SARAH THE GARDENER

Change Comes Quickly

There has been an imperceptible shift in the garden.  Up until this point I feel like I have been managing tender young seedlings, doing what I can to nurture them into independence.  They have been scrawny, scrappy and poorly and several even died.   I replaced a few, more than once, to ensure the garden matched the plan I drew up during the long cold winter months.

Sunflowers

Such a delightful sight – sunny sunflowers. It only seems like yesterday I’d planted them out!

There are still gaps where the window for popping in a few extra seeds is closing fast and a few poorly looking plants who need a boost of love to see them through the next week or so without expiring.  Suddenly these are the exception and not the norm.   I’m not sure when this happened.   But sometime, beneath my very eyes in the last week or so, the plants got their wings and took off.  They are strong, robust and full of life and full of fruit.  This was completely unexpected.  You can be too familiar with what is in front of you that you don’t notice the changes.

Spaghetti Squash

I am bracing myself for an over abundance of spaghetti squash – and I only have one plant!

I have been looking at the big picture – removing weeds, which have also exploded everywhere, but also keeping things watered.  Until we ran out of water!  I wasn’t looking for the harvest because I wasn’t expecting it just yet.    From now on I shall be paying closer attention.  If the development of fruit can easily escape my attention, then there is the potential for pest and disease to do the same, and that is certainly not going to happen. I won’t allow it.

Pepper plants

After a particularly rough start the peppers are starting to bulk up and are flowering their little hearts out. There will be peppers in my harvest basket this season!

For the first time ever – I harvested all the zucchini on the plants while they were small, once I noticed them.  Normally they escape my attention for half a day and go from too small to too large! I made delish zucchini fritters with them all.  We ended up with too many zucchini fritters, but leftovers make great lunches.  Too many zucchini is a problem in the waiting.  I may regret planting four different varieties, but one summer a friend of mine made a lovely chutney with sliced zucchini of different colours and I thought it would be nice to try it.   Besides – I do have a backup plan for marrows – dehydrating them into chips is a delish treat in our house.  You can find out how I do that > HERE <.

Onion and garlic curing in the greenhouse

Onion and garlic curing in the greenhouse – each with their individual needs met.

Aside from the zucchini which are in edible form, the onion and garlic are curing in the greenhouse.  The onion on the top shelf in full sun and the garlic on the bottom shelf in the shade.   Garlic can lose flavour if left in the sun to dry.  I harvested a load of peas but missed the signs and so some are a little older than need be, but still edible.  They may work well in a lovely pea risotto, slowly cooked in butter and white wine, with a bit of cooked chicken added at the end.    The rhubarb could have a few of its fat stalks harvested for a tart but sweet treat and the salad leaves are ripe for the picking.  I will need to sow more lettuce to ensure there is always leaves available for summer salads.

Spinach

Not long now and this luscious looking spinach will make its way into the kitchen!

The pumpkins have gone nuts and have strong sturdy shoots scrambling across their allotted space.  Not only that, but there are baby pumpkins that have, for certain, been pollinated and are increase in size daily – well daily since I noticed them!  The spinach is almost of an edible size, so I need to whip up some homemade ricotta cheese so I can make chicken, spinach and ricotta pasta rolls, with a rich tomatoey sauce. I can almost taste it now.

Valentino Tomatoes

These Valentino tomatoes may only be a small plant, but they are heavily laden with sweet little heart shaped fruit!

The tomatoes are still a way off, but they are there in the green.  Even in their unripe stage, the variety of shapes and sizes are being revealed.  I can’t wait for a basket full of tomatoes of all colours and styles.  Not only will it look fabulous, but it will be a taste sensation!  It feels like every day one or more of them need tying into the next rung on the tomato structure.

Poorly strawberries

I’m not giving up hope on these poor unfortunate berries. They will recover with the right care and attention…. hopefully…

Some things aren’t doing so well though.  The strawberries are still struggling since they nearly died in the spring when it was unexpectedly dry for the 10 days I was out of town.  We almost got a small harvest the other day, but the chickens got out and gobbled them all up.  It is probably for the best, so they can recover without the burden of bearing fruit.  Just so long as we get some for Christmas.

Poorly Okra

Through sheer determination – I will bring these okra back to health – I haven’t been nurturing them for months to give up now.

The beetroot bolted to seed in the midst of the strange weather. I have sowed more, but in the windy conditions since, it has been hard to keep the soil moist and so not all of them have popped up.  I need to fill the gaps.  I think the okra is being targeted by snails and then in their vulnerable state, not coping with the wind buffering them about.  So I think I’ll give them a good liquid feed – once we get more water and then pop them under a 3L juice bottle with the botttom chopped off to create a warm and still micro climate and maybe even slip a few slug pellets in there too – where they are safe from the curious snout of Jasper the dog.  Normally I happily protect my crops with the pellets, however as Jasper finds the well-rotted manure mixed into the soil fascinating and worth a taste (dogs can be so disgusting at times), I can’t take the risk of using it as freely as I did before.  But for the sake of the okra I need to do something.

This has been a funny season, but I think it may end up surprising me with its bounty.

Come again soon – I may even share a few recipes that my family actually enjoy!

Sarah the Gardener  : o)

Aftermath

We are now in summer and I was hoping to put all my troubles behind me.  Of the first four days of the season, there hasn’t been much to complain about except a two-hour window of intense craziness on Tuesday.

Onions

This is a glass half empty or a glass half full scenario. Either the onions have been wind swept or they are ready for harvest. I say… bring on the harvest.

There we were, minding our own business, enjoying what was promising to be another delightful summer day.  Never ending blue skies with a hint of haze in the distance from the smoke of the Australian bush fires.  The sun was beating down and there was barely a puff of wind.  The previous two days were in the category of ‘so far so good’.   We were all hoping the turmoil of spring was well and truly behind us.  This season ahead of us has a lot of responsibility on its shoulders to help us feel good about the weather again.

Rocket

This rocket became a tangled mess and so it is no longer there. This was an easy decision.

Then things started to change.  Around 1:30 in the afternoon, the humidity began to rise dramatically up to 90%.  The air felt thick and then it started to rain.  Now I don’t mind a good rain as our water tanks are uncomfortably low as we head into what is likely to be a dry summer.  And a good rain is good for the garden.  It was only a brief three hour rainfall where a mere 5mm was deposited onto the garden and hopefully some of it made its way into the water tanks.  Rain I can cope with.

Twisted tomatoes

It didn’t take long for the tomatoes to re-orientate themselves into the twisted position. Hopefully it won’t take long to twist back to the upright position.

But what was the worst was the wind.  Before the humidity rose, the wind was toying about with the garden with breezes of less than 10 Km/h and it was just enough to keep the temperatures almost reaching the mid-twenties still feel light and not oppressive.  When the humidity rose, it felt like all hell had broken loose, the wind within half an hour of a gentle breeze had become a roaring 25km/h.  But not to be stopped there, it whipped around the garden caused mayhem and havoc for the next two hours peaking with gusts of 51.5km/h.  Then as quickly as it came, it all died down, the rain stopped, and the wind returned to breeze conditions.  However, just to taunt us it picked up to around 30km/h  momentarily a couple of times across the evening.

wind swept corn

Fortunately the soil in the corn bed is soft – although in hindsight this may have been part of the problem… but gently and firmly pushing down on the soil made them stand up straight again..

It didn’t last long but wind can be a bully.  It whipped through my rocket, it tousled with the sunflowers, it teased the tomatoes, it flattened the onions, it leaned on the corn and it brought down the bok choi.  The rocket and the bok choi had bolted to seed in the latest bout of unpredictable weather and I was leaving it for the bees to enjoy the flowers, so it was no great loss there.  New seeds had already been sown.  The onions were already beginning to flop over and so the decision on when to harvest was made a little easier.  The sunflowers managed to stand their ground in the face of it all and their heads still stand tall and proud.  The tomatoes were gently tied into place and the corn was nudged back into the upright position.  The wind may be a meany bully but this time it didn’t get the better of us and the garden will go on.

Sunflowers

I’m proud of the sunflowers this year and how they stood up to the wind. All going well I should have a magnificent display.

Looking forward to the rest of the month, the boffins are suggesting it will be a warm and dry time, however at quote from the Metservice website says:  “Bottom Line – Westerlies continue during December”.  Great.  I think my next project will be to seriously investigate wind protection options!

Come again soon – we are in summer and the sky is mostly blue.

Sarah the Gardener  : o)

Things that bring me joy in the morning

Up until now the garden hasn’t exactly brought me a lot of joy this season, more a sense of overwhelming, never ending impossibilities. It has been a huge struggle to negotiate the storms and troubles, and shout down the thoughts of running behind.  Finally I have reached a place in the garden where I feel in control and things are where they should be, and most of the weeds are also where they should be – in the compost, and things are growing.  I can finally relax.  I have reached that magical moment where all that is required from the garden is some gentle pottering.  A reward from the efforts of the spring and a respite before the onslaught of the harvest in the heat of the summer days.

gardening kiwi

On my desk in my office in the garden I have some things to encourage me. The sign says ‘Sometimes your only available transportation is a leap of Faith, Margaret Shepard’. The plant is a Fittonia – a nerve plant to remind me to be brave and have courage and the fluffy buddy is the real Gardening Kiwi! Hopefully we will see more of her next year in the garden.

Each morning when I go into the garden to look about and check on things I no longer see what needs to be done, I notice new growth, new colours and things that make my heart burst with joy.  I have made it.  In spite of the enormous journey this season, there is a garden to be thankful for.

Here is a selection of some of the things I see each day.  I hope they bring you joy too.  If you click on the images you can find out more about them.

It is nice to feel like this again.  I really do love my garden, but like a petulant child, sometimes we have our differences.

Come again soon – this really does feel like the beginning of something amazing.

Sarah the Gardener  : o)

First Proper Harvest of the Season

While I have been taking a few things here and there, like the globe artichokes.  I have been quite simple with these – just pick, wash and steam until tender.  Then we normally dip the scales into melted butter and lemon juice but there was this time when we didn’t have enough butter or even any lemons, so I tried a range of other sauces to go with it.  I couldn’t leave it for another day as the artichoke was perfect and after rejecting a range of other dipping sauces, I found aioli to be the best and now we don’t even bother to squeeze any lemons.  Although it isn’t exactly a healthy treat, but that is probably what makes it a treat!

Garlic harvest

The garlic harvest – first of the season.

And then there has been the salad crops, lettuce, spring onions and radish, however I’m not sure my succession planting of my lettuce is completely aligned, in spite of my best efforts and so I am anticipating a gap in the glut in the next week or so.   But there are fresh peas, which haven’t made it into a pot yet – fresh is so much nicer.  And we’ve had some spuds I overwintered in pots.

Vegetable garden

The Monday row – sorted and in control

There have been pickings from the garden, it has been more of a nibble, and not the full proper harvest of putting crops away for a rainy day like a squirrel collecting nuts kind of a way, until the other day.  The garden is a bit of a mess because I have been away and my attention has been held elsewhere, so I have been working my way across the beds – doing the Monday row on the Monday and the Tuesday row on a Tuesday, but that is as far as I have gotten so far as today is Wednesday so I anticipate another 7 beds will get some love.   It helps a lot that we are having summer-esk conditions – blue skies, not a puff of that dreaded wind and just all-round gloriousness. I say summer-esk as summer doesn’t start until Sunday – by the calendar, and to be fair after the spring we have had I just don’t trust it.  So, I’m trying to make hay while the sun shines, so to speak.

Garlic harvest

This first lot of garlic were showing signs of being in desperate need of harvest. There are still more in the bed and I’m watching them closely for signs of readiness so they will store better with all their protective layers intact.

The rules for my weekly maintenance plan are only take care of the needs of the bed in the row in question – no matter how weedy or terrible it looks elsewhere.  So, on Monday I tied in peas and tomatoes and removed laterals, and I replaced a dead squash with something greener and sowed some zinnia seeds into some gaps in the cut flower bed.  Then I weeded each bed, removing large and small interlopers and hoed the sand around the beds to keep them weed free too.

Garlic harvest

While I found a rusty nail in with the garlic, this is not the cause of the rust I battled all season, just an ironic coincidence.

While this was going on, I had the irrigation system on and watered everything and gave it all a deep watering, so when I gave each bed a liquid feed the soil was receptive to drawing the goodness deep down instead of it rolling off the surface.    It is great to look back at the end of the day and see an oasis of control in the middle of a messy garden.  It feels good too.

Garlic harvest

It is important to dig the garlic out of the ground as they are in there quite deep and pulling will result in a broken neck, and the bulb won’t store well.

Once the needs of the row are taken care of next comes the emergency work across the rest of the garden and I am still trying to bring the strawberries back to full health after their near-death experience while I was away.  Lesson learnt, even in the midst of a terrible spring, make provisions for watering when you go away!

Garlic harvest

As I suspected some had gone a little too far and the protective layers had perished in the waiting.

This brings me to the first harvest.  I honestly thought it would be the Hunter River White onions as I noticed while tending their beds that a couple had flopped over, but the rest were still growing strong.  I thought to myself ‘soon my pretties…’   But on my tour of the rest of the garden I noticed some of the early garlic was leaning over in a jaunty fashion – which isn’t really supposed to happen.

Garlic harvest

It is important to dry the garlic out of the sun as the sun is too harsh and can affect the flavour and the storage qualities.

You can normally tell when it is ready to harvest as the bottom third of the leaves start to die off – these are the tops  of the ‘wrappers’ that become the papery layers protect the bulb.    It was a little hard for me to tell this was happening as I had removed the bottom half of the layers in the battle with the rust.  I never quite got on top of it, but a lack of diligence is mostly the reason.  So, I dug them up.  And just like that I had my first proper harvest.

Come again soon – the garden is full of surprises

Sarah the Gardener  : o)

I think I’ve caught up with myself

Slowly but surely putting one foot in front of the other, the garden has been planted out.   It came as a bit of a surprise as I was just doing the next job on the list without looking beyond it for fear of being overwhelmed.  So, when I stood up, stretched, and looked around I was pleasantly surprised to find I’d made it to the end of all the plantings.  There were no more blank slots that my carefully created plans required plants to be put.    This unexpected arrival was masked by the sheer number of plants still in the greenhouse and in the hardening off corner.  I had hedged my bets back in the spring and sown far more than I needed and then in my impatience waiting for them to germinate, I sowed even more.

Cucumber seedling

The last plant planted – this little cucumber seedling. I hope they all grow well because I really need to give away the rest of the seedlings before it is too late.

You think after all these years I would trust the fresh seed, and the quality seed raising mix and my well taught and experienced techniques and my frequent visits to the greenhouse that kept the soil warm and moist.   But seeds of mistrust where also sown ‘what if they don’t come up….’ So, I sowed more.  In a couple of cases it was necessary, but if I’d waited a few days longer I wouldn’t have needed to have sown so many spares and saved myself a lot of unnecessary work caring for seedlings I didn’t need.

Bean seedlings

The bean seeds I popped in last week have shown their faces. I always pop two seeds in each hole – just in case. It is still a few days too soon to say if there has been a good germination rate, but at this point any is better than none.

Having said that if was nice to have spares, although the ones from my original sowing session would have been enough.  I always sow the one I want, and a spare, just in case and then a back up to each of these.  This should really be enough to cover any mishaps and eventualities and be able to bless friends with spares.   But then the frenzied panicked wild abandon sowing occurs, and I end up with far too many.

Pumpkin seedling

Grow little pumpkin seedling and fill the bed, but if you start to go over the edge, I’ll just tuck you back in place with a landscape staple.

Those spares did come in handy, due to the inclement weather I had to dip into the extra plants in waiting and get them to take the place of their predecessors who succumbed to conditions no pampered seedlings should need to endure.   Sadly, a couple of these brave plants also fell to the undesirable situation this spring has wreaked upon us.  With summer just a week and a half away, I feel nervous to find homes for the remaining seedlings, however it is time for them to leave the nest.

Plant food and Fennel the cat

We now have the job of giving all the plants a bit of a feed. Fennel the Cat is never too far way from me in the garden – even if she has to avoid Jasper the Dog. There is currently a bit of a turf war going on between them as they vie for the spot closest to me while I’m in the garden.

All that remains to be done now is a good deep tidy up, the pots and bags and items that were cast aside at the end of a task, much to my shame, need to be gathered up and disposed of appropriately or washed and put away.  The dome needs a sort and a clean as it is no longer as well ordered as it was at the start of the season.

Potato flowers

The potatoes are flowering. They are actually quite a lovely flower that is often taken for granted and when I got up close to them I noticed they had a lovely fragrance.

The garden itself, while now planted, still needs care and attention, with regular weeding, feeding, watering and tending to tendrils and laterals and doing a spot of training to urge wayward pumpkins in the places I have prepared for them. And a light sowing of successional seeds to ensure a continual supply.   This can all be done from the slower pace of only caring for the plants in the Monday row on a Monday and the Tuesdays on a Tuesday and so on.   I look forward to this brief season of slow calm before the harvest gets going and I’m in the kitchen processing the harvest in earnest across the summer months.

Tiny tomato

I must being doing something right as there is a tiny green tomato on my Big Beef Tomato plant.

Spring is never an easy season in the garden as there is a lot of hard work to be done, but compound this with cruel and crazy weather and a multitude of life issues, I for one will be pleased to put this season behind me.

Come again soon – summer is nearly here.

Sarah the Gardener  : o)

Not the spring I had in mind

You may or may not have noticed, but I’ve been AWOL for a while.  At the start of the season, it was never my intention.  This was going to be that perfect season in my garden.  I had it all planned.  I wasn’t building any part of the vegetable garden, technically everything was done and ready to go.  I was going to waft through the season and casually, with no stress at all, dig in the cover crops and enrich the beds with enough time for all the goodies to be worked into the soil by the worms and other beneficial soil organisms that will appreciate my efforts.

A lot of hail in the garden

This happened this morning. As pretty as it looks, I was not impressed!

Meanwhile I would sow seeds in my greenhouse, on the new shelves that were perfectly timed and perfect for the job.  I would waft in and out daily to keep the soil moist and check regularly for signs of life.  Then in an orderly fashion I would repot seedlings as required into larger pots, a couple of times each if necessary, using the compost and potting mix that I had pre-ordered and was just waiting to be used.

Seedlings in large containers

These large trays have proved invaluable as more often than I would have liked, my seedlings found themselves soaking within, with a feed, a seaweed tonic to combat stress or just to rehydrate after being left just that little bit too long. I’m surprised any survived.

Then once the time was right, somewhere around mid-October, I was envisioning planting things out into the garden beds to the tunes of some lovely classical music.  I’m not a great classic music fan, but the situation always feels appropriate to have the correct soundtrack.  Because we don’t get frosts, I was hoping to sneak a few plants in even earlier.  I had worked hard on planting maps for each garden bed and had them at the ready so everything would take its correct place.

Teen labour

I have to say teen or man strength is much more than I have to give right now. They get things done in half the time. Thank goodness.

And finally, I would stand back and weed and water without a care in the world and all would grow before my eyes and it would be wonderful.  I would then arrive at Christmas relaxed, refreshed with a home-grown festive menu.

Now you may notice in these previous paragraphs there was a lot of language that falls easily into ‘shoulda, woulda and coulda’.   Unfortunately, things didn’t go to plan.

loving cat and dog

Even though Fennel the Cat and Jasper the Dog don’t exactly see eye to eye, while I was sick in bed they both kept me company.

The first problem was a cold that left me bedridden for a week and a six-week recovery.  On top of this an ankle I twisted back in January was in the final stages of medical treatment with the words ‘Ooooh you’ve done a lot of soft tissue damage, stay off it for a week’ uttered a couple of times.  This put paid to the cover crop digging in and pre enriching of the beds with all the goodies I had set aside ready to go.   Next season I am going to chop and drop in the middle of winter, none of this digging in nonsense.  The books and magazines casually say, ‘just dig it in’.  It isn’t easy and is more like herding kittens.

The men in my life

This is a favourite image, it has all the men in my life in it. It was taken almost a decade ago at a fancy dress party we once held. Sadly in the last 12 months two of these wonderful people are no longer with us.

Then tragedy struck, and this was what really pulled the plug on gardening and all social media for a while.  My dad fought a very fast and vicious battle with cancer, and he was gone within six short weeks.  Fortunately, we were able to make the long drive south and saw him a couple of times to tell him we loved him.  It was a difficult time.  I lost the desire to garden for a while, my health delays had made the garden seem to be overwhelming and I just needed to put one foot in front of the other.

wind swept pepper plants

This storm could have easily been the breaking point, because it was quite heartbreaking at the time.

During this time the weather did not do what it was supposed to do.  It didn’t stick with the plan.  It has been the worst spring ever.  The weather was all over the place, hot one day, freezing the next and then there were the actual storms.  I lost count, I know it was more than 3 and less than 5, but it was the wind that was the most devastating.  I put my peppers out a little early and a couple of days later they were gone.  Their poor wee leaves had the life whipped out of them.  I held back on planting out the rest of them but couldn’t wait forever.  I finally got them out a couple of day ago and then this morning we got hail like I’ve never seen before.

Dead pumpkin

While the seedlings in the greenhouse were well taken care of while I was travelling, there were a few causalities in the garden – like this pumpkin. To be fair I didn’t ask them to water the garden as based on the way the season was going I didn’t expect it not to rain for 10 days.

However, not all the delays to the garden were a bad thing.  I also had the good fortune to be spend ten days traveling the country and visiting gardens of national and international significance.  It was amazing and such a privilege.  I hope to share more about this in blog posts to come.  But while I was off gallivanting around the country, my poor garden waited some more.

Tomato plants

Getting the tomato plants in feels like a spring success. I just need them to stay alive! I’ve planted a row of marigold up the middle because – anecdotally – last season I had one tomato plant engulfed in a out of control marigold plant and it was the only one that escaped attack from the dreaded Psyllid.

As mentioned above I spent the last few days planting things out, after beds were hastily turned over and enriched by Hubby the Un-Gardener and teenage boys who are faster and better at it than me and plants and seeds were finally in their places, where they should be, according to the plan.  I made a quick video trying to explain it all while I did a bit of planting.  You can check it out here:

There was no casual wafting.  This season has been a hard slog.   But summer is 18 days away and I’m just hoping I will find myself wafting about the garden in a summer frock, once I get all the spring jobs done.   Here’s hoping.

Sunset and a glass of wine

As the sun sets on a difficult season, there is always the opportunity to raise a glass and toast to a better tomorrow.

Come again soon – I need to reclaim a routine and get things back to some kind of normal.

Sarah the Gardener  : o)

Still Here

Sometimes the ups and downs of life can get in the way of time spent in the garden.  This spring has been one of those seasons with a lot of non-gardening things going on and just crappy weather.  The nice days have been few and far between, but often these end up being out of garden days.

Snail damage

This poor wee cosmos is a bit like a metaphor for my life right now… you try so hard to get things done and then life comes along and chops off your head!

But life wouldn’t be the same without a garden and so I am pushing on and doing my best, but sometimes It feels like I’m running terribly late.  But I will get there – I have too…  there is a greenhouse full of seedlings counting on me.

So bear with me while I get through this complicated period in life, sometimes it is just easy to spend time in garden and get things done to try and catch up and find joy and peace where I can.

Come again soon – normal gardening commentary will resume shortly.

Sarah the Gardener : o)

After the storm

This week has been awful.  The boffins had mentioned it, but often they are wrong, so I take the forecast with a pinch of salt.  Especially as the weekend was so magnificent.  It was warm – the kids went swimming.  I thought they were mad, but they seemed to have fun.  The sky was blue without a cloud in it.  It was the closest we have felt to summer since last summer.  You could almost reach out and touch it.  It felt so permanent that you couldn’t even begin to imagine the next day couldn’t be anything but the same again.

Storm damaged garlic

I think garlic rust is the least of my problems! Some of them are snapped! I’ll give them some seaweed tonic which is great for plants under stress and hope they recover well enough to go on and give me a decent harvest.

I’m not naive enough to not expect this though.  I know we are still in early spring and know she is a tease and not to be trusted, with her summer winter flipflopping.  But this time she was just mean.  I’d even say a bully standing in the corridor of the season barring me from passing by to get to where I want to be.  In the garden.

Storm damage.

My ‘sit in the shade’ chair has been tossed recklessly from my deck.

This week has had me trapped indoors by what was possibly the second worst storm we’ve had since we have been here – a mere 21 months.  The first one was horrible.  The wind was recorded at 212km up the coast from us.  Our house was on jacks with the house mover’s truck beneath and everyone feared all would be lost.  But alas no – all was fine.  Phew.  While intense, that storm only lasted overnight and we didn’t have any other permanent structures on the site, it became a worst-case scenario situation for us to build upon.  So, while terrifying it was a kind of blessing.

Storm damaged onions

All the onions have been knocked over and are pock marked with hail scars but I think they will bounce back.

This storm wasn’t as nasty in its intensity but in its longevity it was terrible.  It has pretty much lasted a full week with wind and rain and temperatures dropping so low that you’d think we were in mid-winter again.   There was also thunder and lightening and hail thrown in for good measure.  It was a good and proper storm.  The airport is near us as the crow flies but between them and the open sea is the skinny land mass that is the Awhitu peninsula, so they have a tiny bit more of a buffer than us from the rawness of the storm and they recorded 100km at its worst.  The worst I saw in my garden was 62km, but the house does seem to slow things down a little and out the front of the house it felt terrible.

Mustard cover crop

I know I was late digging in this cover crop, but now I needn’t bother as all the leaves have been blown away… Oh well, one less job to do!

Today the sun is out and the birds and singing and while there are clouds, they don’t look like they’re about to burst with a freezing cold shower.  But it is still a little windy here.  However, that is part and parcel of living so close to the sea!  It should ease soon I’m sure.  My weather station is telling me it is currently gusting at 23.4 km, but it feels calm enough after what we have been through.

Weather station

I’m surprised my poor weather station was able to keep up. The bit that indicates wind direction is long gone and it did take a couple of breaks during the storm where it stopped sending data, but it has certainly had a work out this week.

In my gardening history, on windy nights I would lie awake and worry about whatever greenhouse I had at the time and would eventually send Hubby the Un-Gardener out to check!  More often than not there was some kind of damage or loss that would require repair, replacement or upgrade.  Not forgetting the time poor Hubby the Un-Gardener was roaming the neighbour’s fields looking for polycarbonate panels, trying not to be blown away with the sail like panels he’d already found, in an electrical storm.  He never found them all as he made the conscious decision ‘I don’t want to die like this’ and stopped looking.

seedlings in the Dome

And like nothing out of the ordinary has happened, the plants in the dome have continued to flourish. I may spend a warm peaceful afternoon in there transplanting seedlings into bigger pots.

So, it was reassuring to know the dome stood up to the storm as expected and the seedlings within are green and lush and doing their thing like nothing untoward was happening around them.  I managed to make myself brave the weather at least once a day to go and water everything in there, and it was like a warm oasis in the midst of the terrible weather beyond the glass.  Even though it cost a lot more than I would have liked, in times like this I am so pleased to have it.  And I was able to sleep easy without worry.  Well more like, lie awake without worry because the wind is incredibly noisy.  It reminds me of a dog where its bark is worse than its bite.

ranunculus

This brave ranunculus has held its head high in the face of the storm and suffered very little damage. I like its attitude.

The boffins are suggesting in the next week or so, there will be rain and a bit of wind, but all going well it won’t be anything like what we have just been through, so it will seem a pleasure to garden through whatever weather is thrown at us.

Come again soon – things can only get better.

Sarah the Gardener : o)

Gardening with MS

I have a bit of a side kick that shadows me wherever I go.  Most days it is barely noticeable, well not to me, because I’ve learnt to put the nuances it brings to one side and not give it the attention it demands.  Other times it is so demanding of my attention it is impossible to ignore and I have to stop what I’m doing and give into it so, giving it the time it needs to stop bothering me.  This could easily describe Jasper the Dog with his helpful hole digging in the middle of my paths or dropping tennis balls at my feet begging me to throw them for him or racing at full speed around the garden beds like a maniac just let loose from bondage, or just lying there in the shade of the artichoke slumbering quietly in the heat of the day.

Young Sarah the Gardener

It turns out I was always a bit of a gardener

Alas no, if only that was so simple.  Managing a dog in the garden makes things interesting but not unmanageable.  The side kick I take everywhere with me is MS – Multiple Sclerosis.  It isn’t a secret that I’ve kept hidden, it is common knowledge I’m not afraid to tell people about.  While it is something I have and effects decisions I may make, it doesn’t have me, and I have chosen not to let it control me or limit me.  It is nothing more than an annoying inconvenience.

Young Sarah the Gardener

My mum found some photos of me doing what I do best… being in the garden

But at the same time, it is my biggest blessing and I am thankful for it.  I first found something was wrong while I was pregnant with the Joeyosaurus.  Of course, the first thoughts are …  ‘oh no… the baby…’ So, I got it checked out instead of trying and failing to remember to get things checked out next time I was at the Doctor.   It is so worth getting the most minor worry looked at by your doctor.  Too bad if you think they think you are a hypochondriac – you’re the one paying for their time!

Young Sarah the Gardener

When I really think about it, one of my earliest memories is being in a verdant vegetable patch and seeing the rainbow that happens while watering the garden with a hose. We didn’t live there long so we can safely say I was about 3 years old

The final confirmed diagnosis of MS prompted us to move from our city lives into the country and that was where I first put a spade into soil and instantly fell in love with gardening.  My health flourished with the exercise and outdoor activity.  Soaking in the sun’s rays enriched my absorption of Vitamin D, something MS people aren’t that good at processing.  The fresh food and healthy diet that came as a result of my efforts in the garden allowed my health to flourish.   I was more myself than I’ve ever been.

The Joeyosaurus

This tiny little Joeyosaurus’s arrival helped to change the course of our lives. He didn’t cause it, but because of him things did indeed change.

For most keen vegie gardeners I’ve ever met, it can become addictive and quite the obsession and it had me hook, line and sinker.  I was a gardener through and through.  When people asked me how I was I’d reply, ‘not good, I’ve got blight’ then have to add ‘in my tomatoes’.  But my meagre four bed garden that first hosted the crops I grew in the first season somehow became the 36 I have now.  I think by anyone’s standards 36 is a lot.  Managing 36 beds isn’t easy for most people but throw MS into the mix and it becomes even more challenging.

my first garden

My first garden in the country was wonderful. It was one of those perfect seasons where everything grew well and made me love every little thing about gardening.

But I have found a way to not only manage my garden but allow it, and me, to thrive.   The first philosophy is little and often.  Don’t over do things.  It is tempting when in a serious gardening session, weeding, digging or some other arduous task to push through to the end to get it done.  This isn’t necessary.  Most gardening tasks are not time dependant.  And if they are the window is weeks or even months.  It is certainly never a day or a weekend.   So, tackling a bite size chunk at a time with loads of breaks of hours or even days in between.  Or mix it up so the day is made of different tasks – some easy, some a little more challenging.

The Joeyosaurus

Over the years the little fella grew to enjoy the garden. It is where he got his name ‘The Joeyosaurus – The Lesser Known Strawberry Eater’, as he would sit in the strawberry patch and scoff every single one!

Provide yourself with plenty of nice places to sit and rest and admire all you have achieved.  And use them often.  I have chairs in the shade at the front of my office shed which I expect will get more use once summer arrives. And then there is my wonderful swing seat which is tall enough that your feet don’t touch the ground, so you are reverted back to childhood as you swing your feet freely.  Once seated I’m reluctant to get back up, it is so relaxing, which is the whole point.  It is easy to stop – gulp a cuppa tea and carry on.  On the swing seat is seductive and you linger there much longer.

My office shed chair

I also have a comfy chair in my office shed for the times I need to relax in comfort but don’t want to go back into the house.

Staying on top of the garden all year long is also a great benefit so there is no need for intensive boom and bust weeding sessions.  I have divided my garden into 5 groups and on the Monday, I only take care of group 1 with weeding, feeding, watering, pruning, deadheading and tying in etc.  Then on Tuesday it is group 2, although I have to say group 5 on a Friday often gets the short end of the stick.  Harvesting across the whole garden is done when it is needed, that is one thing that doesn’t wait.   But even in winter, when nothing is growing a quick check for weeds or problems keeps everything manageable.

Jasper the Dog

When your body tells you to rest, it is a good idea to listen to it. Something Jasper the Dog seems to know how to do really well.

Asking for help is another essential tool.  I’m terrible at it because I’m a control freak in the garden and prefer things done my way.  I am so pleased Hubby the Un-Gardener has no interest in gardening – I’m sure there would be a territorial struggle of wills that would turn the garden into a battlefield.  But no, his role that he has willingly accepted from those first days in the garden was to do heaving lifting and dig on demand.  I may have put the first spade in – but he did the rest – digging is hard work!

the top end of the garden

I love how my swing seat overlooks the garden. It also looks out to sea and is a wonderful spot to watch the sun go down on an enjoyable day in the garden

The last thing is listen to your body and if it is telling you to stop then it is in your best interests to stop.  Sort of like when the oil light comes on in the car.  It is better to have a short rest than do some long term damage that can keep you out of the garden for days.

My garden

I’d love to say I did this all by myself, but to be honest there were plenty of wonderful people who helped out along the way and I don’t expect they will be the only ones to lend a hand going forward.

It is around about now, 14 years ago my life changed irreversibly, but to be honest I firmly believe it changed for the better and introduced me to the 2nd love of my life (after family) gardening and I couldn’t be happier to be inconvenienced by this strange little side kick.

Come again soon – the weather is rubbish again; normal gardening will resume shortly.

Sarah the Gardener  : o)

Today in pictures

Today is Friday and the end of the week.   The work in the garden has cranked up a notch and now instead of just potting about fiddling with this and tinkering with that, it has become heaving lifting, ardous weeding and a significant amount of digging and forking over the soil.  This has me arriving at the end of the week completely exhausted.  So instead of telling you all about it, let me show you in pictures.

sunset

And a busy day at the end of a busy week draws to a close in the most spectacular way.

Come again soon – next week is another week of gardening fun.

Sarah the Gardener  : o)

NB: if you click on the images you can find out more about them.

 

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