Hi! My special season’s greetings to you and the people who are special to you and best wishes to you all for a happy and peaceful New Year.
I’m celebrating that the Pohutukawa trees I planted earlier this year are in bloom in time for Christmas. The drifts of white in the collage are the carrot weed flowers (wild carrot) which proliferate in the paddocks at this time of the year. The cattle love the flower heads and the pukeko gouge and gorge on the roots.
The grandkids and their school-mates sang a neat New Zealand Christmas carol at their end-of-year playcentre and school prize-giving ceremonies – A Pukeko in a Ponga Tree http://folksong.org.nz/nzchristmas/pukeko.html which is sung to the tune of The Twelve Days of Christmas. Enjoy our Kiwi down-under spirit.
Today, we took delivery of bare-rooted heirloom apple trees. The nursery owner uses grafting wood sourced from organically grown or wild trees from old orchards. We asked for the trees to be grafted onto Northern Spy rootstock because it grows well on our clay soils. The aim is to enjoy different apples across the seasons and also to play our part in preserving the older varieties.
According to the info sheet, Vaile Early is reliable and fruits in January. I grew Egremont Russett in a previous garden. I love this apple – its golden brown skin and distinctive flavour. Always had good crops, so I have high hopes for my new tree. Priscilla is new to me but it comes recommended as a good mid-saeason variety, as being disease resistant and a good keeper. Two late season varieties new to me are Liberty – an American variety I understand to have been produced by Cornell University orchards about 1978 – which is described as disease resistant in our region and which stores well. Merlin’s Golden Late is described as a local seedling cross between Granny Smith and Golden Delicious.
Some stars to strive for and to cheer about as we contemplate our soggy land. Matariki marks the start of the Maori New Year. It is so named after the group of stars the seven sisters known as Pleiades. The re-appearance of Matariki in our southern skies is celebrated because it reminds us of beginnings, the promise of the new growing season. My magnolia (‘Star Wars’) is budding – albeit wind battered- but it’ll recover and be a show-off tree soon as the days lengthen.
The trees bought at the garden centre sale on Saturday are now planted.
Pohutukawa – planted group of three trees as a living connection gift. Crimson flowers at christmas-time. Bees enjoy the nectar. Fast growth rate.
Pukatea – planted two trees in the swamp. Evergreen foliage. Slow growth rate.
Puriri – planted two trees for posterity. Evergreen, pink flowers most of the year. Berries are a food source for the birds. Medium growth rate.
Kahikatea – planted a row four trees for posterity. Evergreen and berries are a food source for the birds. Slow growth rate.
On another note, I’m really enjoying the sight of the other trees – especially those gracing our driveway in their colourful autumn foliage.
I can’t imagine not growing my own potatoes. There’s always a space somewhere in my garden. As usual, I spread newspaper on a patch of ground and then layered rotted hay. I layed each sprouted seed on a wilted comfrey leaf and covered them with a deep layer of hay. As the shoots grew, I piled more hay around the growing plants. Fertiliser was cow manure collected with the rotted hay from the paddocks.
We enjoy the varieties and flavours. The different textures lend themselves to different ways of cooking. As I mentioned in a previous post, we simply steam Urenika (Maori blue potato) as we do with the early variety ‘Swift’. I add sprigs of mint (and of course there has to be a knob of butter and black pepper over the cooked potatoes).
I tried growing three varieties new to me this season.
‘Heather’ is described as a main crop with a purple skin, smooth skin and white flesh, great taste and good cooking qualities.
‘Moonlight’ is described as new in 2000, white skin and flesh, high yielding, excellent boiling quality. Excellent drought and wind tolerance.
‘Red Rascal’ is described as improved Desiree with a deep crimson skin and white flesh. Excellent baking and roasting.
Today I harvested the crop. All I had to do was pull the hay away – no digging and the potatoes are clean. I left them to dry in the polyhouse before sorting according to size and variety. I keep some aside for the next season’s seed crop. I was pleased to note no blight or disease and minimal physical damage that seems to have been caused by slugs.
I store potatoes in shallow polystyrene boxes (used by growers to transport grapes to supermarkets and then discarded) and keep them in a cool and dark place.
We had a deluge – more than 100 mm of rain fell overnight and this morning. Major flooding happened elswhere in the region. Yesterday, my concern was the effects of strong easterly wind gusts as they knocked the sweetcorn about. I staked the plants. An easterly here can blow hard and last a few days. At times like this you realise how important it is to have the garden basics right such as protective windbreaks and good drainage. My fall-back gardening plan was to work in the polyhouse and get it cleaned up in preparation for autumn.
The polyhouse (plastic covered) flapped noisily. I counted my worry beads as Himself and I nervously listened waiting for something to give. But we should have more faith – we recovered the roof with storm-proof plastic about four years ago. The upper roll-up vent and side walls still have to be replaced. During in the late 1980s and early 1990s (before our time here), several locals constructed saw-toothed polyhouses (similar to ours) on their lifestyle blocks because of an economic boom in horticultural enterprises. The vendors of our place used to grow Sandersonias commercially for export, but that venture did not last. Others still grow orchids for export – but they have all sorts of systems and technology. One neighbour used her redundancy payout to build up her hobby of growing roses hydroponically and she now supplies the local florists and supermarkets. It’s all go for her on Valentine’s Day with her long-stemmed red roses.
Our approach towards using the polyhouse is rather casual and I’ve just realised I’ll have to update my polyhouse photos.
We spent a lot of time clearing the weeds and debris that had accumulated during its years of disuse. Himself recycled the boxing timbers to construct calf-rearing pens lined with sawdust. It’s cosy for the young animals over the winter period. We also store hay. I put weedmat down over the scoria floor base so that I could set up a section to grow plants in the cooler months. Himself dismantled the overhead watering system and recycled the the piping to create a timer controlled dripper watering system so I could grow vegetables in pots. Yesterday, younger adult son and I cleared the last of the early spring-sown beans, courgettes and tomatoes grown in pots in the polyhouse. We’ve sowed seeds in prepapration for growing autumn-winter vegetables both in the polyhouse and in the outside garden beds. I just don’t work or grow things in the polyhouse during summer as the temperatures often climb above 40 degrees C. I have found that aubergines like the heat and do plan to grow more of them next year.
Our Luisa plum tree branches have a heavy crop this season. It’s a large cone-shaped yellow-fleshed fruit, sweet and juicy to eat when ripe and picked straight from the tree. However, we have a problem. Possums! This animal is a serious pest in New Zealand. They roam distances and forage during the night and damage trees. We set Timms traps as we will neither use poison baits as we don’t wish to harm the environment nor shoot the pest for obvious reasons of safety of others. We check and clear possible nesting sites on our place. Our friend has three Jack Russell dogs. She says the possums don’t venture much onto their property because the dogs have strong hunting instincts. Though we enjoy the company of our canine friends, we don’t own a dog. Oh well, I’ll just have to pick the fruit and preserve it before we lose the lot. At least the courgettes and lettuces have been spared.
Ripening and undamaged Luisa plum fruit is large, red skinned and yellow-fleshed.
Half-eaten plum left on the branch by a possum. Often branches are broken as the animal clambers through the tree in search of the tastiest fruits.
More possum damage. Plums are knocked to ground – often the unripe fruit.