We are still in summer, repeat after me ‘we are still in summer’. It is becoming a little bit hard to believe right now. After the rain eventually came there has been a perceivable shift in the way things feel. That dry crispness that you feel underfoot when you walk across the lawn is gone. Most mornings there is now a bit of a dew which is helping to soften the lawn and slowly bring back the green colour.
The temperatures have dipped. The air is still alive with the sound of cicadas creating the perception of summer heat, but it is a different heat from the boiling hot of a few weeks ago. There is a chance the conditions may return to those heady days, but we are definitely slipping into more comfortable balmy conditions.
The garden is also telling me things are changing and if you dilly dally you may miss the peak moments of harvest. I have been going through the motions with the garden, with the weeding, watering, and harvesting what I need when I need it. But there haven’t been that many opportunities for slaving over the hot stove preserving the harvest. This is mainly because psyllid have all but ruined my tomato harvest.
Looking around the garden now, there are things that have been on a slow boil and am only just coming ripe, others I have been taking a bit here and a bit there, but before long the plants will bolt and there won’t be anything left. Making the harvest last throughout the winter until it is ready to harvest again is why my garden is so big.
The garden is in an orderly control so these days instead of having dirt under my nails from toiling in the soil, the tips of my fingers are soggy from the constant plunging in water that comes from preserving the harvest. Some things are just vac packed and popped in the freezer, others have been dehydrated, some just need storing in the shed as is, and others get pickled. I’ve even done a spot of baking.
Kitchen gardening is just as rewarding and garden gardening and as the season inevitably begins to transform into something else there will be many more opportunities to spend time indoors, capturing summer in jars and freezing it to shine on cold grey days.
Come again soon – Seeds need to be sown again.
Sarah the Gardener : o)
NB: Click on each image for a detailed descriptions of what has been going on in the garden and in the kitchen.
It has been a long hot summer. The kind of endless summer you remember as a kid, when the sun shines for days on end and it seems like it will last forever. You go to bed at night with the windows open, and then wish you had some kind of screen to stop the enormous moths coming in and divebombing your head.
But for the gardener this weather is bittersweet. While it is nice to garden in good weather and summer plants thrive in full sun, one eye is firmly on the water tank levels and in the increasingly dry soil. For a while there, it doesn’t really matter too much if you check the weather forecast or not, it is what it is and it will be fine. But after a month without significant rain, you end up searching the skies and as many weather apps as you can, looking for the hint of moisture on the horizon.
So, this morning I had to go into town, the kids are back at school again and I delight in the return of the routine that I celebrated the end of just a couple of months ago. I also had a few chores to run and in the short dash between the car and the store I got soaked. It was a good steady rain, the kind that soaks deep into the ground without overwhelming it and I rejoiced. Hooray the rains have come.
Only that excitement was completely dashed as I headed for home. Beyond the muggy grey clouds above me I could see blue on the horizon. Surely that wasn’t over our house? My hope and expectation faded as I got closer and closer to home.
We did get some rain; the ground was wet. But nothing like the downpour in town. It wasn’t even registering on my weather station and Wilbur the Wheelbarrow hadn’t even covered his bottom. I scrapped back the soil hopefully and the dampness had only penetrated the shallowest of depths. With the sun forcefully pushing through the clouds I resigned myself to the fact that we had missed out once again, I set up the irrigation system and proceeded to water the thirsty plants.
The boffins are promising a lot of rain tomorrow so maybe we’ll get ours then, but I’m not holding my breath.
Come again soon – I’ve been doing some kitchen garden with the harvest.
Sarah the Gardener : o)
To mark the last day of January I filmed a quick garden tour to show the state of the garden as it stands, as representative of the middle month of summer. To be honest, I’m quite pleased with it, all things considered. On a hot, bright sunny day, everything looks wonderful, if not a little heat exhausted. Sit back and enjoy my garden like you were right beside me, having a personal tour…
Come again soon – there is still a third of summer to go!
Sarah the Gardener : o)
If I am to learn anything from this month is to lower my expectations. This is not a normal month where life ticks by with the ebb and flow of a reliable routine. It is filled with holidays and opportunities to hang out on the beach, or to visit or be visited. Not many people work normally for a large chunk of this month and I need to acknowledge I am not one of those people. The plans for the day can be cast aside for the opportunity to bask in the sun and do nothing and meanwhile zucchini remain unharvested.
But things haven’t been completely neglected and snatched days here and there have resulted in a garden that doesn’t look too bad all things considered. I put it down to the sector system I use to manage my garden as no one area is raging out of control in my absence and it only takes a short amount of time to set things right. And in some cases, I can take care of more than one sector in a day with no great inconvenience. It also helps that I can set up the irrigation to water the garden without me.
The tomatoes have been terrible again. There is something going on and I need to get to the bottom of it. I have been so good sanitizing the snips between plants, weeding, watering, and feeding regularly and spraying at the first sign of stubborn pests. I think next season I will need to do things dramatically differently if I am to see a bountiful harvest, but at this point I have no idea what that will be.
To be honest I haven’t been inundated with zucchini because at the end of December the wind snapped the tops out of three of the plants. So, I popped in new seed and hoped for the best. It couldn’t have worked out better as I had a good supply before we went away and now that life is returning to normal the new ones are starting to crank up production. So, I didn’t end up with mountains of marrows while I took my eye off the garden. Although the UFO scallopini stayed intact and so I have loads of giant ones that need to be dealt with ASAP.
I haven’t given up on my attempt to have 4 varieties of corn in one season. The popcorn is drying nicely, the sweet corn is nearly ready, and the glass gem corn isn’t far off sending up tassels. But the Painted mountain corn only had one germinate. I don’t know if it is because the seed is old (it is old seed) or something stole them from the soil. I should have a bed with 10cm high corn right now but there is only one. I soaked some more seeds to help with germination but then left them outside by mistake and surprise, surprise they have gone without a trace. So, I will have to try again. I think I’ll start in seed trays so I can control the conditions better, protect them from being eaten and keep and eye on them. It is getting a little late in the growing season so I will also have to pray for a long hot autumn.
This also isn’t the best month to start a huge project. But I did. I needed some content for a deadline and thought it shouldn’t take long. My bare wood sheds were beginning to show signs of the wear and tear this brutal location can do to wooden structures so I decided to paint them, to protect them from the elements and to kill two birds with one stone, give me something to write about. Unfortunately, painting isn’t a quick task and I remembered not long into the project that I hate painting! But once you start you can’t really stop.
So, I have reached the end of the month with a garden that doesn’t look too worse for wear, a harvest at the point of a glut needing processing, not just enjoying the first fruits. I have had a fabulous break – albeit in a tent (seriously I’m getting too old for a tent – give me a caravan any day) and spent quality time with family and I have protected my sheds which are now sporting a delightful blue and white coat.
All going well February will be a better month with the return of routine and a sense of order and control. Unless of course I take on another hairbrained project – which is quite likely as I have something rather large I want to create…
Come again soon – the summer growing season is still in full swing.
Sarah the Gardener : o)
This is always such an interesting time of year; the summer holidays just keep giving. I have settled down in my garden office for the 3rd time this year determined to start the year on the right foot, with a calm and steady focus. And then opportunities for summer fun came along that were too good to say no to. And so, I have been off having fun.
But while having fun there have been moments of gardening goodness, where my Mum pickled some of my beetroot with her special recipe – although I did see her computer open to Annabel Langbein, so I don’t imagine for a moment it is an old family secret recipe but rather something delish she stumbled across and uses it so often that she mostly knows it by heart. I have to say it is delish! I watched my city nieces pick strawberries and enjoy the pleasures of sun warmed tomatoes of varieties not found in supermarkets. And I made some kimchi from fresh garden ingredients. There was also plenty more beach and sun time and that is what summer is all about.
Hopefully now I can sit down and focus, plan and put things into action for the 2021 garden. I have purchased a load of notebooks and am not afraid to fill them. (Often if it is an exceptionally pretty notebook, I don’t want to spoil it with my untidy scrawl! So, I bought nice looking plain ones!)
With STEADY as the word of the year, I am going to tackle the year in pieces. Long term goals will be broken into bite sized chunks and started now so when I get to the long term days I’m not faced with a mountain. Medium and short term days will be treated the same, so I don’t find myself stuck all day with one task. This should make life more interesting.
With the eye on the future, I can work my way back to today. I have booked a garden group visit for mid spring. This will help me to keep my eye on the ball for the spring planting, winter garden prep, autumn end of season clean up and late summer cool season starting so everything occurs in good time. Using my sector system properly to deal with the needs of the 5 groups in the vegie patch will be the key as in a good week this can take less then half an hour a day – unless there is a big task like digging up spuds.
When the system works properly it will free up time, time for a new adventure. I have great plans. I want to build a different kind of garden and have a space in mind. It is one of the only other flat-ish bits of land here that is easily accessible, and I have already built the stairs to reach it. It runs along behind the garden and in my head, I can see it finished with a million ideas I’m dying to try out. It will be an exciting journey exploring what exactly is possible to do in this wild west coast environment. There will probably be failure – there will definitely be failures, but I’m not one to follow instructions so we will just have to see how it goes. I’m really excited about this shift in focus.
The vegetable garden will always be at the heart of what I do as it feeds my family and is an expression of my love for them. However, as teens, they will be looking to fledge the nest soon and I won’t need to grow as much food to fill their bottomless bellies. And so, I need to find an alternative way to fulfill my gardening yearnings and to be honest I’m always up for taking on a challenging situation.
So here we are at the 3rd attempt for a productive start to exciting new year, and that is ok. Things don’t go according to plan and as a gardener this lesson was learnt long ago with ungerminated seeds, pest invasions and so many other nefarious things that can occur in a garden.
Come again soon – exciting times are ahead.
Sarah the Gardener : o)
I have been away on our annual summer break. I do find Christmas and the summer holiday a tad incompatible with a fully burgeoning garden, however that is an argument for another day and at the end of the day getting away from it all and spending time creating family memories takes precedence. So, we dragged ourselves away from our lovely West Coast vista and headed off to the lovely vista on the East Coast, where the sand is white and the waves not so wild.
We were nestled into a great camping spot in the midst of the bush with a babbling stream where the sound of the gentle waves competed with the birds as the soundtrack of our summer. The Kiwi’s and Morkpork’s filled the night air and then handed over the Tui’s whose dawn chorus is an incredible sound, like being in a cathedral filled with a million bells. We were right in there with nature… with no power, no internet and a tent that didn’t hold up all that well to the torrential rain on day 2! However, once the rain stopped and the campsite dried out, we had some spectacular summer days where memories were indeed made.
Not having any internet or power and not being a great swimmer, I decided I would spend some time doing garden research and dragged with me some of my fattest gardening books to delve into and make plans. The lure of doing nothing set in the moment we arrived, and the books remained unopened and I am no further ahead with my new year’s planning than I was before we left… Which is no where at all.
As the year is over a week old now, I will need to schedule in time for planning alongside the doing and try to find a balance. I’m kind of looking forward to it as it means I will need to timetable my day a little so everything gets attention, which will avoid the boom and bust of focusing on one thing at a time.
The good news is the garden thrived in my absence. There was rain, but no wind. Thanks to the care I put in before I left, my tomatoes are pest and disease free. I lost one tomato, the leaves are brown and crispy. It is most likely down to disease so I will carefully remove it and avoid the spread. I have been using hand sanitizer on my hands and tools in between handling each plant and it seems to have paid off.
Everything else is looking wonderful, although there is work to be done, weeds to pull, and plans to make and a Wong Bok that looks almost ready to turn into kimchi. I’m not entire sure what 2021 will look like in my garden as I have yet to decide, but I am looking forward to the process.
Come again soon – I’m about to make some lists.
Sarah the Gardener : o)
2020 was an odd year and to be honest I am pleased it is behind us.
January started with pest and disease and turbulent storms in the garden. Little did I know this would be a metaphor for the entire year. February lulled us into a false sense of security and was more settled. There seemed to be a rhythm and routine and order and control. I barely remember it. It feels so odd to have a time when things were progressing as they should. However, it would seem this was the calm before the storm. Everything was about to be turned upside down.
As March turned to autumn it introduced us to Lockdown. It didn’t change much in my world but at the same time it inexplicably changed everything. April brought with it a weird inertia, at that time of year the garden was winding down, so there wasn’t much to do but what there was didn’t fill me with joy… possibly as most of it was pulling things out and an emptying of the garden rather than the excitement of filling it up and all the hope and promise that brings.
In an attempt to shake the mood, I decided to #MakeMayCount. There is a natural lull in life during May as it is the doorstep to winter and what stretches ahead isn’t as joyful as the doorstep to summer. I would like to think I do this again as it brings life into the days, although the lesson I need to learn from last May is not to over do things trying to make the month count. May also had the added strangeness of re-entering the world again. Busy hands prevented dwelling on just how scary this was… Was it actually safe, could we trust in what we once took for granted?
June brought with the winter and a slower pace after the busy heady May days. Just pottering about and starting to think about making plans for the new growing season. July was typically winter with the ravages of storms and the turn of the calendar suggesting spring is closer than realized.
Looking back over August invokes feelings of stress and overwhelmedness. I had taken my eye off the ball too much in the early mid-winter and now the entire growing season needed planning and preparation in a short space of time and if that wasn’t enough, we were plunged into another lockdown and the sense of weirdness returned.
Spring arrived in September with all the fanfare and excitement of a new growing season but with the underlying currents of a hastily prepared party, it was good enough, but not nearly as wonderful as I had hoped for.
October contained a milestone – a birthday with an ‘0’ in it. Birthdays with ‘0’s in them always leave you questioning how you are going in life and I love where we are and what we are doing. It coincided with the big spring plant out week and it really felt like a new beginning, the start of something wonderful, and yet the continuation of something that feels right and comfortable, like an old sock.
November was a month of spring storms, holidays and reaching that sweet spot where the garden was finally planted out. The time away from the garden for weather or leisure didn’t impact the tasks required from the garden. But then November is always that month that is like the eye of the storm, the one where you can stop with the prepping and planning and enjoy the calm before the harvest and the festive season kicks in.
This December hasn’t been the easiest, the unbalanced and unsettled nature of life since the arrival of the first lockdown, culminated in an end of year frenzy of activity ‘to get things finished’ for the year. However, this beginning and ending feels imagined especially when you are in the middle of the growing season and have yet to see an abundance of anything in the harvest basket.
But a good push to cross things off the list, means 2021 will start afresh and the navel gazing of this blog post will help to set things in place so the good is repeated and the worst is cast aside.
In hindsight I think I’m going into the new year in a different position as the entire garden is in control – there are problems, however they aren’t insurmountable and if things fail, then there is nothing to be done about it, so I’m trying not to lose energy and effort worrying about it. If I have put my best foot forward, then what will be will be.
I started last year with the word Overcome but standing at the other end of the year it feels like the word has morphed into Overwhelm.
My words from this time last year still apply: ”It makes sense then that my new year’s resolutions would be a focus of health and wellbeing with a bit of mindfulness thrown in for good measure.” … “I envisaged a sense of calm and slow gentleness where life falls into place perfectly and the garden will flourish under this new approach.”
What I need to do this year is approach it with a more level head. Yes, take time to unwind, but also plan and prepare so the future doesn’t come as a surprise. I need to even out the boom and bust situations in the garden so there is a gentle ebb and flow that is more enjoyable no matter what the weather or the season. Plunging oneself into situations of panic on a regular basis isn’t good for overall wellbeing.
The word for 2021 shall be ‘Steady’ as in ‘steady as she goes’.
Come again soon – next year things will be the same but different.
Oh and… Happy New Year!!!
Sarah the Gardener : o)
The run up to Christmas has been a little bit hectic, with last minute shopping and a busy work life balance, but I can now finally throw myself into all things Christmas and enjoy the festive season with my family. But before I completely switch off my computer gardening and indulge in festive kitchen gardening and gentle garden gardening to maintain all that is growing there, I decided to do a quick tour to share with you what we will be eating from the garden this Christmas. Most of it will be harvested on the day, moments before eating, because not only is it better this fresh, but it is also a great excuse to get a bit of gardening in on the big day!
So sit back and enjoy the tour and I’ll be back with more garden goodness for you in early 2021.
Come again soon – but in the meantime have a Merry Christmas and a Safe and Happy New Year.
Sarah the Gardener : o)
… with a few pops of colour thrown in for good measure.
It hasn’t been the easiest season so far, however if I stop focusing on what is making it a struggle and look at the big picture. Or take a closer look at the things that aren’t considered superstars of the summer garden, yet are there every year and faultlessly do their thing. On reflection, I think, just maybe this might not be such a disastrous season as I was thinking it might be. It just got off to a rough start and there is every hope for a successful end. I think I just need to treat the temperamental superstars like the primadonnas they are and not let them overshadow hard working plants who keep their heads down and do their stuff.
So with the impending start of a whole new year, I’m going to say no to the gloom and doom and look forward to better days. Someone just needs to tell the weather – it is hot, but cloudy and muggy, not exactly ideal summer stuff… but it is what it is and I’m not cold wet or miserable!
Come again soon – I think it may be time for a video tour.
Sarah the Gardener : o)
I have a disease in my garden. I noticed it a few days ago and toyed with the idea of ignoring it, in the hopes that it will go away. However knowing how dramatically another virus that shall remain nameless has wreaked havoc all over the place, the last thing I need is the little world that is my garden to be devastated and require complete destruction in order to control it.
I resigned myself to the possibility of doom and gloom and took a few photos and then did what they say you should never do for yourself with medical symptoms and I consulted the great big internet. With all sorts of alarm bells ringing to the tone of fear in my head, I spent a restless night filled with worry. In the light of day I decided to face these fears head on and sent an email off to my favourite horticultural expert who very kindly and gently suggested I did indeed have a disease but not the one I thought I had.
It turns out I have Alfalfa Mosaic Virus which has a wide variety of hosts including peppers, tomatoes, potatoes, peas and beans, which is a large portion of what I have growing in my garden. Looking on the bright side it is just as well I decided to do something about it, or all would have been lost.
It is spread predominantly by aphids, but I imagine other saps suckers like Green Vegetable Bug wouldn’t have good proboscis washing behaviours between plants. It also is transmitted by mechanical means, ie not sanitising my secateurs between plants when trimming them up. I could have spread this myself! I was being good at sanitising between tomato plants after the Pith Necrosis bacterial disease of last year. I just got lazy with the peppers. The disease also passes on through the seed and so now I’m not confident to save seeds from tomatoes or pepper or anything right now.
Most of the peppers affected are the ones I accidentally managed to overwinter. So, I’m wondering if the overwintering increased the risk of problems. I don’t think I’ll do that again. It isn’t worth the hassle for a slightly early harvest. It is better to just clear beds and let the garden rest in the winter without having host plants for pests and disease to overwinter in. This is especially more important where I am because we don’t get killing frosts. We don’t get any frosts.
Fortunately, it is still early enough in the growing season that the garden centre still had supplies, so I was able to replace them all. Not like for like, but they had enough interesting varieties for me to choose from. It is a little frustrating as the ones in the garden were starting to do so well. There are a few that I did have to start from seed because the last season ones didn’t make it through the winter. These aren’t showing signs yet so I’m thinking of putting them in pots and isolating them in quarantine to see if they have symptoms or not.
I also need to increase my pest watch vigilance and look out for aphids and other sap suckers and be ready with the spray. Fortunately aphids can be treated easily with a range of natural products and my choice of sprays is Yates Nature’s Way Organic Citrus, Vegie & Ornamental Spray with is a pyrethrum and canola oil combination insecticide where the pyrethrum disrupts the insect nervous system and the canola oil smothers them. My other favourite is Yates Nature’s Way Vegie Insect Spray Natrasoap which is based on insecticidal soap, which is made from natural vegetable oils. The soap damages the protective layer that keeps the soft bodied insects from drying out. It is good to alternate between modes of action on fast breeding insect pests, so they don’t get used to the treatment and adapt.
I don’t remember having so many terrible problems in my early gardening days, but I think it may have been lack of experience and naivety. I didn’t know what to look for or what was normal and if there was a harvest there was harvest. I gardened with an ‘it is what it is’ approach. But now that I know more, I am all the more vigilant with the out of the ordinary and am seeing what I never saw before.
One of these days I will have that perfect season where there are very few pests, the diseases are scarce, and the weather is the most perfectly ideal. In the meantime, I will carry on and hope for the best safe in the knowledge there is always next season.
Come again soon – hopefully disaster has been averted.
Sarah the Gardener : o)
NB: This isn’t a Yates sponsored post – I’m just super grateful to them for helping me diagnose my problem so quickly.