SARAH THE GARDENER

The Big Beach Ball Reveal

Sometimes you get an idea or see something on the great big internet and something compels you to give it ago. Sometimes this is a good idea and other times it is a case of never mention it again. I have loads of ideas rattling around in my head. I’ve started writing the more viable ones down on a ‘to do’ list so they don’t become forgotten. I also have a few ideas bookmarked on my computer that could be worth my time attempting.

Concrete beach balls

DID-DAH!!!! And here are my concrete beach balls I made in an attempt to create some garden art!

Over the last few months my You Tube feed has been inundated with a similar type of video, tempting me to try and have a go. I don’t know what the internet is trying to tell me, but I felt like it was speaking straight at me and it would be rude to ignore it. Besides, what it was suggesting was it was not only really cool, but quick – most of the videos were only 15 minutes long, and importantly easy – every single version got great results every time!

concrete beach ball supplies

Here are all the bits and bobs I used to make the concrete beach balls – although in hindsight I have far too much cement and a chopped up pillow case may have given enough bits of fabric!

I rounded up two beach balls left over from the summer and a neglected cheap bouncy ball. The kids have loads of balls – they’d never notice it was gone! I ordered a large bag of cement, dug up a bucket of ‘good sand’ without an excessive amount of plant debris in it and nabbed and old winter sheet that had seen better days an cut it into small pieces. That part was probably the hard part as your really don’t appreciate how large a queen sized sheet is until you have to cut it up into small pieces. I ended up with a blister!

The painted nook

I love how the nook looks painted!

I laid down a tarp, so my nice new deck didn’t get ruined and set to work. I made a 50:50 mix of sand and cement and added water to make a rather runny mix. Then I mixed in a handful of shredded sheet and began applying it to the balls like doing papier mache. My expectations were at odds with reality and I learnt a few things in the making.

  • Firstly, my sheet pieces were too big so I had to cut them up again.
  • My rubber gloves were too old and started to perish and now I understand the importance of fresh gloves and not getting cement on your skin. – Nothing too serious, but gloves are good.
  • It is not quick or easy.
  • This is a job best tackled in small parts.
  • If you try to cover the entire ball at once, gravity will work its magic and all the lower bits will fall off. Concrete is actually quite heavy. So, you need to do the top half, let it set and then turn it over and do the bottom half.
  • It won’t be perfectly round after the first layer – in spite of what the videos suggest. I ended up with a lumpy mess and it took several half layerings to get something that remotely resembled a sphere! But each session only took a few moments, once you got the hang of it.
  • Oh, only the bottom layer needed the sheet pieces – the rest was a thicker paste – still a 50:50 mix of sand and cement, just less water. This is used to try and smooth things out.
  • In the videos they all kept a hole in the bottom to remove the ball. In the end I thought ‘bugger it – the ball is staying in there’. Much easier and so forever more the balls will endure, encased in cement. Its not like we’d be using them again after what I put them through.
  • Make sure there are no holes in the beach ball. My big one went flat under the weight of the cement and everything just fell off… It was a complete disaster and a terrible mess.
Kikuyu roots

I pulled out a mountain of Kikuyu roots!

It is worth persevering with because eventually you get something to be pleased with. I was at a point where it was almost round enough and every time I applied a new layer it wasn’t smooth and lovely like I wanted it to be so I thought I’d give it a gentle mist with the hose to smooth it over. That didn’t work but I got a lovely texture that disguised all the lumps and bumps and I happily decided I was done.

A weed free bed in the nook

This was a tad exhausting but it feels good to know the job was done thoroughly. You can’t really cut corners when trying to get a weed free bed.

I didn’t take many photos because with the gloves and the cement and the mess it was a little tricky, so I have a before and after for you. The rest of the images are from yesterdays efforts on the nook. The day was nice and sunny so I was pleased I’d been out on the rainy day before to get paint so I was able to finishing the painting. Then I dug down a spades depth all around where we want to put plants, to remove the kikuyu roots. They don’t seem to go down too deep, but I dug up a mountain of them! I think I’ll need to put in some kind of barrier to keep them away. After that effort I was stiff and sore and a little weary. I’m pleased today is a rainy day again, so I can get a break from making hay while the sun shines to do some computer gardening.

Come again soon – the veggie patch is calling to me and its cries are getting louder.

Sarah the Gardener : o)

#MakeMayCount

Unpredictable Days

Sometimes Making May Count means I’m so busy Making May Count that at the end of the day I collapse exhausted into a comfy chair and remain there until I recharge enough to get up and send myself to bed.

Garden shed chandelier

It is rather decadent to have a garden shed chandelier, but I love it!

Yesterday was one of those days.   The boffins had said it was going to rain all week, which turned out to be untrue and after a bit of a foggy start the day cleared to be one of those fabulous sunny days we have become accustomed to.  Unlike today, which is back to the gloomy foggy rainy situation we found ourselves in on Monday.  I hadn’t expected to get anything of note done in the garden at all.  I’m not mad enough to work in the rain and the risk of catching a cold would mean people looking sideways at me when I sniff or sneeze when I do venture out and about.  It is really not worth the risk.  So I set myself up for a day of computer gardening in the cosiness of my office.

Jasper the Dog

Jasper the Dog loves hanging out in my office, but he does drag in a lot of sand in those giant paws

I do have to say it is a lovely spot and I have the heater going so it is warm and I love my lights, they contribute to the cosy feeling by delivering a warm glow from their chandelier bulbs.  Although it does need a bit of a tidy up as Jasper the Dog has made a bit of a mess.  (Nothing I have done could possibly have contribute to the mess…)  But he does like to pull paper out of my waste paper bin and shred it.  And his big boofy feet have tramped sand everywhere.   Maybe if I get all my computer gardening done I should probably clean the office…  if it is still raining.

Half painted wall

It was so frustrating to run out of paint, just when I was getting into the swing of things.

But yesterday it was unexpected lovely, so I fiddled about with the beach balls again.  Two days ago I was ready to write these off as a failure, but persevered and am glad I did as they are almost how I thought they’d be and all going well will be able to do a bit of a ‘did-dah’ thing very soon.

Garden centre purchases

I think I may be morphing into a different kind of gardener – I didn’t even look at the vegetable section at the garden centre. Although I’ll never not be a veggie gardener.

Then I decided to paint the wall.  I was going to break it up into four sections so it didn’t seem overwhelming, but it was actually quite pleasant and I kept going until I ran out of paint almost at the end of the third panel.  It looks fabulous, even in its unfinished state.  Although it was raining today I decided to go and buy more paint so when it stopped and the wall dried out I’d be ready to pick up where I left off.  But alas the store didn’t have the paint I was after so I will need to go further afield to find it.  But it wasn’t a wasted trip as I came back with some plants, some hanging basket stuff and other bits and bobs.

And now I need to get on with the computer gardening that I should have done yesterday.

Boiled peanuts

I have a new love… Boiled peanuts. I didn’t know they existed before, but I’m glad I do now!

Oh and as a side note…  did you know boiled peanuts was a thing?  I didn’t until the other day.  I had pulled my peanuts out of the ground and really didn’t know what to do with them.  Then the lovely Donna from Rainbow Gardens – I’ve been following her on You Tube for probably a decade, well she put up a video all about peanuts including a recipe for boiled peanuts and I thought I’d give it a whirl.  Oh my goodness – we have a new favourite in our house!   Check out Donna and her peanut video >Here<.  Be sure to tell her I say Hi!

Come again soon – I may need to put my eyes back on the veggie patch for a moment to keep it in order.

Sarah the Gardener  : o)

#MakeMayCount

Monday Message

Use the things you saved for a rainy day, on a rainy day.

Sarah the Gardener Monday Message

Today is a rainy day.  I am in danger of being trapped in my office this evening because I don’t want to get wet and it is quite heavy right now.  It has drizzly and rainy all day, which is great for the garden and the water tanks but not great for the gardener or the view… we can’t even see the ocean!

foggy view

You can’t even see the ocean. You know it is there, somewhere because you can hear it, but gosh its gone!

But we need to be kind to ourselves and use the good stuff we put aside for later, for a reason to celebrate, or for something special or even for a rainy day.   It’s normally the bottle of bubbly, the fancy soap or the sweet smelling candle.  I have to say I don’t want to end my days with a mountain of these in my cupboards.   Within every day can be found a reason to celebrate, some kind of silver lining, if you look really hard.  Hopefully my silver lining today will be getting back into the house without getting wet!  That is a win and I’ll take it as such.  Not very gardeny but hey – its raining.

Foggy garden

Today is not a gardening day

I’m still Making May Count but in the rain it looks different.  It is computer gardening and a bit of screen gardening as I managed to soak in even more Chelsea Garden Show yesterday.  It was very indulgent but it was still kinda gardening.   There is just one more week of May and in the grand scheme of things that is still about a quarter of the month so no time for slacking.

Come again soon – rain or no rain, progress of some kind will be made.

Sarah the Gardener  : o)

#MakeMayCount

Making things in May

I have been busy again in and around the garden in the last few days.  I have been tackling those beach balls as promised but with mixed results.  I still haven’t finished yet, so I’ll save the big reveal for when I’m done.  But just to say things aren’t as easy as they look on the internet!  I suspect my attempts will be less than perfect!  Wait and see!

Beach balls

The beach ball project started off so optimistically!

In the spirit of making things I took some time to make a soil sieve.  I used to have a plastic one, but its life span in a heavy use garden isn’t very long and it fell apart.  I have been making do with some mesh I found about the place that I cable tied to the bottom of a plant pot tray with a wide open bottom.  It was useful for what it was, however, the long skinny shape wasn’t practical.  I’d kept my eye out for something to replace the broken plastic one but never really saw anything I was prepared to spend my money on.

Soil Sieve

I’m very pleased with how this soil sieve turned out – given there were no plans or measurements – just a vision that had rattled around in my head for quite some time.

Rummaging about the place I found Hubby the Un-Gardener had a stash of plastic mesh, so I liberated it for my own purposes.  I did ask but to be honest, he didn’t really have a choice.  We have also acquired a lot of leftover bits of wood and I’ve become a bit of a wood hoarder.  I think I got it from my dad as he would never throw out a good bit of wood.  We once sat around a bonfire and he wouldn’t left us toss half of the firewood into the flames proclaiming, ‘don’t burn that, it could come in handy one day.’

So with my collection of wood, my pilfered mesh and my fabulous drop saw that I picked up from a recycle centre for a mere $24 dollars and a spot of imagination I ‘whipped up’ a rather cool soil sieve – if I must say so myself.

Soil sieve in action

I never expected to be using the soil sieve so soon but it does a great job

I only really built it because I wanted to, rather than having a need, but it is strange the way life works, as Hubby the Un-Gardener and I continued working on our fire area nook and we have been trying to get rid of the Kikuyu grass so we can create a beachy feel around the fire that in summer, we can dig our toes into sun or fire warmed sand.  In the winter we are so rugged up as the bits not directly exposed to the flames can get rather chilly and can dampen the experience.    But this work meant digging over the sand down to a certain level – about a spades depth to remove roots.  And in perfect timing my sieve was called into action to return the sand to the nook, minus any plant material.   It couldn’t have worked better.  I’m so pleased with my efforts.

Hedge trees

These trees will make a rather lovely hedge and will soften the nook.

We’ve also been tree shopping and bought some trees to create a hedge for the nook to make it feel cosy.  We have had to change out design a little as originally were only going to put them down one side of the nook, but once we placed the trees it looked a little out of balance.  This means going back to the nursery…  Self-control will be required!

However, the highlight of the weekend so far was my visit to Chelsea Flower Show.  I’ve always meant to go.  A few years back it was a new year’s resolution to go the following year, but then we decided to move a house and all plans of travel went out the window.   This whole global pandemic has been a dreadful situation.  But even in the face of such a horrendous time, there are glimmers to goodness that allow for moments of joy and happiness.  One of the events to be affected is the Chelsea Flower Show. While it is incredibly disappointing that the Flower Show has been cancelled, especially considering the amount of effort that goes into it many, many months before hand, it has become more accessible this year to keen gardeners like me in far flung places.

Virtual Chelsea Flower Show

It is a pleasure to be able to indulge in the Virtual Chelsea flower show. Although one day I’ll see the real thing.

The Royal Horticultural Society have created a virtual Chelsea Flower Show that can be viewed on You Tube.  There is something for everyone – tours of designer gardens, hints and tips from seasoned gardeners, Q&A sessions, and fabulous nursery folk extolling the virtues of their best plants and so much more.  There is even a message from the Queen.  As much as it is a lovely way to spend a chilly almost winter evening, it has made me all the more determined to get to the real one, one day.

Come again soon – hopefully, there will be a beach ball reveal sooner rather than later.

Sarah the Gardener  : o)

#MakeMayCount

Two pecks of peppers

Picking up from where we left off yesterday >You can catch up here< I am sharing my adventures in making the most of the peppers and chillies I have grown this season.  No longer are they all just allowed to turn red and lobbed into the sweet chilli sauce.  This time I have found out what make each one special and used them to that advantage.  Along the way I have discovered some newfound kitchen favourites and I have to say the next up – the Jwala pepper will forever have a place in my garden.

Jwala green chilli sauce

Oh my goodness, my new dear friend, green chilli sauce. This is a taste explosion and while it is hot, this is not the predominate feature. Wow wow wow.

Jwala

Now this one was fun.  I was given the seeds by the good people at Yates to try as it was new to them.  I was more intentional about using these in the appropriate way to appreciate they were given to me.  It would have been pointless to give me something special and then all I did was mix it up with everything else in a sweet chilli sauce.   Being of Indian origin and were supposed to be used green, I decided to go off on search of an authentic recipe that made them the star.  I stumbled across a lovely Indian lady on the internet making a green chilli sauce.  Unfortunately, it wasn’t in English, but with the blessing of subtitles and the ability to follow along, pausing the video as I cooked, I ended up with the most amazing green chilli sauce.  Oh, my goodness it is fabulous.  Full of spicy, heat and the freshness of a green chilli.   I will miss it when it runs out.  We have been cooking more curries and making poppadums just to have a reason to use it.

Mad Hatter Peppers

Mad Hatter Peppers are so cute and really nice to eat just as they are

Mad Hatter

This was one of those random selections where it looked interesting and there was one more spot in the garden that could be filled with something interesting.  It had a cute little shape and a cute little name, and it promised not to be hot – well most of the time – it suggested there was a Russian Roulette thing going one where there would occasionally be a hot one.   But I haven’t found one yet and they are so sweet and delish I’ve just been eating them raw in the garden.  They almost taste like apples, which is kind of weird.   I’ll definitely grow these again.

Mulato powder

I’m a little disappointed with my impatience with my Mulato,  because the deep rich colour brings a deep rich flavour. But it is still nice, but just not as nice as it could have been. And it is the knowing that, that is the frustrating thing.

Mulato

This year I got impatient and harvested these too early.  But they were taking forever to turn to that lovely rich chocolately brown colour.  They are great in Mexican cooking as part of Mole Sauce.  Apparently they should be dried whole, but I have been drying them in pieces and grinding them into a powder and using them as a spice when I make anything remotely Mexican.  I really should have a go at making a proper Mole.  Maybe next season.

Padron

These were a bit of a miss this year as I missed that window when they are small and a delight to eat tapas style, fried in olive oil with a sprinkling of salt as you anxiously watch your friends, hoping yours isn’t the random hot one.  Experience has taught me, once you miss that window, they are all the hot one.  So, I leave them to go red and into the sweet chilli sauce they go.

Homemade paprika

I’m pretty impressed with my homemade paprika. I might just make a goulash to fully appreciate the flavour.

Paprika

These are a great little pepper with a nice thick wall and great flavour and colour.   There is only one thing to do with these and that is to dry them and grind them and use them as paprika spice.  I need to grow more of these because there is never enough to be a year’s supply of paprika for my cooking needs.

Pickled pepperoni

These pickled pepperoni are delish and gives us an interesting option to go Greek when we prepare our nibbling platters when entertaining.

Pepperoni

Finally, we have these funny wee things.  I first bought them mistakenly thinking they had something to do with salami – goodness knows what I thought I’d do with them.  But each year they ended up bright red and in the sweet chilli sauce.  But this year being intentional I decided to treat them with respect.  The first clue was in their proper name Greek Golden Pepperoni.  Which alludes to the fact they need to be picked while young and golden in colour.  And the second clue is they are Greek, so I went off in search of an authentic Greek recipe and found they were pickled whole in a salty / vinegary brine.   And they are really nice.

Smoked dried chilli powder

This has to be my all time favourite. I will never not do this.

Aside from my sweet chilli sauce that is made up of everything, my other go to, must have is my smoked and dried chilli powder.  A bundle of mixed peppers and chillies are smoked over coals and wet apple chips in my BBQ.  Then I dehydrate them to a crisp and blitz them into a fine powder.  I end up with more than enough to last the year and it gets sprinkled into absolutely everything.  I’m certain it will be the fragrance that instantly transports my kids back to their childhoods when they are grown up and off in far flung places.

Bell peppers

Bell peppers, washed and chopped and ready for the freezer.

It felt great to treat each of these peppers and chillies in a manner that respected the flavour and tradition behind each one.   It did take a lot of effort but now that I know what I have been missing out on, I will certainly put aside time in my late summer and autumn knowing there is a lot of kitchen gardening to be done to create so many wonderful things.

Come again soon – things maybe quiet in the garden, but there is plenty to potter about with.

Sarah the Gardener  : o)

#MakeMayCount

One peck of peppers

In my garden my pepper bed has space for 18 pepper plants.  I normally pop in half a dozen bell peppers so I can have a good supply to freeze to use over the winter months as we use them in most meals.  So that means there are 12 spots for interesting things.

peppers and chillies

It would seem a shame not to take advantage of the uniqueness of all the different chillies and peppers.

Ordinarily I kind of panic at the end of the season, let them all go red and make one giant batch of sweet chili sauce with all my good intentions falling by the wayside as I wander back to the house with a basket laden with produce.

making chilli sauce

I’ve been stirring up trouble in my kitchen

But this season I have been intentional with my good intentions and given each variety of peppers the ability to shine for the stars they are.  Each has their own special flavour and use and after going to all the effort of growing them from seed it is important to celebrate them in a way that allows us to fully appreciate what they have to offer.   It was a lot of work, but I have to say I am so glad I took the time as I now have some amazing condiments and ingredients to enrich my cooking.

Cheese and crackers nibbling plate

Just one cheese and crackers nibbling plate with cowboy candy and pepperoni peppers.

Now this is a rather long story, so I’ve broken it into two parts, so it isn’t so overwhelming.  It also buys me a little more time to do something with those beach balls.

We’ll start at the beginning because it makes more sense as I always plant my garden out in alphabetical order in case something goes amiss with the labels.   Although strangely enough the first is the last as I’ve only just bulk harvested my bell peppers and they are destined for the vacuum packer in small batches and will be tossed into the freezer.

Cayenne

I could have dried them all and ground them up but to be honest it would have made a mountain of cayenne powder and if I use it at all, it is a pinch at a time.  So, these helped make up the bulk of my sweet chili sauce and I’m ok with that.  I did air dry some because they look really cool and there may be a recipe at some point that calls for chili flakes and then I’ll have some on hand.

Cayenne Peppers

I guess you can’t really grow peppers without drying some on a string.

Habanero

I am a fool.  I have grown this for many years and we really don’t like things too spicy.  Every autumn I say, “I won’t grow these again – they are too hot.”  But come spring and I look at those inoffensive little seeds and I think ‘why not’ and sow some.   And they are prolific.   This season I made a Piri Piri sauce using garlic and lemons to give it the right flavour.  I also made a hot mango sauce with them, added a handful or several into the sweet chili sauce and used them in the smoked chili powder.  I also made a fermented sriracha style sauce.  And there are still loads on the plant!   I’m not a great one for following recipes so I looked on the great big internet and got the general gist of things – making sure I kept the preserving elements and ratios correct and kind of winged it.   I wish I remembered exactly what I’d done as my Brother the Chef said they were really good!  High praise indeed.

(NB click on the images above for descriptions)

Habanada

Now I stumbled on to this one by accident and by accident it was one of those seed catalogue shopping accidents when you click all the buttons ‘by accident’.   But I’m pleased to say it was a happy accident and this little beauty will be in my garden again next season.  What it is, is a heatless habanero and it has so much fruity flavour.  Who knew behind the heat of a habanero was something so complex and delish?   They certainly pack a punch – but in a good way.  I made a habanada relish that is so lovely with a soft cheese on a crisp cracker.  I also use the cute little heatless bombs in place of peppers as they give so much yumminess to a dish.

Habanada relish

I kind of made up this recipe based on a capsicum relish and I have to say I love it so much. There is so much flavour in there. It is a shame there isn’t much, but the habanada are so small!

Hungarian wax and Yellow Banana

I’ve put these together here because I treated them the same in my kitchen.  I sliced them up and pickled them.  I got the recipe off the internet and it is a pretty standard salty / sweet / vinegary recipe.  But I kept them separated as the Yellow Banana is really mild and the Hungarian Wax is quite spicy but they both give a great crunch on a platter of cheese and crackers or to lift a salad from the doldrums.   Or just steal them one at a time out of the jar.

Yellow banana and hungarian wax peppers

I have made these before. One of the few peppers I managed to treat properly and so I know these will taste good and I look forward to eating them.

Jalapeno

Normally these grow really well for me and my favourite thing to do with them is to stuff them with cream cheese and cook them on the BBQ.  But for what ever reason this season they grew really small and not so prolifically, so I didn’t get many.  But I did manage to get enough to make something I’d only heard of recently and that was Cowboy Candy where they are sliced up and cooked in a sugar / vinegar syrup until nice and sticky.   The heat and the sweet go really well together.  I really should look into how they are eaten as I’ve just been doing the cheese and cracker combo with them.  We’ve been eating a lot of cheese lately…  because of all the peppers.

Cowboy Candy

Cowboy Candy is such a fun thing. I’m so pleased I gave it a go.

Now I’m going to stop here, or I’ll end up going on and on and on and on!

Come again soon – I can’t wait to tell you about the Jwala.  That is probably my favourite chilli.

Sarah the Gardener  : o)

#MakeMayCount

Happy Birthday Garden

I can hardly believe the garden is 2 years old today.   On this day in 2018 the shipping container company came and took away the container that had held all our worldly possessions.  The caravan that we had lived in for 100 days while waiting for our house to arrive and be made liveable, had been relocated.  Finally, after months of waiting the land where I wanted to put my garden was clear and free.  It was no longer a parking lot and supply yard for the builders.  It was my space and I called in the bulldozer to flatten it out as best we could and remove the Kikuyu grass so I could begin building my dream.

Some days it seems so long ago but other days it feels like yesterday.   A lot of hard work has gone into the garden over the last couple of years and I am proud of all I have achieved.   It is a pleasure to work in and I am so grateful to have the opportunity to create such a fabulous space.  I may have blown the budget to get to this point, but we’re here now and I shall mark this momentous day in time every year for many years to come.

The garden at 2 years old

Today the garden gave me gifts – peppers and peanuts.

Come again soon – the days are lovely so there is no excuse not to get things done.

Sarah the Gardener : o)

#MakeMayCount

NB:  Clicking on the images will give a description.

Another New Normal

Today marks the start of yet another new normal, and just when I was getting used to the last one.  The kids headed off to school.  The house is decidedly quiet, and Jasper the Dog is patiently awaiting their return by sitting at the window.  They’ve been gone less than an hour.   It is amazing how much things have changed since they last went to school – Joey’s school uniform doesn’t fit anymore – he’s done a lot of growing.   But for me things are still the same.  The garden is still growing – although not as fast a Joey, and I’m still going to my garden office and doing my computer gardening.   I’m sure we will slip into this new normal as easily as we did for the last couple of new normals.

Monday Message - The 1% Principle

Today’s Monday Message is another shameless plug. I asked Hubby the Un-Gardener what I should put on my chalkboard today and he said: “What’s one thing I can do today to improve my life by 1%” Which happens to be the premise of his book The 1% Principle. And it fits in with #MakeMayCount so I thought ‘why not’.

With the recent changes, my world has opened up a little.  I went shopping.  I decided to buy seeds instead of seedlings as the seedlings were enormous and as I’m not ready to plant my onions out until the middle of June I decided to pass.   It was all a bit overwhelming to be out and about, so I hastily headed home without everything on my list…  I’ll get them at some point when the chaos is no longer chaotic and the new normal settles down into a mundane routine.  I breathed a sigh of relief as I returned to the safety of my bubble.

Outdoor windproof entertaining area

We’ve started calling it ‘The Nook” and have already thoroughly tested its entertaining potential and it is going to be a fabulous space.

The ability to connect with friends and family, made me remember life was about more than the garden, the kids and watching movies with Hubby the Un-Gardener.  The weekend was filled with people we’d only seen through a screen over the last few weeks.  It was lovely and it was the perfect excuse to see if the new wall and chiminea worked.    I suspect from the late nights sat around the warm flames; it will be a fabulous spot.  We just need to get on and finish it so it doesn’t spend its life being a half built entertaining area that we continue to apologise about until we forget there were ever any plans to do anything further with it.

Entertaining on the beach

While it has been nice to have the beach to ourselves, it is even better to share it with friends.

But we also encountered another problem.  We were almost completely out of water.  The kind neighbours came to our rescue and let us hook into their water supply with a multitude of garden hoses that stretched quite some distance.  This is where it is great to be a gardener and having too many hoses is a thing.  Having said that, there is no such thing as having too many hoses.

Beach balls

I have put these deflated balls here for a measure of public accountability. I need to show you them again at least by the end of the week or if I encounter technical problems it’ll be sometime during the following week. If my idea is a complete failure – forget you ever saw them.

Unfortunately, while we now have some water, it isn’t a problem that will go away soon.  This autumn – the season that is supposed to gradually transition from a lovely hot, dry summer to a gloomy wet, cold winter – there hasn’t been much rain at all.  March was ok as far as comparing it to previous early autumns with around 40mm of rain.  But April decided to do its own thing and instead of delivering the expected almost 80mm of water from the sky it only barely managed a meagre  30mm.  This month we should be expecting anywhere between 60mm and 120mm and so far we have had 23mm with nothing but sunshine icons on the weather forecast except the promise of rain on the 27th, but to be honest I won’t be holding my breath.

Sunflowers

My self seeded sunflowers are looking so lovely against the blue of the late autumn sky. We shouldn’t be having either of these things so close to winter, but while they are here they can be appreciated.

While not gardening, reconnecting with friends and family is certainly a great way to Make May Count so it was a good weekend and I am refreshed and restored.  But now we are in a new week and without distractions and the chance of a child coming to me for the answer to a complex physics conundrum, I have no excuse not to get stuck in and get more things done.    And as desperately as we need the rain, I really should make hay while the sun still shines.

Come again soon – we are over the mid month hump and quickly running out of autumn.

Sarah the Gardener  : o)

#MakeMayCount

Overdoing things

I need to remind myself that while I’m attempting to Make May Count, I shouldn’t overdo it.   I’m not superwoman, I am a mild mannered gardener with an annoying side kick called MS.   It’s just that I get a little over enthusiastic with the sense of achievement and crave it more and more.   Although getting things done is a great thing to chase in a world filled with vices at every turn.

Daphne

All going well this daphne should bring a lovely fragrance to my winter.

I started out great yesterday.  It was so still and so mild.  Not warm, I was wearing thick socks and a jumper.  But it was a lovely autumnal day.  I started out strong and transplanted a few of the larger plants in the greenhouse into bigger pots.  I decided the daphne plant I had nurtured from a twig was strong enough to return to the outdoors and positioned in on the shady side of my deck, out of the wind so it can deliver its sweet scent to my office when it blooms.

Gooseberry bush

I think the gooseberry bush will be more comfortable spending the winter in the greenhouse.

While weeding the garden the other day – probably the kryptonite to my get up and go, I noticed the gooseberry plant was not looking all that flash.  Instead of leaving it to its own devices, in a do or die battle with the elements, yesterday I decided to dig it up, pop it into a pot of nutrient rich soil and give it some love over the winter so it can draw in some strength without fighting the windy coastal conditions and then replant it out again in the spring once the conditions are calm and it can spend the season growing in strength.

Lemon Verbena

My poor lemon verbena got a bit knocked around in the greenhouse, and I accidentally broke one of its two branches. I made it up to it by putting it in a shiny new pot… my best pot. The fact it was the only one the right size had nothing to do with it.

Then I headed into the office to catch up on the computer gardening missed from a day of powerless weeding.   It was at this point I felt my energy drain from my body like someone had turned a tap.  I’ve been here before and there is nothing for it but to stop and recover.  To push on is madness and extends the recovery time.  But in the spirit of ‘do one more thing’ I took my ‘put one foot in front of the other’ approach I shelled some beans that had had more than enough time to dry, and shucked some popcorn that had also benefited from the warmth of the greenhouse and were good to go.

Lemon verbena and ginger tea

The broken lemon verbena branch wasn’t wasted. I used the leaves with some ginger to make a lovely tea.

Today I feel well rested and ready to go again, but maybe a bit more considered.  No more 5 hour weeding sessions.  That is just madness.  But today is a good day.  Today we are free and out of lockdown and I can finally go shopping.  Level 2 requires us to be cautious, but we can get out and about.  I have a list for the garden centre.  I want onion seeds or seedlings as my Pukekohe Longkeepers haven’t done as well as I would have liked.  There are 6 weeks until the shortest day so there is still plenty of time to sow seed.  It is a little late, but I’d love some sweet pea seeds, and I want some elephant garlic because last year mine didn’t do well at all, so I have no saved cloves.   I’d like some mesh because I want to build a sieve, and I would like some shelf brackets and some sandpaper because I want to build some shelves for my office.

Dried beans

These dried beans will be perfect for a winter meal or two.

Oh and I need storage containers so the items we emptied out of the bedroom wardrobe when we built the shelves in the tool shed can be sorted through into rodent proof boxes and can be stored in an orderly manner in the tool shed.  I know myself too well and if I just put the boxes as they were straight into the tool shed they would stay like that forever.  But as a tripping hazard in the front room, this will ensure they are sorted properly and sorted in good time.

Strawberry popcorn

I think I have learnt a few lessons around the popcorn this season. As it should ideally stay on the plant for as long as possible, that allows the corn ear worm to do more damage. My first batch of sweetcorn was corn ear worm free, but the 2nd lot had some minor damage and I just chopped it off. So I will start my popcorn first, early in the season to ensure a bug free popcorn crop.

I probably need a haircut, but that can wait, there are so many more important things to be done in Level 2!  I came up with so many great and possibly not so great ideas during lockdown that desperately need exploring.

Come again soon – so many options but need to be taken with all kinds of caution.

Sarah the Gardener : o)

#MakeMayCount

Slight confession

I may have lied at the start of the Make May Count project.  Well maybe not lie exactly, just stretched the truth when I said, “the garden is looking tidy and in control”.  I had dark areas of shame.  Mostly in the Friday sector.  It is nowhere near as well tended as the Monday sector.  I just seem to lose steam by Friday and because it is the sector that is at the far end of the garden, behind the dome, there is a  lot of ‘out of sight, out of mind’ going on.  Subsequently the weeds got a bit of a foot hold, although not to the point of being unmanageable.

The Friday sector

So great is my shame there are no before photos. But this is Sector Five – the Friday Sector, weeded and smartened up and looking forward to living its best life.

The other problem with this area was most of my strawberries had died in the spring.  I had only gone away for 10 days and I didn’t expect it not to rain in that time, so I didn’t think to ask Hubby the Un-Gardener to water them for me in my absence, along with the seedlings in the greenhouse.  The plants never really recovered no matter how much love I gave them over the summer, so I guess I just shrugged my shoulders and walked away feeling the grief of a lost crop.  The strawberries are runners of runners of runners from my first foray into gardening when my kids were toddlers and we grew them in a pot at the front door of our city house.  Some would say I was emotionally attached to these strawberries.

The strawberry bed

Soon this will be home to all the strawberry plants, but it isn’t exactly a verdant display of health at this point.

The good thing is I think enough of them have survived to carry on the legacy, the link to the past.  Once I cleared the weeds I found many healthy looking plants.  There were also many sickly looking ones that are still trying their best, and others were just dry balls of organic material with no life left in them.   As I weeded their bed, and the raspberries, which was just as dire, I came up with a plan.

Compost turner

I also turned my compost. The corkscrew makes it so much easier. It is coming along nicely.

The strawberries are spread across two 2m x 4m beds with 4m x 1x for each to represent the 1 year old, 2 year old and 3 year old plants.  The 2nd half of the 2nd strawberry beds is for currants, although I really don’t want to talk about those either.   Seriously this is a grim corner of the garden.   So, what I thought I’d do is consolidate the Strawberries into one bed with the three age group separated by its width not the length.  There will be less strawberries, but it will be easier to look after and considering I didn’t get hardly any this season there is always hope for better.

mushroom

It would seem I’m making mushroom compost, and judging by the size of this one I seem to be doing a good job at it!

In the 2nd bed where the strawberries will be evicted from, I will put the raspberries.  This will give them a better home as I think where they are the soil is just too sandy.  They should be easier to look after in their new home too and maybe I’ll actually get a taste of these too.

Lime tree

Oh and I got my Lime tree repotted.

I feel better now I have a plan.  I just need to wait for the rain to come again.  We seem to get a decent rainfall and then nothing.  By the time it rains again, the soil has dried right out.  If I’m about to relocate multiple plants I want them to be settled in with lovely moist soil and continue to remain moist from the regular application of rain.

The fire pit area

So far so good – Hubby the Un-Gardener doesn’t muck around. I’d still be trying to figure out the maths behind how many materials I’d need!

I also weeded the pumpkin beds and a flower bed and gave the entire Friday sector a jolly good hoe to keep the weeds out of the paths.  To be honest the main reason for this weedy outburst is once again the power company was replacing the poles and switched us off again.  I think, judging by my productivity they should do it more often.  Actually no, it is a bit of a pain to be without power, so I’ll just have to find other ways to motivate myself.

Come again soon – the new area for relaxing with friends is starting to take shape.

Sarah the Gardener  : o)

#MakeMayCount

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