And just like that we are at the start of a new year, with the festive holiday season behind us and the months ahead stretching out like a blank canvas. Aside from a smattering of dates beginning to fill the calendar, the year is full of hope and potential and possibly plenty of achievement and reward.
I haven’t set any ‘resolutions’ this year for the garden other than the ongoing ‘To Do’ list. I guess here ‘Down Under’ it makes it a little tricky to set goals for the garden in the middle of the growing season, unlike those gardeners in the Northern Hemisphere who have gardens covered in snow and plenty of time to ponder the hopes and expectations of the coming growing season. At this time of year if I can come up with plans for all the zucchini then I’m happy!
This summer we took a nice long break completely off grid – no Wi-Fi and no power, camping in the bush beside the beach and it was lovely. I drew the line at staying in a tent after last year’s leaky situation. So, we were in semi luxury in a rented caravan, and I managed to just completely relax and often found myself in the shade of a tree losing myself in a good book or two while the boys got their fair share of surfing and swimming. A perfectly typical kiwi summer holiday, but it is always good to be home.
It can be tricky to leave the garden in the middle of the season, but we had some great house sitters who were left with clear instructions on what to do. The crops that needed regular picking were picked and the watering was made easy as all they had to do was move the irrigation trolley once a day. It looked like it may have been a little windy, but no harm had come to the garden at all. In previous seasons I have come home to weather related damage and devastation as well as well meaning house sitters not wanting to seem greedy, so left things unpicked which ultimately ended up going to waste and caused the plants to stop producing further. It is good to have people caring for the garden who understand what needs to be done and why.
We got back a week ago, but enjoying the offline lifestyle I decided to carry on for just one more week so I could indulge in gardening normally – without thinking about sharing it with the world… well not at the time it happened – loads of photos were taken as I set about doing what needed to be done to bring the garden from its casual caretaker state to the position that makes it easy for the ebb and flow that comes from daily maintenance and pottering about.
Once we got home and we’d unpacked and turned over a mountain of dirty laundry, I wandered about the garden and wrote down every little thing I saw that needed doing. I ended up with two lists – one for quick and simple jobs like pick tomatoes or sow more sunflowers as well as weed and feed everything!
The other list was more for projects and tasks beyond the general regular pottering about. Some are big jobs – I need to repaint the sheds. The expert at the store last year did say I’d need 2 coats, but I was out of time and short on cash. The lesson has been learnt – do it once and do it right. Especially as painting is not my favourite thing to do.
Some of the other things on the list will form the foundations for bigger long term projects… The inklings of Room Two in The Palace Garden are stirring…. And others are generally tidy up in the corners where weeds and mess sneak in and in the busyness of spring are allowed to remain unchecked. However, I have a garden visit scheduled for next month and the corners need to look as nice as the bits I tend to every day. I think I have enough on my plate to keep me going for a while.
As this new year gets going and the routine and the ordinary resume and restore the daily pattern of life, shrugging off the listless drifting through the days that comes with summer holidays, I have picked up my garden tools and will carry on as usual.
Come again soon – I may not have resolutions, but I’ll still be here… all year, sharing my gardening journey.
Sarah the Gardener : o)
It has been a hard year of ups and downs but when you have a large bowl of strawberries for the festive table all is forgiven.
Merry Christmas to Everyone and have a Safe and Abundant New Year.
Love from Sarah the Gardener : o)
This is always the most challenging time of year in life and in the garden. As we get closer to Christmas, the pressure mounts. The start of the month is fraught with the tension of end of year deadlines that must be done before everything shuts down for the year. As a result, computer gardening and ordinary computing muscles its way to the top of the list demanding its attentions be tended to first. The upside of this is the computer gardening is still enjoyable – gardening without getting your hands dirty.
Alongside those demands are the other seasonal end of year things – like Christmas shopping (which I still need to finish) and preparing for the great exodus for the summer. Although this year is a little weird as there haven’t been the usual round of Christmas parties and prize giving’s and celebrations. It was a little sad as one of the teen lads missed out on his graduation and all the trimmings – but the upside is his future is exciting and ready and waiting for the start of next year.
The garden and the animals – the chickens, Snowy the Goat and Fennel the Cat mean we just can’t go off and away without a care in the world, so we need the help of house sitters. But it isn’t until you look around with the fresh eye of a potential guest that you notice the cobwebs in the corner – which then demand a full top to toe house clean, so we aren’t seen as feral… So, it has been all hands to the deck, getting things ship shape. The upside of this we will be rewarded by our own efforts with a lovely clean house to start the year afresh.
The garden also needs to be low maintenance. I can’t possibly expect our house sitters to give it the level of care I would. They just need to take care of the basics – keeping the garden watered and harvest the crops that need regular picking lest they stop producing because they feel they’ve done their job and set seed ensuring the future of their progeny.
Although I’m not entirely sure that regular watering will be needed. The weather has been thoroughly awful. Thanks to La Niña and tropical storms up in the Pacific we have had days and days of rain. It was more than 120mls because it overflowed my rain gauge. And when it wasn’t raining the humidity has been through the roof. This is not desirable gardening weather. It has encouraged fungal diseases and turned the garden into a soggy mess. The upside here is that we live beside the sea on sandy soil. Back in the swamp this amount of water would have taken weeks to drain away and dry out.
But I need to put on my raincoat – or dash out in the breaks in the rain and harvest and process what needs it, so it doesn’t go to waste. I have four wong bok cabbages ready at the same time – I like kimchi but I don’t think I need that much. Note to self for the future – succession plant the wong bok. The peas also need picking, but I hope to make them last until right before Christmas as I have fond memories of shelling peas with my Grandfather for the extended family Christmas meal and hope to recreate similar memories for my kids. The first tomatoes have split so I need to sort them out, the cucumbers, gherkins and zucchini just keep coming and the okra has started early and need regular picking.
It is always bittersweet leaving the garden at this productive stage in its life, but family come first. Although sometimes I look longingly at the Northern Hemisphere gardeners with their gardens tucked up for the winter, allowing them time to bake Christmas cookies and decorate every inch of their homes. One day it would be nice to really focus on the decorating, but for the most part a splash of tinsel is good enough.
But the upside is, in this crazy world I have plenty to be grateful for – a garden that not only brings me joy and fresh produce but opportunities to help support our family. I have a lovely home beside the sea, filled with a wonderful family and an extended family that thanks to safety measures and sacrifices taken during the year we can join for Christmas.
This post is a bit smooshy, but it has been a hard year and now we are nearly at the end, the final push is taking every ounce of effort to get over the line, but looking for the upsides and counting blessings are like stepping stones in a muddy garden…
Come again soon – we’re nearly there.
Sarah the Gardener : o)
When you move to a new spot it can take a while to get the hang of the new environment and adjust your technique and style to the new conditions. For the most part I have been quite happy with how things grow here, but since we moved I have not had a lot of luck with tomatoes. I enviously watched other people complain about a glut as they harvested tomatoes by the bucket load.
But not me – my plants were fizzling out long before I managed to even full up a bowl. I think it may have been a combination of things. I overcompensated for the harsh environment and loved them too much. I ended up with Pith Necrosis more than once – which is an early season disease that enjoys a tomato plant that has been lavished with too much nitrogen combined with cool night time temperatures and high humidity. This never bodes well for a productive season when the plants are handicapped at the start.
I think this season I have managed to overcome this, and I held back on the excessive nitrogen rich love. I can’t take credit for the temperatures and humidity, but it must have been more suitable this season as my plants are looking the best they ever have at this time of year. They look normal – a lovely shade of green instead of the usual bruised yellow/purple look they have had in previous years across their rolled leaves.
This encouraging start has made me determined to tackle the problem that normally comes next. The dreaded Tomato Potato Psyllid. I don’t know if it was particularly bad here because the plants were already suffering because of the Pith Necrosis. A pest can spot a poorly plant a mile off and a poorly plant doesn’t have what it takes to shake of problems. Or it could have just been here anyway. It could also be that the TPP would have become a problem at the old place as it is a relatively new problem on the rise.
Over the last few seasons, I have been regularly preventatively spraying in preparation for the imminent arrival of this nasty sap sucker and even alternating between two of the best sprays for it – Yates Mavrik and Yates Success Ultra to ensure if and when they showed up, they didn’t become resistant to one or the other.
But my efforts usually unravelled when we went away for the summer holidays and taking my eye off my crops for a couple of weeks was enough for the TPP to settle in and make themselves at home. Not only are they stubborn and difficult to get rid of, but more often than not they carry with them a bacterial disease that once introduced into the plant cause an impending demise to the tomato plants.
So, this season – with the healthiest looking plants I’ve seen in years in my garden, I want to keep it that way, and I decided I didn’t want to mess about with sprays if taking an annual holiday renders the exercise pointless, so I ordered an insect mesh.
It is all very well having the fabric, but I needed to decide how to wrap it around my plants. The plants are still small compared with how big they will grow. I’ve given them much more space than I normally do and have them trained to grow along what is essentially a fence – waratah posts with washing line wire threaded between them. It works well – especially as I never manage to get the desired single stem and already have some multi-stemmed medusas forming where I missed removing some of the laterals by just a few days and they were too big to risk taking them out.
Taking into consideration the height of the support structure and the height the plants could be, I made a frame from rebar and irrigation hose. Then I threw the insect mesh over the top. The next question was how to pin it down. I didn’t want to put holes in it – in case the TPP could sneak in. After much indecision a combination of ideas came from Hubby the Un-Gardener and me. I thought about rolling up the bottom of the fabric around the sides with a bamboo pole but couldn’t figure out how to secure it. Hubby the Un-Gardener suggested Tool Clips – not that we knew they were called that, so had fun trying to explain what we wanted at the hardware store. Turns out Tool Clips were perfect to hold the bamboo coiled fabric in place and help keep the whole structure taut but will give easy access for maintenance and harvesting.
And now my hope for once again joining in the great tomato glut is looking pretty good.
Come again soon – Summer starts next week.
Sarah the Gardener : o)
After a period of life getting in the way of the garden with its dodgy weather, emotionally anxious pandemic, teens and exam related stress and non gardening computer related activities, the pendulum swung back in my favour. All it took was for me to muster up all my everything to tackle all the non gardening things indoors while the weather was less than ideal, the kids to finally reach the end of the dramatic side of the end of the school year, and the sun to come out. The pandemic is still a worry but there isn’t a lot that I can do about that.
Yesterday I gardened. Which felt so healing from the moment I stepped into the garden. I now have 2 sectors in complete control that only need minor adjustment while it heads towards the edible stage. The other 3 sectors aren’t that bad, but do need a bit of love to bring it up to a low maintenance level. And then I can tackle the side mess – the bits outside of the garden. I’m still endeavouring to do my 5 things a day in the garden, but learning not to beat myself up about it on the days it is not possible and allowing myself to stop guilt free if my weary body is telling me too – even if I haven’t finished the task in front of me. Together this makes a nice slow enjoyable pace, without overdoing things yet still making progress, and feeling still human when I come in at the end of the day to spend time with my family.
So here is a lovely summary of what I got up to in the garden for me in pictures:
And now the sun is shining again so I shall head back out into the garden and see what else can be done to bring me joy and pleasure and whip the garden into shape at the same time.
Come again soon – the air has those summer vibes going on.
Sarah the Gardener : o)
NB: clicking on the images will give a small tale to go with each one!
Normally my only early thoughts of Christmas are getting the spuds into the garden on time. Jersey Benne’s take 100 days and so the planting day is 16th September. Then I turn my back on all things festive until about two weeks before and have a massive panic as I cram in everything that needs to be done.
Well not this year. It has been a shocker of a year and so as a family we decided to bring it all forward this year to give us a joyous reason to celebrate, and possibly to help hurry the rest of the year on its way. Surely 2022 will be better?!
It started yesterday when our neighbour let us get a tree from out the back of his farm. Ordinarily we have bought our tree from the Lions Club outside the supermarket, however they don’t start selling until December has started. It feels like the right thing to do – give to a good cause and get a tree at the same time. But over the years the trees have shrunk, and the price has done the opposite and we found ourselves with small yet perfectly formed trees. Nothing like the wild and wonky forestry offcuts of my childhood.
It was a fabulous adventure, with Hubby the Un-Gardener up the tree trying to cut a perfect branch down. As a former city slicker – this was… let’s just say – amusing to watch as our neighbour and I stood by with much laughter! We ended up with two as our neighbour thought the branch behind the one Hubby the Un-Gardener laboured over would be better and whipped it down with his electric saw.
We hauled the trees home and found they were too big for house, so the bottoms were chopped off and now they are resting in buckets of water until our next burst of festive spirit has us decorating them.
The benefit of sparking the joy of Christmas early means I have 38 days to come up with creative gifts and decorations, which can be put together thoughtfully with no rush. Taking care of some of the gifts and decorations now will save time later and reduce the need to panic so much.
With Christmas on my mind, I had a chat with the lovely Tom and Kat from Radio Rhema today talking about how the garden can inspire gifts and decorations that can be given as heartfelt gifts that are sustainable and affordable.
And here are some of the ideas discussed and a few more… I’m really keen to get on with making some of these (although if you are a likely recipient, it is probably a good to pretend you never saw this…)
Ok – now I’m excited… bring on the 38 days of Christmas – surely there is a song about that I can sing along too…
Come again soon – the weather has been all over the place, but the garden is calling to me.
Sarah the Gardener : o)
Yesterday a found myself with a bit of a headache I just couldn’t shake so I erred on the side of caution and didn’t push myself to do much at all. So today was a bit of catch up. It wasn’t like I didn’t do anything yesterday, but I’ve decided to be proactive regarding Christmas and am making a few bits and bobs as gifts. Unfortunately, I can’t reveal all the details or some of the recipients may see in advance what they are getting, which will ruin the surprise. If it is any consolation, I really enjoyed making them.
So today was all about making up for lost time. I was determined to do as many things as I could to push along some progress in the garden. I started out early this morning with a wander around the garden. The Flanders Poppies caught my eye and then I remembered it was Armistice Day, so it seemed appropriate to mention it, given the seeds were sown on ANZAC Day. It does really help to keep things in perspective – life is quite challenging right now. But is nothing compared to what our grandparents and great grandparents had to face in their day.
Buoyed on and encouraged I decided to tackle the weedy end garden. I figure if I just do a small bit at a time, it will be less sustained effort in the long run. So, I gave myself half an hour. It wasn’t that difficult, but I wouldn’t have wanted to have kept at it.
I looked about for my next small task and decided to create a couple of trenches under the arch to mix in some compost and a bit of blood and bone to help with moisture retention and give a bit of love to the plants that will soon scramble up it.
By now it was feeling a little warm. The sand beneath my feet was becoming too hot to stand on. This was a good sign to come inside out of the heat to do something in the cool of the house. I checked the thermometer I have hanging on my shed, and it agreed with my feeling that it was unseasonably hot in the garden!
I left the garden with 3 mini cabbages that were due to come out anyway as they were pretty much done and taking up space in the salad bed and I need to succession plant more rocket.
Once inside I decided to have a go at fermentation with the kit I recently got for my birthday. The instructions that came with it were very thorough and clear and I’d prepared myself by watching a few how-to videos. I had a lovely time in the house in out of the midday sun whipping up my first ever batch of red cabbage sauerkraut. I hope it works.
It was still a little warm outside and I’m trying to avoid the ‘mad dogs and Englishmen’ situation – as I have been that kind of person before and paid quite the price. I found another indoor task that had been taking way too long to do. Months ago, we ordered some wood – well before lockdown. Several weeks later we cut it up, but only got around to painting it on the weekend, because initially we couldn’t find what we’d done with the paint. Someone had moved it, but no one knows where it ended up. On the weekend we stumbled across some different paint that did the job just as well. We had all the bits needed to put the shelves up in the kitchen, so I just got on with it! Job done.
The next thing I did was make a flower arrangement. I’m not a florist. I just wanted to make the shelves look lovely. I am going to try and bring more flowers into the house more regularly – there are enough out there now that I think I can do it without ruining the display.
Speaking of flowers – my favourite Gladioli started to bloom. But I’m not sure I should keep growing them – there is so much Rust on the leaves, it just isn’t fair to keep them hanging around in a poor state of health because the flowers are pretty.
The temperatures had eased a little as the afternoon wore on, so I headed back out in the garden and helped Hubby the Un-Gardener trim the lupin bushes that were encroaching on the driveway. It is one of those jobs you think – ‘I should do that’ while you are in the car, but as soon as you get out, it completely slips your mind.
After a day soaking in water, a few of the remaining seedlings got planted into the ground. After the temperatures today I think it is fair to say it is warm enough for the okra to go in the ground, and the luffa took up their spot under the arch. And last –for now, was the pepino. Hopefully by planting them in the cool of late afternoon they can settle in nicely before it gets hot again.
And finally – the last job for the day was to change Blossom’s blades. Which she was pretty happy about.
It was a lovely long day in the garden chipping away at small things. But I do feel the weariness of a body glowing from the efforts of the day. I think tomorrow I will just drop things back to 5 a day.
Come again soon – there is still plenty to keep me busy as I catch up!
Sarah the Gardener : o)
It was touch and go there for a while as to whether I would actually achieve my daily 5 things. I was slow to get out into the garden due to a load of computer gardening. Some of it was fun and one weekly chore a mundane necessity. Sometimes real life encroaches on the magic of gardening, sucking up time that, if I could, I would spend it toiling in the soil.
Surprisingly this delayed start wasn’t the only reason I almost never made my 5 task goal on day two of the good intentions. Once I got into the garden around midday – it was hot! This was unexpected as the forecast had been promising grey and slightly warm with such consistency, I took it at its word and stopped checking. And in hindsight I should have kept a closer eye on it because it changed!
Although having said that I appear to have created a bit of a microclimate. There was a lovely gentle sea breeze drifting up from the ocean. Sitting in it directly robbed the day of much of its warmth. I sat at the front of the house overlooking the sea to eat my lunch and felt the need for another layer. Then I headed off into the garden for a good push on my 5 tasks for the day. The main part of the garden behind the first windbreak was warmer than around the front of the house. I put this down to the reduced breeze and the black sand paths. It was a lovely cosy warmth.
But my main focus was finishing the strawberry netting so I headed down to the back of the garden behind the new windbreak. The heat there was noticeably warmer than in the main part of the garden. I had been wandering about the place in bare feet, enjoying feeling the warmth radiating from the ground, dissolving any trace of chill lingering from lunch. But down the back of the garden the sandy path was hot – too hot for bare feet. So, I popped my gumboots on and set about covering the framework structure. I may have over engineered it slightly, but I think it might have been worth it as the bird netting was cheap and may not last the season. It is hard to tell when doing the click and collect thing. I am so pleased life is changing from tomorrow and click and collect will be a thing of the past. … for now….
I eventually got it done but I have to say, toiling in the heat made it take twice as long and I needed several breaks in the cool of the house. I think I may need to alter my routine and put computer gardening in the middle of the day when the weather heats up properly.
By the time I had my strawberries protected it was getting late. And I was tempted to call it a day. But my pride wouldn’t let me falter on day 2. So, I looked about for 4 other easy things to do that would count. And they do count because most of those 4 things are things that left undone would need to be done at some other time.
So, I popped some perfectly beautiful cosmos flowers into my flower press, and I weeded the worst bed in sector 2. Unfortunately, sector 2 didn’t get the full Tuesday love it was due, but I had a quick look and it isn’t too bad. I could make clearing up the kikuyu along the fence line as one of the 5 things on another day this week. Then I harvested some asparagus for dinner… that counts as it needed doing.
I then did something I wasn’t expecting to do. While weeding the worst bed in sector 2 I noticed the soil was quite dry in spite of the torrential down pour we had on Friday. So, the last task of the day was the first for the season and I set up the irrigation system – all set to water sector 1 at 7:00am tomorrow morning. I’ll probably move it across the day to other sectors after finishing its cycle and then diligently pay more attention to the weather and begin the process of actually watering the garden instead of relying on the sky.
And that is what I did today – 5 things, just like I promised myself.
Come again soon – I’m half expecting to find a possum has gotten through the strawberry netting.
Sarah the Gardener : o)
Over the last several weeks the focus in the garden has really been about getting it planted. For some reason I have been running behind, even though my intentions were to try and get ahead. In that process I ended up just focusing on the plants and getting them in the ground alongside their support structures and paid little heed to the mess I was leaving in a trail behind me.
Currently if you look around my garden you can see empty pots, tools and all sorts of clutter laying about the place. But in my desire to get plants in the soil I didn’t care, it wasn’t my priority. Now that that stage is over, I look about the garden and think… ‘my goodness, where do I start?’ There is the temptation to create another urgently stressful situation where I convince myself if is imperative I tidy up immediately. I almost went down that path, as I wanted to make a “did-dah” garden tour video with it all looking perfect for all to see. But I realised that would be fool hardy as by the time it was looking perfect it would probably be Christmas.
So, I decided to embrace the mess, knowing it would be taken care of in a slow and steady way, mixed in with fun things like kitchen gardening and admiring the flowers. With this in mind I filmed my video tour, focusing on the plants and capturing this stage of the garden, to mark this point in my progress through the growing season.
I’d love it if you joined me in my garden and check it out – as it is now, warts and all.
Come again soon – there will be a mixed bag of things going on as I make the most of all the wants and needs in the garden.
Sarah the Gardener : o)