Thursday, November 20, 2014

made to measure

November, the month of new toys. 
I 'ordered' the shade house to fit the little spot outside the tunnel house and fit it does. 
It reduces the tunnel-house-transition-to-garden to literally one step, out the door.  
The wood is recycled pallet hardwood, Pacific Teak, delivered to site by our neighbour who brings us a steady supply of pallets through the year. 
I can't imagine what a better neighbour would look like. Except his wife of course. She looks better. 

 Chortles when I mention my new water butt that graces the little supply station here. 
I'm looking up 'butt' in the dictionary to justify the word. Oh yes o.k., slang for buttocks, but here is my working definition 'a cask especially as a measure of wine or ale'. 
I consider it fits. I'm facing disbelief that it's a proper word. 
The hoses are at the other end of the garden and it is for all those moments when I need a bit of water at this end. There is liquid manure in the white bucket so I can distribute a little tonic more easily now, which makes it more likely to happen. 
Who doesn't do better for a little tonic now and then. 

Hard to see what I took this photo for. Except of course, I know and I can see clearly.  
I picked up some 'kale' plants from vege club, grown from saved seed; saved, cross-fertilised seed it would seem, sending out broccolli-esque shoots and odd, large leaves. 
The shoots are delicious, the leaves aren't bad, I'm just snapping them off and steaming them, all good to me but they're not going to have any longevity which is more what I was after with Kale. Something to quietly grow and hold-in there through the seasons. 
Now you can juice the ribs, nothing needs to be wasted; it's up there  with jerusalem artichoke juice: virtuous. May not get any repeat takers on it. Alright, won't get any repeat takers then. 

The brag shot,  Italian zuchinni, only brag because it is mid-November in Dunedin, and a cold wet one at that. I never buy zuchinni, so this is a treat; not quite as good as your first strawberries or new potatoes of the season but still something to fully appreciate. 

I just threw the  wood box in on the theme of
humble pallet construction. Super recycling here, when it breaks we burn it for firewood. 
The ashes are the only part that's thrown away. Very neat.        

Thursday, November 13, 2014

small beginnings middles and ends

Amongst the strawberry bed a beautiful pink flowering plant. No idea what the strawberries will be like; the mother plant was a non-descript looking gift but one with great promise: I knew that because the giver is a wonderful gardener. It perked up once it was in the ground and flowered in late Autumn, too late in this climate for fruit. It excelled itself in sending out runners, another big tick; these are all heading for their first season. I can hardly wait. 

 I was very pleased to find carrots amongst all the weeds. Some of my seed was old, big mistake, especially for the first planting, possibly an over-optimistic joust at carrots for Christmas. I put microclima cloth over them as much as a mulch to hold in moisture, as a deterrent for the cats that seem to love to scratch or sleep on a newly-sown bed. It seemed to work on both counts and would have raised the temperature a little too. 
It doesn't let all the rain through so is removed for the minute. Carrot fly is not a problem here or I would  leave it on. I am using the compost wooden things, umm, the squares that build the bin, to mark out the ground. I'm not sure why it makes any difference but I like separating things off. The horseradish over the back isn't deterred by an arbitrary wooden frame (yes that's the word) but a dividing line seems to suggest I am keeping  it at bay. 

Two pictures in the evening light. Garlic, rhubarb, potatoes, the photo is showing off my little concrete retaining 'wall'. It is enough to stop the dirt slipping over the terrace, maybe it provides a little extra warmth through mass absorbing solar energy.
Last of the potatoes, Pink Fir, and Agria are in under the grass clippings. Too much wire worm to leave them late here, we'll just eat new potatoes all the way. Have used pine needles and they help, but I have run out and need to stock up again from a favourite gathering site. A lot of gardening is about gathering and distributing the right resources at the right time. 

I bought this beautiful mug for son's birthday and realised I was actually buying it for myself. Left it out on the bench as a tester to see if there was the slightest interest. No. It's too small and he doesn't appreciate how comfortable the 'scissors handle' is . I'm sure there's a proper name in the ceramics world for that too. 
The obvious solution then is for mother to also receive a gift on son's birthday. 
I'll use it for coffee tomorrow morning.  

'Small beginnings middles and ends'  is all about looking at the individual components of a garden rather than a big sweep. It's what I had in mind before I loaded any photos. The big sweep is something I want to think about more in general garden terms but at this time of year,  life has to be in manageable myopic chunks. 

Saturday, September 6, 2014

and the winner is...

Irrelevant to the photos, and today's title, I've somehow won a couple of flower carpet roses  from a local nursery. I 'll be off to collect them on Monday once the weekend crowds are gone. No skill was required. 

Today's topic for my own amusement and interest,  is  the 'Potato in a Bucket' comps and my bid to get closer to the dais and the crown.  The big unveiling in December is the opposite of a Weight Watcher's meeting; everybody is hoping for the biggest gain, heaviest weight, or the subsidiary prize of  most potatoes. 

Back to those potatoes in a minute, here's the tunnel house getting the seaweed treatment. 
I'm trenching it in, with a layer of compost getting ready for Spring planting. I could put these things on top, but away from the hydrations of our consistent rainfall, the seaweed dries out before it breaks down and you are digging around dry seaweed sticks for months. 
This way it disappears.
I'm going to plant only a few grafted tomatoes this year and then use the extra space for beans, courgettes, basil which struggled outside last year and failed to reach their full potential. No disrespect to a budding summer, but I haven't recent cause to rely on it to meet all their needs. 

The bucket mix for the aforementioned potatoes comprises basic potting mix, chopped seaweed, a scoop or two of rock dust, wood ash, and a few handfuls of rotted manure. I have wrapped
 the buckets in bubble wrap with Microclima cloth over the top and they can cosily reside in the tunnel house until they are well on their way. 
For seed raising and seedling mix, I use that old dishwashing rack to sieve the potting mix, add a bit of rock dust and manure. This advice is courtesy of Carol at Garden Club.  So far so good. 

Now  the buckets are on their way to the tunnel house. Come along you two  (note to viewer, the new steps and railing, Bill's  triumph of re-engineered scrap metal parts). 
May the best potato win.

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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