Saturday, August 9, 2014

Hidden treasure

Lets not waste time with all the reasons for not posting, or wring hands over computer melt downs,  and a forgotten email address, oh how the list goes on. As someone said to me this week, "Never mind the why, let's just solve the problem" so onwards to the ever fascinating, richly rewarding world of gardening. 
I realise, emptying the camera, I haven't got the photos I thought I had, and the yams are doubley invisible because not only no photo, but we ate the superlative yielders before it became apparent that the other variety was such a poor cousin. 

 

Come winter and the crops are mostly underground. You don't know until you dig quite what the performance level is going to be. I had two varieties of Jerusalem Artichoke also, one had gazillions of these little satellite creamy  nodules and the other was a monster red sort of knobbly football, covered in long roots. It looked strangely like a futuristic space ship. 
Well as you can see, one comes as smooth portioned crunchy tubers, a quick scrub with the vegetable brush (which is a nail brush most of the time) and they store in the fridge for weeks. 
The others are too big for the fridge and  too knobbly to get the dirt out easily. We are juicing them with carrots, apple, and ginger. It tastes virtuous with earthy undertones. 


I broadcast the carrot seed over quite a large plot this year, nevermind rows and thinning and all that palaver. Pulled out all the big ones first,  as you do when you're making tea in a hurry, and now I'm clearing the plot to make way for peas.
 I've got a feeling I've gone awry already with my rotational theory and it should be potatoes next. However I seem to be shoehorning things in where I can this year. It's early days in this garden, there is time to iron that out as the soil quality lifts. 
I'm stripping a section at a time, pull a bucketful of carrots, scrub and  sort into small for snacks, medium for cooking (halved) ,and large for anything else, carrot and artichoke soup, carrot cake and juice.
 It's brilliant having them all ready to go and the small ones are the best instead of being a nuisance. 



What with a mild winter, there are a few sporting 'carrot beard', that mass of tiny roots that sprouts as they  begin to grow again so yes it is good timing to lift and deal with them. 


What a great result from one artichoke plant, five was probably one plant too many for us this year. One of my yams produced nearly a bucketful like this one of artichokes.  

Anyway the mild winter seems to have been just as productive as a lacklustre summer.  Perhaps it's just that I hadn't fenced the garden with expectations and I have been free to seize every opportunity and enjoy every small thing. 



Thursday, April 17, 2014

whether the weather be hot or whether the weather be cold

I've been watching gardening videos courtesy of the vege club library, living vicariously. The only sort of gardening for this week end I suspect.  Pouring doesn't describe the rain, it's driving in against the windows and under the back door making its way into places it doesn't usually go. Has filled up the metre deep post holes that we dug last week for the retaining wall.


 

 Here's the Capri tomatoes looking more successful than they really were. Bigger tomatoes require a longer growing season to ripen, better care with watering and feeding, and this year, much better slug protection than they got. The smaller tomatoes were more successful, being satisfied with errattic attention, and well away from the ground. I have learnt that slugs will climb for tomatoes, but they don't seem to have a great head for heights.


 A beautiful strawberry flower below.  This plant was a gift that sat in the pot for weeks. When I eventually planted it, out came bracts of flowers. Too late for fruiting it's just too cold now but I have carefully planted out all the runners in the strawberry bed. 


 I am really pleased I got a day to clear around the fruit trees and bushes, strawberries in the foreground.
Mulched with compost and bedded with pine needles for the winter. I looked at pea straw, but the pine needles are free and I also use them on the floor of the hen house so I tend to have a supply on hand.

 Little concrete retaining walls are appearing everywher around the garden, using up the debris from the 'landscaping project' my euphemistic term for the great workshop build. Some people gracefully landscape their sections and other people dig, and build, and make things and it all looks good in the end. We are in the second category but it has yet to all look good.


I've been trying to work out what this picture is meant to show but I remember now. Brassicas on the lower right. This is an area with club root. I took your advice Mum and put a rhubarb stalk and leaf under each plant; they seem to be growing really well.
I have roughly divided my garden now into 4 working beds so my next project is to establish some sort of crop rotation and start to plan to plant accordingly.
Right, I better go and put some wood on the fire...

Saturday, February 15, 2014

What's working and what's not

Clearly the garlic worked although truth be known I was disappointed. I had two beds and the later one out performed the early by a mile, and then there was so much rain that I just pulled it all and dried it in the shed.
Come Vege Club and it was garlic and shallots on the competition table, there were plaits, elephant garlic, beautiful shallots and much bigger garlic heads too, if a little grubby. 

 


I think what gave me the edge was peeling off the outer  layer so that it looked inviting to use. 
'People's choice prize' is all about what people would like to use themselves, not necessarily gardening best,  so there is my winning card and my selection from the prize pool which has already been put to good use weeding the carrots.



 

The lettuce have been my summer success story. Their origin and name have been lost, except to say the lettuce seeded last year and I composted it. This year, every application of compost has brought a succession of little seedlings. Some we eat straight from the garden, others that are in the wrong place, I move them under the cloche.


Rhubarb Custard Cake, I found the recipe on eat little bird and took the advice of the multitudes to add an extra layer of rhubarb under the custard. It disappeared swiftly. 
Another success, the rhubarb, but now I have to address the problems, one of which is that I can't rotate my photos today. Get ready for a bent neck if you will!


 
I got the digging team to put anything close to top soil up on the top lawn.
Now I am slowly seiving out the cooch (or is it couch) wireworm, rocks and stones, clay lumps, debris, and  layering it up with cardboard, pineneedles, soil and seed potatoes.
This lot here called 'Highlander', never heard of it before.

 

Second lot of potatoes in are  'Cliff's Kidney'. In current time this is all potato foliage up and growing.  I am mulching them all with grass clippings and whatever. 
The shredded hedge clippings sucked up the nitrogen I think and the tops began to turn yellow so won't do that again.  An application of chopped seaweed seems to have helped and nobody has complained yet... Manure would be good. 
And of course there is still plenty of soil, the pile is much higher than this photo.
I'm  expecting these potatoes  to be ready at Easter. Hopes running high.



A new wood shed, this is definitely working. I have waited 20 years for this. B had to build it to house the scrap wood that comes in off pallets and so on. There are 3 bays, one waiting to be filled. It clears the space for the new workshop so a silver lining for me for living in a work site. 


This is a final glory photo. A Chinese Artichoke, bit of a snatch to source this, and beside it, my new pair of Bahco pruning clips bought with the last of my birthday money and appreciated every day. 


Sunday, December 8, 2013

Not My Job




 The Elves and the Shoemaker have really got me puzzled. Not the least of it has been that with everybody home I could do with a team of elves to come in at night and do a bit of a spruce up, finish off the washing, clean the kitchen really thoroughly and do the bathroom before they troop out, weary but exhilerated by their good deeds, in the early hours of the morning. They have yet to appear.

So I'm flinging out the chores in all directions only to find out that some things are 'not my job' or there is some unwritten rule that if I have done one thing then it is a mysterious other's turn.
Fortunately we have a building project on the go sufficient to keep all hands busy and make the most of our  real, live, on-hand labour force; the best kind. 



The 'Big Dig' began on Monday with all hands cheerfully harnessed to the pick, shovel, or wheelbarrow.  I have enough concrete debris to build all the little walls I want and to crazy pave the top path and fill it in with concrete crumbs. These steps were under the ramp.
The top soil is going to need a place where it can be piled up,  while I work at assimilating it. Some of the clay has a home 10 minutes away on the back of a trailer, some may have to be rehoused on the section.





I had a pile of plastic milk bottles full  of water around my courgettes to add a bit of warmth. I think it helped in an ugly way.
 Well I am having a bit of a war on plastic in the garden at the minute,  plastic pots seem to multiply, and I'm constantly retrieving little pieces of plastic, lots of sellotape from all the cardboard boxes that get thrown on the compost heap, shreds of blue stuff off disintegrating tarpaulins...
So  I will see how the little concrete wall goes to warm the courgette's  toes...


Picked some of the gooseberries and realised just how shallow their roots are. I know, a small concrete buffer to hold in the soil and mulch, tra la la.  Incidentally I picked 5 lbs off the first bush and 8 lb 7oz off the second. At 2lbs to a crumble or a shortcake, and with 3 large bushes and 2 small ones, I calculate 1 hot gooseberry pudding a month for the year. Maths questions  were never this interesting.
Top and tailed 'em and bundled them into the freezer.



Oh here we are, below, an aerial view. Milk bottles waiting to be marched off to the wheelie bin, concrete galore up the fence line.
The boys are digging out the bank below which has been promised enough retaining to not need a permit, some foundations,  then the  container which is patiently waiting to be delivered and turned into a workshop for B. He is going to clad it with wood and put in windows and doors.
The adventure has begun.
 
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Sunday, October 20, 2013

Hedge Funds

When we bought the house 20 years ago there was no division between our neighbours' backyard and our own, save the obvious changeover where the lawn became field.
He is a bowler and maintains a smooth, if mossy green at all times.
It was very convenient for the kids to play together, and they had a trampoline at that time which was another reason to hop over and hop next door.
Now and again when I forgot to give them breakfast, the boys would begin to eat the crusts that they threw out on the lawn for the birds...oops.



When it got particularly long,  he would come over and mow our grass too on that shared slope and this has engendered a lot of neighbourly goodwill.
However, the wind sweeps across there and in the interests of shelter for both, and privacy at last, for them, we planted a hedge this Sunday.
Now is always a good time to bank a bit of goodwill into our neighbourly account. 
Top Photo: The back of the tunnel house. The borage flowers were the icing on the cake for my entry in the 'Salad Bowl for One' competition at Garden Club this week.
I would have a photo right here of the card and prize I won for Judges Choice if I had thought of it sooner. That's right, Judges  Choice, the best prize of all. But getting back to the hedge...




Here's Bill liftting a double strip of turf. We borrowed another neighbour's spade so we could both dig. I just happen to be taking the photo. I also took the opportunity to lark off and cut the overgrown top hedge back a bit to let in more light for the new hedge.


Here they are laid out. They were each awarded a shovel of compost, just enough to make them welcome, not enough for prolific growth. Some good things can take a very long time.With  20cm of hedge to show after 20 years we are hardly going to rush things now.


We flipped the turf and butted it in snugly. The plan is to mulch them with grass clippings now to suppress the grass beneath. Hopefully that's all that is required for a year or two.


Now inside the glasshouse, looking a bit topsy turvey. The observant eye will note lettuce amongst the red orach explosion, potato in bucket for the vege club 'Potato in Bucket' Competition (grow potato, grow) and lone tomato, Kakanui 2000. In the foreground are my little Capri and a few Blackjack cherry tomato seedlings. Plus emergent pumpkin seedlings  galore from the buried bokashi.

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Thursday, October 3, 2013

Only the best will do

One of Gore's many charms is the spring show, I mean that in a collective way, I didn't go to 'the show' or anything.  There's all the public beds and the amazing central gardens but the domestic gardens are outstanding.
Not necessarily  in imagination or design (without excluding that possibility), but the volume and colour, bulbs, blossom, WoW.  September is the time to go to Gore and do a drive round; even the cemetery puts on a show so you can't say they're not catering for every body. He heh.
   
But to the plant in hand, French Tarragon, that's French for anyone who didn't hear me and you know who you are. It's not as hardy as the Russian or nearly as common. The craft shop had a little plant tray outside the main door, main street, Gore. Gosh that place reminds me of Groundhog Day. It's this seemingly insignificant town that is full of treasures like a great fish and chip shop, and a vibrant community no doubt, maybe even animals that hibernate over the winter.
I came away with the best souvenir from that little stall,  some interesting plants out of somebody's interesting garden.
 
These photos now are a bit old news. I collected all my out of date lettuce seed into one big mesclun mix and planted out a cold frame with it. Only 2 of the seed types seem to be viable at this stage. Good to have a clean out of old seed.
 
And this one, starting off the tomatoes for another year. This year, a few blackjack and about 10 Capri and that will fill up the space. Lots of little plants to give away. Just remind me.
 
I went up to feed the chickens early one morning and here they were stretching their legs, despite their new capacious extended run up the back. Thank goodness they haven't reached the silverbeet I thought... but there aren't many in the house who would be thinking that.  
 
And finally I found this photo on the camera. Seeing as it's school holidays I will include the recipe.
Perhaps someone in the house can make it.
Incidentally don't use Pams cocoa  for this. But standard Cadbury will do.
Cuts into 32 big triangles. That is 16 squares cut in half. 
Caramel square.
  • 200g butter
  • 1/2 C sugar
  • 1 1/2 C flour
  • 1/2 C self raising flour
  • 1/4 C cocoa
Step 1
Cream the butter and sugar and stir in sifted dry ingredients.
Press evenly into a largish tin. Bigger than a 20 x 30 cm sponge roll tin.  
I put a peice of gladwrap on top and flatten it with my hands.
Bake at 175 degrees celcius for about 15 minutes.
Step 2
  • 1 T butter,
  • 2 T golden syrup
  • 1 Can condensed milk.
 Melt the butter and syrup together then stir in the condensed milk.
 Pour this evenly over the par-cooked base.
Step 3
  • 80g butter
  • 1/2 C brown sugar
  • 1C flour
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • 2 T cocoa
Cream the butter and sugar.
Stir in the sifted dry ingredients.
crumble over the caramel layer.
Bake a further 20 minutes until the caramel is brown around the edges of  the tray.
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Saturday, August 24, 2013

Tidying up

It has often occurred to me that gardening is alot like housekeeping with dirt. You organise,  tidy up,  put away, it's a constant cycle of restoring things back to plan, so why is one so very  far more interesting than the other?
And of course for some people housework really is interesting, apparently.  
And who would have thought that such alien life forms would produce asparagus but here they are, a year old and straight out of the bag. I spent the afternoon preparing a bed for them but it became apparent the bed is going to need weeks to settle so I have started them off in the tunnel house. 
I have been looking at them carefully in the packet and one or two limbs have dropped off; best tuck them in for rehydration before dessication is complete.
  
 
Yes the seaweed gathering has been going apace, and other resource collecting as opportunity affords. The base garden is clay of sufficient purity to throw on a wheel and throw a pot so no point double-digging here. I loosened the clay with the fork tines and added layers to the existing scrape of top soil thus:
  • rough compost
  • sieved sand from the old sandpit (sieved out wire worm, grass grub and couch)
  • aged stable manure
  • bokashi


Mix it altogether and leave to stand probably six weeks anyway. A little bit like making home brew but hopefully more successful. Strange that a garden should be so short of dirt but that's what I could have done with more of. 


Dug a little field drain from the retaining wall, at a point where a daisy was growing. In this garden that is a surefire indicator of bog (along with buttercup) and sure enough  a little river began to flow. Was able to fill it with all the stones  that turn up as I work, some come attached to seaweed, some come in with manure, and others are bits of concrete and things that are here already.
A garden, like many other things, becomes increasingly meaningful when you know the provenance of all its parts.



Wayne from garden club went up to Kakanui last week and brought back grafted tomatoes, in August!
I haven't even planted seeds yet (This year I am growing Capri). This is  Kakanui 2000. I am hoping for great things as I only bought the one. No pressure little plant, you're home now and we love you.
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