It’s the kind of wind and rain that would make an average winter day really miserable. But here I am inside in the heat – it’s still hot and really muggy, and I’m doing the happy dance at the sight puddles in the driveway. The kids will need raincoats on their first day back at school in what seems like an eternity. The summer holidays are over, everyone is pleased. I’m doing the happy dance again!
They say the rain will only last two days and then return to the hot dry days we’ve been having. Only two days? I’ll take it. That’s two days I don’t need to be on the end of a hose, and rain always does such a better job than me at quenching a parched soil. The garden will love it.
Although this reprieve from the baking weather is only short lived. The boffins have said so far this year it has been the driest for 50 years as we have only had 10% of the rain we normally get and it will take three months of normal conditions to return the land to normal. The problem is we are still a long way from having normal conditions. This is where I love my soggy boggy swamp soil. It will take this brief rain and soak up every last drop and hang on to it so tight that my plant roots won’t have far to go to find it.
I guess after weeks of dry I didn’t quite believe the forecasts and didn’t bring my washing in so when I heard the rain start in the night I started to worry – but not for my washing. I feared for my tomatoes. All this rain will dilute the flavour and split them. I lost sleep fretting over regret for not harvesting the ripe tomatoes yesterday. I consoled myself and returned to sleep by promising myself it would be the first job of the day. I just need to find my raincoat!
Come again soon – Yay for rain! Hoorrah!!
Sarah the Gardener : o )
It’s hot. I mean really hot. We are officially in a drought. The boffins have number crunched and apparently January normally gets about 60mm of rain, I guess that’s why looking back over past summers all I remember is dashed expectations of a “proper summer.” Well this year we are having that magic kind of summer – long and hot! But they say that we have only had 6mm of rain. Quite a high price for a gardener to pay, to have a decent summer.
There is nothing to do. The grass is going all brown and stopped growing, so there is no need to mow. It’s so hot even the weeds aren’t growing. There are no new ones coming up, and I took care of the old ones ages ago. So there is no need to weed. There is definitely no digging to do as in this heat you would have to be declared crazy if you actually got out there and did any! So all I can do is water the garden, but making sure everything is carefully timed and that the water only goes where it is needed so I don’t waste a single drop of precious water.
I could harvest and there are heaps of crops ready. The tomatoes must be loving the heat as they are really starting to come ripe in greater numbers, the zukes haven’t let up, although the cucumbers have slowed down. The problem is, harvesting results in the need to ‘kitchen garden’ and I’m really not all that keen to be cooking in this heat.
Having said that, that is exactly what I did yesterday. I bought 15 corn cobs, because they were really cheap and blanched them and sliced off the kernels to freeze them for easy use in the winter. That way when my corn comes ripe it can be used for freezing on the cob. I made a hot green chilli sauce with the chillies I accidently knocked off the plants when I was ‘checking them over.’ My standard method to determine how hot something is – is to get Hubby the Un-Gardener to taste it first. He is always suspicious when I ask him to taste stuff, but he loves me and so always tastes it and this one was really hot!
I also made plum sauce from some damsons. The problem with the damsons was the poor tree was laden, but it had no leaves because I wasn’t able to tackle the dreaded pear slug, because the wind was always too strong to spray. So I relieved the tree of its burden, even though the fruit wasn’t actually ripe. I laid them out in a cool place in the hope that they would ripen up, but they just started to go soft, so I had no alternative but to cook them up into a quite piquant sauce with a bit of a sour zing.
Surprisingly late in the season I picked a decent sized bowl of strawberries and decided to try dehydrating them so the house is filled with the most delicious aroma, combined with the chocolate zucchini bread I made in order to put a dent in number of zukes coming ripe every day… Oh it smells amazing.
I also made some mozzarella cheese so tonight we will be having a refreshing salad of tomato, basil and mozzarella drizzled in olive oil…. Oh I can’t wait.
In the meantime there is nothing for it but to look upon my garden from the shade, and start to think about the winter crops that will need sowing soon.
Come again soon – the heady heights of summer are only really with us for such a brief period of time.
Sarah the Gardener : o )
Boy I have been working really hard in the garden. After I considered and then quickly discarded the idea of hiring a bulldozer, I sat down and wrote myself a list – a very long list, of all it would take to return my garden to a state I could be proud of and in the process restore my passion.
It has taken what feels like an absolute age to whip it back into shape, although the wind still makes its presence felt, although not at the great velocities of those early January days. But we have a new summer problem to contend with… The boffins are now beginning to claim their earlier guesses as fact and we are now entering a drought. We haven’t seen rain now for weeks and the temperatures are high and the ground is opening up with great chasms that I’m sure go down to the centre of the earth. Maybe that is where some of the heat is coming from?
This is where I bless my soggy boggy swamp soil. While dreadful in winter, in summer it clings tightly to any moisture that comes its way and so my plants don’t need as intensive care as they would in other soils. The up side of this is I don’t have to spend most of my summer days on the end of a hose, and the plant roots dig down deep for some of the hidden moisture. So despite the hills around us turning from a vibrant green to an amber brown shade, my garden is still thriving.
The harvest is beginning to come in thick and fast and I knew it was a mistake to plant so many bean seeds. But they all looked so pretty I just had to have a couple of each… now the beans are coming in I find that despite each bean looking different with their purples, pinks, yellows and greens, they all still taste like beans. I guess I was hoping maybe, just maybe one of them would have a flavour that would excite my taste buds but alas no.
The tomatoes are starting to ripen, but I’d hardly say thick and fast… yet. The bushes are laden and one day soon I will have way more to deal with than in my wildest dreams. (Gardening is such an obsession for me, it even invades my dreams). The gherkins are once again being super prolific, I seem to be preserving some every week and we haven’t even finished eating the ones from last year yet!
So far I have had a bumper year for spuds. I started digging up the gourmet Jersey Bennys on Christmas day and the wonderful new potatoes lasted all of January and were perfect for summertime eating and salads. They came to an end at the perfect time to dig up the next row called Heather which have a lovely ruby red skin. I push the fork into the bed as close to the edge as possible and speared two large spuds! Opps! So I dug the rest out by hand and was rewarded with a large barrel load of huge sized spuds that will be perfect for stuffed baked potatoes, which is good as the description says it’s a good general all round cooker!
The Hungarian Wax peppers and the Anaheim chillies are starting to come into their own, to the delight of the heat seeking Hubby the Un-Gardener, who always bravely tastes my chillies, but eventually they leave him racing for the milk! Wait until the tabascos come ripe, hehehe!
I could go on with a blow by blow list of all that is good about my garden but we’ll be here forever. So I’ll just say I have regained full control, it is looking fantastic (if I may say so myself) and all that blood, sweat and tears and worry has now received ample compensation and is all but forgotten.
Come again soon – the garden is beginning to reach the exciting climactic stage – the full harvest!
Sarah the Gardener : o )
After months of being cruelly tied to a post the tomatoes broke free from their shackles with some kind of mob mentality. In one day 12 of my 20 odd tomatoes one by one snapped their stakes in a bid for freedom. Their escape was hampered by the fact that they are bound to the earth by their own roots. They were like lemmings taking an ill-fated plunge in what they believed would be a better life.
I mean when you think about it the life of a tomato plant isn’t exactly a bed of roses. After an early start in a cosseted environment, within the warm and security of the greenhouse, their every whim is met. Then comes the day when they are thrust out in to the cold with no hope of escape as they are buried up to their necks in the cold claggy soil of spring, that smells a little of poo as the bed had not so long ago been enriched with bags of equine offerings.
Then as they grow their armpit growths are ripped out without so much as a sedative to dull the pain. Into adolescence their typical wayward behaviour is control by physical restraint. Not just once, but several times as they are tied to the post like some kind of kidnapped seafarer in a pirate drama. They can’t even escape the constant buzzing as the bees hound them and steal their pollen! Even the supply of tomato food is hit and miss as the festive season distracts the responsibilities of the gardener. As they reach towards the sun like it’s some kind of deity offering their only salvation the gardener comes again and removes whole limbs exposing their nether regions to all and sundry.
The greatest indignity comes when the gardener comes and steals their babies!!!! So they can eat them! Its no wonder my tomatoes made their bid for freedom. Or maybe they were pushed. For days and weeks now the wind has been egging them on, whispering seditious lies, telling them to loosen their shackles – suggesting there is more to life and they should let go and check it out. But the wind was full of lies and all they ended up doing was falling flat on their face!
I do care about my tomatoes, and am distraught with the thought that they were lying on the ground, looking all broken. My reaction was to act immediately and so I jumped in the car and raced off to get reinforcements in the guise of new posts, stronger posts. Only the best will do for my plants. I headed straight for the strong metal warratah posts. I got a bit of a shock! Ok so maybe the second best for my plants, not with prices like those. So I settled on two packs of plastic coated stakes with three in each. One pack coincidentally happened to be the exact same price as one warratah and I had half a dozen plants down and sadly money doesn’t grow on trees.
Once home I began my first aid and pulled the first couple of plants back onto their feet and lashed them tightly to the post. I think they were happy to be vertical again, although they looked a little abashed for attempting such a foolhardy endeavour, or was that just bashed – by the wind.
However plant three – I think it was an Oxheart, had a bullish unwillingness to conform and as I tried push the stake into the soft soil, the metal bent under my efforts and unexpectedly snapped, smacking me in the face and sending my glasses flying. I had to get the Joeyosaurus and Tim the Helper to help me find them as I couldn’t see to see! Once my glasses were retrieved from the top of the tallest tomato a grabbed a new stake and carefully but determinedly plunged it deep into the earth and secured that plant to within an inch of its life. That baby’s not going anywhere!
Once all the stakes I have were in I looked about to see more plants had made the leap and where leaning all over the place like drunks at a party. So back to the store for more stakes, and the good people there replaced the broken stake, because they didn’t think I looked strong enough to have used excess force!
Each gardening year brings its challenges. Last year it was the rain in summer and this year it is the wind. But all you can do is make the best of it to get through the season, learn from it and make changes so you won’t have to go through it again and wonder what challenges next year will bring. Maybe next year won’t have any problems and it’ll be the perfect growing season. One can only dream!
Come again soon – the garden actually has good bits and isn’t the train wreck I’ve made it out to be!
Sarah the Gardener : o )
We had a freak wind rip into the garden today, bringing with it some nasty rain. The wind jostled all my corn but worst of all was what it did to my tomatoes. This year, at great expense, I upgraded my tomato stakes from bamboo to fancy wooden ones that were supposed to last for years.
I’ll bet you can see where this is going…. Well under the weight of the green tomatoes and with the strength of the wind, four stakes (so far) snapped right off at the base! The rest are all a bit cock-eyed. I’m hoping that the damp warmth doesn’t bring about the blight, because I don’t think I could stand it! When the wind dies down tomorrow I’ll spray with a copper something – depending on the withholding period… Oh I don’t know.
Then I’m going to head to my local hardware store and get me some metal stakes and replace the wooden ones and bang them in so securely they will be touching the centre of the earth! No one messes with my tomatoes!
In the meantime – I invite you to sit back and check out a movie I made of happier times in my garden – which was actually only last week!
Come again soon – I will not allow myself to be defeated in this epic battle with the weather this summer!
Sarah the Gardener : o )
But it took a lot of hard work and I’m pretty knackered. So it’s now safe to say I am fully over my melodramatic outburst of the other day. In fact let’s just pretend the whole sorry episode never happened.
After a mow and some hard work the garden is now looking like something to be proud of. I’ve pruned and tied in my wayward tomatoes and now I can see loads and loads of green ones that will be red before I know it and then the tomato glut will start with gusto!
I bit the bullet and went out and bought lettuce seedlings as the ones I sowed on the beach don’t even have true leaves yet, but the ones in the garden had gone all bitter and despite having an incredible flower display, they needed to go. The chickens and the goats thought all their Christmas’s had come at once when I delivered armfuls of ‘had it’ salad over their fences.
I also tried to buy seed potatoes as all the current gardening newsletters are saying you should be able to get one more crop of spuds if you choose a quick maturing variety. But everyone seems to have beaten me to them as I can’t find any in any of my favourite gardening supply stores. There were loads right before Christmas, and I kick myself for not grabbing some then, but my head was filled with “visions of dancing sugar plums” and all things festive. I’ll keep my eyes peeled but I don’t fancy my chances.
Another thing I did buy were these extra-large 42 litre buckety type things. I was looking for large pots to put the sweet potatoes into – I know, I’m a little late, but that’s what happens when Christmas gets in the way. The plan was and is to keep them in containers, because when it is time to dig them up my ground is too boggy and they just rot. If I have them in containers then they will stay relatively dry and it they aren’t quite ready I’ll just shift them into the greenhouse.
I’ve harvested loads of onion and garlic and I have to say I think it has been my best crop ever! The garlic is huge, but not a huge as the elephant garlic. That stuff is phenomenal!
The lavender I grew from seed was looking a little peaky so I sat myself down and transplanted all 113 into bigger pots. At this stage they are now probably worth about $60 as a six pack of seedlings are selling for “3 for $9.99”. But once they grow to fill their pots they should be worth over $500. Not bad from a pack of seeds worth $2.45. That should make our wee landscaping project a bit more cost effective.
It has been a real struggle to soldier on and get things done as it has been so hot. There is no escape from it, even at night it is too hot to sleep. As this hot period doesn’t tend to go on for ever we don’t have such luxuries as air conditioners in the house, and the one in the car has died and so there really is no escape – except possibly going shopping. Any excuse aye!
I have had my irrigation system on pretty much permanently and the garden really seems to appreciate it and is positively glowing in response. But the irrigation system that feeds the hanging baskets failed and sent a spray of water out over the roof instead of helping out my lovely but droopy flowers. So I got onto a ladder and pulled it down to have a look. There was a great split in the hose. A new hose with the irrigation spikes swapped over and plugged in and a bit of help from Hubby the Un-Gardener to get it all back into the gutter and the flowers were able hold their heads high once again.
There is still loads to do, but then that is the nature of gardening. There will always be loads to do. But when I stand back and put my grubby hands on my dirt stained hips I can look over all I have achieved and feel a sense of pride once more.
Come again soon – the tomatoes will be ripe soon.
Sarah the Gardener : o )
Having a holiday in the middle of the growing season is possibly the craziest thing that happens to gardener. But we all do it. – Well most of us. We set up irrigation systems to make things easy for the minder and offer any veggie that come ripe to the temporary caretakers of our seasons work.
But the only person who is truly passionate about a garden is the one who sowed the seeds. A casual garden guardian will water as per instructions and remove veggies that look like those in the supermarket, however there is more to gardening than this. Although it is the best you can do in the circumstances and off you go on holiday with the constant thought rattling around in the back of your head as you lie on the beach “I hope my garden is alright.”
We returned to some pretty prolific growth and it is this I use to count my blessings so the horror of neglect doesn’t break my heart too much. A well-meaning helper accidently took out a hazelnut tree in an attempt to clear the orchard of the weeds. But the sight of all the pear and plum trees with the mankiest of leaves that have been completely destroyed by a pear slug was too much to bear. If you have ever come across this nasty beasty you’ll know what an ugly slimy, disgusting creature it is, and it has ruined my trees. I should have been there. I could have prevented it. I could have sprayed at the first sign. I would have saved them from such brutal destruction. But shoulda-coulda-woulda is of no help. I just have to get stuck in and spray now and pray the fruit on the trees will make it to become fully ripe without the leaves to provide the trees with nutrients and to some degree hide the fruit from the birds. The good news is the apples are ok and the peach leaf curl is noticeable by its absence. Blessing one and two in the orchard. I guess things are equal.
The veggie patch is not free from problems, although the biggest problem is perceptual. The grass is overgrown and so the whole thing just looks like a disaster. A quick mow should sort this – once I get over my tragic sadness. I mean the poor kale – it’s been decimated by some kind of leaf miner and it’s beautiful frond-like leaves look like they have been dragged through a hedge backwards. They are definitely not edible and we haven’t even had so much as a baked chip from them. If I was there I could have stuck out some sticky yellow traps and prevented the disappointing destruction.
The rest of the garden isn’t actually that bad, but please allow me this moment to wallow in my melodrama as I mourn the loss of the vitality of living things that I brought into existence and failed in my duty to provide adequate care. OK that is being a bit over dramatic, but when it is added to the final disaster of a years’ worth of produce accidentally defrosted in a freezer, you can begin to understand why I began to toy with the idea of hiring a bulldozer to “take care” of the lot so I would be spared from further heart break.
But the tomatoes have been slow to grow this year and so I haven’t actually missed a single rosy red orb, the peppers and corn are looking amazing and are a sight to behold. The carrots are ready and the cucumbers are going great guns and I have flowers. Loads of beautiful flowers. All is actually ok with the world, especially when you have flowers.
Good things always come from things that are bad or sad. I shall buy a new tree and I shall plant it not just to replace it, but also to remember my Nana who after 95 wonderful years left us yesterday. Gardens are good for things like that.
Come again soon – Like a phoenix my garden shall rise from the ashes of holiday neglect.
Sarah the Gardener : o )
We are midway through the best summer holiday in years. The main reason is the sun has blessed us with its presence. Last year the break at the beach was memorable because of its absence. In exchange we spent the summer in the company of wind and rain, which was actually a bit dreadful. Coming home to the garden was awful. The warm wet weather had invited powdery mildew, and blight and the plants that escaped those nasties were all bent over or wind damaged. So heartbreaking. But it is one of the joys of gardening in the middle of the Christmas holidays; you never really know what you will come home from the beach to.
We have just popped home on route to our second summer holiday spot and it was a good opportunity to have a quick look at the garden, grab a few ripe veggies and start making a mental list of all that needs attention before we whisk ourselves off to another exciting adventure. It’s just as well I have had enough sun, swimming and relaxation and new year cheer to leave me completely knackered because one look at the garden and I’m overwhelmed. I don’t know where to start.
The heat hasn’t been all that friendly to my lettuce. Most of it has gone to seed. Having said that lettuce is more of a cool weather crop anyway. I think I may have to do the unthinkable and buy a few seedlings from the garden centre as they bolted much quicker than I thought they would. I have a contingency plan for more lettuce but it is ages from being ready. Many people looked at me at the beach like I had a touch of madness… But all I did was take my succession seeds and some seed raising mix and some trays to the beach and sowed new seeds. They were already a bit late as Christmas festivities hijacked my intentions, and if I left it until I got back it may be too late, so I took my garden on holiday.
The weather was ideal growing conditions and so my garden took full advantage and grew! The pumpkins and squash are having the best season I have ever had. I need to remember this as I have only had crops in the past where the plants were existing – not thriving. As a result the bed I have put them in is way too small. They have climbed all over each other and have now escaped the bed and they have a couple more months of growing to do! I’ll be overrun!
The tomatoes are a bit late and haven’t really started yet which is great because I’m not missing much but the peas have decided this isn’t the season for them and curled up their toes and dressed themselves for their swan song in a white fuzzy outfit, and I have to say – it’s not a good look. So when we get back properly I’ll need to clear their bed. Another bed I’ll need to clear is the onion and garlic – but that is because they are ready. It’s possibly the best crop I have ever grown. Oh I can’t wait a moment longer. I have waited six months and 12 days so a few more days won’t hurt!
But time is short and so for now I shall retain the holiday mood, grab a glass of wine and sit in the sun and look at my garden. Despite all attempts it has made to rebel like some troubled teenager, you can still see the good garden underneath and a few days of disciplined gardening on our actual return from holiday should restore order and replace the chaos with a sense of calm.
Come again soon – I wouldn’t be too misguided if I included digging, weeding and harvesting in my new year’s resolutions!
Sarah the Gardener : o )
Sometimes the thought of a white Christmas with snow all around and chestnuts roasting on an open fire which also takes the chill off your rosy cheeks after a day focussed purely on finding the right gifts, having time to do festive baking, building snowmen and doing all the things they sing about in the Christmas carols, sounds wonderful.
The problem is none of the carols sing about pulling weeds and harvesting zucchini, scaring birds from the strawberries and watering, watering and more watering. The whole festive arrangement doesn’t take into consideration that my garden is in the prime of the season and needs constant tender loving care.
My time has to be divided between Christmas and gardening and if a choice had to be made out of necessity then it would be the garden that would have to fall by the wayside for a couple of weeks while I make Christmas happen for my family – because lets face it – without the mums of the world the festive season wouldn’t be anywhere near as festive. Women make Christmas happen.
But if I really had to choose based on personal preference I’d be out there in the dirt pottering about to my hearts content. But alas no. So I climb into my hot stuffy car and head to crowded shopping centres trying to decide on the perfect gifts for the people I love the most.
Don’t get me wrong… I love Christmas. I love the look on the faces of Tim the Helper and the Joeyosaurus when they unwrap their gifts to see what santa has bought them, I love the ham and the salads, with fresh peas and new spuds, pavlova and fresh fruit salad – filled with summer fruit. I love the true meaning of Christmas and the reason for the season – the birth of a wee baby all those years ago that still holds so much meaning this year. Christmas is such a special time.
The garden just has to wait. The thing is it’s not just until boxing day that my garden has to wait – there is the summer holidays as well. Those well earned days relaxing on the beach. Luckily my garden won’t be completely neglected as I have my handy dandy watering system that is easy to use and a wonderful temporary garden guardian who will make sure all my plants stay healthy, in return for as much fresh produce that comes ready on her watch.
So I know for certain that today will last time this year that I’ll be able to give the garden my full attention so I can see some frenzied activity about to commence. In the meantime I want wish everyone a very merry Christmas and awesome new year. Thank you so much for following along with me in my garden. I hope you have enjoyed it as much as I have.
Come again soon – 2013 is a whole new gardening year.
Sarah the Gardener : o )
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 )