To be honest you really can’t tell you are going to run into problems until you run into problems. But having said that, I should have foreseen this one as I grow brassicas all year round so, they are going to get maximum use of their space until the very last minute.
Now that would be ok, if I had a slow starter following them. In the old garden the brassicas went into the salad bed, which, while I can grow both over winter, they tend to end up bolting and going to seed at the same time. Easy. Out with the old and in with the new.
Here they are in a completely different crop rotation cycle. They are in with the onions, tomatoes, peas and squash. These four were together in the old garden in what was a foursome of long skinny beds. Nothing has changed as far as bed size goes and they all worked well there.
The squash are in this group because they are easy to contain in a long skinny bed, especially with the help of some landscape stables to direct their growth. The onions, tomatoes and peas are in this group because they work well together. The peas come before the tomatoes in the off chance they have left their nitrogen rich goodness in the soil for the tomatoes to take advantage of. The onions follow up after the tomatoes just in case they leave soil cleaning properties in the soil to clean up any diseases the tomatoes may leave in their wake. The tomatoes are there in the middle of all of this because they are tomatoes and are the stars of the summer garden and should be treated as such.
It also helps to plant peas and tomatoes in two long rows for ease of harvest, care and maintenance. The onions have the bonus that they are in the longest bed so there is room for even more, so they can almost last us all year for cooking in the kitchen.
So that takes me back to this new interloper, a potential new friend on the edge of a tight group, with the squash being that goofy friend that somehow fits in, but no one really knows how or why. The brassica are in danger of annoying my onion, tomato, pea bond, because of the over wintering peas – that was a complete disaster and I’ve decided to stick with dwarf ones from now on as they just get buffered about too much in winter winds.
The new spring peas are nearly ready to go into their new bed – where they always go, but alas, someone is still sitting there. Ok most of the brassica are ready to move on, but there are still a few cabbage crops in there that still have a way to go. So, do I leave them and make my peas wait? Or do I sacrifice my cabbages. Or do I break up the beneficial threesome and put the peas somewhere else. There are two empty beds – well kind of empty. The old squash bed is sitting there waiting for the brassicas without a weed in sight. And the new squash bed, which was the old onion bed that had a second life as a popcorn bed, is currently knee high with a lupin cover crop that will need digging in soon anyway.
I think I may just move the brassicas in the crop rotation cycle, so they are in between the squash and the onions. It will mean digging in the cover crop sooner rather than later, but I haven’t sown any brassica seeds yet so there is time. That puts the squash between the peas and the brassicas and they finish in the autumn and don’t need to be planted out again until the mid – late spring, so if the brassica need to linger that is no problem and it doesn’t get in the way of starting the peas early in the spring.
The only drawbacks are the squash will go in the same bed again this season, but they are generally problem free – well not as bad as more fickle crops, and I’ll give the soil some extra love, so they have what they need.
The other problem I may have to sacrifice the remaining cabbages and do some serious harvesting to clear the bed. Apparently, you can freeze kale – I looked it up!
Spring is just around the corner and the spring prep is coming along nicely now that I’m not sick anymore. I’m not as far forward as I’d like to be, but the workload isn’t insurmountable.
Come again soon – bring on spring I say!
Sarah the Gardener : o)
It has been well over a week since I felt ‘normal’. Actually, I never feel normal, let me rephrase that. It has been well over a week since I felt well. This cold has really taken its toll on me. To start with I was resting to recover and did things I never do, like stay in bed all day and intermittently sleeping between watching chick flicks and exhausting every gardening show and you tube video I could find. Not only was I slowly feeling better, but it was a huge indulgence. I am normally a productive relaxer and feel most at peace when I’m doing something. To do absolutely nothing leaves me feeling frustrated. I really hate being sick.
The more I lay there in the cosy warm, the more frustrated I felt. Spring is just around the corner and there is so much to do, and it won’t be being done all the while I’m lying there. I tried making mental lists in my head but having not been in the garden for over a week it was hard to truly visualise what needed doing. All I could really worry about was the unfinished tasks that don’t need that much of a push to get them done. Then there is the shelving in the dome to be done, but that requires a clear head to work it all out as it is far from straight forward.
It was good to spend time getting all my paper working things up to date, but they weren’t that far behind as I’d taken care of everything before we went on holiday. It is weird the way I do that. I’m only gone for ten days but I tie up all the loose ends like I’d be away for a year or more! I’ve almost been as unwell for the same length of time and I did no planning or preparation for that absence of leave. I think the holiday helps and compounds the situation; I wasn’t wildly out of control but the time out of the garden over the last 6 weeks is much greater than the time spent in it. This is also down to the weather as it is finally behaving like winter.
But enough is enough and while I am not 100%, I am probably well enough to drag myself out there and do something. So that is what I did. I didn’t have a plan, or a list and I just went out there to have a look and find a nice gentle task that would leave me feeling satisfied that I’d done something and made some kind of progress. Wandering around the garden I knelt down to pull a wayward weed and took great pleasure from the ease it released itself from the loose fluffy soil. It felt good to be back in touch with the earth and have dirt under my nails.
So good, in fact, that one weed lead to another and another and before I knew it I’d weeded and entire bed, moved on to another and then another and before I knew it I’d done eleven beds, before the sky began to darken and threaten to rain. Being rained on is the last thing I need right now; I might end up catching a different cold.
It doesn’t bother me that I didn’t tackle anything on the list that worried me while lying in bed. There is still plenty of time and knowing the garden is mostly weed free is one less thing to worry about as we move towards the spring and will be easier to stay on top of than trying to tame an out of control jungle while trying to do all the things the new season requires of us.
In the meantime, I’ll share some of the things I discovered while pottering about in the garden, and all going well I’ll be able to get back out there again tomorrow and maybe even start crossing things off lists.
Come again soon – I am more well than I am unwell and so there is nothing stopping me from doing a spot of gardening… except maybe some rain.
Sarah the Gardener : o)
NB – clicking on the photos will tell you more about what is going on in them.
The first seeds of the season have been sown, with love and care and great expectation. But then disaster struck. Actually, it isn’t as bad as that, but it is extremely frustrating. I have picked up some kind of cold or lurgy that has left me unable to watch over my buried seeds with the unnecessary frequency I normally do. Those first seeds of the season are often checked 3 or 4 times a day for signs of life that often take 7 to 10 days to appear. Frequent checking on day 3 won’t speed things up but you never know. …
Instead I’m trying to recover my health and shake the cold that is clutching at my lungs and weighing down my sinuses making me want to sleep deeply during the day and leaves me wide awake during what seems to be the longest hours of darkness to be endured. But I’m being dramatic. It just seems to be a cold that has hit me harder than I would like to admit to.
Besides the wind and the rain are still raging about outside and gardening wouldn’t be fun. Although I do despair of the things still to be done. With the sowing of the first seeds, the tug of spring on the coat tails seems more urgent.
The seeds I have sown are the ones that I have decided need the best head start on the season as they take such a long time to get going. Having said that I normally start them off with great fanfare on the first day of August like a tradition that must be upheld no matter what. However, these days I seem to be a little more relaxed about things. The growing season is just that – a season and the period of time when it is ideal to sow seeds is a very wide window indeed. I’ve always known this but succumbed to the feeling that these things needed to be done at the first opportunity. Seeing others start theirs, provided it wasn’t way too early, did make me feel a little anxious. But I need to remind myself. It is not a race and if I sow seeds last week, next week or even next month, they will still be ok.
Gardening isn’t a race and I’m not competing with other gardeners and I’m certainly not competing with nature. So long as her seeds fall into warm soil with the right kind of moisture and daylight and day length, then she isn’t that fussed.
So, with my seeds tucked up in a good quality seed raising mix on a heat pad with enough water supplied, without being mollycoddled then they won’t even notice I’m not hovering about them fretting over their ability to germinate. They will just get on with it and knowing this makes it easier for me to recover from coughing and spluttering without worrying about them and before we know it, we will both be out in the garden, enjoying the warmth of the summer sun.
Come again soon – there will be better days ahead.
Sarah the Gardener : o)
The weather has turned. Up until recently it was mild, even possibly warm. The sun shone for more days than it rained to the point the experts were concerned about impending summer drought as the reservoirs were at a similar winter low to the year there actually was a serious drought.
The sun still shines from time to time as the wind is moving the clouds along so fast, they only cover the sun for the blink of a moment. The rain is kind of welcome. It is nice in that it is filling the water tanks, so summer watering of the garden can be done without a care in the world and the plants get their full thirst quenched. But at the same time, it is a bit of a pain. It is too wet to work outside, but not only too wet – it is an icy cold wet, the kind of rain that stings your face and hands and any exposed parts. And sometimes it comes in sideways – and fast. Often embellished with a touch of hail. Not pleasant at all.
After such an extended period of mild and balmy weather it was, to be honest, taken for granted. I kick myself for all the days I chose not to go out into the garden to get things done, just because I didn’t feel like it. I think I need a big poster on my wall in the winter that says, “Don’t waste nice winter days!” Having said that some of those days were not my fault… we did go on holiday and I was also told by a doctor to put my foot up for a week after a final remedy for a sprain that had been bothering me since January.
The bit I think is the worst is the wind. Not only is it a howling gale, but it is noisy. If it wasn’t so noisy, I don’t think it would be as bad. Right now, the gusts are 45 km/h. I would love to find out what they have been, but my poor weather station is struggling to keep up and only intermittently displays the data. I can’t even tell you which direction it has come from as the wind direction part has long since blown away! I think if I want to continue to monitor the conditions, I’ll need a more robust system.
I think the blessing comes from the big storm we had when we first moved here – the terrifying 212km/h winds at the start of our project has meant everything thing we have done here has the worst-case wind in mind. So, our sheds stand strong, the dome is immovable. It would seem an iron shed 1 kilometre up our driveway has become a twisted heap. An ordinary greenhouse wouldn’t have stood a chance. I have to say the spiralling costs of the dome have niggled away at me, tainting slightly the joy I have in it. But on a day like today I am grateful for it and all that it cost.
So, the wind from the depths of the Antarctic started blowing about a week ago and the boffins have not suggested a let up in the immediate future. But it is winter after all. It is supposed to be cold and yucky. What I need to ask myself is am I crazy enough about my garden to rug up warm and get out there and get stuff done to prepare for the impending spring?
Come again soon – the weather is raining on my parade.
Sarah the Gardener : o)
We are still in the grasp of midwinter, but the grip of winter is loosening. Late winter starts in a few days and with that the planning and preparation for the summer garden has amped up a gear. I have gone through my seed collection, double checked the packets to make sure there are still seeds within the little foil parcels, decided if there is enough or not, and if they would still be viable or would I be struggling in my efforts to see little green shoots rising from the barren seed raising mix in a few months’ time.
I have questioned my choices from last season and wondered if I liked things enough to grow them again. Somethings have been cast aside, never to grace my garden again – well not at my hand anyway. I found borage to be lacking. All that effort for some flowers to sprinkling in a summer drink and impress the bees. That thing took up more than its allotted space in my herb garden and self-seeded prolifically. I can provide for the bees with something much prettier and with much less problems. That plant is outta here – well it will be once I get control over its progeny!
I also had a look to see if there was anything new and exciting to try and there are a few things that may end up becoming a shining star among the ordinary things or will be a dismal flop never to be grown again – but you never know unless you try.
All of this seed sorting is great to do within the comfort of my armchair in the warmth of indoors, but the time will come soon enough when the contents of these packets become little green beings jostling for space as they grow into the plants that will become my garden. This isn’t a problem exactly, except I’m not sure where to put them.
Ok – I have the dome, but it doesn’t have any shelves in there. Not yet. I have a few stacked crates that kind of work for now, however there is not nearly enough space for everything that will need temporary accommodation in a warm sunny spot. But I’m at a loss as to how to do it.
In the last greenhouse I had a great system. There was a U-shaped frame around the rectangular greenhouse that created the structure for two shelves. The shelves themselves were made of decking timber cut to size but only every 6th one was screwed down. This gave the structure strength, but the loose ones were able to be lifted to be easily washed but also adjusted to improve airflow as the plants got bigger or pushed close together for tiny pots to balance safely without falling through, or removed completely if I chose to grow a tall plant that was happy to sit on the ground. The width of the shelves was deep enough for two of my largest seed trays and a little bit more. It was perfect.
I’d like to recreate something like this for the dome but with its irregular shape I am at a loss as to how to do this. There are too many possibilities but at the same time the slope and curve of the wall needs to be taken into consideration. Another thing to bear in mind is when the floor was laid, we make some holes in it so water could come and go from outside for irrigation and a possible sink, so I need to incorporate this into the design.
I have a few ideas but I’m not sure. But I need to think fast as it isn’t long before I’ll be out in the dome pottering about with a multitude of seedlings all vying for the best spot in the sun.
What would you choose? A, B, C, D E, F or something completely different? Each has their advantages and disadvantages and once done, that will probably be it. I can’t see myself changing it.
Come again soon – hopefully I would have made up my mind and be in the throes of construction.
Sarah the Gardener : o)
After being away for 10 days I was champing at the bit to get out into the garden and check out how it fared in my absence. To be honest I wasn’t really worried as there isn’t much going on compared to leaving a full-blown summer garden. In winter things are unhurried and harvesting isn’t required on a daily basis and things grow slowly.
A quick check of the weather station shows it was warm-ish, – for winter and there was a lot of rain and high humidity. So, it was unsurprising to see a bit of growth. The onions have settled in nicely and are starting to almost imperceivably thicken up. They are a long way from being fat bulbs ready for harvest, but they are on their way.
There are also a few more weeds than I would have anticipated so I need to jump in there and take care of them. Some things have gone to seed, but it wasn’t unexpected, we weren’t eating enough salad crops or Tatsoi. But after the magnificent food on the holiday I may need to change that and, shall we say, ‘eat a little lighter!’ There is plenty of time before I have to get my swimsuit out again and a lot of hard work to be done in the garden in the meantime so I’m sure it will be fine.
The Romanesco has finally come to a head and I have to say it is such a beautiful thing. The Fibonacci spirals are magnificently displayed. There is also some broccoli and beetroot ready for harvest. We are certainly not short for fresh veggies to grace our table. But some things have surprised me. There are broad beans on the cover crop plants that flowered too soon in the autumn. Not many, but enough for a taster. The first asparagus is poking through the soil after my efforts to cut back the fronds and freshen up the soil before I left. They say you can take a few in the second year, so I’m wondering if it is the first few or some from later in the season and just how many is a few, because I have a hankering for fresh asparagus now that I’ve seen it.
On the floral side of things, the daphne that was in bud before I left looks like it is only just in flower, so I get to soak in that incredible fragrance every time I intentionally walk past the plant. I honestly thought I’d miss it. But the biggest floral surprise is I have a daffodil up. Not just a few leaves or a bud about to burst but one in full glory, smiling in the sun. I wasn’t expecting to see that for another month at least.
I checked on the trees in the new orchard and they seem to be doing well, but I do need to make a priority of the staking and setting up the irrigation that I ran out of time to do before I left. But the peach is in bud already so I can’t muck around.
With all of the cool things going on, there is also a battle. The rust on the garlic has come back. I spotted it before I went away and trimmed off the affected leaves and gave it a feed and a spray so it could heal in my absence. I’m so pleased I did spot it as if I hadn’t, I would have come home to a sea of orange and a whole lot of heartbreak. But this time, there were only a few splodges of tell-tale orange, so I immediate removed the leaves and will do the feed and spray thing again. This is a battle I refuse to lose, and I will fight for my garlic and beat the rust into submission.
But all in all, things aren’t too bad, so as we approach the spring from the remaining half of winter, I will prepare a big long list and work towards it. It shouldn’t be too hard.
Come again soon – There has been a shift in the atmosphere, spring is coming, hoorah!
Sarah the Gardener : o)
I’ve been away. Not only that, I’ve time travelled! With the garden mostly under control it was the perfect time to have a bit of a holiday. For the keen gardener mid-winter really is the best time to take a break as there isn’t really a lot going on and besides – it is cold and miserable so who wouldn’t want to go somewhere tropical? So, we jumped in a plane and after 5 hours found ourselves 22 hours behind, in the day before we even left, in the delightful Tahiti.
To be honest for me it was perfect, I didn’t realise how much I actually needed a holiday from it all and so there was no gardening, although I did read a fascinating book about the head gardener from the Gardens of Versailles. >Find out more about it here< I didn’t even intentionally look at gardens. There were options to visit gardens and agricultural places, but the soft warm waters of the tropical Pacific Ocean called to me and I swam in waters that drifted all worries and cares away. I was truly refreshed.
I was also truly spoilt and had some amazing food and drink. There is nothing like celebrating the setting of the sun with a cocktail in hand in the company of lovely new friends. The French influence interlaced with the Polynesian culture made things feel truly exotic and the food was incredible. Although I have to say as much as the French enjoy eating snails, they can keep them. I thought it would be the ultimate gardener’s revenge, but I couldn’t face it, not matter how much garlic there was on them. I guess ignorance is bliss as I watched non-gardeners gobble them down. I just kept picturing the slimy buggers in my garden!
But now I’m back and with just a week left of mid-winter I need to get my act together. Spring starts is about 6 weeks and the first seeds of the season get started in a week and a half! So with one hand on the unpacking and the laundry as I wash the salt and sunscreen residue from my clothes – but not my memories, I will throw myself back into the garden with all that needs to be done, should have been done and will need to be done sooner rather than later. I’m relaxed, refreshed and ready for business. A new season is coming.
Come again soon – there is much to be done.
Sarah the Gardener : o)
It was with great expectation I approached my Yam bed, also known as Oca. As far as I was concerned, I’d done all the right things, I’d fed and watered with a frequency that could be described as regular. I was in a new environment here beside the sea and the soil was more free draining than at the old place and so surely that would have helped. I waited until the bulky foliage had completely died back, like you are supposed to do. Surely there was a bumper harvest lying beneath the surface of the soil.
At the old place I never really got a great harvest of yams, but certainly not from a lack of trying, however their bed was off to the side and easily forgotten with an out of sight out of mind cavalier attitude. It did flood often there as well and what yams I did dig up were mostly pockmarked with the early signs of rot. It really didn’t bode well, but I can be tenacious at the best of times and there is nothing to be lost from trying this crop again and again, hoping for a better outcome. It is relatively low maintenance so worth the persistence.
So how did it fare in the new spot?
Miserably! To be honest I think the tubers I planted collectively weighed more than the tubers I harvested. It is a miracle reducing crop. However undeterred I shall try again, surely one day the conditions will be perfect and we will get the much longed for bumper harvest. Conditions swing wildly from one season to the next and I can’t forget the year I could hold my entire pumpkin harvest in one hand, which just happened to be the same year I had the best ever celery crop.
I live in hope, although my suspicions are it just doesn’t get cold enough and moving to a frost free spot beside the sea isn’t going to help. Having said that the boffins are suggesting this is a mild winter compared to most, so maybe next year it will be colder… I can’t believe I’m actually hoping for a chilly winter. But its for the yams!
Yams will always have a place in my garden, not counting the hope of a better crop, but I created a bed especially for it and it is now riddled with measly mung bean sized tubers I couldn’t be bothered harvesting and now they are there they are there for good. They are related to the dreaded oxalis weed that strikes fear into the hearts of gardeners at the mere sight of a tiny folded trefoil shaped leaves emerging from the undergrowth. But for now I’ll just have to make do with do with ones from the store grown by folk who know what they are doing in a location that yams actually like.
Come again soon – I need to tell you about my orchard.
Sarah the Gardener : o)
You may or may not remember late last year I bought some fruit trees…. >Read about it here< Umm… yeah…. Well… I killed them, all of them. Well the olive still has leaves, but it might as well be dead by the look of it! It isn’t completely unexpected, as I ended the tree purchasing post with the words:
“I do feel a little sorry for the humble collection of trees I have just acquired as I have a ‘do or die’ philosophy when it comes to fruit trees.”
Although I was referring to its ability to survive here by the sea and not my negligent behaviour. But the thing is I had that old saying “The best time to plant a tree is twenty years ago and the second best time is now!” ringing in my ears. I left an established orchard and that was hard to do. I’d waited a long time to have an abundance of fruit and just when they got going, we got going. There are trees in that orchard with fruit I never got to try. So, I was in a hurry to replace them.
But there was so much else going on at that time, what with moving a house and building the entire garden in time for the growing season, so the trees while were on the ‘do it now’ list, I wasn’t really ready for them. By the time I got to the garden centre all of the good ones had gone already so I had to compromise on my carefully researched varieties.
Having secured a motley crew of trees, the poor things then languished in pots for far too long while I tended to the needs of new season seedlings and finishing the last of the beds. They were moved about the place several times as they somehow seemed to be underfoot and in the way. The brisk sea breezes enjoyed knocking them over again and again and as they were in small-ish pots they often dried out. Oh, and then Snowy the Goat gave them unnecessarily pruning – twice as she slipped her collar. She now sports a dashing and much stronger collar to keep her in control.
Finally, they found themselves in the ground, better late than never right? Unfortunately not. Last summer was a very dry summer, compounded by the fact that the water tank for the garden was only installed in September so it didn’t have an opportunity to become filled by nature and we started the season off in a position of shortage and water conservation. The newly planted trees were thirsty and not having the opportunity to hunker down and get their roots in deep during the winter and spring, come summer they suffered. I did water them, but not enough. My watering was sporadic for a healthy orchard, but devastatingly so for a bunch of trees in such an unfortunate situation. Death happened and much to my disgrace was not unexpected.
But I still want trees and I still have my list. I found it the other day tucked down the back of my seed tin. So, I have pulled it out, straightened it out and popped it into my handbag ready for the day I can go to the garden centre and restock with trees that will be treated with a greater kindness. The garden centres are filling with new season trees and this time I am ready for them. They will be my sole focus of care upon arrival and will be planted into spaces prepared for them.
The other key to their survival will be water. I shall set up irrigation for each tree and the starting point will be accessed from in the garden so I will have no excuse not to connect the pipe to the hose and quench the thirst of these precious trees.
So, there it is, my shameful secret revealed and my promise and intentions to do better, and the reward will be sun-warmed peaches straight from the tree, crisp apples on crisp autumn days and so many other varieties of fruit. They will be so loved that it will only be their own internal desire to remain rooted in this spot beside the sea that will let them down. I will do my absolute best by them.
Come again soon – its tree shopping time – again!
Sarah the Gardener : o)