The weather is still being weird. It is still gloomy but the nice days are fighting for their right to shine, so we have had a couple of days that offer the promise of summer. But for the most part this struggle of the seasons are showing themselves as hot and humid with bursts of rain temporarily cooling things down. The garden is coping well enough. I wouldn’t say thriving as it really needs the sunshine to go with the warmth. I’m checking regularly for fungal diseases because that would be so unfortunate to lose everything before they get going.
With the weather being so strange, it makes gardening become a bit of a chore. The weeds seem to love the weather, so they are doing well. Today I went through most of the garden pulling out anything that isn’t supposed to be there. It was early in the day so it wasn’t too hot to start with, but the humidity got more and more intense that you could feel the rain before it came. But I managed to harvest peas, zucchini, strawberries, a couple of tomatoes, asparagus and coriander seeds before the heavens opened. I probably would have stopped at that point anyway as a wasp was a little unhappy with me disturbing it when I was picking the strawberries.
Normally I know my garden intimately, having nurtured everything from seed and watched over it with care as it grew to take its place in the garden. This season, I don’t feel like I know it as well as I was out of the garden for a month, and then the weather held me back while it treated my plants poorly. So there has been harm and loss, as well as a bit of a disconnect. But it is my garden and my responsibility, and I need to fall back in love with it. I would be completely lost without it. It occupies my time and I wouldn’t know what to do with myself if I didn’t have to look after it. It is also my muse, that allows me to create content, some of which pays its way and allows me to spend time in a garden all day.
Love is a strange thing. There is the instant love at first sight, like when a beautiful flower emerges and it looks even more amazing than the label suggested and has an intoxicating fragrance. Then there is the intense love that is experienced when eating a sun warmed strawberry, straight from the garden – with its deeply rich flavour that you find you can’t stop at just one, and end up eating every single one right there in the garden.
However the best love is the one that comes with a sense of comfort and familiarity. You know the garden will always be there, but you need to contribute to its well being, even if it means a bit of hard work in the chill of winter, because you know the reward will come when the garden begins to flourish and offer up a harvest in return for all you have done. This is the kind of love I have for my garden, although sometimes in the moment, it can be challenging, and I chide myself for wishing it away or complaining that is it demands too much of me.
Sometimes I just need to look past all of the activity that is required and just sit and be. The garden wraps itself around me in a soft green, fragrant embrace and reminds me to look at what we have accomplished together. I just need to take the time to be still in the company of my garden and appreciate it and be reminded exactly what it means to me. The chores can wait, nothing in a garden is urgent
Come again soon – I do love my garden, but at times it does feel like a petulant child!
Sarah the Gardener : o)
After days and days of the wind whipping through the garden and whistling through all of the gaps, tearing at the windbreak, requiring repairs, it stopped. It was kind of abrupt in that I went to bed with sound of the wind knocking on my window and awoke to birdsong. It had gotten to the point that I thought it would never end and I was trying to work out how I could manage the garden in spite of the wind.
However, I have learnt… the hard way, that trying to repair damage while the wind is in full swing can do more harm than good. It is really hard to wait so on the worst days it is better not to look at the garden, for fear of what will be found. The wind is one of the prices we pay for living here in such a beautiful place. Fortunately, the high winds in the grand scheme of things aren’t that frequent and we get just as many days with no wind at all. Most of the time there is a breeze that is barely noticeable and in the height of summer when it comes straight off the ocean is welcome.
But it is strange without the noise of the wind, it is so peaceful. It isn’t like it is completely silent, but there is a more joyous noise. The air is thick with the chatter of the birds, and we can hear the waves crashing on the shore.
The sense of anxiety and stress is gone. It is almost like it was pressing in on all sides and without it there is a liberation. I knew when we were in the midst of it that it bothered me, but until it was gone I didn’t know just how much. And it is now, in this time of peace and calm that I can assess the damage and make my repairs. It is easy to see what needs doing when everything is still.
But also, in this calmness I can once again see the hope and promise for the rest of the season. I can dare to plan and dream again. In the windy times it is almost too much to begin to think of the future just in case all is destroyed. The worry itself can be quite exhausting. There is a lightness in the peace, the garden fills my tank with goodness and even if I’m not doing anything except sitting in it watching the life slowly grow, I feel a sense of joy and happiness.
It still isn’t warm yet, although the weekend did hint at the possibility. Once the sun arrives and radiates over us with its love and welcoming heat then we can hold onto the sense of peace and joy the garden offers, so long as the wind stays away.
Come again soon – the forecast is still all over the place so I need to do what needs to be done when I can do it!
Sarah the Gardener : o)
Today is the first day of the meteorological summer, but it certainly doesn’t feel like it. The forecast suggests that the temperature won’t rise above 18°C and I’ve gone back to wearing a scarf. The wind hasn’t settled down and is howling a hoolie. I have taken a quick look at the garden in between the showers and there have been casualties, but nothing that can’t be fixed or restored. I still have my spares so I can replace those poor plants that are beyond help after this particular burst of bad weather. I’m not sure how much longer I can keep reaching into my spares as they are starting to become worse for wear in their small pots. If we get another storm like this one I may just have to cut my losses for some of the plants.
The long range forecast is suggesting scorching temperatures and dry spells for this summer which at this point being warm and dry sounds amazing, but ask me again when we’re in the middle of it. They are also saying the rainfall might be more than average for our area. So it is supposed to be hot and dry and wet?! I guess the rainy days will come as a relief from the hot and dry. The other aspect of the hot and dry is we have so much water stored away that keeping the garden hydrated won’t be a problem so one less thing to worry about.
Although we are at the start of a new season, we are also at the start of the run up to Christmas. For me this is normally just a mad panic two weeks out from the big day, but this year I am determined to be more intentional about it. If we look at advent, which I realise I’m about a week late to start at the right time, but I’ve had a few things going on; the first stage is about Hope and as a gardener I am all over this one. We start the season with hope that this will be a good one and even as we start summer with a dark and gloomy day I still have hope that there will be a bright future ahead for me and my garden.
If it wasn’t for hope, the life of the gardener would be trepidatious as there is so much that can go wrong, from the wind snapping your plants, to the pests and diseases that silently invade and destroy. It would be tempting to say why bother when the risks are so high. But the rewards are worth it and as gardeners we spend the whole time fixated on the end result. In the depths of winter we can visualise the harvest and imagine the beautiful blooms.
In the spring we work hard to set the wheels in motion for the bountiful rewards and push past the blisters on our hands and ache in our back. Summer is where it is at, and we appreciate the warming summer sun kissing our plants and giving them life.
And as we head into autumn as the sun fades away, we linger in the glow of what we have achieved and look forward to trusting and hoping that next season will be just as marvellous as all the hard times are banished from our memories. A constant hope is what keeps gardeners going.
And with that I’m going to head into the greenhouse to sow some succession seeds because if we just take from the garden without giving back then we run out of good fortune.
Come again soon – it has to get better – hopefully.
Sarah the Gardener : o)
Coming back to the garden after such a long time out of it feels weird. It isn’t helped by the weather. We are just three days away from the start of the meteorological summer and to be honest it feels like the early days of spring. Instead of slowly raising the temperatures and increasing the sunshine, the season seems to be stuck in some kind of holding pattern from early spring. As I write this the temperature gauge only just moved to 17°C and I’m still wearing socks, a warm jumper and a scarf. I’ll probably shed most of them as the day wears on, but I certainly won’t be switching out for shorts and a tee-shirt anytime soon.
The garden is doing its thing and growing. There are obvious signs of change since I left the garden. You can’t miss the blush starting out on the first tomatoes and when looking out the office window there is more green from the foliage than brown from bare earth – I must get onto mulching.
But it is the mindset I am struggling with. My brain is telling me it is nearly summer, and it should be warmer and nicer. But confronted with the reality of the weather, my default is it is too cold and miserable to possibly garden and the temptation is to sit it out until the weather improves. But then I need to remind myself that just a month or so ago, I would have relished this kind of weather. It would have made a break from actual cold weather that was closer to freezing than anything remotely considered warm. In the early spring I would have valiantly raced out between showers, making the most of the moments of good weather.
So, in a slow and steady approach I will find my feet again, in spite of the weather, and reacquaint myself with this wonderful garden I have created. I will greet each plant and inquire how it is doing, so that the familiarity like an old glove returns. There isn’t much needed to restore order, thanks to my Handy Helper, for which I am extremely grateful. So, as I head into the new season this garden will once again become everything I need it to be, for my own wellbeing but also to the benefit of my family as the storehouse slowly refills with seasonal goodness to be saved for a truly cold and rainy day
Come again soon – the weather may be strange, but I need to ignore that and carry on.
Sarah the Gardener : o)
There has been a lot going on since I last chatted with you. Just re-reading my last post, brought back all the feels – the nerves, the determination, the long, long list of things to do, and the excitement. There was so much ahead and a lot of it was unknown. But now it is all behind me and I look back and wonder how I did it all and remembering with fondness that I had an absolute blast. So, to bring you up to speed….
Firstly, I managed to get the garden and my office clean and tidy and planted out in good time. This took me a little by surprise because while in the midst of it, it didn’t seem possible! I kept back a spare set of everything for just in case and then offered all of my other spares to the lovely gardeners from the garden club that arrived by bus to visit my garden. Any spare seedlings at the end of day were given to my neighbour, who will probably end up with a better outcome than me, however his garden is further back from the coast and much more sheltered. Besides comparison is the thief of joy and I’m just pleased my little green babies went off to a good home.
All the while, I was also preparing for my big trip that was to whisk me away from the garden for 20 days. There was a lot to be done as I was to take up my role as a botanical tour guide for Botanica World Discoveries, hosting our travelling garden loving guests across the country exploring the best gardens New Zealand has to offer. There were two tours under my care – the Taranaki Garden Spectacular & Private Gardens tour and the Private Gardens and Landscapes tour which ran back to back.
All up over 20 days we visited 34 absolutely amazing gardens and travelled the length of the country, starting in Taranaki, down to Wellington, Marlborough, Christchurch, Dunedin, Queenstown and then up to Hamilton and Auckland. The interesting thing is each garden was different. I was worried that I would get ‘cathedraled out’. When I was a lot younger and did my OE in Europe we saw so many cathedrals. The first one was awe inspiringly majestic, but towards the end they all seemed to have a same same familiarity about them. But with the gardens, it wasn’t like that at all. And to be honest I would be hard pushed to name a favourite.
There were some stand out gardens though. The stunning weather with classical music piped through the garden at Castlemaine Garden near Lumsden had a peace and elegance about it that we were all reluctant to leave. The Italianate styling of Casa Rossa just out of Christchurch was so full of life, it felt like you were being embraced in a horticultural hug!
But it wasn’t just the gardens that made it special, but the gardeners themselves, many who generously hosted us with a guided tour through their life’s work. You could just feel the passion and love beaming from them as they spoke about their gardens. Notable hosts were having lunch with the fabulous Josie Martin from the Giants House in Akaroa where her art blended fabulously into the garden, and dining in style at Larnach Castle with the elegantly graceful Mrs Barker who also showed us around her magnificent garden perched on the top of the windswept hill. But everyone else was also so lovely, but that goes without saying as gardeners are the nicest people.
Upon returning home, we were supposed to head back down to Wellington for a wedding, however dreaded lurgy I’ve been trying to avoid for the last few years came knocking on my door. Fortunately, I wasn’t struck down too badly, but it did mean my poor garden didn’t get the homecoming love it deserved, but rather my absence for yet another week. Having said that, had I been well, it wouldn’t have been any different as the weather was just persistent and torrential rain for the full seven days I was required to stay at home.
The combination of the bad weather and the dreaded lurgy meant the open garden day I foolishly planned for the first weekend home had to be cancelled. It was probably just as well. But as there was so much interest, we’ve rescheduled and so the new date for the open day is the 21st Jan 2023. There should be just the right amount of time after the summer holiday to restore order and have the garden looking its best before the season turns and things start to wane. I am a sucker for punishment really. But with a deadline there remains a need to keep the garden looking its best and you can’t beat that kind of panic driven motivation to stay on top of things.
The weather now is easing, but as I write this it is still a bit blowy straight off the ocean. I took some slow and tentative steps into the garden with my Handy Helper and we did what we could to begin to restore order. To be fair it wasn’t really that bad, nothing that a bit of pottering about in the next week or so won’t fix. The garden is resilient, and the season will be what it is. Each season is different and an opportunity to learn and grow and even after all these years, it is good to let the garden show you something new.
And so there you have it, the last few weeks have been a crazy whirlwind and now it is back to normal as we head into Christmas and all that the festive season brings.
Come again soon – sometimes a normal ordinary routine is just what is needed.
Sarah the Gardener : o)
I have a really exciting opportunity coming up that will take me away from the garden for 20 days from the end of the month. It is garden related so there will be more on that later. But in order to prepare for an extended absence in spring – the busiest time of all the seasons I have had to be organised and work really hard.
And if that wasn’t enough I have a garden club coming to visit the garden the week before I go away. When I agreed to the dates I was quite smug thinking it would be good to have a reason to have the garden sorted before I went away so it wouldn’t fall into much chaos in my absence. Present Me is a little annoyed with smug Past Me. Past Me didn’t realise just how much time and effort that would require!
So I have been super busy and something needed to give while I got all of my ducks in a row, and unfortunately this was the weakest link and so I took a little tiny unplanned break from blogging. I didn’t mean to, it just happened. Days drifted into weeks in the blink of an eye.
Computer gardening has taken the lions share of the priority as a lot of it is what funds the garden and has deadlines attached that can’t be missed. Conveniently we had a polar blast last week, where the temperatures plunged and the wind howled a hoolie straight off the ocean. There was no gardening done at all, but it did mean all of my computer gardening commitments until after I get back have been taken care of and so that is one less thing to worry about and several items crossed off the extensive to do list.
The garden has been a bit of a concern. My Handy Helper and I stood back at the end of this week’s session, confident that this time all out of control garden areas are now back in control and we just need to work on a maintenance schedule to keep it that way. It is such a wonderful feeling and for a while there I didn’t think I’d get to this point in time.
There are other areas in the garden zone that need some attention. The shed has become a bit of a dumping ground as each returned item came with a promise to be put back in its proper place later… when there was time. It is amazing how quickly chaos can ensue once you begin to not put the first few items back properly.
My office has a similar problem, but as I am in it most days, there is a degree of order as I need to know where everything is most of the time. So that is more organised chaos, and a jolly good sweep wouldn’t go amiss!
Then there are the actual spring things. I have been sowing seeds, transplanting seedlings and preparing beds as fast as I can. There are only 2 beds left that need to be cleared and prepared for the spring, but we are still eating the occupants. A couple more meals and it should be good to go.
Even though I staggered my seed sowing to ensure I would have staggered transplanting sessions, there comes a point when the weather warms up and everything outgrows their pots, but it isn’t safe enough outdoors yet. So, the other day was a ‘most of the day’ transplanting session. But it was good to see the wood for the trees and do a final roll call to see who is missing and how many extras I have to set aside from the official Heirs and Spares.
I still have one more good transplanting session to go… probably 2, maybe 3 hours. It might seem a little pointless as there is less than 2 weeks to go to the safe planting out day, but you will be surprised how much those plants can grow in 2 weeks when liberated from pots that are too small. It is worth the time and effort for healthier plants.
I have been up to other things as well and I will find the time to tell you all about it as soon as I can.
Come again soon – and thanks for bearing with me.
Sarah the Gardener : o)
The tomatoes are off to a great start. As usual I started too many seeds. I have decided this stems from a fear of something going wrong at the seedling stage and when it comes time to planting out I don’t have enough rather than having a heavy hand with the seeds. And I sow them in 6 cell seed trays and in spite of my wee tip for sow one seed for the plant you want, and a backup, for just in case and then a full set of extra because you never know… So that should technically be four of each variety, with heirs and spares, but I can’t leave those other 2 cells bereft of seeds so 6 is it.
This season I have cut back on the number to tomato plants to give them a better chance in the space, so they aren’t competing with each other for space and airflow. Especially as after last season’s success with the insect netting to keep the Tomato Potato psyllid, the tomatoes will be tucked undercover so it will be a good idea to avoid overcrowding. So, there are 11 varieties that will live in the 1x5m garden bed, planted in a staggered pattern up the length. If all a need is 11 plants then the 66 seedlings in the greenhouse are probably a little bit overkill!
As I’ve mentioned before, I have started a little earlier than I normally would, but I am pushing my frost-free boundaries. I may regret it as one of these seasons I may push just a little too far. Hopefully, it isn’t this season though as I have managed to take my generous seed sowing into the seedling stage and beyond. I watched as they all began to emerge in pretty near perfect germination rates, and I breathed a sigh of relief only to swoon at the thought that I now had to look after them all. They grew steadily in their seed raising mix home and eventually put out two sets of true leaves from their sturdy stems. This was the sign it was time to transplant them from the seed raising mix that had supported them so well in their early days of life.
Now was a time for something a little more substantial – a good potting mix that would provide further support and nourishment as they continued to grow. I didn’t want to leave them in the small seed pots as they tend to slow their growth down while they wait for better living conditions. I was pleased I staggered my seed sowing as potting on 66 tomato plants took quite a while, even with a mini production line set up. The last thing I wanted to do once I’d finished that was move on to the leafy greens! Although they will need to be done any day now.
It is still a long way to go before, even in my frost-free environment before I will be planting my tomatoes outside. The overnight lows this week being predicted are in the double figures, but only just. Tomatoes appreciate it a lot warmer, so they will stay in the greenhouse and wait. While they are waiting they will also be growing, and I expect to pot them on to even bigger pots once more before they head outdoors. They seem to be growing in leaps and bounds and so I find myself checking the bottoms of the 5cm pots looking for signs of the roots poking out, to tell me now is the time for the 10cm pots. It is always best to move them up slowly, so they don’t end up with leggy roots, but it is also like shoes. If they are too small it restricts your feet, your toes don’t like it and you get cramp and blisters, but if they are too big then your feet flop about inside and you risk tripping over your own feet. But with the right size shoe, you don’t even notice you are wearing them and just get on with your day.
As much as it is a compulsion to go into the greenhouse several times as day at the seed stage to worry and fuss over if anyone is actually going to pop up, this next stage is a delight as each day the plants get bigger and fill the space, making the greenhouse feel alive and give encouragement that this could actually be a successful season, it you dare to believe the weather will treat us well.
At this point all of the seeds for the season have now been sown, aside from the regular crowd that benefit from succession sowing for a continual supply all season. So, we are now beyond the nursery stage and are more into preschool style gardening where they still need daily attention to help as they learn to manage on their own but are growing so fast the demand for new shoes can become overwhelming. But this stage, while quite intensive at this stage, it is over in a flash. After sowing the last seeds, I did feel a little sad for the passing of time. This is another start of season task ticked off the list for the year.
Come again soon – the weather this week is supposed to be rubbish, but any rain at this time of year has to be good rain to fill the tanks.
Sarah the Gardener : o)
The updates here are slim right now and I can only offer excuses. Firstly, a lot of what has been going on in the garden has been rather same samey, which can come across as repetitive and boring. I’m not sure there are enough descriptive words in the thesaurus to tell you I weeded or chopped down another cover crop and prepared a bed to make it ready for the new growing season. Seriously – I have 35 raised beds. This spring preparation just goes on and on and on!
But at this point I only have four beds that need to be liberated of their cool season crops, but we are eating these as fast as we can. There are also three beds that are good to go, but just need enriching with compost etc and a couple that have long term plants in them that just need a tickle of love to set them up for the new season. So, progress is being made steadily across the weeks.
The other time thief is computer gardening. Most of this is what helps to fund the garden so when a deadline looms or a request comes up, then I drop everything and get it done as quickly as I can to please my benefactors but also so I can get back to the garden. However, the start of spring is a pretty important time in gardening calendar and there is much to be said about it and my poor fingers ache from dancing across the shiny worn-out keys of my keyboard.
And finally, my last excuse is completely out of my control, but does show how much of a wuss I have become. The weather turned cold, and spring was more winter than winter was this year. I could have wrapped up warm and pressed on, but I decided I’m not that crazy. Past Me would have been out there revelling in the bracing chill of it all. Today Me is ‘yeah nah’. It has hinted at being nice again, and this temptress of a season reaches out a hand in trust for warmer days, only to dash it all against the next wave of cold sideways rain.
As a placeholder for my presence in this online world, I have made a point of keeping up with things like Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram as it is easy enough to grab a snapshot that represents the garden in that moment and throw it up on the Great Big Internet. Having said that last season it all got a bit too much and I let some of them fall by the wayside, which also included my You Tube videos. They are very time consuming, but I like talking to you like you were in the garden with me, so I am trying to regularly share on that forum again as well. I have many balls in the air right now but to mix metaphors they say not to put all your eggs in one basket. If you find I slow down here a little from time to time it might be worth checking out these other places to find me there.
I was talking to my Handy Helper this week about why I do it all and to be honest I don’t know anymore, but I know I would be lost without it. I did start out to share the love of gardening and to encourage others to pick up a spade and now, while the sentiment is still the same, it has also become just what I do. I am Sarah the Gardener after all… It is who I have become.
And so, in a tight timeline of ‘something has gotta give’ this week I made another video. This one is all about getting my spuds in for the season. It is 15 minutes long, and so I’m not sure if it is worth getting the popcorn out, so maybe put the kettle on and have a cuppa tea and watch just how crazy fast I have been working lately… well, I wish, all my problems would be solved if that was the case!
Thanks for bearing with me in this busy time. It will soon become a bit more interesting, especially as the season progresses and the plants begin to do interesting things. And thanks for watching my video and checking out my other social media places.
Come again soon – it will warm up and there will be so much to talk about I won’t know where to start!
Sarah the Gardener : o)