Searching for a missing hen this morning, I noticed one of our beehives beginning to swarm. Fortunately they gathered on a tree next door and we were able to capture them. Check it out!
Wow, what a difference 2 months can make in the garden! Despite the fact that spring this year basically didn't happen - it turned out to be more wintery than winter - and "summer" started with a frost and is only barely starting to improve and maybe look more like spring, when I compare my garden now to the photos I posted 2 months ago, there are huge differences!
This year, I started a lot of summer crops early in my new greenhouse, hoping to be able to get them planted out and underway that little bit earlier, and so enabling me to begin harvesting earlier, but also to extend the season and have more time for those warmth loving crops to really do well. Unfortunately, the weather has not co-operated, and most of those plants have either died, or are doing so poorly I'm starting over. Ah well, that's just how it goes! But, this is one of the times where taking monthly or fairly regular garden photos can be a real encouragement, as it shows me that despite how badly it feels like the season is going so far, there ARE plants that are doing well, and the garden IS developing!
So, let's take a look around my garden - photos taken on Dec 13th:
This photo is of my main vege garden beds. This year, I’m starting to use a four-year rotation system, so the first two beds in the foreground of the pic are my root crop beds – one currently has onions, beetroot, spring onions and parsnips in it, and the other is full of garlic and some shallots. The garlic will be ready to harvest in another couple of weeks, and some of the beetroot is ready to pick now. I have plans to plant some special radish seed, called rat-tailed radish, which is grown for it’s pods rather than roots. I also will be planting carrots, more parnsips, more beetroot, more spring onions and yams as soon as space is available, or in some extra barrels I will set up for the purpose. I also have other plots elsewhere with more root crops in them, especially potatoes, kumara and yacon.
Behind the root crop beds, are two beds for fruiting crops. The first is planted with tomatoes plus companion plants, and the second so far has some cucumber, peppers, and spaghetti squash in it, as well as calendula flowers. I’ll be adding more peppers and probably trail one or two buttercup pumpkins off the end of the bed. Of course, I grow many more fruiting crops than I can fit in these two beds, so many things are planted elsewhere.
To the right of the photo are the two beds currently in legume crops. One has had broad beans in it since March, which I have just finished harvesting and clearing, and will soon plant climbing beans in it. The other is planted in various varieties of dwarf beans. I’m also growing peas and more beans on the trellis against the far fence, and on other trellises and beds around the property. I’m also going to grow some climbing beans up some of my cornstalks.
The furthest away beds contain my leafy green crops – currently a bed full of rainbow silverbeet, a smaller bed of a white pearl sweetcorn, and a second small bed of celery.
Closer photos of individual beds in this group will appear in subsequent posts.
The two new beds I created along one fence have been planted and are slowly growing:
This one has peas growing on the trellis against one fence, some corn cockle, rosemary and dahlias along the back by the brown fence, Lemon balm, sage and garlic chives in the middle, and is planted with red and brown onions at the front, though the plants are small and hard to see in this photo.
Interesting to note: I sowed onion seed in trays in my greenhouse in early August, and planted these seedlings out in mid September. There were quite a few left over onion seedlings, and not having anywhere ready to plant them, I put them into bigger seed trays, more spaced out, in some potting mix, and put them back in the corner of my greenhouse, on the floor. If you compare the seedlings in the bed in this pic with the seedlings in the closest bed in the photo above, which are the left over ones that I only got around to planting out on the 1st of Dec, you can probably tell there is quite a difference in size and vigour. Another case of "I may as well have waited." Actually, onion seedlings are pretty hardy - last year I sowed some in my then-plastic house in spring, but didn't get around to planting them out until late Jan - meanwhile they languished in the corner, getting watered when I remembered. After planting they grew well, though slowly at first, despite continued neglect, until I pulled them out so I could use the bed for something else in October (at which point they were just beginning to bulb up quite well, but I needed the space).
The other new bed is full of herb seedlings, planted out at the beginning of November. The herbs here include (anti-clockwise from front left):
Dwarf Munstead lavender
Some pink alyssum in the middle
There is a white alpine strawberry in the tyre in the left front corner, and some peas growing on a bike-wheel trellis just off the right side of the photo.
This is a new bed I built a couple of months ago, and planted with boysenberries (tall trellis to the right), raspberries (to left) and strawberries all moved from where they formerly were amongst my main vege beds.
I’ve also planted lemon verbena, soapwort, fennel, rosemary, cape gooseberry, Yates Tiny Tim tomatoes, nasturtium, lavendar, impatiens, geranium, and several flower species into spaces around the outside edges of the bed, though you can’t see those in this photo.
I enjoy the rustic charm of this bed, as well as all the productivity.
The photo with this post shows quite a few different things. There is a bed full of Chilean Guavas, under planted with strawberries, a bed of young feijoas surrounded by flowers, my herb tree, and behind that a cage full of blueberries and strawberries, which are producing well.
I planted pansies and cornflowers under and behind the feijoas. Phacelia that self-seeded from last year has grown up there too, and the bees are loving it so much I’ve left it to do it’s thing. It will be finished soon, and then I’ll clear the phacelia out and leave the other plants to develop further. Right now it’s a bit of a tangle of cornflowers, phacelia and pansies, but it looks nice, and is providing well for the bees and beneficial insects, plus we eat the cornflower and pansy flowers too.
In the foreground are two potted scented geraniums – peppermint and lemon. They smell delicious!
Behind the herb tree, which is doing really well, is a wooden frame for one of the two new beds I will be putting in there shortly, and planting with watermelons.
At the entry to my vegetable garden is a fence plus archway and gate my daughter and I built. In this photo, we’re looking over the lower side of the trellised fence, and can see various interesting things!
Growing in the narrow bed below the fence are various colours of nasturtiums, a rosebush, and some mini-white cucumbers.
Behind that, on the left of the photo, is a row of herbs planted in brick squares. They include chives, rosemary, coriander, oregano, pizza thyme and common thyme.
To the right of the herb row is a row of small zinnia seedlings, then a row of chive plants. Next to the chives is a pathway that’s been allowed to grow full of white and red clover, which is adding nitrogen to the soil, and bringing in the bees! I give it a haircut by hand every now and then, and the “chopped and dropped” clover feeds the soil.
Beside the clover paths is a large rectangular area planted in three varieties of popcorn – yellow, black and strawberry. The seedlings are about 4 inches tall now.
To the far right of the photo is a lemon tree, a triple apple, and various plants – including a choko which will soon cover the fence, some lush lemon balm, a young crown pumpkin and some swan plants for the monarch.
At the rear of the photo is a large garden bed with runs from side to side of the photo. At one end is my orange archway trellis, planted with cucumbers, peas and lettuce. At the other end is a bed full of yacon, with a row of zucchini down one side, plus zinnas, cornflowers and dahlias bordering the other three sides.
All in all, this is a very varied and productive area!
Partly shaded by one of our outbuildings are these pallet beds I put in as a trial last year. They are currently planted with peas, a variety of lettuce, spinach and other salad greens. However, I’ve found the pallets dry out far too fast, and salad vegetables grown in them consistently bolt, so as soon as the current crops are cleared out, I’m going to remove the pallets and install more ordinary raised beds.
In the foreground is a half-circle bed I created recently from left over bricks. It contains a damson plum I was given as a seedling and calendula, with some Roman Chamomile growing around the edges.
At the far end is the higher side of my trellised fence, dividing my vegetable garden area from the house and main yards, to keep the dogs out. The rescued Banksia rose I planted against the fence last summer is filling out over the trellis. The lush parsley that has been growing at it’s base all year is now flowering, which is great for beneficial insects, and on the other side is a border of flowers facing the house.
Geraniums and impatiens grow in a row under the windows of the building.
And along the northern fence of the main garden area, the blackcurrant bushes are doing well, as are the NZ spinach, sorrel, miner's lettuce and celery seedlings I put in underneath them. In front of those I have put in some bamboo stakes, and planted scallopini against each - I will stake them so they can grow upwards and make best use of space. More lettuce seed has been sown in a space between two blackcurrants, to take advantage of the shade.
Over winter, there were many Rainbow Chard plants growing along here - a few of them, together with some perpetual spinach, have been left in to go to seed, both so I can collect seed, and because they are great for the beneficial insects. The leeks I am growing as a perpetual crop at the far end are also starting to flower.
In my front yard, I've planted a bed full of sweetcorn, surrounded by sunflowers.. I’ve built the bamboo frame to mark the bed and keep kids from walking over the seedlings, and also to provide some support against the strong winds we experience here. I will add more rails as the plants grow.
Most of the corn is Rainbow Inca multi-coloured sweetcorn, with a few bigger Kaanga Maa white pearl corn in the far corner. There are more gaps than I would like, thanks to birds digging up some seedlings, but I’ll just use those spaces to start some buttercup pumpkins which will trail around the bed and shade the roots of the plants. The sunflowers will grow around the sides, and be supported by the frame too.
Also in my front yard, I have my potato experiment crop, grown mostly in barrels, and covered in micromesh. The spuds have gotten so big they're lifting the mesh, so it needs to be moved over and re-pinned to the ground. All five varieties are doing well, as are the carpet roses and white alyssum planted in tyres in front of them, to mark the edge of our driveway parking area.
My greenhouse has mostly been taken over by my tomato experiment, though I still have 3 shelves for starting new seedlings on.
And finally, what would a garden be without somewhere to sit and contemplate it? When I began creating my garden last year, I came to realize the need to spend plenty of time just sitting and looking, seeing what is happening, what needs to be done, what creatures are doing their work and so on. So I decided to create this raised area with a swingseat, and a plant-covered trellis to shelter it from the wind.
I used old concrete piles and rocks that were laying around the property to create the sides for the raised area, and a garden bed along the front edge, which is filled with Chilean Guavas and strawberries. A visiting young man installed the four posts I bought, and then his brother and my son (both conveniently very tall) mounted the old fence posts across the top. Some steel reinforcing mesh created the trellises on both sides.
One side is planted with a stauntonia, a climbing vine which produces, all going well, edible passionfruit-like fruit. Underneath it are more strawberries and calendula. The stauntonia was planted last year, and showed little sign of growth until recently, when it has begun to wind it's way up the trellis.
On the other side, I planted sweetpeas, which have always failed for me in the past, but this year have done spectacularly well! I never dreamed they would grow over 2m tall! There are more calendula in front of the sweet peas, and I recently planted a choko at their base, which will begin to grow and take over the trellis as the flowers die off. To the rear on the fence is a young grapevine.
Food, fragrance, beauty and comfortable contemplation in the swingseat I got for free and my daughters painted and recovered. :-)
What can I say? I have an enquiring mind! When the Vege Gardener's group I'm a part of got into a discussion recently about the best way to grow tomatoes successfully in pots, and various methods were suggested, I just had to - you guessed it - set up an experiment to see for myself! So, 25 cheap buckets, 5 growing mediums, 5 varieties of tomatoes.....Here are the first two videos - the set up, and then an update one month later. More updates in the near future, of course.
This page is my blog formerly known as Kiwi Urban Homestead.