Friday, December 17, 2010

Growing Soil

'Chop chop choppity chop
Chop off the bottom and chop off the top'
Now at this point, seasoned Southland gardeners will know what I have been doing this week. The rest of you will have to guess.
It's been unusual growing conditions this year. This sounds like an excuse for something that has gone wrong; not quite, it provides answers.
1. There have been alot of aphids owing to the mild weather. There is a short delay and then the ladybirds arrive en corresponding masse. Cosmetic damage only(particularly to the blackcurrants).
2. The weather has been mild, cool at nights and perhaps less sunshine hours. A -5 frost on the 12th December took out the courgettes in the garden and checked the potatoes. Most people around here just clip off the potato damage with hedge clippers.
3. The slow but steady growing conditions have really suited things like lettuce, not so much the heat lovers like yams.
The Hopi pumpkins in the glasshouse have these lovely big velvety soft saucer leaves. I wonder what the pumpkins will look like.
Further jobs over the last few weeks have included thinning the apples, plums and blackboy peaches. The latter I probably took off 3 out of 4 as it is the first year fruiting and the branches aren't robust enough to carry alot of fruit. Apples I reduced any clusters to one and plums just nicked out what I could reach to thin them out a bit. This can apparently be done with a stick, whack whack. If I'm not careful the whole fruiting spur comes off leaving...nothing. Sharp fingernails are a good tool.

This is one of the worst beds in the garden in terms of soil. The yams that were planted here rotted as the soil does not drain well. We double-dug and added sheep manure and ok, wood chips which I'm not fond of like this.  Originally they went into that base layer a spade depth down so out of sight. We turned one bed into these two narrow ones (a la Dirt Doctor) that are raised and rounded. I'm expecting that this will either help with drainage or the plants will dry out faster. One good one bad. That aside it has enabled me to plant more intensively. Bok choi in the foreground, winter cauli, red cabbage, kale, silverbeet down the row. Even if they come to nothing the soil will be better for the next crop because of it. Still a long way away from John Jeavons 'living sponge cake'; it will be achieved one crop at a time.

Leeks, of course. My seedlings seemed to just stand still this year. They've been so long in the pots that now they are starting to yellow off through lack of nutrient. See the beautiful dibble that has been a split wood handle in another life. The shears to choppity chop off the top few inches and reduce the roots to the same. Into the hole, a good pinch of blood and bone to give them a boost, water them in and they disappear like Alice down the hole into Wonderland. I planted the thinner ones that last year I would have tossed away,  in two or three to a hole.

It must be a Central Otago Christmas when you come home to a bowl of cherries. My dozen strawberry plants have taken the lead in the most useful for the least effort stakes, followed closely by Sweet Basil. For the easy stakes put Zuchinni up there but do you think we can keep up with them? No. For the very little return put in the yams that rotted, the yams that it was too cold for (another bed) and my own cherry tree. On the scale of things, it doesn't seem anything to complain about at all.   Posted by Picasa

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Tying up loose ends

1. Kings seeds got back to me real fast and I immediately wished I had contacted them before pinching out all the growing tips on the Brandywine Pink.  The plants now look as if they have amputated limbs; which they do of course, and I see that I have foreshortened their productivity needlessly.
To quote Mr Martin, 'Brandywine Pink is one of the old tomatoes that didn't have a single stem leader bred into it, rather it takes the form of an indeterminate triffid that branches.'
Yes it does. Triffid is a good description.
'American home grdeners use an upright cage like a teepee for supporting these so the branching habit isn't an issue. They are worth preserving as they're a very tasty prolific tomato.'
Our tomatoes are strung from overhead and I have left one leader on some of them and a fruiting spur on each of the arms that were pinched out. This variety has grown the fastest and I expect them to have the first fruit ready.

The photos this week are by way of an aside. We visited the Dirt Doctor in Kakanui and were privileged to have a look around his garden. This is probably what it feels like to meet royalty. He was busy tying up tomatoes and delateraling and I knew exactly the spot he was in, leaving that to show us around. I thought of all the people I have talked to as I work without moving from the job and I was so pleased that he extended a bit more graciousness to us.
I've picked that photo of the brassicas to try and illustrate the amazing productivity of this relatively small garden. The vegetables crowd out the weeds, there's probably three times as much in his space as I would have in the same area.

Same garden, this section is right beside the sea and is surrounded by trees and shrubs to provide the first windbreak. Compost piles. No wasted labour here, they are right beside the garden, Jerusalem Artichokes to the right (Somebody out there must like them).

 2. Reporting back on the couch ('cooch', not a large sofa) that I had submerged in a barrel to drown. I put a lid on it to prevent an explosion of animal life. The nettle tea in the glasshouse had become a soup of rat tailed fly larvae that was particularly gross to dish out. However, the lack of oxygen was possibly the reason it went sour, really sour. Heaving in a bag of horse manure to speed things up may not have helped. Soon there was a white scum on top. I've incorporated some of it in a compost heap and ladled the rest around the fruit trees as a mulch. The couch looks as if it might spring back into life but it smelt absolutely dead. I hope this is the end of the story. Have cleaned out the hapless barrel and filled it up with seaweed and fresh water.

It was a hideously cold day. Is anyone surprised,  I had packed a few sacks in the car just in case we got the opportunity to collect seaweed.
3. Back to the question of the garden I want or the garden I can manage. Advice taken. I think I can have my cake and eat it too by redefining the 'manage' part. I'm thinking about taking small parts of the garden and doing them really well (the garden I want). Keep on recklessly planting seeds and put in what I can but leave
the rest (that's the manage part).

The bank drops away to the sea and Bill had to heave the seaweed over his head to get it up. Thank you kind friend. I had to keep my hands clean to take the photo. Posted by Picasa

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Not Waving...

O.K we've been this way before. I'm luring you in because the next photo is frightening.  Admire the artichokes, smell the roses and brace yourself for the rest of the garden...
having solved the...
of the rhubarb...not waving but drowning.

Not Waving but Drowning (Stevie Smith)

Nobody heard him, the dead man,
But still he lay moaning:
I was much further out than you thought
And not waving but drowning.

Poor chap, he always loved larking
And now he's dead
It must have been too cold for him his heart gave way,
They said.

Oh, no no no, it was too cold always
(Still the dead one lay moaning)
I was much too far out all my life
And not waving but drowning.

The garden is on a slope and water merrily drains to the bottom. I moved the rhubarb down there to enjoy the moisture and despite reasonable encouragement it has never done well (over a couple of years). We had 12 mm of rain last week in a sudden downpour and this is the water level 5 days later. It was at surface level for several days. Our Swiss maestro had the sense to dig the hole and expose the problem and he suggests running a few field drains (basically a ditch with rocks in the bottom to draw off the moisture). I favour moving the rhubarb up a block or two this Autumn.  It would run across the slope and catch some of that water as it races down the hill on its clay slide, just below the surface.

  Having figured that lettuce like some shelter from the direct sun I have pocketed them in spare spaces. So far amongst the broccolli this is a good working arrangement. This is the Rueben from Otepoti and their broccolli 'Multicropper'; hoping it will live up to its name.
 You'll be pleased to know that I won a seed saving book in the Otepoti book draw. I had sent in seeds to qualify. Less happy are the seeds I am supposed to be growing out to save. One is a type of pepper and it will have to be 3rd time lucky with the last of the seed.  I can see me growing it indoors through the winter at this rate.

Farmer Rose out at Kyeburn put this box of mushrooms in the back of the car this week.  That is not a side plate but a dinner size by way of comparison. No worms in these champions and I freeze them rough sliced  like this to make that.  I shall now attempt a link.  Success, it's a cream of mushroom and bacon soup and absolutely delicious and I don't even like mushroom soup. Thanks Chef.
 Posted by Picasa

Monday, November 22, 2010

lost for words

Well it doesn't happen often, but I don't know where to start.  Start with Johnny's tenth birthday and his new tub. He has strawberries on the right and a cottage garden mix on the left. The sticks are for a lone sweet pea. Gotta foster that interest.
My own garden is in transition and I haven't quite worked out where I fit. One of the things I hadn't anticipated about a wealth of help was that I would no longer be making all the decisions and have a hands on relationship to everything. To some degree I have been a bit on damage control tactfully fixing things that I wouldn't have done myself and which have proved to be not working...

My respect for good management continues to grow in its absence. Suddenly I need an overall plan to effectively use the help available, something else which has been missing until now. I've been surprised at my own ambition when I keep bringing out plants that I have tucked away. How did I ever think I would have  time to put them in but in they go, a tray of thyme, red and white onions, and the beetroot and parsnips to boot.  Anyway with the chance to garden at home on my side, I have converted the last of my compost, on site, to a little pumpkin patch or at least a pumpkin plant.

Notice how loose the strings are on the beans below. And a nice loose knot around the ankle. This is especially important for the tomatoes where the stem will easily double in girth after it has been strung. Complacency here results in a tomato garrotted, and the twine cuts present a wound for infection. The advantage of having plants at different stages has meant that I can do this job a row or two at a time, likewise pinching out laterals and winding the strings. 
This is the peabean below which next time I will space and train differently. I can see it will grow quite tall; there are a few feeble bamboo sticks framing the inside of this tangle.
Actually my gardening week has borne no resemblance to these pictures. The first zuchinni are being picked, and basil at last and many questions have been answered (yellow foliage on potatoes was 245T contamination, shhhh - must have come in on that load of horse manure from a different source). Correctly diagnosed the yellowing on pot bound tomatoes as nitrogen deficiency and fixed it with some manure tea and a handful of sheep manure.
 Also had the welcome visit of that rare beast, a fellow enthusiastic  gardener which has left me with lots of great ideas.
I guess the question is, 'Do I plan the garden I want, or the garden I can manage?'  Posted by Picasa

Friday, November 12, 2010

monologue and diatribe

Thought I would kick off with a sort of NZ Gardener gratuitous flower covershot to lure you into a false sense of security. Then in the twinkling of a new sentence I get onto my monologue, tomatoes. Welcome reader.
The question for today is, what does 'Hard to grow' mean? If it was a grade on a sewing pattern, 'difficult' it could mean welt pockets, invisible zip, fitting required, or finickity detail, but hard to grow? See, it has opened the door on a favourite peeve which is insufficient information. I like things to be spelt out in detail; like a Delia Smith recipe in fact.

Once the tomato plant puts out the first flower truss you can see where the plant is heading. For those without a magnifying glass, first frame is trifurcate, second frame bifurcate and third frame, a single, which in the tomato world is normal and going to be hands down, the most productive. The stems have split off (furcated) into two and three growing tips and I may just have to pull these plants (most of them) out. The other variant is no growing head at all. This is relatively easy, and I have already put another plant in alongside these. Once that first and only truss of fruit has grown the plant is pulled out and the piggyback plant next to it gets full space to grow.

Now the tomatoes in question are the Pink Brandywine and I would normally put any genetic problems down to the seed supplier, (still a favourite mail order catalogue) because I had the same problem with another of their tomato seeds last year. However, I now recall seeing somewhere the enigmatic 'hard to grow' and wonder if this is part of it. Surely they could get more genetic uniformity than this? I can feel a long hand-written letter in green ink coming on.

Broccolli and peas still hogging my planting space so put the remaining beefsteaks out of their crammed pots and  into sick bay to perk up a little before final planting. Hopefully there will be an aftershot soon with them looking green and radiant in their 60cm suburban blocks.

This time of year just about everything seems to germinate, so long as it doesn't get eaten before it gets a shoot above ground (beans). Here's my little markers with a selection of winter greens and whites and reds: cauliflower, broccolli, red cabbage and kale and lots more summer and autumn things too. It's that curious time of year where you seem to be planting for all seasons at once. It will be followed by that time of year when there is not enough room in the garden for all the plants you have grown!
   Posted by Picasa

Friday, November 5, 2010

Bean there, Done that

The remaining tomatoes are waiting impatiently to be planted but there is a bottleneck of produce blocking their way. The peas that went in as a cover crop have sprung pods and peas; it would be a shame to pull them out now. Furthermore the Autumn sown broccolli is just coming through so likewise it can crop and then be replaced and smartly at that.
My 60cm bamboo stick is proving to be a useful arbiter of space marking out 20cm or 30cm by simple divisions of thirds or half.
Five different bean types here and more to come when I get the space. At this time of year I get the best and easiest germination by planting direct into any spare space in the glasshouse. Besides, by now I've run out of seed raising mix whether mine or otherwise.
I've given the runner beans 60cm apart (in the glasshouse). I pinch out the tops when they get too high and they send out multiple leaders.
The climbing beans 'Bobs' and 'Frada' are next @ 30cm apart.  I'm growing these side by side to compare them for Otepoti Seed Savers.
If you notice the gap in the seed bed below you'll see the first point of difference. The slugs have honed in on 'Frada' and out of 20 seeds apeice I now have 4 'Frada' to 18 'Bobs' to subject to scientific observation. Whoops. Well slugs hate lime, oh yes I've remembered that now and have taken belated action after the buffet has been had. Sorry Bart.

The next two are purple bush and golden dwarf @ 20cm by 30cm rows. Now out of interest, it is the runners and the broads that cross freely and need isolation distance of bee flight proportions. The remaining Fabeaceae are self fertile so can be planted cheek to cheek, which I have done, and if necessary you can save seed from only one plant to keep the line going.

A playful splash of light on the potatoes? Fraid not. That yellow reminds me of the yellow lupin in the other glasshouse overwinter and they both had horse manure from same source; not that the oats showed anything. It will be interesting to see how these particular potatoes crop come Christmas. Only a few plants are affected and the foliage is luxuriant and deep green, otherwise fine. First tomato flowers on the Brandywine Pink. There ought to be a formula with tomatoes same as for strawberries. Basically when you see flowers on a strawberry plant you count on 6 (or 8? can't remember) weeks to get fruit. My guess would be about 10 weeks from now, say mid-January to get the first tomatoes. I'll let you know.

Lettuce, broccolli and dill chilling out in the shade house. Dill is very compatible with brassicas and the lettuce I thought would enjoy growing up in the broccolli's shade so they are all in together.  This year, thanks to the Swiss family fabulous, I have had time to cover the soil with compost, mulch the plants with old silage, circle young plants with blood and bone, snip up PVC hoops and find and cut to measure the netting to cover them. White butterflies were hovering hungrily as I worked.
The Swiss family are proving to be the equivalent of a lotto win for me; an unbelievable windfall that I couldn't have even imagined. Garden spaces are being systematically worked and nurtured in a way I would never have time for normally. It's becoming the garden as I always imagined it, but never quite realised. Today I had a day off for my own garden, a baking catch-up and an afternoon nap, knowing that yams were being planted, rhubarb watered and weeded and paths mulched without me.
Q. What's yellow and wears a mask?
A. The lone lemon.
Q. How do you make an orange laugh?
A. Tickle its navel.
(Rosie sent us some 'Laffy Taffys'. They each come with a joke.)
 Posted by Picasa

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Swiss Efficiency

With Labour Weekend approaching, and in-laws arriving, several good gardening days were lost to cleaning: the oven, the fridge and the shower. There was no point surprising anybody with an actual tidy up; they might come to expect it, but we had somewhere to put the food, I could cook it without embarrassment and the shower was a bonus for us all.
Yesterday, possibly my favourite task of the year, planting tomatoes. Now the Swiss family have arrived and buoyed by assosciation and absorbing those vibes of order and system, I gave free reign to my own meticulous aspirations and cut a peice of bamboo 60cm long.
This measured out the strings for the plants, each to have its own generous and equal share of the bed. Thank you they breathed, or not. For once I sowed basil at the same time as the tomatoes, see the tiny plants running down the middle of the bed. The tomato is Pink Brandywine with a leaf so broad it could be a bean.

The lettuce on the left is in transit. I just want to show off the rootball the size of a softball, the size of the softball that fell into the drainpipe, the drainpipe that blocked and was dug up by hand for miles until the offending ball was found and blame apportioned, correctly alas... but I digress. Had to move a few lettuce to make way for the courgettes (Striata Italia). Lettuce are on a diet of manure tea and haven't looked back.

To interpret the photo, pile in foreground is predominantly couch with a top salad of thistles. This is the bed where turf was turned, cow manure, pea straw and anything else piled up and now the grass is growing through. It is a slow but satisfying job tracking couch runners, all the easier because there are both moisture and worms in the soil whereas elsewhere it is parched as usual. This time I've stuffed the lot into a barrel of water to rot, with a lid on tight. Might as well put it all back later, much later.

Some surprise gifts this week including a Potentate and a Roma tomato. Now to recap what I have planted: Pink Brandywine, Moneymaker, Grosse Lisse, Black Jack, Beefsteak, Heather's tomato, plus 2 makes eight. It may be monoculture in there but a variety of ethnicities. Quite which remains to be seen as there were some labelling issues. The pen and tabs went missing at a repotting moment and trays were mixed up. Found them later and wasn't it worth it. The girls have made a little garden, see the stone fences and labels. Amongst a household of boys this is something I never see but recognise immediately. I know they've had a great day.

Here's  rich (?) and famous music people rubbing shoulders with Louis. Ah the giddy heights of fame and now we have the award on display, and the song on the computer to play to visitors and we can supply the balancing depths of ordinariness for free. Could you ask for anything more? 

Friday, October 15, 2010

Going Forward

"Doe the nexte thynge"
(Saxon legend inscribed in an old English Parsonage)

It would seem there are many things in life that you can only aim towards without knowing quite how to get there. Mum says it is like that  in Poland, trying to get a train to a particular destination.  A garden can be like that too and it is only achieved one step at a time.
 Found an article in an old magazine about 'Dao' (Tao?) as a method of agriculture. Their focus is not on the soil but the way water travels naturally through it and they plant accordingly. So looking at this garden, on a slope, and the way the water runs from top to bottom, I've been thinking about how to slow it down to benefit the plants on the journey.

Now the garlic did come up the very week after I complained about it. I've put a little board on the lower edge to help retain that water. The beds also run across the slope for the same reason. Garlic is like all the members of the allium family who won't compete with weeds; hence the mulch and it will conserve moisture. When you get seed cloves in from outside your area they take 3 years to reach their full potential, each year adjusting a little bit more to your own climate and soil. Commercial growers apparently refresh their seed every 10 years or their yield drops. Who would have known?
Rhubarb continues to be a mystery. Took both photos today, what is going on? All plants have had the same treatment and that is a sulk.  Factors to consider:
  1. I woefully underestimated how dry it has got. First water of the season today and the ground is 'waterproof'. Everything runs off. One answer is to water a little, several times over the next few days and the ground will begin to rehydrate and hold water again. 
  2. I suspect the plant on the right was overpicked, too much for too long. Could have been me and that Rhubarb Caramel Crust Pudding...sigh. 
  3. The yellow leaves mean something, ummm, my usual mulch is grass clippings and that should provide nitrogen but they can just dry out and blow away instead of breaking down. First thing I'll try is liquid manure. Just got to set it up, and in this heat, wait a week. 
Enough about that except to say I have hatched a plan for the couch crop behind it and that is to lay down some black plastic and old tyres for a month and see what happens underneath.

Have finally chopped up some PVC pipe to make hoops to support netting or  fleece at the minute. The original purpose here was to protect the lettuce from the birds; a happy side effect of the dense netting is some shade which the lettuce seem to like.
Leeks below. I forgot to take account for just how long they are in the punnets and give them plenty of root room. A container with twice this depth would be more appropriate and I will repot them as soon as I see roots coming through below. It makes them easy to untangle when it is time to plant as well; the larger punnet size will also increase the water capacity so the plants are not as reliant on meticulous watering.
Those little lettuce are called 'Ruben'. Perhaps that is to suggest a red blush, or that they are colourful.
Now one of my favourite programmes on TV at the moment is The Mentalist. The character has, at times, pretended to have prescient powers but he is merely a keen observer of humanity. Well you don't need a crystal ball to look at those lettuce, and there are more out of screen, and say 'a glut is coming in the near future'.
Wrong, wrong, wrong, wrong, wrong. Enter my cunning plan to plant them close together and thin out to eat as they grow. Nothing new, but a new refinement for me. 
That saxon quote comes from Elizabeth Elliot with a poem that she couldn't source:

Do it immediately,
Do it with prayer,
Do it reliantly,
Casting all care.

"And in the doing of whatever comes next, we are shown what to do after that."
Elizabeth, you are right.

Posted by Picasa

Sunday, October 10, 2010

In for another Term

First morning, first day of term; the boys are not half as pleased to be back at school as I am to be back in  gardening mode, despite the light snowfall on the ground. The most exciting blossom of this Spring is the Black Boy Peach below, flowering for the first time. We bought this tree with us as a 20 inch seedling 3 1/2 years ago. Blackboys are one tree that grow well from seed and this came from Mama's former garden in Avonside, Christchurch and who knows what that house looks like now. Gardens, like people, are all the more interesting for their stories.

Those are not my hands or legs or short shorts below but it is my new Sieve being put through its inaugral paces. I don't know where Mum found it, what a treasure, and it flew down from Nelson, squeezed into Jen's suitcase. You can see how rough my compost is, and the lovely fine siftings for a seed raising mix; four equal parts of sand, leaf mould, compost and dirt. I've run out of potting mix and may just use the same recipe for that even though it has minimal food value. I have  found the commercial potting mixes run short on nutrients and I have to feed the plants with a liquid fertiliser anyway.
I haven't  lifted the fleece off the tomatoes for a few days now as even in the glasshouse it was scratching to get 10 degrees. On the right is the Brandywine; quite a different leaf but the same hairy tomato stalks as the black cherry on the left. This is planting week and time to put in all those subtropicals, beans and cucumbers, eggplant and peppers. I'll set something up in the living room this year just to get the heat for germination.

Asparagus is up later than last year. I never did add a compost mulch over the woodchips but it is not too late. I wanted to bury the crowns deeper to get less frost damage, and conserve moisture and besides, trundling compost is one of those repetitive jobs that creates a great mind space for planning other garden exploits.

It can also be said, in a loving way boys, that school for you creates a great mind space for me. Let's go out on The Future, (by Richard Langston: The Trouble Lamp) because I am up to it and I'm polishing my bright ideas.  

The Future

The future is not a contraption.

It is the second you just passed
on the way to the next one.

It is where our fears collect,
where a blind-dog sniffs
at the edge of a precipice.

The future is looking back at us,
asking us if we are up to it.

It is the place you need to walk out to
to hang your bright ideas
on the blue undisturbed air.

Monday, September 27, 2010

Spring Cheer

Last week was a dreadful one for gardening. I despaired of posting a blog at all and then decided to cheer everybody up with a few gardening-gone-bad photos. After all I am always telling the boys that mistakes are learning opportunities, so learn from me.
The worst of the storms passed us by but we had snow and too much wind to even be in the glasshouse so I ended up doing house-work; be amazed.
Returning to the mysterious yellow lupin patches, compare the yellow on the right to the control lupin on the left. The photo doesn't bring it all out but on the left there are fine threads off the tap root with nitrogen nodules on them. The root is fairly much the same colour as the stem and as long as the plant is high. The yellow lupin was unable to fix nitrogen and the root sort of shatters in all directions; where the stem hits the soil it changes to a dark brown. It wouldn't be much of a leap to say the problem is in the soil.

For the record, lupin is easier to dig in than oats; if I had a small glasshouse with the compost bin handy I would probably just put the cover crop on the compost heap and put compost in the glasshouse. Here, that would involve too much double handling and it is better just to grab the spade and dig. Optimum benefits accrue a month after digging in the cover crop so that puts me in line to plant the tomatoes Labour Week-end.
Now one of my neighbours chanced to ask me if hydrangeas grow well in this climate. 'As a matter of fact I have one in my garden. Come and see...'
Hydrangeas are shade tolerant, but not drought, frost or neglect tolerant. As Meat Loaf did not say: 'three out of four is very bad'.

Now I rethought our tiny balcony, did nothing and worked out that it was a success story after all. Ruth has started a feature on Real Gardens and the first one, here, has a lovely seating area that really caught my imagination: it has trees for shade, bulbs and other garden enticements. Ours is a concrete block that is also a thoroughfare to the back door. The obvious thing might seem to be pots but I know I would never water them, (drought, frost,neglect...) and the result would be worse than nothing.
So I'll talk you through the existing features.
1. The brick walls heat up during the day and release heat in the evening. That's when the seats against the walls come into their own.
2. The table seats 6 and is right beside the BBQ
3.We look out over the Maniototo plains from here with trees in the foreground.
In conclusion, the space functions well for a crowd and the ambience comes from the surrounding countryside. That's enough.

The Fruit Fly Incident
Funny how small things can lead to bigger outcomes. The heart of it is that I haven't been straining the tea leaves; instead, just slopping the whole lot into the compost bucket and the result was an incredibly wet compost heap and a build up of fruit flies. Well they don't like the cold and I would empty the bucket on a frosty morning, take the lid off and sling it in. If the air had warmed up there would have been a swarm all over me. All over Bill as it happened because the population hit the exponential growth button, warmth,moisture etc while I was away in Australia. They must have piggy backed into the house on Bill, they really stick to you, and the windows were black. He had to spray all the sills with fly spray and then rebuild the heap outside, incorporating all the boxes of bits and garden peices that I had been saving for this very thing.
I'm sorry Bill, I can hardly type for laughing but you did a great job thanks. We're currently enjoying the Bokashi Buckets instead. Posted by Picasa

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Reach for the Sky

Temperatures in Brisbane ran about 25 degrees every day and I came home to snow. Everybody complained as they got off the plane in Dunedin but it is spring and this is spring weather. Now we are preparing for THE BIG STORM. The lambs are wearing little coats and newly shorn stock are being brought in to shelter.

There was a progaramme on TV in Autralia, called, say Letters and Numbers. The winner consistently created the longest words out of a random selection of letters. If you want to share the fun, todays letters are E E A O I L T T (and Jen, it is not toilet).

I've achieved a massive seed credit with Otepoti Seed Savers so on top of my modest order, Bart sent another dozen or so packets to try. My own selection seems boring in that it is carefully considered on a practical level, trying to please everybody and not pushing the growing boundaries. I really enjoy trying out these surprise items. Cue the unrelated photo. (I have a feeling that text and photos are not going to align this week.) Below, enjoying the experience of a Polyanthus potting success story; just the one. The tub still has its plug.

There is a certain ignition point in the growing year when everything seems to take off. It happened while I was away and suddenly my red onion sets have become spring onions. We'll use them as such and go on to plan B, C, D, E...Things often don't go exactly to plan.
This week is planting week so I'm sowing seed for the hardier things and early glasshouse crops: Leeks 'Frosty Morning', more tomatoes, Black Krim and 'Heather's' (gifted seed), Zuchinni Striato D'Italia, Lettuce 'Rubin', Dill, Celery 'Crunchy Dwarf', Parsely 'Coastal Otago', Spinach 'Pounamu' ,Broccolli 'Multi Cropper'. I'd like to get the Sugar Snap peas in too but that requires a little bit of site preparation...

The first tomato seed is potted up and this year I have constructed a little fleece tent in the glasshouse. At night I pull over some bubblewrap for extra warmth. The days are not necessarily cracking 10 degrees here let alone at night. I suspect that the later plantings will quickly catch up with these because of the warmer temperatures.

In the other glasshouse I've rogued out the potatoes. The bits and bobs from last years crop come up a few weeks earlier than the intentional seed so it is easy to pick them out now to clear the ground for the legitimate crop. Potatoes will grow from the smallest scrap but they won't produce a good crop.

The tomato seedlings on the left were on top of a high cupboard and when I got home they were stretched and pale and reaching for the sun: ETIOLATE -to make a plant pale by excluding light.
I've got plenty of other seed (photo on right) so I won't use them. I read a book called Hands-On Agronomy while I was away and Mr Kinsey reminded me of the concept of the 'growing highway'; of as much as possible, creating an uninterrupted trajectory of growth. I didn't have enough grasp of the science to take it all on board but the book was all about establishing the correct mineral balance as the starting point for your soil. It's a farmer's book really; it could be a litmus test on how serious you are about gardening or an indication of peaceful hospital moments, sitting by a sleeping patient's bedside.
Posted by Picasa