Spring has been full of life and full of things to juggle. The reality of our first school holidays set in, with me trying to juggle temporary work, chicks hatching and the wave of spring seed-starting, with a very active small boy home all the time. And daylight savings. And then some sickness kicked in. All projects got temporarily put on hold while I managed to keep up with just the most important things.
When seeds are started in spring or late winter, you have to keep up with them. Otherwise they will either get too lanky and weak or they’ll die. In order to grow lots of food for yourself or your family you have to pay attention to timing. You don’t want to get warm season crops in the ground so early that they get hit by a frost, or refuse to grow in the cold soil. But you also want them to have as much time to grow as they can so you can get good harvests. I kept up with the seeds and seedlings as best I could to make sure I didn’t have to start again. The cucurbits germinating in paper towels in the hot water cupboard have to be checked every day since they grow so fast.
Most of the pot-grown vegetable seedlings have been pricked out (or taken out of the moist paper towels) and potted up. Tomatoes, peppers, cucumbers, pumpkins and squashes. The last few tomato and pepper stragglers are trying to grow big enough to be transferred into a pot. The seeds of some of the tomato varieties were evidently a bit old as I’ve had trouble germinating them. It’s disappointing when they are packets bought just months ago. But I’ll be happy if I can grow at least one healthy plant of each troublesome variety to save seeds for next year. We are growing nine varieties of tomatoes this year, five of them new to us:
- Albenga Oxheart (new)
- Amish Paste
- Brandywine Pink
- Broad Ripple Yellow Currant
- Gardener’s Delight
- King’s Gold (new)
- Margaret Curtain (new)
- Mortgage Lifter (new)
- Oxheart Dalmation (new)
The potted seedlings are adjusting to outside life on the deck table, out of the sun but with good light. There is also parsley, celery and coriander, some of which have been planted.
The latest seeds to be started indoors are Honeydew melons, okra, ground cherries and basil. Beans are generally sown in the ground but I’m going to try doing some in cell trays this time, to give them a head start on the molluscs. I have trouble getting them going outside as the slugs and snails devour the baby plants.
The first section of corn has just been sown in the Front Plot by The Little Fulla and I. We could get several light frosts at the end of the week, but I thought I’d try and get some corn growing anyway since rain was finally coming. I have a good stash of corn seeds saved from last year. We will do some more in a week’s time, then some more, then some more. The potatoes will be planted out soon too. But first, I need to harvest all the red cabbages and most of the kale in the Front Plot. Fortunately, I have just acquired a few things to aid in making sauerkraut, aka fermented cabbage. I have made small amounts before but not for a while, because I didn’t have airlocks or proper weights to keep the cabbage under its liquid. I also haven’t been growing a large amount of cabbages. Now I have plenty that need to be harvested quick smart. Bring on the return of the sauerkraut!
Most of the broccoli did not do very well, across two varieties, which I’m inclined to think is because of the mild winter and dryer-than-usual spring. We still got enough to eat, plus some to chop and put into the freezer in bags. The Little Fulla has also taken great delight in munching on starting-to-flower broccoli whenever we are out the front. He has been sharing it with anyone who will give it a go. Spreading the broccoli love! One day he said it was his favourite thing to eat in the world. Even though his hierarchy changes somewhat every day, I think he still prefers broccoli to cake. And he will always help me harvest it. One for the trug, one for the child… There are great benefits to growing your own food.
There are still plenty of things to eat in the spring garden, more than last year. We have carrots, beetroot, parsnips, celery, red-stemmed beets, lettuce, spinach, orach, kale, red and green cabbages, tatsoi, red pak choy, leeks and spring onions. The kohlrabi and swedes aren’t mature yet but the ones that the slugs and snails didn’t get are still growing. Starting a ‘winter’ garden in late summer or autumn really pays off here. As does sowing the seeds of victory everywhere. Although, maybe ‘everywhere’ isn’t the best measurement to go by. The chickens aren’t complaining about being thrown going-to-seed lettuces though. We still have stored pumpkins and squashes to use too. And sorrel and rhubarb in the perennial bed. I think the rhubarb is established enough that we can use it now. Excellent.
One project that has had a little advancement is the greenhouse and area beside it. The ground under the greenhouse got weeded and levelled, enabling the base of the greenhouse to finally get screwed together. I have yet to screw the PVC pipe frame onto the timber base. I think I will also put some stakes into the corners and attach them onto the base to hold it into the ground. I really just wanted to site the greenhouse properly so I could plant things beside it. Blueberries to be precise. The plants were flowering and I was reminded that I should have planted them already.
The Little Fulla helped me to dig out the lawn on the side of the greenhouse and around the Belle de Boskoop apple tree to make a nice little garden. The two blueberry plants were planted beside the greenhouse. In an act of selflessness I pulled off all the flowers. No blueberries until the plants get established. Some bronze Carex comans sedges joined them along the chicken pen fence to stabilise the ground from erosion. It will be nice to have this tricky area free of weeds and grass. Now I’m in the process of cardboarding the bare ground to stop the weeds. The garden bed will then be mulched, while I decide what other small things to grow in there.
I also finally planted the grape vine. Poor grapey has been waiting for a while. I was just trying to figure out a structure for it. I’m still working on installing that part.
There’s so much life going on at the moment with all the fruit trees back in leaf or flower again. We’ve finally had some good rain and the plants are loving it. Our mandarins are just finishing up, leaving us with just tangerines in the fruit department for now.
We also have another new native bird visitor in our parts: a kaka. I was curiously drawn to his parrot-like noises before I saw him and realised what he was. I have never seen a rare kaka in our area before. Now I keep hearing, if not seeing, him every day. He likes hanging out in the cedar tree, much to the chickens’ alarm.
Here are the native birds that I have seen or heard from our property now:
- Kereru / New Zealand pigeon
- Grey warbler
- Morepork (native owl)
It is nice to have native birds around every day and to know that I must be doing something right if they’re hanging around.