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


  1. "Living sponge cake"? You soil afficionados really crack me up with your terms of endearment for dirt.
    That reminds me, I must make a spongecake for the Christmas trifle- I thought I might do a raspberry and mascarpone one this year.
    I like your pumpkin's leaves, too.

  2. Your garden looks as lovely as ever!