If some of my plants were animals I would have been reported to the SPCA! They are sorely neglected and are only just noticeable in among a thriving crop of weeds. But it’s not my fault – really…
Asparagus, Globe Artichoke and Rhubarb all have something in common in my garden. Apart from the obvious in that they are a permanent feature and come back year after year and each time they show up I am always so excited to see them, especially as they are the first crops of the season. But then they slow down and eventually stop producing as the weather heats up and my attention towards them suffers the same fate and by the middle of summer it is safe to say they are completely and utterly ignored.
This lack of due care and attention is only part of the problem but by reversing this seasonal trend of turning a blind eye, won’t actually solve the problem, so I can ease my conscious ever so slightly, however the major problem still requires my input so this still causes me feelings of guilt and gardening inadequacies.
You see the biggest part of this problem is the dirt! We live in what was once a swamp and so the soil, while incredibly fertile has a high clay content. When it’s wet it is wet – it can hold 20 times its weight in water, which is fantastic for reducing the daily chore of watering in the height of summer. Just water once a week and water deep – job done! But when it’s dry it is like concrete!
There is a bit of a difference between the artichoke, asparagus and rhubarb beds and all the other 20 odd raised beds in my garden, in that the other beds are regularly dug over and have compost added, the roots of the short lived crops break up the soil and the weed population is dramatically reduced by the continual action, so I have soil in most of my beds that is really starting to be ideal growing conditions! The artichoke, asparagus and rhubarb beds are never empty, they don’t get turned over, occasionally compost is added to the top, providing a lovely environment for weeds to grow strong and healthy. In the winter the soil is too wet to weed as the mud sticks to the roots like they have been super glued and in the summer is way too hard to pull them out as using a pick axe may destroy the roots of the good plants! As a result the soil becomes more and more compacted with the most stubborn weeds known to man!
In the early winter when I chop down the yellow fronds of the asparagus I have successfully mulched with newspaper to keep the winter weeds away, but once the tender spears start popping up it becomes tricky to maintain the weed free position as the soil hasn’t softened up any and so the problem remains! Laying newspaper around the other two plants is logistically tricky but without making too many excuses I just haven’t tried it.
So here is my dilemma, how do I keep the weeds at bay all year round, without compromising the health and wellbeing of my asparagus, rhubarb and artichoke? Hmm – I need to think about this one…
Come again soon – we have just had the craziest adventure that wouldn’t have happened if we lived the city!
Sarah the Gardener : o )
I have bought myself a shiny new notebook. I love new books. As the blank pages call out to me I always vow and declare I will use my very best handwriting and I won’t dog-ear the pages! By the end – if it doesn’t get abandoned along the way, it’s usually in such a state, barely recognisable from the pristine condition it was when it came into my possession. But this one was chosen specifically for its ability to absorb a little dirt and become “rustic” as is fulfils its duty as my gardening note book, destined to live in the shed.
No longer will there be notes scribbled on seed packets or grubby scraps of paper containing vital information turned into paper mache within the pockets of the freshly laundered gardening apparel, or even worse – ideas tucked into the leaking sieve of my head with full intentions of being remembered for future reference, only to be completely forgotten forever moments later. This way if I have anything remotely interesting to record I shall be able to briefly stop what I am doing and pop into the shed – without even taking my boots and gloves off, jot it down and then get back to it with the minimum on disruption to the gardening experience!
So I shall use this wee book in an experimental way to see if this year it actually adds any value. I am going to record the details of each crop in an alphabetical way instead of the traditional chronological way of a diary. For example, if I have something to say about carrots ( although I don’t imagine there will be much to say about carrots as they are actually quite boring) then I will turn to the C section and flick across to the carrot page and add it to the wealth of information I would have already placed there.
Now don’t get me wrong, a gardening diary is also very useful for things like when seeds were sown and when things should be harvested, and what the weather was like etc, but for that random pieces of wisdom (generally gained through a bad experience, although sometimes coming about through a pleasant surprize) that isn’t really specifically related to any particular date but just needs to recorded somewhere to prevent it’s unfortunate re-occurrence, then I think my wee note book will become a precious possession when it comes to understanding the quirks and nuances of gardening in my veggie patch.
While general information can – and will – be gleaned from the many, many gardening books and magazines I have collected, I hope my notebook will be my voice of wisdom and reason in the seasons to come!
Come again soon – as I fill in the notebook with this seasons “don’t ever do again” and “wonder what I did so I can repeat it” I’ll keep you posted.
Sarah the Gardener : o )
It’s February and I’ve just been out and weeded and turned over soil for a new row of peas – all before breakfast. Normally this foolhardy early morning burst of energy in February is deemed sensible as at this time of year it would be far too hot to garden in the midday heat. But not this year. And definitely not today. I was out there this morning because I was frustrated. This summer (if you can call it that) has been cold, wet, windy and generally not living up to the expectations of the long hot dry summer holidays I remember from my childhood.
I haven’t written much about the garden lately, because it would just be a giant moan about how awful it has been.
But I have pulled myself together, and with the kids back at school I can actually hear the thoughts in my head, and they are telling me, gardening is never perfect and there is always next year. And so with this in mind I am going to shame- faced-idly (is that even a word? – is now) share the horrors of my summer garden, and what went wrong, and the stuff that defied the odds and actually went well.
One of the upsides of a crappy summer is there is a whole lot of learning to do. So much more of a challenge than a perfect summer where all good things go perfectly! Although I have to say, my first veggie patch about four summers ago went really well, I give it full credit to me still being here doing it now as each summer since has not been without its challenges, culminating in this one which has by far been the yuckiest!
I am a person who likes order and things looking nice, which to the people who know me go “Really?” But it’s true, I like my veggies in rows and the lawns mowed and the compost in bins not piles and my garden spaces orderly. Towards the end of summer when the plants are past their best and there are rogue plant pots and watering cans left where they lay, and weeds in the too hot greenhouse, I tend to give up and walk away for the season, leaving a mountain of work to do in the spring to get ready again. Well this year I declare publically that THIS YEAR WILL BE DIFFERENT!
I have started down this road already, by clearing out my shed. My shed is actually new and shouldn’t need clearing out, but in the hurly burly of spring I got into the dreadful habit of just lobbing stuff in there to “sort out later!”
Which is an awful thing to do with my lovely shed that I acquired through hard work, hard saving and the winnings from a blogging gardening competition last year. It’s my dream shed and I finally have it exactly how I want it, and so it is from here that I will be spending my time in serious pontification – planning my next big garden.
Come again soon – I shall endeavour to bring you up to speed as quickly and possible and then regale you with all the exciting stuff to come as it happens!
Sarah the Gardener : o )
PS: We have some more tiny baby chickens – hatched yesterday.
I spend all year with great expectations about how wonderful my garden is going to be, and what improvements I’ll make and what I’ll do with the produce and how it’s just all going to be perfect. And it should be – I put in a lot of planning and hard work.
But our summer is in the worst part of the year for the keen gardener. It has Christmas, New Year and summer holidays smack bang in the middle of it.
Instead of spending the summer whiling away the long balmy days tending to the crop and harvesting as things ripen and seeing to the gardens every whim – the week or so preceding Christmas is filled with manic shopping, decorating, baking and a hectic schedule of social engagements. The garden is lucky if it gets water lobbed at it as I whiz past onto some exciting seasonal party. Merry Christmas!
The week between Christmas and New Year is spent on quality time with family, digesting and recovering from the excesses of the Christmas feasting and preparing for the annual holiday. The garden only receives a cursory glance, which induces feelings of extreme guilt as three weeks of neglect is starting to become evident. Happy New Year!
Then its ten days at the beach without anything to do but relax. There isn’t even any gardens to remind me of the ever increasing workload gathering momentum in my absence. It’s a shame it rained most of the time, but at least we weren’t in a tent. Apparently the holiday period was the wettest since some record or other was recorded. Happy days!
On arriving home from our summer holiday, I would like to say tending to the poor neglected garden would be the first thing on the list of TO DO’s for the New Year – but alas no… Unpacking, sorting out, taking the Christmas tree down and un-decorating and dealing to the mountain of holiday laundry takes priority. Finally I get to the end of a colossal amount of chores and think – ah tomorrow I’ll turn my attention to the garden and wake up, to the first beautiful day in ages, with a tummy bug!
So today in a state of semi-recovery I drag myself out there to do a spot of well overdue harvesting. I managed to gather: too many too large gherkins, 14 cucumbers, a basket of almost ripe tomatoes (to get them before the birds do) some peas, four large cauliflowers, a handful of black currants. There is probably more out there – I was too afraid to see what the zukes had done! But I started to feel peaky again and crawled back into bed.
To compound all of this neglect, we are having the wettest summer. The ground is as wet and soggy as it was in early spring. This doesn’t bode well for my plants. They should be dry and reaching for the sun, not being a soggy mess attracting every passing fungal spore!
So here I am in the height of the growing season. What I wait for and plan for all year is HERE AND NOW – yet I am restless – thanks to the holidays and the appalling weather the garden isn’t the lush, well organised paradise of vegetable production I was hoping for – it’s damp, soggy, overgrown, untrained, and bordering on feral! So my thoughts are already drifting towards next year – how it will be oh so perfect – and it will be because I will have put in a whole lot of planning and hard work in.
Come again soon as I attempt to tame and reclaim some of the joys of summer gardening!
Sarah the Gardener : o )
I have been absent for quite some time. Sorry.
I haven’t been doing nothing, I have been blogging – just not here. I created 53 blogs over 95 days outlining the ups and downs of spring and early summer veggie growing. For my efforts I picked up a minor prize of a couple of gardening books. Yay! Well it would have been rude to go for the major prize of a $1000 as I won that in the autumn version of the competition last time round! If you want to check it all out then feel free to click here and see.
Come again soon – we have some catching up to do!
Sarah the Gardener : o )
Something I was not expecting happened today and I really wanted to share our surprise and excitement.
We had calf club today. This happens in rural schools where kids rear a calf, lamb or goat, and then take them to school and compete for awards and the opportunity to go to the next level: Group Day, competing against kids from other schools in the area.
Normally we like to have Boomerang lambs – bottle feed them, teach them a few tricks, do the day at school, wean them and give them back to a farmer who really knows how to do the farming stuff. We can’t really keep them as I have taken down all the fences to build raised beds for the veggie gardens!
The problem is this year the farmers did really well and there weren’t many orphan lambs – which was reflected in the increase in goats at calf club this year. So we had two wee goats that featured in an earlier blog and not being farmers, we had put in very little effort, other than feeding the goats and keeping them alive (which was a surprise in itself!) Off we went today with no expectations and came home with a cup and a trophy and the title “Agricultural Day 2011 Champion Goat”. Tim the Helper was as shocked as we were! We hadn’t even groomed them and apparently you are supposed to!
It all went well on the circuit for Tim the Helper his goat lead around the obstacle course well and Snowy came when called – although it started by eating grass so we thought – no chance but she looked up and went running to Tim the Helper. Then the goats were checked over for “rearing” which is how well they have been looked after and how healthy they are. The friend who found them for us told us they were actually pure breeds so maybe I should have gone to just a little more effort!
So Tim the Helper ended up with a red ribbon for leading and calling and a blue ribbon for rearing. (for those not au fait with country speak – that’s two 1sts and a 2nd).
The Joeyosaurus had a more difficult day. Sweetie runs rings around him and so when it came to the big day she was having nothing to do with it and was stubbornly dragged about the course. Even the judge tapped her butt with his foot to move her along! In the end wee Joeyosaurus ended up picking her up and carrying her off the course!
Although Sweetie has a mind of her own – she does love Joe and so when it came to calling, she had a quick taste of the grass and then headed off straight towards him. He struggled with her collar and then she wouldn’t leave the arena, but they got a blue ribbon for their efforts. For the rearing category Joey got 4th. Man I really should have given them a shampoo and blow dry! So all in all the Joeyosaurus got a blue and a light blue ribbon.
Then while the judges deliberated, Hubby the Un-Gardener took on the role of entertaining the crowds doing his quick fire raffle thing and then prize giving came along and they kept calling Tim the Helpers name – he got a trophy and purple ribbon for Champion Goat and a rather large cup and purple ribbon for Champion Goat Leading. I don’t think I’ve ever had a cup or trophy for anything! He also got a light purple ribbon for reserve champion for goat calling!
So Tim the Helper is definitely through to Group Day after the school holidays, but by some small miracle or the blessing of being in a small school The Joeyosaurus also qualified for Group Day! I think I need to learn how to groom goats! The thing with working with animals and small children is you never know how it will go on the day and there is every chance the Joeyosaurus could come away with Champion Goat at Group Day – you never know.
But all in all a great day was had by all and all four Kids are exhausted! Living is the country is the coolest thing!
Come again soon – the garden is really coming on and the weather is warming up – its so exciting at this time of year!
Sarah the Gardener : o )
The problem is I love my garden. I’m not the greatest gardener in the world and my garden can best be described as “rustic.” But it is my little slice of paradise that I can indulge myself, taking comfort from the knowledge that my family are being fed food that is not only healthy, fresh, has a low carbon footprint, low air miles, is cheap and of a variety that we wouldn’t normally be able to buy. (I mean – I have TWO kinds of artichoke! One I’ve never seen at the supermarket and the other I have but it would blow the budget right out of the water.) And it is spring. What better time to be a gardener with a whole season full of promise ahead.
I also love to write about my garden. I really enjoy coming inside in the evening and sitting down and my keyboard and weaving a story about my efforts (or more frustrating – the lack of effort). I revel in the challenge of making something as mundane as spreading poop onto the cold damp soil that will soon be home to the most delicious varieties of tomato, into a tale that would be a joy to read about and even possibly make someone laugh with me. I want to share my proud moments and my downfalls with someone – anyone.
But at the same time it doesn’t matter if no one actually reads it. I’ve done my best and put it out there and I feel good. Although I have to admit it does feel really cool when people actually do read it!
It all seems quite simple and straight forward – I garden, I write, I share. But the crux of the problem is there is too much sharing going on and I couldn’t possibly cut back as it all has a place.
Strangely (and I really can’t figure this one out) but not all my friends or family are into gardening. Some don’t even have gardens! Shocking I know! But this means they only really humour me when I rabbit on excitedly about my latest antics, so I need an outlet, and have come up with 3.
My favourite one is here, because there are no constraints on me. I can share as often as I like on any topic of my choosing and it is secretly exciting to think someone on the other side of the world might read this. I spent all winter reading with a mix of envy and inspiration the summer gardening endeavours of others in the northern hemisphere and I really want to repay the favour so in the depths of winter someone can reach into my blog and briefly feel the warmth of the summer sun.
The other place I am currently sharing is much more constrained and local. I love to hang out in the virtual pages of a local gardening competition. I won it last time, so I’m not trying to win it again (gardeners are such nice friendly people), I just want to hang out with gardeners who all keep coming back to the same place for the 3rd season. Others have won before also, and some are still trying to win, but it is seasonal and the advice and the support flows freely. However to receive the support and the feedback you need to stay noticed, which means blogging regularly – at best I’m doing it every other day and will be until it ends on Christmas eve, and I also need votes – but not too many – just enough to stay noticed but not so many that it looks like I am trying to steal the prize money out of the hands of another well deserving gardener. The creative cost is quite high – you need to be seen to be using certain products and growing certain seeds to remain eligible. But it is such a nice friendly place to be that I’ll be there until the jolly man in red drops gardening gifts down my chimney!
The last place I like to be online is you tube – although I am very camera shy and tend to make funny faces by accident when filming myself. But I am so proud at what I have achieved with what was once a bare paddock that I want to show people. I also have the same northern / southern hemisphere thing going on and have a couple of subscribers anxiously waiting for the visions of summer whilst surrounded by snow.
Come again soon – the sun is warming up and there is bound to be something I “just have to share”
Sarah the Gardener : o )
It’s not really possible to plant ‘all year round plants’ directly into our ground – unless they are suited to being submerged for a couple of months! It has been suggested I grow rice in the off season. Normally around this time of year the ground is a soggy boggy mess but this year I thought it would be different.
It had been dry for weeks and strangely – while still damp – the soil in the raised beds had started to crack! I was able to mow around the beds and things were looking great. It would be an awesome start to spring – warm and dry. Until last week. Boy did it rain – and rain – and rain. A whole week of rain, with little chance of a let up. In the 10 day forecast with showers predicted for almost every day.
Now I need “boat shoes” to get about the garden. Actually it’s my gumboots I need. I had decided I didn’t need them any more this season and cast them aside (not upside down on the boot rack), preferring slip on gardening shoes. This hasty laziness had serious repercussions. Just when I needed them most, they had filled with water. There was nothing for it but to pour water out and put plastic bags in so my socks would stay dry.
Most of my gardening energies have been focussed on vegetables and edible crops as I learned to master the art of providing year round produce for our family and now I feel as confident as you can when there are variables such as weather, pest and disease, I have decided this season to explore the floral side of gardening.
I already have a small collection of spring bulbs and flowers in buckets with holes in the bottoms, up on my deck as putting them directly into the sodden soil would have as much chance of flowering as popping a dollar coin in the ground and growing a money tree (although one of those would be lovely).
I also have a small raised bed on the edge of the veggie patch that is loaded with spring bulbs and self-seeded poppy seeds. The rule of thumb is to sow poppies on ANZAC day in April and take time to remember those who gave their lives for us and then get a wonder display of red flowers in the spring and summer.
I have been so focused on the tulips and daffodils and other robust spring flowers that the thought of a flower that seems so delicate was far from my mind. Until the other morning when I looked out from my bed across to my garden. (The spring display is cleverly arranged so that it can be enjoyed every morning from the warmth and comfort of bed.) Well there it was – a splash of red! What could it be? I decided it must have been some rubbish blown there by the howling wind that accompanied the rain and decided not to get out of bed to investigate as the temperature had also dropped when the wind and rain came, and I wasn’t ready to allow my cosy feet to come in contact with the cold floor.
The wind and rain briefly died during the day and the sun came out for the shortest time and so I nipped outside to remove the “rubbish” only to find it was a beautiful – if not slightly bedraggled poppy.
Excited about the prospect of a fragrant sea of beautiful colour – I have sown heaps of flower seeds. I figure I now have 6 weeks to decide where to put them and then make raised beds so they don’t drown!
Come again soon – there may be a laugh of two to be had, watching me learn floral gardening!
Sarah the Gardener : o )
Just a quick wee message:
The first lot of seedlings are ready to be transferred from the seed raising mix into their own little pots.
Check out my You Tube movie showing how I did it.
There is even a clip of the baby chickens going “peep peep peep!”
Come again soon – for more tales of how this spring is unfolding.
Sarah the Gardener : o )
I’m the kind of person who can get distracted by the garden quite easily. I was supposed to be doing some businessy stuff and went out to the office in search of a pen. In this digital age it seems like quite an odd thing to need a pen! (I still have to scan and file the forms before I send them off – would have been heaps easier if it was an online form in the first place!) Anyway I thought while I was out there I’d just nip across to the greenhouse to check on the seeds.
I planted them on Monday afternoon and although all my knowledge tells me they won’t be up yet – I have still been checking on them twice a day (and some!), under the pretence I’m making sure they are still nice and damp in their soil, but deep down hoping – but not expecting – to see a hint of green.
Well lo and behold – there it was – not just a hint of green, but a whole row! I actually made a loud gasp sound! The rocket was rocketing. In a little under 5 days they had pushed through into the light. WOW. What a surprise.
I hastily checked everything else, but nothing – yet. On Monday I had gone ahead and sowed seeds for everything except flowers (because I ran out of time) and the plants that really do need to be started in the warm ground – beans, corn etc. Just counting it up, I planted over 60 varieties of vegetable and herb.
I also planted carrots, parsnips and radish seeds in the ground in neat rows – I love order in my garden. I lay plastic trellis over the rows to stop Toast the Cat and Brandy the Chicken from digging them up. The trellis was a little too short but I thought it would be an enough of a deterrent. I was wrong. When the carrots do come up they will be mostly in a row with the end bit being a higgledy piggledy mess. GRR.
So back to today… I took my pen back inside and got distracted by the new bag of chicken food at the door so I thought – I’d better take it over to them, but as I got near the coop I could hear a little sound. Did my ears deceive me? It couldn’t be 3 weeks already. The noise coming from over by where Brandy the escape artist chicken had her nest was a little PEEP PEEP PEEP. I dropped the chicken food – well it was heavy anyway – and went over to check it out.
Not one, not two but three fluffy chicks peeping and cheeping loudly. For our chickens this is a bit of a miracle. The most we have ever had from a broody chicken is one solitary baby and the last one turned into a boy – which is no good to us – we need girls! Brandy is still diligently sitting on the nest so we may get more, but for now I am over the moon to have three!
As our chickens are kind of mongrels – chickens of dubious parentage and are of no specific breed the babies are all a bit of a mixed bag. So far we have a traditional fluffy yellow one that wouldn’t look out of place in a spring greeting card, we have one with stripes?! and just in time for the Rugby World Cup we have an All Black one!
I’ll try and post more pictures of the babies as soon as I can but at the moment they are all tucked up under mum’s wing where I can’t get at them with my zoom lens!
Between the goats (who are doing well) the chicks and my seedlings – spring is doing its thing at our place!
Come again soon – see how many more babies we get.
Sarah the Gardener : o )