Monday, November 3, 2008

A Perfect Day

Sunshine all day. All four of us together all day. Poached eggs for breakfast. Home made bread, barbequed-outside-over the wee open fire-sausages, pea and silverbeet pasta, home made pesto for dinner. Sausage sizzle lunch at the Totara Flat garden extravaganza. Ice creams on the way home. Children riding bikes, playing in tents and helping to gather grass clippings. We all fell asleep before eight after reading parts of a children's encyclopedia which belonged to Fionn's grandad many years ago - old planes are still fascinating to my five year old.

The bits in the middles also wonderful to me...

The chooks spent the day clearing up another spot on the lawn/garden. This time around one of our feijoa trees. In the evening, once they were back in Poultry Palace, Favourite Handyman and I moved our temporary enclosure again ready for tomorrow. I am still thinking and hopefully on the way to learning more about the best environment for our fruit trees. The grass around them clogs and threatens to strangle them on regular occasion. I don't want to be spraying around it (heaven forbid) and I didn't think they should have lots of plants close to them. But the grass (quite weedy lawn at that) must be using some nutrients and so perhaps it is better to grow herbs around the fruit trees. I could put the chooks in for an extended period with lots of pea straw mulch and they would weed and fertilise for me. Then more thick mulch and some herbs? I have no attachment to lawn and the place where the fruit trees are is deliberately not set up as intensive children running space. The trees are north of the sandpit and they tend to run round south of the sandpit. So ideas on companion plants for feijoas and blackcurrants are most welcome. The way the weeds keep coming through in my blueberry bed, I'm wondering if the soil would be best filled (i.e. with deliberately planted, welcome plants) round the blueberries as well.

The Totara Flat garden extravaganza was a lovely hour or so in a small and friendly community. We didn't want to buy lots (though it would have been possible - they had lots of lovely big trees and plants) but are very pleased with our tiny chilli plant. I didn't bother with buying chilli seeds when I knew we had no need for more than one chilli plant. A friend at the extravaganza was giving away Maori seed potatoes and we now have five tiny Maori potatoes ready to plant this week.

Back home I got stuck into making a home for my Maori potatoes - the sunny edge of the oldest compost pile, which we have been steadily using up in the garden. The edges of our compost pile our thickly bordered with onion weed and I set to digging up the remaining weeds on the north facing border. Brighid helped too. Sometimes you just have to quite worrying about compacting the soil, because it is too late. I guess her 13+ kilos is less injurious than my 13+++++ kilos on the soil. We found snails which had such strong shells that the chooks couldn't break them, slugs which they certainly could wolf up easily and a volume of worms which a) delighted me and b) led me to think that we really do have a worm farm here, just not one in a special wooden or plastic container. So the potatoes will go in there tomorrow.

My Red Rascal potatoes are peeking through the ground in lots of places.

The rocket is ready to eat and some went into the home made pesto, together with home grown basil (first of the season) and home grown parsley.

Our mint is rampant, in an area where it has express permission to do so - indeed to out-invade the wandering jew and the onion weed. After a friend told me about eating lovely mint pesto recently, I think I'll be trying that out soon.

I now have four bean plants. Not quite ready to plant out, and I'm thinking I'll make lemonade bottle collars for them as slug protection when they do go out into the garden. They are living on the study and kitchen windowsills for the moment. Tomorrow is a lunarly good day to transplant tomatoes and zucchinis so I hope the weather is obliging. I've got room for 2-3 more tomatoes to go into the garden and the remainder will go into pots.

This morning Favourite Handyman pruned the tree which overhangs our garden from the neighbour's place and was blocking quite a bit of morning sun from our yams and garlic. Now it still looks balanced and provides pretty foliage for our neighbour, but is nowhere near as thick as before.

This afternoon FH mowed the front lawn on the property (much to the relief no doubt of some of our neighbours who are lovely people and also people who may value a spot of tidiness over our various pumpkin and blackberry experiments) and then planted two red flaxes.

I've officially stopped planning for Autumn leeks. When the envelope from Koanga Gardens arrived on Friday, I was walking up the drive from the letterbox wondering exactly where to put the leek seedlings and realising that there really was nowhere (except maybe a bit of room where my Maori potatoes are now going) for them to live. So when I opened the envelope and found they were out of leeks for the season, it all seemed to work out for the best.

Koanga had also run out of the marigold "Naughty Marietta" and sent an unusual substitute: Marigold Inca. Apparently the flowers on this are "insignificant" and it instead is useful as a quickly grown shelter crop (grows in tree form, similarly to sunflowers and is 2 metres tall) and also as a compost crop, providing good carbon with it's woody stems. Just as well I wasn't relying on Naughty Marietta for a very particular spot in a 'just so' flower bed. I think Inca will be an interesting experiment and eventually I'm going to interplant it with sunflowers out the front. I sowed some this afternoon, together with some "Marigold Jolly Jester" which I still had from last season. I've put them inside the tool shed to grow in the protected sun - last year it took me ages and ages to get some marigolds to thrive from seed and I suspect slugs were involved in many of the plant losses.

The home made bread was the second go at this recipe. Thanks for the link at the end of your recent bread post Joanna. I'd not been blogging and bread making back when it was originally posted but the ease of making this bread is something wonderful! It got rave reviews round the table tonight. I've just noticed Joanna has a post on two other no knead recipes and I'll be giving them a go in the near future.


Rach said...

Sandra, when we planted a hedge at my f-i-'s palce three years ago, two of the trees were significantly smaller than the other five. They had bark shoved under them, along with three of the other five. By two years ago you could already see a difference - now it is truly amazing- the rees with bark ar much more massive than the ones with grass competing for nutrients.
I know bark is boring, but it really worked in terms of tree size (although interestingly, there were mini agapanthius ploants along the edge of the barked part of the hedge too - so at worst they didn't eat too much, or at best they provided somethng that made the pittosporums grow)

Unknown said...

Have you seen Kay Baxter's work on herbal leys for orchards? They bring in beneficial insects and help fertilise the soil. You should be able to get her books at the library (or interloan). Although her work is Northland based, it's still useful for ideas on what to do.


Anonymous said...

It sounds like a wonderful day Sandra.

Sandra said...

Rachael - thank you for your comment. I am sold on getting rid of the grass and replacing with something else. Probably pea straw mulch initially.

Kate - welcome to my blog! I had completely forgotten about the term herbal ley. I've had a wee look on the Koanga website and the beneficial insect blend which I have seeds for has many of the same plants in it, so I could get one going round the fruit trees. I think I'll work on doing it round the blueberries first as they are in a garden patch, and thus not currently surrounded by grass.

Hi Tania - yup. A bit more glorious than today's close look at the fridge. I noticed that it seriously needed a clean. So suddenly all manner of other jobs became crucial, all the way until oops it was time to go to work.

Tania @ Larger Family Life said...

I'm right there with you on the fridge thing. Perhaps we should have a "Bloggers Clean Out Your Fridge Day" challenge?

Unknown said...

You can sheet mulch around trees to suppress grass and get herbs established eg cardboard then layers of carbon and nitrogen. Or put soil on top and you'll get herbs growing sooner.

Comfrey is good, because you can mow it a couple of times a year and use the leaves in the compost etc. Bearing in mind that once you plant comfrey you'll never get rid of it from that spot again.

I also like to use what grows wild locally because it's already adapted to my climate and ecosystem.

Would love to hear how you get on with the blueberries.