Monday, January 24, 2011

Happily Ever After

Never mind the outfit, here's the tomatoes that went to the wedding; Belgian Slice sneaking into the photo in the background, top left, was for the nuptial afternoon tea.
The show-off in the middle is a fused beefsteak, one of those fruits which is clearly three squidged together. The problem with them is that the three fruits still ripen individually and sometimes one part of the tomato will be green while the rest is nicely ripening. Other problems: well if a bird pecks it out and it goes rotten you lose a lot more tomato at one time. These also don't separate easily from the plant and require secaturs on hand to pick them.

The green shouldered tomatoes behind are Black Krim. Pink Brandy wine to the right with the deeper wrinkles and little blackjack over on the left. They are all delicious with Black Krim and Blackjack top of the flavour stakes at the moment.
Now somehow a few rogue sunflowers got away in the glasshouse and I haven't had the heart to pull them out. The heads are threating to push through the glass and that may be the nudge that leads to their execution. Actually they are still headless as are all their siblings in the garden; that is only a growing tip. It is own-seed so there's a genetic mystery to solve sometime if they don't flower.

The birds seem to have bred twice this year and were feeding young again in the New Year. Sure are plenty around and they too have a penchant for fresh tomatoes. Children were given permission to aim the beeby guns at them but the responsibility of broken glass countered their enthusiasm and the best thing so far has been these dangling foil strips. ('Bull in a china shop', guns in a glasshouse? no shots were fired).

Photo below doesn't capture the beautiful veiny yellow of the leaves. The yellow features on the new growth, the edges of the leaves are a darker green, we're looking at a micronutrient deficiency, and can you guess?
The real give-away is that I limed the soil twice so factor in a high ph soil. Other possible contributing factors are water stress (this is presenting in the tomatoes around the sunflowers which are sucking up moisture like gum trees in a bog.) One more thing, we had a fairly cool week and colder temperatures can also inhibit nutrient take-up.


Iron Deficiency. I know that now.  I'm thinking there is probably enough iron in the soil and that it is just an access problem exacerbated by too much lime. Answer: do nothing.

I tried to find a suitable wedding poem to dedicate to George and Kerry and...came up with On Not Getting Married by Richard Langston. I think it could also be called  Getting Married A Second Time (with apologies to Richard)

Getting Married A Second Time

Instead of a bride
she imagines the whiteness of a flower.

Instead of a groom
he imagines how to be the best man.

Instead of household appliances
they make the gift of each other.

Instead of an organist
they make their own music.

Instead of a church
they have a room to dress and undress.

Instead of sprays of cut flowers
they leave them in their gardens.

Instead of one supper at long tables
they will feast many times on this light.
  Posted by Picasa

Friday, January 14, 2011

Cutting back, Moving forward

This was supposed to be a feel-good photo. Somebody is bound to see these broad beans and feel really good about their own crop by comparison. This is not a dwarf variety and they should have been towering over me instead of knocking my knee caps. The photo doesn't do justice to the rust splotched foliage and the stubby pods, some of them split by a late rainfall after neglect and drought.

It confirms my favourite cleaning adage which relates to everything in life it seems:  If it is worth doing it is worth doing badly (courtesy of fly-lady). What that means is better to do a poor job than none at all; a small crop is better than no crop and we are the only ones that seem to really look forward to them anyway. No surprises there.
The red flag of secatur handles is to remind me to mention that I cut them off at the base and leave the roots in with their nitrogen nodules and microbial hangers-on to enrich the soil.

The wheelbarrow back there is as heavy as a tank. My own one has a slow puncture in the tyre and I have added a repair rescue to the wish list which includes all tools sharpened for the New Year and have them stored in one place. Pat on the back for me because I am already chipping away at that list: I've cut back the entangling branches and moved  obstacles that catch the hose on the daily watering walk. Very satisfying to streamline routine activities.
Some of the stawberries got a weed this week and a clip and a handful of compost for the most promising runners. The rest were removed.

The website for all things garlic says to harvest it when you have about 5 green leaves left. If you leave it longer the bulbs will be bigger, but have fewer layers of that papery skin which is what helps it to keep. Because I'm a numbers gal, I can tell you that there were 227 large bulbs and 80 too small to put in the mix. We'll use them first.  They are conveniently out of the picture and for the record, my seed garlic for next year, ie the biggest and the best happens to be top of the trolley for transport. It is a fabulous crop but not as great as the photo makes out.
I have tip pruned the peach branches back to each fruit to encourage the tree to put everything into it.  Have done the same to the plum and apple tree branches also. The theory is that a summer prune will not create a landslide of regrowth next year and by tip pruning the branch, back by 2/3, the tree throws out more fruiting spurs on the existing branches. The greengage tree in particular had grown long leggy branches with fruit on the tips but very little (ever) in the centre of the tree.
Pruning is alot like cutting your childrens hair. It takes nerve to start and then it's hard to stop. From experience I can tell you that the tree won't burst into tears at the sight of a mirror, nor do you, the pruner have to hold back maniacal laughter as the exhileration of clipping (just one bit more...) sweeps you away.
The tree does not run away either.
Posted by Picasa

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Accidental Gardening

The first year I grew these  golden dwarf beans a large proportion of the plants inexplicably died, nibbled through at the base of the stem and many of  the beans were taken out with mildew; like those 3 on the right. Grassgrubs were the culprit firstly. Secondly, the mildew is easily averted: a eureka moment, stake the beans. In their native environment I'm sure the gentle rain falling is no problem but here, the weight of the crop combined with high pressure hosing  and they hit the deck and rot. Gardeners are a resourceful and ingenious lot and sure enough I found something sufficient to the task,  the little metal bar on the basket; one per plant.

These beans came through at 9weeks from seed and are still cropping and flowering. They freeze well, that's good, and the kids all like them. That's very good.
Runner beans start flowering from the base up and the first beans were set also at 9 weeks and they will crop for weeks. First job this week was pull out the thistles from around the base. I want to encourage the community to forage around for those beans that get away to seed and slow production down.

My first humble pie of the New Year will be corn pie. I have yet to tell Bart (Otepoti Seed Savers) but out of 2 packets of Early Gem, say several hundred seed I got 26 precious seedlings below. The seed bed was bird proof but not mouse proof and it/they ate the kernels even as they sprouted. I'm supposed to be saving seed for which I need a minimum of 50 plants. I left the sprouting till after the last minute anyway because I can't put the corn in until Boxing Day when the beds are clear. The new potatoes are out on Christmas Eve and well, I have Christmas Day off.

Ran out and bought some Yates seed and seem to have thrown out the packets. It wasn't a hybrid. Having learnt my lesson it's coming on in trays. I will be cutting it fine to get cobs. I have planted a wall of cannellini beans between the two corns to separate them...not quite the prerequisite isolation distance of two miles, barely two metres.  As a result of my big win I now have the book Seed to Seed by Suzanne Ashworth to guide my way and I'm going to paperbag them and keep seed for me by way of experiment.

If you ever take your child to the doctor only to find you really should have taken them in a week ago that's accidental parenting (sorry Pomble). A repeat performance,  I got down to the glasshouse after the holidays to tie up tomatoes and was already too late for some where the weight of the fruit had left the branch hanging by a thread. Accidental gardening. It's those brandywine pink (the two left photos) with their indeterminate stems and branches everywhere.The fruits are massive and delicious however they are tricky and there is some pretty dodgy foliage about. It's one of those crops where you hold your breath almost wondering whether you will pull it off.
Top right is moneymaker which is suddenly looking so attractive, completely reliable and consistent fruiting.
Blackjack cherry is the bottom right. See how big the flower sprays are. This variety is prolific, very vigourous, I am pinching out the tips as they are getting higher than I can reach, and has the best flavour of all so far.

Oh here's that photo of the corn round 2. Here's Hoping and Happy New Year too.  Posted by Picasa