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.