With the New Year upon us, I have had little time to care for the garden as well as I’d like. Technically we are still on holiday so days spent leisurely tending the garden for all my hearts delight is replaced with a quick dash into it to do what needs doing urgently and harvesting all that is ready. The time is spent enjoying time with the family before the routine of normal resumes its ebb and flow.
So needless to say, my sector system is in disarray. And to make things worse, there was the typical holiday weather of the season – mostly gloomy, with periods of heavy rain and strong wind and just enough sunshine to feel like we haven’t been short changed over the summer holiday break. I have welcomed the rain as things were starting to dry out and it has provided comfort that the garden will be ok with only sporadic care. Besides rain restores the moisture to the soil in a way that watering can’t. The down side of all of this wet and warm weather is the weeds have enjoyed it almost more than my plants and have taken off at a great rate of knots. I need to resume the sector system sooner rather than later so I regain control and am able to be proactive towards the garden, rather than reactive. It is never a good thing to bounce wildly around the garden dealing to problems and urgent issues – it sucks the pleasure right out of it.
But while we are still in holiday mode, it seems like the right thing to indulge in projects not problems. So I turned a blind eye to the weeds and set about doing something I’d been meaning to do for quite some time but hadn’t got around to it. I had all the materials there in the shed waiting and all it needed was a moment in time where I could just focus on one thing and enjoy the project. While it makes the garden look pretty, it is also quite functional. I made new signs for all the beds.
I’d thought about it for a while as the signs I already had were several years old, the paint was peeling and there weren’t enough for each bed as … well… the garden has this habit of growing, in more ways than horticulturally. I’m seriously considering a fence to contain myself. The garden is a good size and just manageable for me. I have no self-control when it comes to the garden and I seriously need confining lest I spread further across the land.
The signs make the garden look cool, but they are also my crop rotation plan. Once I sat down and worked it all out – carrots are good after potatoes because they break up the soil, brassicas need to keep moving every year to avoid club root building up in the soil. Peas and beans can contribute nitrogen to the soil if you leave the roots to rot in the ground, so popping them before a hungry plant is a good idea and onions and garlic are said to have properties that clean up the soil after disease prone plants so popping them in to follow the more ‘precious’ plants is a good idea. There were loads of other reasons for putting things where they are and it was more complicated than working out the seating plan at a dysfunctional family wedding. We couldn’t have Step-Aunty Joan anywhere near Cousin Brian three times removed. The whole thing gave me a headache and wasn’t something I’d care to repeat every season. So now all I have to do is pick up my signs and move them clock wise and then plant accordingly. Nothing could be easier.
To make the signs was interesting. I’m not all that artistic and have difficulty waiting for paint to dry and wielding a paint brush results in blobby, smudged lines and a touch of disappointment as I fail to realise the vision in my head. So this time I decided to forgo the paint brushes for paint pens. It couldn’t have been simpler – I know how to write and my drawing is ok-ish and would suit the needs of the signs.
Then I pulled the planks of wood from my shed that I had picked up with good intentions months ago from the hardware store and once again bemused the staff with the explanation of my plans for the timber that would ordinarily end up as part of some much more noble a project. I had 2 metre lengths of smooth dressed 140mm x 20mm planks. I didn’t fancy spending hours sanding wood smooth to make it easy to paint on so this was perfect.
Away from the rain day, I laid the timber on the outdoor table and whiled away a pleasant afternoon ‘painting’ the names of all the beds onto the planks at 25cm intervals. I was so pleased with myself – I did it all freehand without much pre-planning and didn’t need a do over due to smudging or misspelling. Once all the words were touch dry, I went back over the signs and added decorative elements and it looked pretty cool.
Then came time to assemble it all. I would like to say at this point if you value your sanity or wellbeing of your marriage if you get your other half involved, then I would in hindsight suggest you do this bit first and cut up your wood into 25cm lengths and then decorate. Let’s just say Hubby the Un-Gardener and I came to creative differences over the accuracy of the skill saw that refused to follow the line I’d provided and sailed way too close to my cute painted decorations near the boundaries of the sign. After much animated discussion, we resorted to a hand saw and I am so grateful for Hubby the Un-Gardener’s man strength because I’d still be out there hacking away at the wood with blisters and stiff muscles forming on blisters and stiff muscles that had already found their way upon my poor old body.
Next the sign stakes were made from the slats of wood that ordinarily gets used for making trellis. The hardware store guys were completely sceptical of this use for the wood, but I reassured them with a cheery “She’ll be right.” The lengths of wood were easily cut into 40 cm lengths and pre-drilled to prevent splitting and screwed to the backs of the signs. This bit was easy enough and even The Joeyosaurus had a go with the power tools. He really wanted to be involved in making the sign for his ‘pet garden.’ After making 37 signs I was pleased that they were all up the right way and actually didn’t look too bad and that family relations were once again harmonious.
It was lovely to take a break from the day to day doing and do some larger big picture projects for the garden that improve functionality and makes it look good too.
Come again soon – most folk will be back at work soon and the weather will improve as a result and it will feel more like summer in the garden again.
Sarah the Gardener : o)
Gosh, how have we found ourselves here on the Eve of Christmas. This season has whizzed by in the whirl of excitement, anticipation, joy, busyness, a touch of disappointment – my beans haven’t come up, wind, rain and sunshine. Time has been spent in the garden, in the kitchen and pounding the streets looking for perfect gifts. It is a hectic time of year in ordinary circumstances, however, when you throw a large productive garden into the mix, well it just adds a certain kind of drama.
So, on my list of things to do today is making a pav, making salads for the main meal, whipping up festive cocktails, greeting guests and pickling gherkins and if all goes well I’d love to be able to weed the corn.
Having said that, the garden is in a good place, and I can lay it down for a while over the festive season – just dashing out to it from time to time to grab something for a fancy salad or dish that will be the star of the table, or just something to snack on when the richness of the holiday food gets too much.
I did worry I’d never get to this point as the horrible spring weather with its ever-present rain set me back weeks. But all but a few small plants have found their way into the garden and are growing in a way that has me bursting with pride. You can check it out here:
So, all that is left to do is sit back and enjoy Christmas that I have spent so long preparing for.
Merry Christmas and God Bless you all.
Come again soon – I’m sure there will be more gherkins than I know what to do with in 2017.
Sarah the Gardener : o)
Three hundred and fifty five days ago I publicly declared that I was going to conquer my incompetence with citrus trees and vowed to keep one alive. I’ve killed so many over the years that my reputation proceeds me and when I wander the tree aisle of the garden centre all the lemons and limes quake with fear. I just keep trying and applying my do or die philosophy down in the orchard. This clearly didn’t work as they really didn’t appreciate the neglect, the lack of regular feeding and the soggy wet feet in winter. I lost count of how many met their end down the far end.
Having said that, there was one mandarin that after being given up for dead has actually managed to grow through the hard times and actually produced a harvest this season. This came as a bit of a shock, to find a flash of orange in my winter orchard. But it was really a lemon I was after. It was always quite embarrassing to have to accept my lemons from the overabundance of others.
I thought it would be nice to pop them in the chicken run so they could feed it in their own special way and in return it could provide them with shade. They didn’t quite see it that way and just scratched it up, damaging them beyond repair. They didn’t last long there at all.
Then there were the ones that died in the most shameful way – still in their pots, while I pondered the best way to keep them alive. Oh the irony.
But this year was different and it took an entire year of deciding just how I’d go about it, but there was always something else to do, so they got pushed back to the bottom of the list. Sometimes they weren’t even there at all, only to be returned to the list after a sleepless night where I was wracked with concern over the lack of lemon in my life. My garden often wakes me at night to remind me of things that need to be done.
But with a handful of days left in the year, I needed to make good on this resolution and I headed to the garden centre and picked up a nervous Meyer Lemon and Tahitian Lime with dwarfing rootstock. Things weren’t looking good for them as they ended up sitting on the deck in their pots for well over a week. Putting them right outside the door may have caused problems for the rest of the family as they had to walk around them, but for me, it kept them in the forefront of my mind.
I thought I’d whip up a container with the left over palings from my great compost / fence project, because if I’m to overcome the wet feet problem they need to be raised. If they are to avoid being neglected and get feed regularly then they need to be right where I can see them – in my garden. However in my haste, my measure once by declaring ‘she’ll be right’ didn’t go well for me for once. And after an afternoon of Hubby the Un-Gardener welding power tools on my behalf, I reluctantly abandoned my hand made bespoke container idea. It could have been fabulous, because it was in my head.
While out Christmas shopping, buying gifts for others I found the bargin of the century and got two wonderfully large pots that will not only support my citrus, but make a stunning feature, because they are gorgeous. I filled the pots with my rich soil, but also added a generous helping of perlite because normal soil can compact easily in containers. I also added compost, blood and bone, sheep pellets and other goodies for sustaining the greedy plants as they settle in and grow to fill their new homes.
All going well I’ll have a splash of yellow fruit come winter and if not this one but the next. But as per my new years resolution, I really only have to keep them alive until the end of the year. I’m sure I can manage keeping them in the land of the living for the next 10 days!
Come again soon – Christmas is days away and the garden has a large role in the menu. It just wouldn’t be Christmas without it.
Sarah the Gardener : o)
I’d love to say all is hunky dory down in my garden however – that would be a delusion. It is one thing to have a wonderful garden that is bursting into life and on the verge of delivering some goodness to our plates and larder, but to have a period of holiday smack bang in the middle is so conflicting.
Don’t get me wrong – I love Christmas and all things tinsel and cake, trees indoors filling the house with an amazing piney aroma. I love the meaning behind it. It is important to pause and remember the reason for the season, the birth of a small baby thousands of years ago. Even the gifts are such a lovely tradition to acknowledge those you care about, although I’m not so in love with the shopping part. It is a wonderful time of the year.
Then following hot on it’s heels is New Year and that is always a hoot, although it is getting increasingly harder to stay awake long enough these days. It’s kinda like ” 4…. 3…. 2…. 1…. Happy New Year…. and goodnight to all!”
Just to add to all of away-from-garden-ness is the summer holiday and weaves it’s way through the midst of the festive season and beyond. And don’t get me wrong here either – I love spending time with my family on a beach somewhere, away from all the cares and responsibilities of the world and even better if there is no wifi – for all of us.
But all the while I’m engaged in preparations and shopping and baking and pre Christmas parties, and kids end of school activities, the festivities, celebrations and time away – the garden still grows and it needs me. There are tendrils to tuck in, peas to pick, tomatoes laden with green fruit to feed, salad crops to resow to ensure a constant supply, zucchini to keep up with before they become marrows, onions to harvest and strawberries to fill my belly with as I garden and then tell the family the yield is down this year – probably because of the birds.
So this weekend I shall (in my head) declare it a festive free zone and take every opportunity to restore order in the garden. I will lose myself in my mowing, weeding will be a pleasure not a chore. It will be fabulous.
I won’t go as far as saying Bah Humbug because as a gardener, bugs that bring you down aren’t welcome in my world. I just need the festive crazy to pause for a moment so I can find my peace and joy in my favourite place – my garden.
Come again soon – I’ll let you know what I’ve achieved.
Sarah the Gardener : o)
The summer weather seems to have been and gone. A few nice days with blazing temperatures and then boof… back to the wet and miserable. This doesn’t bode well. Unless of course it was the soggy spring putting the boot in one last time. This is what I am hoping it is as I have high hopes for season.
However, if it is going to be soggy and warm, then the humidity can be problematic for my tomatoes, so I’ve taken action to improve the air flow around them as no one wants early blight. Late blight, I can deal with – by then you’re sick of the sight of tomatoes and have made more jars of tomato relish than you could possibly eat in a year and so you reluctantly let the plants succumb a few weeks earlier than they would ordinarily. But early blight is something else and can come along before you’ve even seen a red tomato.
The heat has also played havoc with my salad crops and they have bolted sooner than expected and my seed sown succession plants aren’t ready for the big garden and so I had to buy seedlings from the garden centre. But there is no shame in that. Salad is salad no matter how it got to be salad.
And finally, I’ve popped in some new fruiting shrubs. I’ve managed to get my hands on some gooseberries, with a permanent forever home. I have to confess, I have killed a few in my time. The first was in the orchard and died of neglect. The next one never even made it into the garden and died in its pot from good intentions. The last one was overwhelmed by the cape gooseberries and didn’t stand a chance as they are quite competitive. So this time they are the stars of their own beds and I’ll take good care of them.
Now you can catch all of this action on my latest video with my cute wee co-star at my side. Actually, I think she is a bit of a scene stealer so I may need to rein her in.
Come again soon – I’ve been back to the garden centre and have a new year’s resolution from last year so deal with.
Sarah the Gardener : o)
This post is unashamedly full of kitten cuteness. Fennel has got her brave on and ventured beyond the safety of the house. It was delightful watching her take those first steps across the grass. She was highly suspicious at first and preferred to stick to paths and the familiarity of solid surfaces. But after disappearing under the deck, causing great panic, only to emerge a little while later, covered in cobwebs and wondering what the fuss was all about, I realised she was ready for the garden. So I took her out to discover the environment she would spend most of her time, if she wanted to hang out with me.
She is quite a clingy wee thing and to start with barely left my side in the shed as I sowed seeds. The corn garden has an annoying gap where a dozen plants are missing. Early on – when the seedlings were still tiny I carefully lifted the spares and relocated them into spaces where none had appeared. Then I strategically moved others so the area where there was none formed a block and I popped in more seeds. I don’t know if I’m impatient or not, but only a few showed their faces. So, I’ve started again under the controlled conditions of a seed tray. The beans must have decided the corn’s behaviour was admirable and worth emulating as only a handful of these had popped up.
A pleasant time was spent hanging out in the cool of the shed with wee Fennel, me sowing seeds and her digging them out… Oh, fun times. Then we headed deep into the garden so I could do a spot of weeding. So long as she could see me she was fine. Then she got adventurous and explored the beds beside the ones I was working on. The brassica completely engulfed her, the cosmos intrigued her and the bolting lettuce gave her a great place to hide. If she continues to enjoy the garden as much as she did yesterday, then we are going to get on just fine.
Come again soon – there are so many things vying for my attention, I’m spoilt for choice.
Sarah the Gardener : o)
Across much of winter and spring the garden can be almost monochromatic, or bi-chromatic – is that how you say it? Maybe its duo-chromatic? Either way, winter is a sea of brown bare earth with hints of green as bold weeds try to break through the chilly soil. Spring on the other hand is bursting with life, with abundant greenery overcoming the rich brown earth. The garden is clothed in green in more shades that you would think possible. And it is a fresh green – almost luminescent as the seedlings grow vigorously and take their place in the garden. You can almost catch the enthusiasm of all this rampant growth.
By late spring, the green tones settle down, to a duller less vibrant green as the growth slows and the plants reach their desired size and switch to fruit production. The lower leaves near the bottom of the plants that had been there from the beginning, from those exciting days when each new leaf as it unfurled was intimately known – have become so bedraggled it is best to just remove them. They have done their job and done it well. The plant will grow on without them.
Early summer brings a radiance that isn’t there in spring. The sun shines brighter and longer. In the midday sun the glare is almost too much, as is the heat. The brights are brighter than ever before. But in the still of the first light and the lingering glow of sunset the garden takes on an almost ethereal demeanour. Whenever you find yourself in the garden, be it morning, noon, late afternoon or just on twilight, the garden feels vibrant and you can’t help but feel alive in it’s presence.
But early summer begins to reveal something else. As the fruit begins to make their presence felt, they reveal the beauty of their colours. After all of that green, the colours seem larger than life and crisp and fresh. Yellows so deep and reds so rich. The food almost looks too good to eat. Everyday I marvel at the wonder of the garden. It isn’t new to me, but I’m still blown away at the wonder of it all. Each plant is so different and beautiful. Gardening isn’t an activity – it’s an experience.
Come again soon – I have so many plans and projects for this season I hardly know when to start. I love summer.
Sarah the Gardener : o)
We are all still pretty much ga-ga over the latest addition to our family – Fennel the kitten, and she has turned our world upside down with her bursts of manic energy. Fortunately kittens wear out quite easily so one moment she is racing around in a blur and the next she is curled up fast asleep in some strange place.
Sleep time for Fennel is garden time for me, as I know I’ll have about an hour before I need to check on her to see what form of mischief she is into. I’m beginning to worry about putting up the Christmas tree. However Fennel isn’t the only thing keeping me from the garden at the moment. The festive season is now upon us, and so is summer. Today is the first official day of summer and it was like a switch had been flipped and the temperatures adjusted accordingly. I’d like to think it is now safe to put away my thick socks for another season.
The move to summer is a great thing for the garden. Hopefully things will be more settled and my plants can get on with the business of growing without being hindered by horrible winds and I can get out there and tend to them without being soaked to the skin in a deluge of cold rain. Not that that happened but it could have – I mostly stayed inside while it was raining. I did buy a large beach umbrella to keep dry while gardening as it did start to feel like the rain would never stop, but I never got the chance to use it. Maybe it can be a new summer shade brolly to keep those harsh UV rays off me as I go about the garden, doing my thing.
But the thing is – this festive season thing. It has already taken me away from my beloved garden and into the city for a fancy Christmas doo. We had a lot of fun and the hosts were fabulous and I wouldn’t have missed it, however, the garden sat waiting. The sector system is in complete disarray as I rush around being reactive and not proactive. This really wasn’t how it was supposed to be. But I shall adapt and adjust and get back on track, even if it means doing 5 sectors in one day, because as we draw nearer to Christmas and the holidays that follow, it isn’t going to get any better and the demands of life beyond the garden is going to get crazier before it calms down again. So long as I stay on top of the harvesting and succession planting at the very least and the weeds and mowing at best. Then kittens and Christmas can distract me all they like, because lets face it – they are great things to be distracted by.
As a nod to the new fur baby, I’ve gathered together a collection of green babies from the garden, as the garden is still very much in it’s infancy and there is a lot of first time things going on.
Come again soon – I think I have a new year’s resolution from 11 months ago to honour, I’m going to need to start making some plans.
Sarah the Gardener : o)
PS – if this seems a little jumbled, parties in the city and energetic kittens can take a bit of a toll only my poor old MSsy body. I think I prefer that excuse than I’m getting too old to party, because that isn’t the case at all – why it seems like just yesterday I could party with the best of them! : o)
It has been almost five months to the day since we lost our wee beloved Toast the Cat. And we have missed her terribly. I keep thinking I see her out of the corner of my eye, but alas no. It is a handbag on a table in a dimly lit room or the meow is the squeak of two latches creaking together in the wind.
Even as I go through my garden photos looking for just the right image to compliment an article, she’s there, on almost every page. I never realised just how many photos I took of her. Almost everyday I’d find her adorable in the garden and capture the moment.
So over these past few months I missed her presence, sleeping in the warmth of the spring greenhouse, using my freshly dug garden as a loo, and photo bombing me as I tried to get that perfect shot in the fading light. There was an emptiness in the garden. A hole that couldn’t be filled in with a wee seedling or a shovelful of rich compost.
This catless state couldn’t be allowed to go on. A good garden needs a cat. After much searching, yesterday we brought a wee bundle home to enrich our lives with her kitten craziness. Our family has expanded by one and Fennel is 8 and a half weeks old and a bundle of energy and has the sweetest meow and a very loud and satisfying purr.
For now, she is exploring her world indoors and making herself at home. I had forgotten just how energetic kittens could be – it has been 16 years since we last had one and it is a lot faster paced than a sedate elderly cat. Interestingly fingers dancing over a keyboard are too much of a temptation for a curious kitten not to join in with, so I have to type even faster to complete my work uninterrupted.
The big outside world of the garden is still a little bit scary for her, (I tried to show her the garden but she was a bit frightened and dug her claws into my shoulder) so over the next few weeks I’ll slowly invite her to spend some time hanging with me while I work, and teach her in the ways of the garden. The benefits of snoozing under the shade of the corn, chasing the birds out of the strawberries, dancing with butterflies and pouncing on the marigolds swaying in the breeze and sleeping in the warmth of the greenhouse – just like Toast used to do.
So join us over the summer and watch wee Fennel grow into a cat, and learn to love the garden, which I’m sure she will.
Come again soon – I will get gardening done, once I finish being distracted by oodles of cute.
Sarah the Gardener : o)
Now the garden is all planted out… well mostly so it’s close enough, and the sector system is working well. I was able to whip around today’s sector in no time at all, leaving the afternoon free for something else. There are a lot of ‘something else’s’ to choose from. I have loads of cool projects ruminating in the back of my head, but before I tackle these – there are the chores. Now the demand is no longer on the greenhouse, I should give it a tidy up. The pots need cleaning and you really don’t want to look behind the shed. I originally designed the gap between the shed and the fence to be wide enough to get the lawn mower back there. Unfortunately, it has become a bit of a dumping ground for old bamboo poles, trellis and miscellaneous bits of wood that may or may not come in handy for something.
But the something else for today just had to be to tidy inside the shed. It also became a bit of a dumping ground in the race to get everything ready for the season. I’d just open the door at the end of a long, cold and exhausting day and just lob everything I’d used in there. Tools, bits of string, surplus trellis, empty compost bags, fertiliser packets, empty cups and the odd nail or two. It all became a bit of a death trap to be honest. I raced in there last week to get something and stood on the rake and in that comedic style thwacked myself fully on the head. I was a tad dazed and confused for a bit but carried on as the garden needed my attention.
So aside from health and safety, I had another exciting reason to clean the shed. It needed to be worthy of cool new things. Historically I have been a poor, yet resourceful gardener and as I mentioned before my tools while not the cheapest in the store, were near the low end of the budget and broke easily and often at the hand of Hubby the Un-Gardener. I would end up persevering with broken tools or nipped up to the garden store and replaced it with another one that was destined not to last long in my garden.
This has now changed. I am now the proud owner of some fabulous Gardena tools (gifted to me by the lovely people at Gardena) that should even withstand the efforts of Hubby the Un-Gardeners destructive gardening technique and I couldn’t possibly allow them to find themselves in the squalor that was the current state of my shed. Sometimes a reorganisation is what is needed to make effective use of space in a small area like a shed, and clever storage solutions can make all the difference.
I had a table across the end of the shed to store my pumpkins on – there are a few left, but the space under the bench was dead as only what sat on the floor was under there. So, I moved the table under there and created an open space where it was, that was quickly filled with the resources for exciting projects in the waiting. These were currently just dumped behind the door jumbled up with the tools. But it made sense to keep the tools there behind the door as they are handy to grab when needed. So, I created a dedicated tool corner.
The great thing about the new Gardena tools is the combisystem that comes with a rack and when you want to use them the tools just swap between the wooden handle or telescopic handle so they are up off the floor and there will no longer be any more rake to the head incidents in the shed. In this system is a rake, hoe, cultivator – which is fab because mine is broken, and even a broom! I’m still undecided if I’ll let hubby the un-gardener use my shiny new tools – maybe I’ll let him sweep, there can’t be too much to go wrong with that. There are also a great pruning tools which will be perfect for looking after my orchard this winter. Normally I put the pruning off because it can be a tad daunting, but this season I’m already looking forward to it.
Now if you are in New Zealand and would like to get your hands on one of these amazing combisystems, with the great storage rack and all the cool tools, pop over to the Gardena website > Here < and enter the competition to win one of 40 sets. The competition closes on the 11 December so don’t miss out.
I am looking forward to using these tools in my garden and working from a tidy shed. Going from poor tools and a messy shed to great tools organised well is going to feel wonderful.
Come again soon – spring cleaning for summer feels like we are getting ready for something amazing!
Sarah the Gardener : o)