This is always such an interesting time of year; the summer holidays just keep giving. I have settled down in my garden office for the 3rd time this year determined to start the year on the right foot, with a calm and steady focus. And then opportunities for summer fun came along that were too good to say no to. And so, I have been off having fun.
But while having fun there have been moments of gardening goodness, where my Mum pickled some of my beetroot with her special recipe – although I did see her computer open to Annabel Langbein, so I don’t imagine for a moment it is an old family secret recipe but rather something delish she stumbled across and uses it so often that she mostly knows it by heart. I have to say it is delish! I watched my city nieces pick strawberries and enjoy the pleasures of sun warmed tomatoes of varieties not found in supermarkets. And I made some kimchi from fresh garden ingredients. There was also plenty more beach and sun time and that is what summer is all about.
Hopefully now I can sit down and focus, plan and put things into action for the 2021 garden. I have purchased a load of notebooks and am not afraid to fill them. (Often if it is an exceptionally pretty notebook, I don’t want to spoil it with my untidy scrawl! So, I bought nice looking plain ones!)
With STEADY as the word of the year, I am going to tackle the year in pieces. Long term goals will be broken into bite sized chunks and started now so when I get to the long term days I’m not faced with a mountain. Medium and short term days will be treated the same, so I don’t find myself stuck all day with one task. This should make life more interesting.
With the eye on the future, I can work my way back to today. I have booked a garden group visit for mid spring. This will help me to keep my eye on the ball for the spring planting, winter garden prep, autumn end of season clean up and late summer cool season starting so everything occurs in good time. Using my sector system properly to deal with the needs of the 5 groups in the vegie patch will be the key as in a good week this can take less then half an hour a day – unless there is a big task like digging up spuds.
When the system works properly it will free up time, time for a new adventure. I have great plans. I want to build a different kind of garden and have a space in mind. It is one of the only other flat-ish bits of land here that is easily accessible, and I have already built the stairs to reach it. It runs along behind the garden and in my head, I can see it finished with a million ideas I’m dying to try out. It will be an exciting journey exploring what exactly is possible to do in this wild west coast environment. There will probably be failure – there will definitely be failures, but I’m not one to follow instructions so we will just have to see how it goes. I’m really excited about this shift in focus.
The vegetable garden will always be at the heart of what I do as it feeds my family and is an expression of my love for them. However, as teens, they will be looking to fledge the nest soon and I won’t need to grow as much food to fill their bottomless bellies. And so, I need to find an alternative way to fulfill my gardening yearnings and to be honest I’m always up for taking on a challenging situation.
So here we are at the 3rd attempt for a productive start to exciting new year, and that is ok. Things don’t go according to plan and as a gardener this lesson was learnt long ago with ungerminated seeds, pest invasions and so many other nefarious things that can occur in a garden.
Come again soon – exciting times are ahead.
Sarah the Gardener : o)
I have been away on our annual summer break. I do find Christmas and the summer holiday a tad incompatible with a fully burgeoning garden, however that is an argument for another day and at the end of the day getting away from it all and spending time creating family memories takes precedence. So, we dragged ourselves away from our lovely West Coast vista and headed off to the lovely vista on the East Coast, where the sand is white and the waves not so wild.
We were nestled into a great camping spot in the midst of the bush with a babbling stream where the sound of the gentle waves competed with the birds as the soundtrack of our summer. The Kiwi’s and Morkpork’s filled the night air and then handed over the Tui’s whose dawn chorus is an incredible sound, like being in a cathedral filled with a million bells. We were right in there with nature… with no power, no internet and a tent that didn’t hold up all that well to the torrential rain on day 2! However, once the rain stopped and the campsite dried out, we had some spectacular summer days where memories were indeed made.
Not having any internet or power and not being a great swimmer, I decided I would spend some time doing garden research and dragged with me some of my fattest gardening books to delve into and make plans. The lure of doing nothing set in the moment we arrived, and the books remained unopened and I am no further ahead with my new year’s planning than I was before we left… Which is no where at all.
As the year is over a week old now, I will need to schedule in time for planning alongside the doing and try to find a balance. I’m kind of looking forward to it as it means I will need to timetable my day a little so everything gets attention, which will avoid the boom and bust of focusing on one thing at a time.
The good news is the garden thrived in my absence. There was rain, but no wind. Thanks to the care I put in before I left, my tomatoes are pest and disease free. I lost one tomato, the leaves are brown and crispy. It is most likely down to disease so I will carefully remove it and avoid the spread. I have been using hand sanitizer on my hands and tools in between handling each plant and it seems to have paid off.
Everything else is looking wonderful, although there is work to be done, weeds to pull, and plans to make and a Wong Bok that looks almost ready to turn into kimchi. I’m not entire sure what 2021 will look like in my garden as I have yet to decide, but I am looking forward to the process.
Come again soon – I’m about to make some lists.
Sarah the Gardener : o)
2020 was an odd year and to be honest I am pleased it is behind us.
January started with pest and disease and turbulent storms in the garden. Little did I know this would be a metaphor for the entire year. February lulled us into a false sense of security and was more settled. There seemed to be a rhythm and routine and order and control. I barely remember it. It feels so odd to have a time when things were progressing as they should. However, it would seem this was the calm before the storm. Everything was about to be turned upside down.
As March turned to autumn it introduced us to Lockdown. It didn’t change much in my world but at the same time it inexplicably changed everything. April brought with it a weird inertia, at that time of year the garden was winding down, so there wasn’t much to do but what there was didn’t fill me with joy… possibly as most of it was pulling things out and an emptying of the garden rather than the excitement of filling it up and all the hope and promise that brings.
In an attempt to shake the mood, I decided to #MakeMayCount. There is a natural lull in life during May as it is the doorstep to winter and what stretches ahead isn’t as joyful as the doorstep to summer. I would like to think I do this again as it brings life into the days, although the lesson I need to learn from last May is not to over do things trying to make the month count. May also had the added strangeness of re-entering the world again. Busy hands prevented dwelling on just how scary this was… Was it actually safe, could we trust in what we once took for granted?
June brought with the winter and a slower pace after the busy heady May days. Just pottering about and starting to think about making plans for the new growing season. July was typically winter with the ravages of storms and the turn of the calendar suggesting spring is closer than realized.
Looking back over August invokes feelings of stress and overwhelmedness. I had taken my eye off the ball too much in the early mid-winter and now the entire growing season needed planning and preparation in a short space of time and if that wasn’t enough, we were plunged into another lockdown and the sense of weirdness returned.
Spring arrived in September with all the fanfare and excitement of a new growing season but with the underlying currents of a hastily prepared party, it was good enough, but not nearly as wonderful as I had hoped for.
October contained a milestone – a birthday with an ‘0’ in it. Birthdays with ‘0’s in them always leave you questioning how you are going in life and I love where we are and what we are doing. It coincided with the big spring plant out week and it really felt like a new beginning, the start of something wonderful, and yet the continuation of something that feels right and comfortable, like an old sock.
November was a month of spring storms, holidays and reaching that sweet spot where the garden was finally planted out. The time away from the garden for weather or leisure didn’t impact the tasks required from the garden. But then November is always that month that is like the eye of the storm, the one where you can stop with the prepping and planning and enjoy the calm before the harvest and the festive season kicks in.
This December hasn’t been the easiest, the unbalanced and unsettled nature of life since the arrival of the first lockdown, culminated in an end of year frenzy of activity ‘to get things finished’ for the year. However, this beginning and ending feels imagined especially when you are in the middle of the growing season and have yet to see an abundance of anything in the harvest basket.
But a good push to cross things off the list, means 2021 will start afresh and the navel gazing of this blog post will help to set things in place so the good is repeated and the worst is cast aside.
In hindsight I think I’m going into the new year in a different position as the entire garden is in control – there are problems, however they aren’t insurmountable and if things fail, then there is nothing to be done about it, so I’m trying not to lose energy and effort worrying about it. If I have put my best foot forward, then what will be will be.
I started last year with the word Overcome but standing at the other end of the year it feels like the word has morphed into Overwhelm.
My words from this time last year still apply: ”It makes sense then that my new year’s resolutions would be a focus of health and wellbeing with a bit of mindfulness thrown in for good measure.” … “I envisaged a sense of calm and slow gentleness where life falls into place perfectly and the garden will flourish under this new approach.”
What I need to do this year is approach it with a more level head. Yes, take time to unwind, but also plan and prepare so the future doesn’t come as a surprise. I need to even out the boom and bust situations in the garden so there is a gentle ebb and flow that is more enjoyable no matter what the weather or the season. Plunging oneself into situations of panic on a regular basis isn’t good for overall wellbeing.
The word for 2021 shall be ‘Steady’ as in ‘steady as she goes’.
Come again soon – next year things will be the same but different.
Oh and… Happy New Year!!!
Sarah the Gardener : o)
The run up to Christmas has been a little bit hectic, with last minute shopping and a busy work life balance, but I can now finally throw myself into all things Christmas and enjoy the festive season with my family. But before I completely switch off my computer gardening and indulge in festive kitchen gardening and gentle garden gardening to maintain all that is growing there, I decided to do a quick tour to share with you what we will be eating from the garden this Christmas. Most of it will be harvested on the day, moments before eating, because not only is it better this fresh, but it is also a great excuse to get a bit of gardening in on the big day!
So sit back and enjoy the tour and I’ll be back with more garden goodness for you in early 2021.
Come again soon – but in the meantime have a Merry Christmas and a Safe and Happy New Year.
Sarah the Gardener : o)
… with a few pops of colour thrown in for good measure.
It hasn’t been the easiest season so far, however if I stop focusing on what is making it a struggle and look at the big picture. Or take a closer look at the things that aren’t considered superstars of the summer garden, yet are there every year and faultlessly do their thing. On reflection, I think, just maybe this might not be such a disastrous season as I was thinking it might be. It just got off to a rough start and there is every hope for a successful end. I think I just need to treat the temperamental superstars like the primadonnas they are and not let them overshadow hard working plants who keep their heads down and do their stuff.
So with the impending start of a whole new year, I’m going to say no to the gloom and doom and look forward to better days. Someone just needs to tell the weather – it is hot, but cloudy and muggy, not exactly ideal summer stuff… but it is what it is and I’m not cold wet or miserable!
Come again soon – I think it may be time for a video tour.
Sarah the Gardener : o)
I have a disease in my garden. I noticed it a few days ago and toyed with the idea of ignoring it, in the hopes that it will go away. However knowing how dramatically another virus that shall remain nameless has wreaked havoc all over the place, the last thing I need is the little world that is my garden to be devastated and require complete destruction in order to control it.
I resigned myself to the possibility of doom and gloom and took a few photos and then did what they say you should never do for yourself with medical symptoms and I consulted the great big internet. With all sorts of alarm bells ringing to the tone of fear in my head, I spent a restless night filled with worry. In the light of day I decided to face these fears head on and sent an email off to my favourite horticultural expert who very kindly and gently suggested I did indeed have a disease but not the one I thought I had.
It turns out I have Alfalfa Mosaic Virus which has a wide variety of hosts including peppers, tomatoes, potatoes, peas and beans, which is a large portion of what I have growing in my garden. Looking on the bright side it is just as well I decided to do something about it, or all would have been lost.
It is spread predominantly by aphids, but I imagine other saps suckers like Green Vegetable Bug wouldn’t have good proboscis washing behaviours between plants. It also is transmitted by mechanical means, ie not sanitising my secateurs between plants when trimming them up. I could have spread this myself! I was being good at sanitising between tomato plants after the Pith Necrosis bacterial disease of last year. I just got lazy with the peppers. The disease also passes on through the seed and so now I’m not confident to save seeds from tomatoes or pepper or anything right now.
Most of the peppers affected are the ones I accidentally managed to overwinter. So, I’m wondering if the overwintering increased the risk of problems. I don’t think I’ll do that again. It isn’t worth the hassle for a slightly early harvest. It is better to just clear beds and let the garden rest in the winter without having host plants for pests and disease to overwinter in. This is especially more important where I am because we don’t get killing frosts. We don’t get any frosts.
Fortunately, it is still early enough in the growing season that the garden centre still had supplies, so I was able to replace them all. Not like for like, but they had enough interesting varieties for me to choose from. It is a little frustrating as the ones in the garden were starting to do so well. There are a few that I did have to start from seed because the last season ones didn’t make it through the winter. These aren’t showing signs yet so I’m thinking of putting them in pots and isolating them in quarantine to see if they have symptoms or not.
I also need to increase my pest watch vigilance and look out for aphids and other sap suckers and be ready with the spray. Fortunately aphids can be treated easily with a range of natural products and my choice of sprays is Yates Nature’s Way Organic Citrus, Vegie & Ornamental Spray with is a pyrethrum and canola oil combination insecticide where the pyrethrum disrupts the insect nervous system and the canola oil smothers them. My other favourite is Yates Nature’s Way Vegie Insect Spray Natrasoap which is based on insecticidal soap, which is made from natural vegetable oils. The soap damages the protective layer that keeps the soft bodied insects from drying out. It is good to alternate between modes of action on fast breeding insect pests, so they don’t get used to the treatment and adapt.
I don’t remember having so many terrible problems in my early gardening days, but I think it may have been lack of experience and naivety. I didn’t know what to look for or what was normal and if there was a harvest there was harvest. I gardened with an ‘it is what it is’ approach. But now that I know more, I am all the more vigilant with the out of the ordinary and am seeing what I never saw before.
One of these days I will have that perfect season where there are very few pests, the diseases are scarce, and the weather is the most perfectly ideal. In the meantime, I will carry on and hope for the best safe in the knowledge there is always next season.
Come again soon – hopefully disaster has been averted.
Sarah the Gardener : o)
NB: This isn’t a Yates sponsored post – I’m just super grateful to them for helping me diagnose my problem so quickly.
Today is day three of summer and so far we have had one perfect summer day and two miserable ones. But that lovely day has give me something to cling to. A horrid grey day can be turned on a dime into a blue sky wonder. So I just need to remind myself this gloom will pass eventually.
In the spirit of finding joy in this strange year, I captured the nice day on film, like capturing a fairy in a jar, so I can look at it from time to time and remember nice days are real. The boffins are raining on my parade – the 7 day forecast doesn’t fill me with joy at all.
So grab some popcorn and steal some of my sunshine… You won’t need much popcorn, it’s only 12 minutes long. Oh and there is a taste test for a new to me cucumber variety I’m trying this year. It is strange, unusual and really delish!
Come again soon – endless summer days are hopefully just around the corner.
Sarah the Gardener : o)
It is no surprise in this topsy turvy year that summer is kicking off cold, wet, windy, and miserable. It’s like it didn’t get the memo or it just doesn’t care. I don’t mind a bumbling summer that is bit slow to catch up, but a deliberately nasty season with intentional storms is quite concerning. But the boffins are saying it is going to be a La Nina summer with hot humid stormy weather. I don’t trust them either – after that whole storm debacle of last week. However, it is clear it won’t be my perfect dream summer and I suspect I will be learning new lessons about growing in this coastal situation. It is me vs the weather! I would like to win this round.
With a new season comes a lot of reflection and introspection and possibly a bit of navel gazing. How am I going? How is the garden going? What do I need to do to make 2021 better – in spite of any weirdness going on around me. While I haven’t been directly impacted by the drama – aside from not going anywhere for weeks and weeks and the fear of the risk of catching something nasty, things just haven’t been the same. I started the year in a good place with good routines and at several points along the way the garden was also in a good place with good routines. But something is amiss. I can’t put my finger on it but for some reason all gardening – outdoor garden gardening and indoor computer and kitchen gardening became almost like a chore. The large cloud hanging over us stole the joy from the things I love.
Well not anymore. I am going to take back that joy and plant it firmly where it belongs and nurture it and watch it grow. And what better time to do it than at the start of a festive season where joy is one of the messages that goes with it. Joy to the World! It may be challenging at first – especially as the festive season is a busy time anyway – but when combined with a burgeoning garden it can be downright chaotic!
I will endeavour to share my joy with you all regularly as joy is thing to be shared, not hidden away. It might be a simple picture of a pretty flower, or the recipe of something fresh from the garden that you ‘just have to try’, a tale of a magnificent harvest, or a story of a journey with flower garden that just never seems to get planted.
Come again – summer has just begun, and it will be wonderful.
Sarah the Gardener : o)
Well the storm didn’t eventuate, not on the scale the boffins were suggesting. Well not here anyway. So, it would seem I battened down the hatches for no real reason. But it still wasn’t great weather for most of the week, and by the time the sun showed its face I was fully immersed in an indoor project and didn’t even look out the window to notice it.
But one thing I did get done before the so-called bad weather hit was I harvested the onions that had their tops flopped over. I never really grow quite enough onions for the whole year and so I try to grow a good supply of Pukekohe Longkeepers as they last months in storage. To try to reduce the gap between eating our own and buying them in, I grow early onions with the intention of having enough early ones to stop buying store bought onions sometime in November and pushing out needing to start eating the Longkeepers for as long as possible before the early ones start going soft as they don’t keep so well.
While it seems like a great plan in theory, in reality getting the balance can be quite tricky. My favourite early onions have been discontinued by my favourite supplier and so I needed to look elsewhere for a similar onion that will perform well and be ready earlier in the season. After much searching I settled on a Yellow Spanish Onion. All I could do was hope these would become my new favourites and behave in a similar way to my old favourites.
The second spanner in the works was this season my Longkeepers didn’t germinate as well as I would have liked and so between all the onions there were enough to fill the bed. However, with a view to storage in my 1 x 5m bed I like to have 3m of Longkeepers and 2m of early onions as that is as close as I have got to making the storage solution work out. This season I had 2m of Longkeepers and 3m of Spanish Yellow and it was these that flopped over – according to plan, in November.
Last season my onions were a little on the large side. I like to have meal sized onions, so I don’t end up with halves lingering in fridge stinking the place out. So, this season I decided to plant them closer together in an attempt to make them smaller as they compete for space, light, and nutrients. It was always going to be a risk of reducing the airflow and last year downy mildew was a problem. This season the mildew stayed away, and the onions didn’t seem to mind at all.
Not only were my onions on average bigger than last season, but there were more of them as I had squeezed 7 in a metre row where I would have normally put 6. So now I have loads of ginormous onions that will probably do 2 – 4 meals per onion and will stink out my fridge. But I suspect they won’t keep all that well as they don’t feel as dense as the Longkeepers.
Either we will need to eat a lot more onion than normal or I need to come up with a practical solution. I am thinking I may need to freeze or dehydrate them as well as use as many as I can fresh. This could work out well in the long run. Because if we eat as many as we can fresh, but preserve some in other ways as well, and then before they are showing signs of wanting to cross over to the bad side, switch to the Longkeepers and preserve the rest. Then when we run out of Longkeepers we can reach into the freezer for our onion needs and because they are so huge and there is a 7th more of them it should eek out the season and we may even manage the whole year without buying any. So, I guess my initial dismay of having so many large, short keeping onions will turn out to be a win after all.
Come again soon – Summer starts next week.
Sarah the Gardener : o)
So far so good after last night’s wild weather. I could hear it howling in the night and tried not to worry. Gone are the days of lying there listening for the sound of a greenhouse falling over, but I still fret for the plants.
But in the face of the imminently impending Storm Part II, I raced out there in a light drizzle with thunder rolling overhead to check for damage. The tomatoes have been pushed over just a little, but nothing that can’t be easily righted. Everything else was a little windswept, but it is best to wait until after the storm to make any repairs to avoid extra damage.
I picked the asparagus I didn’t get to yesterday, the strawberries that would be too soggy to be nice after a day of rain and the first dahlias and lily and some gaura to make the flowers look pretty in a vase.
I also noticed some garlic had fallen over so I dug it up and found some ok sized cloves, but the outer layers have perished which won’t help with long term storage. I will need to bite the bullet and pull the rest out in the next dry spell…. argh… rust.
Hopefully, the wild weather won’t be too bad, the wind is supposed to gust up to 100km/h, but it is coming from the North East and that is my most protected side of the garden. The rain is supposed to come down in buckets, which will be good for the water tank, but hopefully not too heavy to flood or do harm in the garden.
Come again soon – optimistically I hope this will be springs final hurrah and not summer’s ‘warm’ welcome.
Sarah the Gardener : o)