SARAH THE GARDENER

Still Counting

Last week disappeared in a complete blur.  There was lots of the usual hoeing and rock building but that’s kind of becoming a bit boring – well not boring to do but boring to talk about.

rock building

The rock is coming along nicely

The weather has thrown some excitement into the mix.  It has been a really warm autumn with winter just over 2 weeks away we are still experiencing temperatures in the 20°Cs or thereabout.  But then on Thursday it dropped dramatically.  We woke up to a chilly 5°C, and it didn’t get much warmer than 16°C.   It was quite the shock, but it was, to its credit, one of those magnificent blue sky days that often accompany days like that.   The next day I woke up thinking I was ill because it was so hot.  The temperatures had bounced back up to the 20°Cs!  Goodness knows what this confusion is going to do to my plants.   Today is rainy.

pumpkin seedlings

The weather has been so confused that pumpkin seedlings from the home made compost that has been spread across the beds are making an appearance.

The highlight of the week was speaking to the lovely folk at the Howick Horticultural Society.  Gardeners of the loveliest people and they all seemed to enjoy my talk.   I took advantage of being in the city to stop at a garden center and place called Pots and Things to see if there was anything there, I could bring home.  I was tempted at the garden center to buy a plant called Bonking Grass (Selliera radicans) apparently it is a NZ native but also found in Australia and Chile and I probably should have brought some because it does really well in coastal conditions, but it likes damp coastal conditions.   It did feel rather soft and spongy and quite luscious and would invite you to lie upon it.  I didn’t come home with the Bonking Grass, but I did come home with a duck.

duck statue

I do love my new duck!

Last week I decided to throw myself into a rather large project that I had been putting off for ages, but the time was right.  I needed to reinstate Neville.   Neville is our cute as a button Gardena robot lawnmower.  We’ve had him for years and to start with he was at the old place and then operating on the front lawn here, but we’ve decided to move him around to the back lawn.  It did take a lot longer than I thought for this project because it required a bit of a lawn makeover before we could even think about Neville’s needs.  I wanted to do a big DID DAH… moment at the end of the project but we still need to do a few more tweaks so I will fill you in more on this project once it is completely finished.  It took a lot of time and a lot of hard work which to be fair for most of my projects I completely underestimate what it would take in time and effort.  But I get there in the end.

weedy lawn edges

The lawn project started with some really weedy edges.

The worst part of this project was down to my impatience.  I was attempting to tidy up the edges, so the kikuyu grass doesn’t sneak into the garden under the fence.  it turned out the weed eater had a flat battery, and I was too impatient to wait to wait for it to charge and started trimming away at the grass by hand only to disturb a wasp who let me know he was there by stinging me on my wrist.  Normally we have a bit of an agreement the Wasps and I, I don’t bother them, and they don’t bother me although it would seem I bothered this wasp.   Of course, I dropped tools and ran inside to get antihistamine, painkillers and anti inflammatories because I’m a sweller.  It did put a bit of a spanner in the works for a while as I gently healed from the dramatic event, but by then the weed eater had charged and I was able to finish tidying the edges without further incident.

very late autumn garden

All in all the garden isn’t looking too bad – largely thanks to the mustard cover crops that give it a lovely lush green look.

So aside from the project that isn’t finished and the routine stuff that, while enjoyable, is becoming mundane, it is hard to say whether or not I have been doing justice to #MakeMayCount as it seems to fit better with a whole lot of small punchy projects that I can a make a dramatic dent to my To Do List with.  It feels like large projects defeat the purpose because it doesn’t feel like you’re getting there for days on end with nothing much to report about.

peanut plant

This is a good sign the peanuts are almost ready for harvest.

The cold snap has caused chores in the garden.  The Jerusalem artichokes have pretty much died off, so they’ll need digging up and possibly eating and the peanuts are looking a little bit manky on the leaves, so they’ll need pulling out, which is always exciting, I love growing peanuts.  And the eggplants are actually starting to give up the ghost, so they’ll need pulling up sooner rather than later.

Chillies

Slowly but surely the hot peppers are ripening up, but it may turn out to be too slow…

I’ve been picking the peppers as they become red and bunging them in the freezer so I can make a sweet chilli sauce but at this point I think I’ll be making a green sweet chili sauce.  Other than that, it’s pretty much under control.  I just need to keep up my vigilant checking because even though there isn’t much to do it can suddenly get away on you.

aphids on kohlrabi

I have to remain vigilant and keep my eye on the garden or I’ll miss things like these aphids on my kohlrabi.

I’m hoping for a much more productive week ahead of me, not that last week wasn’t productive, it was productive in a different way.

Come again soon – is only two weeks until winter.

Sarah the Gardener   : o)

Slow and Steady

To be honest I think the brick saga has had more of an impact on my #MakeMayCount timeline.  Up until the bricks entered my world, I was making great progress, but collecting them was a huge effort and then they sat in the back of Hubby the Un-Gardener’s vehicle for a couple of days while I recovered and then mustered the strength to unload them.  He didn’t mind using my car for a short while but one of the teen lads is now newly driver licensed and wanted to borrow my car when Hubby the Un-Gardener needed to be somewhere too. It couldn’t be avoided any longer and I set about unloading the bricks.  I managed to move 430 of them before I got a bit of help.  There were 655 all up so should be more than enough for the project I have in mind.

Bricks

These bricks can stay put for now – I’ve done moving them about the place for now.

I didn’t want to completely rest and recover because in the spirit of the month I wanted to be productive, so I kept up with path hoeing and rock making, and it is becoming a nice little routine at the start of the day.

peas

Not a bad first picking of peas, even if they didn’t last long!

On Thursday I made the first picking of the peas for the season and brought them in and popped them on the bench to pod them and get them ready for the freezer, but the kids came home from school and pretty much demolished the lot!  At least they’re eating their greens.

Rainy day in the dome

There is nothing better than a rainy day in the dome

Friday was another slow day as I recovered from the brick moving and I took it easy by preparing a presentation for a talk I’m giving next week.  I got some more rock work done and that was about it.

autumn seedlings

My autumn seedlings – mostly onions but also some lawn chamomile, and some other bits and bobs look like they needed potting on.

Today – being Saturday I don’t normally garden, as weekends are for time with the family.  But this weekend is Mother’s Day Weekend, so I was able to indulge in some guilt free weekend gardening and I felt like it was a bit of a catch up from the brick drama.  The skies have been spitting and spotting all day, which is good as we haven’t had a lot of rain lately, but it isn’t enough to really make a difference.  I may need to drag the hose out next week.

autumn seedlings

I love repotting plants, when there aren’t too many. The results are so satifying

I had several lovely hours in the dome that disappeared in a flash.  I decided to transplant my seedlings.  My lawn chamomile, needed for the project, had come up quite thickly so I separated them out into small clumps and planted them out in pots. I’ll probably be able to separate them out a couple more times as they get bigger before I eventually plant them out.

Iris bulbs

I know where my iris bulbs are to go, but I’m not ready to put them there so its pots for now.

The onions also looked like they could do with moving on from the seed raising mix into some more nutrient rich potting mix so they could continue to grow on in strength.  I did have them all in seed trays, but they can be a bit fiddly to plant out, so I put them together in groups of 7 in individual pots as that is how many I need to put in the rows in the garden beds when the time comes.  This should make things a lot easier.

ranunculus tuber

I’m not sure where I want to put my ranunculus as I bought them on a whim so I’ve soaked them and planted them in pots to give me some time to think about them.

I also popped the iris and ranunculus bulbs and tubers into pots to buy me some time before I prepare where I want them to go, and I gave all my rosemary cuttings a soak in seaweed mix to help strengthen them up.

rosemary cuttings

I’m beginning to really understand the needs of my rosemary cuttings. I’ve lost a few, but not recently.

I think this will do nicely for now.   A week in with the intention of being as productive as possible has helped me to find my limits, but at the same time has helped push me forward and getting the most out of the last month before winter sets in.

Come again soon – week two is like a fresh start and all going well will be as productive, if not more.

Sarah the Gardener  : o)

Wednesday didn’t Count.

I set off into the #MakeMayCount with a whiz and a bang with a superhero mentality of all things are possible.  In my head I can see each of the projects I want to achieve broken down into individual chores and it does all seem possible, and I get all excited. 

End of season Gaura

Every time I walked past this end of the cut flower bed I’d tell myself I’d get onto tidying them up soon.

And then I race off like a bull at a gate and throw myself into it all like I have boundless unlimited energy.  Only I don’t.  I was lulled into this false sense of my abilities due to the slackness of April.  I didn’t push myself at all so there was no opportunity to be reminded of my MSsy weakness and for a while there I felt normal which was actually really lovely despite the lack of productivity.  

End of season Gaura

It didn’t take long at all to trim up the Gaura and I discovered some aquilegia that now have the freedom to prepare themselves for spring blooms.

It isn’t like things weren’t done at all recently, which is probably part of the problem – I’ve pushed myself too hard.   I have been chugging away with my path hoeing and rock building routine.  Having clear paths is great as, like I mentioned, I can see ‘other creature’ footprints and it looks like the rats have been having a right old party so I think it may be time to move the rat trap to an area of more intensive activity.  I also only have 5 shots left in the rat trap, so I need to get a new gas canister.  This is a good sign as it shows I’m making a dent in the population.   It also means I get to visit the garden centre.  This is probably not a good idea as temptation has no limits there.

Good Nature rat trap

There is always something a little weird about getting a notification on my phone to say something had died. But it feels good to know it is humane and actually working… most of the time there are no dead bodies as they are dragged away by mourning families.

I also made good progress with the rock and have managed to encircle the frame and meet up with the other side.  So now all I need to do is go up.  I’m really impressed with how it is coming together.  I can’t say it is like the vision in my head yet, but in my extensive research – looking at large rocks up and down the country out of the car window, wishing I could just bring one home, they come in all shapes and sizes and shades of grey so anything random I come up with is going to be perfectly fine, so long as you don’t see the fabric beneath or any fingerprints. 

building a rock

The slow and steady progress building the rock is getting results and is strangely satisfying.

I also got a delivery of some spring bulbs I have been waiting a long time for.  I was starting to get anxious, especially for the tulips.  Because we don’t get frost here on the coast, I ordered them nice and early to put them in the fridge for 6 weeks to simulate the cold.  Given that the weather has continued to be quite mild apart from a blip a month or so ago, it is probably a good thing.  So, once they emerge from the fridge where I put them straight away, they will find themselves in consistently cold weather and not yo-yo from the chill of the fridge to warmish weather and then find themselves in the cold again, so it was probably for the best.

Spring bulbs

Finally my spring bulbs arrived and have now been bumped up the to do list as I give them the attention they need.

Also in the package were some ranunculus tubers that I want to soak and plant out sooner rather than later and finally some iris bulbs that are beginning to sprout so I need to do something with them in the immediate.  But I want to incorporate them into a wildlife pond makeover.  I hadn’t had this high the #MakeMayCount priority list, so I guess this list needs a rejig or I need some help or set it aside for now.  I could plant the sprouting bulbs into pots for now and plant them later.    I’m just one person with an enormous vision that is too big for my limited capabilities.  But how to you eat an elephant?  One spoonful at a time.  Not that I’m advocating eating elephants. 

City traffic

Often a simple task like ‘collecting some bricks’ is a lot larger than expected – not only with the collecting but also the getting there and back. That is the consequence of living out in the back of beyond. We travelled for at least 3 hours that day after being caught in rush hour traffic in the city.

Then I got a call from Hubby the Un-Gardener that he’d found some bricks I’d been looking for, so we dropped everything and raced out to collect them.  ‘Collect them’ doesn’t describe it.  I needed about 600 for my project and it was one of the last pieces in the gathering of supplies before I can throw myself into the creating of the new garden project.   This meant picking every single one from the neat pile they had been stacked in and moving them to our vehicle.    I have to say, several days later, they are still sitting in the vehicle as we muster the energy to repeat the process and put them in the garden.  And they will need to be moved at least once more to end up in their final spot.  Sometimes I can see why it is easy to shy away from big ideas. 

Bricks

The offending bricks. Now I just have to muster the strength and enthusiasm to unload them. Hubby the Un-Gardener can’t keep using my car forever.

Since then, I have fed and watered my lime tree in a pot and my new port wine magnolia as their leaves were looking a little less green than they should be, watered the seedlings being nurtured in the dome and because I had a spare 15 minutes, I trimmed all the spent flower stalks off the Gaura.  This was a good example of what I intended with the #MakeMayCount thing.  Ordinarily a 15-minute window would be written off as not big enough to do anything worth making a difference so nothing would get done.  The Gaura has been on the list for a while and now it has been done without much fuss at all.

Fire pit area

Last year for Mother’s Day I got this lovely fire place that required somewhere to situate it, which ended up in a full blown project that ended up as an article in Kiwi Gardener magazine.

And then at the end of the day I did my weekly Q&A live chat session on the Yates.co.nz Facebook page.   I’ve been doing this, talking all things vegetable gardening since 2014 and enjoy chatting with other keen gardeners in the comments section.  Although this week we talked about how to spoil a gardening mum for Mother’s Day.  Speaking of which I sent my Mum’s gift off – I hope she likes it.  Hubby the Un-Gardener asked me what I would like.  Last year the gift turned into a project that ended up in a magazine, so I have to be careful what I ask for…

And now it is another magnificent blue sky day and the garden is calling to me…  I think it missed me.

Come again soon – I’m back on track.

Sarah the Gardener  : o)

Making more work for myself.

During #MakeMayCount, I need to embrace activities that happen beyond the garden and value them as productive time.  Yesterday I spent several hours in the morning doing some computer gardening but found myself getting frustrated at being indoors because I had to do some gardening to make it count.   But what I was doing was the kind of things that pay me so I am free to garden to my hearts content and it is all gardening related so I need to embrace computer gardening in the same way I would embrace scrabbling about in the dirt as gardening.  Besides, it is a lot cleaner and a lot warmer – especially at this time of year.

Weedy bed

It shouldn’t take too long to clear up this messy bed.

So, a larger chunk of my day than I intended was spent in creative computer gardening, but it was fun and satisfying to see the job completed.  I emerged out into a sunny day with a bit of a breeze with a slight bite in it with the feeling of making up for lost time.   But I still needed to reign myself in a little.  I want to use this month to reset bad habits.  Isn’t it if you do something 21 times in a row it can be considered a habit?  (A quick google check reveals that is a myth and you need between 66 and 254 days.) 

Inkweed

I have a considerable sized pile of Inkweed that will need dealing with very soon.

Either way, I need to get back into good routines I’d fallen out of the habit of doing.  First thing should be hoeing the paths in the sector of the day.  So, for a Monday it is sector one.  This is generally the group of beds in the best condition as I’m normally rearing to go on a Monday.  The Friday sector is in a bit of a state, but we’ll come to that later.  I do enjoy hoeing the paths and normally it is just lopping off the head of a weed here and there that decided to come up.   But at this time of year there are hundreds of tiny weed seedlings that seem to pop up every day and it isn’t a good idea to skip this step.

animal tracks

Goodness knows who made these tracks but there didn’t seem to be any noticeable harm done to the garden where it passed through.

The other benefit of a sand path, other than being hoe-able, is I can see who has been wandering around the garden, from the size 11 shoes of a teen lad off to feed the chickens and the footprint of the chickens that invariably escape during said feeding.  Sometimes I see a well-worn rat path that tells me it would be a good idea to move the rat trap.  The insects make interesting trails and then there are the unidentifiable that you hope don’t belong to something that could destroy the garden in an afternoon.

Rat hole

The cheek of it… digging a nest on the other side of the wall to the rat trap!

While hoeing the paths I get to look at the sector as a whole and decide what needs to be done and I return to my garden office to make a list.  At this time of year there isn’t that much to be done in sector one although the cut flower bed needs a major overhaul – but that is a project, not a task, so I leave it for now, until I have the time.

dead rat

I always feel a little sad to see a dead rat, but at least with the Goodnature rat trap it had a tasty bite and didn’t see the swift end coming.

Then I’m supposed to go through all the beds in the sector to whip out weeds and tend to needs.  But there isn’t much going on there at all right now.  Although I noticed the peas will need picking soon.  I’ll need to check this every day, so I get them at peak perfection – still sweet and tender and not to big and hard.

Making a rock

I’m making great progress on the rock, although the under hanging bits are a little tricky to make stick.

Then I am training myself to spend some time working on the rock.  It is a large project and I’ll need to install it in the garden sooner rather than later so I can’t afford to dilly dally.  I find I can manage to do 3 batches of cementy fabric mixed in 2L ice cream containers before I get too bored with the process and it is enough to make it feel like I’ve made a good amount of progress.

Spreading the mustard seed cover crop

I love using my hand held spreader to distribute the seeds – it makes an even spread and it is fun to use.

Due to the late garden start I looked about the garden for a quick and easy project that would be all show for little effort, and I spied the small pumpkin bed.   It maybe because it was in the Friday sector, but it had become quite feral since the pumpkins were removed, and in my April tour video I noticed a rat hole in it – right beside the rat trap – oh the audacity!  So, I thought I’d quickly whip the weeds out, cave in the hole and sow a cover crop.   That shouldn’t take more than half an hour and look impressive. 

firewood from prunings

I found myself with a nice pile of firewood from the prunings to fuel the fire pit for lovely autumn evenings around the a warm glow with a glass of something warming.

But when I am immersed in a project, I find myself being very thorough and can’t bring myself to cut corners.  Well, I am working for me, and as a boss I’m quite the stickler for a job well done.   So, as I was weeding the far end of the bed, I noticed the tree lupins had self-seeded during the growing season and were significantly overhanging the bed.  This couldn’t be allowed, so I grabbed secateurs and loppers and cleared them away. 

weeded garden bed

Job done…. the bed is weeded, seeded with a mustard cover crop and watered. Although there is an unexpected large pile of lupin branches that need to be shredded.

I also noticed some Inkweed which seems to really like it here, but it spreads easily and is toxic, so it needed to go.  This found me scrambling about up the hill behind the pumpkin bed pulling it all out.  I got most of it by the tap root although a couple of spots need digging out. I’m not sure what I’ll do with it as I’m not going to add it to the compost, and it has ripe seeds on it.  I think I might let it dry out and then burn it. 

carrots and parsnips

There is nothing like gathering some fresh vegies at the end of a hard day in the garden to make a delish meal for the family.

Eventually as the sun was beginning to go down, I spread a mustard seed cover crop over some clean weed and rat free soil and looked at the mountain of lupin branches that need to be run through the shredder.  So much for a quick and easy job, I now have shredding to add to the ‘to do’ list. 

Come again soon – it is another blue sky day full of opportunities to get things done.

Sarah the Gardener  : o)  

Amazing Avocados

Day 2 of #MakeMayCount was starting to look like there would be no room at all for anything ‘planty’.  As it was a weekend day, we wanted to paint one of the bedrooms in our house.  We haven’t really done a lot to the inside of the house since we moved it onto our coastal property, as the outside and gardens have been our priority.  But once we realised the one of the teen lads is preparing to fly to coop in the foreseeable future, we thought, as responsible parents we should at least give him a nice room before he leaves.  As much as I hate painting, this is going to be the first of many indoor painting projects for some time to come.  Although not remotely horticultural it is still helping to #MakeMayCount as a productive month we can look back on and be proud. 

Avocado tree

Avocado trees are so beautifully structural, making the orchard look quite magical.

But the afternoon revealed itself to be a fabulous green thing.   Friends of ours had invited us to come and explore their avocado orchard.    They acquired the orchard at about the same time as we were relocating our house and have immersed themselves in taking care of the trees in order to get a bountiful harvest.   They bought trees back from a poorly state, discovered the benefits of planting trees on mounds in low lying spots as avocados don’t like wet feet, and so much more.  They also realised windbreaks, while very important to protect the trees, have roots that like to take advantage of the moist nutrient rich soil beneath the avocado tree, robbing it of its vigour. 

Avocado orchard

Such lovely majestic vistas of abundantly verdant trees and sweeping paths.

With three years of caring for and nurturing the orchard, their knowledge is deeply rooted in experience and with the assistance from consultants and experts, the orchard is a thriving place, and it was a pleasure to tour through it and enjoy conversation with people passionate about their livelihood.  

Avocado orchard

Such lovely majestic vistas of abundantly verdant trees and sweeping paths.

While it wasn’t a productive day in my garden, I learnt a lot and it was a lovely way to spend a day.   Aside from the painting.  We still have one more coat of paint to go on and then do some accessorising – curtains, bedcovers, lighting etc, but it is shaping up nicely.  I’ll share a picture once it’s done.

Avocados

Avocados, such a strange fruit, once mature it can stay of the tree for months and only begins to ripen once picked.

Now for day 3.  The sun is shining, and the sky is blue so if I don’t get much done it will be my own fault.  The conditions are perfect for a productive day. 

Come again soon – so far so good for a productive May.

Sarah the Gardener  : o)

April … Done and Dusted

And just like that we are a quarter the way through the year.  I really don’t know how it happens.  I get up every day and try to make the most of the hours ahead of me and go back to bed exhausted.  It would seem life is somehow speeding up without me noticing.

Peas

We have peas again – hooray!

I do find April a challenging month though.  I seem to unintentionally slow down.  Whether it is due to the obvious change in the weather.  It isn’t balmy anymore and I have to put on socks so it must be too cold to go out into the garden and do things.  Although the ‘cold’ I’m speaking of is only the tip of the iceberg of what is to come so I expect this wussy-ness is all a bit premature and come winter I’ll have to put my brave on.

Mustard cover crop

There is something magnificent about an emerald green mustard cover crop in the early stages.

Or it could be the garden itself isn’t as demanding and so I rest on my laurels and avoid anything really demanding.  I have to fight with myself to make progress and achievement.

Aphids on garlic chives

Not everything is fine and dandy. I have aphids on my garlic chives. I have sprayed them with Yates Natrasoap so I think some of them have died but I’ll hose the plant off and then spray again soon.

So, it is with a bit of surprise when I made my end of April video tour, to see the garden looked in order and in control.  I didn’t realise I’d done so much.  I guess as the last video was only 3 weeks ago, I had subconsciously put myself under pressure to get enough things done so there’d be a noticeable change in the video.  Nothing like public shaming for motivation.

Garlic

After a week the garlic is up. If you look closely you can see more, although the green to the right is a weed that is no longer there.

But this April apathy is catching and historically has done terrible things to my productivity in May.  So, for the last couple of years, I have launched my #MakeMayCount program to ensure this potentially slowest month of the year, that has the last of the good-ish weather, is as productive as it could possibly be.   This means lots of garden tasks, chores and activities including those that have been long put off.  It also means new and exciting projects and I have a few ideas.  But importantly it means lots of updates and sharing of content because let’s be honest, I’ve been a little slack lately.  April has a lot to answer for.

Onion seedlings

The onion seedlings are coming along nicely and on track to be planted out in the garden in mid June.

So, sit back and join me in my latest garden tour.  You may want to make a cuppa or pop some popcorn as it is just shy of half an hour, but it is full of tips and hints and a sneaky peek at one of the new projects.

Come again soon – I’m going to do my very best to #MakeMayCount.

Sarah the Gardener  : o)

Another week that disappeared in blur in activity

I’m not sure what is up with time lately.  One moment it feels like it is dragging and taking forever to pass and the next I find myself dazed and exhausted days later and shocked to find it is Friday!   I think it has something to do with the school holidays as the routine is gone and all sense of normal along with it.

Last weekend included a lovely bush walk with my mum.  I don’t often hang out with my mum because she lives so far away, and I don’t often hang out in the bush because I’m apparently ‘too busy’.  I need to do both more.

Then I came home to something that has been guilting me since the summer.  Pickling the onions and shallots.  I figured they could wait until I was ready as they store well.  The thing is I was never ready enough for them and then the pearl drop onions started to show signs of green tips at the top.  It could be put off no more.  The thing is there were loads of shallots and they were small.  Taking the skins off them is tricky and I still have strong memories of little shards of onion skin stabbing me under the nail.  One stab is nothing, but hundreds of stabs is enough to create memories strong enough to look for alternatives – so I soaked them to soften the skins and they slip off so much easier.  However, when you have hundreds of small onions it can take many, many hours and leave your fingers deeply wrinkled.  But once you start the pickling process you can’t really stop.   

Pickled onions

I popped chilies in each jar, so the family don’t finish a jar in less time that it took me to peel the onions it took to fill the jar.

After the exhausting pickled onion experience, I took things a little easy in the garden and sowed a few more onion seeds that arrived in the mail.  I have to say I was a little light on the onion seeds that will be pickled next season.  If I complain about not having many to pickle next season – point me towards this blog post.   While looking for the extra onion seeds I wanted, I also ordered some asters and peony poppies that can be sown now.  I seem to be drawn towards bright booffy blooms.  I was also pleased to see the chamomile lawn seeds I need for a project had popped up as I was pushing it a little with the sowing dates, but I will need the plants soon.  And the first Pukekohe Longkeepers onions have popped up!

At this time of year when the temperatures are mild, but the rains have returned, the sand in the paths is ripe for seed germination.  But I like my paths clear and I need to hoe more frequently than any other time of year.  I’d dropped the ball a little on this, out of the habit of not needing to.  I picked up the hoe and hoed the entire garden, so I had a clean slate to reinclude path hoeing in my daily sector system maintenance.  It was one of those cathartic chores and absorbed several hours and I only got one blister!  As I went along, I noticed all the little chores and tasks that needed attending – the ones that you make a mental note of, but as they aren’t urgent you immediately forget they need doing.   When I finished hoeing, I sat up on my swing seat to catch my breath and wrote a big list of all the chores – divided into short term and long term.  Then I spent the rest of the week attempting to cross them all off.

Picked peppers

Not as many as I would have liked but more better than nothing

The first was to pick the peppers.  The harvest wasn’t as great as in other years, but because of the rough start it wasn’t unexpected.  The rains had started to cause rot spots where the insects had been sucking on them and so I had to just get in there and save what I could.  I chopped them up into quarters and vac-packed in colour groups and frozen them. 

Then I planted my early garlic.  I find I get better results by starting early so the plants can put on some good growth before the rust hits.  But I have discovered I need to find the balance of being early enough, but as the cold begins to start.  Last season I was a little too early and the moist warm autumn conditions were perfect for the rust and it struck pretty much as the plants emerged.  I still got an ok harvest. The boffins are suggesting the temperatures will begin to drop dramatically from next week.    Although I always get befuddled working out the spacing.   How hard can it be – 6 plants in 16 rows in a 1m x 4m bed.  I poked all the holes several times and hoed them away as something was wrong.  I ended up with 17 rows and thought stuff it, that will do, and I had prepared 6 extra cloves, so I popped them in some pots.

The next task was to remove the solitary Painted Mountain Corn plant and the last Zucchini plant.  They weren’t up to much and the rats were getting into them.   After I removed the corn, I popped in some mustard cover crop as it isn’t needed until next season for the beans…  although, hold on, I need to pop the broad beans in the end there now so I may have to weed some of the mustard out once they pop up.  

In the Zucchini bed, the problem came from the lemongrass pots I sat on the soil in the spring and didn’t come back to…  until now.  It took quite a lot of effort to find and remove the plastic pot.  I’ve put them in some of the new large pots I bought the other day and for now they look lovely flanking the tool shed doors. 

While I was at the repotting, I separated an Ajuga plant I bought recently at a sale for $5.  I ended up with 15 plants!   And I repotted some Whau seedlings I grew from seed – but that was by accident because I accidently kicked over the seed tray.   And I repotted the Port Wine Magnolia I bought for an Easter project but aren’t sure I know what I’ll do with it.   I also took a few more Muehlenbeckia cuttings because you can’t have too many of these and I also need them for the upcoming project.    

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And I have continued to make great progress on my faux rock.  I will outline more of this project as I get going, but for now I’m just gathering my materials. 

Come again soon – I have been so busy with the doing but need to get better with the updating.

Sarah the Gardener  : o)

 

NB:  To find out what is going on in the small pictures, click on them to reveal the caption.

What a whirlwind of a week

Next week is the school holidays.  Not that the teen lads need much attention during the holidays, but the dynamic changes in the household and so any routine I find myself in during normal weekdays just flies out the window.  Recently I have had a good thing going on where I have my little rhythm to what I have to do and I’m making great progress.  Earlier in the year I did struggle a bit to find my groove but having a couple of short lockdowns just unsettles and disrupts things.

This week was probably my best week yet as far as structure and order.  I wrote my to do list then crossed things off it like a knight in shining armour slashing his sword through the undergrowth to get to the princess.  Although my princess is the reward of not emerging from the school holidays in two weeks’ time hopelessly behind on the things that need to be done in the garden.

I started out with some kitchen gardening on Monday.  My radish was ready, but there were a little too many for a modest radish appetite.  After much investigation I made my first attempt at fermenting in a salty brine.  I must have watched hundreds of instructional videos before attempting it.    The results were mixed in that the fermentation was successful, but not received well by all the family.  Hubby the Un-Gardener hates it, but I think one of the teen lads likes it a lot as a quarter of the jar disappeared overnight.

The other radish dish I made was kimchi radish – which is ordinary kimchi – in my inauthentic style with all the other vegies missing.  It tastes fantastic and is so easy to do I have promised myself I’d keep a jar of dehydrated pepper powder on hand so I can make it all the time.

Making a rock

I’m making a giant rock! it feels good to have this project finally underway. It is like paper mache but much cooler!

On Tuesday, after I had taken care of boring old administrative stuff that needs weekly attention, I started on an exciting project I have been meaning to do for so long, but the enormousness of the task had me procrastinating.  Fortunately, the finished product is essential for a magazine article due on the 1st of June so I can’t afford to muck around any longer.  Once I got started, I wondered why I was hesitant to start.  I am loving the project so much but am limiting myself to an hour or two a day, so I don’t lose sight of the other needs of the garden.

Book launch

Christy’s book launch was a fun thing to be able to attend.

Wednesday had me chipping away at the project making great progress, but I also went to a fabulous book launch party in America!  One of the upsides of this crazy world is events that would ordinarily be held in person are now held virtually.  So, I got to go to Gardenerd Christy Wilhelmi’s launch for her new book Grow Your Own Mini Fruit Garden.  Hosted by Robin Jones of Honey Girl Grows.  It was a great way to spend an afternoon inside while thunder and lightning raged around outside.  It is a good book and I look forward to getting my hands on a copy, although I may have to look locally as the postage of a book from the States can cost more than the book!

Yesterday I made even more progress and whipped up a flower press and squashed a few flowers.  It was so easy to make, I don’t know why I didn’t do it years ago.  I always meant to.    Then on the back of that success I sowed some winter seeds in the dome.  My onions will hopefully be planted out in mid-June which is about 8 weeks away so by sowing seeds now they should be big and strong enough to be planted out when the time comes.  I also popped in some broad beans and sweet pea seeds.  I so love sweet peas; they remind me of my Nana.  The exciting thing is I found some dwarf varieties that should do better than the tall ones I have failed with in this windy spot.

I also sowed seeds directly in the garden, another row of carrots, peas, and swedes, and popped in some beetroot seedlings.  Then noticing the mustard cover crop was not only flowering but starting to show signs of developing seed heads so I ripped out the plants from the former corn bed.  Normally I try to dig them in but have decided it is hard work and like herding kittens because it won’t stay buried.

The advice often found in magazines to simply ‘dig in your cover crops’ makes me wonder how many of them have actually done it.  This time I’m going to let the worms do it.  So, I just chopped it up and left it on the top.  I’ll eventually put a layer of compost on the top – hopefully, next week or the week after and let the worms dig that in too.  So come spring the bed will be ready.  The day ended in increasing darkness with the sky attempting to rain.

Today I was back at it.  I took down the flowering cover crop in the old tomato bed.  The onions will be in there next which will be in about 8 weeks so plenty of time for the mustard plants to break down and release their goodness for the onions to use.   I have found my rhythm with this process now and it doesn’t feel like a daunting labour intensive chore.   Buoyed on by my success at dealing with the cover crops at end point I spread more mustard seed in the bed the squash was in and in the old potato bed.  I put lupin seed into the old onion / glass gem corn bed to give it a bit more of grunty nutrient boost.  Then I came in from the garden and Hubby the Un-Gardener helped me give Jasper the Dog a wash as he was getting a bit stinky, but I wouldn’t go so far as to say teenage boy stinky!

Jasper the dog

Jasper the Dog drying off in the sun

And that was my week.  I am now looking forward to a nice relaxing weekend.

Come again soon – hopefully, next week will have a degree of productivity in it.

Sarah the Gardener  : o)

 

NB:  To find out what is going on in the small pictures, click on them to reveal the caption.

March and A Week Garden Tour

This is a strange time of year.  Daylight savings has ended but it is still warm-ish and we are wandering about our days feeling it should be later than it is, which strangely gives us more time in our days.  It won’t last and soon enough we will get used to the new ebb and flow of time and know exactly where we are and we will find ourselves being normal, which for us is often running late.  I have to say it is refreshing being early and on time for now.  

Mustard Cover crop

At this time of year the mustard cover crops start flowering quite quickly so I’ll need to chop them down before they set seed. I’ll just chop and drop and cover them with compost and let the worms do the work. I won’t need this bed until the spring.

But speaking of running late, my March video tour of the garden is a week late.  But to be honest it isn’t really my fault.  Easter was too close to the end of the month, causing a short week and a bottle neck of chores and responsibilities.  But on the other side of Easter, this short week seems to be a little more sedate, and I finally feel back in control again.   

Habanero peppers

I’m a sucker for punishment. Just because I had the seed packet, I grew these habanero peppers. I have decided I don’t like really hot food so I have no idea why I thought I should grow them. Remind me not to grow them next year!

Technically not a lot has changed in the garden when comparing this week to last week so in the grand scheme of things this audio visual tardiness shouldn’t even matter much as it is all quite same samey.   It isn’t too long, probably grab a cuppa, rather than go to the effort of popping popcorn so sit back and enjoy the state of my garden right now.   

As the season slows the garden down, I feel a little more control in what I have to do, like plant garlic and cool season seedlings.  But also feel liberated to tackle projects I’ve been longing to get my teeth into, but always seemed to run out of time.  I’m looking forward to a season of something different.

Come again soon – there is always something to be done in my garden and maybe a bit beyond. 

Sarah the Gardener  : o)

Tidy up time

(A paid post with the good people from GARDENA NZ)

Historically, back in the day I was a bit of a malingerer, I would be slow to clear away the seasons end.  Not because I was lazy, but to acknowledge the season was over was too much to bear.   I’m just as bad with my Christmas decorations and this year they made it to Valentine’s day before being packed back into their boxes.

The old pumpkin bed.

There isn’t a lot going on here so it is better sorted out than left to languish.

Not these days for the veggie patch.  I have begun to appreciate how much nicer it is to look upon a garden that is not full of the dead, dying or weedy.  A heavily mulched bed with a thick layer of compost is more pleasing than tangled crispy brown vines that have long since given up the ghost.  Besides getting in early with the compost layer means the worms and other micro communities have plenty of time to work their magic and reinvigorate the soil ready for next season.   

The old pumpkin bed.

Once the weeds were removed I gave it a jolly good watering to moisten the soil to help the mustard seed cover crop germinate well.

The same can be said for cover crops.  There is something lovely about a lush green bed full of life when the options for things to grow is no where near as vast as in the summer.  Unless I want a garden filled with broccoli, swedes and silverbeet, the only option is cover crops or let the spare beds lie fallow.

GARDENA Handspreader M

The GARDENA Hand Spreader is the perfect size for a garden bed worth of mustard seeds which makes the job quick and easy with no mess.  Winding the handle controls the spread of the seeds making it really fun to use.

So, I have begun the task of packing up summer and putting it away until next year.   The pumpkin bed has been cleared of all trace of the once life supporting vines and any opportunistic weeds that had snuck in there.   As the pumpkin isn’t part of the crop rotation, I have sown a mustard cover crop that will help restore the soil.   

A mustard cover crop is also a great indication of the quality of the soil.  With an even application of the seed, a poor or uneven germination will highlight problem areas in the soil.  Then monitoring the quick growing plants as they grow can also give vital information.  If the plants struggle, the soil will need more love to be able to support the next crop.  If it bursts into life with exuberant foliage can mean possibly too much nitrogen which isn’t ideal, except possibly if the next crop is a leafy green.  What you need is a good steady, uniform growth across the whole bed.   But make time to remove it before it flowers so it doesn’t become too woody to break down easily and definitely before it sets seed, so it doesn’t become a weed.

Mustard seeds

Once the mustard seeds were evenly spread I have them a light rake over and tamped them down so they were making good contact with the soil. And now we wait.

 

Mustard Cover crop

In this lingering warm autumn weather it won’t be long until the pumpkin bed looks as lush as the old tomato bed does.

As for the cucumber bed, well it wasn’t the best season anyway.  At least the lemon cucumbers provided us with an abundance, but the rest of the cucumbers and gherkins had a terribly poor harvest with a mere taster from each plant.  The only way I could fill a jars of pickles was to let the gherkins that did show up grow larger than I normally would.   I’m in too minds now.  Am I being over optimistic and are the net trellises too tall or do they need to be shortened further?  (I did drop them down a little bit this season.) Or was it just a bad season and next year they will willingly scramble to the top?

The old cucumber bed

A sign of a good season is how long it takes to clear the bed. Sadly there wasn’t much dead and dying debris to remove here, but maybe next season there will be more to clear away.

 

The new garlic bed

To prepare the ground for the garlic I added blood and bone and Dynamic Lifter which are both enriched with seaweed and other goodies the plants and micro communities love!

We will have to wait until next season, because for now, in a crop rotation revamp, the garlic will take their place shortly.   I had the garlic before the cucumber last season and following the leafy greens.  The problem is the leafy greens are still there doing their thing and will be until the spring so the garlic can’t move over into its bed, and certainly not now, the rainbow beet is flourishing.  I looked at all the other crops in the sector 3 cycle and the root crops are in all winter, the broad beans, even though I don’t really like them, they are lovely to grow over the winter for a bit of height and will make the bean bed ‘occupied’, so the only logical thing is to swap the cucumbers for the garlic.  The cucumbers end long before I need their bed, the beans before them will nourish the soil for the garlic and the leafy greens will be long finished before it is warm enough to plant out the cucumbers.

Home made compost

Then I applied a good thick layer of homemade compost. It is such a satisfying feeling to use your own, knowing what goes into it – including one of my good dinner knives – opps!

 

Garlic bed

And now we wait. I can’t remember when I started it last year – I think it was May 1st but as it is an early variety it can pretty much go in any time from April onwards and the earlier the start the better chance it has of beating the rust.

Sometimes sorting out the finer details can take a bit of fiddling about, but I think this should be the last fiddle in my crop rotation setup.    These days my to do list for the week is set with a wander around the garden deciding what crops need to come out next. 

 

Come again soon – I think a garden tour is due.

 

Sarah the Gardener  : o)

 

 

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