Friday, December 26, 2014

embarrassing gardens

The world could be divided between those who are fascinated by Embarrassing Bodies and those who aren't.  My limited research sides with the principle that opposites attract and I suggest that people who watch it, watch it alone because their partner can't stand it and has sloped off to bed.

An embarrassing garden doesn't have to have the horticultural equivalent of awkward genitalia problems or boob-jobs gone wrong. It's just that part of the garden that has had  no attention and it tells the world so, should the world happen to see it. 
On the very bright side, putting the photos above and below together and going to the last chapter of the story, a neglected raspberry patch, up to its ears in long grass and seeding docks, still yields delicious fruit. A late season this year had us begin picking soft fruits on Christmas day; none too late at all.
When you grow them, and pick every other day, there is a moment when it seems the supply will never end.
And the measure is quite different from buying a few punnets which have to be measured out or counted say.
You just eat them up, or make jam.
Sometimes you just eat them in the garden straight off the plant.

The seeding docks are part of my 30 minute gardening story, courtesy of current public library holiday reading. (No Time to Garden by Anne Swithinbank). 
I have identified a number of tasks to set the timer for and hack away at. Otherwise at this time of year my gardening can become dissipated by the number of things to do exceeding the time available to do them and I seem to stab at things aimlessly. 
I'm going to put the dock tops in a black plastic bag with the thistles and leave it all to rot down for a year in a neglected corner. 

I never did identify this plant above but what a winner. I wonder if it is broccollini or something like it. I thought it was kale and we began eating the leaves which were delicious at first...and then these sprouts with very long stems kept growing so I kept picking. 
Many weeks later I have picked the last of them, I just chop the whole bundle across into  roughly 5-6 cm lengths, steam them, butter, salt, pepper. 

I also dug the first of the new potatoes on Christmas Day and mercifully there was a crop beneath. You are never quite sure. 
We visited friends one sunny afternoon before Christmas and the in-laws, also keen gardeners, had arrived down for Christmas.
I hope our potatoes have come through, said daughter. "We'll dig them on Christmas Day."
"You should have told me you needed potatoes" said Mother, "we've been eating ours for three weeks now."
"It's alright, we've got broad beans just beginning, we won't go without." (daughter)
"Ours are finished" said Mother " they were wonderful."
Son-in law realises they are losing in the vegetable game. "We've got lettuce up to here" he says, indicating the height of the table.
Father-in-law parried immediately, "We didn't grow dwarf lettuce this year."

Oops I have digressed, the point was compost, gypsum, a sprinkle of powdered aged sheep manure, and in go the red cabbage following on from the potatoes. 
I really do have  kale this time waiting in the wings for the next lot of potatoes to be dug.  The ground is very dry.

I have got behind and my next task is to plant seeds now for Autumn, Winter and Spring to whom I have each awarded a capital letter to honour their distinctive and lovely personalities.
I will have another go at carrots, which aren't looking good at all, beetroot (neither are they and I may be too late) and iceberg lettuce because I have a tunnel house and I am tired of all these softie lettuces I have been growing. 
Plus brassiness of course, no I mean brassicas, the auto correct is telling me what to do. Must be time to bring those potatoes in and pack them into the chilly bin...

Friday, December 19, 2014

Christmas pickings

It doesn't mean anything to you, that path and the strip of ground beside it. They shouldered the broken concrete from the big dig, which is now being re-assimilated as back-fill for the retaining wall.
It's win/win/win. Walking up to the worm farm/chickens/garden  is no longer an obstacle course and I have an interesting ribbon of dry/sheltered ground to fill with even more interesting plants. 

The season has been slow thus far; a few hot days and how quickly everything takes off. 
The first strawberry, which has even caught the birds by surprise or it wouldn't be there.
I need to get some new netting quick smart or I will be beaten to it. I was going to pull these plants out and I'm so glad I gave them one more year. They weren't runners but pieces of old plants and obviously needed a year's growing and recovery to renew themselves. Fair enough.
 I wonder if the odd shape has something to do with pollination...

The cautionary tale of planting gooseberries beneath the washing line; broken branches and snagged clothing. They are habitually draped in anything from undies to towels. 
I need to pick these gooseberries while they are still green. Thank goodness I am now officially on holiday. 
Last year I froze them free flow, topped and tailed, for which there is no better tool than sharp fingernails. 

Can anyone see a fractal broccauli in there, or is it a broccoflower. 
No matter, we eat it just the same. It's been so dry I am slowly getting around with the sprinkler rescue package. First recipient was the flowering new potatoes; I considered watering them to be a significant Christmas dinner investment.
The runner beans like damp feet so I do keep up with them too; actually the garlic is the only thing I will leave for nature to take its course. It is drying out and heading for harvest and I don't want to interrupt that continuum. Harvest has been bumped forward by the price of NZ garlic in the shops just now. With the alternative of $25 a kilo they are more worthwhile than ever.

A few fennel waiting in the wings for the brassicas to finish so as they can move in on the space. 
They're fairly patient, roots just starting to come out the bottom. 
I'm trying for more continuity this year, little and often. The problem with that is when you don't get back to it and it is just little, the once. I have a feeling  you can grow fennel more as an autumn plant anyway so there is still time for another bite of the apple.

O.K. that's it for the minute. Bye.

Tuesday, December 9, 2014

you say potayto and I say potahto


How quickly the annual vege club Great Potato Weigh-In comes around. 
My buckets had been tossed out of the tunnel house during a clean up and the plants  fared rather badly in the ensuing weather. It didn't look like there was going to be much more growth below and I couldn't make it to the meeting  for the weigh-in so I had my own small ceremony at home...a scrub, a boil, and then we ate them; or as a teenager would say, they were eaten. It's the phenomenon of  the passive voice. "Has the washing been done yet? Is a meal going to be cooked? Can my bed be made?"


 Maris Anchor was the variety, a little bit boring as a new potato in my opinion; in fact,  boring  as a main crop too I should think. The leopard doesn't change its spots.  I frisked them in the big old bath. Gotta keep that gorgeous soil for something special; heaped it around the celery plants and a lone broccoli.

My two plants came in with a collective 3lbs 6oz which hardly topped the charts. Apparently at vege club Wayne took out first prize with well over a kilo of potatoes hidden in his bucket. I think he is capping his hat at the the big one: the trophy for the most wins of the year. For the record, the trophy is a papier mache aubergine.  
Clearly the real prize is the fame and the glory.

Many people successfully grow an embarrassment of runner beans in the south, but our section is just too windy and they don't like it. It has been well worth it to sacrifice a little bit of growing space in the tunnel house for a few plants which are rewarding us with early beans. Early is everything. Beans for Christmas dinner. Num num num.

Friday, November 28, 2014

tiger stripes

Yeah I know I'm really selling it with the photo. 
It's top corner of the section.  Former neighbours, many years ago, planted large trees hugging up to the hedge line. 
A potentially sad story of overbearing shade, voracious root systems, hedge munted by vigourous growth and consequently an area no longer suitable for growing.
Fortunately life is a whole lot bigger than that (and so is the section) and unfortunately there are real sad stories out there that you wouldn't wish on anyone.
Wherever they are now, I really hope they are enjoying the pleasures of gardening and continuing to bless their world with more trees. 

So having identified the perfect place to build a worm farm I moved up the bath, with a little help from the  school child home 'sick' for the day: that mysterious tummy bug that seems to come right about 9.30am, after a phone call to school has cleared the day. 
I have some rigid plastic grid over the plug hole to keep out rodents; also put a few bricks in the bottom, I think for drainage? I'm following careful instructions from my worm source. 
Toilet rolls and cardboard are the base layer. 

Notice the enamel pot underneath to catch worm fertiliser and the bath is on a gentle slope to make sure it drains easily. 
The final ingredients are dirt, compost, and the first buffet bucket of vegetable scraps, (citrus and onion excluded) to welcome them to their new home.  
The compost was full of 'other' worms, the garden variety. I was a wee bit concerned about dropping  my immigrants amongst them; I hope things don't turn to fisticuffs in  there. 

The top layer is wet sacks,  then a clever waterproof lid, covered with overlapping plastic tiles that function like scales. The weights stop  any wind drift. See photo below.
 It seems to be a very manageable level of livestock care, although, I've seen a few dead worm farms and they are a sad sight...but enough of that sort of talk, 

Bon vivant!

Thursday, November 20, 2014

made to measure

November, the month of new toys. 
I 'ordered' the shade house to fit the little spot outside the tunnel house and fit it does. 
It reduces the tunnel-house-transition-to-garden to literally one step, out the door.  
The wood is recycled pallet hardwood, Pacific Teak, delivered to site by our neighbour who brings us a steady supply of pallets through the year. 
I can't imagine what a better neighbour would look like. Except his wife of course. She looks better. 

 Chortles when I mention my new water butt that graces the little supply station here. 
I'm looking up 'butt' in the dictionary to justify the word. Oh yes o.k., slang for buttocks, but here is my working definition 'a cask especially as a measure of wine or ale'. 
I consider it fits. I'm facing disbelief that it's a proper word. 
The hoses are at the other end of the garden and it is for all those moments when I need a bit of water at this end. There is liquid manure in the white bucket so I can distribute a little tonic more easily now, which makes it more likely to happen. 
Who doesn't do better for a little tonic now and then. 

Hard to see what I took this photo for. Except of course, I know and I can see clearly.  
I picked up some 'kale' plants from vege club, grown from saved seed; saved, cross-fertilised seed it would seem, sending out broccolli-esque shoots and odd, large leaves. 
The shoots are delicious, the leaves aren't bad, I'm just snapping them off and steaming them, all good to me but they're not going to have any longevity which is more what I was after with Kale. Something to quietly grow and hold-in there through the seasons. 
Now you can juice the ribs, nothing needs to be wasted; it's up there  with jerusalem artichoke juice: virtuous. May not get any repeat takers on it. Alright, won't get any repeat takers then. 

The brag shot,  Italian zuchinni, only brag because it is mid-November in Dunedin, and a cold wet one at that. I never buy zuchinni, so this is a treat; not quite as good as your first strawberries or new potatoes of the season but still something to fully appreciate. 

I just threw the  wood box in on the theme of
humble pallet construction. Super recycling here, when it breaks we burn it for firewood. 
The ashes are the only part that's thrown away. Very neat.        

Thursday, November 13, 2014

small beginnings middles and ends

Amongst the strawberry bed a beautiful pink flowering plant. No idea what the strawberries will be like; the mother plant was a non-descript looking gift but one with great promise: I knew that because the giver is a wonderful gardener. It perked up once it was in the ground and flowered in late Autumn, too late in this climate for fruit. It excelled itself in sending out runners, another big tick; these are all heading for their first season. I can hardly wait. 

 I was very pleased to find carrots amongst all the weeds. Some of my seed was old, big mistake, especially for the first planting, possibly an over-optimistic joust at carrots for Christmas. I put microclima cloth over them as much as a mulch to hold in moisture, as a deterrent for the cats that seem to love to scratch or sleep on a newly-sown bed. It seemed to work on both counts and would have raised the temperature a little too. 
It doesn't let all the rain through so is removed for the minute. Carrot fly is not a problem here or I would  leave it on. I am using the compost wooden things, umm, the squares that build the bin, to mark out the ground. I'm not sure why it makes any difference but I like separating things off. The horseradish over the back isn't deterred by an arbitrary wooden frame (yes that's the word) but a dividing line seems to suggest I am keeping  it at bay. 

Two pictures in the evening light. Garlic, rhubarb, potatoes, the photo is showing off my little concrete retaining 'wall'. It is enough to stop the dirt slipping over the terrace, maybe it provides a little extra warmth through mass absorbing solar energy.
Last of the potatoes, Pink Fir, and Agria are in under the grass clippings. Too much wire worm to leave them late here, we'll just eat new potatoes all the way. Have used pine needles and they help, but I have run out and need to stock up again from a favourite gathering site. A lot of gardening is about gathering and distributing the right resources at the right time. 

I bought this beautiful mug for son's birthday and realised I was actually buying it for myself. Left it out on the bench as a tester to see if there was the slightest interest. No. It's too small and he doesn't appreciate how comfortable the 'scissors handle' is . I'm sure there's a proper name in the ceramics world for that too. 
The obvious solution then is for mother to also receive a gift on son's birthday. 
I'll use it for coffee tomorrow morning.  

'Small beginnings middles and ends'  is all about looking at the individual components of a garden rather than a big sweep. It's what I had in mind before I loaded any photos. The big sweep is something I want to think about more in general garden terms but at this time of year,  life has to be in manageable myopic chunks. 

Saturday, September 6, 2014

and the winner is...

Irrelevant to the photos, and today's title, I've somehow won a couple of flower carpet roses  from a local nursery. I 'll be off to collect them on Monday once the weekend crowds are gone. No skill was required. 

Today's topic for my own amusement and interest,  is  the 'Potato in a Bucket' comps and my bid to get closer to the dais and the crown.  The big unveiling in December is the opposite of a Weight Watcher's meeting; everybody is hoping for the biggest gain, heaviest weight, or the subsidiary prize of  most potatoes. 

Back to those potatoes in a minute, here's the tunnel house getting the seaweed treatment. 
I'm trenching it in, with a layer of compost getting ready for Spring planting. I could put these things on top, but away from the hydrations of our consistent rainfall, the seaweed dries out before it breaks down and you are digging around dry seaweed sticks for months. 
This way it disappears.
I'm going to plant only a few grafted tomatoes this year and then use the extra space for beans, courgettes, basil which struggled outside last year and failed to reach their full potential. No disrespect to a budding summer, but I haven't recent cause to rely on it to meet all their needs. 

The bucket mix for the aforementioned potatoes comprises basic potting mix, chopped seaweed, a scoop or two of rock dust, wood ash, and a few handfuls of rotted manure. I have wrapped
 the buckets in bubble wrap with Microclima cloth over the top and they can cosily reside in the tunnel house until they are well on their way. 
For seed raising and seedling mix, I use that old dishwashing rack to sieve the potting mix, add a bit of rock dust and manure. This advice is courtesy of Carol at Garden Club.  So far so good. 

Now  the buckets are on their way to the tunnel house. Come along you two  (note to viewer, the new steps and railing, Bill's  triumph of re-engineered scrap metal parts). 
May the best potato win.

Saturday, August 9, 2014

Hidden treasure

Lets not waste time with all the reasons for not posting, or wring hands over computer melt downs,  and a forgotten email address, oh how the list goes on. As someone said to me this week, "Never mind the why, let's just solve the problem" so onwards to the ever fascinating, richly rewarding world of gardening. 
I realise, emptying the camera, I haven't got the photos I thought I had, and the yams are doubley invisible because not only no photo, but we ate the superlative yielders before it became apparent that the other variety was such a poor cousin. 


Come winter and the crops are mostly underground. You don't know until you dig quite what the performance level is going to be. I had two varieties of Jerusalem Artichoke also, one had gazillions of these little satellite creamy  nodules and the other was a monster red sort of knobbly football, covered in long roots. It looked strangely like a futuristic space ship. 
Well as you can see, one comes as smooth portioned crunchy tubers, a quick scrub with the vegetable brush (which is a nail brush most of the time) and they store in the fridge for weeks. 
The others are too big for the fridge and  too knobbly to get the dirt out easily. We are juicing them with carrots, apple, and ginger. It tastes virtuous with earthy undertones. 

I broadcast the carrot seed over quite a large plot this year, nevermind rows and thinning and all that palaver. Pulled out all the big ones first,  as you do when you're making tea in a hurry, and now I'm clearing the plot to make way for peas.
 I've got a feeling I've gone awry already with my rotational theory and it should be potatoes next. However I seem to be shoehorning things in where I can this year. It's early days in this garden, there is time to iron that out as the soil quality lifts. 
I'm stripping a section at a time, pull a bucketful of carrots, scrub and  sort into small for snacks, medium for cooking (halved) ,and large for anything else, carrot and artichoke soup, carrot cake and juice.
 It's brilliant having them all ready to go and the small ones are the best instead of being a nuisance. 

What with a mild winter, there are a few sporting 'carrot beard', that mass of tiny roots that sprouts as they  begin to grow again so yes it is good timing to lift and deal with them. 

What a great result from one artichoke plant, five was probably one plant too many for us this year. One of my yams produced nearly a bucketful like this one of artichokes.  

Anyway the mild winter seems to have been just as productive as a lacklustre summer.  Perhaps it's just that I hadn't fenced the garden with expectations and I have been free to seize every opportunity and enjoy every small thing. 

Thursday, April 17, 2014

whether the weather be hot or whether the weather be cold

I've been watching gardening videos courtesy of the vege club library, living vicariously. The only sort of gardening for this week end I suspect.  Pouring doesn't describe the rain, it's driving in against the windows and under the back door making its way into places it doesn't usually go. Has filled up the metre deep post holes that we dug last week for the retaining wall.


 Here's the Capri tomatoes looking more successful than they really were. Bigger tomatoes require a longer growing season to ripen, better care with watering and feeding, and this year, much better slug protection than they got. The smaller tomatoes were more successful, being satisfied with errattic attention, and well away from the ground. I have learnt that slugs will climb for tomatoes, but they don't seem to have a great head for heights.

 A beautiful strawberry flower below.  This plant was a gift that sat in the pot for weeks. When I eventually planted it, out came bracts of flowers. Too late for fruiting it's just too cold now but I have carefully planted out all the runners in the strawberry bed. 

 I am really pleased I got a day to clear around the fruit trees and bushes, strawberries in the foreground.
Mulched with compost and bedded with pine needles for the winter. I looked at pea straw, but the pine needles are free and I also use them on the floor of the hen house so I tend to have a supply on hand.

 Little concrete retaining walls are appearing everywher around the garden, using up the debris from the 'landscaping project' my euphemistic term for the great workshop build. Some people gracefully landscape their sections and other people dig, and build, and make things and it all looks good in the end. We are in the second category but it has yet to all look good.

I've been trying to work out what this picture is meant to show but I remember now. Brassicas on the lower right. This is an area with club root. I took your advice Mum and put a rhubarb stalk and leaf under each plant; they seem to be growing really well.
I have roughly divided my garden now into 4 working beds so my next project is to establish some sort of crop rotation and start to plan to plant accordingly.
Right, I better go and put some wood on the fire...

Saturday, February 15, 2014

What's working and what's not

Clearly the garlic worked although truth be known I was disappointed. I had two beds and the later one out performed the early by a mile, and then there was so much rain that I just pulled it all and dried it in the shed.
Come Vege Club and it was garlic and shallots on the competition table, there were plaits, elephant garlic, beautiful shallots and much bigger garlic heads too, if a little grubby. 


I think what gave me the edge was peeling off the outer  layer so that it looked inviting to use. 
'People's choice prize' is all about what people would like to use themselves, not necessarily gardening best,  so there is my winning card and my selection from the prize pool which has already been put to good use weeding the carrots.


The lettuce have been my summer success story. Their origin and name have been lost, except to say the lettuce seeded last year and I composted it. This year, every application of compost has brought a succession of little seedlings. Some we eat straight from the garden, others that are in the wrong place, I move them under the cloche.

Rhubarb Custard Cake, I found the recipe on eat little bird and took the advice of the multitudes to add an extra layer of rhubarb under the custard. It disappeared swiftly. 
Another success, the rhubarb, but now I have to address the problems, one of which is that I can't rotate my photos today. Get ready for a bent neck if you will!

I got the digging team to put anything close to top soil up on the top lawn.
Now I am slowly seiving out the cooch (or is it couch) wireworm, rocks and stones, clay lumps, debris, and  layering it up with cardboard, pineneedles, soil and seed potatoes.
This lot here called 'Highlander', never heard of it before.


Second lot of potatoes in are  'Cliff's Kidney'. In current time this is all potato foliage up and growing.  I am mulching them all with grass clippings and whatever. 
The shredded hedge clippings sucked up the nitrogen I think and the tops began to turn yellow so won't do that again.  An application of chopped seaweed seems to have helped and nobody has complained yet... Manure would be good. 
And of course there is still plenty of soil, the pile is much higher than this photo.
I'm  expecting these potatoes  to be ready at Easter. Hopes running high.

A new wood shed, this is definitely working. I have waited 20 years for this. B had to build it to house the scrap wood that comes in off pallets and so on. There are 3 bays, one waiting to be filled. It clears the space for the new workshop so a silver lining for me for living in a work site. 

This is a final glory photo. A Chinese Artichoke, bit of a snatch to source this, and beside it, my new pair of Bahco pruning clips bought with the last of my birthday money and appreciated every day.