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.