Category: September


Turn of the wheel

The wheel has turned, & we are resolutely looking at Spring. My wishful dreams that we would be all tidy in the gardens with time to spare have evaporated! Suddenly everything is growing, weeds, blossoms, tiny bulbs, lambs, catkins, willow leaves, that awesome sense of shift & hidden movement as sap rises & life returns.

English Violets Magnolia stellata

Primroses Swallows return

We tidied our boxes of seeds the other day & put all the really old ones in a bag, which I shook out around the edges of the gardens. Many of these were Aquilegias from the days we ran the nursery, Nora Barlow, Nora’s Sister, Little Warwick, Red Star, doubles, singles & clematiflora types, if only 1% germinate we will have some treasures.

This is the time to get seeds sown, we spent a happy couple of hours sowing seeds in the greenhouse today, & we are even in phase with our moon calender, which says from now to the 7th Sept is good for plants above ground. We have sown punnets & pots of tomatoes, peppers, curcubits, & other veges, plus some herbs like Burdock, Valerian & Cardoon, plus some odd packets of very old seeds we hope might grow.

It’s also the time to start seed potatoes sprouting, (see chitting potatoes in blog) this makes sturdy sprouts, ready to grow fast once they are planted in about 6 weeks time.

We had our first, modest feed of Asparagus this week, early in the season, & so delicious with butter & black pepper. Our ratbag sheep got into the gardens & stripped all our beautiful brassicas bare, so now we have stumps where once there were heads of broccoli & cabbages forming. Very depressing after such a good start. We might get a few late heads of Broccoli from them. We had the last word  with the sheep, two wethers, which are now in the freezer! We are getting tough!!

unruly flock Brassica stumps

This year we are altering our vege growing, no pumpkins, we never eat enough to use what we grow. Only early spuds to avoid/minimise the psyllid problem, & a new super feed system for our tomatoes, which includes fish heads, aspirin, bone meal & worm castings, fingers crossed.

Finally I just want to say what amazing big skies we have here, they are stunning, here are a couple of pics to inspire you.

skies Aug14 019 (shrink) skies Aug14 004 (shrink)

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Mustard Remedy

The days are starting to have a Spring in their step, even if it is a bit erratic. We are starting to reclaim the herb & vege gardens at last. The asparagus patch is looking good, some plants have  half a dozen or more spears showing. Although advice says not to pick any this year, as plants are only 2 years old, we have snaffled a few stalks as a treat. Our Cowslip plants are looking really happy, so we have harvested a few flowers, some into oil & some to dry for herb teas.

Cowslips

Our leeks are just starting to get little flower stalks in their middles, so we are eating as many as we can before they get too tough. Our favourite leek meal is ‘Leeks on Toast’ & I’ll put the recipe up in the Recipe section.

The Rhubarb is powering away, & we have weeded around it, put a load of old horse poo on & then mulched with old hay. Last year the strawberries were not happy, a mixture of wet weather & couch grass. So we have dug all the plants up, & moved their frame to a new spot. Have re-planted the runners & the youngest looking plants with good roots.

We bought some early seed potatoes, which are chitting in our garden caravan. We’re going to plants them in the remains of an old compost heap. We’ve had a few problems with our spuds the last couple of years, so we are trying something new this year.

We planted a lot of mustard as green manure crop where our tomatoes were last year. Further research has revealed that we can chop up the mustard tops & dig them into the soil, esp. where we are putting the spuds. The trick is to chop them up finely, get them into the soil straight away, then firm down & cover if possible. The cut mustard leaves release gases, a bit like eating wasabi, & the gases act to fumigate the soil, killing pathogens & disinfecting the soil. They are reported to act as a fungicide, to curb nematodes &  Potato Blight.

covering the soilDigging in cut mustardcut stalksMustard crop

Our mustard plants are just right now to harvest, as they are starting to flower. So we must get on to it soon. Once the leaves are in the soil, we leave them for 2 weeks before planting our potatoes. Got hold of a couple of bags of Agria seed potatoes today, so will set them out in trays to sprout.

Bugs & Birds

We are having the most beautiful weather, & have finally got out into the gardens. I languished with some bot for over a week, & it was torture looking out at the sunshine from my sick bed! I dosed myself up with Elecampagne syrup for my lungs, White Sage tea for my nose & Olive Tincture for my immune system, plus lots of ginger & hot soupy things like chicken laksa. I am so happy to be feeling better, & even happier to be weeding yay!! We’ve bought some seed spuds, Agria, & have them chitting  in our garden caravan. Have just spent some happy hours going through our seed supplies & putting together an order for Kings Seeds, so we’ll be out in the greenhouse when they arrive & get sowing.

We culled our hens a few months ago, as they had stopped laying, & in reality between the 5 of them we were only getting one or two eggs at best.  The sheep have been next door for a bit while the grass grows, so we were left with scraps. Happy to compost the leafy stuff but didn’t want to put bread & stuff on there in case it brought in the rats. We had a brilliant idea to put all that  bread, pasta etc on a bird table, we also put soft apples & bits of fruit out. It’s been great, so many birds around, lots of waxeyes, starlings, sparrows, some finches, mynahs (not so good) & today a pair of magpies, looking huge close up. Have also made a very makeshift table for Mum, & it’s right outside her window, so she has had a lovely time watching the goings on & trying to take photos.

Rain, Orchards, & Leunig

We are getting some very welcome rain, each mm that falls helps the spectre of a Spring drought recede, which is good news, not least because our sheep are being especially fecund this year, & we find ourselves with quite a flock to feed. Yesterday we cut down some Willow branches that were crowding out a special Kowhai that was planted 23 years ago, over Giles’ placenta. The sheep loved the new leaves & this morning the branches were all cleaned up.

dwarf-bearded-iris-gingerbread.jpg

Talking of Kowhai, our trees are flowering brilliantly & a Tui has taken up almost permanent residence there, for the last couple of weeks. I just love the weird tweets & whistles it makes, & spend ages watching it. Sometimes there are 3 or 4 birds, but mostly just the one.

Our seeds have started to come away, now we have a whole lot of tomato & eggplant seedlings to prick out. Must get on to it soon, before they get too big.  In the vege garden Geoff is digging in The Lupins, hard to do because they are such a lovely colour. The leeks are thriving along with the Coriander, & the Brassicas are starting to grow fast. The carrots etc that I sowed a while ago are big enough to stand up for themselves.

In the meantime I took time out to have a quiet wander around the orchard, & took some photos of the tiny new fruits that are forming, it’s such a miracle to watch flowers turn to tiny fruit, to the wonderful bounty of harvest. The walnut is still going strong, & so far no frosts,  (I hope I haven’t jinxed it now!)

The house gardens are looking a bit more respectable, we’ve got rid of the goosegrass & worst of the weeds. Geoff has weed eaten the edges (which makes the beds look tidy even when they’re full of weeds) & we finally got the ride on mower fixed, it used to mow on an angle & cut into the soil on one side. We were reading a book about gardening by star signs, which I thought was a bit of a gimmick, BUT I had to eat my words, Geoff is a Leo & is happy living in the undergrowth, but my Taurus nature likes to be able to see around me, & it’s true I feel much happier when the grass is cut, rather than 1m tall.

We’ve had a new delivery of Olive Oil, & have picked & cooked up Plantain & Chickweed leaves, tomorrow we face the slimy job of filleting Aloe vera & processing that. It always feels good to get the oils stored away to keep us going for a few months, next on our list will be the Elderflowers, which is a lovely job.

I found a gem of a book in the op shop, on monday, called ‘Common Prayer Collection” by Leunig. He has such a great way of making the simple & homely, sacred & profound. Here’s one I love…

God give us rain when we expect sun.

Give us music when we expect trouble.

Give us tears when we expect breakfast.

Give us dreams when we expect a storm.

Give us a stray dog when we expect congratulations.

God play with us, turn us sideways & around.

Amen

plantain-leaves-cooking.jpg

It’s All Go In The Garden

We’ve been really busy making ointments over the last few weeks. I’m not complaining at all but it’s been hard looking out of the window at the sunny days, & the weeds growing rampantly. Finally we are getting into it, rescuing our precious plants before they get too leggy, & finding all sorts of treasures.The Cerinthe & Peony grow close together & match each others colour beautifully.

Last week we had our daughter & grandchildren visiting, so a little pond work was in order. We emptied the small concrete pond, of 2 years worth of plant debris. Now it’s looking much more inviting, with room for the goldfish to swim. Tahlia had her fishing net, but the best we could catch were snails, not that she minded.

The seeds we put in a few weeks ago are sprouting happily, lots of different tomatoes, peppers & eggplants, Sweetcorn, spinach, Burdock, & a variety of flowers too.  Every morning we rush out to inspect the punnets & see what’s new. I’ve potted up about a dozen Cooking Apple seedlings & Blackboy Peach seedlings they look so sturdy & are growing fast. I’m a very proud mother! Of course I realise that they may have cross pollinated, but that only makes it more interesting, I wonder how many years before we get fruit? The Horse Chestnut seedlings are a good 20cm tall now, they are Buckeye Chestnuts according to Geoff.

One of our pear trees grew some sprouts from it’s base, which we hoped would be Quince (which is used as the rootstock) We left some to come away & this year there are beautiful soft pink flowers, so maybe we shall get some quince in the autumn. The first fruit trees to flower now have tiny fruit starting to form,even our reluctant apricot looks promising, we did plant a pollinator for it, but alas forgot to water it in the dry autumn…bugger!

The pears are just about in full flower, they will be followed by the apples. We are crossing our fingers that the Walnut will escape frost damage this year & give us a good crop.

In the soft fruit garden the Redcurrants are starting to flower, & the Raspberries have masses of new leaves. The Strawbs are putting on new growth, & my fig in a pot has exquisite, fragile, new growth. The Elder tree has become covered in leaves in the last week, & already tiny clusters of flower buds are showing.

The vege garden is a mix of tidy & chaotic, the Alliums are all thriving, onions, garlic & leeks. The new seasons carrots, beetroot & parsnips are growing well, next in will be  the early spuds. The Broadbeans & Lupins will be composted soon to make room for the tomatoes etc, but not for a while yet, we’d like to avoid frosts, also we’ve found that putting plants in early doesn’t necessarily save time, as they sit & sulk if it’s chilly.

Have you been watching that programme on TV,’ Grow your own Drugs’? bit of a gimmicky name, but great programme, we’re starting to feel quite normal! If you missed the programme I think you can find the recipes online. There are a number we’d like to try. We were also pleased to see Lemon Balm used to treat coldsores, as we put that in our Coldsore cream. We were a bit dubious of the Valerian root hot chocolate, it seemed like a lot of root in that recipe. Although Valerian is not addictive, one can become dependent on it, our books recommend taking it at night only.

Below are some pics I took, on a walk with friends & cameras, I became besotted with the lovely knots in the fences, I don’t get out much huh?

Watching The Garden

Despite having been laid low, again! with the flubot, I have been just loving watching the garden unfurl. This time of year is pure magic, I can almost see the buds unfurling. We have new fragrances in the garden too, the Choisya ternata is flowering with a sweet scent& our big magenta Magnolia has a rich, powerful fragrance.

The Bluebells are in full flower, & the pear trees are just a mass of blossom, they look stunning but smell a bit odd. The Walnut tree must be growing an inch a day, & the new leaves are a beautiful colour…

If you look closely you can see the catkins, which release pollen, & the tiny walnuts, which have yet to be pollinated, & hopefully avoid any frosts in the next few weeks. The Sweet Chestnuts & Hazels are a way off yet, but the Horse Chestnut has these power packed buds which just burst forth, & seem to symbolise the Spring movement, sap rising & life full of promise.

Spring is Sprung

Spring is Sprung


Spring is sprung,
De grass is riz,
I wonder where dem birdies is?

Some say de birds is on de wing

Ain’t dat absurd?                                 

I thought the wing is on de bird!

Cowslips

This rhyme is one of my Mum’s old favourites, our grass is definitely ‘riz’ right now.

Things are happening in all directions, the birds are building nests & having territorial disputes, & they spend a lot of time forcing nesting materials into any nook & cranny, & believe me our house has an abundance!

The gardens are growing apace, & the weeds even quicker, I’m still getting over the flu & I watch in horror as the goosegrass creeps ever higher, at least it pulls out easily when we get to it. There are wonderful fragrant plants wafting their perfumes around. At the moment Viburnun burkwoodii is full of flowers & smells of cloves, (photo on left).

Magnolia stellata has a sweet scent & is in full flower too, (photo in centre) both of these shrubs are easy to grow, they don’t get too huge & seem very hardy. The right hand picture is Grape Hyacinths, which have a sweet, musky scent, which is easily overlooked as they are so low to the ground.

By means of stealth & cunning I have caught all the fish in our concrete pond. It has 3 resident frogs, all males, who I hope will get croaking soon & call in some plump females.

We had a great morning planting seeds last week, & have sown most of the plants that need a bit more warmth, like tomatoes, peppers, & curcubits. We’ve had more mouse problems, they sneak in during the day, ignore the mouse traps & their alluring peanut butter, & ravage our sweetcorn, little buggers!

I noticed that the peach stones I planted last Autumn are sprouting, I think it’s a peach called ‘April White’ I saw one in a nursery & it had the same stunted looking, dark pink flowers. It was described as late fruiting, March, white flesh, greeny/pink skin. Good resistance to curlyleaf, & abundant cropper. Sounds just like it.