bakes in the heat of summer.  To reduce the risk of this, I loosened the soil a little with a hand fork and for a bit of extra love worked in some blood and bone.  Then I got the hose out and gave the bed a deep watering and laid down compost as mulch.  It does work well as a mulch and should protect the soil and retain moisture but it won’t be as good looking as a straw mulch, but that is all I have on hand, so it is what I used.

Strawberry cage so far

The strawberry cage so far … I’ll finish it tomorrow.

Then I gathered the supplies to make the cage – rebar poles cut to 1 metre lengths and 3 metre lengths of irrigation hose.  I banged the rebar into the garden, so they were all at the same height at 40cm above soil level.  Then I popped the irrigation pipes over each pair, stood back and admired my work.  Then realised it was late and I was tired, so I stopped.   Tomorrow I will put the net over and maybe within the week I’ll get some juicy red sun kissed berries. 

Come again soon – tomorrow will have another 5 things to do. 

Sarah the gardener  : o)

 

 

October…  Done!  – A Garden Tour.

Over the last several weeks the focus in the garden has really been about getting it planted.  For some reason I have been running behind, even though my intentions were to try and get ahead.   In that process I ended up just focusing on the plants and getting them in the ground alongside their support structures and paid little heed to the mess I was leaving in a trail behind me.

Zucchini

There is nothing more cheerful than a bright yellow flowering heralding the zucchini glut that will begin imminently!

Currently if you look around my garden you can see empty pots, tools and all sorts of clutter laying about the place.  But in my desire to get plants in the soil I didn’t care, it wasn’t my priority.  Now that that stage is over, I look about the garden and think… ‘my goodness, where do I start?’    There is the temptation to create another urgently stressful situation where I convince myself if is imperative I tidy up immediately.  I almost went down that path, as I wanted to make a “did-dah” garden tour video with it all looking perfect for all to see.  But I realised that would be fool hardy as by the time it was looking perfect it would probably be Christmas.

Garden clutter

An honest look at some of the clutter that needs to be cleared up.

So, I decided to embrace the mess, knowing it would be taken care of in a slow and steady way, mixed in with fun things like kitchen gardening and admiring the flowers.  With this in mind I filmed my video tour, focusing on the plants and capturing this stage of the garden, to mark this point in my progress through the growing season.

I’d love it if you joined me in my garden and check it out – as it is now, warts and all.

Come again soon – there will be a mixed bag of things going on as I make the most of all the wants and needs in the garden.

Sarah the Gardener  : o)

All Planted Out

Finally, I can put down my trowel and stop lying awake at night worrying about the increasingly leggy plants growing in pots rapidly becoming too small.  Everything that can be or needs to be, has been planted into the garden.   The beds and my heart are full.  The garden is done, and it looks wonderful. 

The garden after planting out

As much as this image of the garden planted out is a dramatic comparison to what it was a month ago when most of the beds were bare, I’m looking forward to seeing it in a months time.

I don’t know what it was about this spring.  It was my intention to have it all done earlier than usual.  Not only did I want to test our frost free spot by gradually opening the growing season ever so slightly earlier each year until I find the threshold, but I was supposed to be away from the garden right now.  I should have left a few days ago and would have been gone for 20 days.  However, the current situation meant I wasn’t going any interesting at all – just here, at home.  I haven’t even been up the road! 

Carrots

The last carrots from the previous season have found themselves in the new leafy green bed. They don’t like a rich soil, but the leafy greens do so I’ve taken the compost and other amendments up to the edge of the carrot row and will fill the gap once we’ve eat all the carrots.

I think the first delay was the wonderful rock garden took longer than I thought it would and while I don’t regret a moment of it as it is a beautiful space, there was some time lost there.  The weather also played a hand in the delay, and probably for good reason.  We are now in November, and it is still a little cold.  Not winter cold – but cold for these days.   Aside from these excuses, the strange world we find ourselves in creates a bizarre malaise where some days feel like you are wading through treacle and nothing much of anything gets done. 

cats and peas

While it is clear the birds have been nipping at my peas… it would seem they aren’t the only ones hindering prolific growth.

A lot of things took a lot longer to get around to than they should have but they just weren’t much of a priority.  I had a memory pop up today that said this time last year I was BBQing peas in their pods.  If you haven’t tried that, I suggest you should – the wee peas are steamed in their own juices and are so sweet and delicious.  But this season due to late planting and bird attacks my poor peas are nowhere near flowering, let alone BBQing. 

Cucumber trellis

The trellis for the cucumbers and gherkins finally went up after much deliberation on what to use to support them to climb up. In the end I used what I had, with a few adjustments.

I also dropped the ball over the winter and didn’t keep on top of my routine of tending to each sector each week, no matter how little attention they needed.  So, for the sake of 10 – 15 mins a day keeping weeds down and keeping the garden tidy and organised, I left myself with a bit of a hard slog to catch up from. 

Celeriac

I love celeriac, but it is a slow grower that needs a head start. I started the seeds off in August along with their friends the celery. They were all looking so healthy so I have to say I’m a tad annoyed to find I’d given away all the celery seedlings after investing so much time into caring for them.

The garden planting plan was pretty much stuck too, which I’m pleased about.  Although maybe a few extra plants got squeezed in here and there.   I discovered I’d accidentally given away all my celery seedlings, thinking I had held some back only to find they were all celeriac, so now I need to buy some celery seedlings!  

Tomatoes

The poor tomatoes. Ideally they should have been planted when they were less than half they size they are now, and to suffer the indignity of being moved about the place just as they begin to settle in isn’t ideal. I just need to give them extra special love this season.

The tomatoes got planted twice.  To help defeat the problems that have plagued them since we moved here, I reduced the number of plants – almost by half, so they would have more room to themselves.  And then I planted them in one row instead of the usual two only to find myself sat bolt upright in bed in the middle of that night realising I’d given them less space, not more.  The next day I replanted them in two rows and feel so much better about them.  Although my next move is to get some insect netting to keep the Tomato Potato Psyllid away.

Okra

The okra are happy enough to stay cosy and warm in the greenhouse.

The okra is still in the greenhouse as it really doesn’t like the cooler conditions and will drop all its leaves if it isn’t happy.  So, when it warms up outside then I’ll plant them out.  The peanuts failed me and rotted in their pots so I’m now trying the damp paper towel in a zip lock bag in a warm place technique as a last ditch effort to fill the space allotted to them. 

pre sprouting peanuts

After just a few days of being in a damp warm place the peanuts have begun shooting so I can pop them into some potting mix and look forward to green shoots in the very near future.

There are still all the spares to take care of in the interim – in case I need them.  All I really need to do is keep them watered and alive.  Although some look so good I’m toying with the idea of popping them in pots and having a little extra on the side. 

Flowers

I’m really loving the flowers from the edible flower garden, over one of the flower beds and across the wildlife pond.

I feel liberated from the self imposed burden of getting all of these plants into the garden, so I shall bask just a little longer in the lack of urgency in my days and then begin the task of tidying up after myself.  I may even wash the used pots now instead of in the winter….  Nah, probably not.   Then I will look about for the next project to squeeze in before the harvest begins to inundate my kitchen.

Come again soon – its time for a tour once I tidy up a little to reduce the shame factor

Sarah the Gardener : o)

Wait one moment, I’ll be with you directly.

The garden has been so patient, waiting for me and the weather.  Getting this garden planted out is really happening in fits and starts.  Yesterday was so foggy, misty, and drizzly that it wasn’t worth going out.  It was the kind of humid that soaks into your bones and I decided not to attempt it.  The last thing I need right now is to catch a normal cold and worry endlessly about it being the ‘other’ one, in spite of no one going anyway except Hubby the Un-Gardener clicking and collecting gardening supplies for me and shopping for food. 

Gloomy day

Yup – not a gardening day.

Today was a better day.  It was still gloomy, but I could see to the end of the garden, which is always good.  The upside is the plants are loving the conditions and the ones that are planted are settling in nicely and the ones still to be planted aren’t getting as stressed as they would on a sunny day.   It eases my mind a little, although I still feel a sense of urgency and a sense of responsibility.  I brought them into this world and now they are sitting around restrained in pots when they should be free and stretching their roots.     There isn’t long to go now.  The cucumber bed just needs the last crop to be eaten – I think we may be eating celeriac all week!  Once it’s gone, I can give the soil some love and set up structures and plant the cucumbers.    

Sweetcorn seeds

The string line came out again when planting the sweetcorn. It doesn’t matter so much when they are big, but as little plants the wonky lines bother me a little bit too much!

The leafy green bed just needs a weed and a love and then they can go in.   The Melons need to grow a little bigger and the temperatures need to warm up a little more for the Okra, so their leaves don’t drop off upon planting like they have done in previous years.  This year I’m keeping them warm in the greenhouse until it is warmer outside.

radish seeds

I popped the radish in a row between the lettuce. One or other of them will be gone before the other, although at this point its anyone’s guess as to who it will be.

And the Tomatoes are getting desperate.  But I need give the soil love and build their structures and then I can plant them out.  However, Hubby the Un-Gardener had to go back to collect an essential item that got clicked but not collected, so as soon as I have everything I need then they can get my full attention.

Parsnip

I did sow the parsnip seeds quite close to this potato that grew from one left in the bed last season, but it has flowers on it, which means it’s almost done, so who am I to cut it down before its prime – which will probably be in another few weeks?!

The things that have been weighing on my mind lately have been the seeds I like to direct sow.   Because they aren’t as physically present and demanding as plants, I put them to one side to sow later.  I began to worry if I didn’t plant them soon enough it will be too late.  It won’t be too late, as the seed sowing window is open for another month or so, with a good chance of getting a full harvest.  But I worried nonetheless. 

Soybeans

I sowed more seeds this year, and closer together as last year I learnt I really liked them and also they can handle being closer than I had them last year.

So today I gathered all the seeds that need direct sowing into the soil and delivered them into their new positions.   The soil was warm and damp, perfect for sowing seeds and then as soon as I came inside it started to rain, so they will be off to a good start and I certainly won’t need to worry about them drying out, not for a while if the weather forecast is anything to go by. 

Snake beans

These Snake Beans are one of my few climbing plants and I am wary that they are in a direct line with the gate, so I will need to be more diligent of shutting the windbreak top half if wind is likely.

I sowed parsnips and radish, that prefer to be directly sown.  I’ve been meaning to sow the parsnips for weeks, or probably months.  I added more carrots from a fresh seed packet to the carrot row a couple of days ago because the half a dozen that had only popped up from 3 previous sowings were bugging me.  Hopefully I’ll get a good thick row there.

kidney beans

I have taken the bold move of planting the beans at the minimum planting distance of 10cm apart with and heir and a spare but with 50cm between the rows. I think I’ve given them too much space in previous years – but time will tell.

Next, I sowed the sweetcorn and the beans.  There are too many plants to fill the bed to be bothered trying to manage them in pots.  And they do just fine planting straight into the soil I always sow extra, like how a friend pointed out – ‘an heir and spare’ into each hole.  I either remove the weakest one or relocate it to a spot nobody came up in.  And I like to pop a dozen down the side of the bed in case I need to fill gaps.  It is always better to do it that way than trying to fill a gap with seeds that will be 3 weeks behind all the other plants.  Things grow fast in the warm weather. 

Silverbeet

To make way for the cucumbers today’s kitchen gardening is processing all this silverbeet and getting it into the freezer. Waste not want not and all that.

I also sowed a row of peas for succession planting.  The current row isn’t looking great – the birds have been pecking at it mercilessly.  The new peas have no protection or support structures at this point, but I figure I have 7 – 10 days to worry about that.  Other things need my time.    

It was a nice time in the garden pushing large seeds into warm soil up to my first knuckle.  But even better still, I feel the weight lifted as there is one less thing to worry about as I get closer to having it all done.   Not long now.

Come again soon – a couple of good pushes and the garden will be planted.

Sarah the Gardener  : o)

This is turning out to be a strange season

Knowing the garden has good access to water is one of those things that takes a weight off my mind for the season ahead.  The water tanks are in a good place going into summer.  They aren’t completely full; I think we have more storage capacity than our small roof can capture.  Maybe we should have moved a bigger house onto the land! But I think we are in the best position we have ever been in before.   

The start of an unpredictable day

The start of an unpredictable day

This summer is supposed to be a La Niña season which means mild and humid with more rain than usual.  And the wind is supposed to come from the Northeast which we are kind of protected from here and is a bit of a relief as it won’t be salt laden.  The downside is, I will need to be extra watchful for fungal diseases like blight and powdery mildew.  But at least if you know what to expect you can prepare.

Damp soil

The soil was nice and damp from the rains fo the previous days.

But you can’t protect plants you haven’t planted from potential diseases.  They really need to get in the ground.  Ordinarily, after sorting out the irrigation system and getting it ready to go, I like to build my structures in advance of planting out and my control freakery in the garden (but not anywhere else, strangely enough) would normally have me doing all the structures so I can stand back and look at them all in a plant-less setting. 

Bamboo support stakes

I toyed with the idea of eyeballing the bamboo support stakes for the peppers but it would have bothered me all season so I dragged out the string.

However due to lockdown and the tedious click and collect system of shopping, I can’t just pop down to the shops when I need something or realise I forgot to get it.  Alongside being able to see what you are buying with your very own eyes.  Selecting things from dodgy photos on the internet can be misleading.   So, gathering the supplies hasn’t been easy.   This has meant I have needed to plant plants before I finished with the structure creation stage.   Although to be clear, plants needing structures have been left until their structures are in place, as that is good gardening practice. Building structures around plants is asking for some kind of trouble.

Seaweed tonic soak

Every plant going into the ground gets a 15 minute soak in a seaweed tonic.

With a long weekend and every intention to ‘finish the garden’ I quickly found plans and reality often don’t play nicely together.  The first day of the long weekend was the trench digging and irrigation assembly and I took that as a perfect way to spend doing something / anything in the garden.  The wind was howling across the land at about 40km/h with gusts up to 80km/h.  As much as I wanted to plant plants it was a bad idea.  But at least we were doing something, and Sunday was another day.

But Sunday wasn’t to be a garden day at all.  The wind persisted and while it wasn’t cold, it was wet and windy.  Not a great combination to be outside in, so I sat that one out.

Planted peppers

The pepper plants look so small beside the bamboo stakes they will soon engulf.

Monday didn’t disappoint.  The wind had dropped, and it was eerily still in the garden, after days of the noisy wind.  It was perfect planting weather, warm, yet not too hot, gloomy but not too dismal.  There was a light mist that was barely perceivable.  The chance of plants getting a shock of being out in intense weather was zero.  I’ve been giving them a 15 min soak in seaweed tonic before planting out to reduce the risk of transplant shock and stress even further.

Stick to the plan

With so many spares and actuals, it is important to stick to the plan and not crowd them out in a moment of green greed!

Initially I was a little overwhelmed and I stood in the garden not knowing where to start.  Who gets to go first?   But I grabbed the closest plants on the shelf that just happened to be the peppers.  While they were taking their soak, I set up the bamboo poles that will support their growth and prevent them from dragging their fruit in the soil.  Once I got them in, I was away.  The next choices were easy – anything that didn’t need support and their beds were ready to go quickly took their places. 

The pumpkins

The pumpkins look so happy to have been released from their pots.

Everything thing has a spare, to back them up, should anything thing go wrong over the next few weeks.  In a previous season I have had to use almost every single backup as the weather pounded the garden without mercy for weeks.   So, the spares in their pots will continue to be nurtured for the time being. 

Swedes

These swede where taking the place of the of the leafy greens, so they needed to come out and will mean some urgent kitchen gardening as if I didn’t have enough on my plate.

I still don’t have everything in.  There are still structures to be built and unbelievably there are still a couple of beds that aren’t ready.  They still have the crops of the last season languishing there.  I’m trying to eat or process them as fast as I can or trying to figure out how to work around them so they can finish what they started.  Then I can enrich their beds and get the next season started.

sunset

The day ended in an amazing way!

It feels quite discombobulated this season.  I have been doing this so long I have a routine and systems, but nothing seems to want to conform to my way of doing things.  There is nothing for it but to carry on and do the next thing that calls out to me until eventual I will stand back and see all is done, and I can settle down into that sweet spot of watering and weeding until the harvest begins to show itself. 

Come again soon – the tomatoes are desperate to get planted.

Sarah the Gardener : o)

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