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!
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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.)
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