SARAH THE GARDENER

It will be windy there

This is the most common comment we have heard when we tell people we have moved to the west coast.  And I have to admit that at times it can be very blowy.  Like that time our house was up on jacks having its foundations put in and we ended up facing 212 km/h winds.  But that was a one off – a one in forty year storm apparently.  The house stood up to it just fine and so when the wind picks up, we can have confidence in the safety of our home.

Rough seas

On days like these days you know you are alive!

So, with everyone declaring our new home as a high wind zone, it is important for us not to take ownership of it.  We don’t have exclusive rights to the wind.  When it is windy here it is also windy elsewhere.  The start of this new month has been a bit of a shocker wind wise and there has been minor damage in my patch, but the goat rampage caused more harm and all going well things will recover.   In the last four days the boffins suggest the wind has gusted between 44 and 85km/h an hour in our area.  Although they are including quite a large part of the region in this area. We are not alone in the windy conditions.

calm seas

On a good day – of which there are many, this is the most amazing place to be.

But looking further afield to the bottom of the country their wind gust averages were the same as ours and in the middle of the country some places got up to 96km/h.  Pictures across the great big internet showed disturbing images of broken plants – snapped off at the base, trees down across roads and greenhouses in varying states of destruction.  But here in our little bubble of paradise with the wind whipping past the house with an angry howling noise, it is easy to claim what has been said about this place with it being a windy spot.  But we need to look beyond ourselves – we are getting off lightly and others have it far worse.  It may be windy here, but we are not the only ones.

But the wind isn’t the only climatic option available to nature and some days you look out onto the ocean and see it as calm as a mill pond with barely a ripple.  You have to question yourself – is this the Tasman sea or are we beside a lake?  There are days with hardly a breath of wind and it is magical, and all things seem possible as the sun beats down on a blue sky day.

Seedlings

While the pallet wrap temporarily wrapped around the dome is slowing unraveling, it has served its purpose in protecting tiny vulnerable seedlings. The glass will be here soon enough.

The other thing that needs to be considered is the area that encompasses this region, also includes our old house and so the data provided is based on averages and already we have learnt things are very different here and there.  Another thing I need to ask myself, as it is our first season here, is it a normal season?  Are having an extraordinary season or not?  It is hard to know.  The best way to really know is to keep records and while the boffin’s data is interesting it may not be accurate for here, so I have asked Father Christmas to consider a weather station for me when deciding if I have been naughty or nice.  I’m not normally this early with my wish list, but while it is on my mind…

Windswept popcorn

I don’t hold out great hopes for this popcorn, but a few juice bottles would have kept them safe from harm. Lesson learnt.

In the meantime, I will need to feel my way around this new season and make wise and calculated decisions to protect my crops.    I already have a tried and tested system for my sweetcorn with a contraption of bamboo poles and string woven through the bed as there was always a wind that came through just as the pollen was falling from the tassels to the silks.  So, it would seem I will still need to do this to keep the corn upright.

Spare tomatoes

Another lesson learnt the hard way from ages ago is to keep spare plants until you know for certain the ones in the garden will be ok.

I think I may need to look a temporary cloche for at risk seedlings when the wind gets up.  Normally when my kids tell me they are thirsty I direct them to the tap.  There is nothing wrong with water.  However, I have an ulterior motive and will become mum of the year as 3L juice bottles with the bottoms cut off will do the cloche job nicely.  A bamboo stake poked through will hold it in place and a ping pong ball on the top will protect my eyes from being poked out.   I shouldn’t need too many and once I have them, I can reuse them time and time again.  And the kids will go back to water.

Garden fence

The gaps in the fence will be a great host to wind break cloth when the need arises.

The tall posts in the fence that will have wires between them to keep the deer out, but not create a sense of an enclosed garden can be used to support wind break material that I can temporarily put up in times of imminent wind.  The house itself goes a long way towards blocking wind but it does whip around the sides so some clever plantings around the place should help.

I suspect I will need to protect my garden in other ways, from birds, from the baking sun and other threats as yet unknown.  But the best part of having a garden is the learning the comes with it.  You never know everything and in a new environment this couldn’t be clearer.

Come again soon – the boffins are suggesting it will be a long hot summer.

Sarah the Gardener  : o)

 

Oh and…  I’m starting voice recording my blog again so you can listen along instead of reading it.  I started this a while ago and then my phone, which makes a great recording, needed to go into the shop for repairs and I stopped before I had even started.

You can check this out here:

How do you eat an elephant?

A spoonful at a time!

While most of the garden is still very new and either recently planted or still to be planted, there are some crops that have been in for ages.  The onion and the garlic were the first to go in and have been there since mid-winter.  The old adage, plant on the shortest day and harvest on the longest is a good guide as these plants really need the winter chill as part of their life cycle.  I like to grow enough onion and garlic to last at least a year and in an ideal season we almost make it to summer before the stored harvest runs out.  One season the harvest was so bad, what was supposed to be a year’s worth of onion ended up as pickles in two small jars!  You win some and you lose some.  This year the crops are looking good and I think the sea air is working its magic to keep the downy mildew out of the onions and the rust out of the garlic.  They are shaping up to be my best harvest yet!

elephant garlic scapes

I made a brave move and removed all the budding flowers from my elephant garlic.

Along side these basics I am also growing some fun onions and garlic, ones that are just a tad more interesting than something that is so common it gets called a pantry staple and not even given much of a thought as it is added to the daily meal.  Fun crops like shallots – I love the way they split themselves as they grow to become so much more than they started as.   And elephant garlic, because it is just so big!  As I dig it up each season, I marvel at the enormity of it compared to the standard garlic.  In some seasons it has been the garlic staple as rust decimated the normal crop, resulting in bulbs not worth the effort peeling to reveal the miniature cloves within.  But as they are more closely related to leek, they don’t have that same pungent flavour and so in a normal season, half a dozen is a good number to grow for the novelty value.

steaming elephant garlic scapes

Steaming them is a nice way to prepare them to bring out the best of the scapes.

Elephant garlic has a dramatic presence in the garden with its architectural structure and one of these features is the beautiful pompom flowers that tower above the plant.  I knew you should remove them as soon as you see them if you want to have bigger bulbs, but to do that would mean missing out on the flower display that can go on for a long time as they make lovely dried flowers for winter arrangements.  So, I’d always left them attached to the plant.

steaming elephant garlic scapes

I steamed them in a large colander over a large pot of boiling water with a lid on, for 10 minutes alongside the asparagus we had been given

For whatever reason with my garlic I had always ended up with soft neck varieties and would go through an envious phase as I saw others harvesting and eating scapes from the hard neck varieties.   This year I am excited to see scapes forming among the leaves of my early garlic planted around Easter, so I can finally find out what all the fuss is about.  But this scape envy got me thinking about the flower buds on the elephant garlic and I decide to see if these could be treated the same way and cooked up and eaten.  There was nothing to lose – except the flowers but had the compensation of bigger bulbs forming deep within the earth.    So, I grabbed my secateurs, in case the stem was woody, which is wasn’t and nipped out all the flower buds just above the last leaf emerging from the stem.  I considered leaving a couple to compare the size of the growth verse the ones that had been cut, but I got greedy – what if they are good?

steaming elephant garlic scapes

Ideally I would have liked to dress them with melted butter and lemon juice because it would have given a lovely clean, crisp flavour but I didn’t have any lemons so I grabbed some balsamic vinegar to go with the melted butter and it gave it a rich coating to compliment the delicate flavour of the scapes.

I thought long and hard about how I would treat this ‘new to me’ harvest.  I could have pickled it, made pesto, deep fried with tempura batter or roasted it.  But I didn’t want to over complicate things.  I wanted these flower buds to be the star, so I could decide whether or not it was actually worth doing.  So, I decided to steam them along with some asparagus from my old garden, kindly brought to me by the lovely new people at our old house.

empty plate

And within moments this new found delicacy was gobbled up, with no more in sight for a really long time.

Add the verdict – I need to grow so much more elephant garlic just for this simple pleasure.  It was delicious. A light tender garlic flavour but with the texture of asparagus.  It was amazing and now I have to wait a whole year before I can enjoy that delightful experience again!

Come again soon – November has been off to a bit of a rough start but all going well it will settle down soon.

Sarah the Gardener  : o)

There ARE tomatoes in October!

I’ve cut it fine, but it is still technically October and I have just planted my tomatoes in the garden.  This is so much more than the usual tomato planting session that happens every spring.  This one is special and holds such significance for me.

tomato seedling

Ahhwah… bless.  It looks so small and vulnerable

Last season I had to walk away from my lovingly nurtured tomato plants before the fruit had even thought about turning red.  It was a sad moment as there were varieties I’d not tried before and then there were old faithful favourites that I wouldn’t be without.  There were some with an emotional connection like the Linda’s Lemony Tomatoes that were passed down to me in a dried-up tissue from a family member who had saved them one season, only to have lost a rapid battle with cancer before she could sow them again.  I will always grow these in memory of her.   I knew the new folk who bought our house would appreciate my efforts, but it was bitter sweet as I wasn’t able to appreciate my efforts.

Empty bed

With all the goodies mixed in, this is an empty bed filled with potential.

When we first arrived here in the middle of January, I saw where the garden was to be and could immediately see past the rough state of the land and could actually see in my head the finished garden.  I couldn’t even begin work until after Easter and in the enormity of it all I kept telling myself ‘There will be tomatoes in October.’   At times the work seemed insurmountable and I would scarcely believe it and other times it seemed like a given.

Tomato support structure

Weaving the washing line wire through all the holes is a tedious job, but it is worth it in the end.

The effort was beginning to wear me down and my MSsy fatigue was making its presence felt and things were beginning to feel hopeless.  Along with the fact my tomatoes were so much smaller than normal even though I started them at the usual time.  It was a funny old spring.  But Hubby the Un-Gardener has come to my rescue and is mixing in the compost, blood and bone, well-rotted sheep manure and the Yates Dynamic Lifter.  His man strength can do it so much quicker than my weary body.  I have challenged him to two beds a day – give or take and he is mostly keeping up.  I can then follow behind and do the fun part.  The planting.

Tomato support structure

All strung up and waiting for the plants. I do need to add more string to the top layers or rebar but it doesn’t need to be as strong as the wire, it is just to keep the plant tips under control.

He started off with the more pressing beds – brassicas (which I still haven’t planted) the salad, the odds and sods as the popcorn seedlings really needed to get in there so it wouldn’t cross with the sweetcorn, whose bed he also dug over so I could sow the seeds so they wouldn’t cross with the painted mountain corn I intend so sow in a month and plant out once I harvest the garlic.  I think I’ll get him to do the flowers next, the cosmos is trying to bloom in their pots!  But the last bed he did was the tomato one and checking with the plants, I decided the time was right.

Irrigation

Setting up the irrigation first is easier so the plants don’t get disturbed and the spacing is perfect for the positioning of the plants.

I had to go out and purchase my structure materials as my original set was left at the old place supporting the plants.  I have tried all manner of method to keep the plants upright over the years and have found making a bit of a fence out of T shaped warratah stakes and washing line wire works best.  Especially as I aim for single stem plants every season but it never happens but there is plenty of room on the wires to tie in a medusa headed tomato.  I also cable tie some 2 metre rebar to the warratahs so I can string further supports across the length of the bed for that wild whippy growth up tall.  It is hard to imagine at this point the tiny plants will need it, but when they get there it will be hard to imagine they were ever this small.

Tomato seedlings and seaweed tonicTTomato seedlings and seaweed tonic

Once I selected the ‘chosen ones’ it seems like there was quite the excess of seedlings in the dome. After soaking them in some seaweed tonic to help avoid transplant shock and help the roots to establish, they took their place in the garden.

I like to plant my tomatoes in alphabetical order so if anything happens to the labels then I can have a good guess at who is who.  I’m growing them from A to Z starting with a delightful Artisan Blush and ending with a Zapotec.  I grew the Zapotec for the first time last year but never got to try it and then forgot all about it.  So, it is the only one I haven’t planted yet as I started it off late, but it is getting there and there is a place for it at the end of the bed.  I also have spares and backups, more than I need thanks to my impatient and unnecessary resowing earlier in spring so once I know my plants in the garden will be ok then I will gift my extras to deserving people.

Garden sign

The last act I do with each bed as they are completed I take great pleasure in popping in the sign.

The tomatoes are in, it feels like the garden is coming together.  It won’t be long until I enjoy that taste of fresh tomato, still warm from the sun.   Very soon the garden will match the vision I have long held in my head.

Come again soon – with Hubby the Un-Gardener’s help the garden will be planted in no time.

Sarah the Gardener : o)

But what about the pumpkins?

 The seeds were sown the other day, more than a few weeks beyond when I would have normally sown them.  But I’m not worried because not only is their bed not ready, it hasn’t been filled or even built because I’m still umming an erring as to its location.  This delay has a knock on effect for the irrigation of the rhubarb, globe artichokes and yams.  The final position of the pumpkins will determine the most effect route for the irrigation pipes and therefore the orientation of the header pipe the drippers will come from in these beds.  At this point it could be North, South, East or West!

Irrigation conundrum

The irrigation system for the Yams, Globe Artichokes and Rhubarb is in limbo until I know what is going on with the pumpkins.

I have allowed a generous 6 metre long bed, that’s one metre wide.  The plan is to let the pumpkins grow out into a large area beyond the bed, so they can sprawl to their hearts content.  This is the last bed to be built because the last of the soil was sitting on their spot.  I just couldn’t visualise it.  I asked everyone what they thought:  East – West or North – South?  I tried moving it around on my plan and thought I had it right.  Then I went outside and tried to imagine the plan in action.

garden layout

This looks about right…

The problem is the top end of the garden is narrower than the bottom end. Continuing with the orderly soldier like rows of the bottom half positions the pumpkin bed weirdly in the space available. It isn’t aesthetically pleasing, or it finds itself smack bang in the centre of the path to the chicken coop. Both of these options aren’t suitable and so will bother me for the rest of my days if I rush this decision.

garden layout

In line with the front of the fruit cage…

The fruit cage – well it will be one when I build a structure over it, but for now it is a collection of fruit beds in various states of preparedness, runs opposite to the rest of the garden.  But it is behind the dome and it is symmetrical within itself and once enclosed will be its own thing within the garden.   It is just the space on the other side of the path to the chicken coop that needs thought.

building beds

Now to whack it all together…

It is a good sized space – over 8 metres in one direction, but it tapers so it is just over three metres at the top and about 6 metres at the other end.   It is just where to put this bed without it looking silly.  I don’t really want to angle it along the taper as it will ruin the aesthetic of the whole garden, but logically this will be the best place for it.  But running it alongside the path on the other side will just look weird too as it will be disconnected to every other bed in the garden.

Built beds

There is plenty of space for the pumpkins to sprawl

I did think about splitting it up into two beds and creating symmetry that way and I think it may just work.  But I can’t really know for sure until I’ve seen it.  I’m a hands on visual kind of a person.  So, I kindly asked my awesome builder if he would mind using his digger to move my mountain of soil to clear the space, so I can ‘visualise’.  Gosh that sounds so airy fairy!

Filling beds with a mini digger

This has to be the best way to fill beds – quick and easy!

Once the space was clear, I ran a few string lines along strategic points.  From the chicken coop door down into the heart of the garden.  Across from the front end of the fruit cage and up the back side of the garden so see where things line up there.  I then eyeballed where the fence would go and then within these perimeters I start dragging planks about the place to find the best fit that makes the best use of the space and looks aesthetically pleasing and balanced.

Filled beds

And just like that something I had been procrastinating for several weeks over was taking care of in an afternoon!

I finally settled on two beds not one – for balance.  To fit in with the taper of the space the front bed is four metres, but the back bed looked ridiculous at two metres, so my pumpkin growing capacity increased by a metre square and I get to have another plant which was an unforeseen benefit.   They are lined up along the right side so they are in line with the path to the chicken coop and will run nicely along the angle of the fence line on the left hand side of the garden.  They have a large area between them for the plants to sprawl in a controlled and contained manner.

Pumpkin seeds

And all I need to do now is wait for the pumpkins to pop up!

Once that was decided and I got everyone to gather round an confirm my decision – not that I was changing my mind now, I think I was looking more for affirmation “Sarah the Gardener you are a genius and have used this space wisely!”  No one said that though.  They all just nodded their heads and went back on with their jobs.  So, I grabbed some brackets, my drill and some screws and made the beds permanent in no time at all.  Then my awesome builder came back and filled the beds with his mini digger with dirt from the pile he’d moved previously.

And all I need to do now is wait for my pumpkin seeds to germinate.

Come again soon – I can now say without a shadow of doubt there will be tomatoes this October.

Sarah the Gardener  : o)

Happy tired

It has been a massive weekend.  The long Labour Weekend did not disappoint.  The weather was fabulous, and the family were well aware that this weekend is the pinnacle of the gardening calendar and gardening is what is done, for the entire weekend.    And they daren’t argue with me because they know well enough I’ll pull the “It’s my birthday” card and they have to bend to my will.  Ok my birthday was Tuesday, and everyone was back at work and school by then, but I just added the day to make the weekend 4 days.  Four glorious days of good, honest toil in the garden.

Strawberry

The strawberry harvest is on the way

Having said that, while I was busy pretty much the entire time, there isn’t much to show for it.  I did get the poor strawberries in.  But before that happened they had to suffer the further indignity of a brief savaging by Snowy the Goat.  Fortunately, she didn’t do too much harm and the strawberries will bounce back.  I’m not so sure about the blueberries so acquired a couple more to replace them.

Black currant

This black currant is a shadow of its form self but it will recover in time.

Once they were planted out I found I was a dozen short to make up a full bed.  I do like a bit of order in my garden and this empty space where strawberries should be would have bothered me no end, so I took myself off to the garden centre.  It was a brave move during this weekend as not only is every man and his dog thinking about getting out in the garden – via the garden centre, but every manner of temptation is on display to lure us all into making impulse purchases.

Brassica

I think the next bed to be planted out should be the brassicas – they are looking great!

I think I was quite good.  I did pick up more than just the strawberries, and everything was kind of on the list, so I came out feeling quite smug with myself and my self-control.  Unfortunately, my wallet wasn’t so pleased!

Irrigation hose

There is still a lot of hose left to be laid and installed.

The good thing was they still had strawberry seedlings – they should have been planted in the winter with August being the ideal time.  My collection of strawberries came from a 6-pack purchased about 15 years ago as effort to get domestic for our first home.  I have been taking runners and replacing a third of them ever since so they all remain within the 3-year best productivity zone.  The most I had was probably about 100 plants, but in the new garden there are 84, 72 brought from the old place and I managed to keep them alive and well in pots for about 16 months…  bless them.

Globe artichoke

I got the globe artichoke seedlings in, but I haven’t fully decided how the irrigation will be configured in this last section – the one with beds still to be built so it will have to wait, for now

But back in the day I don’t remember there being much choice in the kind of strawberry available – it was strawberry or strawberry, take your pick.  These days we have choice.  There were four different varieties available – Camarosa, Pajaro, Aroma and Chandler, so I bought 3 of each to see which I like the best.   I’ll let you know what I think when the harvest comes in.

Tomato seedlings

The tomatoes are looking more like it by the day!

While I was at it planting the strawberries, I realised the space for the red and black currents was also free at the back of their bed, so they went in too.  Only one had had a goat prune but I’m sure it will be fine.  It does feel good to know a couple of beds have been planted out.

garden fence

I love my new garden fence. The gate is perfect.

Then I spent the rest of the time sorting out the irrigation – it is a quick and easy task, except when you have to extrapolate it out over many beds.  I have barely recovered, but I’ll tell you how I did it soon.  There is still more to do, so I’d prefer to give you the full picture so look out for that post.

garden fence

From the other side it looks cool too and the fairy lights look awesome at night.

Meanwhile, while I was wrangling hose pipes and sprinklers, our awesome builder built me a fence across the front of the garden.  It is made to be rabbit and deer proof.  I hope it is – the design was my idea and could possibly be flawed.  I still need to string up some wires to cover the deer angle, and the sides of the garden still need to be done.  The back wall is the chicken coop so no worries there.  I do love my front fence.  I’ve added it to the list of gifts I received for my birthday.

Planted bed

There is some satisfaction in seeing a bed finished

And in the spirit of labour weekend, with it being the safe from frost average date, Hubby the Un-Gardener dug over a couple of beds for me and I planted some popcorn, okra, peanuts and eggplants into my odds and sodds bed.

And now I am completely exhausted, but the end is in sight.

Come again soon – there will be tomatoes before the end of October – or possibly a little bit into November.

Sarah the Gardener  : o)

Will there be tomatoes in the garden this October?

This weekend is a weekend like no other – it is the weekend deemed safe for plants to be planted out without fear of frost.  Having said that, it is date based on averages and so there have still been killing frosts recorded beyond that, well into November.  Having said that I didn’t get a single frost in my new environment all winter, so I’m beginning to wonder if this whole Labour Day Weekend planting rule applies to me at all.  But I do like a good tradition and going forward I may still use this as the date that is intrinsically linked to the excitement and potential of the coming season.

New Garden

From a distance it looks like things are under control

However, this weekend I won’t be planting my tomatoes with great fanfare as per usual…  they just aren’t big enough.  I have no idea why – I started them off at the same time I always did.  But is has been a funny spring with more cold snaps than you can shake a stick at!  My entire collect of plants are sitting tight, growing with all their might, anticipating the day they can go out into the big wide world.  My entire future harvest is hidden within these small green creatures.

Empty beds

The beds need a few goodies added and a bit of a tickle and they will be ready for their plant occupants… I just wish there wasn’t so many of them.

Having said that, it isn’t like my weekend is devoid of gardening action.  While all the beds are now filled with soil, thanks to our handy builder and his mini digger.  They still need levelling and enriching.  The narrow 1 metre beds make the digging seem easier than working beds that seem expansive.  From the ones I have done already it looks like I am on the right track.  My spuds are positively flourishing.

Potatoes

The potatoes are looking really good!

So, there is a mountain of digging ahead of me, or someone…  Hubby the Un-Gardener did say he would help me out this weekend.  It is great to have someone who digs on demand.   He just doesn’t quite grasp the enormity of what I have in store for him.  I’ll break it to him gently – just point out one bed at a time… in order of priority, until it is all done.

Strawberries

I really must liberate these poor creatures – and just to add to their indignity, they had a bit of a brush with the goat this morning… poor things.

In the meantime, I will be giving my onions and garlic and the more mature plants waiting in pots to be planted, a liquid feed.  This can take some time – especially as I appear to be watering can-less.  I can’t seem to find my small one and my big one has a crack.  I may need to swing by the garden centre and try with all my might to avoid the temptation lurking there.

Garlic

I think these are the best garlic I’ve ever grown and not a sign of rust (yet)

Then as Hubby the Un-Gardener finishes beds, I’ll set up my structures.  Trellises for peas and cucumbers to scramble up, support wires for the tomatoes and support for anything else that remotely needs it.  It is always better to do this before the plant goes in, so you don’t accidentally trample the plant while trying to tie bamboo poles together above your head or ram a stake through the roots of your tender young seedling.

Elephant Garlic Scapes

The elephant garlic is starting to flower, I wonder if you can eat them as scapes?

Then there is irrigation to install and mulch to spread.  The list of small chores is as long as my arm and each of them are simple, but I just don’t know where to start with them all.  I think I will just start with the first one I come across and work my way towards the back of the garden, striking chores off the list as I go.

tomato seedlings

There are tomatoes this October – they are just a little on the small side!

So even without the traditional pleasure of planting tomatoes – which is not my fault.  I have held them as my goal since I started working on the new garden – “there will be tomatoes in the garden come October”, but who would have thought it would be the plants themselves that let the show down, not me and my efforts.  So even without them, there will be plenty of garden fun to be done this long weekend.

Come again soon – this is the best weekend on the gardening calendar and it won’t go to waste!

Sarah the Gardener  : o)

There and Back

I have been missing from my garden for too long.  But it just couldn’t be helped.  The school holidays took us to sunny Fiji for a wonderful week away with the kids.  It was completely the wrong time of year for a keen gardener to be separated from the garden, with it being spring and all.  But family time is important, and the boys are growing up so fast that it seems important to capture as many memories as we can.   And Fiji was fabulous.

Sea sun and sand

Sea, sun and sand. What more could you want from a holiday away from the garden.

I had the garden fully taken care of by a lovely house sitter who sent reassuring photo updates each day.  It helped me to relax and enjoy the break knowing things were well looked after.  Besides spring is one of those forgiving seasons.  It is easy to forget that as we rush to get our seeds sown on the first opportunity, however the first opportunity is not the only one and so waiting a week or two won’t do any harm.  And in some situations, the enforced delay will result in plants that will grow quicker in the slightly warmer conditions and flourish better long term.   Having oversized seedlings lurking in pots waiting to go out into conditions that aren’t ready yet is less than ideal.  And these are the phrases I’m repeating to myself to free myself from the worry of going away on holiday in the middle of spring!

relaxing in a hammock

There is nothing like relaxing in Fiji, in a hammock, without a care in the world!

But it wasn’t just Fiji.  Our flight home, that should have had us arrive safely at home at 1am was delayed for departure until 1am, meaning we didn’t get home until 6:30am.  Ordinarily this wouldn’t have been a problem, and nothing a bit of a sleep in wouldn’t fix.  However, I needed to leave for the airport once again the following 3am.  I was heading off to Australia to help the lovely people at the Benalla Garden Club celebrate their 65th birthday.  It was great to see such a flourishing garden club in a wonderful vibrant community.  It was well worth the travel drama to join in the celebrations.

Happy Birthday

Happy Birthday Benalla Garden Club. It was a pleasure to celebrate with you.

Eventually I found myself back on home soil, but I was too exhausted to even check on the garden, and spent a couple of days resting.  It was just as well as there was another stormy cold snap and it blew about the garden in a way I didn’t want to observe.  There was nothing to be done until it stopped and in the clear light of a blue sky day the harm done was insignificant which was a huge relief.

Sunset in Australia

As the sunset on my travels in Australia, I headed for home.

With no major activities and events ahead of me for many weeks, I can now focus on the garden.  There is still plenty to be done, but it is all the fun stuff.  At this point I am happy to call digging and weeding fun; the novelty may wear off by the end of the week.

Tomato seedlings

I was so delighted to see my tomatoes had decided to grow. It has been a terribly slow season and I thought they’d never get past their seed leaves!

So, as I set about prioritising my to do list, sit back and watch my latest video, with a before holiday and after holiday tour so you can see just how much things have grown.

Come again soon – it is uninterrupted garden time!

Sarah the Gardener  : o)

Sowing Plants for Monarch Butterflies

It is all go in the garden and we approach the summer. Most of my seeds have been sown and there are some that still need to be done. I’ve tried to stick with the plan, so I have all that we need to last the year. With our needs taken care of I can start to think of the needs of others in a more whimsical way.

Monarch Butterfly

It is a pleasure and a delight to watch these fine creatures go through their life cycle.

There is nothing like seeing those lovely orange Monarch Butterflies wafting through the garden, enjoying the flowers in the garden. If these graceful creatures show up in the garden, you really want to encourage them to stay. You can do this in a couple of ways – planting nectar rich flowers the butterflies love to eat. Growing swan plants for them so they can lay their eggs and give their young caterpillar offspring somewhere to grow big and fat, so they can move off onto the chrysalis stage and eventually become as graceful as their parents, floating about the garden.

Monarch Butterfly

I’m looking forward to growing loads of flowers to keep the butterflies happy.

Now is the perfect time to sow swan plants and this year it is more important than ever as last season there wasn’t enough and so many caterpillars went hungry. Our good friends at Yates are encouraging as many people as they can to sow as many swan plants as they can this October and during National Gardening Week (15 -22 October) they will be giving away butterfly friendly seeds, Which is pretty cool. You can check it out here: Yates National Gardening Week.

They also asked me to make a short swan plant planting guide, so I grabbed the wonderful Joey and we went into the temporarily plastic wrapped dome and made a video. You can check it out here:

https://youtu.be/jVfPTkRILZg

Come again soon – we are in interesting times.

Sarah the Gardener : o)

The Story of the Dome

Finally – I’m in.  There are seedlings in there.  It isn’t quite finished as we are still waiting for the glass to arrive, but it is coming on a slow boat from China and I’m ok with that as it is the best option for my back pocket!

Plastic wrapped dome

It isn’t a great view but it is very warm inside.

Knowing there was a bit of a wait, and my seedlings were beginning to overstay their welcome in the house, I had to do something.  I came up with a plan and the good people at Yates kindly supplied me with some pallet wrap.  While it seems to be ubiquitous in most warehouses, for the ordinary person, it is a little hard to find – well the good stuff anyway.  So, thanks Yates for coming to my rescue.

Biodome

Its not as pretty as it will be with the glass, but at least I can use it now.

We took this very large roll and began to wrap the dome, we must have gone around it about 100 times.  Thick enough to make it water tight and secure, but thin enough to still let the light in.    Gosh, it feels great to get in there with my plants.  Not only from a horticultural perspective, but it is warmer in there too!  6 degrees warmer yesterday!

Seedlings in the dome

The seedlings seem happy enough

But I can’t hang around here all day yakking – there is work to be done.  You can check out the time lapse footage of building the dome here:

https://youtu.be/klcnUx00fhI

Come again soon – the garden is really starting to come to life.

Sarah the Gardener  : o)

In a season of busy

I wonder if you know how it feels…  You make grand plans for something and completely over estimate your capabilities.  But through sheer tenacity manage to make some kind of dent what needs to be done.

Chitted potatoes

I wonder if it is possible to over chit potatoes. I really must find a window of time to get these puppies into some soil! : o)

I feel a little like this now, but I think now we are in the throes of spring and the workload increases on top of the commitments, responsibilities and garden building program, there are now seedlings to care for!

Mini Digger

Hooray for mini diggers – know if only I could automate some of my other responsibilities so I can spend more time in the garden!

The garden is progressing and is as far as having the beds built and the layout completed, there are two beds left to do.  And for filling them up – I am blessed to have been saved by my marvelous builder with a mini digger.  It just wouldn’t have happened without him and Hubby the Un-Gardener.  The digger filled barrows and Hubby the Un-Gardener wheeled them to where they needed to be and over the course of a long morning the job was done.  Such a feeling of relief.

Seedlings on a gloomy day

The seedlings are crying out to be transplanted out of seed raising mix, and it would seem like the perfect job for a gloomy day – except I need to step outside to get what I need without being blown away!

The beds still need enriching with compost, blood and bone, sheep pellets and a great product called Yates Dynamic Lifter to ensure the plants get what they need.  The weather today is horrible.  Freezing cold and rainy and miserable.  A far cry from last week when you could almost feel the full potential of summer.  It is a timely reminder to not trust spring with your seedlings – she is emotionally unstable!

Fennel the Cat and the Seedlings

After causing a minor disaster earlier Fennel the Cat knew she wasn’t supposed to be there and refused to look me in the eye! Well it is the warmest sunniest spot in the house!

But looking for blessings where they can be found, we haven’t had rain in weeks and so it should be filling the tank a little – if the wind allows any of the rain to actually settle on the roof to fall into the gutters!   But also after weeks of no rain the soil had become hard and difficult to work with.  This rain will return it to a more malleable state and make mixing in the enrichment materials easy.

Pumpkin, cucumber and Zucchini seeds

Now is a good time to think about sowing pumpkin, cucumber and zucchini seeds. There is always something to be done in a spring garden.

But my priority today is to transplant seedlings and to be honest there is no way I am working out there in that weather, so I’m going to drag all I need indoors and make a mess here.  Oh how I long for my dome to be done.  A warm greenhouse on a cold spring day can be such a sanctuary.

Come again soon – I’ll make time in the busy to stop and share.

Sarah the Gardener  : o)

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