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.
It felt hotter outside than the official 20C today. The ground is dry and surface cracks indicate the need for rain. Never-the-less, early summer is here and this gardening month is busy with successive sowings, cultivation and harvesting.
I checked the growth of my potatoes planted 30 September. The Kowiniwini, Urenika and Maori heritage potatoes are about to burst into flower. I was somewhat surprised to find the Swift (early variety for Xmas ) potatoes are almost ready to be harvested. Two-year-old Grandson who became an expert ‘tato inspector last year, inducted baby brother in the art of choosing the biggest and the best ‘tato for dinner tonight. He also picked the very first tiny courgette of the season (as you do) when you’re a connoisseur of baby vegetables. The early potato crop probably thrived because of the thick applications of mulch. The soil around the plants was friable, warm and moist despite no watering and drying conditions. We are careful how we use water because our domestic water supply is from rainwater collection. We pump water from the stream to the troughs for the animals. So gardening for me must be about conserving moisture and mulching. Our predominantly clay soil becomes rock hard in the summer – digging is a no go – hence I follow a permacultural approach to diversity and building up soil to encourage worms and beneficial insects.
The Calendula are making a great show among the potatoes. With that in mind today, I filled gaps among the other vegetables with more heat-loving flowers as companion plants – Rudbeckia, Zinnia and French Marigolds. That should make the friendly insects giddy with delight (or confused should the pests have pesky intentions). November here is a great month for flowers – I use different edible flowers in salads and drinks.
I under-planted the sweet corn with a long green cucumber – my Dad used to do this as a living mulch so I though I’d give it a try this year as well as letting pumpkins sprawl under the corn plants. I could have used beans – but I have these growing elsewhere. My last tasks today were to plant Sweet Peppers and to stake Beefsteak tomatoes – under-planted with Sweet Basil of course as I have visions of home-made pesto in mind.
I flew back after four days in Wellington having enjoyed picture postcard spring weather, immaculate botannical gardens, a fashion festival of wearable arts and the NZ symphony orchestra. I came to earth with thud – the climatic difference while I was away. Himself at home endured heavy weather, flooding – the stormy works and sodden ground in Northland. Today, I ventured into the garden and got busy with the camera to show we might be a bit battered but the garden manages a smile and bursts with promise. The bees were a bit shy but a few hung around for the photo opportunity.
Stormy spring weather that I missed while away.
Luisa Plum blossom
1st of the Captain Kidd Apple blossom
1st of the Feijoa blossom
Lavender underplanted near the fruit trees as a companion plant
Calendula as a companion plant
Radish going to seed
Borage, Comfrey and Curry plants interplanted anong the fruit trees
My first white carrot
Freesia smell heavenly
Miniature cyclamen among the weeds
Neighbour’s lambs remind us to put a spring in our steps
Finally – a patch of blue sky glimpsed through the flowering peach blossom.
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.
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’.
The floodwaters have receded and the sun shone yesterday. It’s Saturday and it’s clean-up time. Our concerns are minor compared to the major damage and disruption faced by people who live in districts up to one hour’s driving time north of us.
Weather experts said the severe weather that wreaked serious widespread havoc in the north was once in a 150 year event. For our district, it was described as a once in a 125 year weather event. The long range forecast is that we can expect more of the same at some point in the future given the changes to the global climate patterns.
The garden is now well and truly watered. The temperatures are still quite warm so the plants are happy – as were the pukeko. About 230 mm rain fell at our place in the last 24 hours. Easterly winds caused some tree damage. The animals were moved to higher ground. Himself said that as he took down the electric fencing from the stream boundary the water was rising rapidly from behind. Local roads were cut off – I wondered if I’d make it home tonight because of the extent of the flooding. We escaped very lightly in comparison to elsewhere in the region which had heavier falls of up to 400 mm causing serious washouts and slips on roads.
There’s quite a bit of debris to clear away later when things dry out.