Wednesday, December 30, 2009

A good day for gardening

It has just occurred to me that this blog is a little like my life at the moment: trying to fit too many things onto one page.
It's a very typical squeeze in the gardening calendar, especially where you have a short growing season. In fact, I go down to the garden and feel very much like a primary school teacher with a large class of small children, who all want attention at once. The trick is knowing which voice to attend to first.

The tomatoes are very interesting at the moment and I've come to the conclusion that the biggest factor in yield is genetics. Next year I'll put most of my money on ... moneymaker which has reliably set good clusters of tomatoes and has had less deviants. Which brings me to Beefsteak which has thrown up all sorts of variants all of which produce less fruit.
1. Sometimes the flowering spur is not obviously attatched to a growing tip. The stalk splits in two, thus (below left) and then you have two tips. Productivity drops right away. The answer is to choose one leader and pinch the other one out.
2. No growth tip. The plant grinds to a halt and only sets one spur of fruit. (I forgot to put in the picture for this and haven't mastered the art of adding it in.) Answer is to replace the plant with the spare ones you are nursing along in pots, hopefully. Be ruthless. It won't come to anything.
3. Great looking flowers, (Photo on the right) the plant is covered with them but there's something wrong. I'll have to do a side-by-side analysis but they look wrong and haven't set any fruit over the whole plant.

This is Not Companion Planting

What I learnt last year, with pumpkins and corn, is that companion planting doesn't mean putting two things in the place of one. Each needs room to grow. Well I planted that corn that's cramming out the beans, the Chieftain hybrid, and intended to pot it up until there was space to plant it. Corn resents being moved and is a difficult seed to germinate unless you are in the know. This time I clearly got it right, planted the seed into watered ground, covered it with a sack and left it until it germinated. Out of two packets (Kings Seeds) I have transplanted 150 seedlings today and still another 50 at least to go. Every seed in the pack must have sprouted.
This works well for large seeds which can otherwise rot.
Oh that's what I was saying, I missed the moment to pot it up and decided to leave it until it could go straight into the ground.

Here's another corn/bean suffocating friendship combo; the mistakes here are barely enough space for the corn and then the beans went in too late and were rapidly outgrown by the corn so haven't got the light or nutrient they need. I'll move them even at this late stage when I can make space somewhere.

Here's the seedlings in my flash new trays. Some of these will go out into the shade house for a week or so to harden off. The other thing I could do is plant them straight into the garden and cover them with a cloche (an empty plastic bottle with the bottom cut off) for a few days for extra protection. The birds enjoy them as a snack and they don't want to be drying out. Probably their biggest threat at the moment is that I'm going on holiday and like all mothers, nobody loves them like I do.

The perfect photo in the gardening magazine, or on a packet of seed, is at the end of a very long chain which is not always completed. It also doesn't matter. When I planted the broad beans in April into very poor soil there were a number of things I was considering: they became a useful windbreak, the beans fix nitrogen and the soil in point was no longer lying bare over winter. Growing them prepares the way to grow something else better there next. Well besides all that we have eaten quite a few along the way and then eventually I did get around to picking them, co-incidentally just when there were plenty of spare hands around to help pod them.
By this stage they were fairly large and less than ideal eating but I rewarded their tenacity, lavishing them with a bit of extra attention. All the larger ones I have skinned, it's not hard, and this way I know that in the middle of winter they will be an appealing find in the freezer. Yes, nobody loves them like I do. It's also one of the things that is so rewarding about gardening. The satisfaction of paying attention to details that make the difference.

Three quarters of the potatoes were gone by Christmas Eve. A queue of black plastic bags by the door as the men filled the orders and away they went. Bye bye.
Well yesterday was scorching hot, too hot to garden so I took the kids down to the river for a swim and then watered the garden in the evening. And then today the cold weather, wind and bits of rain came through which made it a perfect day to be in the glasshouse planting corn. The weather is always good for gardening.
Now the notice board has fallen off the toilet wall and I have no poety forum until it's fixed. So I will put one more thing on the already crowded page. A poem by Andrew Johnston from his book How to Talk which I picked up at the Naseby book sale for $1.25 yesterday.
For the record, the ladies went to the book sale and then had a coffee at the Black Forest Cafe.
The Poetry Inspector

has been sent by the tradition
to check our
nails. His are impeccable

as his crisp tones, which come to a
somewhere over the horizon. This

is called verse
says the verse detective

filing his ironies.
He says
we're menaced by

and smiles;

he can tell us if our
poems have class,
whether our nails fail or pass.

We should render our
to the things that are England's

encapsulates the tenor of
his findings;
he sometimes spares a word of praise

for good
it should be said

the poetry inspector
sometimes hits the
nail on the head
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  1. Hi Miri- those tomato tips sound good - My own 2 plants aren't doing so well - although the fact that they are growing outside is the fairly obvious answer. The seed trays look great- so full of promise. I really enjoyed seeing your garden in the flesh and seeing how far ti had developed since I was last there. Have a great trip away.

  2. Hi Miri - now I have seen the gardens I have a fresh appreciation of the huge undertaking they are, and having tasted the fruits of your labour what a success you have made of it.

  3. Do cat turds alongside plants count as companion planting?

    The garden looks beautiful, it motivated me to get into our teeny tiny plot today and rip out some weeks to make room for some plants. Probably too late but the garden never ceases to amaze me in what it decides to favour.