Today was another productive day in the garden. It was very sunny. I managed to get 6 hours of work done, including the following tasks:
· I sprayed the plants on my heat pad with water (I do this twice daily as it gets very dry during the day in this kind of weather)
· I planted more cucumbers around the obelisks to replace the ones I planted a few days ago that didn’t survive. The varieties I popped in today were Beth Alpha from Franchi and Apple from Yates. I discovered Beth Alpha last year. It’s a beautiful long green cucumber with extremely tender skin that you can eat, a bit like a telegraph cucumber. The Apple variety from Yates is an old favourite that we grow year after year. The great thing about Apple cucumbers is that you can’t buy them at the supermarket, making them a useful thing to have in the garden
· I continued to plant tomatoes in the patch that contains tomatoes, cucumbers and zucchini. In the photo, you can see how this part of the garden is shaping up. Because I had cleared the dying calendula yesterday, I could get straight onto the job of putting in more plants. It can be a bit tedious but sometimes it’s good to prepare for the following day in advance. That way, you can use time more productively. Before I could get stuck in, I set up the work station for planting tomatoes that I described in my post over the weekend, which contains everything I need for the task. I followed Simone’s advice and removed a tomato plant put in awhile ago which looked diseased and replaced it with a new plant. The varieties I planted today were Moneymaker, Potentate, Beefsteak, Grosse Lisse and Roma. All of these plants were purchased as seedlings from Kings Plant Barn during their sale in August. I constantly potted and re-potted them in September and October, so they had gotten quite big by now and were ready to go out. I also inspected my tomato seedlings grown from seeds kindly given to me from Egmont. By far the strongest growers were “Big Beef” and “Dr Walters Special”. I had a tray each containing potted plants of these two varieties. I also have a few each of “Heirloom Marriage Big Brandy” and “Heirloom Marriage Genuwine”, as well as some “Heirloom Red Pear” tomatoes. I planted one each of these varieties today (except for Red Pear, as the plants are still quite small and I want them to grow a bit more first) and will continue to plant more tomorrow. I also need to spend a bit of time sorting out my exotic varieties (more on this later!) and making sure I plant at least one of each. A little tip – for strong healthy plants, try to plant either early in the morning or in the evening, avoiding the hottest part of the day.
· While sifting through my tomato seedlings I found another “Tumbling Tom Red” from Egmont, which I planted into another hanging basket. I was very pleased about this. Now we have two tomato plants in hanging baskets. Last year, we had six and they cropped so prolifically that even if we didn’t have other tomato plants in the garden, we still would have had more than enough for our needs
· I planted more butternuts into the area which I have dedicated to them, making holes in the black plastic as I went. The varieties I planted were Chieftain (Kings), Big Chief (Kings), Babynut (Kings) and the Yates butternut. Of the ones I planted a fortnight ago, one died so I put a new plant in its place. Some of the others had dead leaves which mum cut back for me just a few days ago, but they seem to have come back to life as there’s new growth on them. I left six seedlings in my nursery as replacements incase I lose more plants along the way. They are smaller plants anyway and need to grow a bit more before they can be planted outside
· Hardening off melons and eggplants – by the end of the day, I decided to leave the biggest plants outside overnight as the next step in their life. If they survive, I will be able to start planting them outside soon. Perhaps this will be a task for next week.
What did everyone else get up to today? Hope your gardens are progressing nicely.
I had a productive long day in the garden today. It was another seven hour day for me. Although Metservice had predicted showers and drizzles in Auckland, it turned out to be a sunny day without any rain. I managed to power through the following tasks:
· Sowing more beans on the heat pad – because I had such bad luck with the beans I sowed both outdoors and inside on the heat pad a fortnight ago, I sowed yet another round of beans. For climbing beans, I sowed “Blue Lake Runner” (Kings Seeds), “Stringless Scarlet” (Yates), “Scarlet Runner” (Yates) and a variety of beans given to me by the Heritage Food Crops Research Trust. I also sowed some dwarf varieties – “Top Crop” (Yates), “”Roquefort Dwarf” (Kings Seeds) and “Dwarf French Hiscock” (Egmont Seeds). This time, I decided to sow them directly into the incubator trays, which I filled with seed raising mix, rather than using plastic punnets to place on the trays as the germination rate with the ones I had sown this way was so poor. I managed to raise my bean seedlings successfully last year using this method, after a suggestion from a man who lives down the road who does it this way. Like me, he was also struggling to get beans to grow and is a huge fan of raising them indoors first, because they always end up being munched by slugs and snails. It does mean that the trays will need a good cleaning at the end of it, but healthy bean seedlings are a small price to pay given how much I struggle to grow them.
· Planting three punnets of spring onions – I sowed the variety “Tokyo Long White” (Kings Seeds) on 18th September and they have been ready to be planted out for some time. Since the ground was still damp in the morning, I thought it would be the perfect time. They went into the large patch shaded by our neighbour’s willow tree
· Sowing some more leeks – The ”Winter Giant” leeks (Kings Seeds) that I sowed on the 11th and 18th of September are coming along nicely. I sowed some more of these, as well as “Musselburgh” (McGregors) and Lungo Della Riviera (Kings Seeds). My plan is to plant the ones sown in September by December and save the second lot for planting in late summer/early autumn
· Removing a dead nasturtium – I pulled out an old nasturtium in the garden by the willow tree, because it was past its prime. I have plenty of new seedlings coming along. These varieties are “Empress of India” and “Peach Melba” (Kings Seeds)
· Weeding – I pulled out some weeds in between the spring onion and leek seedlings in the garden by the willow tree. I also weeded the strawberry patch and the area by the camellia trees infront of our house
· Spraying – I sprayed all 28 standard roses (plus the ones grown from cuttings) with Yates Super Shield, the tamarillo with Yates Mavrick and our celery seedlings with Yates Liquid Copper
· Planting chillies and capsicums – I planted the following capsicums in 35 litre containers: Palladio (Egmont), Double Up (Egmont), Belle Combo (purchased as a seedling from Kings Plant Barn) and Mama Mia Gialla x2 (Kings Seeds). I also planted some chillies (Carolina Reaper and Indian Jawal). These seeds were given to me in seed swaps.
· Clearing some dying calendula – I pulled out some calendula which was on the way out in our tomato patch, to make room for some more plants which I hope to put in tomorrow
Yes, our garden waste has accumulated once again, so I’ll need to spend some time sorting it out in the coming days.
New developments are as follows:
· Our passionfruit vines have fruit (I noticed this awhile ago but forgot to mention it)
· We picked our first raspberry today
· Our boysenberry “Thornless Jewel” (Incredible Edibles) is fruiting. They are very sour!
· Some of our zucchini have flowers (but not “Zephyr” which went straight on to fruit without flowering first, which is very strange)
The photo is of our dinner. We had frittata (potato, asparagus and red pepper, Anabel Langbein’s recipe), guacamole (also Anabel Langbein’s recipe), coleslaw and potato salad. In preparing these dishes, mum used lots of fresh veggies from our garden. It was so yummy!
Today brought some much-needed rain in Auckland. Fortunately, I went for my 10k run at 6am, well before the rain set in. In saying that, there is something very pleasant about running in the rain, especially the type of fine rain that we saw today (as opposed to it absolutely pelting down).
I started work in the garden at 8 am. I spent about half an hour filling our two garden waste bins with rubbish. Our bins were already full and due to be collected when I had amassed quite a bit of waste over Labour Weekend, so I stored the waste in black plastic rubbish bags until the company came to empty the bins. The next collection won’t be for awhile, but I don’t want the neighbours to complain about rubbish bags lying around on the front lawn. It was all I could think about during my run. I did it this way as I think a mountain of waste would have looked even untidier. It feels like we are walking on egg shells with the neighbours. It’s quite sad but we don’t really have much to do with a couple of them anymore, but I feel that it’s for the best. My aunt (who lives across the road) told me that one of them who lives next door to her was constantly gossiping about me. I used to feel sorry for her as she was very lonely and didn’t have many friends (I can now see why!). I even offered to help her create a small garden in her backyard despite being very busy with my business at the time, but she wasn’t interested. Sadly, she finds it more enjoyable to spy on people (my aunt told me she is a peeping tom and is always peering through the cracks of their fence!), ask very personal questions (she really upset my aunt by prying into her son’s recent separation from his wife and has also asked me some incredibly nosy questions) and talk about them behind their back rather than use time constructively, whether gardening or doing something else. Then there is another couple who are not very nice at all. There is some history there. If people are so horrible, it’s probably best to just stay away from them, otherwise they will end up hurting you. Please don’t get me wrong, I’ve got nothing against elderly people! The group I run with on Thursdays at the YMCA 10k series are mostly in their 70s and 80s (and most of them are way slimmer, fitter and faster than me!). They are the most spirited, lovely and supportive people ever. It’s the ones with nothing to do (and don’t want to do anything!) that cause more trouble. Nope, it’s not all a bed of roses in my world, but the garden is like a sanctuary, a haven to escape the problems of day-to-day life. Even if trouble isn’t very far away.
I digress. I then moved over to the greenhouse, where I had a few tasks to do. You might recall me mentioning that I recently started hardening off my melons and eggplants Because these plants are getting quite big (they are in 10 cm pots), I keep them on trays and move them outdoors during the day but put them back inside at night, as the temperature falls. I’ll keep doing this for another week or so, before leaving them outside permanently. I plan to start planting them in another fortnight.
I then had a good look around inside the greenhouse. It was time for more melons, eggplants and some cucumbers that had grown a third leaf to be moved from staying inside Sistema crates onto black seed raising trays. I keep the very smallest of plants in crates and cover them at night with lids as the temperature does drop, even under cover. However, many of these had grown a lot in the past week since I had done my last inspection of the greenhouse and were ready for the next stage of their life. There were also some plants in 6-cell punnets that hadn’t made much progress (other members of their peer group, sown at the same time, are now large and healthy in 10 cm pots) so it was time to get rid of them. Some looked unhealthy and diseased. I have so many plants to take care of and it’s better to focus on what’s strong and healthy. I simply don’t have the time to nurse the weaker ones back to health. There were some plants in 6-cell punnets that made the grade and got potted up into individual 10cm pots. These plants were mainly eggplants, chillies (“Fire and Ice” from Kings Seeds) and passionfruit seedlings. By this point, I had my raincoat on. While it was raining, I sat in the driveway under the eaves of the garage doing this task.
As the ground was nice and damp from the rain, it seemed like the perfect time to put in some more plants. I planted a punnet of malabar spinach grown from seed I saved from my plants two years ago, which had germinated well. I still have lots of self-seeded plants which you might remember seeing in a photo I posted in an earlier blog, but I wanted to cover myself incase they get munched by slugs or snails, or otherwise end up dying. I also managed to plant some more silverbeet seedlings around the edges of our garden beds. At the moment, it’s raining very heavily so I’ve come indoors but if it subsides I will try to go back outside and do some more planting, to take advantage of ideal conditions. I still have some more kohlrabi seedlings that need to go in, but I didn’t plant them all when I was doing a mass planting about a week ago, so I would have some replacements incase any seedlings died.
What has everyone else gotten up to in their garden today (or not!)? Was it also raining where you are? Hopefully you have nice neighbours and don’t have horror stories like us!
Today’s photo is of our corn seedlings, which are doing nicely.
I am SO busy at the moment that it’s getting harder and harder to blog. Is anyone else finding this too? But it’s something that I make time for because I really enjoy writing about what I’ve been doing in the garden. Today, I decided to focus on planting my largest tomatoes and cucumbers into the garden bed which already contains ones that I planted over Labour Weekend. Because it takes awhile to set up my work station, I thought that it would be better to focus on just this one task rather than doing bits and pieces. For this task, I needed compost, Nitrophoska fertiliser, Yates Gro-Plus tomato fertiliser (which I also used for the cucumbers as it’s suitable for other fruiting plants), stakes for the tomatoes, obelisks for the cucumbers, a watering can, a bucket filled with water and a little Yates Thrive Natural Fish and Seaweed Liquid Fertiliser for soaking the plants in prior to planting, string and a pair of scissors (for tying the tomatoes to the stakes). Tools I needed were the spade and a trowel. By the time I get everything out, it makes sense to put in quite a few plants rather than to go to all this trouble for just one or two, only to have to then put it all away again!
Cucumbers love to climb, so I decided to use obelisks again, having had success growing them that way in previous seasons. Varieties I planted today were Beth Alpha (Franchi), Long Green (Yates), Apple (Yates), Bush Crop (McGregors) and Marketer (McGregors). The tomatoes I put in were ones I purchased as seedlings in Kings Plant Barn’s sale in August. Varieties put in today included Moneymaker, Potentate, Beefsteak and some unknown types (because the labels came off somehow). While I was working in the area, I noticed that fruit has started to form on a few of my Sweet 100 cherry tomatoes (see photo). I am very excited about this development!
In the afternoon, I spent some time tidying up the remainder of my tomato plants, mostly which are still in 10 cm pots. These were the ones I grew from seed. There are also around a dozen more tomato plants which were purchased from Kings as seedlings. I won’t get around to planting these in the garden for awhile, until space becomes available. I removed the laterals which had started to develop, as well as the lower leaves (they needed to come off as I plant tomatoes very deeply, to encourage lots of roots to form along the trunk. They’re also the leaves that are the most prone to disease, as they come into contact with the ground, so it’s a good idea to get rid of them). In addition to keeping an eye on tomatoes planted in the garden, it’s a good idea to check your potted plants regularly and get into the habit of doing this, so your seedlings concentrate their energy into forming a strong main stem (the leader) rather than lots of side shoots and leaves. Working so closely with my tomatoes also gave me a chance to see which varieties performed well. I grew a lot of different varieties from Egmont Seeds, as John McCullough sent me a huge box of seeds last year so I could trial them in the garden and follow up on their progress through my blog and on social media. Varieties from Egmont Seeds in 10 cm pots at the moment are Big Beef, Big Boy, Dr Walters Special, Heirloom Marriage Big Brandy, Heirloom Marriage Genuwine, Heirloom Red Pear, Heirloom Yellow Pear, and Tumbling Tom Red (I only have one plant, which I potted into a hanging basket before I finished work for today). All are looking incredibly healthy.
As part of my daily routine, I also check on plants in the greenhouse and walk around the garden to monitor how plants are doing. I noticed the following problems:
The weather improved in the afternoon. It was lovely and sunny, so for the first time, I moved my largest eggplants and rockmelon seedlings which were inside the greenhouse to outside, as I need to start hardening them off. I’ll continue to do this and hope to plant them out in the next ten days or so, weather permitting of course.
What did everyone else get up to in the garden today?
In this post, I’m going to cover problems with getting seeds to germinate. In short, you don’t always reap what you sow. Seeds fail to germinate for a number of reasons.
· The seeds may not be fresh. The germination rate of seeds decreases every year after the expiry date, but it’s still worth giving it a go if you have some expired seeds in your collection, especially if they’re unopened. Even if you use seeds before the expiry date, Gerard Martin (the owner of Kings Seeds) did warn me that their viability will be shorter once the packet is opened
· Some seeds, such as NZ Spinach, have inherently low germination rates
· Some seeds might require stratification in order to germinate. Parsnips and echinacea benefit from a cold spell in the fridge prior to sowing. Some seeds, such as beans, corn and peas which have a hard coating, benefit from soaking overnight to aid germination
· There might be something wrong with the actual seeds. They may have been improperly harvested (generally, they have to be ripe and mature when they are collected). They may not have been stored properly (keep them in a cool, dry place). Sometimes, the whole batch is bad. A couple of years ago, I tried to grow the pumpkin “Winter Luxury Pie” from Kings Seeds (which Collette put me on to when she added some of her seeds to the travelling seed box) but not one single seed germinated. I got in touch with Kings Seeds and Gerard informed me that there was a germination issue with the whole batch that year
· You might not be using the right growing medium. Use seed raising mix when sowing seeds in punnets, not soil or potting mix. For optimum germination rates, use a high quality mix like Yates Black Magic Seed Raising Mix or Nature’s Way Organic Seed Raising Mix
· Research the ideal temperature for germination, as it can vary. Some veggies need warmth, such as eggplants, peppers, capsicums and chillies so a heat pad can be helpful, as it is cool in July and August, when these veggies are typically started from seed. Others like lettuce, spring onions and leeks are fine to leave outside to germinate, but I tend not to start them during the winter months, waiting until the temperatures increase in September. Don’t forget that as it gets warmer, heat loving veggies such as cucumbers and zucchini can be raised outdoors, either in punnets or even sown directly where you want to grow them. Using a heat pad in summer can cook your seeds and they won’t germinate!
· Ensure that you’re sowing seeds at the right time of the year for your region. If it’s too hot or cold, they might germinate at first but will fail soon after or they may just not germinate at all
· Dampening off is a problem that sometimes occurs after germination, especially when it gets cold in the mornings. This occurred one year when I sowed my winter seedlings in late March/early April. To prevent this from happening, start them earlier, in February so they’re nice and established when autumn sets in
· Sow seeds at a sufficient depth outdoors to prevent them from being scratched up by birds, cats and rodents
· Be patient. Sometimes it takes awhile for seeds to germinate, depending on what you’re sowing and the temperature. It took just over a fortnight for my beans to start poking their heads above the surface. They were sown on 27th October and I only noticed one appear on 7th November. A few years ago, I tried growing capers and they took a long time to germinate
· Ensure you’re sowing seed the right way. Some things prefer to be sowed direct, while others are better transplanted into the garden. People have different experiences. I’ve never had a good strike rate with sunflowers sown in punnets, but Carol didn’t seem to have any trouble getting her Ginormous Zilla sunflowers from Yates to germinate in peat pots made of toilet rolls
Don’t forget that while you may not always reap what you sow, you sometimes reap what you haven’t. It balances out in the end. Plants which self-seed freely in our garden include poppies, calendula, borage, sunflowers, lettuce and malabar spinach. Yesterday, mum and I noticed that some passionfruit seedlings popped up by themselves in the place where we had a huge vine last year.
The photo is of my Zucchini Zephyr seedling which has already developed tiny fruit. It’s strange as it didn’t have flowers on it beforehand and the other seedling in the garden is the same. Has anyone else who is growing this variety noticed this as well?
Gardening exposes you to a number of hazards and can take a toll on your entire body. Look after yourself this summer, not just your plants. Here are some tips:
· Slip, slop, slap – the sun can be fierce, even on cloudy days. Try to wear long clothing which offers more protection. Make sure you apply sunscreen regularly. Wear a hat and sunglasses. Use a lip balm with an SPF
· Stay hydrated – drink water regularly throughout the day. I like to keep a jug filled with water and a glass in the garage, so it’s easily accessible while I’m working in the garden
· Protect yourself from insects – use a good insect repellent (the one which I’ve found to be most effective is Bush Man) to prevent mosquitoes from biting you. I sometimes forget to apply insect repellent and recently had to see my GP to get some antibiotics because of some bites that had become discoloured and infected.
· Ensure your vaccinations are up to date – gardening exposes you to soil, rusty nails and so on. In particular, make sure you have been vaccinated against tetanus. I do realise that there is a new trend against immunisation which didn’t really exist when I was growing up (not that my mother, a retired nurse who is as old school as they come, would have bought into it). Do what you feel comfortable with but be sure to research the risks and make an informed decision about inoculation
· Take care of your feet – make sure you wear protective footwear around the garden. This is particularly important for diabetics as any cuts can easily become infected and in extreme cases, lead to amputation. I used to wander around the garden wearing jandals while harvesting, until I got a cut on my toe. I was very lucky that it healed quickly but after that, I started wearing gumboots all the time, even in summer. For extra protection, I wear thick socks, too.
· Take care of your hands – I recommend wearing gloves while gardening. I have a few different types. I use disposable surgical gloves for anything fiddly, such as sowing seeds and potting up seedlings. I use thicker gloves for pruning my roses, as they offer more protection. At the end of every day, use a brush to remove dirt underneath the finger nails. I recently had an issue with some dirt getting trapped deep underneath a fingernail when I was bandicooting some potatoes. It was very painful and took some time to remove (I soaked the finger in Dettol and had to use a toothpick to get it out. Ouch!). At the time, I was only wearing thin disposable gloves but I have since learnt to wear thicker gardening gloves over the top when harvesting potatoes as I like to remove as many as I can with my hands to avoid them being speared by the garden fork
· Pamper your hands – gardening can leave your hands quite dry. Invest in a nice hand cream to use before you go to bed every night
· Pamper your feet – being on your feet around the garden all day can leave your feet worse for wear. Treat yourself to a nice foot soak, scrub and cream which you can use after a hard day in the garden
· Wash produce before consumption – don’t eat things straight from the garden as tempting as they may look (that includes peas and strawberries!). You never know what was sitting on them before, which might cause you or other members of your family to fall ill
· Use protection when spraying – use a mask and goggles when using sprays in the garden
· Beware legionnaires disease – use a mask when using compost and potting mix. This is especially important when opening fresh bags.
· Take it easy – gardening can cause repetitive strain. I continually suffer from tight forearms and traps, weak wrists and lower back pain. Take care when lifting heavy objects. See a physio for injuries. Using a wheat bag on sore areas can help. Take regular breaks when out in the garden. Have days off so the body has time to recover and repair.
· Take care when operating machinery – for example, the lawn mower, chainsaw, weed eater, electronic pruner. They can be dangerous. Protect hearing by wearing ear muffs
Does anyone have any other tips on how to stay safe in the garden this summer?
The photo is of our tomatoes, which I planted over Labour Weekend.
Last night, I attended the Mitre 10 garden club event at my local store in Manukau. As always, I had a great time thanks to Maureen and the team. The key message of the evening was the importance of liquid feeding. Two points arose from this:
· Granular fertiliser isn’t a substitute for regular liquid feeding, but it’s better than nothing
· Seaweed is a tonic and doesn’t have NPK
I had prepared some questions to ask the Yates expert in advance. I thought I would summarise Shaun’s advice, incase other gardeners had the same issues.
· Rust on garlic – Shaun had a look at a photo of my garlic and confirmed that it has indeed been struck by rust. It’s too far gone to do anything about it this season (as I suspected) BUT the good news is that he said it should still produce, even though it may mean the bulbs are a bit smaller. Next year, Shaun advised to spray plants with Yates Liquid Copper from the time they emerge (not when they’re too small), every 2-3 weeks, to prevent rust. He said that I can replant any cloves from my stock and it shouldn’t cause rust in future, as it’s not spread that way. If storing cloves for planting, Shaun advised to dust them with flowers of sulphur powder, which I use on my daffodils, dutch iris and other spring bulbs after I lift them in summer
· Fruit trees – Shaun said not to spray my fruit trees with Yates Liquid Copper now that the weather is warmer, as it may burn the leaves. The same goes for my roses. Since I sprayed the fruit trees regularly over winter with Yates Lime Sulphur, Yates Liquid Copper and Yates Copper Oxychloride, Shaun said I didn’t really need to worry about spraying them anymore but if I wanted to, Yates Fungus Fighter was the product to use. He said I should be using Yates Super Shield or Yates Fungus Fighter spray on my roses from now until the end of summer.
· Yates success spray – Shaun recommended I use this product to protect seedlings which are being munched in the greenhouse. It’s hard to say what has been attacking them but some plants have been completely decapitated, others have holes in the leaves. I have a bottle of Yates Success which I won in a gardening competition run by the NZ Gardener magazine a number of years ago, but haven’t needed to use this product until now
· Destroy Bravo but Confidor is ok – As you might recall from one of my earliest photos, I have SO many Yates products stockpiled in the garage and I needed to quickly check which ones have been pulled from the market due to environmental concerns. Shaun told me not to use Yates Bravo, which I used to use on my roses, as a link with cancer was found. However, he said Confidor is still on the shelves. I have had to use Yates Confidor in the past when our lemon tree had borer and still have a bit left. Shaun said spraying is best done in early autumn, so I’ll wait until then.
Today was an exceptionally beautiful day and I was extremely productive. I always work more efficiently when the weather’s fine. I powered through my task list, which included:
· Planting the tray of silverbeet shown in yesterday’s picture (I intended to do this yesterday afternoon but ran out of time)
· Lifting the row of Heather potatoes planted on 20th August (see photo of harvest)
· Planting a row of Agria potatoes in the same place after mixing compost, Nitrophoska fertiliser and potato food into the soil
· Liquid feeding the entire garden. I used Yates Thrive Tomato Liquid Plant Food on my tomatoes, chillies, capsicums, cucumbers, pumpkins and squash; Yates Thrive Strawberry and Berry Fruit Liquid Plant Food on my strawberries; Yates Thrive Natural Citrus and Fruit tree Liquid fertiliser on my fruit trees (which I won in Mini Challenge 2) and the Yates Thrive pods that I purchased on special from Bunnings for $1 each on the rest of the plants
· Sowing two rows of tall sunflowers on either side of the melon patch – Skyscraper, Taiyo, Zohar, Fantasia, Evening Sun and Chocolate Cherry (all from Kings Seeds). I inserted some stakes as doing so later on might damage the roots of the plants
· Sowing a container of basil (McGregors seed mats)
· Sowing more beans on the heat pad (Kentucky Pole climbing beans from McGregors)
· Taking some photos of the garden. Sometimes I am so busy working in the garden that I forget to capture and admire all the plants!
All these tasks took me 7 hours in total, with a half hour break for lunch in the middle. Tonight, I’m going to have a think about what needs to be done tomorrow. I definitely won’t do 7 hours again, as I have the YMCA 10k run in the evening. Last week, I had a lighter Thursday in the garden and was 5 mins faster than the previous week. I think doing less gardening helped as I wasn’t so exhausted by the time of the race. I set a new PB for the course of 1 hour 7 mins 7 secs. Wish me luck!
Firstly, I’d just like to say that I’m really enjoying being a part of the Yates Veggie Growing Challenge and can understand why so many of you participate year after year. There is a real sense of community and I often forget it’s a competition! I love reading posts from other bloggers. It has motivated me to do more outdoors and write about our garden more often.
Things move fast around here! It wasn’t that long ago that I was blogging about my successes and set-backs (as I prefer to call them) but today I realised that I need to update my list to reflect recent developments in the garden.
· Kumara. The kumara has finally started to form shoots in the greenhouse (from set back to success!). You can’t rush mother nature along, so I’ll just have to let them do their thing and plant them when they’re ready to go out. Given how horrible the weather has been this past week, I don’t think they would exactly thrive outdoors even if they were big enough to be planted in the garden
· Parsnips. The parsnips I sowed in mid-September look healthy. They have lots of lush, green foliage but as with all root crops, time will tell whether it’s only just leaf or if they actually form a root!
· Roses. You might recall me saying in an earlier post that in late summer last year, I took some cuttings from my standard roses, which I dipped in Yates Clonex hormone gel to improve the strike rate. I was overjoyed to see that one of my “Loving Memory” roses has buds. It would make a lovely Christmas present for someone. The roses I ordered from D & S Nurseries, Tasman Bay Roses and South Pacific Roses and planted during the winter are just about all flowering and look beautiful.
· Bulbs. Scilla, our first lily of the season, is currently flowering. This is a patio oriental lily that I purchased from Garden Post and planted in August. Around the same time, I also planted 20 OT lilies, which are in bud. We also picked our first gladioli of the season, an enormous white flower. Speaking of Garden Post, just last week I placed a large order. For around $100, I purchased 18 dahlias, 60 giant gladioli, 60 miniature gladioli and 60 mixed lilies (LA Hybrid, OT and Oriental). I planted these in the bed which previously housed the cabbage and beetroot (soon to become the area for the melons). The Liseta potatoes are on the other side. When those come out in early December, I’ll have some more space for the melons (or something else, if my plants don’t look promising). You always need to have a plan B!
· Annuals. We have a lovely display of poppies at the moment (see previous post for a photo of “Fire Circle”). The cosmos are also flowering and the cornflowers have buds (both were planted in mid-september and were purchased as seedlings from Kings Plant Barn)
· Plant labels. The writing on my plant labels has faded, despite using a sharpie pen, which I thought was meant to be permanent. Fortunately I can still read the writing on most labels faintly but there are a few chillies and capsicums that will be a bit of a lucky dip this season
· Tamarillos. While the two trees outside which I grew from seed last spring have gone from strength to strength (they’re nearly taller than their stakes), the two rounds of the same seed I sowed on my heat pad failed to germinate, as well as the seeds given to me by my gardening friend Rob Hammington. This means that I won’t have a back-up incase my plants die
· Radish. The radish a German wwoofer helped me sow in 35 litre buckets in mid-October is very leafy, but failed to bulb up just like the row of radish which I sowed in the ground in mid-September. I’m not sure what went wrong as the potting mixture was old and had been used to grow capsicum and then carrots. Like I said in an earlier post, I often struggle with the simplest of veggies!
Tonight is the Garden Club event at my local Mitre 10 store. I just hope Yates sends a sales rep again this year. I desperately need help with growing garlic, as mine has rust. It might be too late to take action now, but there’s always next year!
NB the photo is of a tray of silverbeet seedlings I grew from seed, which I’m going to plant into the garden this afternoon.
To help organise myself in the garden, I keep a monthly task list which I write on a large sheet of paper pinned to my notice board. I also write daily tasks in a notebook which I keep in the garage, so it’s easily accessible while I’m in the garden. It’s so satisfying to be able to cross things off the list. Funnily, I often end up getting side-tracked and doing things which I haven’t written down. Does anyone else have this habit, too? Sometimes things catch my eye as I walk around the garden and these tasks are more urgent, such as reviving an unhealthy plant or providing support to one which is leaning over. Even with these diversions, I’ve been powering through my tasks. As I plant out seedlings, stock in the nursery is gradually diminishing. I feel in control of the garden, despite experiencing some set backs along the way, which I have described in my previous two posts. The biggest loss was the wwoofers (which I covered a bit before that) – so I thought. It’s early days without them, but I’ve actually found that I’m less stressed, have more freedom and flexibility and even have more time on my hands! Sometimes it’s easier to just get on with it yourself without the hassle of delegating to others and having to supervise them.
Recap of main activities in the past week
· Harvested the rest of the cabbages (I gave a box of 15 to gym staff at Les Mills Howick, as mentioned in a previous post) and cleared the beetroot which failed to bulb up
· Lifted a row of Agria potatoes. Prepared the soil with compost, Nitrophoska fertiliser and potato food. Replanted more Agria seed potatoes
· Prepared the area where I intend to grow squash (between the Agria and Liseta potatoes). Worked compost and Nitrophoska fertiliser into the soil and laid down some old black plastic I had previously used for planting melons. It was quite spooky. The dimensions of the plastic were exactly right for the area and the holes were in exactly the right places, including spaces to accommodate some self-seeded flowers - a sunflower, some borage and wildflowers – in the middle of the patch. Initially, I thought it would take me a long time to do this, but it took literally a few minutes because it was already mapped out correctly. I couldn’t have crafted it better myself!
· Planted kohrlrabi, spinach and silverbeet over the weekend
· Dig over area which previously housed the cabbages and beetroot. Work in lots of compost and Nitrophoska fertiliser. Lay down black plastic in preparation for planting the melons later this month, when it’s a bit warmer (I don’t normally plant them earlier than mid-November)
· Lift Heather potatoes which were planted on 20th August (harvest between the 10th and 20th of the month, as Morton Smith-Dawe suggest they take 80-90 days to mature). Prepare soil with compost, Nitrophoska fertiliser and potato food. Plant another row of Agria potatoes.
· Plant remaining four trays of silverbeet and spinach (Carol, you’re allowed to laugh at me, I sometimes wish I only had six seedlings as it’s taking me FOREVER!)
· Sow more sunflowers (direct, outdoors), cucumber and zucchini (indoors on the heat pad)
· Harden off eggplants and melons which are currently in the greenhouse
· Plant more tomatoes, capsicums and chillies in the garden
· Check whether beans have germinated (sown direct on 27th October). If not, plant seedlings raised on the heat pad (which haven’t germinated yet). If these fail, sow more seeds on the heat pad. There’s still plenty of time for growing beans, so don’t worry if yours are a bit behind like mine!
Later this month
· Sow basil and zinnias (direct, outdoors)
· Sow okra (indoors on heat pad)
· Plant melons and eggplants outdoors
What tasks are outstanding in your garden?
NB the picture is of the poppy “Fire Circle” (ex Koanga). The seeds were originally given to me by my gardening friend Catherine Orr, but the poppy self-seeds freely every year.
I had a productive weekend in the garden. Yesterday, I planted another tomato (Potentate) and four more cucumbers (Continental and Long Green from Yates). I also potted up some more melon seedlings which came off the heat pad (Inverno from Franchi and Honeydew from Yates) and moved them into the greenhouse. I planted two trays of “Classic Fantastic” cornflower seedlings (Kings Seeds), as well as a variety of flowers which I raised from seeds that Egmont kindly gave me last year. These were Candytuft “Fire Ice”, Carthamus “Grenade Orange’, Godetia “Satin Mix”, Linum “Blue Dress”, Lupin “Israeli Blue Admiral” and Nigella “African Bride”. All of these flowers are new to me, so I am excited to see what they look like when they flower. I potted my Dianthus “Jolt Cherry” and Lavender “Bandera Pink” seedlings (also from Egmont) into 6-cell punnets, as they are still quite small and I’d like them to grow a bit more before transplanting them into the garden. I sowed some more Baby Bear and Musquee de Provence pumpkin seeds on the heat pad, as the plants I put in outside have died (see yesterday’s post).
Today, I planted some more zucchini, kohlrabi and spinach. I also spent some time planning gardening activities for the week ahead. I did some weeding both days to try and keep the garden looking tidy. I dread dedicated weeding days and they can be very hard on the back, so I’ve worked out it’s best to do a bit every day to keep on top of it!
As I indicated yesterday, it’s not all a bed of roses in the garden. Here are some more problems:
· An insect has been eating my Hale’s Best rockmelon plants (Yates) in the greenhouse
· A tom cat in the neighbourhood has deliberately destroyed many punnets of seedlings in my nursery, including my rudbeckia and tithonia. I’ll have to sow more. He is spiteful because we adopted Ginger and not him!
· Unfortunately I can’t follow up on progress with the Wildflower Bee Attracting Mix and Cosmos Lemonade which Egmont Seeds gave to me to trial in the garden, because some wwoofers pulled them out when they were weeding, despite being told a number of times that they were not weeds. I will add them to my shopping list for next year
· It was just too cold outside for some of my chilli and capsicum seedlings. Despite gradually hardening them off and moving them outdoors to make room for other plants in the greenhouse, I noticed that many of them were dying so back inside they went!
· The two passionfruit seedlings that I planted to replace the vine at the back of the house that died (see yesterday’s post) aren’t looking too good. If they die, I won’t bother planting more in the same place. We think the soil might be diseased, but it doesn’t seem to have affected the clivia
To close, here are a couple of gardening tips:
· Sunflowers - try not to plant sunflowers in amongst your veggies as they drain a lot of water. It’s better to put them in a separate bed, which I’m doing for the first time this year
· Spring onions – don’t pull the entire plant out of ground, just chop what you want from the top and it will grow again
· Roses – save banana skins and put them around your roses as they are high in potassium and will promote flowering
The photo is of some eggplant seedlings in our greenhouse.
What did everyone get up to this weekend?