What a difference two days can make in the garden in 90% humidity, sticky nor’-easterly wind and rainy weather. We went away for the weekend and returned to find beans, plums, mini-cabbages, spring onions, zucchini and strawberries all demanding to be picked.
Wilson’s Early – “Christmas Plum” ripens early in December. A small fruit with yellow-red skin. The flesh is yellow and juicy. It’s partly self-fertile but I planted it near the Omega plum tree just to be sure about cross-pollination. This tree doesn’t grow too large so is ideal for my orchard situation.
Freshly picked bush beans, spring onion, cabbage, zucchini and a variety of chinese cabbage are the basis of stir fried vegetables for tea tonight. I’ll toss freshly grated ginger through.
We’ll have the stir-fry with Pork Spare Ribs which are grilling as I write. They have been marinaded (no particular recipe – I just used ingredients at hand) made from freshly made plum puree, garlic, pepper and olive oil and tossed in sesame seeds.
Writing about my garden has taken a backseat in the last few months because of work and family responsibilities. This week our region experienced serious damage caused by very strong winds and flooding. This was the second major storm in about three months. We recorded more than 300mm rainfall at our place during the 48 hour period of the storm. Living had a decidedly chilly blast to it. An irony was that we could not use our firewood because we’re waiting for the installation of a new woodburner unit. All we could do was get the emergency gas bottle and cooker-ring out, cook a warm meal and go to bed. It’s mid-winter here and gets dark about 6 p.m.
I’ve always kept emergency supplies, torches/batteries and bottled water (we have rainwater tanks but need the electric pump to get the water to the house). This is the first time we’ve used these things and I’m so glad we thought it could happen to us. I will add a battery powered radio. We had no power or landline phone for nearly three days so did not know what was happening. We kept our cellphones for essential use – anyway, the help lines were jammed and we couldn’t get through.
Our neighbours were blocked in by fallen trees. We and our neighbours have not experienced such howling screaming winds. Our house shook during the night and we did wonder whether our roof would take off. On the first day, we watched as the wind whipped up white-crested waves on the floodwaters in our paddocks. The power was restored yesterday and we have since found out the scale of damage. So much tree damage everywhere – trees uprooted, across roads, onto houses, onto powerlines and so on. Floodwaters swamped farms and homes – a repeat scenario of the March floods that I posted earlier. Local neighbourhood damage is light compared to the sufferings of others living further north. More rain is forecast – but we’re drying out in the meantime. And we’ve all got the chainsaws working.
Yesterday, we pulled on our gumboots and coats and inspected the place. The pictures give some indication of what we found.
Cheerful survivors in my garden include purple sprouting broccoli, mandarins, Earlicheer daffodils, Hebe ‘Wiri Dawn’.
It’s the long Easter weekend and we’re spending the time at home. The weather’s fine but the temperatures are cooler – especially at night and a light ground fog greets us early these mornings. There’s lots of catch-up work to do and preparations for growing crops in the cooler months.
The tree that fell across the stream – the last of the flood debris, has been cleared. Himself and our neighbour ‘played’ with the chainsaw and the tractor. Much to his chagrin, two year-old grandson wasn’t allowed to help and had to spectate from a distance. Adults get to have all the fun even to dressing up and wearing red ear muffs and leather gloves!
Gardening convert son’s efforts are paying dividends. His recently planted gardens are producing lots of fresh green vegies. He prepared a new bed yesterday and raised it with wheelbarrow loads of rotted wood chippings and compost. Same son sowed rows of broccoli and carrot seeds. He’s annoyed about the white butterfly / caterpillar damage to his cauliflower seedlings.
The local garden centre phoned to let me know that three of the pohutukawa trees I’d ordered have arrived. It’s quite good timing as the ground is moist enough to dig planting holes. In a previous blog, I wrote about planning to plant trees as living connections as special living gifts that celebrate life events. Older son phoned last night to tell me there’s a 50% sale on fruit trees and that he’d managed to buy several fruit trees including an Egremont Russet apple, Omega plum, Snow White nectarine and two heritage fruit trees – a Clergeau pear and an apricot. I’ll get my friend to come along and bring their ute – sounds like there might be some bargains to be had.
Gardening convert (and now gardening guru) Number 2 adult son has been greatly inspired by the rapid sprouting of his sowings of autumn-winter vegetable seeds in the polyhouse. After we cleared the polyhouse, he energetically devoted himself to creating a long bed of sawdust (from the pile we keep to spread in the calf pens) on which to place the seedling trays in the polyhouse. He placed drippers to moisten the sawdust. He’s doing it his way. But he listened when I showed him how to roll a sheet of newspaper to make an organic seedling planter to be filled with seedling mix in readiness for the seedling which is then left to establish before being planted in the garden. I’ve done this for years and found it minimises the shock of transplantation. I leave a cuff to act as a mini-barrier for a bit of protection from the wind for the new seedlings.
Today he’s been out in the paddock with a spade digging near the bonfire patch where I’d discovered self-sown vegies earlier this year. I had intended to establish another outside garden patch nearby because I was inspired by the depth, richness and friability of the soil enlivened by worms, humus, wood. He’s decided this area will suit his autumn-winter plantings just fine and has visions of eventually selling surplus at the local Growers’ Market. We’ll see. Just don’t give up the daytime job yet, I say.
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.