SARAH THE GARDENER

Could-da, would-da, should-da

Once again I am so annoyed with myself.  We had over a week of glorious sunshine.  It is the middle of winter – this should not be taken for granted.  But I did!  I should have been out there every day doing things, making a difference, making things easier for my spring garden.  While I did do some things, I didn’t do as much as I wanted to do.  There was even a day that I didn’t actually leave the house – not even to poke my head out the front door!  And now I look out and I kick myself!

She's a bit wet!

She’s a bit wet!

It has been raining…  a lot!  It hasn’t stopped since Saturday afternoon.  A steady heavy rain with solid drops.  This is more like the winter weather we are accustomed to.  All the more reason why I should have gone outside and done things.  At the very least I should have mowed the grass around the veggie garden while the soil was dry enough.  That window of opportunity has now closed until the next period of dry that lasts beyond five days – although judging by the amount of water out there now I think I need a month of Sundays to dry it out!

I hope the strawberries will be ok

I hope the strawberries will be ok

Looking on the bright side the temperatures are about 10 degrees warmer. And I just had a quick look at the long range forecast and the good people at the weather office have promised me sunshine from Wednesday all the way through to Sunday.  I hope they aren’t teasing me.  I won’t hold out too much hope as they have been wrong before and have moved my sunshines across the forecast like chasing the pot of gold under the rainbow!

So here and now I declare that when the sun comes out again and the ankle deep water on the lawn subsides, I WILL:

  • Plant my trees – the pair of hazelnuts, the Stella cherry, the Santa Rosa plum, the fig that has been hanging out in a pot since last winter because I never got round to planting it, the tea, coffee, macadamia and pine nut we were given earlier, and the new bare root rose I bought last week for $5 in a clearance bin (I don’t know anything about roses – yet). It would have been so easy to do it last week.  I kick myself with my muddy gumboots – hard!
  • Mow!
  • Rescue the last blueberry not in a raised bed.
  • Clear a bed to plant the first of the spring peas (should be ready to eat in the spring)
  • Start to weed the raspberries that are awfully neglected.  I moved them from the orchard so they wouldn’t get ignored and they have just been mistreated dreadfully!
Crash course in rose care coming up...

Crash course in rose care coming up…

The orchard also needs attention as it needs to be pruned and sprayed and don’t get me started on the digging and the weeding…  Oh so much to do…  why oh why did I waste such lovely weather.  Never again!  A sunny day is a blessing and should be treated as such, not taken for granted and ignored!

This months photo...

This months photo…

... compared with last months photo

… compared with last months photo

Come again soon – it can’t be floody and muddy forever!

Sarah the Gardener  : o )

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Oh what a stunning day.

What an incredible winter day

What an incredible winter day

This morning we woke to a heavy frost and clear blue skies, but strangely it wasn’t at all cold.  There didn’t seem to be that chill factor that normally accompanies a frost.  It is quite strange, it’s been like it for the last couple of days and according to the weather forecast it is supposed to continue for the next week.  That’s another SEVEN days!  I shall get out there and make the most of it.  I need to work towards getting the garden spring ready as it is rapidly approaching.  I should be sowing my pepper and chilli seeds in 3 weeks…

The daffodils keep coming

The daffodils keep coming

It’s starting to get to that exciting pre-spring stage.  The air somehow seems fresher, although I don’t know how much that has to do with Hubby the Un-Gardener mowing the lawns the other day.  The garden beds are slowly being sorted out.  Every year I say I’ll keep on top of the weeds, but it never happens and so I have to work my way around the patch and sort out each one, and then adding organic material and extra nutrients and goodies to replace what the weeds stole.  And things are starting to stir among the plants that live in my garden permanently.  Spring is coming.

I decided the day was too good not to share, so I made a wee movie and posted it on YouTube.  You can check it out HERE.  Its just a short little thing with a bit of fun in it – courtesy of the Joeyosaurus.

The first project I took on was the strawberries.  The silly things were starting to flower already.  The problem is it is too early for that and then there was the little thing called weeds.  You couldn’t see the strawberry plants for the weeds.  The up side that it was mainly dock – ordinarily my nemesis, but in my strawberry patch their big leaves had acted like some kind of mulch and suppressed most other weeds, and because the soil was soggy from the weeks of rain we have had then the long dock tap roots slipped out quite easily.

Strawberries experiencing freedom from weeds for the first time in a long time

Strawberries experiencing freedom from weeds for the first time in a long time

So after two days my 72 strawberry plants had been liberated, although I removed all the flowers I could see so the plants could concentrate on getting ready for the spring and make fatter strawberries when the time comes.  I heeled in the runners into seed trays and when the weather packs in again I’ll sit in my wee shed and pot them up.  I’m going to keep enough to replace a third of my plants next year as apparently strawberry plants are only at their best for three years.  The rest of the runners I’ll give away.

The next task was pulling down the long dead peas and clearing out the bed which will be home to the tomatoes before we know it!  An easy job and it’s good to see another bed ready.

All the peas have gone, but I still need to clear away the weeds I pulled up

All the peas have gone, but I still need to clear away the weeds I pulled up

By now I had become completely absorbed in taking care of the garden that I moved on to the next task that had actually been causing me concern for months.  The Rhubarb.  It wasn’t doing well in the summer and lush is hardly the best way to describe the growth.  Sickly and pathetic was a more accurate description.  I suspected that it was it was too low in the bed and the roots were getting to a certain depth and met the water table and rotted.

So I dug them up – all five of them and confirmed my suspicions. None of the roots went below a certain point and were all soft on the tips.  I took the opportunity to thoroughly clear out the weeds – every last trace of undesirable root.  Then I loaded the bed with sheep poo pellets, blood and bone, as splash of ash, general fertiliser, compost and numerous loads of soil to raise the level of the bed to something the rhubarb could thrive in and replanted the crowns in their new and improved home.  I hope they like it.

Finally the rhubarb have been sorted so I can stop worrying about them.  Hopefully the next time you see these they will be a fine example of lushness!

Finally the rhubarb have been sorted so I can stop worrying about them. Hopefully the next time you see these they will be a fine example of lushness!

Then as I dragged my weary body to the house I noticed the turnips were getting big.  We needed to have turnips for tea.  So I whipped a few of the larger ones out and headed inside for the day, a bit achy, but ever so pleased with myself.

Turnips for tea

Turnips for tea

But there are heaps more sunny days to come, so who knows what I’ll do tomorrow.

The garlic has come up nicely

The garlic has come up nicely

And in case you were wondering ...  this is a pukeko

And in case you were wondering … this is a pukeko

Come again soon – I can’t wait to get out there in the fresh air again – it’s so invigorating.

Sarah the Gardener  : o )

Don’t forget to check out my movie:  SARAH THE GARDENER ON YOUTUBE

She’s a bit chilly outside.

It’s been a crazy week weather-wise.  We have had more rain than you can shake a stick at – lots of heavy fat rain drops that have turned the place into a bit of a muddy quagmire.  We have had really scary electrical storms (I hate them) and strong winds and then all of that abruptly stopped and we had a heavy frost and a kind of sunny day.  Not really the blue sky kind that normally accompanies a frost, but a thin cloud cover that lets enough sun through to let you know it was there, but not enough to actually warm you up!  But as I could actually see the sun then I will happily label the day as “sunny”!

Amazing how a bit of ice can make a pretty flower prettier

Amazing how a bit of ice can make a pretty flower prettier

Despite the icy cold yesterday morning I couldn’t resist leaping out of bed and braving the elements to get a few photos as frost is really quite pretty.  I expected the grass to make a crunching noise underfoot as I walked across to the garden, but to hear the mud crackle when I stepped on it was most peculiar.

Frosted wheat

Frosted wheat

While I was out there I decided to have a good look around as I had only done a cursory glance since I’d planted the onion and the garlic the other day, as I was so busy inside working on the final touches to my project – which I’m please to say I finished 17 days early, so now I am free to garden – except its school holidays so I’m not really free at all!

No harm done - You can't even tell which one was "examined" by a nosey pukeko

No harm done – You can’t even tell which one was “examined” by a nosey pukeko

Anyway I can’t say my pukeko scaring devices have worked 100% as there was one onion lying on the surface – no damage done.  Pukekoes just get curious and go “ooh that’s new, I wonder what it is?” and the pull the plant out, have a good look and decide it’s not that interesting and leaving it lying on the surface of the soil, where under normal circumstances it would dry out and die before being found.  However this week it has been so wet and yucky the onion survived and so I just popped it back in and now you wouldn’t know which one had the run in with the pukeko!

An early surprise - that smells heavenly!

An early surprise – that smells heavenly!

My daffodil flowers have come out and now there are three flowers open.  One is a little nibbled because I forgot how much slugs and snails like to eat them.  But not anymore – I took care of that!  Another thing I forgot is how fantastic they smell!  If they weren’t planted in a dirty bucket – I’d bring the whole thing inside and inhale the scent all day!

I love my out of season tomatoes

I love my out of season tomatoes

The daffodils are really early.  They shouldn’t be out yet.  But then there are a whole load of plants in my garden with timing issues, some intentional and some just confused.  My greenhouse tomatoes are going great guns and there are heaps of little green fruit all over the place…  It won’t be long before we can eat some – can’t wait.

Such a strange yet beautiful flower

Such a strange yet beautiful flower

It is in the greenhouse that is found another curio:  Passion fruit.  I bought them early on in the autumn, under the assumption that they could be planted then, but on looking it up I discovered that they should be planted in the spring, so I popped them in the greenhouse to wait it out and they have flourished and even started to flower, which is unexpected!  As everything is so mixed up I have started to leave the greenhouse door open when the wind isn’t blowing in case a bee decides to brave the elements and come and give my flowers a wee tickle!

Iced artichoke

Iced artichoke

There are two artichoke globes in the garden which is rather bizarre as they aren’t due until spring, and the strawberries are breaking into flower.  This creates a dilemma.  Each year I say I’ll mulch the strawberries and keep the weeds down – even when they aren’t pumping out the goods.  Sadly this never happens… and the bed seems to have more dock than strawberry plants.   So now it is a race against the season – clear out the bed before the strawberries start fruiting.   Luckily the dock leaves have acted like a kind of mulch and suppressed most other weeds and the soggy soil is, in this instance, willingly giving up the stubborn roots that are ordinarily impossible to budge!

It won't be long now...  oh sweet strawberries!

It won’t be long now… oh sweet strawberries!

Come again soon – winter is marching on…

Sarah the Gardener  : o )

It’s the shortest day… Well I think it is…

When I Googled it I got conflicting information:  it was either today or tomorrow and the sun was shining today – well kind of – when it wasn’t raining.  So there was nothing for it – it was garlic and onion planting day!

Onion Seedlings

Onion Seedlings

This is such a special day anticipated from the day when the weather first started to get cold… from here on its downhill to summer!  YAY!  It makes the cold, wet days more bearable knowing the days are going to start getting longer and eventually warmer.

Garlic and Shallots

Garlic and Shallots

Onions and garlic can be planted any time from May to September, but I love the ritual that is getting out there in the dead middle of the year and doing some purposeful gardening.  It makes a change from all the pfaffing about that I’m normally doing to make myself feel like I’m gardening.  So today I dressed warmly and put my gumboots on and squelched across the garden to the lovingly pre-prepared bed.  It was all soft and fluffy, with lime, blood and bone, general fertilizer, sheep poo, and a dash of ash for good measure all dug in and left for all of 3 days to settle in, with 3 days of heavy rain assist in the process.

Garlic in...

Garlic in…

Onion in....

Onion in….

Then I completely immersed myself in the task of planting out my seedlings and cloves that ended up taking most of the day.  Which doesn’t really surprise me as I planted 14 elephant garlic and 90 normal garlic cloves, 144 Pukekohe Longkeeper Onions, 33 Sweet Red Onions, 12 Borettana Onions, 16 shallots I grew from seed  this year and 15 shallots I grew from seed last year.  They are probably squished in a little closer than recommended, but not half as bad as in previous years.

It doesn't look too bad considering it is the middle of winter

It doesn’t look too bad considering it is the middle of winter

The last thing I had to take care of was the pest control.  I think the biggest risk to my onions are the family of pukekos (birds) that have taken to hanging about.  They don’t actually eat seedlings – they just get curious and pull them out to see what they are and then leave the seedling on top of the soil so dry out and die.  So I put some bamboo stakes about the bed and tied plastic bags to them.  It’s not all that pretty, but it’s worked before.

That should scare away the Pookies!

That should scare away the Pookies!                             (See how muddy the grass got! – it looked like nicely mown lawn before I started!)

Then as I stood back to admire my handiwork, my attention was drawn to the big black clouds looming down by the loud crack of thunder, that was too close for comfort.  So I raced inside knowing my newly planted plants were getting well watered in.

This determined daffodil thinks spring is just around the corner!

This determined daffodil thinks spring is just around the corner!

Come again soon – it will be spring before we know it!

Sarah the Gardener  : o )

Brandy the Chicken doesn't like photos taken of her babies, so she hid them from me!

I haven’t gardened in ages!

And it shows.

The last thing I did was dig over the garlic bed two weeks ago!  I haven’t even had a chance to check the “to do list” to see what I’ve not been doing.  Luckily it’s not as dire as all that as it is winter after all!  Two weeks of neglect in spring would be catastrophic.

When I haven’t been head down – bum up working away on my project (which is on track and three quarters finished), it’s been raining and yucky and all wintery so I guess that’s ok.  But the hardest thing is the weather all this week has been clear blue skies – that admittedly started with freezing crisp frosts and there was still a bit of a chill in the air all day, although nothing a pair of long johns wouldn’t take care of.  So while I was inside, working my fingers to the bone on my keyboard, I had half an eye on the sun drenched garden, and  I promised myself if I got to a logical break by the end of the week then I would reward myself with time in the garden.

Then when I woke up today, the day I had been working towards all week, was cold and wet.  WET?  That wasn’t on the radar…  I wouldn’t have been half as motivated if there was a big rain cloud on the weather chart.  If there was, then maybe I wouldn’t have worked as hard.  The good news is the sun is supposed to come back tomorrow and it’s a weekend so tomorrow it’s all on.  I shall sink my hands into soil – no matter how cold and claggy!   I shall even get Hubby the Un-Gardener to do some digging.  I’m sure he wont mind giving up his weekend to dig in the cold for me…

But amongst the cold bleakness of the day there was a wee ray of sunshine.  Brandy the Escape Artist Chicken’s babies hatched.  She had been hiding under the hedge with 12 eggs.  Today wandering about in the driveway were 6 cheeping egg shaped fluffy bums!  I have to say I am a sucker for baby chickens – they are too cute for words.

Brandy the Escape Artist Chicken and her half dozen day old fluffy bums

Brandy the Escape Artist Chicken and her half dozen day old fluffy bums

There were still 6 more eggs in the nest, but the driveway isn’t the safest place for babies to play so a made a nest in a box with hay and moved the eggs in to it.  Then I had to try and convince Brandy to bring the babies and follow me to the chicken coop.  That didn’t work so I tried to carry the box and the babies and get her to follow the sound of the peeping, but that didn’t work, she just frantically wandered around looking for her babies, so I set the box on the ground in the middle of the driveway and she climbed onto the eggs and the chicks disappeared into her feathers.  Then I carefully lifted the box and moved the whole family off to the coop.  After a huge feed of chicken food they have all settled in well.  A proud Dad and bemused aunts cautiously watched the new arrivals wondering where they all sprung from.

One thing I did manage to do was take my monthly photo.  It shows work has been done – but not much.  But then that’s winter for you.

This month

This month

Last month

Last month

Come again so – there’s going to be gardening going on!

Sarah the Gardener  : o )

I’m supposed to be doing other things.

But it’s cold and I can’t seem to focus.  Well –it’s not actually that cold – I’m just a bit of a sook today.  To give me a tiny bit of credit, there was a frost this morning, but now the sun is out, shining its watery thin light through the clouds onto my desk as I sit here with a warm blanket over my knees and try to work.  I’ve done a bit of work but maybe I should wrap up warm and head into the garden – that normally clears my head a little.

Ice on my veggies - an increasingly familiar sight around here now.

Ice on my veggies – an increasingly familiar sight around here now.

But it’s been a funny week weather wise. Even the weather people don’t seem to know what is going on because the three day forecast seems to change several times a day and the bright sunshine I was looking forward to yesterday didn’t happen, and the sunshine icon keeps being shuffled along further into the week.  At this point Friday has the sunshine icon – but we will have to wait until Friday to see what actually happens.  It’s all a bit crazy.

First there was so much rain that the garden was ankle deep in water, so any weekend gardening was out of the question.  Which was fine, because the weekend was pretty full on with non-gardening activities.

Apparently there is a group of small boys playing rugby in this photo!

Apparently there is a group of small boys playing rugby in this photo!

Then came the fog.  The Joeyosaurus had a rugby game on Saturday morning and as they are still only little chaps, they only play on a third of the field, yet the fog was so bad we couldn’t see across to the other side.

Next came the grey – go nowhere day that is neither warm nor really cold, but the kind of day you just settle down in front of the fire with a bowl of hot soup.  This was a good day for the garden – not because I gardened, but because we came into the possession of some unusual trees.  Hubby the Un-Gardeners parents arrived bearing gifts of the best kind – green ones!   We received a coffee tree, a tea tree, a pine nut tree and a macadamia tree.  I should probably spend this restless energy today finding out the best way to plant these to ensure a bountiful harvest when the time comes.

Our exciting new trees

Our exciting new trees

As I don’t really believe the weather report, and it’s not actually raining, and the ground has stopped making that sucking noise it makes as the water drains away, I should get out there and spend an hour or so, because this could be the nicest weather we get all week – who knows?  But then again – it is a bit cold.  Maybe I’ll just go out and have a quick look…

Digging really helps warm you up!

Digging really helps warm you up!

Ok I admit it.  There is nothing like getting out there in the garden to shake the cobwebs out.  I should have done it hours ago.  Not only am I warmed up, I’m rearing to go.  I dug over the old tomato bed – soon to be garlic and onion bed and was encouraged by what I found:  Worms!  Lots of worms.  Which means the soil must be good.  Although it was a little wet and claggy so I will need to deal with that, so my cloves don’t rot.  But that is something for another day.  For now I must get on to the inside task I was struggling with earlier.

Come again soon – my garden always needs something done – regardless of the weather.

Sarah the Gardener  : o )

Rain – it’s never there when you need it!

For the last week it has been windy and raining with heaps of scary thunder and lightning.  The ground went all soggy and boggy.  Then finally the clouds cleared – well enough to create the illusion of an end to it all and we even got a beautiful rainbow to show that it was all over.

Surely this means no more rain?

Surely this means no more rain?

So there was one thing for it.  It was Saturday; I hadn’t got my hands dirty in ages so on with the gumboots, beanie and gloves. It felt so good, the sun was shining weakly through the clouds, the ground had dried out a little – there was no longer surface water lying about and I was in my element.

The first job was repotting seedlings that I had begun to develop guilt issues over.  They had been in their seed trays for so long I was sure they would be root bound.  But luckily not – well not too bad anyway.   Then the winter tomatoes where planted into their final winter abode – into buckets filled with so many goodies and nutrients that words my mum always said to us when we had lots of sweets sprung to mind and I hope they not eat them all at once!

And now all I have to do is wait...

And now all I have to do is wait…

At this point the tomatoes look very healthy.  They even have flowers. The best one is one that self-seeded in the garden in the summer and looked like an ideal candidate for my winter greenhouse tomato undertaking, but I have no idea what it will be as I grew 10 varieties of tomato over the summer, so I shall have to wait and see.  I also sowed seed from my favourite summer cherry tomato – strawberry tomato.  I grew it in the greenhouse last year and it was really successful and all the sweeter for the slow growing that plants tend to do in the winter.

Brandy the Escape Artist Chicken seems to enjoy hanging out with me in the garden

Brandy the Escape Artist Chicken seems to enjoy hanging out with me in the garden

The problem is I couldn’t help myself and I sowed 6 and they all grew and now they are all strong, with flowers on them.  It is not practical space wise in the greenhouse to grow them all so I selected the 3 strongest – more than I originally planned and put them in buckets.  But when I looked at the other 3 just sitting there, I just couldn’t allow fate to take its course – I couldn’t let them die on the compost heap, so I potted them up into 10cm pots and will see how they do as a kind of bonsai tomato.  Better to die as a result of a misguided experiment that had a remote possibility of working than to just die as waste.

Next I turned my attention to the mesculun tray that was burgeoning with more seedlings than was ideal for its size.  The time had come to plant them out into the big old garden.  Working in my favour with these salad plants is they actually prefer cooler weather and things grow slower in the winter, so they shouldn’t bolt to seed in a hurry and may even last us all winter.  Having said that I have no idea what frost will do to them.

Salad seedlings protected from slugs, snails, chickens, cats and any other thing with it's heart set on destruction!

Salad seedlings protected from slugs, snails, chickens, cats and any other thing with it’s heart set on destruction!

Once all this was done I was knackered.  I looked to the sky and it looked like there was a chance it may rain again, so instead of going to the effort of pulling out the hose or lugging heavy watering cans, I figured it would take care of itself.  But when I went out this morning to check I found it hadn’t and my seedlings were still lying on their sides waiting for some kind of revival.   Then ever so briefly a burst of rain came in thick and fast on an angle with fat raindrops, only to vanish as quickly as it came leaving behind that thin winter sun that we have begun to grow grateful for at this time of year.

Come again soon – who knows what it’ll be like, you just never know where you are with the weather in the autumn.

Sarah the Gardener  : o )

Mother’s day is a moveable feast at our place!

Cool panoramic shot for May

Cool panoramic shot for May

A wee pop up from my calendar popped up today:  Go and take a photo of the garden.  It’s a little something I started last month.  I am determined to take a photo of the garden – as it is, warts and all, with no pre photo rushing around and primping and weeding.  But I am a bit forgetful so I need to put a reminder in my calendar or I’d completely forget and then the project would have failed before it even started.  Except I’m considering calling this Month One, because since last month I have discovered my new camera does panoramic shots and it is sooooo cool!  But in the interests of consistency I not only took a really cool panoramic shot, I climbed up onto the post that gave the best view and took two photos in the same place.  Then the rain came and I raced inside without getting wet.

This month

This month

Last month

Last month

The weather forecast doesn’t look good. It’s supposed to be yucky for quite some time.  It’s great for my project as it holds me captive inside as nothing else can be done outside.  So over the next few days I will expect to achieve an incredible amount of work!  But it’s not so good news for the garden as there is heaps to do – there is always heaps to do.  I have to re-pot the winter greenhouse tomatoes as they are beginning to flower, I still haven’t sprayed the peaches for peach leaf curl and I need to do that before the leaves change colour and drop off!  I have to finish clearing out summer garden beds so I can plant cover crops…. I could go on – the list is endless.

Winter tomatoes

Winter tomatoes

But the weather is a lucky break for Hubby the Un-Gardener!  He can’t finish my mother’s day gift!  I didn’t ask him for sparkly stuff or chocolate or all that usual mumsy stuff, although I did receive slippers that I’m gratefully wearing.  I asked for compost and was excited at the prospect of receiving it! You see – he has been digging a new flower garden for me, and was due to put in the finishing touches this weekend so I could move in what flowers I had in their temporary homes in the vegetable garden.

One day there will be flowers here

One day there will be flowers here

However instead we took a very long road trip to visit my ailing 94 year old Nana, who turned out wasn’t as ailing as first thought and was delighted to see us.  I believe she has it in her to take a helicopter trip on her 100th birthday like she wants – despite what the doctors say!  When it was suggested she do it now she said a 95th birthday wasn’t special enough!  Bless her!

Such beautiful colours

Such beautiful colours

The trip wasn’t completely without a hint of gardening.  I now have a huge burning desire to race out to the nearest nursery and get trees, lots of trees.  The autumnal colours on display down the length of the country were a sight to behold.  The countryside was lit up with such bright and vibrant reds and yellows.  We couldn’t have timed the trip better if we’d planned it so we could see this specular landscape.

I also had the opportunity to pop into a garden centre to pick up a scented gardenia plant for Nana and found this huge box full of elephant garlic cloves.  Well I couldn’t not buy any – it wouldn’t be right!  So I got heaps!  One clove is bigger than one whole bulb I grew last year, and I thought last year’s garlic was a decent size!

Elephant Garlic - see the normal bulb I grew last year on the bottom left - I thought it was a decent sized one!

Elephant Garlic – see the normal bulb I grew last year on the bottom left – I thought it was a decent sized one!

But I must get on, my project won’t write itself and the deadline is looming fast.

Come again soon – hopefully the weather will clear and Hubby the Un-Gardener will finish my flower garden and I can have mother’s day all over again!

Sarah the Gardener  : o )

I am so cross with myself!

I’m such an idiot.  There I was the other night bleating on about how cold it was and taking lots of photos to prove it, when I should have been out there protecting my vulnerable plants with frost cloth!  But to make matters worse, I was so absorbed in my project that I didn’t go out into the garden at all yesterday, so not only were my vulnerable crops hit with frost TWICE, I didn’t go out and do the open and close the greenhouse thing and almost fried all the seedlings in there!  I am such a Muppet!

A couple of days ago.....  and today

A couple of days ago…..                    …….and today                   

So today I was able to take a break from my project and get out there and do some damage control.  I have discovered marigolds are not frost tolerant, so where there was a riot of oranges and yellows protecting my crops from bugs (most of who probably know better than me and have long since gone!) today are reduced to a mushy mess.

Not such a tough guy now!

Not such a tough guy now!

The nasturtiums who were doing a fantastic job of smothering everything in the herb garden, turned out not to be such tough thugs after all.  I really wanted to get some more of the seed pods to pickle, because they really do taste like capers.  So I had to carefully pull it all up to find and gather the seed pods before the whole thing collapsed on itself.

Was beans...

Was beans…

The beans are gone.  There was nothing else for it, but to rip them out.  They had been enjoying a second flush as the weather lately had been so sunny and mild.  They didn’t stand a chance.  One question I kept asking myself as I dug over the bean bed, is why on earth aren’t weeds frost sensitive?

I don't mind Brandy (the escape artist chicken) helping me dig stuff up - so long as she doesn't keep eating my worms!!!!

I don’t mind Brandy (the escape artist chicken) helping me dig stuff up – so long as she doesn’t keep eating my worms!!!!

The most annoying casualty was the capsicum.  There are a whole lot of green peppers and chillies that with a bit of careful nurturing could have limped on for a few more weeks with the wise use of frost cloth!

Just as I predicted, the capsicum flowers are stuffed!   Just a whole lot earlier than I thought!

Just as I predicted, the capsicum flowers are stuffed! Just a whole lot earlier than I thought!

So the whole landscape of the garden has changed – again!  A lot of the height has gone.  The only tall thing left is the peas, which are a variety that isn’t supposed to cope with frost.  The pods are a little mottled from frost damage but I think they will be ok. (I hope!)

I still have to harvest as much of the cape gooseberries as I can, as this has also taken a hit.  It only seems to be the bits on the edges that are damaged as the inside of the bush is still green and lush.  It may limp along under its own steam for maybe another week, if the frosts ease up.  The weather forecast says tonight is supposed to be 5°C so if the other night was anything to go by it will definitely be another frost for us!

I think this means it's time to dig up the kumara (sweet potato)

I think this means it’s time to dig up the kumara (sweet potato)

The last thing to deal with is the Kumara (sweet potato), but I need time to cure them properly when I dig them up or they just go rotten on me overnight.  So I’ll do them tomorrow.  I grew them in black sacks so they would be easier to dig up, because at this time of year our soil is normally too boggy to make it an easy job.  So I guess that’s one blessing I can take from all this – the soil is not boggy!

Well it's not a lot of good there in the shed...

Well it’s not a lot of good there in the shed…

I’ve just realised I’ve done it again, I went around taking all these photos of how terrible it is and how I had to dig everything up, then I put everything away… (Well most stuff away) and shut up my shed – without getting the frost cloth out!  So now I have to wrap up warm and in the failing light, go and protect my capsicum from further destruction!

Come again soon – See how many kumara I dig up – if any!

Sarah : o )

The first fire of the season has been lit in the fire place.

You only have to take one look about outside this evening to know it’s going to be a cold one.  There is very little cloud about and the moon is already out, trying to outshine the sun and it’s not even 5:00 yet.  The weather forecasters say it will only get as low as 6°C but that’s the lowest it’s been so far this autumn, so it’s cold to us.

It's going to be a cold night!

It's going to be a cold night!

Today, the sum total of time spent in the garden has been to go out and open the greenhouse to make sure it doesn’t overheat during the day and then go back out this evening and shut it up again so it doesn’t get too cold overnight.  Although on the evening trip today I took the camera as an excuse to prolong the time I am able to spend in the garden.  I have been spending my gardening time doing an equally exciting project; however it robs me of my gardening time.  It shouldn’t be for much longer and when the project is over I shall miss it just as much as I’m missing the gardening now.

The garden is looking ok for a late season, partially neglected patch.  There are still goodies to be had and the cool season crops are loving the cooler weather.

The last traces of summer

The last traces of summer

The capsicums are probably the last of the summer plants to give up their goods.  They look healthy and lush, but it is a little sad to think any flower stretching itself wide open for the sun and the bees isn’t going to fulfil its destiny and become a bright red capsicum.  The cape gooseberries will also suffer the same fate, yet the bush is so green and full of life.

Fresh peas are now coming in thick and fast

Fresh peas are now coming in thick and fast

The peas are doing great and I harvested a large bowl yesterday and sat around the table shelling peas with Tim the Helper and the Joeyosaurus.  Shelling peas is one of those things all kids should do at some stage in their lives.  I’m sure I would have ended up with more to cook with if I’d done it alone, but kids need memories like these.

Peas of the future

Peas of the future

I’ve also planted a load of new peas to ensure a continuous supply.  We are so blessed to live where the winters are mild enough and through the right choice of pea variety we can grow them all year long!

Due to my limited time available for gardening I have done a bit of lazy weeding.  In previous years I set a garden bed aside for the kids, who strangely were only really interested in it when it came to eating the stuff they grew, so it basically fell down to me to maintain it and keep it weed free.  It started out as a lovely garden, but the kids neglected it and then I neglected it and eventually it became such a weedy mess that we stopped neglecting it and began ignoring it.

I have now decided if the kids don’t want it, then I’ll use it to grow the stuff that wasn’t on the carefully laid out plan.  You know the stuff:  a “must have” picked up at a garden centre;  a seedling given by a friend who “grew too many”;   a vegetable that had been overlooked as a possibility, but now the garden wouldn’t be complete without;  and then of course there are the ones that all the experts and celebrity gardeners say are the new seasons “hottest thing!”

Better than pulling weeds...

Better than pulling weeds...

So I grabbed a load of cardboard boxes and just covered the whole mess up.  I disturbed a few mice who jumped up and ran off into the strawberries.  I thought “that can’t be good” but I’ll have to worry about it later.

No more unauthorised chicken field trips

No more unauthorised chicken field trips

And the last thing I managed to do to protect my crops was to launch a sneak attack on the chickens.  The foul-feathered creatures have been jumping the fence and hanging out near the veggie garden – too near for my liking.  So last night, under the cover of darkness, Hubby the Un-Gardener and I went outside, armed with my best dress making scissors and we clipped some chicken wings!  We found waking them from their slumber is the best time to do it.  It eliminates the need for all that chasing and try to catch business.  You just work your way along the roost picking up chickens and wing clipping, one chicken at a time.  But you can’t put them back on the roost as they are so drowsy that they fall off.  Even the rooster isn’t terrifying to do this way.  It seems to have worked as the only chicken to escape today was Brandy, but nothing can keep that girl contained!

Come again soon – I don’t think any project – no matter how exciting can keep me from my garden!

Sarah the Gardener  :  o )

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