Saturday, 12 October 2013

Cucubits! :)

I was amazed at the growth after a few warm days in the greenhouse this week!

So looking at a fabulous tray of cucumbers, squashes and pumpkins I decided they were big enough now to go out and enjoy the sunshine!

Last year my cucumbers all died :( , failing miserably to give me even a single cucumber! This year I’m DETERMIND that we will have cucumber FEASTS and they will give us prolific crops all Summer! Wishful thinking?


I at least got one plant’s tentacles to grab hold of the trellis before it perished last year and this year I’m going to try and get them all to grow into high-risers and get them up the trellis I built for the cucumbers and beans.

I have planted out;
  • Telegraph
  • Apple
  • Gerkins

I’m also trying a type called ‘spacemaster’ that apparently grows similar to a zuchinni which I'm trying in containers, since I have limited room in my garden! :)
Cucumber - Spacemaster
This picture is not of my plant – it’s what it will grow into (hopefully!)

Friday, 4 October 2013

Family Competition Time!

This year we decided to have a family seed competition with some sunflower seeds!
The kids were so excited with the idea they had to race out to plant their seeds in their pajamas!
Such a great learning experience for them and a fun family thing to do! Even hubby got into it!

I'm quite keen to give harvesting the seeds a go this year too - who knows if this will be easy or not! But it doesn't hurt to try!

Who's will grow the fastest?! The BIGGEST?! The Ugliest?

Sunday, 29 September 2013

Potatoes and garlic!

Again this year I was late putting the garlic in. But that doesn't seem to have bothered the garlic! Its already about 10cm high with growth! Great stuff! The garlic we grew last year was fantastic! Hope that we have the same luck this year!

As for the potatoes... Last year I just shoved each spud that was in the seed bag in - so I had about 8 plants. I realise after a bit more reading that you are supposed to cut off each 'eye' or tuber (so its about 30-50g piece) and then let them sprout to plant. An average seed potato bag of 1.5kg should give you about 25-30 plants! So; here goes nothing! Out came the knife to get them ready for sprouting about 3 weeks ago for a few weeks in the dark doldrums of my garage to get the 'eyes' growing.

Now they have shoots on them 3-5cm long, so it's time to get them out into the real world! I've got my fingers crossed that they are going to work as where I've cut them they are moulded and shrivelled - BUT they do have shoots on them that look healthy..... Guess time will tell!

I chose 2 varieties this year because of no real reason except the fact they both said 'heavy yielding' haha! I like to get my moneys worth! So, we have Agria, a boiling and baking spud; and Deseree which I've never heard of which is general purpose. Both of these are main crop varieties... so no spuds for Christmas this year!

If the instructions of cutting them into 30 plants is correct - they will take up most of an entire bed, and share it with my beans, kumara and yams.
  • My goal for the potatoes this year is to grow enough to last till the next season!
Gardening is all about trial and error. So to get to self sufficiency with my veges I'm guessing it's going to take a few years to get the proportions right!

Digging the Trenches!

Saturday, 21 September 2013

Lightning... Flooding... Yet something SURPRISING!

After the nights storm and flooding we had, with at least a foot of water surrounding the house and a few waterfalls coming from the property above us - I really didn't think my poor pin-tacked greenhouse would be in survival mode!
But shock! Look at these babies that got lightning shocked out of hibernation!!!
The stunning day that followed the lightning filled night meant that opening my greenhouse was also followed with a burst of heat escaping!
Fantastic stuff for that germination!
I can’t believe how fast my cucumbers have shot up – less than a week after being under a plastic cover in the greenhouse!

I really was surprised! I was just grateful that it was still upright and intact to be honest! But this was a welcoming sight!

I did think the ‘greenhouse’ was officially all the cover they needed (since my greenhouse is only about a foot wide and a meter long!). I also thought that putting bags and covers over things in it was a bit over-kill! But now, I’m a firm believer of how SUPER fast things grow with the extra help!

I’m now going to get grabbing the plastic bags and put all those seedlings into them for help!

I might have to get some more of those covered seed trays! ;) 

Tuesday, 17 September 2013

You say potato... I say Oca?

Two things that my family LOVE are Kumara and Yams! There is nothing like a roast dinner with sweet potato and yams mixed with gravy :) mmmmmm... makes my mouth water just thinking about it.

I've never seen them in the shops to grow though... and as I've found out - they are hard to track down! There isn't much information out there - especially on Yams. The American's call NZ's version of Yams the sweet potato...... so that makes it a bit confusing trying to find information about how to grow them.

What I did find was several different methods to grow the kumara (sweet potato) which mostly involved using sand and sounded rather difficult! For Yams...... the only method I found was to put them in dirt?!? 

Most of the websites said you could just use the ones you buy from the store... 
which is good as I can't find them anywhere else!!!!

So I thought I'd do a trial with both the red and gold kumara using the three methods I found and just see what happened! Bring back memories of College Science Experiments? :)

Method One:
Put the kumara into a jar of water, changing the water every three days until sprouts appear.

Method Two:
Put the kumara in dirt and cover!

Method Three:
Put a 10cm layer of dirt on the bottom of the pot, followed by sand. Place the kumara in and cover with sand.

All of the methods second stage is to wait until the sprouts grow approx. 10-15cm and then break them off and plant them out. They all also recommend heavy non fertile soils for best results. They take about 5-6 months to fully mature in a good long warm season... so we are in for a wait!

The race is on!

Yams are a different story - Put them in a container of dirt, cover them and wait! They don't flower until 3 or 4 months after planting and then don't send out tubers until autumn..... So again, these plants could have a long wait ahead of them! They also need room temperature to sprout... so they might be joining the capsicums in the house if it doesn't warm up soon! :)

What's more exciting then trying something new?!

Saturday, 14 September 2013

Planting the first seeds...

According to the books, although I've been somewhat sceptical - it's time to start planting some seeds to be ready by the end of October to plant out into the garden.

Although most of the things I want to plant are probably not going to thrive with this cooler weather around at night still, they recommend planting out tomatoes, capsicums, silverbeet, spinach, beets and radishes among others.

Somewhat harmless to try - so off we go!~

As you can see in the pictures there are a few things sprouting up that I planted a week or so ago along with my cuttings that are still alive (yes... a lot didn't! Doh!).
My onions that I planted about a month ago have sprouted up and are now hardening off. :) A bit late to get them out into the garden - but I'm just happy that I got the shallots to germinate this time around! Onions were one of my "didn't have enough of veges" from last year - so this time I've gone all out! Hopefully I'll be able to store them properly so they don't rot. Watch this space!
  • My goal for seeds this year is to accurately label, no matter how painstaking it is!

One hint I have seen is to put all those warmer liking veges like tomato and capsicum into the hot water cupboard until they sprout.

Will I forget about them and let them sizzle? Probably! Could work if I somehow remember to keep them alive! I think I'll give them a go in the greenhouse first before I take over the hot water cupboard with plants though! :) Our house doesn't really have window sills to use to keep them indoors unfortunately either.... I don't trust them on the floor with nosey children (& cats!) around that they wont be upturned!

I hope my poor little greenhouse can give them the warmth they need!~ Fingers crossed!!!

Thursday, 12 September 2013

Out with the Old... In with the SPECTACULAR New!

I had a great adventure last week - making new bean supports! I wanted to still be able to rotate the beans... so I needed the support to be stable and sturdy, but able to be moved from bed to bed.

My good old bamboo trellis from last year has this rather bizarre unknown black sooty looking substance on it. Google couldn't help me. Neither could scrubbing. So I don't trust it to not kill off everything I grow with some random mutant disease, so out it goes! Instead a much better-on-the-eyes apparatus has been erected! I just hope it's stable enough, but it should be! (Fingers crossed!).

The best part about it was that it only cost $20 to make! Much cheaper than endless fancy bean supports. It was super easy to do, and its completely movable for next year (if it stays up - which of course it will!!! :P)

Just for a splash of spring - here is a picture of the blossoms that burst this morning on my plum tree! :)

Tuesday, 27 August 2013

Fruit tree heaven!

I'm finally feeling like I'm getting the structure of the garden under control. I've made various sections about the place - vegetables, fruit/orchard, a cottage garden and 'native' entertaining areas. After the longer autumn-feeling weather we've had - they have had a bit of a random burst of growth and are finally starting to take shape about the place! A long way to go of course! But does a gardeners paradise ever feel completed? ;)

My Grapefruit Delight!
After hubby allowed me to buy a Golden Special Grapefruit tree last month (YUM!) - I feel like I have almost everything  in the way of trees(who can say for sure they have enough fruit trees?!) that I want to eat throughout the year now! Pity most of the trees are only a meter high, so the yields are obviously not going to be that much for at least a couple of years! But if everything takes off and gets fruit on it - we should theoretically be self sufficient for most fruit seasons over the year! That's the goal anyway!

We do have a mandarin tree that was here when we arrived and that gave us about 3kg of fruit and its only 1.5m.... so I have high hopes for the rest!

I've separated all the citrus trees and stone fruit trees into different areas and after a few re-arrangements I'm finally really happy with where they are all placed. Sounds like a lot of effort - and it is! Taking into consideration the final size of the tree and that I wanted some to provide us a bit of privacy from other houses - it was quite a tricky expedition! Guess that's the blessing of being in a city and not rural!

Poor Mr Avocado

My avocado trees are looking a little bald..... I'm in the hope that they have lost their leaves due to shock and will re-bloom fabulously come spring time!


Peaches, apples, plums and nectarines are all starting to bud! Whoop whoop! Time to get out that copper to control the fungus!

Look at this! Poor Mr Loquat tree had a dire case of black spot all over it and was not a happy tree. In fact I thought it would die after it lost most of its leaves. But after many Bravo (Yates fungicide) applications over the last year - the black spot has definitely become less, although not completely gone yet. It even has a single bunch of fruit and new leaves!!!!! WOW! Can't wait to see what they taste like!

Brilliant! Some fruit!

Friday, 23 August 2013

Its that time of the year again!!! :)

Well its that time of the year again to prepare the beds for the next exciting summer vegetable garden! :) 

I'm feeling like I'm not as in the dark as I was last year - so I have much braver plans on how to use the space in my garden this year. We wasted space last year with failed crops and crops that we didn't fully use or preserve, so this year I plan to use everything that comes out of the garden - through better planning and more preserving mainly!

Still.. a lot to learn! I used last year as a planner and it was fantastic. This year I'm trialing and I'm finding it no where near as good as growveg. Much harder to use, no guide on numbers of vegetable plants to put in the space you have/square foot gardening, and no colour co-ordinating vegetables/plans/years so you can monitor the rotation of crops. On the plus side it does have facilities to communicate with other gardeners and add photos of your garden. But it's free for a month so we will persevere!

Draft plan 2013 Summer
Here is my draft plan for the summer. I've tried to do a bit of rotation planting as well as companion. But going from different websites - its actually quite hard as there is conflicting information! So, it is what it is :)

Some of the additions this year are; eggplants, corn, melons and more herbs (not on the plan). I'm also going to get those lettuces growing! They failed last year.... how can lettuce fail? Not sure... apparently easy to grow... well not for me! haha. This time around there will also be less beets and zucchinis and more cucumbers (that were a dire failure last year!) and potatoes (which lasted for months after harvest!).

Its funny - you never have enough space! But I better not take up more of the valued cricket pitch!!

On a very exciting note - the compost has been successful! The whole layering and adding compost enhancer plan has paid off. So when we went to see if it was usable, a lovely rich, dark, worm filled compost was there - much better than the random rotting fruit that stunk to use last time! Definitely a winner there!

Something that did surprise me was that the raised garden beds dirt had 'disappeared' basically down to ground level. They weren't full to the brim to begin with, but it did surprise me that the dirt had reduced that much. Lucky for the compost! :) Is this normal? I have no idea! I was under the assumption that the dirt would get bigger or at least the same each year with all the compost and plants added.....? Maybe it's just because they are new and the dirt settled down over the months of no use? Bizarre!

So, I've put a cover of compost, sheep pellets and clay breaker (gypsum) in each bed and turned it (Thanks Mr Hubby!). It looks fabulous! A nice rich dark soil, compared with a dusty clay/grey bed. It will need some time to settle and mix in ready for springtime. I would love to add some blood and bone to fertilise it, but its rather expensive so not in the budget this time around!

This winter has been truly bizarre - no rain now for about 3 weeks here, then suddenly it pours continuously for a week and floods the place.....??! So now, it's time to get rugged up as winter has arrived~! Good time to settle next to the fire and plan Plan PLAN! :)

Don't they look gorgeous?!

Saturday, 29 June 2013

Renovating the Pond

Well... not much happening in my garden! I can honestly say the winter crop has been a dismal failure! I found a stray potato plant looming there with a few beetroots. Carrots have been eaten by bugs and my my brocolli and Kale have disappeared from either slug infestations or random alien attacks! 

Nothing much I can do now for a couple of months when things get warmer and start growing again!~  Except of course - PLAN! haha. Always big ideas there!!!

So... its a good time to do some renovating around the garden while we wait!

Bit blurry sorry! But here is the ghastly hole-in-the ground. 
The pond was a massive ugly hole in the ground. With toddlers around it had to go! It had a concrete rim which you can see hubby smashing out so we can flatten it out.

Hubby working Hard smashing down the concrete exterior.
 Looks like the dead of night, but its only 5pm!

Finally we got it all flattened and added the much needed dirt to the hole! Now it looks fabulous! We will grass it and hope that the grass will grow in winter! :) I've put a row of gardenia's and grasses along the edge just to give it some sort of landscaping!


A great result for a weekends work! :) 
I'm so excited to be getting some much needed chores done around the place!
But now, it's time to get inside and put the fire on!!!!! :)

Monday, 27 May 2013

Winter Blues.. :(

I had it all planned and seeds planted to get winter veges off with a bang! But have been too sick to do anything in the garden and my poor un-green-fingered hubby has not been thrilled about the prospect of taking over for me.

So the garden has had plenty of weeds and not much else happening. How weeds still grow in drought is beyond me! But we have gone from drought to hail and thunder storms pretty fast. Winter is now upon us and apart from my cuttings I took a few months ago - nothing is growing.

I am enjoying the feijoa season though! You either love them or hate them. But personally you just can't have enough trees! I'm making a feijoa hedge to see how that works. Apparently they are good at shaping and growing into a hedge... not sure if they will fruit much though as after I pruned back one tree there was no fruit on it this year. But there is nothing like feijoa muffins, feijoa cakes, feijoa fruit puddings.... mm

Pommegranates have been really disappointing. Even with all the sun they still rotted off the branch. It's a prickly horrible tree. The fruit was its only lifesaver! Maybe I'll give it one more year to save itself.....

Surprisingly my spring bulbs are showing (bit confused with the weather I think!). Hibiscus plants have all had a burst of growth and flowering too. It's nice to see such bare sparse gardens finally starting to grow a bit. Will be a few years still before they look how they are supposed to.

Anyway this is just a brief update from me! It's cold and I need to get closer to the fire! :) The only good thing about winter rain! :)

Tuesday, 5 March 2013

Cottage Garden Paradise!

I decided that all hard working gardeners need to have a sanctuary to be able to sit back, relax and enjoy their gardens! So I've mulched area in my garden that I've named the "Cottage Garden". 

I leveled and paved part of the space (as everything here has a bit of a slope!) to put the swing seat on and my plan is to plant it out with fantastic scents and gorgeous flowers!

So far I've planted a few things, but because things are so dry and most of the cottage garden plants are annuals I've decided to hold off until next spring before I decide what I should put in it. It's looking alright (Aside from the numerous weeds that seem to not be effected by the drought!). I got a few Dahlia's on clearance that have burst into flower, a rose and a couple of Daphne plants.  I never had much luck with these and I'm worried when the full winter rains come and bog up the horrible clay soil here they will just die off. But the flower and scent is worth a try!

I also moved a sick and dying Kowhai tree that was basically a stick to be a feature tree there. Obviously it's loving its new position as its regrown its leaves and is looking much healthier! Its gorgeous yellow flowers will be bright and cherry with the white and pink clematis that will hopefully make its way up the trellis along the fence! 

I was always told that you use yellow and orange where you want your focus to be, as it naturally draws the eye first.

There are so many plants that I would like to put around the garden, but having the money to buy them makes it a very expensive endeavor!

So I've decided to attempt to do a bit of propagation! - Yes, laugh now! I've read lots about the different ways of doing this, how you can't do it on some plants that were various degrees of 'wood-y-ness' but seriously - I just gave up reading and decided to do it the "Simple, give it a go" way! I'm guessing some (haha! Maybe most?!) will fail but here is my method:

This is the rooting hormone I chose -
basically I picked it as it was the cheapest!
Buy rooting hormone
Cut the plant
Clear off most leaves
Dip it in rooting hormone
Shove it in the dirt!

I've done hibiscus, lavender, hebe, hydrangeas and even given my bougainvillea a go too!

The hydrangeas and bougainvillea are looking a bit sad and droopy. One of the hibiscus's leaves fell off... but the others are still green and looking alright in the greenhouse!

If these actually take off - talk about savings!! I can finally get some plants growing up and along the fences here! Maybe I can give roses a try next! :)

Bring on next spring already!!! :)

Monday, 25 February 2013


I'm so excited!!! It's actually GROWN! Yes, thats right! I have GARLIC!
Pure grown NZ Garlic! I unearthed about 18 bulbs - about a kilogram! They aren't even small pathetic things... they are normal sized! Whoop whoop! I was so thrilled I had to jump on here straight away and share it with you!!
It smells divine! I think I'm supposed to hang it up and let it dry out for a bit.... but its already pretty dry so it may be ok in the cupboard! Will have to do a bit of research!

Enjoy the beautiful weather! :)

Thursday, 21 February 2013

A pumpkin in the rose bush?

Today I was just reminiscing about just how big my zuchinni and squash plants got in the garden and how good it was to have lots of fresh zuchinnis to eat before the plague. Then I remembered I planted a few next to the fence because I ran out of space in the garden and wondered what happened to them? The fence obviously didn't do them justice, and even though I planted them at the same time - look at the difference!! Guess position plays a big part in success!!!!

Needless to say the plague has made what was green, yellow and wither and die with not a single zuchinni to show for themselves! 

One funny event in the garden is that a completely RANDOM pumpkin decided to grow by the roses (who knows how that happened!) and the pumpkin decided that in the MIDDLE of the rose bush would be the place for it to grow and live! Guess that's going to be a fun job removing it! Not exactly the easiest of positions!

I've been thinking about what I want for over winter and getting those cauliflower/broccoli seeds planted. I heard that once the weather turns the germination period slows down significantly (around March) and so its really the time to get sowing. Which means for me.. to get thinking and planning!

Not sure what I'll start with - I think I'll give cabbage a miss this year since my summer cabbages were a flop! I'm thinking I'll try brussell sprouts (I've never tried them - so how do I know they are terrible?!) but to be honest I don't think I've ever planted a winter vege garden! What are winter veges? Lots of Asian style veges, carrotts, brassicas, spinach, silverbeet, turnips, sweedes..... they all sound not the most appetising things to eat

I think the biggest challenge wont be growing them, but learning how to use them! 

It's all well and good having turnips grow - but what tastes good with a turnip? Brings back childhood memories of that Enormous Turnip story! Did they all eat turnip for the rest of their lives?? I can't remember the story but don't want my winter supply to be tasteless regrets! 

Another chore I have to do is weed the gardens and get the beds replenished of all the nutrients they need for the next cycle. Do I have any idea how to do this? Not really! Shove a bit of compost and sheep pellets in?! That's about all I have at the moment to use so I'm guessing that's all I'll be doing for the time being. My carrotts were 'claws' due to high organic matter.. so maybe I don't need to do much at all? I'm definatly going to put the gypsum I bought into the beds (to break up the clay) and leave them for a while before I replant. It says its non-toxic... but it never hurts to be cautious! At least my compost has started to look like compost! All those decomposing veges have done well with the compost enhancer and brown matter I've put in. Worth the turmoil of layering it! Now its just not a stinking pile of rotting veges! In fact it dosen't smell at all!

There isn't much left of the summer veges...... I'm going to pull the garlic and onions out soon & get them dried - they are starting to yellow.... and I have high hopes for both! The beans still have a few flowers coming on them and capsicums have about 1 per plant! haha! That's not exactly the HUGE harvest I was hoping for since I love capsicums! One is turning black too.... it probably has something ominous going on!  Maybe I could say its a new rare collectible worth thousands? (yeah right!) 

My tomato plants are more brown than green now! But still the troopers although plagued with disease have produced a steady quantity through the last few weeks and still have some to come. The beefsteak's I planted are FABULOUS! I love the flavour and texture - they are so rich in colour and full of flavour! So much better than the ones in the shops. My challenge over winter is going to be growing one in the greenhouse! Is it possible?!? Sweet 100 cherry tomatoes have had mixed results - some are golf ball sized some are pea sized! They tasted good and have been great for kids sandwiches. 

From left: Tomatoes, onions, capsicums and a few sporadic carrots and basil plants
Oh and can you believe it? A watermelon seed has finally sprouted in the greenhouse!!! Hilarious... it will probably produce nothing.. but I feel an ounce of guilt chucking the little thing out since he's taken all this time to finally make himself known in the world! Maybe I'll let him grow for another few weeks and see what happens!

Wednesday, 13 February 2013

Berry Glory!

There was nothing better over the holiday period than having lavish berries to put in puddings, cakes, muffins and everything glorious over Christmas!

We were getting at least a bowl full of strawberries, raspberries and blackberries every second day - which was ample to eat (but of course never enough!. It would be nice to have some more for jams! :)

My favourite was having fresh berry meringues with cream! Oooooo so good I can't wait for next years supply already!!!
The raspberry/blackberry plants fruit on a years growth. So, as my book has directed me, I've cut off all this years canes and the new canes growing now, will bear next years fruit. I guess thats if I can get rid of those horrible passion vine hoppers. I've always had issues with them... squashing each one by hand is a painful ordeal and you never get them all!

As for the strawberries, they are sending out runners for some new plants. The plants I have are about 2 years old now... so they will probably be coming to the end of their prime next year. Hopfully the new ones will just self set and I wont have to buy new plants!

I cheated this year and ate all the strawberries the plants gave me, and bought some strawberries for jam. Its delicious jam and set well! Made some plum jam too with all the plums off the neighbours tree! I had so many to eat with a measly two branches overhanging the fence with AMPLE leftover for jam! A great way to save those pecked half eaten ones from the birds!! The secret to the setting is using the not the ripest fruit apparently - which worked well for my plum jam! What a fabulous plum tree! May my trees have just as good a harvest in the future!!!!

Monday, 11 February 2013

Long time!

It's been a long time since I wrote anything - partly due to holidays and Christmas but mainly because I've been SO depressed about my garden!

I got back from holiday to find that my once gorgeous and abundant zuchinnis were plaged and shrivelled with powdery mildew. My tomatos had some dying disorder and all the leaves are yellowing and falling off with no signs of ripe tomatoes! The berries were nearing the end of the season & I was really gutted at them all!!!

My cucumber at its prime!

So I had to pull all the zuchinnis and cucumbers... which had only rotting tiny fruit and no leaves.... you really couldn't call them plants anymore! I was so excited when I left for holiday that I got those beautiful cucumbers climbing up the trellis. But alas I got one curled small cucumber as the only harvest off it before it shrivelled into nothing!

But its not all woe on the garden front as I've found out! I dug up the spuds & got a massive amount in return! Good value! Success Story!! Wahoo!

Beans were another success! I pulled off about 4kg from the first harvest and blanched/froze them all. Should last a good while through winter & some of the plants are still flowering! The best harvest were the french dwarf and the green climbing beans. The purple ones came in a close second - but the yellow ones didn't do well at all. Most of them curled and went into all different shapes and most of all didn't taste the best.

The tomatoes although they are all very much in the dying stage are finally ripening and we are getting a good steady supply. I've talked with a number of people and tomatoes aren't going well for the majority this year. It's a shame as my 4 measily plants I planted last year gave us far more tomatoes than the 14 I planted this year!! I had plans for sauces, relishes and everything good! But instead we have enough for salads each night and maybe one lot of tomato sauce if we are lucky!

Rhubarb is going strong - getting some huge stalks off it! Look at these funky carrots! They are the 'claws'! haha. This apparently occurs with too much organic matter - which I think is really quite funny since they are in clay gardens with a bit of compost! :)

Things that are still coming: Our capsicums are slowly growing they have a few big ones on them now almost ready to eat. The onions are looking good and the garlic tops are starting to die off. Can't wait to see whats underneath!

So now that all the summer veges are starting to go... its time to plan the winter veges! haha