After the drama of the Great Water Escape over Christmas when we lost over 30,000 litres overnight thanks to a tap fiddler, I’ve made a few changes. The leak wasn’t intentional as the tap didn’t immediately gush with water and needed the pump by the tank to activate before flowing so it was impossible to know if it was on or off. There was no point getting upset, what was done was done and the offending tap has been moved out of sight from potential tap fiddlers.
But what that experience did teach me was just how valuable a resource water is. We managed for three days with large bottles and buckets of water. We ate Christmas dinner on paper plates to save on the dishes and the fine china and silverware we normally use was left in the cupboard. In the bathroom we applied the ‘if it’s yellow let it mellow…. ‘ approach and in the garden, plants were watered with a watering can, but only if they started to look a little peaky. This added insult to injury to plants that had already suffered enough this season, but we got through with limited water until the tanker was available to bring us more and nobody died.
At the last garden we were fortunate enough to have an artesian bore with access to so much water at no cost that we didn’t even need to think about it. So, I didn’t think about it. The garden was well watered, if not over watered as I set the irrigation system for 20 minutes a bed and based on my experience here, that is about 11 minutes too long.
This whole experience forced me to take care of something I’d been procrastinating over for quite some time. Sometimes it feels like procrastination is my superpower, but it isn’t something I’m entirely proud of. You see I have this amazing irrigation system, thanks to the good people at GARDENA. The whole garden is hooked up with drippers in each bed, connected to hoses that run under the paths to hubs for groups of 6 beds. OK, to be fair, 3 out of 5 groups are connected to hubs. Twelve more beds need to have trenches dug to group them together at two more hubs, but their trenches are longer than the first three groups and it is best to do it in the winter in wet sand and so I missed my moment. I will do better this year.
So up until this water crisis I was watering one bed at a time, using the alarm on my phone to alert me when to swap the hose to another bed. So every nine minutes all day the alarm would ring out however, if I was in the middle of something, this could easily stretch out to 12 minutes if not more, or on occasion I’d switch off the alarm but forget to switch off the water. I have learnt through experience in this garden that 9 minutes is the perfect amount of time to fully moisten the entire bed and any more than this water floods out the bottom of the raised beds so any watering longer than 9 minutes is wasted water.
But the good people at GARDENA had not only helped me out with the drippers and hoses, but also a very easy to use water computer and an amazing 6 hose water distributor. So, to avoid the incessant beeping ringing out across the garden, all I needed to do was set up the computer on the tap and set up the distributor so it could be plugged into the 6 end connectors in each hub. Now this is where the progress broke down.
For the average person this is a set and forget process as it is set up as a stationary system, however, I’m not your average person and I need to move the 6 hose water distributor about the garden in order to water each of the groups of beds and for that I needed some kind of vehicle. I had a similar set up at the previous garden and version 3 – a converted store-bought trolley worked well. However thanks to the salt spray from a multitude of storms the trolley I bought a year ago with this in mind wasn’t looking so great, so I needed to have a bit of a rethink and create something that would last longer and possibly made of wood.
Eventually I came up with the perfect solution and set about making the perfect trolley for my 6 Hose Water Distributor. Nothing was going to stop me having the perfect irrigation system. I was all set to go and then we ran out of water. I was all set to go but wasn’t in a position make it happen.
Once our water supply became more stable I, with great excitement, took the trolley housing the 6 Hose Water Distributor and plugged all 6 end connectors into the hoses coming from the distributor. Then at the other end I connected the Water Computer to the tap and connected the hose to the bottom of it. I programmed it easily by pressing buttons and turning the knob and it was all set to go. The water did what it was supposed to, and in just over an hour 6 beds had been watered for 9 minutes each and there was no beeping and not a drop wasted.
Now it is such a pleasure to water the garden. I can move it to the new location, adjust the time on the computer and make sure the taps are on and walk away. The great thing is, I don’t need to water all six gardens, especially if a bed is empty, so I don’t waste precious water. Now I weed while I water, or put my feet up for a bit, or even stop for a cuppa. It is so much easier to water this way and as a result it is easier to develop a good routine. My garden looks so much better for it. I really should have gotten onto this earlier, it is a pretty cool way to water the garden.
Come again soon – the harvest is beginning to come in.
Sarah the Gardener : o)
I had a bit of a problem. Well it was a good problem, but with a knock on effect that turned it into a not so good problem. But in terms of real life serious problems it is hardly a blip at all so could probably be described as a good problem to have. I grew my onions too big!
Normally my harvest is a mixed bag of small, medium and large. The medium and large ones are set aside for the normal purpose of eating onion and generally end up in every meal in one way or another. And the small ones get pickled and stored way to provide a deliciously sour crunch to our platters when we entertain, in sandwiches – gosh you can’t beat a simple cheese and pickled onion sandwich or just munched upon whole as a treat stolen from the jar.
The thing is this season my onion crop was a huge success and it grew well… too well and they were all large or huge. There were a couple of tiddlers, but certainly not enough to make the effort of pickling them worthwhile. I was resigned to the fact there would be no pickled onions this year. To be honest I shouldn’t be complaining as there was that year where my entire onion harvest – which was supposed to be a year’s supply of onions ended up pickled in two medium sized jars. Some seasons are good for some crops and terrible for others.
However, while at the grocery store, I noticed bags of pickling onions at a very good price and I couldn’t help myself, and a kilo of onions ended up in my trolley. I normally just pass through the produce section and often wonder what the checkout staff must think of my seemly unhealthy trolley filled to the brim but bereft of vegetables.
I used an old favourite recipe from the reliable Edmonds Cookbook, although I did split the batch and used white vinegar for half of them as more and more of my friends and family struggle with the debilitating effects of gluten and so when they come to visit I like to be able to offer them food on my entertaining platters they don’t need to worry about. The other half I made with malt vinegar as it is the traditional way to pickle them from my childhood and they taste great that way and invoke such nostalgic memories.
So, I am excited to say there will be pickled onions in the very near future, I just need to manage the long wait while they soak in all that good pickling juice!
Come again soon – the garden seems to be doing ok… for now.
Sarah the Gardener : o)
This takes us to the final phase of what I got up to this week. It got a little muddily towards the end of the week. The wind died down to just a gentle puff which was lovely. The first time it happened I remember this weird feeling of something being missing, as the sound of the wind whistling through the cracks and crannies in the house had ceased. It can almost become like white noise if it goes on long enough. Aside from the damage it does to the garden, I don’t mind it that much. When you stand in the face of a bracing wind you know you are alive. But it is the noise I hate. It makes it feel so much worse than it is.
It has been sunny and hot ever since, with just a slight sea breeze. Gardening in the middle of the day has become a little foolhardy as the sand is so hot on the paths between the beds that shoes are a must, lest you burn the soles of your feet. It is just too hot and like gardening in weather that is too wet or too cold, more harm can be done than good.
However, on Thursday I carried on with a sense of determination. If I can get everything back into shape, then it frees me up to throw myself into all the exciting projects I that may come my way this year, without the burden of lurching from weedy bed to weedy bed. And in control garden just needs a light tickle from time to time with a few bursts of effort when needed. Gardening needn’t be a chore. Although I’m not sure I’ve made it entirely clear, but I didn’t actually do the sectors in order – I picked the easiest one first so on Monday I did sector three, then sector two the next day then sector one, followed by sector five. I feel like a bit of a rebel to do it out of order!
Asparagus: This is doing far better than my expectations, but it has coastal origins and so it is like it has come home. At this time of year, it just needs to be kept moist and weeded while the fronds create energy to take down into the crown and provide shade for Fennel the Cat to loll about in.
Leafy Greens: It is all a bit of a disaster in here. I got confused with my rainbow beet and my rainbow beetroot. I normally sow the whole packet of rainbow beet so I can have all the delightful colours brightening up my winter garden with their exuberant leaves. But unfortunately, I ended up with a pink one and a red one and the yellow, white and orange turned out to be beetroot that need to be eaten and gone and won’t be brightening up anything but my plate. The Asian greens and the spinach bolted in the erratic weather conditions and celery and celeriac are crying out for more water than I have to give them. But as thirsty crops I did turn the irrigation on for just a moment.
Garlic: The only reason this is the garlic bed is because it is what was there. It has long since been pulled up, dried in the shade – because full sun can spoil the flavour and keeping qualities, and separated into 3 groups: eat now, save for seed and long term storage. I’m toying with the idea of pickling some of the eat now ones but peeling enough to make it worth it is such a phaff. The bed isn’t empty though. It has overflow corn from the first batch that got wind bashed and the rest is destined for some popcorn that has been germinating in the dome. It is late in the season to be starting corn, but we don’t get a frost here so it’s worth a shot.
Beans: The kidney beans are great. I love their set and forget until they are dry on the plant nature. One less thing to worry about. The green beans (and purple and yellow) are slow to get going but we may have enough for a meal next week and then they’ll be away, and we’ll have too many. I don’t hold out much hope for the tall snake and ‘Humongous MegaPod’ beans. They were looking great before the last wind. But now… well it’s a bit of a sorry sight.
Potatoes: The wind hit the tops of these too, but they were almost done anyway, so all I have to do is dig them up. I have been rummaging around in the soil for meal sized harvests, but I think I need to just get in there and clear them out. In our frostless conditions I may even get another full crop out of the bed before it gets too cold. That should be incentive enough to do a bit of digging. Fresh potatoes taste so good.
Carrots and friends: The erratic weather caused problem here and I have pulled out more than my fair share of bolted carrots and beetroot. The beetroot here is not doing well at all. I should be harvesting by now, but they are still too tiny, unlike the confused ones in the leafy green bed. I have planted more seedlings and sown more seed in desperate hope of some kind of harvest that I can drop down my front and stain my white shirt while trying to eat it. At this point my white shirts are looking pretty safe. I have managed to keep up with succession sowing my carrots, but the fennel is acting more like a windbreak than a potential crop, but I guess that is no bad thing.
Cucumbers: These were really slow to get going. I think I had to replant several times. But there is a plant in every space that corresponds to my plan, they just aren’t very big. I am getting a harvest, but they aren’t exactly large enough to be proud of, but they have that cucumber taste and crunch so that makes it ok.
On Friday I was supposed to do sector 4 – the middle little beds, which was a daunting mess, however I gave in to the cold that has be hounding me all year and took a sick day. By Saturday was convinced I was cured and threw myself into the mess and made quite the dent in it. The chicken is still in residence in the worst bed and so it remains a weedy mess. I only made it halfway across the sector before the heat drove me indoors. I had hoped to knock it all off today, Sunday, but alas the cold symptoms returned, and I just don’t have enough get up and go to carry on. Maybe tomorrow.
Come again soon – The garden is so close to being in full control… so very close.
Sarah the Gardener : o)
When you are in the garden you lose all track of time. I was out there the other day watering until 8pm. I wasn’t in the garden the whole time but in bursts of several hours and with the lovely long summer daylight hours it is so easy to blur an afternoon into an evening without realising it. It was actually quite pleasant. I had decided to leave the watering until later as it was just too hot in the middle of the day and wouldn’t have been an efficient use of the water.
I’m very conscious of water right now as we only have tank water. We have two 30,000 litre tanks and one is specifically for the garden. The thing is, it is well enough to have big tanks, but it they have no water the size is meaningless. We almost ran out of water right before Christmas so we ordered in two deliveries and then had a decent rain fall so at my best guess we had at least 30,000 litres to get us through the summer and I was feeling good. But then on Christmas Eve the taps stopped working. It turned out someone had fiddled with a remote tap outside somewhere – not even going to find out who to blame – there is no point. And all of our water drained away overnight. In finding out the cause we also discovered there was a slow leak in the pipework from the tanks to the pumps, so this was a bit of a blessing and that has now been fixed.
Unfortunately no one would deliver water late on Christmas Eve, let alone Christmas Day or Boxing Day. But we managed with buckets and bottled water and had a lovely, if not a little different kind of Christmas. The first opportunity we could get we paid a fortune for 10,000 litres. We have had a little bit of rain since and with strict water usage we haven’t run out yet, but each time I water the garden – irrigation set to exactly 9 minutes per bed or individual plants watered with a watering can, I worry – will this be the time the tank drains? We could buy more but I’m loathed to spend more money after the wasted amount that hasn’t been paid for yet but will be soon. The boffins were predicting heavy rain on Monday and I was hanging my hopes on that but another quick check reveals they have changed their minds and Monday is going to be perfect summer conditions.
Now that I have waffled about the weather I’m going to have to jump about a bit and tell you about Sector 5, which I took care of on Thursday as I suspect that would take the least amount of words so I don’t bore you too much. If you haven’t read about Sector 1 and 2 you can check that out >here< and >here<.
Pumpkins: The pumpkins are in two beds facing each other about 5 metres apart, with an arch in the middle of it. The theory being I could guide their rampant growth with landscape staples and encourage them out into the middle and do their wild abandon thing there, out of harms way. It was starting to look like it would work, after I amended the beds to be more nutrient rich than they were and lush growth was trailing out of the beds. Then the wind kept coming and knocked them back each time. But there are some good pumpkins set – even a giant one. The arch was for the luffas to climb up but I don’t think they are going anywhere as they are quite stunted. I should have protected them better in the early days.
Flowers: There is an unexpected bed I have used for overflow flowers that just get dumped there and they seem to be doing best of all the flowers, with little care or attention. I did a spot of weeding and some dead heading and they are fine to go again!
Raspberries: They haven’t come to anything. There were no summer rasberries from the summer plants, but I can only hope the autumn ones decide to do something. The boysenberry bush had a few berries and I thought “I’ll leave them one more day to ripe up a little bit more.” Yeah Nah. Don’t do that. The next day they were gone – birds got ‘em.
Strawberries: I am still valiantly trying to save them from their near death experience in November. I can’t believe I gave over 800 runners away in the spring and I haven’t even had a small bowl full. Some plants are definitely toast, but others look like they might make it. The runners I do get this year will be carefully nurtured to restock the bed.
Other fruit: I have two of 4 blueberries still alive and one of two gooseberries. They will be ok but I don’t expect fruit for a couple more years. The cape gooseberries are very slow to get going and I thought they were supposed to grow like weeds!
So that just leaves sector 3 to tell you about, and leaves sector 4 for me to deal with. I’m not looking forward to that one – it is a mess in the middle of the garden!
Come again soon – you’re almost up to date.
Sarah the Gardener : o)
I just wanted to quickly fill you with what I’ve done in the garden so far this year, and to be honest it didn’t feel like much, but when it came to writing it down I created a mountain of words and so decided for everyone’s sake it would be better to break it up a wee bit. If I had my wits about me I could have done a quick round up at the end of each day, but with a head stuffed with a cold, I’ve not been thinking straight. If you haven’t checked out part one you can find it >here<.
So as part of my whip the garden back into shape after the festive season neglect, a bout of head cold and yet another storm, I broke the garden into its sector areas and just dealt with what was in front of me.
Zucchini: These haven’t been too bad. I think I have four too many plants. I have four plants. It is a shame you can’t just have a half a plant as this would be more than adequate for a harvest. We are currently having zucchini in every meal! One was semi snapped in the storm, but looks like it will limp along if I don’t touch it except to gently harvest. The rest are receptive to being tied to a post to grow vertically to save space. Although one has decided to have two growing points so there is a bit of a sprawl.
More Onions: In this onion / allium overflow bed, the elephant garlic didn’t amount to anything so not only do we have nothing worth eating but I’ve lost my seed stock. I have no idea why it didn’t work – last year it was enormous. The shallots are still hanging in there, but in the space the red onions were I popped in the left over corn seedlings. Having paid good money for them I wasn’t about to discard the ones that wouldn’t fit into the other onion bed.
Odds & Sods: In this bed the eggplants are ignoring all the neglect and stormy conditions and are just growing. Still no fruit but I don’t think it will be long. The peanuts got lost in the wild rocket seedlings from last season that have now become a weed because I stupidly didn’t deadhead them soon enough. So they are now free from their torment and can see the sun again. I had presence of mind to pop 3L juice bottles over the okra before Christmas, although this was more to save them as in the erratic weather all the leaves had dropped off! So I released them and they look like they might even bear fruit. There is also an overflow from the first lot of corn that survived the storm better than their friends a few beds over so all is not entirely lost.
Melons: This has been mixed bag, some are growing well and others are a complete disaster. There will be no honeydew melons this year. The sugar baby watermelons are touch and go and there is a chance for the rock melons. The country sweet watermelons – the big long fat ones seem to be running rampant. I guess if only one of your melons does well, it might as well be the biggest one.
Corn: I don’t really want to talk about it. The wind shredded it, just as the tassels were releasing the pollen onto the silks. I’ve left them in to see what happens but don’t have high hopes.
Peppers: The poor peppers. They have been nailed in every storm, it must be the location of that bed… in line of sight of the gate and beyond that the wind tunnel that is the side of the house. They seem to be rallying after a liquid feed. I think at the end of the season I will bring them into the dome and nurse them over the winter and replant them again next season to get a better start and make up for the possible lack of harvest this season.
Salad: I am pleased to say I have lettuce plants in various stages of growth – ready to eat, small plants and teeny tiny ones. It should be enough for us to keep up with.
That was a good day in the garden. I really thought I was beginning to make some headway and started to feel good about the garden again. I seem to have a bit of a love hate thing going on here. One moment it is breaking my heart and the next it is inspiring and encouraging me!
Come again soon – hopefully the next post will wrap things up in a neat little bow – but probably not.
Sarah the Gardener : o)
Officially it is the first week back in the garden after the holidays. Last week didn’t count even though I did loiter in the garden a little, but as the first week of the year it was only a half one and to be honest I wasn’t up to gardening much as I have been struck down with a nasty head cold that has plagued me for this entire decade except for a few hours at the start. I’m still a bit stuffy but I am pushing through. Oh and storm number seven (although the number could be higher because in an exasperated state in the middle of spring I stopped counting them, but when they didn’t cease into the summer I started counting again.) rolled on through wreaking havoc, although compared to other areas we got off lightly. So early on in the year gardening was pretty much off the table, and probably would have been even if it was nice and sunny and I was well as it was summer holiday time.
However I have been back at work in the garden since Monday and have been trying to develop a good routine between writing in my shed and toiling in the soil. To start with I was a bit overwhelmed with the garden as there was so much storm damage to deal with. But instead of jumping all about the place I stuck to my sector system and each day have taken care of the needs of all the beds in each group, including weeding, liquid feeding, watering and any maintenance. But none of the others, except for harvesting and keeping new sowings and plantings moist. So now we are in Thursday I can proudly say 80% of the garden is back in control.
There is just all the small beds around the dome to take care of but to be honest they have been neglected much longer than just the festive season and so it will take more of an effort – so much so a chicken has taken residence in one beds and is trying to hatch a brood of chicks that will never be as we no longer have rooster, in the privacy of a weedy mess.
Peas: These have been tied back to their support after the winds and are almost ready for another harvest. I even ripped out the old dead and dying row and sowed more. They don’t normally like growing through the heat of summer but the weather is all over the place and it was ‘socks and beanie’ cold the day I sowed the seeds so I figured it was worth a shot.
Tomatoes: I am so pleased I spotted the TP Psyllid on New Years Eve and took action. The withholding period for the spray is over and the plants look great. Three plants do look a little peaky but I think that might be something else. I tied them in to the frame and feed and watered them and the fruit is ripening. I don’t think it will be my best season for tomatoes but it will certainly be better than my worst.
Onions: I pulled out the Pukekohe Longkeeper onions. They had bent over although I’m not sure if it was because of the wind or not, but time wise it was close enough and they were a good size. They are now drying in the dome. The bed didn’t stay empty for long as the corn in sector 2 has been damaged by the wind and so we installed a wind break along the fence and have decided to swap the brassicas for the corn in the next crop rotation cycle so it gets the benefit of the shelter. But in the meantime, not wanting to be without corn this season, I nipped up to the garden centre and bought all their corn seedlings and popped them in where the onions were. Hopefully the wind will be more settled for the rest of the season.
Brassicas: These are doing ok. There is a bit of caterpillar damage but I gave them a bit of a spray with an organic Pyrethrum and Oil combination spray and hopefully they can continue growing in peace.
Squash: They were looking good before but their great elephant ear shaped leaves make great sails and so in the wind they got significantly bashed. There wasn’t much I could do but give them a liquid feed with seaweed in it an hope for the best.
Flowers: They weren’t too bad, but it took forever to do the deadheading but I’d been avoiding it as it is a tedious job. But where I had done a small patch earlier I could see the benefit as that bit looked so much better than the rest.
Herbs: I pulled out the gone to seed coriander, dill and parsley and popped in a new parsley plant, and sprinkled dill and coriander seeds liberally about. I planted basil seedlings as I have really struggled this year to get them going, and then I gave everything else a bit of a haircut and it all looks presentable again.
And now I’m rambling on and on and still have much to tell you about, so I’ll break this up so I don’t bore you to death.
Come again soon – I’ve done so much in such a short space of time.
Sarah the Gardener : o)
Things haven’t been off to a great start. 2019 ended promising with the early discovery and treatment of the Tomato Potato Psyllid. Last year, due to the holidays I found it too late and I fought a brave and brutal battle, but one by one my tomato plants succumbed to its enemy and I was left without a tomato harvest as they had barely found their fruiting feet, let alone ripen an abundant harvest. Fortunately, the zucchini was in abundance and I found that replacing them for tomatoes in my favourite tomato relish recipe worked brilliantly and I had that delish taste of summer all winter. Sometimes plan B can be more than ok. This year my hopes are high for my tomatoes.
It was with a grateful heart that I relaxed into new year celebrations and even set myself a few resolutions. The last quarter of 2019 was hard in so many ways. Not only did we have terrible weather, and my Dad died and the Dr with no bedside manner told me I had skin cancer, which turned out not to be a thing at all and has been treated and is gone! Yay. I need to remember to slip (long sleeved flowy shirt – must go to the op shop), slop (sunscreen – plenty and often – even on cloudy days) slap (know where my wide brimmed hat is at all times and use it!) to avoid a repeat of that scare!
But I also discovered – thanks to my MS and its regular MRI monitoring that my MS was stable but there was a lump in my brain. I was told it wasn’t serious and not to worry… but with no real info and Dr Google between being told and actually seeing a brain surgeon 3 months later…. I worried up a storm! I just wanted it gone. Apparently, it is so not a thing and so we will live with it for at least a decade, which is when they reckon it will be big enough to get rid of with risky surgery. I am now trying to undo the worry and forget I ever knew that it was there.
It makes sense then that my new years resolutions would be a focus of health and wellbeing with a bit of mindfulness thrown in for good measure. I spent so long worrying about my health, that I feel like I have been given a fresh start to be intentional about what and when I eat and establish good routines so I am approaching my work and my life from a proactive rather than reactive direction. I envisaged a sense of calm and slow gentleness where life falls into place perfectly and the garden will flourish under this new approach.
So here we are on day 5. We are only 5 days in, and I am as far from healthy, calm and mindful! On the 1st we went on a lovely long walk along the beach and I thought “I’m doing it – I’m taking care of me.” But when we got back, I felt unwell and headed off to bed and I have been plagued with a summer cold that has robbed me of my voice and left me weak and headachy. So much for health and wellness.
Just to twist the knife into my plans for a better future, storm number 7 rolled through. I saw it was coming but felt too sick to prepare the garden for its arrival with my intended proactive new self. And so, it roared through the garden and took out the corn. I’m gutted. It was just beginning to drop the pollen from the tassels. I think I may have pollinated the neighbour’s corn! The stalks are broken and shredded. But there is still time to grow more and so I will drag myself to the garden centre to pick up as many seedlings as they have. I have also acquired some wind break fabric and have finally admitted to myself that it needs to be a permanent feature not a temporary one I can put up when the wind comes – as sometimes the wind comes when you aren’t ready for it. Ok – I may not be able to see the ocean from the garden, but nine times out of ten I don’t look at it anyway, I’m too busy tending my plants. It was a delusional idea I had to preserve the view and in hindsight I should have fought harder for my plants.
So, before the first week is even out, I understand what needs to happen this year. I have two choices – I can look at the adversity life throws at me from all direction and I can choose to become defeated, give up and complain bitterly, or I can choose to pick myself up by the boot straps, look for a solution – and a back up solution and possibly even a spare one, just in case, and get on with it, all the while looking for blessings.
I am determined to be an overcomer this year. Life will not grind me down – no matter how hard it tries. I think last season with its more than ideal weather lulled me into a false sense of security, but the reality is more likely to be like this season. So, I doubt very strongly it will be a year of posts of lovely luscious plants and bountiful harvests from a perfect garden, but full of trial and error, failures and successes and a whole lot in between. I will not give up; I have come too far for that.
Come again soon – windbreak is going up… TODAY! Sore throat or not.
Sarah the Gardener : o)
Welcome to the second installment of my gardening journey over the last decade. In the last post we explored the first half of the Norties where I started out as a home gardener entering a competition and found myself being propelled on an incredible journey I couldn’t have foreseen from those early days. (If you haven’t read it yet you can check it out here >End of a decade – Part One of Two<) Now we pick it up again halfway through…
This was a fun year and it was highlighted by a trip to the United States of America for a three day Garden Bloggers Conference. Seriously – I couldn’t believe there was such a thing for people who shared my love of all things gardening and all things writing. I had the best time and met some wonderful people. You can read about that here: >Garden Bloggers are the nicest people< This year was made all the more exciting when I was invited to be a guest speaker at the Whanganui Literary Festival, which was an extraordinarily cool thing to be a part of as well.
My most popular blog post for that year, which continues to be popular to this day is >My Mum’s one pot sultana biscuits< and it isn’t even about gardening!
By comparison this year wasn’t quite as exciting, but I did write another book – Growing Vegetables. Actually, that was quite exciting. I think it is my favourite book, as I get frustrated with the myths and well intentioned but bad gardening advice out there. So, I just wanted to scrape ‘how to garden’ back to the very basics and then lead the reader on to discover their own journey with a solid foundation. There is no right or wrong way to garden. At the end of the day if you put a seed in the ground and water it, chances are high that you will get something to eat.
Oh, and this was the year I became a brand ambassador for GARDENA. I get approached a lot to showcase products but I don’t want to represent any old brand so I have carefully decided on my partners and I feel privileged and honoured to have Yates and GARDENA on my team (although probably best described as me on theirs).
Despite the 94 blog posts I lovingly crafted that year my mum’s sultana biscuits remained my most popular post – and it wasn’t even about gardening! Although that was the year we lost our much loved Toast the Cat and so we can’t not review this year without paying our respects. >A tribute to my fluffy garden buddy<
This year was a quiet year – nothing major happened. Just gardening, writing, speaking and more gardening. Although this was the year that I went as close to viral as I’ve ever been with my April fool’s day blog post! >They’re up< (My mum’s sultana biscuits were the second most popular post and there were 93 great gardening posts to choose from!)
By this stage my garden could be considered mature. I had been there 10 years and it was just how I wanted it to be. It was the right size and things grew well there, although it could have been a little less damp, but that is the joys of swamp living for you. I was a very happy gardener.
Now this was an exciting year – I was a judge and a speaker at the New Zealand Flower and Garden Show, and I headed across the ditch and spoke at a garden club in Australia. I had gone international! And I started writing for Kiwi Gardener Magazine as a regular contributor.
Oh yeah – and we up sticks and moved from the 3 acres in the swamp to 10 acres on the coast and relocated a house by chopping it in half and dragging it halfway across the country and started a brand new garden from scratch! Little things.
Annoyingly my Mum’s bikkies are still my number one post! Even though there were 65 posts that year about the move and setting up a new garden! There weren’t as many as previous years as I was rather busy building a new garden. The 2nd most popular post was >A Sea Change<
This year was all a bit quiet, aside from the writing, speaking and publicity side of things, and to be honest after the previous year it was a breath of fresh air and allowed me to scratch the surface of embracing the challenges of growing in this new and rugged environment. Although it wasn’t without an exciting development and I have taken on a new role as a Botanical Tour Guide for Botanical Worldwide Discoveries and getting to visit some amazing and inspiring gardens with passionate fellow travellers is such a pleasure and a privilege. It fits in so nicely with what I already have going on.
The best post from 2019 was … you guessed it – those blimmin biscuits! The next best was a favourite of mine >Marrow Chips< and I as a result of taking my eye off the garden over Christmas, I have some zucchini turned marrow in the dehydrator right now with several others ready to take their place once the first lot have been done!
Looking back over the last decade has reminded me of the whirlwind journey I am on. I don’t imagine for a minute that the next 10 years will be spent with my feet up after sowing a few seeds or pulling a few weeds. I think I quite like the excitement and challenge of a life lived to the full. Although I do feel a little trepidation for what may occur as this time 10 years ago, I didn’t see any of this coming and it certainly wasn’t in my plans at that point. I am so grateful, thankful and delighted that my life has taken this path and I look forward to seeing where it will go from here.
Thanks so much for all your support over the years – if it wasn’t for you, much of this wouldn’t have happened at all.
Come again soon – because 2020.
Sarah the Gardener : o)
As the years go by, I much prefer to let the days wash over me and just make the most of what is in front of me with a bit of planning for next season and beyond. But marking down time with the passing of a calendar can be a bit stressful, it makes us aware of our age and adds a degree of pressure to get things done by a certain time or day and changes our focus from the moment to the minute.
But here we stand on the last few days of a decade that have shaped me the most, so the timing is right to do a bit of reflection and appreciate where I have come from. It has been a bit of a journey. Sometimes I made deliberate and intentional decisions and other times life just took me and I regret nothing.
This time 10 years ago I was waiting with a held breath to find out if I had become a winner in my first ever Yates Spring Vegie Growing Challenge. This was a blogging competition where you needed to write about your spring garden, sharing all the ups and downs, and encourage friends, relatives and random strangers met on the street to vote for you. It was worth every effort as there was $1000 cash up for grabs. Sadly, I didn’t win the competition, but I did win in other ways. Firstly, they ran a once only Autumn challenge that year – which I entered with determination and won! I continue to be involved in this fabulous challenge and we have just wrapped up our 10th Annual Spring Vegie Growing Challenge and I have been the moderator for the last seven years and I love it. But the best treasure to come from a decision to enter this competition all those years ago was the combination of writing and gardening. It was the discovery of two loves and was the first step of a very satisfying journey.
After the completion and win of the Autumn Vegie Growing Challenge, I found myself at a loose end. I had shared every gardening thought and idea every day for an entire spring and autumn and I had gotten into the habit of sharing these things. Without this outlet the thoughts got stuck in my head and spun around and around or worse – fell on deaf ears as I explained in great detail my latest creative endeavour in the garden to Hubby the Un-Gardener. Something needed to be done to free my mind for more ideas and schemes, so I launched Gardeningkiwi on WordPress and loaded my first post >Hello World<. I haven’t looked back. I had been intermittently and tentatively loading videos to You Tube since 2009 under the name Gardeningkiwi so blogging became a technically easier extension of what I was already doing. You can check out my first ever You Tube Video here. > My first You Tube Video<
It was also at this point I decided to take my gardening journey seriously and studied a National Certificate in Horticulture, which I passed with flying colours. It is so easy to study something you are passionate about.
The following year wasn’t as exciting as far as the level of interesting things that have occurred over the decade, but I continued blogging and racked up a whopping 67 blog posts for the year. For some unknown reason my most popular blog post for that year was: >Goats love Kale<. It continued to be popular for a few years afterwards as well, but I have no idea why. During this year I threw myself into my garden – extended it a little with a few sneaky land grabs and picked up my first paid magazine article gig that lasted quite a while.
This is when things got exciting. This was the year I released my first book The Good Life. It is a memoir style with combination of all the blogs I had previously written plus some new stuff. I have a lot to thank Hubby the Un-Gardener for what he has done for me over the years, as he recognised my writing as ‘quite good’. I still don’t see it, but I like doing it, so I keep going, wearing out the keys on my laptop… When he wanted to make the initial contact I said, “don’t bother them, they are probably busy.” If he had listened to me, you would be reading a very different blog post right now.
This was also the start of my speaking journey. Even though writing and speaking are two different things, if you write a book, people ask you to speak about it in all sorts of places. Fortunately, I found I enjoyed that too. I love speaking to garden clubs, at events, on the radio and all sorts of places, although cruise ship speaking has to be a highlight!
My most popular blog post from this year was all about the chickens: >I have achieved something pretty cool<
By now I was on a roll… I released book number 2 – Play in the Garden. When I was approached to write a kid’s gardening book, I almost said no. The boys weren’t into gardening, but when I saw how much they were into their screens, I decided they needed some outside time. So, we wrote a book about getting kids out into the garden by creating some family time. I paid them for their reluctant effort, and they turned the tables back on me by spending the money on an X-Box!
I also got on the telly a couple of times. Twice in a current affairs news slot and once in a legit episode of a cooking show… where I made halloumi cheese and a beetroot salad from the hungry gap in a bereft spring garden. The show was called Cook the Books and I qualified for a segment as there were recipes in The Good Life – so I kinda had a Cookbook.
It comes as no surprise that the most popular post that year was my about page. >What’s this all about then?< Although it mortifies me to see that it is desperate need of an update, so please check on this again sometime in the near future for something more relevant to what I am doing now….
I don’t know about you – but I think I need to take a break here. When I started writing this, I honestly thought I could fit it into one good sized post. Unfortunately, I didn’t fully remember with clarity the scale of adventure my garden journey has been.
If you don’t make it to the next post, I just want to say here and now thank you all so much for your support over the years. Things may have turned out quite differently without you.
Come again tomorrow – the best bits are still to come.
Sarah the Gardener : o)