Thursday, September 10, 2015

criminal minds

There's a couple of new things happening in the garden at the minute.
Partners in crime, here they are high-tailing it to a freshly dug patch of ground. They don't realise at all that they are pets livestock and have a mad intent to get inside. They hang around the back door in the mornings pecking to be let in, and should you or I  leave the front door open, then they are strolling the red carpet.
I'm trying to think of suitable whimsical names but whimsy arrives sideways, it isn't planned or worked out, it is bestowed.  

That's a seed potato in the foreground: my Christmas investment, a dozen red king seed potatoes.
The liberal pine needle bed is  some protection from wire-worm, and chickens ought to help with that too, eventually, when we target their browsing. I'm leaving the flowering broccoli in for wind shelter and bee forage. Yes, the weeds are part of the plan.

Nobody remembers it as a great winter but apart from the flooding, there were lots of dry, clear days.
The first morning that B borrowed a concrete drill and began to work on the garage-door footings was also the morning that our neighbour got in from A and E at 7 am after a grueling night and was trying to sleep.
It was school holidays so we cut work,  managed to unplug a teenage boy from his computer, and went to the beach.
The little barbecue has just enough oomph to boil the coffee pot after the sausages are done, very well done today....

Long Beach in winter, it could easily be summer, never a crowd.

Tuesday, February 17, 2015


There was a gap between taking the photos, and the writing of it this week, and I've already moved on to other things, but let me dredge my mind. Why did I take these photos?
The cucumbers seemed like a greater triumph, for some reason, than tomatoes and basil; all three are amazing just because they are home grown. How often do I say that?
Even the grotty tomatoes make  pasta sauce that has no comparison to one made with a can of tomatoes and  the slug-chewed sunburned basil becomes delicious pesto. I know, if you are reading a gardening blog I am preaching to the converted.


The timer is a reprimand. I popped the sprinkler on in the tunnel house, flouting watering restrictions because the job is so tedious... but then I forgot. 
If the ground reaches saturation point within 1/2 hr, and the water flow was say, 2 litres a minute, how many litres ran down,  the "River Driveway"  for the next 2 hours?
B retrieved a timer out of the garage, a commendable feat in itself, without saying anything, another commendable feat, and taped it to the hose.

I was given 3 different strawberry varieties this year that I am keen to trial. First step is multiplication.  Just the one runner so far for Type A, but A comes highly recommended for big red fruits; in a rare bit of top-class care, I have tucked the progeny into a snug little punnet of potting mix. Grow strong little one.

Now this is a conundrum. The fejoia is 'Unique' I think, suggested for this climate, but I don't understand how something that is flowering right now, can produce fruit on the cusp of the season like this. I may have to move the pair of them; I wanted them to sit nicely in front of the compost bins but they seem to be telling me that their needs are not the same as mine. I'm listening but I'll give it another year in case they come around. 

Tuesday, January 27, 2015

fear factor

The distance between what I envisage for the garden, and what is actually there, has never seemed so great. Part of the problem is all the ideas on hold that are milling around in my mind; but it is so dry and to move a plant right now is to lose a plant, or at least set it back some. 
And then there is the mid-season disappointment as it becomes fully apparent what is faring well and what isn't. Silly really, it's not a competition and my little carrots taste just as good as big ones would; they are just following a different trajectory. 
In a world post-NCEA results, where plans for the schooling year are being made, it's good to remember that life is not a competition and there are many trajectories.

One of the chickens got out yesterday and she had a wonderful time scratching amongst these plants, broccoli inter planted with pak choi.  They are the follow-on from the garlic. It's a lovely transition, and an accomplishment, to have plants ready to go in as spaces become available.
In this instance the plants are my solar battery, harvesting the warmth and sunshine to draw on later.

There's a handful of blood and bone each and some scraggy compost; a big part of gardening, and cooking for that matter, is gathering and replenishing  your resources so that they are available when you need them.

The leeks I planted in December have all gone up to seed so I have planted more as the potatoes are lifted.
Some potatoes you dig, others you lift; and then there's bandicooting.

Today  it crossed my mind, will the garden ever be up and running or am I just making excuses. I remembered that garden makeovers are not my style. I really enjoy the process and potential and it is not a race. Come to think of it, the NCEA student has just endured my talk to that effect in the car; I love a captive audience. 
A family friend asked this son recently "What would you do if you couldn't fail?"
I think that idea is a good one for envisaging what I want in the garden. "If I could do anything what would I do?"
Let's see what unfolds...

Thursday, January 8, 2015

glasshouse envy and brag shots

Greetings from the sunny south. 
For the record, I am growing the runner beans in the tunnel house and what a success. 
However, as is often the way, it may be a trade off. The little cucumber beside them is possibly suffering from their success. 
Cucumbers really need the hottest sunniest spot and were I to achieve a glasshouse in the near future, these things can happen unexpectedly sometimes, I would put the cucumber in it. 
Meanwhile I am reluctantly buying cucumber. 

It's been the year of the strawberry. These things have assured their priority status forever. You guys can keep that sunny spot and I promise to take care of your progeny forever, well next year anyway if I need to replace you (No need to broadcast it but I already have some runners on the go from other varieties).

Rust on the broad beans. It appeared really quickly, right after I had the sprinkler on . Once the foliage starts to break down like this there's not going to be any growth so I've cut my losses. The beans are already blanched and in the freezer. 
They were in a bit late and are best in November when there is less in the garden for eating. 
Note to self, plant beans by Anzac Day. 

Well that's how it looked a day ago. suddenly my garden is looking bare. 
It's been really dry but we had a big rain on New Year's Eve. I was weighing up the benefit of the extra rain bulking up the bulbs over the potential for the moisture to degrade the skin. If the bulb doesn't store well it doesn't matter how big it was. 
Caution won the day. Garlic is hanging in the shed.
 Note to self, plant twice as much next year. 
I got a bonus bucket of new potatoes from amongst the broad beans. From memory it was a new variety called Highlander that I planted in January for Easter new potatoes. 
I'm glad I let them co-mingle. Usually I pull rogue potatoes out.

Incidentally the potatoes had very little wire worm which I attribute to the pine needles. 
Wire worm have a selective palette and seem to also like our favourite red kings over other varieties.
Well all this success is going to my head. Next post I must include a few 'when plants go bad' photos...if I can find some. 

Friday, December 26, 2014

embarrassing gardens

The world could be divided between those who are fascinated by Embarrassing Bodies and those who aren't.  My limited research sides with the principle that opposites attract and I suggest that people who watch it, watch it alone because their partner can't stand it and has sloped off to bed.

An embarrassing garden doesn't have to have the horticultural equivalent of awkward genitalia problems or boob-jobs gone wrong. It's just that part of the garden that has had  no attention and it tells the world so, should the world happen to see it. 
On the very bright side, putting the photos above and below together and going to the last chapter of the story, a neglected raspberry patch, up to its ears in long grass and seeding docks, still yields delicious fruit. A late season this year had us begin picking soft fruits on Christmas day; none too late at all.
When you grow them, and pick every other day, there is a moment when it seems the supply will never end.
And the measure is quite different from buying a few punnets which have to be measured out or counted say.
You just eat them up, or make jam.
Sometimes you just eat them in the garden straight off the plant.

The seeding docks are part of my 30 minute gardening story, courtesy of current public library holiday reading. (No Time to Garden by Anne Swithinbank). 
I have identified a number of tasks to set the timer for and hack away at. Otherwise at this time of year my gardening can become dissipated by the number of things to do exceeding the time available to do them and I seem to stab at things aimlessly. 
I'm going to put the dock tops in a black plastic bag with the thistles and leave it all to rot down for a year in a neglected corner. 

I never did identify this plant above but what a winner. I wonder if it is broccollini or something like it. I thought it was kale and we began eating the leaves which were delicious at first...and then these sprouts with very long stems kept growing so I kept picking. 
Many weeks later I have picked the last of them, I just chop the whole bundle across into  roughly 5-6 cm lengths, steam them, butter, salt, pepper. 

I also dug the first of the new potatoes on Christmas Day and mercifully there was a crop beneath. You are never quite sure. 
We visited friends one sunny afternoon before Christmas and the in-laws, also keen gardeners, had arrived down for Christmas.
I hope our potatoes have come through, said daughter. "We'll dig them on Christmas Day."
"You should have told me you needed potatoes" said Mother, "we've been eating ours for three weeks now."
"It's alright, we've got broad beans just beginning, we won't go without." (daughter)
"Ours are finished" said Mother " they were wonderful."
Son-in law realises they are losing in the vegetable game. "We've got lettuce up to here" he says, indicating the height of the table.
Father-in-law parried immediately, "We didn't grow dwarf lettuce this year."

Oops I have digressed, the point was compost, gypsum, a sprinkle of powdered aged sheep manure, and in go the red cabbage following on from the potatoes. 
I really do have  kale this time waiting in the wings for the next lot of potatoes to be dug.  The ground is very dry.

I have got behind and my next task is to plant seeds now for Autumn, Winter and Spring to whom I have each awarded a capital letter to honour their distinctive and lovely personalities.
I will have another go at carrots, which aren't looking good at all, beetroot (neither are they and I may be too late) and iceberg lettuce because I have a tunnel house and I am tired of all these softie lettuces I have been growing. 
Plus brassiness of course, no I mean brassicas, the auto correct is telling me what to do. Must be time to bring those potatoes in and pack them into the chilly bin...

Friday, December 19, 2014

Christmas pickings

It doesn't mean anything to you, that path and the strip of ground beside it. They shouldered the broken concrete from the big dig, which is now being re-assimilated as back-fill for the retaining wall.
It's win/win/win. Walking up to the worm farm/chickens/garden  is no longer an obstacle course and I have an interesting ribbon of dry/sheltered ground to fill with even more interesting plants. 

The season has been slow thus far; a few hot days and how quickly everything takes off. 
The first strawberry, which has even caught the birds by surprise or it wouldn't be there.
I need to get some new netting quick smart or I will be beaten to it. I was going to pull these plants out and I'm so glad I gave them one more year. They weren't runners but pieces of old plants and obviously needed a year's growing and recovery to renew themselves. Fair enough.
 I wonder if the odd shape has something to do with pollination...

The cautionary tale of planting gooseberries beneath the washing line; broken branches and snagged clothing. They are habitually draped in anything from undies to towels. 
I need to pick these gooseberries while they are still green. Thank goodness I am now officially on holiday. 
Last year I froze them free flow, topped and tailed, for which there is no better tool than sharp fingernails. 

Can anyone see a fractal broccauli in there, or is it a broccoflower. 
No matter, we eat it just the same. It's been so dry I am slowly getting around with the sprinkler rescue package. First recipient was the flowering new potatoes; I considered watering them to be a significant Christmas dinner investment.
The runner beans like damp feet so I do keep up with them too; actually the garlic is the only thing I will leave for nature to take its course. It is drying out and heading for harvest and I don't want to interrupt that continuum. Harvest has been bumped forward by the price of NZ garlic in the shops just now. With the alternative of $25 a kilo they are more worthwhile than ever.

A few fennel waiting in the wings for the brassicas to finish so as they can move in on the space. 
They're fairly patient, roots just starting to come out the bottom. 
I'm trying for more continuity this year, little and often. The problem with that is when you don't get back to it and it is just little, the once. I have a feeling  you can grow fennel more as an autumn plant anyway so there is still time for another bite of the apple.

O.K. that's it for the minute. Bye.

Tuesday, December 9, 2014

you say potayto and I say potahto


How quickly the annual vege club Great Potato Weigh-In comes around. 
My buckets had been tossed out of the tunnel house during a clean up and the plants  fared rather badly in the ensuing weather. It didn't look like there was going to be much more growth below and I couldn't make it to the meeting  for the weigh-in so I had my own small ceremony at home...a scrub, a boil, and then we ate them; or as a teenager would say, they were eaten. It's the phenomenon of  the passive voice. "Has the washing been done yet? Is a meal going to be cooked? Can my bed be made?"


 Maris Anchor was the variety, a little bit boring as a new potato in my opinion; in fact,  boring  as a main crop too I should think. The leopard doesn't change its spots.  I frisked them in the big old bath. Gotta keep that gorgeous soil for something special; heaped it around the celery plants and a lone broccoli.

My two plants came in with a collective 3lbs 6oz which hardly topped the charts. Apparently at vege club Wayne took out first prize with well over a kilo of potatoes hidden in his bucket. I think he is capping his hat at the the big one: the trophy for the most wins of the year. For the record, the trophy is a papier mache aubergine.  
Clearly the real prize is the fame and the glory.

Many people successfully grow an embarrassment of runner beans in the south, but our section is just too windy and they don't like it. It has been well worth it to sacrifice a little bit of growing space in the tunnel house for a few plants which are rewarding us with early beans. Early is everything. Beans for Christmas dinner. Num num num.