SARAH THE GARDENER

Stuck in a Rut

Not in the garden – that still fills me with joy and keeps me busy – although just last week I had barely been out there as the temperatures dropped, the wind picked up and the rain came in sideways!   It probably wasn’t as cold as in the middle of winter when I just accepted it would be cold and just wrapped up warm and got on with it. But when you have experienced a few warm days that hint at the wonderful warmth summer will bring – you can get a little soft when it comes to a shock cold snap.  The good news is the warmth returned bringing the sunshine with it and I’ve made great progress towards catching up.

Vegetable recipe books

I really need to utilise the recipe books on the bookshelf that have been gathering dust.

No – this rut is in the kitchen, and it is down to a number of things.   At the end of a busy day in the garden, the last thing I want to be in the kitchen is adventurous and will quickly rustle up an old favourite that is quick and easy.  The other cooks in the household have their own ‘go to’ recipes as well and so we have easily fallen into a routine of the same old same old.

Swede

There are a few more swede taking up space that need to be eaten before their space is needed for something else.

Another reason is the price of food has gone up – especially with meat.  I can’t remember when we last had a good old roast beef dinner that was a weekly staple when I grew up.   Often, we come home from the supermarket with the same cheap cuts or none at all because we can’t justify the expense.  And when it is on special, we stock up and load the freezer for the weeks when we decide not to buy into the price of it.

Celeriac

I was waiting for the celeriac to get bigger, but I don’t think it will so I guess we should eat it.

Another determining factor is the ‘I don’t like that’ brigade.  The Teen Lads can be quite vocal in their likes and dislikes and not wanting food to go to waste I often cave and cook something ‘more palatable’ to them rather than get into a battle of wills at the table.  Although handy tip for parents of teens – if I intentionally suggest cooking something containing a number of things they don’t like – like for example a pumpkin quiche – which actually to me sounds delish with fresh herbs, bacon and other bits and bobs thrown in for good measure, which I will make one day.  Well… in order to avoid being faced with something so distasteful, the teen will offer to jump in there and cook something else with none of the pre-emptive teen moaning that often comes with being asked to do something…  and we don’t need to worry about cooking dinner. 

Fennel

This fennel is days away from bolting – we need to eat it in a hurry.

Rest assured, nothing from the garden is wasted as I have a ‘I grew it – you’ll eat it’ philosophy.  Most is incorporated into our ‘go to’ meals or becomes a hill to die on at the table.  

Asparagus

The asparagus just keeps coming and we keep eating it.

So, taking all of this into consideration, I want to explore something new.  I want to try and celebrate the garden and negate the expensive meat problem by intentionally creating one plant base dish a week.  Not one thrown together out of necessity – those happen anyway, but one researched from the many vegetarian recipe books I have in my collection from that time was in the UK and went vegetarian to avoid Mad Cow Disease.  Although all these years later I still can’t give blood here in NZ – even though I was a vegetarian.  I can also browse through all the vegetable based cookbooks I bought along the way to inspire me to get creative with the harvest but only ever looked at them! 

Globe artichoke

We love the globe artichoke, but we probably shouldn’t use so much lemonly melted butter to go with them if they’re going to become a daily treat!

These meals will be lovingly planned in advance with no swapping out of ingredients because they weren’t in the pantry.  Sometimes when I wing it – I get away with it and other times the meal is served with a side dish of good intentions and apologies.

Broad beans

And then there are these. Broad beans. I wonder if this will be the year I like them and then get disappointed because I started with 4 plants and only one made it to the end.

Not only will it take cooking from the garden as an after thought which it often sneaks into, but bring it into the process of daily gardening, as much as weeding and watering.  There will be joy in finding a newly ready crop or one heaving with abundance paired up with the perfect recipe and bringing it to the table with joy.   I’ll let you know how I get on.

Come again soon – I have noticed a fennel is ready and I’m sure I’ve seen a great recipe on a page somewhere.

Sarah the Gardener  : o)

 

Getting Stuff Done

What a difference a day can make.   It has been a typical spring week with dramatically horrible days hounded with strong winds, rain coming in sideways and a drop in temperature that can make us believe we are back in the depths of winter – almost but not quite, but after a few warm hopeful days a temperature plunge can call for a little melodrama.  I was toying with the idea of going a little early with planting out my seedlings, but I’m glad I didn’t, they would have hated it.  They are still safe and snug in the greenhouse although growing larger by the day!

Herb bed

The perennial herb bed is now looking a lot more respectable.

Then all of a sudden, the wind dropped, and the temperature rose, and the sun came out and you could almost feel summer on your face, when not in the shadows.   I welcomed these glorious days in at the end of this week like a long lost friend.   I took to the day like a duck to water and began working my way through my overdue list.  I felt like I had to make up for lost time, not only did I lose two days by not going outside at all for fear of being blown away or freezing to death.  Ok it wasn’t quite that bad but once you’ve had a taste of the possibility of summer, it is hard falling back into winter weather so I may have gone a little soft and stayed inside in the warm and dry.

Drying oregano

It won’t take long for the oregano to dry in the greenhouse, but at the same time – plants can dry out easily so I need to watch the watering.

This season I also feel like I’m a little on the back foot as The Palace Garden took much longer than I thought and in my planning I had it down for being finished well before spring preparations began.   Hiring one of the Teen Lads for a few hours a week is helping to catch up as I can get him doing laborious tasks that would take me ages, while I get on with tasks that actually make me feel like I’m pressing ahead.

Sorrel roots

The sorrel roots were quite stubborn to get out.

As my mind is in catch up mode I just got stuck in and didn’t take any before photos.  I kind of wish I had because the changes have made a huge difference.   I keep telling myself once I catch up then I can relax.  I know I’m selling myself a lie because to be honest there is always something new on the list in the garden so there no such thing as getting it all done.  But at least I can get myself to a position where I feel I should be at that time.

Sorrel soup

The sorrel soup tasted better than it looked.

So, in a mad dash to make the most of the time and the weather and get as much done as possible, and probably making for weary bones, I achieved a lot.   The first day back in the garden I tackled my perennial herb garden.   The biggest nightmare was my rosemary loves it too much and had taken over at least a quarter of the herb bed and where its branches has rested upon the soil it had taken root.  So, I trimmed it back to the original stems.  To ensure it didn’t try to take over again I removed all the lower branches, raising its canopy and giving the rest of the garden more space and light!  Hubby the Un-Gardener collected the trimmings and stripped them off to make kebab sticks for the summer BBQs we’ll soon be having.   The rosemary had smothered my French Tarragon and it will be touch and go if it survives but I have my fingers crossed if that at all helps.

Pumpkin bed

This area looks so much more in control than it did before, but you’ll just have to take my word for it.

The oregano was also set for world domination so that got a hard prune.  I popped those trimmings in the greenhouse to dry the leaves so we have a supply of dried oregano in the kitchen should the weather turn nasty again and we don’t want to venture outside – even for fresh herbs.

Irrigation

The irrigation is now on the other side of the bed ready for connection to the network.

The flat leaf parsley was next to get the chop.  It was beginning to bolt, but at that point where there were still a lot of leaves on the plant.  So, I whipped it out, removed all the leaves and then vac-packed them and froze them for that miserable day supply.   I click and collected more flat leaf parsley to go in, and some chives to replace the ones I lost to aphids ages ago when I took my eye of them for long enough for it to be too late to fix.

Weeding with chickens

Turducken the Chicken was an enthusiastic weeder and we worked surprisingly well together.

I also finally removed the sorrel.  It was in there good and took some prying out.  I promised myself if I worked hard in the morning, I could have sorrel soup for lunch.  It turned out quite nice, although not enough to secure a continued place in the herb garden.  So, all I need to do there now is to tickle the soil with some amendments and goodies and its all set for a new season.

weed free

Imagine this bed completely surrounded by weeds, and then look at it now!

The following day down at the other end of the garden became more of a work in progress.  I chopped back some tree lupin that were encroaching on my pumpkin bed, swapped the irrigation pipes from one side of the bed to the other to make it easier to connect it to the network, and did a big well overdue weed – with the help of a chicken and a Teen Lad.  The three of us made short work of the job and I feel a lot closer to where I should be than I was at the start of the week.

Come again soon – the weather forecast for next week is mostly on my side… for now!

Sarah the Gardener  : o)

It’s done

It has been a turbulent week, but not in the way I was expecting.  Going by the weather forecast I was set to be indoors or in my raincoat all week.  But they got it very wrong.  It did rain, but most of it was at night or when I was too knackered to garden anyway so it has been fine by me.

The pond

The wild life pond needs a bit of a dredge…

Most of the week was spent pushing The Palace garden to completion and I’m pleased so say after more than 8 months is done – all bar 2 bags of mulch.  Hopefully it is only 2 bags of mulch I’ll need as that is all I can get through click and collect.  When I realised I didn’t have enough I jumped online and popped several bags of mulch in my cart and the next day when I went to organise it properly I could only get 2 bags in my cart so I snapped them up before they disappeared too.

Autographed paver

The final piece in The Palace garden was my autographed paving stone.

As I was gazing upon what I had created I realised I’d missed an opportunity.  I was in such a hurry to get the holes in the brick path filled with homemade cement pavers I didn’t even think to write my name and the date in the setting cement.  To be honest it isn’t often I create something that looks exactly like how I intended it, without niggly areas of imperfection that jump out at me and bother the heck out of me.  After such a long period of sustained effort to have something I’m so pleased with has come as a bit of a shock.  I couldn’t let the achievement go unmarked so I decided to quickly whip up another paver and etched in my name and the date.

October issue of the Kiwi Gardener Magazine

I was amazed to see the lead picture of my article in the October issue of the Kiwi Gardener Magazine to be a full page image of the rock. I will save the grand reveal of the garden for the December issue of the magazine, but when it comes out I’ll post some images of of the garden having had a couple of months to settle in.

It was important to get this garden finished this week as its progress has been featured in Kiwi Gardener Magazine and this was the final instalment with a deadline.  So my heart sank with all the rain we were supposed to receive.   But now I am overjoyed it is done, and I can use the garden for its considered purpose – quietly sitting and counting my blessings.

Potatoes

The spuds need mounding up.

It also means I can throw all my attention back into the vegie garden and for once and for all bring it up to date with its spring readiness.  Most of the beds are good to go, and the seedlings have been repotted for the last time in their final sized pots.  But there are little jobs all over the place like changing the side of the beds the pumpkin irrigation is on and connect it all up with the berry beds so I can water 6 beds at a time with my irrigation system. 

Slugs in the greenhouse

It would seem I have a problem in the greenhouse. I did a thorough search and evicted 4 slugs and a snail. I hope I found everyone.

Sector 4 is still in desperate need of a general weed and tidy up.  The raspberry runners are all set for world domination.  The pond is choking and needs clearing out and everything needs a general tidy up as it is getting messy in the corners.   I have employed one of the Teen Lads to help get me to be where I want to be and it has been nice to delegate the more laborious tasks while I do fun things. 

seedlings

The last of the small seedlings are crying out to be transplanting into larger pots.

I also need to make a decision to trust the weather or not with my seedlings.  We are frost free, but it can still get nasty here.  Do I go a week or two early knowing things won’t get frozen or wait until the more stable weather arrives in the second half of spring?  The generally recommended safe planting out date is Labour Weekend in the last week of October.  I’m erring towards playing it safe.  It isn’t like my growing season is short and I have to make the most of things – we get long hot summers.  Having said that – If I go early I can get a jump on the pest and disease pressure…  Worrying about this decision will make a change from lying awake at night worrying if I’ll get The Palace finished in time. 

Come again soon – for all things vegetable growing for the next wee while.

Sarah the Gardener  : o)

 A new Month

Although it is already 4 days old.  Mid spring is a turbulent month and is not one to be trusted.  It toys with our heartstrings, showing us just what is possible and then dumps bad weather upon us as if to say” …but you can’t have that yet”.

iris blooms by the pond

Spring is doing its best to cheer me up and there are some beautiful Iris, Poppies and some rain bedraggled calendula brightening up the place with their bold colours, beside the choked wild life pond (its on the list).

If the reminders that pop up on social media are enough to go on this season is already lagging behind by a good couple of weeks compared to previous years.  But even still I’m in a quandary here at our new frostless place.   Do I plant out or not?  The boffins are suggesting the weather will be milder than average this month but with chaotic events.  I planted my well overdue pea seedlings, and the wind came along and tossed them about…  Some didn’t make it.  Fortunately, I have spares but am waiting for a long enough period of stable weather, so they don’t suffer the same fate. 

Empty beds

Most of the beds are empty, ready and waiting. I’m not sure it they are waiting for me or for more settled weather….

Looking ahead the forecast says it will rain all week except tomorrow, but I’m not sure I can trust it.  Last week it said it was going to rain so I did something else for the day that would mean I didn’t get wet, and it didn’t rain, and I was set back a day in my spring garden prep.  It is raining today but I’m sure I can work around it.

Seedlings

The seedlings are also ready and waiting, growing stronger every day. Soon they will be able to withstand what the turbulent season can throw at them… hopefully.

You see the thing is I’m still not ready for spring, so I’ve moved the goal posts and employed one of the teen lads to help.    First, I wanted to be spring ready for the 1st of September because that is the start of spring for most of us here.  But I missed that deadline.  Then I wanted to be spring ready for the equinox but missed that too.  My last chance – well in my mind is the magical planting out long weekend in late October.  This year Labour Day falls on the 25th.  So now I have 21 days to be spring ready.  I’m sure I can make it…  I have a list…

Come again soon – I may be working in the rain – but I have a raincoat. 

Sarah the Gardener  : o)

A spring garden tour

The garden is at that crucial point in the new season where almost everything is ready and waiting to go.  The beds have been prepped, the seeds have been sown and are almost ready to leave the greenhouse and be planted in the soil that is ready for them.  It is that magical in between time, where the garden that was in your head all winter is ready and waiting to burst into life and turn that dream into a reality.

Spring garden

I love the garden at this stage – poised between seasons with more bare earth than not, ready and waiting for the plants of the new season ahead…

So I decided the best way to explain it all was to make a video tour so I could bring you along and chat with you as we wander through the garden together.  As much as I hate to do it, the video is a little on the long side, sorry, but it shows absolutely everything going on in my garden in the start of spring in my New Zealand Garden.  And there is a sneaky tour of the almost finished Rock Garden in The Palace.  It would be like being there.

Globe Artichokes

Along with the asparagus these globe artichokes are suggesting it will be a great season for a good harvest!

Spring is a busy season and so I have a lot to show and tell you.  So, grab some popcorn and settle in for a large helping of spring hope, optimism, expectation and excitement before the reality of the season gets going.

Come and see…  I’d love for you to join me in my garden:

Filmed here on the West Coast of the North Island of New Zealand, slightly below but not in Auckland on Saturday 25 of September on a glorious day sandwiched between a load of really not nice ones.

Come again soon – the planting will begin shortly.

Sarah the Gardener  : o)

Supplies are on the way!

The drop to level three couldn’t have come sooner.  Not only for the health and wellbeing of all the kiwis who have put in the hard yards to get us to this point, but also, I was beginning to get desperate for all the things I needed to carry on gardening as normally as I can.

transplanting

First step – cover the bottom of the pot with potting mix.

The moment we dropped to level three I put in a click and collect order at my favourite local garden supply place.  It was quite the list, at quite the price.  However, if you rationalise the money by dividing over the 5 weeks we’d been in lockdown you can almost say it wasn’t too bad.  In normal times I may not have even noticed it!  I decided to pick the collect option not the delivery one as the delivery fee was a little on the large side.  Before I hit ‘go to checkout’ I double checked with Hubby the Un-Gardener to see if it would all fit in his vehicle.  He’ll be the one heading out to get it as he is our designated shopper.

transplanting

Then place a full small pot in the big pot and fill the big pot with potting mix. Remove the small pot and remove the seedling from its small pot and slide it in place!

While this news and excitement has brightened my week, the weather hasn’t.  It has been cold and miserable.  So far, this spring has flip flopped all over the place – one moment it is in the very high teens if not warmer and I’m in a tee-shirt wearing sunscreen, the next I’m in a woolly jumper with a beanie and thick socks.  It is making it tricky to maintain a constant temperature in the greenhouse for all my seedlings – but it never gets to the point of frost so the worst that can happen is they could sulk for a day or two until it warms up again.

transplanting

Then they got a soak and a feed before spending time on the draining rack

To celebrate my impending delivery, I broke out my very last bag of potting mix that I was saving for an emergency – and I used the lot!  I had a whole afternoon free to garden to my hearts content.  I have things on the list I would have liked to have done, like nail the weeding for once and for all so I can slip back into my gentle rhythm of taking care of tiny weeds once a week in each sector.  All but a couple of beds are ready to go for the season and it wouldn’t take more than an hour or two on a nice day to get that done.  But the weather was nasty, and the greenhouse was the logical choice to while away the afternoon.

seedlings

Most of these seedlings will be moved out of the seed trays in the next couple of days – once I get my new supply of potting mix.

I noticed the roots were coming out of the bottom of some of the pots, so it was time to transplant them into bigger pots.  I got myself into a nice little groove.  First, I would wash the big pots in a bucket of water – I should have done it during the winter, but I ran out of time.  I worked in small batches so as I pulled scrubbed pots out of the bucket, I replaced them with the same number so they could get a bit of a soak before I was ready for the next lot.

seedlings

These seedlings aren’t part of the line up as they have been hardening off and desperately need to go into the ground – which weather dependent should be in the next few days.

I took the clean pots and put a layer of potting mix in the bottom.  Because the plants are larger and more robust than the last time I transplanted them, I didn’t need to sieve it to get rid of the chunky bits, which saved plenty of time and potting mix.  I grabbed some of the small pots and filled them to the top with potting mix and placed them in the big pots sitting on the soil and then firmed in more potting mix around the sides.  Then I eased the little pot out, leaving a hole in the middle of the big pot.

rolled leaves

Plants can roll their leaves as a protective mechanism when the temperatures are too low to be comfortable for them.

The seedlings were eased out of their small pots – with as little disturbance as possible and slotted into the hole in the big pot.  It fit like a glove and all I needed to do was tap it down and the wee seedling wouldn’t have even noticed it had been moved.  I did notice a few of the leaves had nibble marks in them so I thoroughly checked them over during the process and evicted 3 slugs and a handful of slaters.

Purple leaves

The undersides of the tomatoes are a little purple. This is also a protective measure when it is cold. When it warms up again they will go back to a normal shade of green.

Once I had filled all the pots with seedlings, I then took them over to another station in my production line and soaked them in a deep tray with plant food and seaweed tonic in it.  The seaweed helps with transplant shock and stress and a fast-food meal will help them settle in – a bit like a housewarming gift.  They stayed soaking in there until I’d been through the whole process with another small batch and then it was time for them to come out and drain on a rack.  They stayed there, dripping their excess into a tray below until the next small batch needed to come out of the soak.

Fennel the Cat

It is important to always check the lower shelves before watering in the greenhouse!

The next bit is all a bit of a jiggle.  It is so easy to go overboard with sowing seeds because they don’t take up that much room.  But you transplant them out of the seed trays into small pots and all of a sudden, the greenhouse feels full.  But this is nothing compared to plants in bigger pots because not only are the pots larger but so are the plants!  So, I needed to rearrange everything so there was a strange kind of logic to it.

A seasons worth of plants

With each session in the greenhouse the plants creep further around the shelving – There is a chance I may run out of space if I’m not careful.

I worked away happily, and the sun and the rain fought with each other all afternoon, until I ran out of potting mix.  But that’s ok I’ll have more tomorrow.  Which is just as well as there are a load more that need their first transplant from seed raising mix into small pots.  And I have a load of spare small pots after today efforts.  If the weather isn’t nice again tomorrow, I know what I’ll be doing.

Come again soon – I’ll have so many supplies I won’t know where to start.

Sarah the Gardener  : o)

The Long List of Things I Need

I have a long list of things I absolutely need as soon as we get out of lockdown level 4.  Level 3 is still pretty high security but it frees up what can be bought – it doesn’t need to be essential but it needs to be done in a contactless way.

I’m figuring if I make my list big enough my local friendly hardware store will contactlessly drop it all off.  We’ll have to give them call to see…

iris blooms by the pond

I’m so pleased that a couple of weeks ago I liberated the iris bulbs from their pots where I plonked them in the autumn. They are now blooming beside the wildlife pond in their forever spot.

The thing is, this isn’t some spur of the moment last minute list of things I have decided to do while being in lockdown.  These are things I would have just popped out and picked up in the course of normal gardening activities and for projects I have underway.  The scary thing is to add up all of the items that would have just been absorbed in small amounts into my weekly expenditure alongside coffee out and fuel and a pie on the run…  To see it all listed out as what I would have purchased and will have to pay for in one shot, is kind of shocking.

Asparagus quiche

Todays lunch came about because there were asparagus spears in the garden that just had to be eaten. I turned them into asparagus, potato and ham crustless quiche and it was delish!

Most of the items on their own don’t cost much at all and my garden budget can easily absorb $10 here and $20 there over a sensible period of time.  By the time I can get my hands on these items it would have been at least 5 weeks worth of not buying anything in the busiest time of the year as a gardener.   I guess I would have saved a lot in fuel by not taking multiple trips into town to buy these things as I needed them.   That should make things feel a little better.

Peanuts

I finally got around to sowing my peanuts after having them on the list for ages. It only took a moment, I wonder what I was waiting for?

I’m more of a spur of the moment kind of girl and will race out to get what I need for a new and exciting project.  Or I’m a procrastinator and will know what I need but the hassle of the procurement process, the reluctance to part with the cash, or just a busy life can prevent me from getting the resources I actually need.   In normal circumstances this isn’t really a problem because eventually something will happen to prod me into action.

Fennel the Cat

Fennel the Cat – Guardian of the greenhouse.

But these aren’t normal times and I need to become more like a squirrel and know what I need before I need it and store it away ready and waiting.  You just never know when things will no longer be available.  Life’s conditions should prompt a change in behaviour – not only doing things to keep us safe, but also so we can operate as normal as we can under trying circumstances.  I’m not saying I should horde things, but I know what I need for most things well in advance so I should just go out and get them without waiting around for the stars to be aligned.  I need to be like my grandmother saving string, rubber bands and brown paper, because you never know when you will need it.  Hopefully my one-day grandchildren living ‘normal’ lives won’t find this a little odd.

Carrot seedlings

I’m at this awkward crossroad where I only have two carrot seedlings up. I have to decide are these the only ones that decided to germinate and should sow more seed, or assume these are just the eager beavers who popped up first and the others will come – even though it has been a while. I guess I should be pleased that although there are only two they are in a nice row.

So in the meantime – here is my list for my current needs and to finish projects started well before we were locked away and for normal gardening activities in my garden.  It is probably not everything and I expect I will add to it before the decision is made to release us from this level (or not) next week.

  • 4 bags post hole concrete
  • 4 bags of cement to make pavers
  • Rebar
  • Waratahs
  • Lots of Paper cups (could probably get these at the supermarket)
  • A lot of Potting mix
  • A lot of Compost
  • Roll of black plastic mesh large
  • Roll of black plastic mesh small
  • 4 sheets Clear roofing
  • Enviromesh
  • Blue paint
  • Grey paint
  • Screws
  • Mulch
  • Wood for windbreak
  • Large pavers
  • Windbreak fabric
  • Neta end drippers
  • Neta in line drippers
  • 4mm irrigation tube
  • 13mm irrigation tube
  • Windbreak clips
  • Cable ties
  • Roll of brushwood screen

Come again soon – I still have plenty that can be done without the items on the list.

Sarah the Gardener  : o)

Small Picture Thinking  

For the last wee while I have been Big Picture Thinking, with my drive to get spring ready.  But now we are in spring and as the garden wakes from its winter dormancy I’m finding things are moving fast.   There is no room for standing there waxing lyrical about big projects and collective tasks required to complete things. 

Native plants

It is such a relief to finally see these plants in the ground! I’ll bet they’re happy to be in the ground too!

The time has come for a list less situation where I just need to instinctively respond to what needs to be done.  It might not be seeing a chore right through to the end, but just do what needs to be done right now – to halt the march of weeds, to move seedlings on to the next stage of the process or just to pick up windswept rubbish in one corner. 

Planting around the rock

I love the way the plants look around the rock, it is just as I imagined!

The control freak in me isn’t happy about it as I like to start a task, work all the way through it to completion and stand back and admire it all proudly.  This doing a bit here and a bit there is sort of satisfying because it is a means to an end and lots of things are being tackled across the garden instead of just one.  Collectively the whole garden will benefit as eventually everything will be taken care of in good time, not just one after the other. 

Tomato seedlings

The tomato seedlings look like they are ready for a next level new home.

It started yesterday – accidentally.  I don’t normally work on a Sunday, but with a week riddled with bad weather and a weary body crying out for rest, not much was done last week.  Things were done, but just not as much as I would have liked.  So, Hubby the Un-Gardener suggested he help me out with a few things to get ahead this week.   The first job was finally planting all the small native trees I’d been picking up on special here there and everywhere for ages but never got around to planting them in the native tree wind break planting in front of the house.  They were beginning to burden me with guilt.  But they are in the ground now and I can relax – although will have to remember to water them in summer.

Tomato seedlings

The root structure on the tomato seedlings is coming along nicely.

Then he set me up planting out the first stage of The Palace.  I wasn’t going to, but the wind had swept out some of the sand around the rock and was destablising the bricks, so we decided to top it up with compost and other goodies and plant the lawn chamomile to hold it all together.  It didn’t take long and looks stunning! 

Seaweed tonic

The seedlings enjoy a good soak in seaweed tonic

Today – Monday, the first day of the week is always a busy computer gardening day and I often lose the entire morning to my keyboard.   After some lunch I decided to just let the garden tell me what needed to be done, keeping my routine concept in the back of my mind.  But the first call to action was in the greenhouse.  There were quite a few seedlings that needed moving on into bigger pots.  So, I set up my little production line where I wash the pots – I should have done this during the winter, but strangely enough time is fleeting in the winter.  Then I soaked my old plastic milk bottle labels in a jar of methylated spirits to remove the ink from crops long gone.  I prepared a deep tray of seaweed tonic and a drip tray beside it with a rack on top.   Then I sifted my coarse but only available potting mix with my handy dandy homemade out of desperation sieve, made from an ice cream container, some cable ties, and some old gutter mesh. 

Greenhouse seedlings

The greenhouse is filling up, but I suspect the mostly empty seed trays will begin to bother me if we don’t see any green action soon.

Then I slowly began the process of moving the plants that were big enough from the seed trays into small individual pots, because you don’t want to make too big a leap in pot size and it doesn’t need as much potting mix.   As each pot was filled and labelled it was immersed in the seaweed tonic from the bottom up, to settle the roots and help reduce the stress of transplant shock, then after 10 minutes or so it was lifted out to drain on the rack over the empty tray and eventually moved to a spot on the greenhouse shelf.  It took a lot longer than I had anticipated but I wasn’t in a hurry.  A good job is a job done well. 

weedy path

It doesn’t look too bad, but the weeds are starting to take over.

Non weedy path

All the weeds have been removed now and I could have raked it over, but at this stage just being weed free is good enough.

Now almost half the top shelf of the greenhouse is filled with seed trays and small seedlings.  I did hear some timely advice – about a week too late, to say that it is a good idea to sow seeds with similar expected germination times in the same trays.  Ideally using a small batch concept of grouping like with like.  Unfortunately, I have a load of seed trays that have 60 cells and is really convenient to use.  But at this point, from the early sowing sessions most of the seedlings have been moved on except one or two varieties.  Which means I have these enormous seed trays, mostly empty waiting for a row or two to pop up.   This may be a problem if they don’t pop up soon as peak spring greenhouse space is at a premium! 

Vegetables from the garden for dinner

In an attempt to clear the garden for new season crops we are eating everything we can from the garden. This lot is for tonight’s dinner.

After a good satisfying session in the greenhouse, I was considering calling it a day, but walking past sector 1 filled me with guilt.  I haven’t touched it in weeks.  So, I convinced myself to just weed the path that runs across the front and as sector 2 is sorted I can spend a little more time on it tomorrow.   I’m so pleased I did; it doesn’t look half as daunting now.

And now the day can end.

Come again soon – who knows what I’ll do next.

Sarah the Gardener  : o)

Cement is not essential

Except it is for me…  I need it.  But here in lockdown level 4 the local shops aren’t selling it.  All I can hope is we nip this thing in the bud – and all signs show we can, and we are, so as soon as we drop a level, I can race out to the hardware store and contactlessly grab some cement.   For many folks, the level drop means takeaways, but nope – not for me. 

The end of the road

Finally I got to end of the path. It was so satisfying to get it finished.  This project as certainly been a labour of love.

I’ve been working on The Palace Garden.  I’m not sure there is a need for cement in the veggie patch, well not at this point.  But the efforts up there in The Palace haven’t really come at the expense of time spent in with the veggies as I’ve tried to be diligent and stick to my plan.   I say tried as it hasn’t been complete smooth sailing. 

Fennel the Cat

Fennel the Cat is already making the most of the space I have created, doing what I intended should happen up there… relaxing.

Last Monday was snarled up with bad weather and computer gardening and I barely had time to set foot out there.  Yesterday – another Monday, I did set foot in the garden, but thought I would quickly sow the next batch of seeds – the cucumbers, zucchini and pumpkins and then get onto sector one.  But some of the earlier seedlings caught my eye, they were calling out to me like a kid with shoes one size too small.  They needed transplanting into bigger pots.  Well, I couldn’t ignore them.

Seed sowing

This was the last major push in the seed sowing sessions. I expect there will be a few more seeds sown for non starters and the inevitable forgotten ones.

It turned out there were quite a few that benefited from an upsize to a new home and I was there a lot longer than I expected to be.   It is all very well when sowing seeds to think – oh a couple more won’t hurt.  But when you extrapolate that across all the seed varieties you sow, you end up with an awful lot more seedlings to tend to than you had planned for.  Another reason to hope for a lockdown level drop sooner rather than later, so I can pass on my excess seedlings to good homes.

So, sector one is still in desperate need of a weed and a bit of love.   

transplanted seedlings

This is the first batch of seedlings stretching their roots. I’m going a little easy one the potting mix though for fear of running out before the lockdown levels drop.

Today – the 2nd Tuesday since I turned my focus away from projects and towards the routine of the garden, is rainy.  But not to be foiled – I took care of sector 2 last Tuesday and it looks spick and span and good to go for the new season.  I also managed to sort out Sector 3, but this happened across the Wednesday and the Thursday as it was bigger than I thought, and I had overdone things a little and needed to take things easy.

Seeds and seedlings

The ever expanding greenhouse bench is filling with seeds and seedlings.

But this meant Sector 4 missed out on Thursday, but it is a small sector so it shouldn’t be too hard to catch up on.  And Friday ended up being another take it easy day as it is always important to listen to your body and when it is telling you with everything it has got, to stop and rest, I’ve found in my experience it is best to listen.  But I was ok with this because there are still at least 6 weeks before the garden gets fully planted out and with 40% of the garden good to go, then there is no need to panic just yet. 

Sector 2

Having whole sectors sorted and ready to go makes it all feel good.

Saturday rolled around and while weekends are generally no-garden family days, lockdown seems to have thrown the calendar right out the window and it can be hard to tell which day is which – probably why I need a good routine with my sectors, so I know where I am.  “Weeding the garlic – oh it’s Wednesday!”  But besides – having everyone home 24-7 means we already see a lot of each other, so we spent the day doing our own things. 

Father's day breakfast

Adding edible flowers to Hubby the Un-Gardener’s Father’s day breakfast is like sprinkling it with love.

So, I made a good push on The Palace and finished the path.  Well mostly finished.  I came up with a design that would stretch the bricks I had to make the path as long as I wanted it to be.  This meant a series of large holes in the middle of the path.  My intention was to fill them with cement paving stones to finish it off.  But I don’t have any cement and can’t get any.   I did toy with the idea of planting a footstep tolerant plant, but it isn’t part of the plan, and I wouldn’t have been happy with that.  It would have bothered me.  Although I have a deadline looming, I am going to push on with the plan and hope we drop a level in time. 

The beach

I love the beach at lockdown – it feels like we’ve got it to ourselves. Although it isn’t like it is normally crowded.

The new focus up in The Palace is the planting.  But the weather this week has a wind warning so maybe the windbreak should come first.  It makes more sense, but the plants are much more fun and have been in their pot’s way too long…

log on the beach

I love the pattern on this log we found on the beach. I am so grateful for the teen lads who lugged it all the way home.

We did get some family time.  The calendar jumble lockdown brings meant we almost missed Father’s Day.  Hubby the Un-Gardener did get his bacon and eggs – with fresh asparagus and garnished with edible flowers to make it feel special.  We took a long walk on the beach at the front of our place as family and one of the teen lads ended up lugging back a lovely bit of wood I found and maybe one day will do something with it if I get the time.   Hubby the Un-Gardener didn’t get any gifts as the opportunity for shopping was lost, so we promised we’d do it all over again when it was possible.

The garden view

At this point seeing so many empty beds is a good thing – it means they are ready and waiting. Soon enough they will be bursting into life.

So here I am with the week stretching ahead of me with a weather warning, but exhausted from what gardening efforts I have achieved, and a little anxious of what has still to be done.  But that is probably how it should be after the first week of spring.  I’m on the right track.

A rewarding end to the day

There is nothing better than sitting on the swing seat at the end of the day with a chilled drink as a reward for all the hard work. I suspect more days will end like this as the season progresses.

Come again soon – let see how much I can do with limited resources in a soggy week ahead. 

Sarah the Gardener  : o)

Spring starts this week

That heading has so many emotions all tied up in it:

“Hooray the warmer weather is on the way”

“…But I’m not ready…”

“Ohh so much hope and expectation – surely it will be a good season”

“I’m so excited for all the possibilities”

“Brace yourself for all the work”

“Yay Yay, Yay, and Yay!”

The push in the garden this winter to get to this point has been enormous.  I have achieved or am on the way to achieving some pretty large projects.  For some, they were at the luxury of the warmth of indoors with computer gardening projects and others were out in the cold doing the graft.   When I look back over the winter as a whole, I’m actually pleased with all I have achieved, and should try not to beat myself up over the things I’ve not yet done.  Rome wasn’t built in one day – I’m just a gardener with occasional help Hubby the Un-Gardener and a couple of reluctant teen lads.

The garden

The garden as it stands at the end of winter.

I told myself last week was the last week for focusing on big projects and this week I am to turn the tables to regular routines again.  And here we are on day one of this new week and I have been foiled by the weather.  It’s raining outside.  It hasn’t always been raining, this morning was lovely, but the start of my day was filled with essential computer gardening – and it would seem I’ve missed my window.  Not a great start but there is always tomorrow.

Fruit sector in poor repair

Before: The fruit sector in poor repair

Last week I alternated my path building in The Palace and manage to create another couple of sections.  There are only 2 more to go and I’m sure I’ll be able to fit them in somewhere in this new schedule.   And in the in between days, I got Hubby the Un-Gardener’s help and we repaired the broken strawberry bed and built a temporary anti-eddy windbreak.  I wanted to build a nice wooden permanent structure, but lockdown got in the way.  I had the forethought to grab windbreak fabric in my mad dash to the garden centre on the eve of lockdown and in hindsight it is probably best to give it a season with the fabric before investing in something more expensive in case it doesn’t work.   Although by my calculations the entire fruit section will benefit from the new protection.

Repairing the strawberry bed

First we carefully removed the wooden edges and levelled out the sandy path to undo the harm caused by the wind and then put the wooden edges back.

Building a windbreak

Next we put up a frame structure for the anti-eddy windbreak

anti-eddy windbreak

We stood back and proudly surveyed the wonderful windbreak we made.

I also had to listen to myself and have a little rest for a day or two, because I pushed myself too hard – I knew I was dancing a little too close to a bout of MSsy fatigue, but I really wanted to get things done.  Sometimes I’m my own worst enemy.   Since then, I’ve made sure I’ve taken plenty of breaks along the way and have taken to sitting on the swing seat for the numerous cups of tea Hubby the Un-Gardener brings me.  Mental note to self – round up all the cups in the garden while everyone thinks they are in a teen lad’s bedroom!

Fruit sector repaired

After: the Fruit sector repaired with the anti-eddy windbreak. All I have to do now is sort out the actual plants.

This new start to a new season will look similar to last season, because it works for me.  The garden is divided into 5 groups and on a Monday, I only take care of the needs of sector 1.  Tuesday is sector 2 and so on.  There will be a bit of a catch up to be done as over the last few weeks or so, I’ve kind of neglected all the essential parts of the garden because I was focusing on projects.  So, each day I will spend my energies getting the sectors back into shape.  But if I don’t get it all done, I can do it the next week.  Spring may start this week, but there is still plenty of time before all the beds are occupied so I mustn’t panic.

A lovely garden view across to the pond

It was so delightful to look across the garden and see the light bouncing off the flowers and the wildlife ponds…

The great thing about gardening is nothing is ever urgent, there is always tomorrow and if push comes to shove there is always next season.  If you get something to eat at the end of your efforts, you have reached success.

Come again soon – winter will be behind us, and spring will stretch out ahead.

Sarah the Gardener : o)

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