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.
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.
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.
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…
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 )
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.
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!
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.
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.
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 )
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.
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.
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.
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!
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!
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’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!
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.
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.
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?
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!
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!
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!
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 )
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.
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 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.
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.
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!”
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.
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 )
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 )