Soggy is the new ….

Red sky in the morning

Red sky in the morning, shepherds warning

I was trying to think of something funny and witty for my title.  But soggy is not good, but is the present state of my garden.  I’m not really all that happy about it.  I got so used to finally having lovely hot summer like days – even though it was technically autumn.  I revelled in the fact it was too hot to sleep and the hum of the fan made a wonderful lullaby.  It was energising to be greeted by the sun each morning and the chorus of the birds were drowned out by the cries of the cicadas who were already basking in the warmth of the day.  Tending to the garden was a joy and a pleasure.  It was too hot for weeds to grow so it was just a bit of primping and preening here and harvesting and sowing there, then coming in out of the midday sun for a bit of a break and back out again in the afternoon for even more gardening fun.

Rain radar

I checked the rain radar frequently over the last few days hoping for a break, but was mostly greeted with this or something similar.

This is how it should have been all summer, but I accepted this autumn blessing and ran with it.  Sadly, it came to an abrupt end.  Wednesday started with a warning, a magnificent red glow lit up the dawn sky.  The boffins had been jumping up and down suggesting we all brace ourselves for bad weather, but to be honest the sky was what really convinced me.  The sky became progressively gloomier as the day wore on and then the heavens opened and started to rain.  Big fat heavy drops.  The ones that mean business and they dramatically fell to the parched earth.  My garden received 55mm in the first 24 hours.  Then we had a reprieve for a day, although the sun didn’t come back.  Then it rained again and we receive another 85mm in a torrential period that seemed to last for hours then it eased back to a drizzle until the final pounding delivered another 23mm.

rain gauge

This was from the second and third bursts of rain. I should have emptied it in between as I was worried it would overflow.

It was almost like nature was following the rules for rehydrating a parched soil… start slowly to break the dry crusty seal, then wait and allow it to soak in and create pathways deep into the soil.  Then come back and water deeply on a ground more receptive to receiving moisture to the depths of the root zone and beyond.  Then once more to make sure every last part of the dry soil is rehydrated.


Who hasn’t left the sprinkler on before? A puddle or two, or a bit of flooding drains eventually. We are just grateful it wasn’t worse.

Having said that – nature did leave the tap running a bit too long and created puddles and surface water across the garden.  I have to say I have been guilty of this myself in the past so know how easy it can happen.  You pop the sprinkler on, check the time and think I’ll just do these few chores, and come back and turn the tap off.  Then half way through dinner, or even worse, you’re lying in bed and you sit bolt upright as you remember…”oh no… the sprinkler….!!!!”

Bedraggled tomatoes

My poor tomatoes. I did a heavy pick before the rain, but the ones left have split from too much moisture in the ground. The old tired leaves are brown and soggy and to be honest I looks like I’ve given up on them – but I haven’t. I just wasn’t able to protect them from the storm.

So now the rain has gone, the garden is nicely hydrated, the sun is shining again, the cicadas are singing once more, but it isn’t the same.  There is a barely perceivable chill that wasn’t there before.  The surface of things maybe dry but there is a sogginess deep down.  The tomatoes are completely bedraggled and makes you wonder if it is worth leaving them there.  And the weeds have responded with great excitement to the rain and created a carpet of green wherever there was bare soil a week ago.  There is a lot to be done, but the spring has long since gone from my step.  There is no denying it now.  We are in the final days of this growing season.


The eternal question: Why do weeds grow so fast and with such vigor when my tender wee seedlings need such care and protection. And why aren’t the bugs eating them. If they were brassica seedlings what the slugs and snails hadn’t taken care of would be covered in caterpillars by now!

Come again soon – this doesn’t mean the garden comes to a halt, it is just different.

Sarah the Gardener  : o)


For the want of a slice of beetroot

Beetroot in the garden

I like to grow Cylindra beetroot because they grow long and skinny and fit nicely in the jar. You can also eat the tender young leaves in salads – delish!

A good burger NEEDS a slice of beetroot between its buns and above the meat patty.  That is the kiwi way.   I was making homemade burgers for tea the other day and reached into the fridge for the jar of beetroot, but even lurking at the back with the nasturtium seed ‘poor man’s capers’ that are ok but we rarely use them, the pickled green beans that were ‘interesting’ and 3 jars of gherkin with a single slice floating in each, the cheese that must have gotten lost down there in the back because it had gone quite hard and a cucumber stub that we should have finished off a week ago, and would have, had it not been pushed to the back, there was not a sign of beetroot.

So I went to my larder and rummaged around there.  I found a few things I’d forgotten about – jams and relishes that were too good to have slipped my memory and pulled them towards the front.  I moved all of the older jars to within reach so they would get eaten first and made sure my most recent additions were on the top shelf so they could mature, or wouldn’t jump the queue and cause some other jam to languish for possibly years in a dark corner.  But I couldn’t find any beetroot, so we had to go without.

The garden had beetroot in it.  It had been there a long time.  Almost too long.  I sowed the seeds enthusiastically in the spring, in the greenhouse with all of the other spring time seeds.  They could have been sown out in the open, in the ground where they are to live all season, but the spring was soggy and it just wasn’t as nice as in the warm cosy greenhouse.  Besides when I grow them indoors I can indulge in my control freakery and space them out nicely.  Each seed is actually a corky cluster of 1 – 3 seeds and so then you have to do the dreaded thinning.  I hate waste.  But if I start them in seed trays I can just separate them out once they get their true leaves and they all get a chance to grow big and get eaten.

Then when the weather warmed up I spaced them out about 20cm apart and waited, making sure they are well watered, although in this summer that wasn’t too much of a problem.  They are such a low maintenance crop, nothing really bothers them and they just do their thing and grow big.  They are so versatile as you can eat them raw in salads and I made a delish one the other night with pear, raw beetroot, mint and lemon juice dressing.  Beetroot goes great in a chocolate muffin, but best of all, it is a pantry staple just sliced and pickled.

So now the larder has been replenished, and our burgers once again can live up to the kiwi tradition of a slice of beetroot in its midst.

Come again soon – once I’ve pickled peppers and onions, the garden will show me what to do next.

Sarah the Gardener  : o)

NB:  Scroll over the photos for the recipe

The overlap days

The overlap into autumn, the next season has officially begun.  It is kind of weird because, aside from the onions and garlic, the transition from winter to spring is effectively a blank canvas.  The beds are empty, cold and often wet.  In the best case scenario they are free from weeds but often they are a wild jungle that needs taming – with a machete.  This sounds quite a miserable situation, but the enthusiasm is strong and the work required is tackled with gusto because the taste of a sun warm tomato is almost there on the lips as much as it is in the memory.   Aside from memories from last season and the hope that it will be better, there isn’t much of an overlap at all.

Sowing seeds

Sowing seeds is always an exciting time – no matter what season you’re in

The progression from spring to summer is all about progress.  Aside from the anomaly of the onions and garlic, not a lot is coming out.  Most of the plants are growing and beginning to bear fruit.  There isn’t a lot of coming and going, just a lot of going on.  The switch between the seasons is almost unperceivable and doesn’t have quite the anticipation as spring does.  Although the warmer days and longer evenings are gratefully received.

Labels are important

Labels are important. I use and reuse chopped up milk bottles and a permanent marker pen that won’t fade. I soaked these in bleach for a few days to clean them up. Most of the marker from last season came off, but for the stubborn ones a swish in methylated spirits does the trick.

All the seeds sown in the nursery bed

All the seeds sown in the nursery bed. As this isn’t their permanent home and they are at the mercy of the elements then they can be sown thicker than normal. As we can’t control the environment as well as we can in the greenhouse then we need to rely on survival of fittest and safety in numbers.

The arrival of autumn on the other hand is tinged with sadness.  The heydays are coming to an end.  The glory days of summer fruit and bountiful harvests find their way into jars and freezers to remind us in the depths of winter just how good we had it.  Plants that have stood for a good six months collapse exhausted in a compost heap.  But with the passing of the good times, autumn throws us a bone and gives us cool season crops that planted in the lingering heat of the fading summer grow perfectly well as the temperatures slowly decline into winter days.  A gardener can continue to indulge in growing a good crop even on days when the sun doesn’t shine and a beanie is needed to keep the chill from around the ears.

Tamp down the soil

Using a small block of wood, tamp down the soil to ensure the seeds have good contact. As the soil in the garden can be full of cracks and crevices and worm holes you want to ensure the seeds stay where you want them to be.

Water well.

As I have already drenched the bed to ensure it is moist to a great depth, once the seeds were sown I watered again to moisten the top layer of soil the seeds are in that had dried out in the warmth of the sun and settled the soil around the seed using the gentlest flow my hose could deliver.

And then winter comes and the garden stands still.  The plants that remain there from the autumn wait patiently to be eaten, growing almost unnoticed and gradually the beds empty out waiting for the spring.


Now Fennel the Cat has pretty much got the hang of outdoor living and playing, I need to protect my garden from her. The last thing I need to upset my well laid out seeds is a scattering from playful paws. I’ve also popped down some little blue pellets, although there isn’t much slug and snail action at this time of year, but I’m not taking any chances.


Finally I’ve popped a cloche over the top to protect it from the harsh heat still found in the midday sun, but also the boffins are saying there is to be a lot of rain in the coming days and I want to try to protect my seeds from being washed away.

But we’ve only just entered autumn so I will try not to dwell on the winter just yet.  The days still feel like summer should and aside from the date on a calendar could still very well be.  The soil is still warm and plants are growing with vigour.  The harvest is still coming in and will continue to for quite some time.   But not forgetting it will all be over soon for many plants, I took my plan and laid down seeds to ensure the harvest would continue well into the winter.  There is a quiet comfort knowing there will be plants growing for months to come that will need my tender care and I can continue to wear the label of contented gardener.

Come again soon – I may just get into a bit of a pickle.

Sarah the Gardener  : o)

Peaches for me

As I perched precariously between the branches half way up my young peach tree, reaching out to bend tender branches bearing the best fruit towards me, I remember thinking “what am I doing?  I’m getting to old for this.”  To be fair the tree isn’t that young.  It was the first tree I planted in my orchard about 9 years ago, so while still young in the life of a tree, it is probably more of an adolescent and can take on a bit more than a sapling.  I remember when it arrived, it was no more than a stick and I tenderly planted it and hoped for the best.  And the best we got.  My goodness.  Those peaches are the sweetest, juiciest amazing fruit I’ve ever had.  I have the name written down somewhere but for the life of me can’t remember where.

Peach Jam

Jars of sunshine to brighten up a winters day

These peaches have been a huge distraction from the moment I decided I’d just pop down to the orchard to see if they are ready yet.  They are about a month later than last year but there are no surprises there thanks to the gloomy weather, but well worth waiting for.  I have eaten more than is probably good for you in one sitting and I have made 7 jars of peach jam with the bird pecked ones – I just cut the bad bits out.  Waste not want not and all of that.  But most shocking of all, they even caused me to abandon the exciting task of sowing my seeds for the new season to come.

Summer officially ends tomorrow.  I’m not sure how I feel about that.  I have mixed feelings.  Half of me just wants to put it all behind us and put all my hope and expectation into next season.  The other half is sad because gone with it is the possibility that it will come right and we will get nice days.  All we have to look forward to now is the slow descent into the cooler weather and darker evenings.

Autumn nursery bed

My cool season seedlings should be happy here until they are strong enough for their proper homes.

The one blessing is we can grow all year round here and before I got excited about the peaches I began preparing a nursery bed to start my seedlings off in.  It gets way to hot to grow them in small pots in the greenhouse.  They’d fry in an instant.   I even made a video of how I prepared the nursery garden.  You can check it out here:

But for now I need to go back outside while it is still summer and sow those seeds.

Come again soon – autumn does have its advantage.

Sarah the Gardener  :o)

Letting go of summer days

I can’t put it off any longer.  While the days are full of heat, the kind we haven’t seen all summer, and the air is thick with the sounds of cicadas, finally able to bask in the kind of temperatures they prefer and the skies endlessly blue, this morning when I woke up, I found myself reaching for my slippers.   It wasn’t cold as in brr cold, but that easy comfort of waking up and walking across the floor in bare feet was sullied by a coolness that offended my early morning senses.  Autumn is knocking at the door, demanding a turn, with no regard whatsoever to summers late appearance.

Summer garden

The garden looks full and productive, it is hard to believe summer really has less than a week left!

Even if we were to get an extended summer, I can’t really put off starting my cool season crops now so I don’t miss the window of opportunity as plants have their own sense of timing and often it is different to what I’d like it to be.   It is quite humbling to remember that the plants are the ones in charge of things, as the gardener I am just doing their bidding, and enabling them to grow.  It’s a bit like kids really, we brought them into this place, and given them what they need, fed them, trained them and then eventually their personality and their way of being is what results in their fruitfulness.  I’m feeling a little sentimental today, as today I find myself with my first teenager, who is confident, determined and happy and ready for the next season in his life.  It doesn’t seem that long ago he needed all the nurturing of a tiny seedling in the warmth of a greenhouse.  Where does the time go?


The zucchini has pushed passed the troublesome powdery mildew and having another growth spurt so it will be fruitful for some time to come.

It seems to race by and each day that passes is making me painfully aware winter will be hot on the heels of this impatient to get started autumn, like my teenage child, so I need to prepare the ground and sow seeds so the winter will be a fruitful and bountiful place.  So I studied my plan of the garden and tried to make sense of it all to get the most out of it.


The grand plan for the winter garden of 2017

Fifteen beds are immediately eliminated from the winter garden planning as they have permanent crops in them.  That is just under half of them which makes things a lot less daunting.  Things like strawberries, rhubarb, artichoke, asparagus, the berries and the herbs.  They will need things done to them over the next few months but the beds aren’t available for planting  and won’t lie barren over the coming seasons.


Not a bad mid summer broccoli. There doesn’t appear to be any caterpillars in it at all! The butterflies are late this year.

Most of the things I want to grow over the next few months and can actually grow fall into the brassica family and I’ll pop them into the existing brassica bed.  They should all be done and dusted by the time I need the bed again in the spring for all my odds and sods and exciting crops.  It isn’t ideal to plant brassicas in the same place year after year, to avoid the build up of club root disease in the soil.  However, in my crop rotation cycle, there won’t be brassicas again in this bed for seven years so two crops in one year shouldn’t be too much of a problem.    The kinds of brassicas I’ll grow are pretty much the standard stuff – the things we’ll actually eat.  After all these years of growing, the weird and the wonderful start to lose their allure as the excitement gained in the growing is often lost in the kitchen, when you are overloaded with things you aren’t entirely sure what to do with and hate to admit you don’t actually like the flavour.  I won’t be growing tomatillos again.

Brassica seeds

Winter will be full of hearty goodness with these wonderful brassicas

So in the brassica bed I’ll plant cabbage, cauliflower, broccoli, romanesco, turnips, kohlrabi and to take advantage of the cooling weather some radish.  Having said that I am going to try a Wombok cabbage which is similar to a Napa Cabbage to see what all the fuss is about.


This must be a good year for eggplants – they are so prolific!

The bed the odds and sods were in over the summer, still has peanuts, okra, eggplant and tomatillo thriving there.  They can take their time and the first frost will probably take care of them.  I’m in no hurry for the bed as the onion overflow will take their place when the time is right.  This is generally my leeks and shallots and varieties I want to try that don’t fit in the main onion bed.  I like to try to grow enough onions to last the year.


There are plenty of leeks to see us through the winter, hmmm leek and potato soup…. hmmm

Meanwhile the leeks in the old onion overflow bed can stay put so we can eat them fresh throughout the winter.   The beans will go in there next season but they do best sown directly in soil about 18°C, so we have plenty of time to eat the leeks.  I’ll pop in some more spring onions too as they are so versatile for that mild onion flavour.


In the past I’ve sown autumn sowings of carrots in their summer bed, but then find I’ve no room in the spring for the salad that can be started earlier in the season and after a winter of comfort food are often craved for their crunch.  So this season I have started sowing the successive rows in where they will be next year – where the potatoes were.  Well technically still are as I’ve popped in a sneaky couple of rows hoping for a late crop.  I’ll put some fennel and beetroot in here too as they normally cohabitate with the carrots with no problems at all and grow well over our mild winter months.  The hardy varieties of salad will stay in their summer beds as they are such a quick crop on the grand scheme of things they won’t hold up the new season brassicas at all.

Carrots and spuds

My sneaky late season spuds and my sneaky early crop rotated carrots

The pea bed had some broccoli and painted mountain corn in it over the summer months and the broccoli is ready to harvest the corn isn’t far away so the timing is perfect to sow some autumn peas.  This is their old bed and their new bed will be where the zucchini and butternut squash is still doing their thing.  And call me a sucker, but I may pop in a few broad beans.

Peas and beans

Peas and beans for late autumn and early spring green goodness

The last seeds to consider are the onions and garlic, which generally go in mid winter and will go in where the peppers and tomatoes currently are.  All going well they will last until the frost, so there isn’t much time to do anything fancy with the beds to prepare them other than spread them with some well-rotted manure that my lovely farmer friend brings me in his tractor.    The rotted manure will also go in the squash bed as the peas that will go in there next season get an early start and so I wouldn’t want to hold them up with a crop.  I’ll just lay it across the top and let the worms do the work.

Onion seeds

Within these small packets lies a years supply of onions for my kitchen

I’m still undecided about what to do with the pea bed once  it’s finished – whether I use more manure to enrich the bed to prepare for the following seasons tomatoes or sow mustard to clean the soil, just in case there are problems lurking there.    The old carrot bed is a tough one too – as the parsnips smack bang in the middle get eaten over the winter and so it is jolly inconvenient to have them there in terms of future prep.  I may just have to keep this bed weed free and enrich it in the spring.


I’m waiting for the frost before I eat these so they’ll be so much sweeter… not that I’m wishing for a frost. May next time I’ll sow them on the outside of the bed so I can treat the rest of soil for the next crop.

Where hungry plants like the corn, leafy greens and cucumber are now – I’ll plant lupin… having said that the silverbeet lasts all winter…  hmmm, not sure now.  It’ll give something back ready for the next crop when I dig it in before it flowers.

Leafy Greens

The upside of this gloomy season is it has been marvelous for the leafy greens

And finally I’ll put wheat in the mixed bed and pumpkin bed as these are in ground and not raised so it will help to hold their place against the encroaching weeds, as wheat is allopathic and will deter other things from growing there and it will give me some mulch for the rest of the garden in the summer.  I’ll also pop some wheat where the zucchini and squash will go as they don’t need the bed until it is really warm in the spring so there will be plenty of time to get a good crop.

Late Summer garden

The lettuces bolting to seed are just a few of the signs that the season will shortly draw to a close

So now what I need to do is create a nursery bed – possibly in an unused corner of the leek bed as it is far too hot to grow seedlings in the greenhouse and wait patiently for summer to come to an end so I can put these plans in place.

Come again soon – there are seeds to sow and plenty to harvest.

Sarah the Gardener  : o)

Off with their heads

I’m starting to get the hang of this flower garden thing.  Especially with my fabulous organisational sector system.  Instead of being rather low on the priority list – because they are only flowers, they now get seen to every Friday.  Having said that, the poor plants in the old Friday sector do suffer a little from end-of-week-itis as opposed to those in the Monday sector which get the bright-and-early treatment.  But now I am actually spending time with them, instead of passing them by with an “I’ll get to you soon” mentality that is tinged with guilt.

Bee on echinacea

I love how the flowers bring bees into the garden

I like having the flowers there and have even begun to pick them and bring them indoors.  Although my flower arranging leaves a lot to be desired.  My most successful arrangements to date are when a single stem zinnia graces a small narrow necked vase.  I have loads of these about the place and they last for ages.

Bee on zinnia

Even bedraggled flowers have an allure to the bees

I have even got tough with myself and strictly pull out self-seeded flowers that emerge beside the weeds from the seeds deposited from a couple of seasons worth of neglect.  The flower garden is now much more orderly – well it is supposed to be a cutting garden, and gone are the days when I allowed self-seeded pumpkins and tomatoes to run rampant through it all!

alissium with bay

I didn’t even plant these, I have no idea where they came from. That’s probably why they’re doing so well

I have discovered some that I have planted are perennials and come back year after year, unfortunately, I have changed the layout and I’m not entirely sure I want them where they are. Others I thought were perennials were in fact biennials and disappeared without a trace in year three.   I can’t believe I’ve being trying to master flowers for three years now.  But to be fair as I was mostly disorganised in the garden it was more of a plant out and fend for yourself kind of operation.  I mean they were just flowers after all.


Harvesting beans for tea is a form of deadheading. Who would have thought it?!

I am discovering they actually have a lot in common with veggies.  For example, if I stagger my plantings of sunflowers then I can enjoy them throughout the summer as they seem to grind to a halt midsummer if you start them too early and then a summer storm blows through leaving them quite bedraggled. This isn’t too dissimilar to succession planting of my lettuce or carrots as I quite like to have them available all season long so replant regularly.

I think I may have fallen a little for dahlias

I think I may have fallen a little for dahlias

The other thing is I’m always telling people with veggies – especially peas and beans, the more you pick the more you get.  Well it turns out, being as flowers are plants too, the same applies!  While I may not be able to pick every single flower like I would with the peas, and bring them inside to hideously arrange, and besides it is nice to leave a few to look nice in the garden, the same rules apply.

Dahlia buds

Take care deadheading dahlias – the pointy buds are the spent flowers and the round button ones are the new flowers to be. Don’t chop the wrong ones off.

With peas and beans if you miss a few and they are allowed to go from sweet young tender pods into hard, inedible seeds, then the plant thinks it has done its job, created progeny and its future is secure, so it stops and pretty much dies.  Flowers are exactly the same.  When you pick all its potential offspring off the plant, it shrugs it off and starts again attempting to create new seed for the future.

So you should pick all you can, and for those left behind then when they get a bit sad and tired, cut them off, before they get to the setting seed stage.  In some situations, if a flower is allowed to set seeds they can quickly become a weed.  They also go from being a thing of beauty to an eyesore.

Dead head flowers

Even the trimmings headed for the compost look pretty

And there is a strange pleasure to be found by lingering in the garden with a good pair of scissors doing a bit of deadheading and snipping off the heads of old and tired flowers.  If you do it often there often isn’t much to do, and as you work your way across the plant you will find more emerging flower buds waiting for their chance to bloom in the sunshine and you end up with a display that seems to last forever, or until the frost comes along and wipes them out for good.

Come again soon – I wonder what flowers I can sow now for some winter colour

Sarah the Gardener  : o)

We need a lake

I have spent a lot of time over the years just plodding about in my own garden and this made me perfectly happy.  I love my garden and I wake up every morning and feel blessed to be living where we do.  It is my slice of paradise and gives me all I need – all the vegies we can eat, an incredible vista, all the space in the world for my kids to run around in, a garden to enjoy and a meagre income to be earned from the fact that we live here.  So at the end of the day it is fair to say I don’t get out much.  And I’m ok with that.

Just one of the many delightful lake vistas

Just one of the many delightful lake vistas

But last week I got a call from the lovely Lynda Hallinan, to invite me to give a talk at her Heroic Garden Party. This leads into a wonderful weekend of garden visits for the Heroic Garden Festival where amazing gardens across Auckland throw open their gates with all funds raised going to Hospice.  It was such a worthwhile cause and an amazing invitation that I could hardly refuse.

The best thing is the venue for the garden party was the amazing Ayrlies Garden – a Garden of International Significance.  The weather had been rotten for the last few days and the boffins had said it would continue to be horribly rainy so it didn’t bode well.  No matter how incredible a garden is, loads of folk viewing it in the rain wouldn’t have been very nice at all.  But the day cleared to be lovely, but quite muggy and it was refreshing when the water was bubbling over rocks into gorgeous lakes rather than falling from the sky.

From the moment we arrived, you could tell it was an immaculately kept garden and with every turn of the path it didn’t disappoint.  I brought Hubby the Un-Gardener with me so he could lug all my stuff about the place and I thought it was fair enough he came garden visiting with me as I’ve been to a few boat shows so we need to even things up.  But even he was swept up by the grandeur of the place.  We perused the market place eying up all the cool bits and bobs for sale and resisted temptation to buy any plants.  I guess this is the upside of only really doing veggie gardening.  The vast array of plants before you look really amazing but you wouldn’t have the first idea how to care for them so you just admire them in their pots and walk on by with your money in your pocket.

But I looked at this garden and there was something about it that stirred something in me.  We need this in our slice of paradise. The restful nature of a large body of water, the dappled light through shady glades and the play of brightly coloured plants contrasting against pale ones.  Meandering paths that lead you on a journey through the garden and of course what better reason than to have statues, columns and objet D’art waiting to be discovered.  And hundreds of flowers of all different kinds, colours and shapes.   The garden was amazing and it made me long for something more from our roughly mown paddocks.  Besides they had to start somewhere all those years ago.

But I couldn’t linger in the beauty of the garden too long as I had to go off and give my talk on separating fact from fiction in the veggie garden, which was well received and is one of my favourite topics.  Every day I see so many illogical things being suggested to try on hapless gardens, so it is nice to be able to set the record straight.

We need a lake

We need a lake

Then before we knew it the day had drawn to a close and as we headed home, even Hubby the Un-Gardener was excitedly discussing the possibility of having a lake in our backyard.   Now my sector systems are working as well as I had hoped they would in the veggie patch, I think I can find some time to learn about the finer points of landscape gardening.   It won’t happen overnight, but I do sincerely hope it will happen.

Come again soon – it is almost time to get those cool season seeds started.  Where did my summer go?

Sarah the Gardener  : o)

If you want to find out more about Ayrlies Garden you can click >HERE<

Inauthentic Kimchi

February has mostly been kind so far, the days that have been hot and sunny have not disappointed and have been proper summer hot and sunny.  We just won’t talk about the other days…   But things in the garden are ripening up at a great rate of knots and it is fabulous to do my meal planning right there in the garden.

My beautiful Savoy Cabbage

My beautiful Savoy Cabbage

And with that, I was so proud to see my savoy cabbages were ready.  Two of them!  At the same time.  We’d never eat that much cabbage in one go so I had to think about ways to use up cabbage – a lot of cabbage.  The idea popped into my head,  “I know, I’ll make Kimchi.”  This was rather a strange thought as not only had I never made it before, but I’d never eaten it before.  It was going to be an interesting journey.

Hubby the Un-Gardener and the sheep

While waiting for the Kimchi, Hubby the Un-Gardener and I decide it was a good time to move the sheep. This actually went surprisingly well as there was potential for it to go horribly wrong… We’re not really farmers.

After a lot of research on the great big internet, I had a vague idea of how it should be done and headed off to our nearest Asian supermarket.  It had such a vast array of cool stuff that I didn’t know what it all was, but would love to have tried.  They didn’t have any Kimchi Powder – a key ingredient in Kimchi, but I didn’t leave empty handed.  I bought a grass jelly drink…  ummm yeah… interesting.  Do everything once and the fun things twice.  I think I’ll stick to once on this one.


Wow – I made Kimchi… of sorts. The aroma is amazing. I can’t wait to try it.

So I decided to create my own inauthentic Kimchi powder, which rested well enough with me as after my research I had discovered I have the wrong kind of cabbage.  I had a savoy and proper Kimchi is made with Napa cabbage. I’ve decided to grow one this winter in the off chance I actually like Kimchi.  The other key ingredient I didn’t have was a Daikon Radish, but I was committed to the project now and there was no stopping me so I substituted it for a Kolhrabi.  She’ll be right.

Now you can watch the bringing together of all these wonderful ingredients on my latest video.  You may want to grab some popcorn as it is a tad longer than my normal videos, but it will entertain you as I make my Inauthentic Kimchi.

Come again soon – I have my garden plan and I’m gathering seeds.  It’ll be sow time very soon.

Sarah the Gardener  : o)


Control at last

Finally, the weather blessed us with a fabulous weekend.  It was hot, blue sky amazing and perfect for time in the garden.  You could almost see the plants breathing a sigh of relief as they stretched out their leaves to receive the full impact of the sun.   And of course, I was out there revelling in it too, with a thick layer of sunscreen and a large bottle of water.  It was a fabulous day.

Sunny days

A full and vibrant garden, blue skies and warm weather. It doesn’t get better than this.

It is amazing how much you can get through when the conditions are perfect, the garden has never looked better.  The beds are now all mostly weed free – except the raspberries.  I have completely written off the bed, for now.  The flooding in the spring didn’t agree with them and they never really recovered so I abandoned the poor plants that languished there to their own devices.   When the weather cools down I’m going to completely empty out the bed and start again with fresh plants, fresh soil and an extra layer on my raised bed so we won’t have a repeat of the soggy season.

overgrown raspberries

Not my proudest moment, but my raspberries are not looking their best.

So aside from the shameful raspberries everything else looks as magnificent as could be for a season that hasn’t actually been ideal.   It is so nice to have the garden in a place of order and control so I can go forward into the year proactive not reactive and enjoy it a whole lot more.

Sunny days

The colours seem bright and beautiful when illuminated by the full sun.

Being in control also means you have a greater appreciation for what is going on.  It’s not  – “oh no the gherkins are ready again, I need to find time to process them…” It allows you time to examine the garden in detail and prepare for a coming glut, be instantly reactive to problems and enjoy just messing about in the garden instead of tackling it.

Painted mountain corn pollen tassels

The great colours on the painted mountain corn highlights the pollen tassels so well.

As I worked my way across the garden this weekend I was able to notice the cycle of the garden, as the sweetcorn is on the verge of being ready, the strawberries are pretty much over and now is the time to consider what it needs for the next season.  Then of course are the seeds still to be sown for the cold season to come.  Nothing stands still and the life of the garden is a constantly entertaining thing, if you don’t allow it to overwhelm you and get lost in the ‘out of control’.

I managed to capture some of this summer sunshine and preserve for viewing in cold weather so I can feel the sun radiate from the screen and onto my frozen winter face.  You can check out this sunshine too in my latest video talking about how to tell when sweetcorn is ready and what to do with end of season strawberries and a bit of a wee tour of my fabulous in control summer garden.

Come again soon – we shall be talking about cabbages and kings.

Sarah the Gardener  : o)


Making plans… again

Well now we find ourselves on the front door of February.  Late summer.   And now in what should be the height of seasonal fun and frivolity, with BBQs every night and picnics every day, swimming at the beach at every opportunity, basking in all that is glorious about the sunny season.  But I’m just not feeling it.  It is a lovely blue sky day… and an hour weeding in the late afternoon works up a sweat – not that I sweat, ladies ‘glow’ – but yesterday most of the day was raining and gloomy.

Brassica bed

Gaps are appearing everywhere, as we slowly work our way through the broccoli, cauliflower and kohlrabi, the brassica bed becomes more gappy than a 6 year old’s smile.

As much I hate to relinquish my hopes for a descent summer, now is the time to plan for winter.  Normally I miss this window as I don’t want to believe it is possible to let go of the wonderful endless, blue sky days and leave it until the very last minute.   This year I’m just keen for a fresh start and so shall plan meticulously, weighing up the pros and cons of each variety that will grace my garden over the winter months, that will lift my heart when I look out on a bleak, cold day and see thing growing and not just a sea of mud.


This luffa is in the middle of my cucumber bed and I love to grow them, but takes an age to be ready, long after the cucumbers are gone. This delays this bed from being used for anything useful as the season draws to a close.

I will consider the garden as a whole and work out what will be best to go where, instead of just filling gaps like I normally do.  This leads to so much difficulty as often the crop isn’t finished by the time I need the garden for the spring things.  Having said that, this could also be down to my poor organisation in previous years that leads me to the late start to the cool crop season.

Odds and sods bed

This bed is also opening up. I dug up the popcorn that was still languishing there since the terrible attack by some vile creature. I also took out the epazote as it ended up looking more like a seed fest… it is important to find out everything you can before introducing something unfamiliar into your garden and finally I accidentally removed my stevia by standing on it, but all is not lost I’ve taken cuttings and it roots very easily in a jar of water! I also trimmed back the tomatillo because at the end of the day, while cool to grow it, I don’t really love it enough to have it take over the garden.

What beds don’t find themselves with crops in, because let’s face it,  the choice in winter while varied is nowhere near as vast as the summer options, will have cover crops in them to help replenish the organic matter taken from the garden during the long summer months.  Even this in itself requires careful consideration because while mustard is said to have beneficial properties to cleanse the soil, it is a brassica so can’t interfere with the crop rotation, because the last thing I want to do is introduce club root to my garden.


The corn isn’t far from being ready, and then an entire bed will come free, but the garlic will take it’s place in midwinter, so what ever goes in here needs to be quick – maybe a lupin cover crop to replace what the hungry corn is currently sucking out of the soil.

I would also like to grow more wheat as this year’s crop was just enough to mulch the strawberries and I’d really like to take this further.  When you have a large garden, mulch is an expensive proposition.  But I can’t just put it in any old bed, it needs to go into one that won’t be needed until about mid – late spring as the wheat seems to always take it to the very last moment before being ready for harvest, and in the meantime, I have plants in pots, desperate to go in.

Onion bed

With the shallots gone, all that is left in this one bursting with life garden is the leeks and some spring onions and a vast expanse of possibility…

Then if there is any odd bed that doesn’t fit in then I can smother it with some lovely well-rotted poop my farmer friend delivered to me by the tractor bucket load the other day and the earthworms can work it all in.


The celeriac is looking fabulous this year, and will be ready soon. There are only six of them so they will be gobbled up soon enough leaving a row sized gap in my leafy greens.

I think I’m going to need to sit down with a clear head and a large cup of tea and work this all out.  Deciding what to grow and where to put it; considering my crop rotation;  how long things take in the winter months – which is a lot slower than summer;  what needs to go in where in the spring, because some things can go in earlier and some things need to go in later when it is warmer; which cover crops and where to fit in my wheat already seems like a lot to figure out.  Just getting to this point where it is no longer floating about in my head, but safely on paper feels like a good start.

Come again soon – I’ll let you know what I decide to do.

Sarah the Gardener  : o)

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