Boy have I got news for you…

For those of you who don’t know…  I’ve written a book.  A proper one.  A year’s worth of my blogs and stories from a garden blogging competition has been turned into a book.  Its called “The Good Life  four glorious seasons in my country garden” and has been sponsored by the company that ran the competition: Yates – the most respected seed company in Australia and New Zealand and published by Harper Collins.  It is currently at the printers and should be released in stores in Australia and NZ in March next year, but I have been given the go ahead to show you what it will look like!   I’m really excited, but at the same time I cant believe it.  It has all happened so fast.  It wasn’t in my 2012 New Years Resolutions to write a book, but here I am, with a book and the year isn’t even finished yet!

My book... Oh it is too exciting for words

My book… Oh it is too exciting for words

So I had to get myself a website to bring all my stuff together, and hopefully I’ll be able sell books for overseas readers from next year if any one would be interested.  I’ve had loads of fun making the website and it has all sorts of extra stuff like photos and recipes and a calendar of everything I’ve done in the garden – oh and all sorts of cool stuff.  Go and check it out:  Sarah the

I’ve also had to join the world of facebook, which is actually completely new to me as I have never had a page before.  So I’m not entirely sure how it works but search for “Sarah the Gardener” and there I’ll be.  And don’t forget I have a You Tube channel where I give tours of my garden.  Look for gardeningkiwi or click here!

Oh and while I’m here can someone please tell me why my blog “goats love kale”, which I like, but don’t think it’s my best blog, is my highest viewed blog?  It gets more hits than my home page!  I’m quite happy for people to continue to read this blog, but it just baffles me that there is this great secret going on, and I don’t know what it is!

Come again soon –  I need to go and harvest more strawberries and peas than I know what to do with!

Sarah the Gardener  : o )

I feel like I have been dragged through a raspberry bush backwards!

My raspberries, while they look yummy enough - just aren't all they could be ...  (I blame it on the Dock you can see in the background)

My raspberries, while they look yummy enough – just aren’t all they could be … (I blame it on the Dock you can see in the background)

My poor raspberries…  Oh how I neglect you.  Last year I moved my raspberries from the orchard, to the veggie patch as you really need to keep a constant watch over them, especially at harvest time, when you really need to pick every day.  At the moment it takes all my greatest efforts to get to the orchard as there are two paddocks with the tallest grass, waiting to be made into hay.  Normally we mow a path when the grass is still short, but this year it didn’t happen, so you have to bush crash your way to the orchard and it is really knackering!

So it is just as well the raspberries were moved as they have started to fruit.  I was quite pleased to see them, although I don’t really need to worry too much about the birds, because the kids seem to beating them, and me, to the ripest (and not so ripe) red berries.  I thought they looked OK – not quite shop bought quality, but they were homemade so were allowed to be a little manky.  Then I went to a doo – one where you have to bring a plate, and this lovely lady brought the most amazing dish.  A sweet pastry shell filled with a cream cheese and grated chocolate mix and topped with raspberries.  So Good!  But the raspberries were so amazing – plumper, bigger, fresher and sweeter and generally much nicer than anything I’d seen in a store. And she’d grown them – they were from her garden!

To prepare for a long hot day in the garden you need to start by making a large jug of sun tea!

To prepare for a long hot day in the garden you need to start by making a large jug of sun tea!

Then I realised my raspberries were not living to their full potential!  Coming home from that doo, I looked at my raspberries and realised the problem – I was neglecting them dreadfully.  This needed to stop.  Immediately.

When I moved them I spent so much effort in making sure the soil conditions were perfect and they had everything they needed.  But I failed to keep they weed free and I never watered or feed them.  Opps!  So now there is my evil nemesis growing amongst them, shading them out with their umbrella like leaves.  Dock – oh how I hate it!  The only bright side I can see is it seems to have prevented other weeds from even getting a look in.  The thing is Dock has this really stubborn long tap root and at this stage to wrench them all up, will disturb the raspberries in the midst of their full and flourishing growth phase, and I don’t want that, so I went through with my snips and chopped them all off at the base.  I have noticed areas where we have regularly mown what was once a Dock infested nightmare, has pretty much no Dock at all now, so I think regular cutting back with eventually get them…  here’s hoping.

Not about raspberries at all - but just look how well my onions are doing!

Not about raspberries at all – but just look how well my onions are doing!

As I removed each cluster of stalks and leaves, you could almost feel the raspberries breathe a sigh of relief as the light flooded in and suddenly there was enough room around them for the air to flow.  You could see right through the patch to the other side.

My raspberries are now able to bask in the sun and enjoy the breeze rustle through it's leaves.

My raspberries are now able to bask in the sun and enjoy the breeze rustle through it’s leaves.

Then I gave them a huge drink of water and will give them a slap up dinner today and then make sure they get a regular meal and liquid refreshments so they can grow to be all they can be.  I want raspberries that look and taste as good as my friend’s ones.

I have also finally figured out how to care for the raspberries once they have finished fruiting for me.  You see I have two kinds – summer ones and autumn ones and when I moved them I tried to keep them separate, but didn’t really know where they started and ended and I didn’t want to treat the summer ones in the ways of the autumn ones and ruin everything – so I did nothing.  It’s what I normally do when I don’t know what to do.

Another irrelevant photo - but I just had to show you my zukes!

Another irrelevant photo – but I just had to show you my zukes!

But now I know which is which – because some are fruiting and some aren’t so I put in a marker to show the frontier between summer and autumn and so when the time comes I shall clear fell my autumn ones and just chop the old canes out of the summer ones – easy.

So now I feel like I have mastered the raspberries – I am in control of them, they no longer run wild, but there have been some consequences – I ache all over, my poor body is stiff and when I walk, I kinda hobble and worst of all is I have what seems to be a thousand tiny prickles and scratches all over my hands and arms…  It’s jolly lucky they taste so good.  I don’t know if I’d go to the same effort for broccoli if it had prickles!

"Hello - I've BEAN waiting for you!"  (This photo and it's caption have absolutely nothing to do with raspberries)

“Hello – I’ve BEAN waiting for you!” (This photo and it’s caption have absolutely nothing to do with raspberries)

Come again soon – the garden is looking so fantastic, I’ll probably need to, ever so humbly, brag about it in the days ahead.

Sarah the Gardener  : o )

It’s okay … We’re alright … It was only a mild volcanic eruption!

Today we had an eruption, but it was a bit of a “go nowhere” eruption – it was only a big ash plume – no rocks the size of mini’s being tossed or bubbling hot lava and the main bit was over before it started.  Exciting, but not terrifying!

Nothing says summer better than warm scones, with fresh strawberry jam and a dollop of whipped cream!

Nothing says summer better than warm scones, with fresh strawberry jam and a dollop of whipped cream!

For the last couple of days the weather has been verging on something that resembles summer.  There is a mounting excitement as summer not only brings warmer weather and longer days; it also brings the end of the school year and Christmas.  The kids are starting to get that restless excitement that is synonymous with the beginning of summer.

This shot doesn't even begin to show you how miserable it was!

This shot doesn’t even begin to show you how miserable it was!

At least the kids can run about outside now.  Although it hasn’t always been like that.  A mere four days ago it was cold, wet and miserable and no-one went outside.  There was no point – it was too yucky and then the next day was brighter with no rain, but a wind that would have taken you to a whole new location if you wore anything remotely baggy.  My peas took a real hammering – it looked like elephants had been dancing in my pea bed.  So while it nearly feels like summer, I’m not trusting the weather just yet.

Don't let elephants dance on your peas - it just ruins them!

Don’t let elephants dance on your peas – it just ruins them!

I think it has been a colder spring than usual and my plants – instead of growing frantically, are just sitting there in their holes in the soil – shivering and refusing to move.  But they are all shivering together as everything is now in; including the beans, as I finally got them planted.  I sowed two of each kind, and there are 12 climbing beans and 9 dwarf ones.  That’s 42 beans in total, not counting the row of red kidney beans.  Not bad considering we don’t like beans all that much!

More beans than you can shake a stick at!

More beans than you can shake a stick at!

So despite the great excitement beyond the boundaries of my garden, within them, there hasn’t been a lot going on.    Having said that, yesterday I got Hubby the Un-Gardener and the boys to plant out their Giant Pumpkin Seedlings.  I love how they get all competitive, boasting how they will have the biggest, yet in between these momentous moments – sowing seed, planting out and the big weigh in – they don’t really give their plants a second thought and it is all down to me to keep them alive.  Well that’s the way it’s always been – maybe this year will be different – Nah… probably not!

I hope they keep this up!

I hope they keep this up!

I have started to take my panoramic photo once a week so I could see if there was any actual growth.  But then I looked at the photo and realised that I couldn’t see passed the peas as they were too tall.  So I came around the other side and took another photo in the opposite direction, so now I have the garden covered.

From the usual spot...

From the usual spot…

From the other side

From the other side

I have harvested a whole load of artichokes and we spoiled ourselves by eating the largest ones in front of a movie, dipping each leaf into melted butter.  It was better than popcorn!  It’s a bit of a shame Tim the Helper is quite allergic to artichokes, because eating them is great fun!

Before the harvest

Before the harvest

It’s all really a bit boring now for a while as we just wait for things to come ripe.  Sure there is weeding and watering to do, but that’s hardly the heady exciting days waiting for seeds to germinate!

After the harvest

After the harvest

Coming again soon – something exciting is bound to happen – or I may be forced to make something up!

Sarah the Gardener  : o )

There are only 16 days left in spring…

November's panoramic photo.  If the day for taking the photo was yesterday it would have been a brighter sunnier picture.

November’s panoramic photo. If the day for taking the photo was yesterday it would have been a brighter sunnier picture.

Last months photo to show the changes.

Last months photo to show the changes.

And I still haven’t finished planting out the garden.  I feel like I am in some kind of race against time to get it all done.  Most of the time the weather is my friend and it is warm and sunny, but we get these occasional spring showers that blow in from what seems like nowhere, dumps its load and disappears as quickly as it came.  Spring showers are the best kind of rain as they moisten the soil in a way a hose never could, no matter how long you stood there.  Today I planned out where my beans were to go, but one of those spring showers made it impossible to continue.  Either that or I’m getting a bit soft.

A zucchini seedling emerging from soil recently moistened by a spring shower

A zucchini seedling emerging from soil recently moistened by a spring shower

We had a full solar eclipse today and I kinda missed it.  I knew it was coming, but I was working so hard digging out my old compost pile to make a home for my pumpkins that I forgot it was on.  The light went all dark and funny and I thought to myself there must be something wrong with my eyes because it was like I was wearing sunglasses when I wasn’t.  It didn’t occur to me to look up.  Apparently it was the best full solar eclipse for ages and the next one won’t be until 2034.  I’m not too disappointed in missing it as I’ve seen one before when I was a kid and if all goes well I’ll get to see it again before I’m elderly – provided I remember to look then!

A pretty good bed for pumpkins, but not sure it was worth missing a full solar eclipse for!

A pretty good bed for pumpkins, but not sure it was worth missing a full solar eclipse for!

But I got my pumpkins in to the best pumpkin patch ever!  It was where I’d been dumping weeds for a year or so and then stopped.  I can’t remember why I stopped but the weeds turned into this rich black soil.  So I decided to dig it over for the pumpkins because they like that sort of thing.  But what I forgot is I had dumped the weeds on top of building rubble.  So I had to heave and strain and drag all these chunks of concrete out of my new garden bed.  I have just left them lying where I heaved them to and will have to get Hubby the Un-Gardener to move them as they are too heavy.  I’m surprised I managed to get them out of the bed at all.

Not a bad haul... for the first proper picking.

Not a bad haul… for the first proper picking.

The garden is really coming along now and we are starting to eat stuff and not just a nibble here and a nibble there.  We are having meals from the garden.  The peas are filling out in their pods and are so sweet and delicious.  Some meals I don’t even cook them, and we just eat them fresh.  The asparagus is still going crazy and the lettuce tastes so good that we are having so many salads.  The radishes are ready but I keep forgetting to eat them.  I really need to remember before they go too far.

Must remember to eat these - before something else does!

Must remember to eat these – before something else does!

Oh and I can’t forget to mention the strawberries.  I am picking a large bowlful every other day, and we are eating them all in one go.  The other night we each had a bowlful of strawberries that had been marinated in a little sugar for an hour so the juice ran out and had them with ice cream… so good!  Tonight we had strawberry smoothies.  The blender was filled with strawberries and a dash of yoghurt to give the creaminess and it was amazing.  I love to grow enough food, not just as a taster, but to really indulge.

Can it get any yummier?

Can it get any yummier?

I’ve had my first raspberries, despite the weeds growing amongst them, but I haven’t actually told anyone yet, so let’s just keep this as my little secret.  Besides it is completely impractical to cut raspberries into four!

The raspberries are coming ripe.  Shhh.... don't tell anyone!

The raspberries are coming ripe. Shhh…. don’t tell anyone!

The tomatoes are coming along and we are starting to see small green balls appearing where flowers once were.  There is still a long way to go before we see any red, but it is really encouraging to see green at this stage.  Everywhere I look is encouraging signs – although I avert my eyes when I’m near the brassicas or the currants to I don’t notice the goat damage, which is slowly recovering.

Green tomatoes still wet from a spring shower

Green tomatoes still wet from a spring shower

Come again soon – I’ve still got so much more to do before I can allow the spring garden to become a summer one.

Sarah the Gardener  : o )

Toast the Cat snoozing under the potatoes in the warmth of the spring sunshine.

Toast the Cat snoozing under the potatoes in the warmth of the spring sunshine.

“Muuummm….. there is a goat on the deck….!”

A tranquil early morning where we were blissfully unaware of the carnage that was about to unfold!

A tranquil early morning where we were blissfully unaware of the carnage that was about to unfold!

And sure enough there was.  Somehow she managed to escape our best efforts to keep her restrained and found herself wandering freely about the place.  So decided to come and see us in the house.  The problem is the route she took was via my veggie garden.

This is the very same garden that I have lovingly cared for – for months!  And everything was now at what I can only described as ready and waiting.  All my plants and seedlings are all safely tucked up in a nice rich soil waiting for the day when they will explode with a summer harvest.  I was really proud of how it was looking and looking ahead smugly to all the goodies we will be able to eat.

If I wanted it pruned I would have done it myself!

If I wanted it pruned I would have done it myself!

Well that vision has been cut short thanks to Snowy.  I can now say with impunity that she was never my favourite goat – Sweetie is.  She started giving the currants a good old trim and in one short munching my crop is reduced by at least two thirds – grrr.  Even more annoying is I had only just replaced the dead black currant with a cutting I had been growing ALL YEAR!  I’m not sure it will survive.  I have a spare – but she trimmed that too! Although not as bad!

"how could you Snowy...  it was just a baby!"

“how could you Snowy… it was just a baby!”

Then she decided she didn’t actually like red cabbage or her eye spied and old favourite.  Goats do indeed love Kale.  She munched one right down past the growing point – it will need to be replaced.  Luckily I was able to pull a kale seedling out of a box that was full of my spare seedlings and was ready and waiting to be given away in a few short hours.  The other Kale plant wasn’t as badly attacked as the one that was so brutally destroyed!

There is no coming back from this!  Luckily I had't given way my spares yet.

There is no coming back from this! Luckily I had’t given way my spares yet.

Then she decided she’d had enough to eat and decided to come and see us for a cuddle… but to add insult to injury – just as I discovered her – I was right on time to watch her eat the growing tip of my Christmas lily.  This is even more bitter as normally a calf club animal managed to do it sometime between august and October and this year my Christmas lilies had come through calf club season unscathed.

Just one year where I get to see all my Christmas lilies bloom ...  is that too much to ask?

Just one year where I get to see all my Christmas lilies bloom … is that too much to ask?

I tell you – she didn’t get a cuddle – she got frog marched back to where she should be so she could plot her next escape and I came inside to seethe inwardly and plan and even stronger fortification to contain even the most determined wayward goat!

"Curses - foiled again! I will get back into that garden and eat all the kale again ... mwah ha ha!!!"

“Curses – foiled again! I will get back into that garden and eat all the kale again … mwah ha ha!!!”

Come again soon – hopefully the passing of time will ease my anger and frustration and we may laugh about this some day.

Sarah the Gardener  : o )

I’ve bean procrastinating!

I am almost there.  There is only one bed left to sow.  Everything else is planted and sown.  All the beds are full and should be displaying a “No Vacancy” sign.  Although most beds don’t look full as the seedlings are still quite small and are surrounded by a sea of soil.  As a beginner gardener I would have taken care of this and crammed it so full you wouldn’t see any soil.  But with the benefit of experience I know this is a bad idea as in the blink of an eye that soil will become unseen as the seedling grows to take its place and fills the bed with an abundance of greenery.

The peas are fattening up nicely... not long now!

The peas are fattening up nicely… not long now!

Some beds have deliberate empty spaces, so I can do succession planting.  I just have to remember to sow the seeds when the time comes.  The need for progressive planting came as a bit of a shock in my first garden.  I really wanted to have peas to shell on Christmas day as I have fond memories of doing it with my grandfather as a child, so I planted my peas and waited for Christmas.  Two weeks before, the peas finished and then there was nothing.  I was so disappointed.  Since then there has always been peas on Christmas day.  You just gotta keep planting them – I found I can grow peas all year round if I choose the right kinds for the season.

The bed I need to do is the bean bed.  I have just finished harvesting the broad beans and shelled 2.2 kilo but I really don’t know what to do with them as I am now firm in my decision that I don’t actually like them!  I feel a little sorry for my family who I have been making eat them.  How can I make my family eat something I don’t like?  I think the kids will be pleased I’ll no longer be forcing broad beans upon them… that is unless I find a recipe that completely disguises the taste.

What am I going to do with all these nasty things?

What am I going to do with all these nasty things?

All I need to do now is dig up what remains of the broad beans, enrich the soil and sow the beans.  We don’t really like beans all that much and it was my intention only to sow kidney beans so we can have chilli con carne all winter long, and one standard French green bean so we can have Niçoise Salad but somehow my bean seed collection grew and I have all these unusual heirloom ones and loads of different ones that have been given to me and it would be rude not to try them out.  But I am procrastinating … something is preventing me from sowing them.  They really aren’t my favourite thing to grow.

So instead I turned my attention to weeds.  There were some beds that had gotten way out of control.  The asparagus had become so weedy the spears were completely hidden and were coming up blanched! I had white asparagus – without doing anything at all!  There were loads of weeds starting to make their presence felt in the beds I’d made for my currants, gooseberries and blueberries.  I’d made raised beds for them to stop them drowning but also so it would be easier to keep on top of the weeds.  But if you neglect them, the weeds will come – surprise, surprise!

Shame prevents me from showing a before photo, but pride insists I show you an after one!

Shame prevents me from showing a before photo, but pride insists I show you an after one!

Under a warm but cloudy sky I spent a satisfying day pulling weeds.  I love how you can really see the difference, which in turn comes with a real sense of achievement.  Unlike planting bean seeds – no instant gratification there.  Then the asparagus and berries got a jolly good watering and a bit of a feed.  However I’m not in a great hurry to repeat the day as my back is a little sore and my hands are a bit stiff from all the wrenching out of weeds, so my thoughts turned to mulch and what could I use.  Then I remembered all the wheat I grew and hung it the shed to dry.  Well it couldn’t get much drier and I covered the newly exposed soil and it looks fantastic.  The asparagus is covered thick enough to hold off the weeds but loose enough for the spears to push through.  I hope it works well as a mulch because I can’t wait to grow more for next year.

If all goes well I shouldn't need to weed this bed again!

If all goes well I shouldn’t need to weed this bed again!

Come again soon – I think I’m getting the hang of this gardening thing.

Sarah the Gardener  : o )

... and Oh, before I go I have to show you my FIRST EVER rose - ain't she pretty

… and Oh, before I go I have to show you my FIRST EVER rose – ain’t she pretty


So incredibly knackered…

Last night I was too tired to even lift my fingers to the keyboard.  I have been toiling frantically for two days solid.  I have sore tummy muscles from all the digging (although strangely all the chubby-too-much-cake stuff is still there – I should have a decent 6 pack for all the aching going on!) My nails are chipped and the dirt has worked its way back into my hands, I am a little sunburnt in places, and I am just very weary.

All I could manage last night was a foot spa bath as I was too tired to scrub my feet and then I wasn’t long out of bed.  The thing is I have to put myself through it all over again today!

Twenty tomato plants of all shapes, sizes and colours all planted and secured...  All they need to do now is grow!

Twenty tomato plants of all shapes, sizes and colours all planted and secured… All they need to do now is grow!

My tomatoes are in.  I planted 20 on Tuesday and another 5 yesterday so that is 25 all up.  The capsicums and chillies are in – all 17.  I have a good mix of mild peppers that should hopefully last us all year in the freezer and enough burning hot chillies to make a year’s supply of hot chilli sauce as Tim the Helper has now decided he likes the hot stuff too, so it’s not all for Hubby the Un-Gardener any more.  Seems the kid is growing up!

Spacing out the peppers

Spacing out the peppers

I dug out the broccoli that wasn’t eaten while we were away and gave it to the goats, who were so grateful!  I planted more seedlings for broccoli, purple sprouting broccoli, cabbage – green and red and gave the bed a good weed and a feed before I moved to the next bed.

Carrot row before....

Carrot row before….

I ever so gently set about removing all greenery from the carrot row that didn’t look like carrot.  I really hate the early stages of growing carrots as you are never sure if it is weed or carrot and so they all have to stay there until you are completely certain, and until then it just looks like a weedy mess!

Carrot row after...

Carrot row after…

The lettuce is doing really well, and I need to congratulate myself on my succession planting, – so far it is a huge success.  We are eating yummy lettuce and there is more that I have just planted that should be ready for when we get through the first lot.  Having said that – a succession of two isn’t exactly a succession, so maybe I need to sow more seed.

Then I moved over to the odds and sods bed, which has the overflow of plants that don’t fit in their designated spot and then all the fun stuff.  I’m a bit of a visual / doer kind of a person and despite looking up the planting distances for all these different plants, I just couldn’t make it work.  Maybe I was just too tired.  So I went over to the bed and used stones, plant pots, actual plants in pots and bamboo poles to represent where to plant seeds, where to put rows and where to plant seedlings and plants.  After a bit of a shuffle about I got there in the end and was able to go about planting the 5 extra tomato, 1 extra pepper, 5 okra (never grown it before), a row of chickpeas (just to see what they are like), a couple of rows of peanuts (because I saw them in the supermarket and thought why not) and the leeks (who I just couldn’t find a home for – maybe I need another bed?  Don’t tell Hubby the Un-Gardener, he thinks the garden had finished growing!) Oh and some popcorn.

Figuring out where to put everything

Figuring out where to put everything

By now the sun was low in the sky, the kids were home from school and I was beginning to lose the will to garden – well not quite.  My mind was willing but my body as weak – very weak…  So I sorted the bed for the sweetcorn with all sort of yummy for plant goodies:  sheep poo and fertiliser and all that good stuff, and made it all fluffy so the seeds would have a nice place to grow from.

I told myself I had to stop now as my body was screaming at me “no more!”  but as it wasn’t technically digging, weeding or planting, I played around with a hose and an irrigation riser and nozzle to see if it would water the entire corn bed with one nozzle in the centre.  It seems like it would – when it’s not windy so it looks like it will do.  I have found it is really hard to water well in the middle of the corn when it is really big.  Well not this year – I have it sussed!

Then I looked at the broad beans.  They have had it and need to come out.  I have a bit of confession – I don’t actually like the taste all that much.  I just grow them because it is something to grow in the winter….  Shhh don’t tell anyone.  So I picked a large bowl full from a couple of the plants. I was going to shell in front of the telly last night but there was nothing on and I fell asleep…

This has to stop - I need to sow my bean seeds

This has to stop – I need to sow my bean seeds

Now I have go back out there today and sow corn, carrots, plant zukes and cukes, build trellis and toil in the soil for yet another day.  I can’t wait until the gardening just involves, pulling a weed here, watering there, plucking this and picking that.  This hard yakker is killing me!

Come again soon – I shall celebrate wholeheartedly when all the plants are in the ground!

Sarah the Gardener  : o )

I didn’t mean to neglect my garden…

If there is a bad time for a gardener to go on holiday then I would say it was either at the height of the harvest or two weeks before the last frost date.  We went away during the last scenario.  I can’t say I was very pleased.  But Hubby the Un-Gardener landed a gig on a cruise ship and so I was forced to sail around the Pacific Ocean for 17 days, where there wasn’t one single bit of greenery except the plastic plants dotted about the ship.  The landscape was predominantly blue tones and there was no dark rich soil, just white grainy sand.

While this is an amazing view, I prefer a lot more green in my landscapes....

While this is an amazing view, I prefer a lot more green in my landscapes….

Don’t get me wrong, it’s not like I didn’t enjoy my time away, it’s just that it was at the wrong time.  I should have been preparing and enriching my soil, re-sowing the last chance seedlings that had as yet failed to pop up and without them, their fruits would be absent from my garden this summer.  I had to lovingly transplant and re-pot each and every seedling from their seed raising soil nursery into the more nutrient rich potting mix, so they could grow strong and healthy and able to face what the world outside would throw at them.  I had to begin to harden them off so the shock of going from the warmth and safety of the greenhouse to the big outdoors wouldn’t cause lasting emotional damage.

There were weeds to keep on top of and irrigation systems to set up.  I needed to figure out a way to protect the strawberries from the birds – although I can report the stone strawberries have provided a good first line of defence as we have been able to eat the first load of strawberries and they have been completely devoid of bird peck marks – although this won’t last for long!  There is heaps to be done in those last couple of weeks to get ready for when it is safe to plant out my plants.  And I wasn’t there!

The great strawberry harvest of 2012 starts with a handful of berries

The great strawberry harvest of 2012 starts with a handful of berries

All the plants had been sown to a perfectly timed schedule so they would all be the perfect size for the big day – the planting day when there was no longer a risk of frost.  Nothing was to be too small or too large.  I was so pleased to have finally figured this one out, through many a past season of plants sown enthusiastically too early and were planted out all leggy and far too big and so they never really did as well as they could have, or even worse having too tiny plants perishing or even simply vanishing overnight!

A sea of green, waiting to be planted

A sea of green, waiting to be planted

And we had to go and stuff up this fine balancing act by going away.  The first thing I did was enlist help.  Well someone had to care for the kids and the animals, but an important criteria was the ability to look after my garden.  An essential skill.  This was found in my mum.  She had what it took to look after the kids and plants – although she was a little nervous about the animals.

Initially she was daunted by the responsibility of keeping my plants alive; by the end she knew them all intimately.  Whereas, on my return I had lost complete touch.  I didn’t know what I had, what stage they were at and I didn’t even recognise my babies they had grown so much.  So we sat together in the greenhouse and did a stocktake and mum re-introduced me to each plant and pointed out their quirks and idiosyncrasies as she handed over the reins of responsibility.

"...and you have 6 bell peppers, and 4 brandywine tomatoes...."

“…and you have 6 bell peppers, and 4 brandywine tomatoes….”

Since mum left my plants are all still there where she left them.  All I have managed to do is to water them.  I am so wracked with guilt.  I need to plant these plants, but things have conspired against me.  The social calendar is bursting with meetings, appointments, birthdays and things that really can’t be avoided.  My health is not on full steam as I managed to pick up some nasty lurgy that one tends to pick up when confined to floating metal vessel in the middle of an ocean with thousands of other people and all their germs.  I really need to shake it – I have things to do in the garden – important things, and now the beautiful weather has faded to rain….   The price to pay for taking and ill-timed break!

Come again soon – the need to garden has never been more urgent.

Sarah the Gardener  : o )

NB:  For a look at how bad things are, check out my latest You Tube video in two parts.  Click here for part 1 and click here for part 2!

I had a little lemon tree…

After all my hard work lately - I couldn't resist taking a mid-month panoramic progress photo

After all my hard work lately – I couldn’t resist taking a mid-month panoramic progress photo

It has been about five years since we began out rural adventure and one of the first things I did was purchase a lemon tree and planted it in orchard area.  As the orchard filled with all manner of fruiting tree, my citrus collection also grew.  I added grapefruit, lemonade, mandarin, tangelo and a lime.

I have since found out citrus don’t like wet feet!  It’s not like I planted them directly into a bog – I put them in the highest point of the orchard, but we do live on what was once a swamp – there is no way around it – it gets wet here from time to time, so needless to say I have one by one killed all the citrus – all but one.  The lemon.  It seems to have this bizarre will to live, despite its circumstances.

The other day we were in the orchard planting a new tree and Hubby the Un-Gardener wandered over to check on the lemon.  Disappointed with its inability to provide him with slices of lemon to poke into his beer bottle on a hot sunny day, he took matters into his own hands – and dug it up.  Then he brought it to the garden and said “Sarah the Gardener – try and fix this please.”

Not exactly a fine specimen!

Not exactly a fine specimen!

It was smaller than it was when we planted it and the root ball that had been dug up with it was bound together with weeds.  It had about half a dozen yellowing leaves, lichen was beginning to grow on its branches – but it was still green so there was still hope.  I took the hose and blasted away at the roots, and revealed a root system more pathetic than the leaf structure.  This tree had not been living in the orchard – it had been existing – clinging on to life – for five years!

Recuperating in the Bucket Infirmary

Recuperating in the Bucket Infirmary

I figured with such a will to live, it deserved the only the best of care.  So I created the Bucket Infirmary and planted the tree into a bucket rich in all the nutrients that a lemon loves, and watered it in well.  Once it begins to show signs of recovery and life, I’ll move it to a more semi-permanent home in a Convalescent Container, where it can stretch its roots and blossom with its new found freedom.  Then we will take some time to select the perfect location for a final destination so it can grow into a strong and mighty lemon tree and Hubby the Un-Gardener can sit in the shade of its branches after a hard days digging with a beer with a slice of home grown lemon poked into the bottle.

This beautiful flower is an Aquilegia - grannies bonnet - the first one to pop up!

This beautiful flower is an Aquilegia – grannies bonnet – the first one to pop up!

Well… that’s the plan – so far so good!

Come again soon – spring is in full swing!

Sarah the Gardener  : o )

NB:  I’ve made a wee film and loaded it onto You Tube so you can see how my garden looks this October!  Check it out >here<


… With a passion.  I hate it so much. I hate its stupid flimsy aluminium frame held together with crappy bolts that don’t hold together.  I hate its supposedly wonderful new generation polycarbonate panels that just crack and perish under our searingly hot UV sun.  It’s such a crappy design that even the insurance company won’t insure it – even though it cost me a small fortune.  I hate how the design doesn’t hold the polycarbonate panels in place and the job is left up to duct tape – while being a wonder tape – even this can’t overcome the crappyness of the greenhouse.  I hate how it can’t stand up to the slightest breeze.

I bet you can guess where this is going….

This is a disaster!

This is a disaster!

While the stupid greenhouse is actually still standing – which is some kind of miracle in itself, it has withstood gusts this morning of up to 50km/hour, but the stupid flimsy thing bent and bowed like and old accordion and then resumed the usual position, standing there all innocent – like nothing was wrong when I went to water my newly transplanted seedlings.

The bowing of the south wall caused the freestanding shelf along its inside wall to fall over.  Or was it pushed, by a nasty, cantankerous, bad tempered hunk of polycarbonate junk!  On the floor was a jumbled mess of tomato, pepper, broccoli, and salad seedlings.  I guess there would have been a tangled mess of at least 50 seedlings!  I know there were a lot because it took me all afternoon on Sunday to transplant them!

Luckily because they were recently transplanted the soil around them was loose-ish and so they had been tumbled from their pots and not snapped and broken.  I was able to put most of them back into pots – although most likely not the pots they came from and there were only a couple of pots missing a plant.  Some of the smaller tomato seedlings may have dried out in the time it took for me to find them, but I have watered them well and can only hope and pray they will be ok.

It may look like order has been restored - but chaos still reigns because I don't know who is who!

It may look like order has been restored – but chaos still reigns because I don’t know who is who!

The biggest devastation was my flower seeds.  I’d planted them in a big flat seed tray and they were just starting to come up in cute tiny little rows.  I managed to flip the soil back into the tray in a swift continuous movement that put most of it back in, but the rows are gone – the labels are next to useless because even if I knew where they went – I can’t guarantee that’s where the seeds have ended up – or even if they are there at all.  I’ve never had much luck with flowers!

It’s just as well I have kept a spread sheet of all my seedlings, as there are quite a few peppers, chillies and tomatoes that I really don’t have a clue who they are.  I will do a roll call and mark off all the known plants.  I have put all the ones that I’m not sure of on a shelf by themselves and hopefully they will reveal themselves later – although I doubt it!  I’ve pulled all the shelves in from the wall so that the walls would have to be on the point of snapping before they could shove my seeds around again!

A small heron that crash landed on our lawn in a gust of wind - he was ok - just a little dazed!

A small heron that crash landed on our lawn in a gust of wind – he was ok – just a little dazed!

It’s so frustrating.  The season was shaping up to be the best ever.  I was organised and confident.  I had a plan and it was falling into place.  It was all going so well… The thing is do I sow more?  Is there time? I don’t know what to do…

Come again soon – I am seriously looking in to a greenhouse upgrade – starting immediately!

Sarah the Gardener  : o )

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