Friday, December 11, 2009

turning up the heat

Without stepping in to the river of climate change debate, I'll just stand on the bank and observe that it doesn't mean the sizzling hot summer of your dreams. Although this has apparently been one of the hottest years on record, what we've actually had was a kind of lacklustre winter, cold and unpredictable; not as cold as usual, but neither were the days clear and sunny which we can get with really cold nights and mornings. To cut to the chase, the upshot is that it may not be a good year for corn and pumpkins. Ah the thud as we fall from lofty political and ecological heights to the solid ground of base level gardening, which is what are we going to eat?

To introduce the corn trio, on the left: Chieftain F1, yes it's a hybrid from Kings seeds. I panicked because it was getting so late in the season and this one promises to mature in 79 days from seedling emergence. I planted it 1st December and it was up by the 5th and today is the 11th so it's not wasting any time. Expect to eat this corn at the end of February no matter what because it will follow the potatoes in the glasshouse and lead a sheltered life.
Middle photo is Rainbow Inca, a Koanga seed and NZ heirloom. It has large cobs so will probably need at least 90 days. Planted 29 October. Oh, you can't see it, looks like peas. The theory is the corn will take up nitrogen from the peas as the two grow together. Well corn needs heat, and peas like cold and it has been cold; a pea take-over... It may be ready mid February but it may not come to anything. This lot is outside and I am thinking about covering it with frost cloth and see if we can get some growth.
Third picture corn arrived as tiny seedlings from Hamish, the budding 6yr old gardener down the road. I've had it in the glasshouse since about mid October. The tillers, which are the shoots on the sides, aren't coming to much which is probably just the cold. Ideally you would get 3 or 4 strong tillers, which means 3 or 4 extra cobs.

After a lot of trial and error I have discovered I get the best results by planting seeds straight in the ground. These were all planted 1st December. It pays to know what varieties are slow to germinate, like parsely and celery so you remember to keep watering their spot long after the other seedlings have left town. I keep the ground consistently damp except for corn which is tricky. The voice of experience here will save you grief. Corn seed rots: you wet the ground, plant the corn, cover it with newspaper or something to keep the moisture in and then leave it until it germinates. I found this out the hard way, sorry Bart. That's why there's no photo of Otepoti Honey Pearl. That's why I panicked and bought a hybrid replacement.
From here I will prick these seedlings out into pots next week. They like company and do best together. Big seeds will go into individual pots, (corn, zuchinni) and keep the pots huddled together. How do I know when it's time to put them into the garden? I'm glad you asked.

This is one of the Otepoti yellow tomatoes. I only wish Cucumber green shorts was doing so well. In my experience the plants you buy come in very small containers that just don't have enough nutrient. They get rootbound very quickly. In a larger pot your plant is a good size by the time it's ready to plant out. By now I've used up most of the room in the glasshouse so I'll go through and pull out any plants that aren't performing and replace them. Sometimes you'll get plants without a growing tip that just turn into a stump, or that are male, no flowers, or that aren't true to type (the glasshouse is not the place to celebrate difference; it's all about performance).

A final sad shot of Otepoti pumpkin Galeux d'Eysine. French heirloom. Needs 100 days. Seed planted end of October. Moved from the glasshouse to the garden end of November and then we had a frost on the 4th. The tyres absorb heat and provide a little shelter which helped, they also help conserve moisture and later on, they tell you where to water when the ground becomes a sea of pumpkin leaves. Here's hoping.

I nearly forgot, the yellow zuchinni have climbed on board the vegetable wagon. The first gorgeous photo has got lost somewhere inbetween the computer meltdown and reinstalling the photo programmes. To conclude the gardening saga, to quote from Mama's last letter 'love and best wishes to everyone and cries of encouragement as we dash up the slope to CHRISTMAS'.
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  1. Well that's a good looking medley of garden highlights there Miriam. Mum has corn in her tiny garden and it looks very pretty there I must say. I love vegetable gardens masquerading as ornamentals.
    In my mind, I cruise downhill into Christmas, rather than dash up a slope. I've got most of the presents organized and the holiday house in Christchurch is booked and paid for. Now I just have to get comfy and wait for the day to arrive.

  2. Well of course it's going to be a bit of an adventure xmas this year because this will be the first time in 6 years we've actually celebrated it. Very much looking forward to eating the products of your hard work, in the garden, and in the kitchen.

  3. no dashing up my christmas slope- more like needing to be hauled up by a rope. Lovely to read about your meticulous record keeping of growing success and failures.
    See you next week!!!

  4. Oh! Now I get it. Now I think I understand. The reason my garden never produces is because I put absolutely no thought, planning, research, knowledge, or work into it. Huh. Great work Miriam!! Hey, if I find some Indiana roadkill here, should I package and ship it to you? Kidding!