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.

Friday, November 28, 2014

tiger stripes

Yeah I know I'm really selling it with the photo. 
It's top corner of the section.  Former neighbours, many years ago, planted large trees hugging up to the hedge line. 
A potentially sad story of overbearing shade, voracious root systems, hedge munted by vigourous growth and consequently an area no longer suitable for growing.
Fortunately life is a whole lot bigger than that (and so is the section) and unfortunately there are real sad stories out there that you wouldn't wish on anyone.
Wherever they are now, I really hope they are enjoying the pleasures of gardening and continuing to bless their world with more trees. 

So having identified the perfect place to build a worm farm I moved up the bath, with a little help from the  school child home 'sick' for the day: that mysterious tummy bug that seems to come right about 9.30am, after a phone call to school has cleared the day. 
I have some rigid plastic grid over the plug hole to keep out rodents; also put a few bricks in the bottom, I think for drainage? I'm following careful instructions from my worm source. 
Toilet rolls and cardboard are the base layer. 

Notice the enamel pot underneath to catch worm fertiliser and the bath is on a gentle slope to make sure it drains easily. 
The final ingredients are dirt, compost, and the first buffet bucket of vegetable scraps, (citrus and onion excluded) to welcome them to their new home.  
The compost was full of 'other' worms, the garden variety. I was a wee bit concerned about dropping  my immigrants amongst them; I hope things don't turn to fisticuffs in  there. 

The top layer is wet sacks,  then a clever waterproof lid, covered with overlapping plastic tiles that function like scales. The weights stop  any wind drift. See photo below.
 It seems to be a very manageable level of livestock care, although, I've seen a few dead worm farms and they are a sad sight...but enough of that sort of talk, 

Bon vivant!

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.