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.
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!
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.
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.
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.
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 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.
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 )
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.
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!
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!
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.
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!
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 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.
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.
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!
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.
Come again soon – I think I’m getting the hang of this gardening thing.
Sarah the Gardener : o )
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!
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!
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.
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!
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.
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…
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 )
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.
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!
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!
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.
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 )
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.”
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!
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.
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….
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.
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!
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 )
I never in a million years would be guessed that I would be pleased to see rain, so soon after the recent weeks of heavy rain and sodden soil. But I am.
Just a few short weeks ago we were having the worst spring rain. The ground was so soggy that it would only take a half hour shower to cause water to lie on the surface of the grass. Then it stopped and things started to dry out and I breathed a sigh of relief and grabbed my spade and was finally able to start preparing the soil for the spring season. The soil was still a little damp, but soon it would be the lovely soft crumbly spring soil that is perfect for planting into.
Only that didn’t happen, the rain was replaced with a wind – not all that strong, but persistent, and the sun while not strong and mostly hidden by high clouds, made its welcome warmth felt. The wind and the sun worked together to dry out the soil and it was coming along nicely until I realise that they were too great a team – they had completely dried out the soil going straight from soggy to concrete in a week, completely bypassing the soft crumbly stage!
Beds that were recently underwater had deep cracks in them. They needed water – desperately. And in a way that a hose just can’t do it no matter how long it is left to sprinkle over the garden. All day yesterday the clouds looked full with rain, but were high in the sky and just teased us by releasing a few light fluffy drops at a time that evaporated before they had time to dampen anything!
Then overnight the heavens must have opened, not in flood proportions, but just the right amount that if I hit the previously rock solid lumps of dried soil, I’m imagining they will just crumble away, leaving a perfect growing medium. Well that is my hope as I look out the window on a dry but overcast start to the day. Today I’ll be digging – well maybe Hubby the Un-Gardener will be digging, and I’ll supervise.
Well I can’t do all the digging – I have to transplant my seedlings. There are quite a few tomatoes and peppers with true leaves now and the ones I did before need bigger pots as there is still three weeks before I’m prepared to risk putting anyone outside in the open.
Then there is all the asparagus I need to harvest. They looked like they had stalled, there were all these spears half in and half out of the ground, which hadn’t seem to have moved in a week, so I thought I’d give it a bit of a feed and sprinkled goodness all about, watered it in as their bed was cracking too, and I then thought no more about it. The next morning the asparagus had gone nuts. There was a forest – the ones in suspended animation had found the will to grow, but there was also all these other ones that weren’t there before at all! And they haven’t let up since… I wonder how much longer it will be before the family get sick of asparagus!
Come again soon – I’ve been doing a bit of horticultural healing.
Sarah the Gardener : o )
I keep breaking things! I broke a blueberry, a new tool, broke my budget, broke a nail and very nearly broke Hubby the Un-Gardener!
Spring is really starting to kick in, the days are getting much warmer, although a sudden breeze can drop the temperature quite dramatically in a matter of minutes, and we’ve had a couple of frosts. Having learnt from previous years that all seeds have different germination and growth rates, and it is much better to wait until after the safe planting date – which is still a month away, I’m actually enjoying the preparation this spring.
I have staggered my sowings and so each short burst is a pleasure. In the past when I have sat down to sow everything at once I get a bit fed up with it towards the end and instead of gently placing seeds – I just lob them in, especially the tiny ones. I still have two more batches of seeds to sow – the Zukes, squash and pumpkins because once they pop up their growth seems to be exponential and outgrow their pots before it is safe to plant them outside. The last lot to go in will be the ones that like to be sown direct, so hopefully by the time they pop up; all risk of frost will have past.
The digging and weeding, is coming along nicely. There isn’t much to do as I managed to keep things largely under control over the winter. Although there is one bed that still looks very much like a jungle and I seem to be putting it off. I even started to weed the overgrown raspberries, until they started to bite me back… those things have prickles! I have stopped working on the raspberries until I get some better gloves – my poor hands are in tatters!
Most of the digging is to raise the bed levels now they have a new wooden layer on them and that’s a job for Hubby the Un-Gardener. I’m just a poor wee thing and would never have it done on time. Today I nearly broke him – well the wheelbarrow is definitely broken now and so he is using a hand trolley and a large plastic rubbish bin to move my dirt. I thought I’d kill two birds with one stone and get him to use the dirt in the part of the pile that I want to move the Jerusalem Artichokes to… therefore I can re-plant in a hurry before they start to sprout (last minute decision) and he can fill a bed at the same time. But he misunderstood me and almost completely filled the nearest bed with soil from the wrong place. He was not impressed when I told him. Poor guy – he’s really knackered tonight!
One of the jobs I had been putting off for a long time was to move the last blueberry into a raised bed, to get it out of the damp soil, so I carefully dug it out – only I didn’t get all of it. I only got the top half. The roots are still somewhere lurking in among the muddy sticky soil – opps! I raced out and bought a new one that was about the same size so no-one will ever know – except for the fact there is a blueberry bush in a jar of water in the greenhouse, pretending to be a giant cutting!
When I went shopping for the blueberry bush all kinds of gardening related paraphernalia somehow jumped into my trolley. I honestly didn’t see that coming – I had a very short list – irrigation connectors for my potato irrigation and a blueberry. How I came home with all this other stuff I’m not quite sure – but it cost an arm and a leg!
One of the things I bought was a handy dandy grass cutter scissor type tool; because my new lawn mower doesn’t get as close to the beds as the old mower and the beds were looking quite scruffy. It was such a fun tool to use, but I got a bit carried away and broke it the very next day – opps! Well it was the bottom of the line, because I wasn’t sure it would work. Now that I know that it does, I’ll get a better one when I take my broken one back to the store.
I have planted out my potatoes so they should be ready for Christmas day, and then I set up a soaker hose irrigation system for when the weather gets a lot hotter and drier – although I can hardly imagine that now! I thought I’d give it a bit of test drive and plugged in the hose. The top layer of soil didn’t seem to get damp at all, so I left if there and after a while there was all this water lying about on the ground and I couldn’t work out where it had come from, until I realised it was seeping out from under the bed. I hope I haven’t drowned my potatoes! That would be a disaster – a self-inflicted disaster!
Come again soon – I’m so proud of how the garden is coming along, I can’t wait do another update – although I have to do the work first!
Sarah the Gardener : o )
PS: I have a confession to make… I’m blogging somewhere else as well as here! I couldn’t help myself and am participating in our local NZ Yates Veggie growing challenge – for the 4th time. I’m not trying to win it… just hanging out, because it’s a great seasonally local place to be with other gardeners doing what I’m doing at the same time! If you want to check me out you can click >here<. I’ll be there until late December… But I’ll still be here too!
I have come up with a novel way of sourcing mulch for my garden and I’m so excited!
I have always been a bit flummoxed when it comes to mulch. I understand the importance of it – to keep weeds down and moisture in, but when you have a large garden and a small shoestring budget; buying in enough good quality mulch to go around is not an option.
It’s not just the cost that was causing me concern, but what to use as mulch was just a bewildering. There are so many different options, but I saw problems with most of them. The most commonly used mulch seems to be wood chips, but when wood breaks down it robs the soil of nitrogen and I have recently discovered it that if you are prepared to wait three – five years you can get a really nice soil from broken down wood chips. However I’m not patient – I want to grow my veggies now! The other problem I see with wood chips in a veggie garden is that it would be really hard to get a fine tilth and that would be problematic for direct sowing small seeds like carrots and you can’t really grow them any other way.
I could use hay and we have heaps available, but by the time we make our hay it is all full of weed seeds and so spreading it all around my garden wouldn’t suppress weeds, it would make the weed situation a thousand times worse! Compost is also suggested as a mulch material, but it is a nutrient rich material that all plants – including weeds – love to grow in, so I can’t see how that could be classified as suitable mulch.
Grass clippings can be used as mulch, but if you lay it on too heavy it goes all slimy and prevents aeration of the soil and if it is too light and fluffy, the nastier weeds, like dock, just grow straight through it! Newspaper works well but it is ugly and if it dries out – it blows away.
So, while I know using mulch is best practice, I really struggled to come up with a solution for my garden, until one day while feeding the chickens, I looked down at the wheat in my hand and I thought “hmmm… I wonder…” so I decided to conduct a wee experiment.
We are blessed to have a mild enough winter that some things can grow right through and so after I pulled the corn out in the late summer I had an empty bed just staring at me, begging for some form of cultivation. I stole food from the chickens and liberally sprinkled it about the bed and to my surprise – it grew!
It continued to grow steadily all winter and became such a lovely feature – the way it rustled in the wind and how good it felt to run your hand over it. It was such a fresh lush green and gave the winter garden great structure. Lately I have been noticing immature seed heads beginning to show themselves and I came to the decision it was time to pull them out before the wheat became a weed. So I spent a lovely day in the sun today harvesting my wheat.
I am really pleased with the result. It is such a shallow rooted plant that it came up easily, there was probably only half a dozen other weed plants in there, so it had done an awesome job of keeping the weeds at bay all winter. The soil is also heaps drier that the beds around it, so it has really helped to prevent soggy boggy soil – which is an unexpected bonus! There were also loads of snails in there, but there will be heaps less in my spring garden as I was able to “take care of them!”
The wheat was then bundled up with string and hung out to dry on my washing rack. Once is goes all dry and crispy, I will spread it about as a mulch – probably around my strawberries. The cool thing is it was free, and even though it may have taken nutrients from the soil – so would have the weeds that would have normally resided in the bed over the winter; the nutrients will be returned to the soil as organic matter as the mulch breaks down. So if I do this every year in every bed, then I should be able to create a closed system of nutrient cycling and I have solved my winter weed problem and my summer mulch problem. Fantastic!
Another unexpected bonus is I’ll be planting the spuds in the old wheat bed instead of the bed I have chosen as it much drier and swapping it with the peppers doesn’t affect my crop rotation program and Hubby the Un-Gardener has already turned it over for me!
Come again soon – things are starting to really come together in the garden.
Sarah the Gardener : o )