SARAH THE GARDENER

I had a little lemon tree…

After all my hard work lately - I couldn't resist taking a mid-month panoramic progress photo

After all my hard work lately – I couldn’t resist taking a mid-month panoramic progress photo

It has been about five years since we began out rural adventure and one of the first things I did was purchase a lemon tree and planted it in orchard area.  As the orchard filled with all manner of fruiting tree, my citrus collection also grew.  I added grapefruit, lemonade, mandarin, tangelo and a lime.

I have since found out citrus don’t like wet feet!  It’s not like I planted them directly into a bog – I put them in the highest point of the orchard, but we do live on what was once a swamp – there is no way around it – it gets wet here from time to time, so needless to say I have one by one killed all the citrus – all but one.  The lemon.  It seems to have this bizarre will to live, despite its circumstances.

The other day we were in the orchard planting a new tree and Hubby the Un-Gardener wandered over to check on the lemon.  Disappointed with its inability to provide him with slices of lemon to poke into his beer bottle on a hot sunny day, he took matters into his own hands – and dug it up.  Then he brought it to the garden and said “Sarah the Gardener – try and fix this please.”

Not exactly a fine specimen!

Not exactly a fine specimen!

It was smaller than it was when we planted it and the root ball that had been dug up with it was bound together with weeds.  It had about half a dozen yellowing leaves, lichen was beginning to grow on its branches – but it was still green so there was still hope.  I took the hose and blasted away at the roots, and revealed a root system more pathetic than the leaf structure.  This tree had not been living in the orchard – it had been existing – clinging on to life – for five years!

Recuperating in the Bucket Infirmary

Recuperating in the Bucket Infirmary

I figured with such a will to live, it deserved the only the best of care.  So I created the Bucket Infirmary and planted the tree into a bucket rich in all the nutrients that a lemon loves, and watered it in well.  Once it begins to show signs of recovery and life, I’ll move it to a more semi-permanent home in a Convalescent Container, where it can stretch its roots and blossom with its new found freedom.  Then we will take some time to select the perfect location for a final destination so it can grow into a strong and mighty lemon tree and Hubby the Un-Gardener can sit in the shade of its branches after a hard days digging with a beer with a slice of home grown lemon poked into the bottle.

This beautiful flower is an Aquilegia - grannies bonnet - the first one to pop up!

This beautiful flower is an Aquilegia – grannies bonnet – the first one to pop up!

Well… that’s the plan – so far so good!

Come again soon – spring is in full swing!

Sarah the Gardener  : o )

NB:  I’ve made a wee film and loaded it onto You Tube so you can see how my garden looks this October!  Check it out >here<

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I HATE MY GREENHOUSE…

… With a passion.  I hate it so much. I hate its stupid flimsy aluminium frame held together with crappy bolts that don’t hold together.  I hate its supposedly wonderful new generation polycarbonate panels that just crack and perish under our searingly hot UV sun.  It’s such a crappy design that even the insurance company won’t insure it – even though it cost me a small fortune.  I hate how the design doesn’t hold the polycarbonate panels in place and the job is left up to duct tape – while being a wonder tape – even this can’t overcome the crappyness of the greenhouse.  I hate how it can’t stand up to the slightest breeze.

I bet you can guess where this is going….

This is a disaster!

This is a disaster!

While the stupid greenhouse is actually still standing – which is some kind of miracle in itself, it has withstood gusts this morning of up to 50km/hour, but the stupid flimsy thing bent and bowed like and old accordion and then resumed the usual position, standing there all innocent – like nothing was wrong when I went to water my newly transplanted seedlings.

The bowing of the south wall caused the freestanding shelf along its inside wall to fall over.  Or was it pushed, by a nasty, cantankerous, bad tempered hunk of polycarbonate junk!  On the floor was a jumbled mess of tomato, pepper, broccoli, and salad seedlings.  I guess there would have been a tangled mess of at least 50 seedlings!  I know there were a lot because it took me all afternoon on Sunday to transplant them!

Luckily because they were recently transplanted the soil around them was loose-ish and so they had been tumbled from their pots and not snapped and broken.  I was able to put most of them back into pots – although most likely not the pots they came from and there were only a couple of pots missing a plant.  Some of the smaller tomato seedlings may have dried out in the time it took for me to find them, but I have watered them well and can only hope and pray they will be ok.

It may look like order has been restored - but chaos still reigns because I don't know who is who!

It may look like order has been restored – but chaos still reigns because I don’t know who is who!

The biggest devastation was my flower seeds.  I’d planted them in a big flat seed tray and they were just starting to come up in cute tiny little rows.  I managed to flip the soil back into the tray in a swift continuous movement that put most of it back in, but the rows are gone – the labels are next to useless because even if I knew where they went – I can’t guarantee that’s where the seeds have ended up – or even if they are there at all.  I’ve never had much luck with flowers!

It’s just as well I have kept a spread sheet of all my seedlings, as there are quite a few peppers, chillies and tomatoes that I really don’t have a clue who they are.  I will do a roll call and mark off all the known plants.  I have put all the ones that I’m not sure of on a shelf by themselves and hopefully they will reveal themselves later – although I doubt it!  I’ve pulled all the shelves in from the wall so that the walls would have to be on the point of snapping before they could shove my seeds around again!

A small heron that crash landed on our lawn in a gust of wind - he was ok - just a little dazed!

A small heron that crash landed on our lawn in a gust of wind – he was ok – just a little dazed!

It’s so frustrating.  The season was shaping up to be the best ever.  I was organised and confident.  I had a plan and it was falling into place.  It was all going so well… The thing is do I sow more?  Is there time? I don’t know what to do…

Come again soon – I am seriously looking in to a greenhouse upgrade – starting immediately!

Sarah the Gardener  : o )

The sweet blessing of rain.

I never in a million years would be guessed that I would be pleased to see rain, so soon after the recent weeks of heavy rain and sodden soil.  But I am.

The garden a few weeks ago...  I thought it would never dry out!

The garden a few weeks ago… I thought it would never dry out!

Just a few short weeks ago we were having the worst spring rain.  The ground was so soggy that it would only take a half hour shower to cause water to lie on the surface of the grass.  Then it stopped and things started to dry out and I breathed a sigh of relief and grabbed my spade and was finally able to start preparing the soil for the spring season.  The soil was still a little damp, but soon it would be the lovely soft crumbly spring soil that is perfect for planting into.

Only that didn’t happen, the rain was replaced with a wind – not all that strong, but persistent, and the sun while not strong and mostly hidden by high clouds, made its welcome warmth felt.  The wind and the sun worked together to dry out the soil and it was coming along nicely until I realise that they were too great a team – they had completely dried out the soil going straight from soggy to concrete in a week, completely bypassing the soft crumbly stage!

This cracking isn't supposed to happen - not so soon in the season!

This cracking isn’t supposed to happen – not so soon in the season!

Beds that were recently underwater had deep cracks in them.  They needed water – desperately. And in a way that a hose just can’t do it no matter how long it is left to sprinkle over the garden.  All day yesterday the clouds looked full with rain, but were high in the sky and just teased us by releasing a few light fluffy drops at a time that evaporated before they had time to dampen anything!

Then overnight the heavens must have opened, not in flood proportions, but just the right amount that if I hit the previously rock solid lumps of dried soil, I’m imagining they will just crumble away, leaving a perfect growing medium.  Well that is my hope as I look out the window on a dry but overcast  start to the day.  Today I’ll be digging – well maybe Hubby the Un-Gardener will be digging, and I’ll supervise.

Well I can’t do all the digging – I have to transplant my seedlings.  There are quite a few tomatoes and peppers with true leaves now and the ones I did before need bigger pots as there is still three weeks before I’m prepared to risk putting anyone outside in the open.

Luckily there is a lot of recipes for asparagus - although my favourite is simply steamed!

Luckily there is a lot of recipes for asparagus – although my favourite is simply steamed!

Then there is all the asparagus I need to harvest.  They looked like they had stalled, there were all these spears half in and half out of the ground, which hadn’t seem to have moved in a week, so I thought I’d give it a bit of a feed and sprinkled goodness all about, watered it in as their bed was cracking too, and I then thought no more about it.  The next morning the asparagus had gone nuts.  There was a forest – the ones in suspended animation had found the will to grow, but there was also all these other ones that weren’t there before at all!  And they haven’t let up since…  I wonder how much longer it will be before the family get sick of asparagus!

The colourful flowers beginning to show themselves in my first attempt at flower gardening

The colourful flowers beginning to show themselves in my first attempt at flower gardening

Come again soon – I’ve been doing a bit of horticultural healing.

Sarah the Gardener  : o )

It’s been a bit of a broken week….

I keep breaking things!  I broke a blueberry, a new tool, broke my budget, broke a nail and very nearly broke Hubby the Un-Gardener!

There are blossoms everywhere

There are blossoms everywhere

Spring is really starting to kick in, the days are getting much warmer, although a sudden breeze can drop the temperature quite dramatically in a matter of minutes, and we’ve had a couple of frosts.  Having learnt from previous years that all seeds have different germination and growth rates, and it is much better to wait until after the safe planting date – which is still a month away, I’m actually enjoying the preparation this spring.

I have staggered my sowings and so each short burst is a pleasure.  In the past when I have sat down to sow everything at once I get a bit fed up with it towards the end and instead of gently placing seeds – I just lob them in, especially the tiny ones.  I still have two more batches of seeds to sow – the Zukes, squash and pumpkins because once they pop up their growth seems to be exponential and outgrow their pots before it is safe to plant them outside.  The last lot to go in will be the ones that like to be sown direct, so hopefully by the time they pop up; all risk of frost will have past.

The digging and weeding, is coming along nicely.  There isn’t much to do as I managed to keep things largely under control over the winter.  Although there is one bed that still looks very much like a jungle and I seem to be putting it off.  I even started to weed the overgrown raspberries, until they started to bite me back… those things have prickles!  I have stopped working on the raspberries until I get some better gloves – my poor hands are in tatters!

I was a couple of days late taking this month's photo, but you can see how much has changed since....

I was a couple of days late taking this month’s photo, but you can see how much has changed since….

... Last month

… Last month

Most of the digging is to raise the bed levels now they have a new wooden layer on them and that’s a job for Hubby the Un-Gardener.  I’m just a poor wee thing and would never have it done on time.  Today I nearly broke him – well the wheelbarrow is definitely broken now and so he is using a hand trolley and a large plastic rubbish bin to move my dirt.  I thought I’d kill two birds with one stone and get him to use the dirt in the part of the pile that I want to move the Jerusalem Artichokes to… therefore I can re-plant in a hurry before they start to sprout (last minute decision) and he can fill a bed at the same time.  But he misunderstood me and almost completely filled the nearest bed with soil from the wrong place.  He was not impressed when I told him.  Poor guy – he’s really knackered tonight!

One of the jobs I had been putting off for a long time was to move the last blueberry into a raised bed, to get it out of the damp soil, so I carefully dug it out – only I didn’t get all of it.  I only got the top half.  The roots are still somewhere lurking in among the muddy sticky soil – opps!  I raced out and bought a new one that was about the same size so no-one will ever know – except for the fact there is a blueberry bush in a jar of water in the greenhouse, pretending to be a giant cutting!

Do you think this bush will grow new roots?

Do you think this bush will grow new roots?

When I went shopping for the blueberry bush all kinds of gardening related paraphernalia somehow jumped into my trolley.  I honestly didn’t see that coming – I had a very short list – irrigation connectors for my potato irrigation and a blueberry.  How I came home with all this other stuff I’m not quite sure – but it cost an arm and a leg!

One of the things I bought was a handy dandy grass cutter scissor type tool; because my new lawn mower doesn’t get as close to the beds as the old mower and the beds were looking quite scruffy.  It was such a fun tool to use, but I got a bit carried away and broke it the very next day – opps!  Well it was the bottom of the line, because I wasn’t sure it would work.  Now that I know that it does, I’ll get a better one when I take my broken one back to the store.

Even Hubby the Un-Gardener thought my grass cutter tool was fun to use!

Even Hubby the Un-Gardener thought my grass cutter tool was fun to use!

I have planted out my potatoes so they should be ready for Christmas day, and then I set up a soaker hose irrigation system for when the weather gets a lot hotter and drier – although I can hardly imagine that now!  I thought I’d give it a bit of test drive and plugged in the hose.  The top layer of soil didn’t seem to get damp at all, so I left if there and after a while there was all this water lying about on the ground and I couldn’t work out where it had come from, until I realised it was seeping out from under the bed.  I hope I haven’t drowned my potatoes!  That would be a disaster – a self-inflicted disaster!

Don't leave these things on too long - it can be detrimental to the health of your plants!

Don’t leave these things on too long – it can be detrimental to the health of your plants!

Come again soon – I’m so proud of how the garden is coming along, I can’t wait do another update – although I have to do the work first!

Sarah the Gardener  : o )

PS:  I have a confession to make…  I’m blogging somewhere else as well as here!  I couldn’t help myself and am participating in our local NZ Yates Veggie growing challenge – for the 4th time.  I’m not trying to win it… just hanging out, because it’s a great seasonally local place to be with other gardeners doing what I’m doing at the same time!  If you want to check me out you can click >here<.  I’ll be there until late December…  But I’ll still be here too!

Quince blossoms are so lovely

Quince blossoms are so lovely

I grew mulch!

I have come up with a novel way of sourcing mulch for my garden and I’m so excited!

I have always been a bit flummoxed when it comes to mulch.  I understand the importance of it – to keep weeds down and moisture in, but when you have a large garden and a small shoestring budget; buying in enough good quality mulch to go around is not an option.

My wheat crop - stolen from the mouths of chickens

My wheat crop – stolen from the mouths of chickens

It’s not just the cost that was causing me concern, but what to use as mulch was just a bewildering.  There are so many different options, but I saw problems with most of them.  The most commonly used mulch seems to be wood chips, but when wood breaks down it robs the soil of nitrogen and I have recently discovered it that if you are prepared to wait three – five years you can get a really nice soil from broken down wood chips.  However I’m not patient – I want to grow my veggies now!  The other problem I see with wood chips in a veggie garden is that it would be really hard to get a fine tilth and that would be problematic for direct sowing small seeds like carrots and you can’t really grow them any other way.

It's really easy to harvest as the roots are really shallow

It’s really easy to harvest as the roots are really shallow

I could use hay and we have heaps available, but by the time we make our hay it is all full of weed seeds and so spreading it all around my garden wouldn’t suppress weeds, it would make the weed situation a thousand times worse!  Compost is also suggested as a mulch material, but it is a nutrient rich material that all plants – including weeds – love to grow in, so I can’t see how that could be classified as suitable mulch.

Grass clippings can be used as mulch, but if you lay it on too heavy it goes all slimy and prevents aeration of the soil and if it is too light and fluffy, the nastier weeds, like dock, just grow straight through it!  Newspaper works well but it is ugly and if it dries out – it blows away.

So, while I know using mulch is best practice, I really struggled to come up with a solution for my garden, until one day while feeding the chickens, I looked down at the wheat in my hand and I thought “hmmm…  I wonder…” so I decided to conduct a wee experiment.

All bundled up ready for drying

All bundled up ready for drying

We are blessed to have a mild enough winter that some things can grow right through and so after I pulled the corn out in the late summer I had an empty bed just staring at me, begging for some form of cultivation.  I stole food from the chickens and liberally sprinkled it about the bed and to my surprise – it grew!

It continued to grow steadily all winter and became such a lovely feature – the way it rustled in the wind and how good it felt to run your hand over it.  It was such a fresh lush green and gave the winter garden great structure.  Lately I have been noticing immature seed heads beginning to show themselves and I came to the decision it was time to pull them out before the wheat became a weed. So I spent a lovely day in the sun today harvesting my wheat.

I am really pleased with the result.  It is such a shallow rooted plant that it came up easily, there was probably only half a dozen other weed plants in there, so it had done an awesome job of keeping the weeds at bay all winter.  The soil is also heaps drier that the beds around it, so it has really helped to prevent soggy boggy soil – which is an unexpected bonus!  There were also loads of snails in there, but there will be heaps less in my spring garden as I was able to “take care of them!”

What better place to dry my wheat mulch than on the clothes drying rack!

What better place to dry my wheat mulch than on the clothes drying rack!

The wheat was then bundled up with string and hung out to dry on my washing rack.  Once is goes all dry and crispy, I will spread it about as a mulch – probably around my strawberries.  The cool thing is it was free, and even though it may have taken nutrients from the soil – so would have the weeds that would have normally resided in the bed over the winter; the nutrients will be returned to the soil as organic matter as the mulch breaks down.  So if I do this every year in every bed, then I should be able to create a closed system of nutrient cycling and I have solved my winter weed problem and my summer mulch problem.  Fantastic!

Another unexpected bonus is I’ll be planting the spuds in the old wheat bed instead of the bed I have chosen as it much drier and swapping it with the peppers doesn’t affect my crop rotation program and Hubby the Un-Gardener has already turned it over for me!

Come again soon – things are starting to really come together in the garden.

Sarah the Gardener  : o )

A weed by any other name

The sun shined almost all day today.  Once I was forced to shelter in the greenhouse and the other time the drops were so fat I thought that is was probably set in for the day so I came inside, scrubbed up and made a cuppa tea.  Then I looked out the window to see blue sky again.  This is the craziest weather.  The boffins at the weather office are predicting a cold snap with frosts and further south… snow.  We won’t get snow but a frosty morning or two wouldn’t come as a complete surprise, especially at this time of year.

Self seeded calendula - while very beautiful, they are in the wrong place!

Self seeded calendula – while very beautiful, they are in the wrong place!

So a spring day with a couple of spring showers but mostly warm sunbeams really only mean one thing… get gardening.  I have what seems like a huge amount of work to be done so I went out into the garden and did a huge amount of work!

These asparagus took me by surprise - I thought I'd killed them by drowning!

These asparagus took me by surprise – I thought I’d killed them by drowning!

The first job I knew I needed to tackle was where the peppers were last year and where this year’s salad is due to go.  The problem is last year I had a whole load of flower seedlings I grew and didn’t have anywhere to put them.  I sowed the seeds with good intentions that never materialised.  I was also given some perennial flowers that were in my Nanas garden before she moved into an old folk’s home. I just had to find a space.  Meanwhile I was having such a dreadful time germinating peppers so there was heaps of space in the pepper bed where peppers should have been, so I ‘temporarily’ put the flowers in the gaps, and soon it was a beautiful riot of colourful flowers.

There are a lot of "weeds" in this bed. It feels so odd to think of a flower as a weed.

There are a lot of “weeds” in this bed. It feels so odd to think of a flower as a weed.

In the tradition of my gardening journey, having flowers in my veggie garden has taught me another valuable lesson:  if you are going to have flowers in your veggie garden, make sure you deadhead regularly and don’t let them go to seed!  Having said that Nigella – Love in the mist, has such a lovely seed head – almost as nice as the flower.  So guess what I have been doing – pulling out hundreds of Nigella seedlings.  At first it felt wrong.  These weren’t weeds they were flowers!  So I carefully rescued a dozen and transplanted them into pots for later, and the rest were destined for the compost heap.  If the transplanted ones don’t survive, as they had quite a tap root and I have also discovered plants with tap roots don’t transplant well; then I will just have to sow more seeds, which will seem ridiculous being as I just threw hundreds away!

So much better... Now I just need the soil to dry out!

So much better… Now I just need the soil to dry out!

But now the bed has been cleared to make way for the salad seedlings, and Hubby the Un-Gardener got in there and turned it over for me.  The soil is still a little too damp to plant anything yet – but with the imminent frost that’s probably a good thing, or I would have planted things.  I also got Hubby the Un-Gardener to turn over the soil in the “leafy greens” bed.  So the soil drying out program is now in full swing.

I think Hubby the Un-Gardener secretly likes digging... which is just as well as I have loads for him to do!

I think Hubby the Un-Gardener secretly likes digging… which is just as well as I have loads for him to do!

I need to sow my seed potatoes, but while the soil is weed free and kind of fluffy – it is still too wet.  I reckon if I put a cup of soil in my salad spinner I’d get a litre of water back out!  Well maybe I exaggerate – but I could make a decent pottery vase from the damp soil.  I need this bed to dry out or my potatoes will have chitted too far.  I’ve never over-chitted before.  I hope my spuds will be ok.

Definitely not a weed - a Ranunculus

Definitely not a weed – a beautiful Ranunculus

Spring freesia

Spring freesia

Come again soon – the garden is getting closer to being spring ready – so long as we don’t get any more spring showers.

Sarah the Gardener  : o)

The rat that drowned.

Well my DIY irrigation misting system in the greenhouse works - although maybe a little to well...

Well my DIY irrigation misting system in the greenhouse works – although maybe a little to well…

I haven’t been in the garden for ages – not since I managed to mow on the weekend.  Hang on – that was only five days ago!  It feels so much longer.  But not being able to garden for five days in a row is a bit of a hardship for this gardener.

The weekend was wonderful, sunny, warm and most importantly – not a drop of rain, and I was able to mow for the first time in what seems like months and the patch looks so much better for it.  I made a wee video and loaded it on to You Tube so I could actually see what state the garden was in when I look back from the heights of summer.  You can watch it >here<.  It doesn’t actually look too bad for having a mow.  However it does highlight just how much work still needs to be done.  There is about six weeks until our last frost date, but we’ll be away for two of those weeks so all of a sudden I only have a month to get the garden ready.

Not looking too bad - well it could be worse

Not looking too bad – well it could be worse

Just as it dawns on me just how much I still have do, the weather decides to make things a little tricky and it rained so heavily that the soil is very much back to soggy and boggy and the kids have taken to filling their water pistol directly from the lawn!  Weeding soggy soil is not practical – believe me, I’ve tried it before!  So I have to wait anxiously for the ground to dry out so I can prepare beds, conscious of the days passing me by without so much as weed pulled.

The time is right to plant a row of carrots, but I have a problem with their new home!

The time is right to plant a row of carrots, but I have a problem with their new home!

I can’t see things getting much better as the boffins at the weather office released a report showing their expectations for the spring and while our area is supposed to have “near average” temperatures, the “soil moisture levels and river flows are all likely to be in the above normal or near normal range.”  They have been wrong before, so going forward I am going to count on the possibility of errors!

I still have a long wait before I can taste these

I still have a long wait before I can taste these

Anyway, now that I have finished bleating about the weather, I’ll tell you what gardening I have done.  I sowed some seed.  It felt so lovely to be just sitting in my shed and gently placing seeds in fluffy seed raising soil.  I was tempted to plant everything, but lessons from the past have taught me this is a bad idea.  So alongside the second sowing of peppers from the other day (which haven’t come up yet) I repotted the tomatoes as their true leaves had come out and I sowed extra tomato seeds to make up for the ones that didn’t come up so I can have a full set of spares, should I need them.

Then I sowed my melons – always a tricky one as it isn’t ideal conditions for melons and we are at the whim of the weather to provide us with the long hot summer necessary for melons to mature.  This year I am going to grow some in the garden and some in the greenhouse, in a desperate last ditch effort to actually harvest melons.   I also sowed a whole load of sunflower seeds and marigold seeds and then I carefully took the seed trays over to the greenhouse, trying not to slip over in the mud.

Then I thought … “I’ll water them all in with my greenhouse irrigation misting system” as this is still very much a novelty for me.  But when I went into the greenhouse to check, I found that I’d turned the tap on too much and the water pressure was too high and so I tried to move all the plants out of the direct line of the water and juggled everyone’s locations.  Once I was finished I stood back and was satisfied I have done enough damage limitation, I looked at myself.  I was soaked right through.  I was that drowned rat!  Why I didn’t think to turn the hose off I have no idea!

The rhubarb is doing its spring thing

The rhubarb is doing its spring thing

I couldn’t resist chucking in another couple of cool spring flowers…

Ranunculus

Ranunculus

Pink frilly tulips

Pink frilly tulips

Come again soon – hopefully I won’t have caught a cold!

Sarah the Gardener  : o )

Goats love Kale.

Don’t panic, this isn’t going to be a story of dread, terror and frenzied destruction. Dawn broke this morning on to what I hope will be a perfect day as this day is special.  It’s not any old day – it’s the first day of spring.  The seasons have changed and this is the season of new life.  It’s the season that gardening can begin in earnest.   I love spring, but I only really get disproportionately excited about this first spring day, and this year it has blessed us by falling on a Saturday – So I shall be able to enlist workers – willing or otherwise.  I’m sure Hubby the Un-Gardener couldn’t possibly have plans for the first sunny weekend in absolutely ages?!

A rare treat for greedy goats

A rare treat for greedy goats

Winter was gracious enough to provide us with the most incredible last day.  It was warm and sunny and it hadn’t rained in ages and so the ground while still a little soft is miles away from the soggy boggy of months gone by.  It provided a feeling of excitement like that last day of school before the holiday – everyone is buzzing – and in my gardening there was no exception – there were bees and bumble bees everywhere!

In preparation for the new season and to embrace the gorgeousness of the day I spent every minute I could in the patch, starting to get it ship shape.  You might even go so far as to say I was “spring cleaning” my garden.  I did so much and this morning my old bones are a little weary, but nothing will stop me from getting out there and doing stuff today.

Transplanting seedlings is such a relaxing task

Transplanting seedlings is such a relaxing task

The greenhouse is beginning to develop that lived in look.  The first job I did was transplant all my peppers and chillies as they had grown a magnificent set of true leaves and were strong and tall, without the hint of a “window lean.”  I hope they survived their first night in the greenhouse – it probably came as a bit of a shock, after all the pampering from the formative days of their lives!  Then I did a wee count up to see who was missing and sowed extra seeds so that I end up with a full set of plants to go in the garden, a full set of backups should anything untoward happen and heaps of spares to give away.

You can never have too many chillies - right?!

You can never have too many chillies – right?!

Emerging from the potting shed I seemed to be drawn to the first bed I saw:  the old carrot bed – I knew there were carrots in there among the weeds – I planted them well over six months ago and hadn’t eaten them.  The haul wasn’t all that flash – they were there in the right numbers – but size… hmmm leaves a lot to be desired.  Maybe I shall tell everyone they are those mini gourmet ones – only aged like a good wine!  I also found some beetroot that should be harvested and processed, parsnips that have reached the point of parsnip perfection.  The last of the turnips and a row of radish that I planted with the intention of making radish relish but never got round to it, had bolted and had flowers on tops of some very tall stalks.  I decided to leave these in for the time being as they appeared to be bee magnets and I want all the bees to know this is “the” place to be this summer.  So we shall call it a floral taste of things to come; although not a sign my garden will be a weedy overgrown mess as this year I have full intentions of keeping on top of the weedy interloper invasion and I shall keep on top of the harvest!

These tiny carrots are all that I have to show for a better part of six months growing the silly thing!

These tiny carrots are all that I have to show for a better part of six months growing the silly things!

Then I looked across at the potato bed.  The spuds have been chitting for ages and their bed was weeded and dug over weeks ago.  I even took the effort to calculate back 100 days from Christmas so we will have fresh Jersey Benne potatoes on our festive table.  So with 15 days to go before I’m going to plant the spuds, I was a bit mortified to see that the bed had developed a green fuzz, which on close inspection revealed a load of weeds that are too small to just grab by the leaves and yank, and too numerous to even be bothered to try and remove them one by one.  So over the next two weeks I have to just keep turning over the soil until they all give up and die – well that’s the plan.

As much as it pained me to remove my beloved kale from the garden – it was looking so sad and had started to bolt so there was nothing else I could do.  So I removed it and gave it to the goats, who couldn’t get enough.  I made sure they didn’t see where I had come from so they couldn’t plan an escape plan to see if there was anymore.  Pulling out the kale revealed two of the fattest fennel bulbs I have ever grown but had forgotten that I had planted.  I can’t wait to eat one in a crisp salad and other slow roasted…  mmmm….

Who knew these there there?  Not me!

Who knew these there there? Not me!

So slowly but surely there is the stirrings of change as the garden transforms itself from its winter slumber to a hive of frenzied activity.

Come again soon – spring has sprung!

Sarah the Gardener  : o )

When life gives you lemons…

When I loaded the last story I found on my camera a load of photos that I had taken in anticipation of a full and exciting blog and then promptly forgot all about them.  So I feel it is only right to give these photos their fifteen minutes of fame!

Nothing tastes better than fresh

Nothing tastes better than fresh

The first and carefully staged photo is when I made the most incredible lemon honey.  A friend dropped off some lemons which we were extremely grateful for as in the five years we have been living here I have never had any success with citrus trees.  Our climate is perfect for lemons and oranges and grapefruit and there are backyards everywhere I go mocking me with their heaving golden bounty – mostly being left to fall on the ground – so much is their abundance.  My tree is very possibly smaller than when I planted it and it kind of cowers when we come near.  So while a gift of lemons is possibly rubbing salt in the wounds of my inadequacy – they are still welcomed into my kitchen.

So I had all these lemons – more than we could use – particularly as no one had a cold or even as much as a sniffle and the chickens had started laying again and we have gone from no eggs to 3 a day.  We had gotten into the habit of eking out the insipid shop bought eggs that claimed to be free range, only to end up with fresh – if not a little muddy – eggs coming out our ears!  So I decided to put the two together and made the most incredible spread for my toast in the morning.  I only got three jars, but as the eggs were still warm from the chicken when I made the lemon honey, it turned out to be a deep rich yellow colour, that came as a bit of a shock because all the lemon honey I’d ever seen before was a paler yellow.

One of these things is not like the other...

One of these things is not like the other…

Another thing clambering for my attention is my attempt to grow kumara (sweet potato) slips.  Every year I say I’ll never grow them again because they tend to go off too fast to prepare them for storage – I haven’t got that figured out yet.  But then this year I got lured into trying to grow the slips myself from actual kumara.  So I bought a red one and a gold one from the supermarket, popped toothpicks in the side and hovered them in a jar just below the surface of the water.  The red one went nuts and put out lots of roots and has now started to put on leaves.  But the gold one has done nothing.  I even moved the toothpicks and turned it upside down, just in case I had it in the wrong way round – but still nothing.  I wonder if it has been treated with something to stop it sprouting while in storage.  Oh well – I’ll just have to rely on my red one for a huge harvest.

While I'm ok with getting food from the dirt to eat - something feels weird about putting perfectly good food into dirt!

While I’m ok with getting food from the dirt to eat – something feels weird about putting perfectly good food into dirt!

I also decided to plant ginger.  So it was back to the supermarket to look for the knobbliest bit.  Then I mixed up a rich soil mix and filled a bucket (with holes in the bottom) to most of the way up and placed my piece of ginger in the centre and covered it with about  5cm or 2 inches of soil, popped it in the greenhouse and hoped for the best…  well I’ve got nothing to lose.

The remaining photos were just a whole load of gratuitous spring like pictures that I couldn’t help but record for posterity!

Come again soon – everything will be different – but still be the same.

Sarah the Gardener  : o )

This time next week we will officially be in the season of spring.

The change of season happens with the back end of August, so I have five days left dwell in the dying days of winter.  The weather is supposed to be a mixed bag of rain, sun, and cold and then unsurprisingly the forecast for the first few days of spring are almost identical to the last days of winter so I don’t imagine there will be a magical transformation in the atmosphere at midnight on Friday.  The seasons tend to slip into one another and without the measuring of time that seems to be an obsession with our world, we wouldn’t even notice the exact moment in time when winter is overtaken by new beginnings.

What better way to herald the changes than beautiful blossoms

What better way to herald the changes than beautiful blossoms

Having said that, the thought of the new season fills me with a slight sense of panic – there is so much to do!  There is still heaps of digging and weeding, although with each passing year as a gardener, while there is always weeding – and somehow the demand for digging hasn’t eased, the soil seems easier to work.    But as we have only recently increased the height of some of the gardens then there is a lot of soil shifting to do to get them spring ready.  It is reminiscent of those early days when we first built the garden.  Back then I had a shiny new wheelbarrow for Hubby the Un-Gardener to use – now I have a one-armed, flat-tired, cracked-base wheelbarrow that I expect him to use.  I think it’s time for him to have a new one – I wonder if I can get away with giving it to him for father’s day?

Garlic looking good

Garlic looking good

In between the rains we have had some cracking days and I managed to achieve enough to leave me with a satisfied feeling that gardening has been done and progress is being made.  I weeded the garlic and the onions.  The worms are such nosy creatures and they all came to the surface so see what was going on.  At first I was delighted to see that I had heaps of worms, but it didn’t take long to get annoyed with them.  Once they realised what was going on – they behaved in a sort of panicked way and tried to flee, but their sense of direction is dreadful and they just kept getting in the way.  I fear I may have killed a couple in my efforts to eradicate all trace of weeds from the garlic and onion patch.  Next I gave the plants a feed with a chicken poo / sheep poo juice combo, because apparently they love a good feed at this stage of the game – helps them to grow fat!

Heaps of support as my peas reach for the sky

Heaps of support as my peas reach for the sky

I also made an awesome trellis out of string for the peas to grow up into… until I ran out of string.  I’ve made enough for them to have something to cling to for a while yet as I don’t imagine they will leap ahead by over a metre in a week.  If I haven’t managed to get string by the time they reach to the top them I will have been very slack indeed!

I took a look at the seedlings languishing on the outside shelf and they were beginning to get neglected.  There were a whole lot of leeks that I only vaguely remember sowing.  They weren’t looking too flash so I popped them into new slightly larger pots full of rich soil to give them a bit of a revival.  But I need to go back to the plan and find out where they need to be, as I will need the pots I put them into, in a couple of weeks for the tomatoes seedlings that are going great guns in the greenhouse.

Little did I know how important these guys would become

Little did I know how important these guys would become

I repotted the asparagus as its status has changed from casual interesting project, to completely replace an entire garden.  I have two beds for the asparagus and they hold about eight plants each.  One holds mature crowns that we can eat willy nilly and have been already – soooo good! The other holds two year old crowns grown from seed, but the level of soil in the younger bed isn’t all that deep and with all the rain we’ve been having – while one bed is going nuts, the other one is shows no sign of life.  Suddenly those scruffy looking seedlings have become very precious.

Then I popped some of the herbs from the outside shelf into the herb garden – half a dozen coriander plants and a thyme.  The baby chickens on seeing the action came running over to check it out.  I think they think I am their second mum, because they are always following me about the place – mostly as I “pied piper” them back to the chicken coop!  As I dug holes for my plants I was stoked to see how many worms there were.  I had heaps.  I speak of this in past tense as they were all quickly gobbled up by greedy chicks hovering way to close to my trowel for my liking!

I had forgotten just how pretty blossoms can be.

I had forgotten just how pretty blossoms can be.

So as winter ebbs away, the craziness of spring is just beginning to make itself felt – and it feels good!

Come again soon – the modification of the chicken coop fence has just climbed up in priority on the to do list.

Sarah the Gardener  : o )

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