Not if you’ve just spent ages watering the garden with a good deep soak after days of no rain!
I haven’t done much in the garden lately. One of the consequences of finding the festive spirit. So today I was determined to make the day about the garden and I was a little bit worried about what I would find. But thanks to my handy dandy weeding and watering rotation system – although I have only managed one cycle, it was enough to hold the garden in a state of respectability.
Today was one of those hot muggy days with high cloud. One of those days when it is hot from the moment you get out of bed, and it was sticky. It is still very much a novelty to feel the summer heat. No one is complaining about it yet, they are all saying how lovely it is. But instinct told me that I should disregard my wee system and focus on watering. Things were starting to look a little peaky.
I am so grateful for my irrigation system, although I wish I had more than one tap! I spent the entire day setting the timer on my phone and turning the hose on. My day was broken up into 22 fifteen minute intervals. I think I need to change my ringtone because I am so sick of that tune. But each bed got a good descent drink and in some cases I even feed them – lucky tomatoes and peppers!
Meanwhile, I got on with all sorts of other tasks – some dreadfully overdue, like removing the spring planter buckets from the front door as Hubby the Un-Gardener was always moaning that all the dead foliage looked really ugly, and I guess he had a point – I just never really got round to moving them. Others were just necessary – like cleaning out the chicken coop.
Those girls are so funny. I chose to do this job first and it must have been egg laying time. I must have messed with their routine, because I took the nesting boxes away to scrub them clean and they squawked about the coop with their legs crossed, complaining bitterly. I put the first box back in and then came back with the next one to find three chickens in the one box, sitting on top of each other!
Later in the day a large tractor showed up to bale the grass we had cut a few days earlier. We decided to make silage, rather than bales of hay as the silage is all wrapped up and can be stored outside, but hay would require us to tidy out the shed to make room for it, and at this time of year, there is too much other stuff to do. This is where you can tell we aren’t real farmers, because real farmers wouldn’t decide what to do with their grass based on a reluctance to tidy a shed.
Then it happened… a lovely hot sticky day spent watering my entire garden for over FIVE hours and then – the heavens open and rain pours out. Not a dribbly insignificant splatter, but a full on down pour. The kind the quenches a parched earth. The thing is – I didn’t have a parched earth, it was already quenched! My first thoughts were “seriously?! – you’ve got to be kidding me!”
I was going to make elderflower champagne and elderflower cordial for Christmas, but you are supposed to pick the flowers when they are dry so that stopped those plans. But I was still able to harvest a load of peas, strawberries, asparagus and broccoli – Oh and my first couple of Zukes – and so the harvest truly begins.
To make up for the lack of elderflower goodness, I decided to make the Christmas cake – I know it’s late, but I have a fabulous last minute recipe. I was foiled by the cake too! I read my lovely recipe and it says to soak the fruit in sherry for THREE DAYS! I want to make my cake now! Although it’s probably a good thing… I think I’ve done enough for one day!
Come again soon – I still have to tackle a few weeds before they become a jungle.
Sarah the Gardener : o )
There are 16 sleeps until Christmas and finally I have found the Christmas feeling, and all it took was a change in the weather. We are on our second consecutive day of clear blue skies, hot sunny days and the birds are singing and all is right will the world. Now we have captured the Christmas spirit, all we need to do is keep it. We will have to act quickly to get everything done, as we really don’t know how long this gorgeous weather will last.
Our first act of grabbing a slice of Christmas was to get a tree. We went of one of the numerous corner stands that have popped up everywhere and handed over our money, which seems significantly more than in years gone by. But not only has the price changed, but the trees themselves have changed – They come from Christmas tree farms and they are much shorter and more plump, fuller and perfect (except the one with cow poop on it – which I considered as an option so I could transfer the poop to the compost!) Although this didn’t stop me choosing three, one of which made it to the roof of the car -and then changing my mind before I settled on a less than perfect one in an attempt to recapture my childhood.
When I was a child the local Lions club would organise cattle trucks filled with forestry trimmings and bring them down from the hills to a local park on two weekends in December. So everyone was there, trying to pick through the best branches for one that looked most like a tree. If you were lucky you even managed to get a small tree. The smell of the pine was and still is amazing. (We have pinus radiata here and the only alternative is plastic).
Mum and Dad would spend ages picking through the trees, arguing – “no that’s too fat, too curved, too short, too tall, has no branches….” Then the lucky tree would get taken home, only to discover that it was indeed too tall and Dad would have to cut a considerable chunk off the bottom, and then it would be positioned in prime position in the living room, held upright with a load of string and drawing pins in the wall. Then in would be decorated with great excitement and over time presents would appear within its open branches and Mum would end up overcome with hayfever. Such a grand memory.
Our less than perfect, perfect tree just isn’t the same as those trees of old, but it holds our memories and so that makes it special in its own little way. Each year we buy or make one new ornament and so decorating the tree becomes a trip down memory lane, although I’d like to say because the trees seem smaller, but we have so many ornaments there is hardly room for the tinsel.
After collecting the tree and wedging in a bucket in the corner of the living room, we headed back into town for the local Christmas parade. Gosh I’m such a big kid – with the first float I got an excited feeling in my tummy. There was the traditional bagpipe band, police on horseback, the fire brigade, a brass band and Santa. But what makes it special is the whole community comes together to make floats to represent their groups – school, commercial and social and they complete for a chance to win best in parade, where they receive kudos and a cup. The theme this year was a story book theme, and I think the Lions should really have received a prize for their interpretation of the Lion, the witch and the wardrobe!
Our school is a very small country school and so it is a huge effort to make ourselves stand out over the larger schools, but this year, with almost every student on the float, we pulled off an amazing representation of Charlie and the Chocolate Factory that we won first prize for Schools! Such a proud moment!
So we came home and celebrated with one of those amazing summer BBQs where we sat outside all evening as the kids ran through the garden well into the night and played underneath a clear sky heavy with stars, well beyond the time that any of them would normally be in bed.
All is restored – Christmas and summer are back on track!
Come again soon – normal gardening chit chat will resume shortly.
Sarah the Gardener : o )
Although I have to say – it hasn’t been continuous – there have been dry bits. It’s just there has been some rain EVERY DAY! But still – it’s supposed to be summer – you know – ice cream cones, getting wet by swimming at the beach not being drenched because you can’t find your umbrella, T shirts and shorts – not jeans and jumpers. It is supposed to be hot. Driving around in the car with the aircon on is one of the simple pleasures of the chaos that is Christmas shopping. I don’t even feel like doing any Christmas shopping. The weather is all wrong – so I’m not in the right mood!
The upside is the garden is loving it. Everything is so lush and green. The spinach has gone all spinachy, whereas last week I was beginning to doubt whether it would come to anything at all as it looked like it was about to bolt. The cucumbers, zukes and squash have begun to move after just sitting there for over a month doing nothing at all.
But the plants aren’t the only greenery going nuts – the grass has gone all long and is making the feel of the garden all scruffy and out of control. It doesn’t seem all that long ago that I mowed the garden, but now it’s like it never happened at all. But mowing in the rain isn’t recommended, and isn’t very pleasant either!
Another upside is I don’t need to be out there with the hose, however the time taken to water the beds was supposed to be spent weeding, but these unwanted interlopers are getting a free reign in my fertile soil while I’m trapped inside watching the rain fall and trying really hard to feel festive. I’m going to have to get out there when it dries out and give my precious plants a bit of a feed to give back what has been stolen so brazenly!
The other problem is that harvesting of things like strawberries and peas isn’t being done with enthusiasm – in fact it’s not being done at all. It breaks my heart to think of the strawberries that are very possibly going all smooshy in the rain, but as much as I love strawberries, I’m not in a hurry to catch a cold or other nasty lurgy, that would interfere with the Christmas preparations and fun on a grander scale than a bit of rain.
The weather boffins reckon we will see clear blue skies again in about 5 days, but only for three days until the sunshine returns to its liquid form, like some kind on fairy tale princess out passed midnight. But having said that I don’t really trust the boffins. They are always wrong and the recent advice to farmers was to prepare for drought this summer…. Just in case! I love a decisive boffin!
So here I am … inside, damp, and in desperate need of a yule attitude. Maybe I should deck some halls…
Come again soon – we will find the jolly-ness if we have to kidnap the fat man himself!
Sarah the Gardener : o )
The first day held a lot of promise, the sun was shining, there was a light breeze, but the temperatures were still a little cool, and instead of hiding in the shade from the heat of the sun, everyone wanted to be in its rays to bask in its warmth.
The second day was windy and grey that turned into that rain that isn’t really proper rain because the drops are really tiny. The kind of rain that just wets everything but doesn’t actually get into the soil and so the gardener is faced with the irony of having to get the hose out in the rain. The wind was strong enough to knock my sweet peas and their frame over. So I was out there, getting wet slowly, trying to fix it back into place but with stronger fastenings.
But that’s ok because day three of this wonderful season called summer has begun with proper rain drops and a dark sky that says I’ll have you forgetting what the sun looks and feels like in no time. This is more like what a winter’s day looks like, but not as cold.
I guess I was expecting some miraculous change when the date changed from spring to summer. The boffins at the weather office have been saying that the summer will be average or above for temperature and average or below for rainfall and I pinned all my hopes on this being true from the get go.
The festive season has begun to interfere with my plan for gardening organisation. I implemented my weeding watering roster full week ago and so far only half has been weeded and only three sections have received the watering regime, although thanks to the rain, this is no longer a nagging concern. But the weeds in the undone half are laughing at me.
Maybe I should work with the weather and head to the shops to take care of our Christmas wants and needs while the rain is preventing me from gardening so that when the sun comes out (as I’m sure it will) the need to shop doesn’t prevent me from getting out in the garden taking care of those weeds!
It seems like an age since I was able to be in the garden and I miss it terribly. But when I look back at the calendar, it’s only been five days.
Come again soon – I’m desperate to get my hands in the soil again – they are starting to go all soft.
Sarah the Gardener : o )
I told myself that I would take a weekly photo of the garden and post it on a Wednesday because the garden is growing so fast that the monthly one just isn’t enough to do it justice. Since I made this decision I have taken the photos on a Wednesday but I have failed to post on a Wednesday and have only just managed to post it on a Thursday. But I get there in the end. So without further ado…
It starting to feel a little bit more like summer, it’s still a little overcast, but the temperatures are warming up. It seems enough to perk up the cucumbers and they have started to visibly grow and even have some baby cukes! But it hasn’t rained for a while and the garden is becoming one of two things – rock hard or dusty. I’m not sure how the beds decide in which direction to go as they have mostly been treated equally by me. Maybe they have a roster system amongst themselves and whisper to each other at night… “NO, I want to go rock hard like concrete – last year I was all dusty and parts of me blew away!”
In the winter I curse our sodden swamp soil as it is soggy, boggy and impossible to work with. However in summer it is a completely different story. Our soil is of a type known as the sponge of the soil world and can hold up to 20 times its weight in water. In summer this is a blessing. When all the hills around us are brown and dry, our grass is still green and verdant. But even better the soil only requires a deep watering now and again, as opposed to every day. Although a less frequent good deep watering is preferable to a quick squirt every day so the roots grow deep and find their own moisture, instead of hanging out near the surface looking for their next quick fix!
The other thing to keep on top of, is the weeds – the scourge of the garden. But I am pleased to say that so far so good – I have a degree of control over this one. The problem is keeping it that way. So I came up with a handy dandy roster. I’m actually a bit of a closet geek! I have laminated copies of a map of my garden that I use to organise my planting schedule and write notes about what needs doing in each bed.
So I washed a map clean and relabelled all the beds. Then I divided the whole thing into four sections where one section is being watered, while I weed the section that was watered the previous day, so the soil should be soft and the weeds should come out easily.
This is all made possible by the fact that I have gone nuts with irrigation and each bed has sprinklers and soaker hoses, depending on if it likes overhead watering or not! So I set the timer on my phone and plug a bed into the hose, and then go off and do some weeding. So far so good it seems to be working well. I have done it for two days and have had two days off. Half of my garden is looking great, but I planned this four day roster to actually stretch out to a week as I knew I wouldn’t be able to manage every day. I’ll just give stuff an extra water if they look peaky. So bring on summer – I’m ready for you and your heat and dry! I have a hose and a plan!
Coming again soon – I need to get out there – the strawberries won’t pick themselves – well, if I don’t get on to it before the kids come home from school they will.
Sarah the Gardener : o )
For those of you who don’t know… I’ve written a book. A proper one. A year’s worth of my blogs and stories from a garden blogging competition has been turned into a book. Its called “The Good Life four glorious seasons in my country garden” and has been sponsored by the company that ran the competition: Yates – the most respected seed company in Australia and New Zealand and published by Harper Collins. It is currently at the printers and should be released in stores in Australia and NZ in March next year, but I have been given the go ahead to show you what it will look like! I’m really excited, but at the same time I cant believe it. It has all happened so fast. It wasn’t in my 2012 New Years Resolutions to write a book, but here I am, with a book and the year isn’t even finished yet!
So I had to get myself a website to bring all my stuff together, and hopefully I’ll be able sell books for overseas readers from next year if any one would be interested. I’ve had loads of fun making the website and it has all sorts of extra stuff like photos and recipes and a calendar of everything I’ve done in the garden – oh and all sorts of cool stuff. Go and check it out: Sarah the Gardener.co.nz
I’ve also had to join the world of facebook, which is actually completely new to me as I have never had a page before. So I’m not entirely sure how it works but search for “Sarah the Gardener” and there I’ll be. And don’t forget I have a You Tube channel where I give tours of my garden. Look for gardeningkiwi or click here!
Oh and while I’m here can someone please tell me why my blog “goats love kale”, which I like, but don’t think it’s my best blog, is my highest viewed blog? It gets more hits than my home page! I’m quite happy for people to continue to read this blog, but it just baffles me that there is this great secret going on, and I don’t know what it is!
Come again soon – I need to go and harvest more strawberries and peas than I know what to do with!
Sarah the Gardener : o )
My poor raspberries… Oh how I neglect you. Last year I moved my raspberries from the orchard, to the veggie patch as you really need to keep a constant watch over them, especially at harvest time, when you really need to pick every day. At the moment it takes all my greatest efforts to get to the orchard as there are two paddocks with the tallest grass, waiting to be made into hay. Normally we mow a path when the grass is still short, but this year it didn’t happen, so you have to bush crash your way to the orchard and it is really knackering!
So it is just as well the raspberries were moved as they have started to fruit. I was quite pleased to see them, although I don’t really need to worry too much about the birds, because the kids seem to beating them, and me, to the ripest (and not so ripe) red berries. I thought they looked OK – not quite shop bought quality, but they were homemade so were allowed to be a little manky. Then I went to a doo – one where you have to bring a plate, and this lovely lady brought the most amazing dish. A sweet pastry shell filled with a cream cheese and grated chocolate mix and topped with raspberries. So Good! But the raspberries were so amazing – plumper, bigger, fresher and sweeter and generally much nicer than anything I’d seen in a store. And she’d grown them – they were from her garden!
Then I realised my raspberries were not living to their full potential! Coming home from that doo, I looked at my raspberries and realised the problem – I was neglecting them dreadfully. This needed to stop. Immediately.
When I moved them I spent so much effort in making sure the soil conditions were perfect and they had everything they needed. But I failed to keep they weed free and I never watered or feed them. Opps! So now there is my evil nemesis growing amongst them, shading them out with their umbrella like leaves. Dock – oh how I hate it! The only bright side I can see is it seems to have prevented other weeds from even getting a look in. The thing is Dock has this really stubborn long tap root and at this stage to wrench them all up, will disturb the raspberries in the midst of their full and flourishing growth phase, and I don’t want that, so I went through with my snips and chopped them all off at the base. I have noticed areas where we have regularly mown what was once a Dock infested nightmare, has pretty much no Dock at all now, so I think regular cutting back with eventually get them… here’s hoping.
As I removed each cluster of stalks and leaves, you could almost feel the raspberries breathe a sigh of relief as the light flooded in and suddenly there was enough room around them for the air to flow. You could see right through the patch to the other side.
Then I gave them a huge drink of water and will give them a slap up dinner today and then make sure they get a regular meal and liquid refreshments so they can grow to be all they can be. I want raspberries that look and taste as good as my friend’s ones.
I have also finally figured out how to care for the raspberries once they have finished fruiting for me. You see I have two kinds – summer ones and autumn ones and when I moved them I tried to keep them separate, but didn’t really know where they started and ended and I didn’t want to treat the summer ones in the ways of the autumn ones and ruin everything – so I did nothing. It’s what I normally do when I don’t know what to do.
But now I know which is which – because some are fruiting and some aren’t so I put in a marker to show the frontier between summer and autumn and so when the time comes I shall clear fell my autumn ones and just chop the old canes out of the summer ones – easy.
So now I feel like I have mastered the raspberries – I am in control of them, they no longer run wild, but there have been some consequences – I ache all over, my poor body is stiff and when I walk, I kinda hobble and worst of all is I have what seems to be a thousand tiny prickles and scratches all over my hands and arms… It’s jolly lucky they taste so good. I don’t know if I’d go to the same effort for broccoli if it had prickles!
Come again soon – the garden is looking so fantastic, I’ll probably need to, ever so humbly, brag about it in the days ahead.
Sarah the Gardener : o )
Today we had an eruption, but it was a bit of a “go nowhere” eruption – it was only a big ash plume – no rocks the size of mini’s being tossed or bubbling hot lava and the main bit was over before it started. Exciting, but not terrifying!
For the last couple of days the weather has been verging on something that resembles summer. There is a mounting excitement as summer not only brings warmer weather and longer days; it also brings the end of the school year and Christmas. The kids are starting to get that restless excitement that is synonymous with the beginning of summer.
At least the kids can run about outside now. Although it hasn’t always been like that. A mere four days ago it was cold, wet and miserable and no-one went outside. There was no point – it was too yucky and then the next day was brighter with no rain, but a wind that would have taken you to a whole new location if you wore anything remotely baggy. My peas took a real hammering – it looked like elephants had been dancing in my pea bed. So while it nearly feels like summer, I’m not trusting the weather just yet.
I think it has been a colder spring than usual and my plants – instead of growing frantically, are just sitting there in their holes in the soil – shivering and refusing to move. But they are all shivering together as everything is now in; including the beans, as I finally got them planted. I sowed two of each kind, and there are 12 climbing beans and 9 dwarf ones. That’s 42 beans in total, not counting the row of red kidney beans. Not bad considering we don’t like beans all that much!
So despite the great excitement beyond the boundaries of my garden, within them, there hasn’t been a lot going on. Having said that, yesterday I got Hubby the Un-Gardener and the boys to plant out their Giant Pumpkin Seedlings. I love how they get all competitive, boasting how they will have the biggest, yet in between these momentous moments – sowing seed, planting out and the big weigh in – they don’t really give their plants a second thought and it is all down to me to keep them alive. Well that’s the way it’s always been – maybe this year will be different – Nah… probably not!
I have started to take my panoramic photo once a week so I could see if there was any actual growth. But then I looked at the photo and realised that I couldn’t see passed the peas as they were too tall. So I came around the other side and took another photo in the opposite direction, so now I have the garden covered.
I have harvested a whole load of artichokes and we spoiled ourselves by eating the largest ones in front of a movie, dipping each leaf into melted butter. It was better than popcorn! It’s a bit of a shame Tim the Helper is quite allergic to artichokes, because eating them is great fun!
It’s all really a bit boring now for a while as we just wait for things to come ripe. Sure there is weeding and watering to do, but that’s hardly the heady exciting days waiting for seeds to germinate!
Coming again soon – something exciting is bound to happen – or I may be forced to make something up!
Sarah the Gardener : o )
And I still haven’t finished planting out the garden. I feel like I am in some kind of race against time to get it all done. Most of the time the weather is my friend and it is warm and sunny, but we get these occasional spring showers that blow in from what seems like nowhere, dumps its load and disappears as quickly as it came. Spring showers are the best kind of rain as they moisten the soil in a way a hose never could, no matter how long you stood there. Today I planned out where my beans were to go, but one of those spring showers made it impossible to continue. Either that or I’m getting a bit soft.
We had a full solar eclipse today and I kinda missed it. I knew it was coming, but I was working so hard digging out my old compost pile to make a home for my pumpkins that I forgot it was on. The light went all dark and funny and I thought to myself there must be something wrong with my eyes because it was like I was wearing sunglasses when I wasn’t. It didn’t occur to me to look up. Apparently it was the best full solar eclipse for ages and the next one won’t be until 2034. I’m not too disappointed in missing it as I’ve seen one before when I was a kid and if all goes well I’ll get to see it again before I’m elderly – provided I remember to look then!
But I got my pumpkins in to the best pumpkin patch ever! It was where I’d been dumping weeds for a year or so and then stopped. I can’t remember why I stopped but the weeds turned into this rich black soil. So I decided to dig it over for the pumpkins because they like that sort of thing. But what I forgot is I had dumped the weeds on top of building rubble. So I had to heave and strain and drag all these chunks of concrete out of my new garden bed. I have just left them lying where I heaved them to and will have to get Hubby the Un-Gardener to move them as they are too heavy. I’m surprised I managed to get them out of the bed at all.
The garden is really coming along now and we are starting to eat stuff and not just a nibble here and a nibble there. We are having meals from the garden. The peas are filling out in their pods and are so sweet and delicious. Some meals I don’t even cook them, and we just eat them fresh. The asparagus is still going crazy and the lettuce tastes so good that we are having so many salads. The radishes are ready but I keep forgetting to eat them. I really need to remember before they go too far.
Oh and I can’t forget to mention the strawberries. I am picking a large bowlful every other day, and we are eating them all in one go. The other night we each had a bowlful of strawberries that had been marinated in a little sugar for an hour so the juice ran out and had them with ice cream… so good! Tonight we had strawberry smoothies. The blender was filled with strawberries and a dash of yoghurt to give the creaminess and it was amazing. I love to grow enough food, not just as a taster, but to really indulge.
I’ve had my first raspberries, despite the weeds growing amongst them, but I haven’t actually told anyone yet, so let’s just keep this as my little secret. Besides it is completely impractical to cut raspberries into four!
The tomatoes are coming along and we are starting to see small green balls appearing where flowers once were. There is still a long way to go before we see any red, but it is really encouraging to see green at this stage. Everywhere I look is encouraging signs – although I avert my eyes when I’m near the brassicas or the currants to I don’t notice the goat damage, which is slowly recovering.
Come again soon – I’ve still got so much more to do before I can allow the spring garden to become a summer one.
Sarah the Gardener : o )
And sure enough there was. Somehow she managed to escape our best efforts to keep her restrained and found herself wandering freely about the place. So decided to come and see us in the house. The problem is the route she took was via my veggie garden.
This is the very same garden that I have lovingly cared for – for months! And everything was now at what I can only described as ready and waiting. All my plants and seedlings are all safely tucked up in a nice rich soil waiting for the day when they will explode with a summer harvest. I was really proud of how it was looking and looking ahead smugly to all the goodies we will be able to eat.
Well that vision has been cut short thanks to Snowy. I can now say with impunity that she was never my favourite goat – Sweetie is. She started giving the currants a good old trim and in one short munching my crop is reduced by at least two thirds – grrr. Even more annoying is I had only just replaced the dead black currant with a cutting I had been growing ALL YEAR! I’m not sure it will survive. I have a spare – but she trimmed that too! Although not as bad!
Then she decided she didn’t actually like red cabbage or her eye spied and old favourite. Goats do indeed love Kale. She munched one right down past the growing point – it will need to be replaced. Luckily I was able to pull a kale seedling out of a box that was full of my spare seedlings and was ready and waiting to be given away in a few short hours. The other Kale plant wasn’t as badly attacked as the one that was so brutally destroyed!
Then she decided she’d had enough to eat and decided to come and see us for a cuddle… but to add insult to injury – just as I discovered her – I was right on time to watch her eat the growing tip of my Christmas lily. This is even more bitter as normally a calf club animal managed to do it sometime between august and October and this year my Christmas lilies had come through calf club season unscathed.
I tell you – she didn’t get a cuddle – she got frog marched back to where she should be so she could plot her next escape and I came inside to seethe inwardly and plan and even stronger fortification to contain even the most determined wayward goat!
Come again soon – hopefully the passing of time will ease my anger and frustration and we may laugh about this some day.
Sarah the Gardener : o )