As I stand in my garden and look around I realise I can’t possibly delay the evitable any longer. The tomato plants need to come out. It’s not that I like having these scruffy bedraggled poor excuse for plants in my garden, but it is what they signify that is causing hesitation. Tomatoes represent everything that is good about long hot sunny days: BBQs, salads, picnic sandwiches by the beach. Just the smell of a fresh tomato can invoke images of those never ending carefree days of a kiwi summer.
But I need to face the plain and simple truth – summer is over. By leaving an eyesore in the middle of the garden isn’t going to make the warmer weather linger any longer. I need to embrace all that is good about the cooler seasons. But when I think of cabbage the only images I can muster up are grey overcooked mush! There must be more to winter gardening than mush. Let’s see… Brussels sprouts? Turnips? Mud? Freezing cold? Yeah Nah. It doesn’t get much better. I much prefer summer gardening.
In the summer I can grow so many different things – exciting things, not like the boring humdrum winter crops. In the summer there is nothing better than going out into the garden to get dinner, or better still, dragging the BBQ out to the veggie garden and eating food with food miles of less than a metre!
It’s a complete cliché but the flavour of food at its freshest possible is incredible. You haven’t truly tasted asparagus unless you have boiled the water before harvesting the tender spears for the steamer. So sweet and oh so incredible. The sound of a freshly picked capsicum when sliced open is just like the sound of biting into a new season apple – CRUNCH! The smell of new garlic straight out of the ground is so amazingly aromatic and the flavour is phenomenal! The zucchini provides such an inexhaustible supply that you can no longer give them away so you have no alternative but to hide them in chocolate cakes with interesting results. But the ultimate summer pleasure is without a doubt the sun warmed, fully vine ripened tomato, eaten simply – in the garden, with the juice running down your arm. Ah nothing better!
But all this daydreaming of what has been, doesn’t help me now, I need to pull my gumboots on, get out into the garden and rip out the fading reminder of warmer days and then come inside and make a hearty veggie soup and dream and plan about how fantastic next summer will be.
Come again soon – a gardener’s work is never done.
Sarah the Gardener : o )
I must be because Annie at The Little GSP nominated me for The Versatile Blogger award. Wow – pretty cool. My blog has come about through a combined love of gardening and writing. Ordinarily this would seem like an odd combination – but it works here.
When I’m not out there with dirt under my fingernails tending my garden and attempting to grow fresh healthy food to feed my family (and not nasty pests), I am reading about gardening, listening to podcasts etc about gardening and watching TV shows and You Tube about gardening. Its pretty safe to say I live to garden. The thought of a life without gardening causes me to shudder! (The long suffering Hubby the Un-Gardener dreams of a life without gardening – but he loves me and so he digs!)
The cool thing about living here down under in New Zealand is the rest of the world is gardening when I’m not, so in my quiet season when its cold, wet and yucky, I can wrap up warm and read all about what others in the northern hemisphere are up to in their gardens, learn new tricks and learn from their mistakes and virtual garden vicariously. I have to say I am so glad we don’t have that nasty Tomato Horn Worm that they have in The States – that is one nasty pest!
If you are from the northern hemisphere, hang about, then I hope that I can repay some of the winter pleasure I get from you, by sharing my summer gardening adventures – I don’t imagine I’m going to stop blogging anytime soon. (If you’re from down under then stop by and we can compare our gardens.) So now for the formal bit. This wonderful award has strings attached – nice strings. Firstly I need to thank the person who nominated me: Thank you so much Annie at The Little GSP, go check her out. She blogs about yummy recipes, gardening and her dog a German Shorthaired Pointer.
Next I need to tell you of 15 of my favourite bloggers. Now this is where I ran into a few problems. I have a confession to make: you see in my veracious need to read about gardening and my shocking memory, I kind of get so sucked in to the reading wonderful stories about gardens and tick the like button, and then close the webpage, completely forgetting who wrote it! I don’t go about randomly sprinkling “likes” like they were fairy dust, so I have had to actually think about who I like. After a while I have noticed that some gardens seem familiar to me and then I start to look forward to finding out how they are getting on. So here are my offerings, in no particular order:
Disclaimer: I know it’s not the total fifteen you are supposed do, but my list of favs has been somewhat reduced by the fact that other people have also decided that some of my favs are great bloggers and so already have the award. I just hope my shocking memory hasn’t caused me to forget anyone else I really like.
And the last bit is seven things you didn’t know about me:
Thanks everyone for reading my blog, I always get a little kick out of checking my “stats” and seeing someone has clicked on my blog.
Come again soon – normal gardening blogs will resume shortly.
Sarah the Gardener : o )
The few weeks back I spied some self-seeded spinach in the “Leafy Greens” bed and I thought “sweet – I’ll let those grow!” And grow they did. When they got big enough, I dug them up and spaced them out and gave them all the love they needed to grow into big strong healthy spinach plants. Well they would have – if the chickens hadn’t found them! I’m not sure if it was because they saw the copious amount of bare soil surrounding the spinach as a great place to bath or if they did actually eat the spinach. Either way the spinach is gone.
So I did what any intrepid gardener does – I sowed some more. This time they were more appropriate to the coming season. The ones the chickens had a hand in the disappearance of were self-seeded summer spinach. The ones I sowed were winter ones. The packet was a wee bit old so I sowed generously.
However I think they may have emitted some kind of spinachy odour from within the seed raising mix, because I forgot to shut the greenhouse door for ONE night and come the morning I had found some manky varmint had dug through the seed mix and fished out the spinach seeds, nibbled holes in the seed case, sucked out the heart of the seed and then discarded them on the churned up surface of the seed tray. They only when for the spinach, the leeks, fennel and mesculum mix have gone untouched and have begun to germinate.
After I recovered from the bold audacity of this midnight attack, I sowed more spinach seeds – a lot more, moved the seed tray to the highest shelf, furthest from the door and have made sure every night I remember to get a kid to shut the greenhouse door – or Hubby the Un-Gardener in his pyjamas if it is really late and really dark when I remember.
So with a bit of luck and sheer determination there will be spinach in the garden this winter!
Come again soon – I wonder if I should tell anyone else the peas are ready – or should I just keep it as my sweet little secret to nibble on!
Sarah the Gardener : o )
It’s been raining; a cross between drizzly and fat heavy drops with bursts of sunshine in between. But it’s not cold, not really. Besides the house is being warmed by the processing of golden quince orbs into jars of deep red clear jelly and jars of left over pulpy jam! So delicious! I just checked out the local online supermarket and they didn’t have any quince jam or jelly so I reckon that puts it in the “luxury” jam category, unlike the run of the mill strawberry jam that seems to be the most common jam on offer. The luxury jams were going for about $5 a jar, so my ten jars have just saved the family about $50! (Not including the sugar, electricity or labour – but who’s counting.) Luxury jam wouldn’t have been in the budget anyway. That’s what I love about gardening, grow the posh stuff! We truly have a champagne lifestyle on a fizzy water budget!
It also helps to grow the budget stuff too, like spuds and carrots, but even they are getting costly in the shops. But they just taste so much better fresh. The humble carrot is elevated to something well beyond the average status it normally gets! It’s not a starchy, dry, slightly soft orange vegetable – it’s sweet and juicy and so crisp!
I dug up a row of spuds the other day – 20 days early, but I was being cheeky and tried to squeeze in an extra crop before the end of the season, only to have it succumb to blight – grrr! But I dug some up anyway and they were perfect. Another 20 days would have made them slightly bigger, but they are already a decent size. That’s saved the family from having to hand over wads of cash for potatoes of uncertain provenance.
It’s not exactly a posh vegetable, but broad beans have become a regular inhabitant in my winter garden, because it is so lush and green during the cold season, where there isn’t much going on except the old slow poke brassicas. There isn’t much advantage planting them in the autumn over planting them in the spring except that they crop a couple of weeks earlier. But I don’t actually like them enough to relish the two week head start, it’s more about having something growing in the garden that I have to tend to when there is nothing else to do. They need constant staking and protection from those windy winter storms and don’t start me on the aphids that just love the tender tips!
The broad bean row is beginning to flourish with seven green seedlings spreading their leaves out to soak up the warm rays of autumnal sun. However I planted eleven. I’ve waited patiently for eighteen days. I’m beginning to think the last four aren’t going to come out of the ground. Seven plants would be enough (there are still some in the freezer from the spring!) But their lack of growth offends my sense of order. There are gaps in my row. There is nothing else for it – I shall have to go out right now and sow four more seeds!
Come again soon – there is never a dull moment in an autumn garden – well… there may be one or two boring bits when it’s raining!
Sarah the Gardener : o)
In the spring its strawberries and in the autumn I have discovered the delicious Cape Gooseberry (or Ground Cherries to some.) Not everyone seems to like them as they can be a bit tart, and the taste isn’t that usual sugary sweet flavour generally associated with fruit, but that’s ok, it just means more for me!
Last season (or was it the one before?) I planted a couple in the back of the pepper bed and enjoyed the occasional late season nibble, but the frost got them before I could truly have my fill. So in the season just gone I got greedy – really greedy. I wanted more, I wanted enough to gorge myself on and have enough left over to make jam!
So I planned my approach carefully and well in advance. I sowed half a dozen seeds in the greenhouse in the autumn, instead of spring like you are supposed to and then nurtured and tended them throughout the winter, repotting them several times as they grew.
I remember seeing them at our old place in the city, growing as a weed, so I figured they really should have a home of their own so they can self-seed and come back every year, without becoming a weed among the carrots or whatever other vegetable I’m trying to grow in the old gooseberry spot, and the best bit is hopefully going forward – I won’t need to do anything – a no fuss crop, although I have yet to test this theory. I think their new permanent home became raised bed number 21 or was it 22?
The early start has helped them tremendously as you can hardly see the raised garden for lush green growth. These things seem to be really easy to grow. It does my gardening ego the world of good! Over the last couple of weeks or so I have noticed and nibbled on the gooseberries coming ripe one at a time, with their golden little balls contained within their own fancy pre-packaged paper lantern. They almost look too pretty to break open, and if it wasn’t for the knowledge that such delicious yumminess lies inside, then my approach wouldn’t be to hastily rip them apart!
This weekend I wandered over to check over the patch and hit the golden jackpot! There were heaps of the papery parcels hanging from the bush. I raced inside to get my largest bowl and spent ages picking the ripe ones, careful not to miss any and eating a fair amount at the same time! I managed to harvest half a kilo – not quite enough to make jam, but this is just the beginning, there are probably ten times more green ones and the bees are still visiting the flowers. So it is a race against time: will I get to harvest enough for my jam before Jack Frost comes and destroys all that I have worked all year for…
Come again soon – there is a long weekend coming up, heaps of extra time for gardening!
Sarah the Gardener : o )
No matter how deluded I try to be, there is too much going on for me to believe myself any more.
What the heck am I going on about? Well basically, despite the last week of gorgeous blue sky sunny days, there are too many signs that prevent me from pretending we are still in the middle of January, still in the middle of summer!
My new gumboots and gloves have been nicely worn in, and it’s not because I want to use then, but it’s more comfortable to do so. I’m not about to admit I’m going soft in my old age, because I will never admit I am getting soft and I will definitely never admit I am getting old!
I’ve planted out most of my spring bulbs into their buckets. Because our soil gets “a bit” wet in the winter, and to prevent my bulbs from rotting where they lie, I plant my bulbs in buckets with holes drilled in the bottoms – I’m all class! Added to all the old ones I diligently dug up a few months ago, I bought another 40 daffodils and 40 tulips, so our deck is going to be overloaded with over wintering buckets. The only upside to this is looking forward to the first blooms heralding the start of a fresh new season, a blank canvas to be filled with an array of gardening endeavours, some good, some not so good. Not that I’m trying to wish my life away, winter is important too.
The weather has cooled down enough for me to start using the greenhouse again to coax life into crops that will be gobbled in some hearty meal in the coming months! It seems so weird to be using it again. It looks so empty. But then again so does the garden. I have cleared out another bed, which is just lying there empty.
The tomatoes are definitely over! I just need to pull them out. This time it isn’t a case of kidding myself that it’s still summer if you have tomato plants in your garden, no matter how bedraggled. They NEED to come out – the stupid things have gone and got themselves some blight. I think I will need to burn their sorry carcasses. But this leads into another seasonal confirmation – the smell of bonfires, burning garden waste is so autumn!
And the last nail in the coffin of summer is the clocks have gone back to where they belong.
Come again soon – I will not let the seasons defeat me, I shall garden on….
Sarah the Gardener : o )
I just wanted to share a wee drama I had today and I really would hate it to happen to anyone else!
Recently my old faithful and reliable camera, that I effectively hijacked from the family to take gardening photos, died. The memory card held within was jam packed with photos proudly taken of my awesome produce, with the occasional birthday party, parental proudness and cute moments – although with growing boys “cute moments” are getting fewer and far between!
The camera had been my constant gardening companion for years. The cord was all grubby and I was sure there was dust in the focus bit that zooms out (I’m not a photography expert, more a point and shoot kind of a girl) because it made a funny crunching sound when it zoomed in on something. It was old and battered, but it did the job. That was until I dropped it! So I convinced Hubby the Un-Gardener that in this day and age that it is pointless not having a decent camera to catch those all-important special moments, although I neglected to mention that more often than not we have our phones with us and they take pretty decent pictures these days. But he saw reason and off we went and brought a shiny new camera (in black so the dirt won’t show as much!)
I figured all I have to do is swap the SD card over and bobs your uncle, we’re back in business and I was in business – for about a week. Then I popped the SD card into the computer to have a look and got the biggest shock – the kind that leaves a sick feeling in the pit of your stomach as you fight the waves of nausea. They were gone. My photos – just gone. The ones taken with the new camera were all still there – taunting me as if to say: “get those grubby old shots out of my memory space.”
Now the problem was that I hadn’t been very good with backing up. Every time I looked at the photos I’d think – I should do something with those, and luckily for me, occasionally I’d drag a whole lot across to the computer, but I never got round to deleting them off the SD card. Which is probably more likely to be the cause than a new camera with malicious intent! There were about 2000 photos on my SD card – mostly of the garden! Frustratingly the properties function shows the card is almost full, but I just can’t get to them!
So now I have gone into back up overdrive, I have “very important files” backed up to two alternating memory sticks, a CD and an external hard drive and sent to a specially opened Gmail account. Not so important stuff is backed up to CD and external hard drive. Now all I need to do is to remember the pain of losing data and train myself to back up routinely.
I figure I have only really lost photos taken since January and while it is sad to think the birthday party photos and other memorable moments are gone, we still have the memories in our heads and hearts and I since we switched to digital I had never printed any out anyway! The garden photos can be retaken next season and tales of the summer of 2012 can be like a good “the one that got away” fishing story: You should have seen how fabulous my garden was that season – not a weed in sight (wink wink nod nod!)
And that old SD card, well I think I need to replace it as I don’t want to risk losing more memories, but I shall label it “stuffed SD card” and pack it way somewhere safe so that in the advent of a miracle it should start working again, I’ll be able to back it up.
Come again soon – but back up your stuff before you do!
Sarah the Gardener : o )
I’m still in bed, the sun has come up, but it is cold. It’s the first morning where I have actually noticed the cold, even before getting out of bed! The kids are moaning about the cold and Hubby the Un-Gardener is frantically searching for his beanie! Apparently the overnight low was only 7°C so we will have to get used to things getting a bit colder than that in the months to come.
It sort of came as a bit of a shock! The weather, while quite wet has been quite mild, and we were tricked by our memories of autumns past and lulled into believing autumn doesn’t actually get cold.
Yesterday I went out and made some timely purchases, but I think I need to go back out and buy more. Yay! I’m a girl and a gardener, what better collision of coolness is shopping for gardening stuff!
I am now the proud owner of a brand new pair of Red Band Gumboots and for some this may not seem so exciting, but for me…. well lets just say I’m having difficulty convincing myself to take them off! When I first started gardening I had those cool funky, trendy gumboots, picked up cheaply at the red shed. They were my first gumboots since childhood, and they had pretty flowers on them and they were cheap! They didn’t last long at all. Within the first couple of months my shiny new gumboots were dull, scratched, caked in mud and had bust open along a seam and were letting cold water and mud in. I think their intended use was for a gentle bit of gardening in the suburbs, not hard core rural digging!
So the decision was made to purchase the real deal: Red Band Gumboots – made for farmers! And this pair lasted for years. In the last couple of weeks I noticed my faithful boots had sprung a small leak up near my big toe where I had worn them out through season upon season of digging and weeding. Cold wet squishy mud and water was sneaking in. I had resorted to putting a plastic bag in the boot to protect my feet, but this solution wasn’t going to be a keeper going forward. Now I have new boots and I love them!
I also bought new gloves with winter in mind. I must be getting older and wiser or something. In my early days as a gardener (5 years ago) I would work away quite happily bare handed, convincing myself that it is so much nicer to be in touch with the soil and the plants. But what it really was, was I had never really worked with the right gloves. I owned several pairs of these cloth ones that were never a close fit and when they weren’t filling up with dirt, they fell off. So thoughout the growing season – and most of the year for that matter, my hands were stained to give me the green thumb I so desired. All I needed now was my experience to catch up!
Then I found these cool gloves that fit well and have some kind of rubber infused into the palms and finger tips. You can work and feel the dirt and keep your hands relatively clean. They work a treat! Although I can still be found with dirt under my nails as I will more often than not end up gardening when I hadn’t intended to. It starts with a weed here and a weed there and before you know it a whole garden bed has been made over without the use of gloves and more than likely in my good clothes!
But these hard working gloves don’t last forever and I had noticed the tips had worn through, so while gumboot shopping I picked up a pair of gloves. I reached for my usual pair, but then another pair caught my eye. They were better! The rubber bit went all over them, so while digging in the cold wet winter dirt my hands will stay warm, dry, cosy and clean. Well that is the plan.
But to successfully do winter gardening I need more stuff! I need thick socks, I need wet weather gear and I need thermal underwear….
Come again soon – daylight savings ends on Sunday!
Sarah the Gardener : o )
Sometimes it feels like my life is being narrated by the blogging ideas going on in my head. A lot of the time it is just a short simple thought that really doesn’t have the substance behind it to be padded out to a full blog, or something more interesting happens that is perfect for an entertaining post that also satisfies the desire to create a story, or I’ll take a photo that at the time I wholeheartedly believe will become a blog in the very near future, but it never happens – my camera is full of these!
So today I decided is a good day to get these thoughts out of my head and out of my camera.
Frogs up my legs.
The other day we were clearing away some of the more stubborn weeds in the goat paddock, namely those awful rust coloured dock seed heads that can give the landscape a neglected and derelict feel, similar to the effect a rusting out car carcass would give. Anyway there I was chopping a way with my long handled loppers, taking out the stalks at the base and I felt something wet and weird up my trouser leg. Somewhat startled I gave my leg a wee shake and out hopped the cutest bright green frog. Unfortunately I didn’t have my camera with me so you have to take my word for just how cute he was. I saw several more frogs while hacking way at the dock, and in the back of my mind I hoped and prayed that I wouldn’t end up chopping one in half by accident, which I’m pleased to say I didn’t!
The summer that has just gone was awful. We know that because I bleated about it so much, but as a result my onion crop was pathetic, in fact today I managed to pretty much cram the whole crop into two jars to make pickled onions!
So to hedge my bets I have taken action – I mean it may not have been the weather that caused a poor crop, it could have been something I’d done, although I’m really quite happy to blame the weather and leave my gardening prowess intact! I have sowed onion seeds earlier than I ever have before so, well the theory goes, that they will be bigger and stronger by the time they get into the ground on the shortest day and therefore will have a greater chance of success. The wives tale round here goes “plant onions on the shortest day and harvest on the longest.”
This doesn’t bode well…
I don’t think feeding mice pizza is a good idea. Hubby the Un-Gardener is of the school of thought that mice look so cute, how could you not feed them!
Tribute to lost chickens.
I don’t think I’ll ever get used to this. We had two wee chicken families going on in our coop. One mum had 3 “teenage” chickens and they are so cute and another mum had three tiny chickens about a week old – one of which sadly passed away and was lovingly buried. So our flock was expanding nicely and it wouldn’t be long until we could pass these babies on to our friend to populate their new coop. Yesterday I went out to feed the chickens and was mortified to find that the two little babies and one of the older babies were missing, gone, no trace – not so much as a feather. The mums were quite distressed. I think it was rats. As the weather starts to get cooler they are turning to warmer places to hang out. I found a couple of tunnels leading into the coop and in a fit of anger I lobbed rat bait down each hole and covered them up! I have also charged Hubby the Un-Gardener with the task of “Fixing It!” I want the coop pest resistant. I want heaps of impenetrable concrete laid, I want fine mesh fencing around the perimeter – I think sensor alarms and surveillance cameras are taking it a bit too far – but I did think about it… briefly!
My melons were such a disappointment.
I didn’t think I had managed to produce any at all – laying the blame for this firmly at the feet of the crappy summer. Then when clearing weeds away I was delighted to come across two small specimens. Melons – I did it yay! I brought them inside and cut them open and shared with Hubby the Un-Gardener. He is always hesitant when I offer him something first (after the chilli episode). It smelled like melon so I figured it would be fine. But it tasted like a strange cucumber with a hint of bitterness. So disappointed – next year I am going to foil the weather and grow these in the greenhouse.
Well that seems to have de-cluttered my thinking place.
Come again soon – I’ve a cunning plan that is so crazy it might just work!
Sarah the Gardener : o )
There is nothing like having the imminent arrival of an important guest to shake away apathy and cause a frenzy of activity. Lately I have been a bit slack on the gardening front. I seem to have wholeheartedly embraced the wind down towards winter and wound right down. I figured that as it cools down then the weeds will slow down and I’ll be able to get to them when I feel like it.
Besides most of the beds don’t have any crops that need a new home, I mean it’s not like spring when you have a greenhouse bulging with greenery that desperately needs to go in the ground so you dig and weed and weed and dig every hour of light God sends and if things are really bad then you pop on one of those hat torches and keep going in the dark.
The expression “It’s a jungle out there” was probably the best way to describe the state I had allowed the garden to get into. I do it every year – I take my crops and without so much as a thank you , I walk away with the intention of getting on to it later, knowing full well that it’s not going to happen and I’ll be the one in the dark, in the spring, digging and weeding with a torch strapped to my head!
So I got news a couple of days ago to expect a very important visitor, and if it was Hubby the Un-Gardener who had the visitor, then he would just sweep the office, stack his papers nicely and put on the fresh coffee. For me the stakes are higher, I would be ashamed if I let anyone see the garden in the state I let it get into. I need to work hard. I need to enlist help to get it done on time. Why is my garden so big?
I’ve been digging and weeding, weeding and digging for days! Fortunately a well prepared soil lovingly tended in the spring has prevented all but the most stubborn weeds from taking up residence. The worst culprit is the Dock with its nasty taproot. I may even go so far as to say it is my gardening nemesis.
I’m nearly there, with about a quarter of the garden left to do. Not only am I urged on by completely eliminating the shame factor when my very important visitor shows up, but a thought popped into my head while I was toiling away: “Sarah the Gardener, if you get all this done now, it will be easy to stay on top of over winter and then you will have more spare time for exciting projects!” I like that thought, so I will push on and try my hardest to have a weed free garden by the end of the week. Wish me luck.
Come again soon – I have a whole load of gardening gems floating around in my head!
Sarah the Gardener : o )