For some reason this season has been like a problem child, kicking its heels as it staggers along slowly, not really paying attention to where it is going and wilfully ignoring the grown up gardener hand trying to urge it along to get to the destination where we can all sit down and have ice cream, or in my case tomatoes!
I really don’t know what happened. One moment I was organised and in control and set to have the smoothest growing season and now I am two weeks after the safe planting out day and I have only just planted the last of my main crops into the garden. Even then it was done in between showers on a rather unpleasant day. And now I have finished the weather mocks me with a lovely sunny day.
There are three main culprits to this delay. The first one is the weather. It has been horrible. Not as bad as in previous seasons when there has been storm after storm not allowing young seedlings to recover before the next, and then toppling them in a heap of horticultural weakness. But it has been so variable. One moment, warm blue sky days that seem like they will never end, only to wake up to grey rainy days so dismal you can’t possibly imagine how they could be anything else.
Ordinarily this isn’t too much of a problem when you can trust the weather forecast and plan for the indoor computer gardening days. But trusting the weather forecast hasn’t proven to be all that reliable lately so you take it with a pinch of salt and hope for the best. And computer gardening, while I love it, has become out of sync with the weather and sunny days have been spent flourishing words not plants and horrible days have been spent staring out the window with regret.
But even these two things on their own could have been managed and negotiated and at the very least I would have only been a couple of days late getting the garden done. But the third reason could be considered the straw that broke the camel’s back, but that straw is loveable and holds no regrets whatsoever. The camel will recover.
The straw is celebration and if any year needs more than its fair share, this is it! I may have mentioned before that October is birthday month and is nonstop celebrating – and that is just for my birthday. Other family members also have birthdays and so the revelling is abundant. But then just sneaking into the beginning of this month is our wedding anniversary and while that doesn’t have an ‘0’ in it, we had flight credits that just called to be used so we headed down to Queenstown for a long weekend.
As much as the garden didn’t need me to take this break, I needed to take this break and it was marvellous. The untrustworthy boffins said it would be cold and miserable with rain and even the possibility of snow! I packed warm. However, they couldn’t have got it more wrong and we were treated to magnificent blue sky days with temperatures that sent me off shopping for summer clothes. Conditions were so perfect people were sunbathing on the lakefront and even swimming!
Now you can’t possibly go to a new destination and not check out their gardens, it would be rude not to. So, the first stop was to the Queenstown Gardens Trail and we were not disappointed. It is such a stunning location, and the peonies were just bursting into bloom. I have fallen in love with these, but it would be an ill-fated relationship as it is just too warm to grow them here. To keep them captive in a vase just seems wrong, I would hate to watch such beautiful creatures wither away.
We also enjoyed great food with every meal, visited vineyards for wine tasting and even did a moonshine tasting at a wonderful restaurant and I now have a love of apple pie moonshine and pinot gris on a sunny day. We walked for miles and had a fabulous break. On the last day away the boffin’s predictions finally caught up with us and there was a dusting of snow on the hills and I got to don my winter woollies for a few hours before catching the plane back home. It was a trip to remember and now I can focus on the garden.
Come again soon – I’ll bring you up to date with the garden goings on.
Sarah the Gardener : o)
While I have proven I am excellent at procrastination, I have confirmed without a doubt I have mastered a new skill – under estimating things. I think I always knew it because there have been a multitude of projects where I completely believe I’ll have it whipped up in an arvo, only to find it takes 3 days and the help of Hubby the Un-Gardener or for serious projects the help of a professional!
The latest bout of under estimating is the planting out the garden. Firstly, I thought I’d be able to do it in a long weekend, but most of the weekend was spent doing normal weekend things. Then I was convinced I’d be able to finish it on the long weekend Monday. It came as a bit of a shock to me when I didn’t get it done on the Monday. Taking a more realistic approach I have set myself the goal of Friday.
But even this isn’t realistic. With the long weekend comes a short week and all the computer gardening required to be done is squished into a shorter period of time. So, I’ve spent longer in the office than I would have normally, which eats into my gardening time. But time isn’t the only factor to consider…
I have a very large garden. There are 35 beds in total. But to be fair the onion, onion overflow and garlic, pea and potato beds are chugging away doing their thing. The four berry beds are also under control and up and away. I’ve even had a few strawberries, but I’m reluctant to share a photo of them on social media as the kids follow my stuff and will notice and then I’ll have to share the meagre haul in real life!
I started my flower seeds late and so I don’t need to worry about the flower beds just yet, so that is four beds that don’t need any love just yet. The asparagus, perennial herbs, yams, and both the artichokes – globe and Jerusalem and rhubarb are under control.
So that leaves 16 beds that actually need the new season planting. So far I have planted out the tomatoes, 4 of the 5 squash in the squash bed, the annual herbs, the melons, odds and sods, and salad crops. The root crops are in the carrot and root crop bed and the sweetcorn seeds have been sown.
If my maths is right there are eight beds still to do. I still have to whip up two structures on the cuke bed for the cucumbers and the gherkins. But I have a supply issue with the warratahs and going to find some would mean being away from the garden for at least half an hour and at most an hour and a half if I have to go further afield. But before I can do that, it had a load of silverbeet that was about to go to seed and needed harvesting and processing. I’ve harvested it but I still need to process it. Then give the soil love, then build the frame and then do the planting.
The beans just need sowing, and one lot of pumpkins need planting. The beds are ready and waiting. The other pumpkin bed still needs a full love experience before anything can be planted.
The autumn brassica are pretty much done, and I’ve hauled them all out. The cabbages will need to be processed in some way shape or form so I can keep them longer than a week. I have fallen in love with pickled red cabbage which is easy to do and gives a zing to salads and sandwiches! But the bed will need a tickle before the summer ones go in.
The over winter peppers are bouncing back to life and the gaps have seedlings at the ready, but I need to give the soil some love so they have access to some new nutrients to replace what they have already used. It requires a bit of heavy lifting with compost, so I’ve been putting it off. And the old salad crops have only just come out of the zucchini bed, so the soil needs a full love to refresh the soil before the zucchini go in. Only one of the four plants are ready, so I have a no hurry approach.
The leafy green bed has bolted fennel in it but I have plans for it so I can’t take it out until I’m ready and then there are a load of carrots and parsnips that need to be eaten but they’re not quite ready yet so I’m not sure what to do there.
I can’t see myself being finished by Friday!
Come again soon – I may be some time….
Sarah the Gardener : o)
Well the boffins were wrong – it didn’t rain at all this weekend, in fact it hasn’t rained in ages and the top 10 cm of unmulched, unplanted soil is bone dry. We haven’t had any significant rain in a couple of weeks and what we have had is that misty stuff that doesn’t sink in. The boffins are suggesting showers this weekend but to be honest I don’t believe them.
So, this weekend was the fabulous average last frost date with the Monday off as well to make it extra special. I point all my efforts towards this magical date so I can get the garden planted out. The seeds are all started with this date in mind. But I really think I need to let go of this traditional viewpoint for several reasons.
Firstly, we don’t get a frost – so I can go earlier. Heck I can grow sunflowers all year round. And with the constant adjustments we are making to the wind protection, I think my seedlings are certainly safer than they were last season, and definitely the one before!
Secondly, the weekend is normally bound up with my birthday, or the week leading up to or away from it, as it is a moveable holiday on the calendar. The thought of spending my birthday in the garden is a fabulous thought, however in reality is completely antisocial as my family and friends want to celebrate with me. And to be honest it is nice to be celebrated occasionally.
This year it was a big birthday and warranted big celebrations, so we celebrated for days. There were no chores done on the actual day – because those are the rules in our house and then there was a day of actual celebrating. Then because the weather was so perfect we threw in another day of complete relaxation. With each passing birthday this seems to become more essential on the day after!
That just left one day in the garden for planting it all out. It was never going to happen – there are too many plants and I was a tad disappointed that I didn’t ‘plant out the garden’ on Labour Weekend. But then I remembered it is pretty much my job so I can do it all this week. My aim is to get it all done by the end of the week as the sooner the plants are in the ground the sooner they will burst into life. I also get to enjoy that sweet spot where there aren’t many seedlings in small pots to manage and the harvest is modest so I can do simple tasks like washing pots or embarking on crazy projects.
Once it is all done I’ll make a video tour so I can proudly show it all off to you and also, so I have a reference to look back on. While the plants look a healthy size now compared to when they sprouted, it will only be a few weeks before these look tiny.
I have to keep reminding myself that we are still in the middle of spring. The crazy mixed up weather feels like the middle of summer…. But I don’t trust it for a minute. There have been killing frosts in November before and 3 weeks ago I was wearing a beanie and watching my breath! It may be nice now… but I don’t trust it.
Come again soon – I have high hopes for a full planting by the end of the week.
Sarah the Gardener : o)
This is traditionally the ‘IT’ weekend. The one you long for and work towards all spring. The average last frost date. Which just happens to fall on a long weekend and so that just makes the whole thing even more exciting.
Every year I am determined to spend the week before tying up all the odds and ends. I expect I’ll be building structures and enriching the last of the beds. I’ll try to make sure all the seedlings are present and accounted for and do last minute transplants because even a few days in fresh soil can make all the difference to a plant determined to grow. There is always the desperate sowing of last chance seeds and worrying that this year there just won’t be Hungarian Wax Peppers.
But then it rains. Not every year. But this year it is raining. Yesterday was ok because I was able to transplant seedlings, so many seedlings. I feel like they have already grown overnight as they look more abundant than they did before I started. I’m glad I did it – even though they will be in the ground before they know it, because seedlings stuck in too smaller pots for a moment too long can slow right down. Any excuse to spend time working away in my greenhouse on a rainy day is a perfect excuse.
So that was yesterday – super garden productive day. Today it rained again. It isn’t heavy rain but that annoying misty rain that takes a while to seep into your clothes and so you potter about in it longer than you should and slowly get wet. The kind of wet that gets into your bones and you struggle to warm from. Not that it is really cold, it can’t be really cold, or we wouldn’t be almost planting plants out into the garden. But not warm enough to be called comfortable.
As a result, I’ve been set back. I need to build structures, there are a couple of garden beds that are still in need of desperate attention so they are ready for the plants that will reside in them. It is also feed week – the plants that are already in the garden are due for a liquid feed and I love taking the time to nourish each plant and give it the once over to check for problems in their early stages. But I don’t love doing it in the rain. And – while I’m having a moan – the rain and the increasingly warmer weather make the weeds grow fast and strong and they can’t be ignored.
The boffins are suggesting it will rain for the rest of the week, so I will spend the time clearing up computer gardening and then I will put on a sturdy raincoat and just get into it.
Come again soon – either the boffins will be wrong, or this stage of the growing season will have a soggy start!
Sarah the Gardener : o)
This was week has been a mixed bag of things that has made life all sorts of busy. But for the main part the garden is now mostly good and ready for the planting out stage from next weekend. There are two beds with malingerers that need to be evicted and eaten and one that needs a flower removed so it can be prepared for pumpkins, but aside from that we are good to go.
The weather had warmed up a lot and I had begun wearing T Shirts and my sun hat and had contemplated for a moment starting to put things out in the garden. It was a fleeting thought as the temperatures plunged dramatically for a couple of days this week and while I don’t trust spring, getting this cold so close to the last frost day was still a bit of a surprise. While we don’t get frosts here, my tender summer loving plants would not have appreciated the sudden chill. So instead they stayed in the greenhouse and I’ll begin hardening them off over the coming week. I’ll also work on building all the structures for the garden as it is always better to have these in place before planting things out.
Another distraction was our bathroom renovation was completed and after having to make a myriad of decisions, it is nice to finally have a nice bathroom to wash away the dirt of the day. I really love how it came out and now I’m itching to get onto the rest of the house, but we’ll hurry slowly as it is our forever house and we can take our time and get it right.
It seemed like a good moment to mark the state of the garden with a quick video tour, so sit back and enjoy a whistle stop tour of my garden as it is right now.
Come again soon – change will probably come quickly from now on.
Sarah the Gardener : o)
October is such a gauntlet to run for us. With birthday’s, school holidays and then the obligatory back to school haircuts, stationary kit refresh and new shoes, the garden can become a little neglected. Not intentionally, but life can get in the way which can be quite challenging as we are in the heart of spring and things need to be done.
Fortunately, I’ve been rather organised this season so the chaos of the last week hasn’t had too much of a toll. I could have things under a little more control, but I think that is me being hard on myself. The beds and paths are all pretty much weed free with a few tiny interlopers fancying their chances in my absence. The seedlings in the greenhouse are all in large enough pots that the risk of drying out is less than it was when they were in their tiny seed starter pots. This reduces the need for watering several times a day. Although several seedlings are hinting at the need to move into larger pots by flashing a bit of root out the bottom. So, the most the garden got this week was a quick weed and its scheduled feed – albeit a bit late.
Most of the time plants just sit there and grow slowly, however sometimes that can cry out to you as you walk past and you promise you will take care of them, but as life gets in the way you end up scuttling past, feeling guilty because you haven’t kept your promise. Eventually things get to the point where you need to do something and today was that day.
The artichokes were getting fatter and fatter and their leaves were starting to loosen from their tight grip around the flower bud. There was no time like the present, to stop them going to waste. There is only so many you can enjoy plucking them leaf by leaf, and there is only so much lemony melted butter that is wise to eat! So, I went looking for other recipes and found a great one for preserved artichoke hearts, so I set to work.
The recipe assured me I would need 9 artichokes and would get 3 pint jars of delicious, pickled artichoke hearts. So, I duly went out to the garden and harvested 9 artichokes and a couple of extras for an indigent buttery plucking session. But as I began processing them and peeling away all leaves I realised there would only be enough for 1 jar let alone 3! Ok so my jars were 1 litre jars and the recipe did say you would get 3 pint jars, so I put my treat ones into the pile. The thing with artichokes, is the waste material verses edible content is extremely disproportionate and I ended up with very little artichoke for the jars and a huge pile of peeled material. So, I made a trip to the compost heap to empty my waste container to make room for more and grabbed another 5 artichokes so I would get at least one jar full.
The recipe was quite cool, not exactly ordinary – my kind of thing, but I’m not one for following instructions so, along with issue of the proportions, I may have adlibbed with the some of the flavours.
The first step was to cut a few slivers of peel, then squeeze 4 lemons and put the juice aside for later but put the lemon carcasses into a pot and cover them with water. Then as the artichokes were peeled they were tossed into this acidified water to stop them oxidising and going brown. The peeling involved removing all the leaves, scraping out the fluffy choke bit in the centre and then with a sharp knife, shaving off the tough sides and base and tidying it up a little, without losing too much of the meagre edible bits.
Once it was all done, a quarter of a cup of salt was added to this strange mix of prepared artichoke hearts, lemon carcasses and water and it was put on the stove and brought to the boil, and then reduced to a simmer until the artichokes were tender.
Meanwhile the lemon juice came back into play and was mixed in with a cup of white vinegar, quarter of a cup of each white wine vinegar and olive oil. Then the favours were added – I put in a whole dried cayenne pepper that I grew last season and snipped it into thin slices. I also added way more garlic than was suggested. The recipe called for 3 cloves over three jars, I used 6 for one jar. I also chucked in 9 peppercorns, a handful of oregano and some thyme. These were all mixed together and boiled for 5 minutes.
By the time I’d done that and the artichoke hearts were tender, so I got out one of the three jars I put in the oven to sterilise and fished out the artichoke hearts from among the bobbing lemons and arranged them in jar as best as I could without handling them. Then the boiling herby lemon juice mix was poured over the top and a teaspoon of salt added. Then it was all sealed up with good food safety techniques. They need about a month to mature and should last up to a year… although I doubt this jar will make it much past month two! I can hardly wait.
Come again soon – the garden is almost at the point when the structures can be put up.
Sarah the Gardener : o)
How on earth did we get this far through the year already? I have been waking up, working hard, and going back to bed again and each day drags us along in time… I can barely keep up. If the year would go at my pace we would still be somewhere around June. I would be leisurely keeping up with everything that needs to be done in a way that a lot the perception on the internet looks like. My reality is a little different in that I work really hard to do what needs to be done and run out of day before collapsing in an exhausted little heap on the sofa.
But here we are in birthday Month. The big O month with a big birthday in it with a big ‘0’ in it and I shall take every opportunity to celebrate. Although my turn is later in the month – first we have to celebrate with fabulous Brother the Chef and Joey the Teen Lad. Bearing in mind the first celebrations are imminent and require a trip away, the most important thing to get done is transplanting every seedling that remotely shows signs of needing it. Having them all in bigger pots than the ones they are in now will mean there is more room to hold moisture so they can go a little longer. This will take the pressure off a wee bit and our builder can focus on finishing the bathroom reno and only occasionally watering the seedlings! It took two days so transplant them all and I am so pleased I did it. Although I suspect many of them will need transplanting once more before heading out into the garden.
In the garden itself, Hubby the Un-Gardener has made short work of adding the compost to the beds. It barely takes him any time at all, and I am grateful for his strength. There are still 5 beds left to do but three of them still have plants in them that we need to eat and eat them fast… the last frost date is approaching fast.
Not that we get frosts, but normally along with the cessation of frosts comes a calmer more settled phase of spring and I have learnt to wait until the safe planting out date so my tender wee seedlings don’t get tormented by storms. Last season I lost so many seedlings there were no spares or backups left to give away. I won’t be making that mistake again. Besides a growing season that starts on the last frost weekend is plenty long enough for all the plants to do what they need to do!
This is a busy time of year and I will need to make time for some things, some things automatically get priority and others just barge their way to the top of the list, forcing others to retreat. Don’t get me wrong, I love everything about the garden at this time of year, but at this midway point of spring prep I do have moments when I long for that sweet spot in November when the garden is planted out and the harvest hasn’t started yet and I can sit back and do very little for the briefest window of time.
Come again soon – while I’m behind the scenes slaving away I’ll show you all the pretty things in the garden.
Sarah the Gardener : o)
It has been a long week with a lot going on. When we relocated our house back in April 2018 we made a few unconventional decisions. We decided if a bathroom or a kitchen needed renovating you would find the money to do it eventually, but the outside of the house is the bit that normally gets what money is left at the end of the renovation. So, we ended up throwing most of our budget on things outside – for me it was the vegetable garden and the budget blowing geodesic biodome and for Hubby the Un-Gardener it was his dream entertaining area. We have loved every moment of what we have created.
However, in the house it really does still look like a home in desperate need of a reno. Finally, we managed to get together enough money to make a start on the inside and the bathroom was the first room to be done and it was an easy choice. When the house was being put back together our fabulous builder and our plumber both said they were uncomfortable putting the old shower back in as it could leak and were encouraging us to put in a cheap temporary one. But I know us and if we put in a cheap temporary shower I would still be using a cheap temporary shower in 20 years’ time! So, I have spent the last 2 years worried about the bathroom floor rotting through.
The bathroom reno started this week and I needn’t have worried because the floor was fine, thanks to thick layers of silicon holding the shower in place. Although I’m not sure it would have stayed that way forever. It isn’t finished yet and I’ll show you when its done, but with all the decisions that needed making and the exciting distraction of it all, I didn’t get as much gardening done as I would have liked.
But I did get some things done. This week was the second of the fortnightly feeding of the garden with a liquid feed and I could tell the plants had responded well to the previous one so that was encouraging. For some of the more vulnerable, weak, or newly relocated plants I added some liquid seaweed tonic to the mix to help them get over the stress of whatever they have going on and encourage strong root growth.
The sector system is such a dream, I am so pleased I found an easy way to manage such a large garden because it doesn’t take long to whip through it, weeding, feeding, and tending. And it is very forgiving if you miss a day.
There is still a lot to be done. The tomatoes are now at the stage where they need to be transplanted and so do a load of other things. I sowed my seeds this year with a heavy hand as my seeds are getting a little old. I think next season I may need to replace most of them, but I should probably pick up some broccoli seeds as they haven’t shown their face after several sowings.
I also need to plan and sow my flower seeds – this is urgent. I’ll update you on this before the end of next week. And I need to continue preparing the beds for their new occupants, we’re mostly there – Hubby the Un-Gardener and the Teen Lads have been doing the digging. I should have more free time in the weeks to come because tonight is the start of daylight savings. I would normally suggest ‘don’t forget to change your clocks’ but they all seem to do it automatically these days – except the one in the car – but it will be right again in the autumn and it is easily enough to remember it is an hour out!
Come again soon – hopefully more progress will be made next week.
Sarah the Gardener : o)
It was quite an ordinary spring day. The wind (and Fennel the Cat – she has a very loud meow and wasn’t happy the food she had been served for dinner and let me know about it at 3am) disturbed my sleep. It always sounds so much louder and feels so much stronger when we are this close to the beach.
So, it was a slow start to a sluggish day. I started off with my computer gardening while the weather warmed up a little. Then I decided the garden really did need me. All the things that ran through my head at 3am needed taking care of so they wouldn’t be there again should the cat wake me again – which she probably well. Just slowly and gently I began by transplanting the seedlings that needed it from the seed raising mix into a compost / potting mix blend into slightly bigger pots so they could continue to grow and be nourished.
Next I decided to sow another round of seeds and started off my pumpkins, cucumbers, luffa – to go up my awesome arch, squash, and zucchini. There are 6 weeks until the safe from frost planting out day and so they should be a good size by then – not too big and not too small. Not that we get frosts, but the weather is generally more stable after this date so I try not to risk my seedlings in turbulent stormy weather that early spring can bring. I replaced so many damaged seedlings last season that I almost ran out of spares. The only seeds left to sow are beans and corn and I like to sow them directly into the soil when it is warm enough for them.
Then I got Hubby the Un-Gardener to give me a bit of a hand as there was digging to be done and he is so much faster at it than me. We did a bit of bed repair as it turned out when putting the beds together I completely missed more than a dozen screws across the garden. I have no idea A: how I managed that, and B: how did I not notice this whole time! Then I got him to turn over the compost and other goodies in the yam bed so I could plant them as they had sprouted nicely. I never really get a good harvest of Yams but that doesn’t stop me trying.
And finally, the main point of the day was done – planting the potatoes – there is 100 days until Christmas and Jersey Benne spuds take 100 days and so if I’m to have new potatoes on the festive table then today is the day. I also got Hubby the Un-Gardener to help me plant all the potatoes and it feels good to have them in. One less thing to worry about at 3am!
So for a day that had the potential to be a sluggish go nowhere day, turned out to be very productive in a slow and steady way and I am so grateful for the help – I suggested to Hubby the Un-Gardener that I put a sign on the garden gate that says “Welcome to the Gym.”
Come again soon – This season is coming along nicely.
Sarah the Gardener : o)