Gardening Jobs, Week Beginning 23rd September 2019

Pomegranate tree in full leaf

It is starting to feel like the weekends will never be long enough to accomplish everything that needs to be done in the garden at this time of year. The list of jobs just keeps growing, and every time I think it cannot get any longer, I turn a corner and a new job appears! This week it starts and ends with the letter ‘W’: Wall and Weeding.

Believe it or not, we are still building the retaining wall. We have had many wet weekends, plus illness and my foot surgery. This has prevented work on the wall, to the point that I was beginning to despair of it ever being completed. However this weekend, the sun shone down on our little enterprise, and we were able to tackle the project with renewed vigour.

Or so we thought. Enter, the weeds. While the wall languished, the weeds flourished. We had removed several raised garden beds and a portable greenhouse to make way for the wall, but in their place a forest of thistles, nettles, mallow, and of all things, dwarf bamboo, had sprung up. My husband joked that we needed to acquire chickens and a panda to get rid of it all.

In lieu of a panda, we had me and a garden fork. It was tough going, but I managed to remove all of it. As I removed it, I was able to see my neighbour over the fence, who remarked that he was happy to see me, and happy to see me removing the weeds. The poor neighbours had been able to see our thistle patch growing, while we had not, as it was on the other side of our large pergola. We have an excellent relationship with our neighbours, and while joking about the weeds, he handed me some galangal roots to plant, and I gave him one of our spare raised beds. We are installing a chicken shed soon (courtesy of said neighbour) and no longer have room for it. We had a little chat about the best potting mix for growing blueberries, and I complimented him on his snow peas. I love having gardening neighbours.

While I removed the weeds, my husband continued building the wall. He has now completed 50 per cent of the task. Now that the weather has fined up, we are planning for a completed wall by Christmas.

Other jobs left to do this week:

  • Weeding;
  • Feeding the fruit trees and vines;
  • Planting eggplants in the raised bed in the front yard;
  • Weeding;
  • Planting Crystal Apple cucumbers;
  • Harvesting snow peas, lettuces, kale, and herbs;
  • Preparing tomato beds;
  • Weeding.
Self-seeded dwarf sweet peas

Galangal

Galangal is a relative of ginger, often used in Thai cooking. It is not as hot as ginger, and grows smaller rhizomes. It grows similarly to ginger and turmeric, underground at a depth of about 10 cm, planted in the Spring. I am planning to grow the two rhizomes I was given in a large pot.

We don’t eat a lot of Thai food, due to allergies, but we do eat a lot of Indian food. Although Galangal has a milder flavour than Ginger, I am sure that it will be delicious to use in Indian food or in stir fries and Asian-style soups.

Gardening Jobs, Week beginning 21st July 2019

This week as my husband continued to work on the wall, I started to move two raised garden beds that are now in the way of the wall’s continued progress. I had to move the plants in the boxes (strawberries, lettuces, silverbeet, coriander, and some brassicas). That took a surprisingly long time! I was careful to disturb the roots as little as possible. You can see the mini greenhouse and an upturned raised bed down the end of the yard. My main issue now is, where to put them?

The Wall.

After all that planting, I weeded a little and used chopped lucerne to mulch around the rest of the brassicas and other plants I had recently moved. Everything looks so much happier with a little mulch around its roots. Looking forward to lots of delicious Spring veggies in about six weeks – especially that most delicious of all the brassicas, Romanesco broccoli. I have been patiently growing it from seed this year, so I hope it grows its little head off.

I planted out asparagus crowns today. These were a gift from my mother, who was moving her crowns due to a lack of space.

Asparagus is a great plant to grow if you have both room and patience. Believe it or not, I am starting to run out of room (never out of patience – for plants anyway. For people…possibly). I had just enough room to fit the asparagus, but it has meant I will have to sacrifice space for the potatoes. I might have to plant spuds in grow bags this year.

Personally, I love asparagus. It is one of my very favourite vegetables, but I have never grown it. It has been on my ‘to-do’ list. Then Mum had to move hers, and I was fortunate enough to inherit some of her crowns.

Asparagus is actually a herbaceous fern. It grows from a crown that is buried in the dirt, and takes about 18 months to produce useable spears. Once it produces, a single crown will produce asparagus for up to 20 years. This makes it a worthwhile investment in both space and effort.

Alienesque Asparagus Crown

The asparagus crowns look a bit like aliens. The spidery roots must be planted in a deep hole, in well manured or composted soil. Mum had wrapped these crowns in damp newspaper to keep them going before I had the time to plant them out, but to give them a pick-me-up before planting, I soaked each crown in a bucket of weak seaweed solution for about fifteen minutes.

Asparagus crown floating in a bucket of delicious seaweed extract

While these were soaking, I dug three pretty wide, deep holes. Organic Gardener magazine suggests the hole should be at least 20 cm deep. They also suggest digging a trench, but as my space was quite limited, a dug three separate holes as near each other as I could.

I found a spot for them in the back of my veggie patch, near my lime tree. They will be undisturbed there for as long as they need to start producing.

I placed my soaked crowns in the bottom of the hole, and covered with just enough dirt to cover all except the very top of the crown. I watered well with weak seaweed extract (about half a bucket), and then mulched lightly with chopped lucerne:

As the crown starts to grow, I will add some more soil over the top of it.

In the first year, the plant will produce a fern that I will leave to grow until they set seeds. Then I will chop them back right down at the end of the season. I will have to be patient and wait until the second year for the spears to start producing, and even then, I will not be able to harvest too many. I can harvest some, but let the plant again set the fern and seeds.

In the third year, I can go crazy and pick all I like! Then it will be an asparagus party, baby. Just like the Great Gatsby used to throw.

Gardening jobs, Weekend 22 & 23 June 2019

What an age we live in…when you can order sheep poo online, and it comes straight to your door.

I can find all the free horse poo I want, thanks to several riding clubs in my area, but at this time of year it takes a long time to compost. You shouldn’t generally use horse manure without composting it first, unless you want a lot of new weedy visitors to your garden. I will get some of the free poo to add to my compost bins, where it will take a few months to break down in time for Spring.

Sheep poo is the best manure for fruit trees, but it is not that easy to find in my neck of suburbia. You can buy it from some garden supply places, but I have found that it tends to be a “blend” (blended with compost or soil) rather than a pure product. I ended up finding it through a local company online, for just slightly more than the blended brands, and delivered to my house for free.

Sheep manure is good for trees because it helps to build strong root systems. For dormant fruit trees in Winter (think stone fruits, pomes, and mulberries), a nice cover of sheep poo over the roots acts like a warm blanket and feeds the tree until it wakes up in Spring.

Look at my happy mulberry tree. Doesn’t she look nice and cozy?

Why yes, I am slightly batty, thank you for asking.

Gardening jobs, June 20 2019

Bloody hell, it was a cold one today.

I am not a fan of the cold. I know I have complained mightily about the lack of rain around these parts over the past few months, and I stand by my concerns, but I am a Summer person. I like the heat. I am the last person to turn the air conditioning on, and I am that person in the office that keeps a cardi on when everyone else is complaining that it’s too hot outside.

So Winter just kills me. I feel almost perpetually cold, even when I am rugged up like I’m preparing for an Antarctic mission.

This morning was clear and crisp, and less than five degrees outside when I contemplated heading outside for a spot of gardening. I am on annual leave, and I had a rare clear day. Only one appointment with my kids, a couple of phone calls to make, and then: freeeeeedommmm! What else was I going to do, but go out into the garden?

If I could just brave the cold.

I mentally prepared with a cup of hot chai and some inner cheerleading. I reminded myself that my roses needed much love, and I had some seedlings to plant.

Suitably attired, I started with the simplest of jobs, and one that would help me later in the day: stocking the indoor wood pile ready for tonight’s fire. That helped me to build up some inner warmth, and that done I was fired up and ready to go.

Roses

Mr. Lincoln rose. Sad face

My climbing roses are a sad and sorry bunch. I planted them two years ago in memory of three of my grandparents, who were all rose lovers. I have a Pierre de Ronsard, a Gold Bunny, and a Mr. Lincoln. All are doing quite poorly. I posted a query on a Facebook gardening group about whether to just pull them out (reluctantly) and try again. A local gardener from Adelaide who is a successful rose grower suggested some things I could do to save my roses from the green bin: removing all mulch from the crown of the roses, spraying the crown with a low dose of iron chelates, and then feeding with pelletised chicken manure. So that was one of my jobs this morning. You can see in the photo above how much mulch and organic matter surrounds the crown of the Mr. Lincoln rose. I didn’t realise this was a problem, but apparently it is! I will let you know if these treatments help my roses return to health. And thanks to my friendly Facebook gardeners for sharing their knowledge so freely!

Planting

I pulled out some carrots that seem to have been growing forever, and planted some new carrots in among my lettuces. I also planted some red spring onions next to a row of leeks I planted out last weekend.

Coloured heirloom carrots

I love to grow carrots, but am not very successful. Don’t be fooled by this photo: this was a closeup. They were teeny. We did eat them, of course, and I used the tops to make a serviceable pesto, but honestly I have never really grown nice big fat carrots that Pete Cundall would be proud of. And damnit, I want Pete Cundall to be proud of me.

I think that I am not tough or consistent enough in thinning. I need to be ruthless. I have too much ruth.

Feeding

After all the weeding and planting, I gave everything a weak liquid feed of seaweed extract, fish emulsion and Go-Go juice, and got the heck back inside like a sane person.

Garden jobs, June Long Weekend 2019

Building a wall, even a low garden wall, is a big job!

We spent three whole days working on a retaining wall for our backyard, and so far have four metres of a planned eighteen metre garden wall to show for the efforts.

When I say “we” of course I mean the Royal We, because it is the Queen’s Birthday after all, and also because my husband has done most of the actual building work. I’ve been in charge of moving plants that were in the way (which were quite a few, actually), cleaning up soil and dirt, and snack and tea delivery. Either way, we were both outside for the full three days of the Long Weekend, which was both awesome (because there is really nowhere else I would rather be), dirty, and tiring.

I posted a photo essay of the wall building earlier in the week.

While he was building the wall, I had the job of removing a lot of garden plants that were in the way. These were mostly lovely healthy rhubarb plants that I had only replanted there a few months ago, a gorgeous purple salvia, a yellow gerbera, a zillion lettuce seedlings, some brassica seedlings (cauliflowers and broccoli), and a pink geranium.

Moving Rhubarb

Rhubarb is a plant that divides easily and is therefore great to share with others, or to divide and create new plants. I personally love it to eat, but some people might find it too tart. Despite it being traditionally cooked and eaten with fruits such as apples or strawberries, it is actually a vegetable.

Rhubarb grows from rhizomes, so can be easily divided once the plant is established. Normally I would have waited until these plants were larger to lift and divide, but this time I had no choice.

To move the rhubarb, lift gently with a garden fork until the plant is released from the soil:

Take a good look at the plant. If the plant can be divided, you should be able to see some clear areas for division, such as with this plant. I can see two or three areas where this plant can be split:

Carefully split the plant into separate pieces. If possible, try to divide into parts with roots attached, like I have done here:

However, it is not always necessary. A rhubarb plant can grow from a piece of a crown (not just a stalk of rhubarb). I have even successfully grown a plant from a crown that was accidentally left on the garden path for six weeks. I found it and chucked it in the ground, and it still grew a beautiful plant. In fact, some of the plants I divided today were from that original crown.

However, where at all possible, I try to plant divisions with roots attached.

Dig a hole and lie the separated rhubarb piece in the hole. Fill the hole with water and let the plant sit in it for a while. I like to add a lid of seaweed extract to the hole at this time:

See the base of the plant above, which has stalks starting to sprout? That is a crown. You can plant that, even in the absence of roots. Note that I removed most of the stalks from the plant. Rhubarb and apple crumble for dessert tonight! Actually, I did it so that the plant will put most of its energy into new growth. The crumble is just a bonus.

Remove the hose, and stand the rhubarb plant upright in the watery hole. Backfill with soil:

Sprinkle around the base with pelletised chicken manure. I use Neutrog’s Rapid Raiser, but you could use Dynamic Lifter, or any other brand. If I had some rock dust, I would sprinkle that around each plant too, but I’m all out.

Finally, water in again. I watered each plant with a can full of seaweed extract and Go-Go Juice, with is another Neutrog product (not a sponsor, I just like their products and they are South Australian). Go-Go Juice is a pro-biotic for plants and helps to promote the growth of good bacteria in the soil.

I also gave a couple of rhubarb plants to my neighbour, along with some beetroot I picked. He in turn gave me some Jerusalem artichokes, and is going to help us build a new chook shed. I love having gardening neighbours.

I moved a whole heap of lettuce seedlings, including planting many into little tubs to give away to colleagues and family. We let a plant go to seed and now have lettuces everywhere (and I mean everywhere!).

I also planted a bunch of flower seeds: Flanders Poppy, Poppy Angels Choir, and Pincushion Flower. Hoping these all come up and produce some flowers for the bees this Spring.

Pointless garden tools and gadgets

If you’re a gardener or a cook, you most probably love a tool or a gadget. I can spend a long time at a kitchenware store staring at baking gear, or in a garden shop just looking at gardening tools. Many is the time I have convinced myself I must have a certain tool or gadget, only to find it is either useless (hello, fertiliser spreader) or I just don’t get the use out of it I thought I would (hi there, newspaper pot maker). I have learned over time to just cool my jets and consider whether:

  1. I really need it;
  2. It will really do what it says it will do on the box (I’m looking at you again, fertiliser spreader);
  3. It’s worth the cash I am about to part with; and
  4. I have something else that could do some or most of the job of the coveted new tool. I have to remind myself that buying something is the least sustainable option and does add to future landfill.

Here is a list of truly useless items I have purchased, in no particular order:

  • A fertiliser spreader, $14.99. This thing is supposed to make spreading fertiliser like blood and bone easier by evenly distributing the fertiliser via a nifty handle that you turn. I thought that for a person like myself that has bursitis and carpal tunnel syndrome, this would be easier on my hands and wrists. Epic fail, my friends. The handle is stiff and really hard to turn, and the fertiliser gets stuck in the funnel very frequently. It does not ‘spread’ the fertiliser, but rather dumps it in a clump. Frankly, I have the skills to do that myself without paying $14.99 for the privilege. The fertiliser spreader is now a glorified bucket. I fill it with fertiliser and shake it around. I could have bought a bucket for a dollar, or I could use one of the many recycled pots I have in my garden shed, which is what I was doing to spread fertiliser around my garden before I was suckered into this con.
  • Seedling pot maker, $34.99. That’s right, gentle readers, I paid $34.99 for a tool that would supposedly save me money on pots. Let me tell you that in my shed currently, I already have about 100 pots that I paid not a single cent for. And yet, for some reason I still thought it was a great idea to pay the equivalent of the hourly rate of a mid-level public servant for a tool that I used about three times. So those little newspaper pots cost me about twelve bucks each. Good deal.
  • Jiffy pellets, $5 for 12. Jiffy pellets are tiny compressed pellets of coir, that you soak and then plant a seed in. Each pellet costs 41 cents, depending on when you buy them. A coir brick that reconstitutes to ten times its volume costs about $2. For that you will be able to plant probably fifty times the number of seeds. I spent maybe $20 on jiffy pellets before I learned to do simple arithmetic.
  • El cheapo gardening gloves, $2 a pair. El cheapo gardening gloves are the worst. They never fit properly, the water soaks into them, and they fall apart quickly. I have thrown out more pairs of these darn things than I care to count, until I wised up and realised that instead of six pairs of crappy gloves, I could buy one pair of good gloves, and have them last a very long time.
  • El cheapo tools, $2-$5. Ditto cheap trowels and cultivators. Cheap trowels inevitably rust, handles break, and the tools lose their edge.
  • Underground Worm Farm, $15. I wanted worms for my garden, but I wasn’t sure I could commit to a full worm farm. So I went halfway, partly committed, and ended up in an “it’s complicated” status with the underground worm farm: a plastic structure that you dig into the ground, and dump worms in. This from a woman who spends a great deal of gardening time digging plastic out of her garden. Then you feed the worms and they will supposedly create their lovely castings that you then dig out. Wellllll…..every other critter in the ground decided they liked apartment living with daily breakfast, and moved on in. The worms moved on out, which they could do very easily because the underground worm farm is in the ground, and my worm farm is now home to slugs, slaters, and every other creepy crawly under the earth. Except worms. Happily, I have found many of them living in my compost bin, where they seem very content. The farm-o-slugs remains in the ground, because I really buried that sucker in there.

I am sure there are many other things that I have wasted my cash on over the years, but these are just a few of the items I can recall. Next time I will post a top ten of the most useful, value for money tools that I believe every gardener should keep in their shed.

 

Garden jobs, First weekend of Winter 2019

So, Winter definitely came. For some reason, my husband and I decided that this coldest of seasons was the perfect time to start that retaining wall project we had been putting off planning for about three years.

Actually, we had no choice. A huge deluge of rain came through, and washed about a cubic metre of precious topsoil from our veggie patch down into our patio. The retaining wall suddenly moved up the list of jobs from “one day soon” to “urgent.”

While we were at the Big Green Shed buying a few tools, I decided that I was sick of waiting to build the trellis for the apple trees and boysenberry plants, and bought the wire and star droppers for that small but important job as well.

Trellises and Espaliering

I have two dwarf apple trees (Cox’s Orange Pippin and Early Macintosh) that I wanted to espalier. I have never done this before, but when I was at the Melbourne Flower and Garden Show in March, I saw a simple espalier technique on dwarf apple trees that I thought I could probably manage myself. It used zip ties to tie the tree branches to a simple wire trellis between two poles. Is it the most perfect, horticulturally approved way to espalier? No idea. My garden probably fails on that front many times over. But I did I think, “I can do that.” So I decided to give it a crack.

My apple trees are two years old, and I have to say they are not really doing much yet. I have had a couple of blossoms, and one tiny apple so far. Most annoyingly, they are supposed to cross pollinate each other, but one flowered much later than the other, so that was an epic fail.

I figure if I bugger up the espaliering of these trees, and they produce no fruit, I am not in a worse position than I was already. If it works and they produce a better crop, then the thirteen bucks I spent on wire and zip ties (which I also used on other projects) was money well spent.

My husband used his manly strength to hammer the star droppers in where I directed, and I tied trellising wire in at intervals that looked roughly about right. Then I tied the flexible apple branches down along the wire and zip tied them down. The Cox’s Orange Pippin seemed pretty happy to be tied down, but the Early Mac was not happy, Jan. Not at all. Not being glib, but it looks somewhat like a torture victim from a 14th Century painting of the Inferno. I hope that with time, and further growth, I can retie it and it will look much happier and nicer than it does right now, poor bugger.

Foreground: Cox’s Orange Pippin, Background: Early Macintosh. After these photos were taken I went back and re-trellised and re-tied these trees, so they look slightly happier than they did in these shots.

The boysenberry plants seemed much happier to be tied up in an orderly fashion. Boysenberries are a bramble, and if left to their own devices, they take over in pretty spectacular fashion. This was what happened to our two plants. They caught up all other plants (and people) in their wake, and I decided I wasn’t gonna take it anymore!

My husband and I built a pretty basic trellis out of tall star droppers and trellising wire, and I pruned back the boysenberry while trying not to stab myself. I failed at that. I call these vines collectively Audrey II – they like fresh blood, preferably mine.

Once I had them trimmed to three or four main canes each, I tied them in a fan shape using the trusty zip ties. My plan is that as other canes grow (they grow from the base of the plant), I will keep tying them in the fan shape, retaining some control of the Audreys and hopefully will pick many a delicious berry over the Summer months.

Once these two jobs were done, my husband and I made our plans to build a small, but relatively long, garden wall to keep tiny wights and rivers of mud out. After all, Winter is here.

Pics next week.

Reducing plastic in the garden

I’ve whinged about this multiple times, but I’m doing it again: weed matting in the garden does nothing. The people that landscaped our garden originally laid black plastic and weed matting before laying topsoil, and I’ve been either hitting the tough weed matting when trying to dig a hole, or pulling out chunks of black plastic ever since we bought this place and started building our garden.

Meanwhile, the weeds continue on their merry way.

Look at this bloody nuisance:

Pointless black plastic ruining my garden

I pull this junk out of my soil every time I try to plant anything. Not only does it achieve nothing at all, it pollutes the soil, and will be stuck on the planet for thousands of years.

If you are planning a new garden, I beg of you: do not lay this stuff. You will not have fewer weeds by laying weed mat. Most weeds are opportunistic, shallow rooted freeloaders. Their seeds float along in the wind or are spread by birds, and will root very easily in your topsoil. They do not care at all about a layer of weed matting.

In general, gardening can create quite a bit of plastic waste. Here are some ways to make it more sustainable and reduce single use and other plastics.

1. Consider packaging. Many common garden products come in plastic. For example, potting mix, manures, and fertilisers are all packaged in big plastic bags. I have recently switched from traditional potting and seed raising mix to coir bricks, which come in 9 and 15 litre compressed bricks in mulch, seed raising, and potting mix varieties. These are cheaper and much smaller in size (less than a tenth of the size) than potting mix bags, but when reconstituted in water, expand to similar volume as a 25 litre potting mix bag. Although they are still wrapped in plastic, it is a thinner clear plastic rather than the heavy thick plastic of the traditional products. Coir is also a sustainable product, as it is a by-product of coconut production. The plants are just as happy growing in coir as in potting mix, and I’m happier knowing I have created far less waste.

2. Plant seeds instead of seedlings. I try to raise seeds as often as possible, partly because it’s fun, but also because a paper packet of seeds has a lower carbon footprint than a plastic punnet of seedlings. I reuse my seedling trays over and over, whereas most punnets are single use only, as black plastic can’t be recycled. A single packet of seeds has potentially a thousand plants, while a punnet typically has four or six plants. Therefore a packet of seeds makes more sense financially, as well as environmentally.

Highly organised seed library

3. Reuse as much as possible. If I do buy seedlings, I reuse the seedling punnets for my own seedlings. I reuse all plastic pots. I cut up old milk bottles to make seed labels. I use old stockings and tights to tie up plants. To transport seedlings to friends, I use old pots or even recycled yoghurt containers. I save seeds in recycled jars.

4. Recycle wherever you can. While chemicals should not be thrown in recycling or the bin for obvious reasons, well washed containers can be (for example, seaweed extract bottles or other non-toxic products).

Finally! Rain!!

No posts for a few weeks, because it has been raining! It has been truly wonderful to see the soil soak up the water and the garden begin to look fresh and green again.

However, today was a warm and relatively dry day (24 degrees in the middle of May! Crazy!) so as soon as I could pull on a pair of jeans and a beanie, because even at 24 degrees I still feel the cold, I was out in the garden.

I really had no specific plans once I was out there, so I decided to dig a hole and see what the soil was like. Damp and beautiful, was the answer. The rain has really sunk through now and the soil was lovely.

I noticed that the lettuces I let go to seed have germinated, and there are baby lettuces everywhere. Some of my favourite little bulbs, Sparaxis or Harlequin Flower, have popped their heads up as well. Can’t wait for these beauties to flower for the third year running. At this point they have naturalised in the garden.

Sadly, there have been a couple of casualties of the extended dry. I had a magnificent creeping thyme plant that looks like it has been touched by a Dementor, and I am not sure it will recover. One of my rhubarb plants looks very sad. The rose bushes are still not established enough to cope with such extended dry weather.

I decided that today was a good day to plant out the lime tree I have had growing in a pot under my patio for the past two years. It has grown quickly but is quite spindly and just does not have the lushness that I would expect from two years of growth, even though it has been fed and loved. I think it needs full sun.

Digging the hole was fun. I have not dug a good, deep hole in a while. If you have the space, capability, and the time, I recommend it. Work has been busy and stressful, and I sit down most of the day. Digging a hole uses muscles that my sedentary body does not often exercise. I started sweating embarrassingly quickly.

When planting a tree, you should dig the hole twice the size (depth and width) of the root ball. Some gardener once said you should dig a fifty dollar hole for a ten dollar plant.

I placed the tree in the hole, and then ran the hose in the hole with the tree sitting in it, next to a brick of coir.

Coir is great stuff. It’s cheap as chips (a brick of it costs about two bucks from the Big Green Shed, and a bit more if you buy it from a smaller nursery). It’s organic and sustainable (a waste product of coconuts, made from the fibre, chopped up and compressed). When you wet it, it transforms to ten times its size by volume. You can then use it as a mulch, a planting medium for raising seedlings, or as an additive to potting mix to help retain moisture. In this instance, I was using it as an additive to the soil.

While the coir was expanding and the hole was filling slowly with water, I dug three bags of cow manure into a bed that has been lying fallow since the Summer. Then I planted broad beans (Aquadulce) and Dwarf Snow Peas into the beds. Last year I grew two varieties of broadies (Aquadulce and Crimson Flowered). While the Crimson Flowered were gorgeous, they did not crop that well.

Some people don’t like broadies – I do. They are good for the soil, being nitrogen-fixers, and they are lovely in pasta or made into pesto.

Once the hole had filled half way with water, I poured some seaweed extract into the hole, broke up half the coir brick and spread it around, and filled the hole back in. I trimmed off some of the lower, spindlier branches. The remaining coir brick I spread around the base as a mulch.

That’s it for today – hopefully tomorrow the rain will hold off just long enough for me to do some weeding and to plant out some window boxes of violas. Then let it rain once more.

Easter weekend 2019 gardening jobs

I love Easter. It’s easily my favourite holiday. I love the traditions; the food (Hot Cross Buns! Chocolate – and I don’t care what anyone says, the chocolate at Easter tastes different and better); the four days off; catching up with family and friends. I love that we have enough time to spend time with family, veg out a little, and still have time to get a few things done around the house and garden without feeling rushed or stressed like you often do at Christmas.

This year in the lead up to Easter weekend, I had the plague an upper respiratory viral infection for several weeks and as a result, I have not been able to do anything except grumble in the direction of my poor, sad garden. Autumn has been very warm and dry, and everything just looks thirsty and in need of some TLC. I had a ton of jobs on my list but no energy for heavy gardening labour as I recovered from what the doctor assured me was a “flu like virus” but what I feel certain was the second coming of the Black Death. It was so bad we had to cancel a planned holiday so I could catch up on all the work I missed. I’m pretty cranky about it, when all is said and done.

This has been a Public Service Announcement to have your annual flu shot. Apparently I did not have the flu but one of a family of ‘flu like viruses.’ All I can say is, jab my arm.

Anyway, I did survive, and decided to take it slowly by doing a little gardening every day, interspersed with Hot Cross Buns and Season 6 of Game of Thrones. Gently does it. Don’t want to end up looking like a White Walker.

Day One (Good Friday) we went on our annual pilgrimage to the Easter Fair in the tiny country town of Meadows (regular population: 1300, Easter weekend population: one million). This event is a classic country fair, complete with Marshmallow Bunnies, Hot Donuts cooked while you wait, sausage sizzle, white elephant stalls, and Nanna-made pickles and jams. I have a list of items I buy each year (Marshmallow Bunnies and Hot Donuts, natch), which includes plants and bulbs. This year I was looking for interesting succulents for my lounge room. I bought some beautiful German-made succulent pots in Melbourne and have been looking for the right plants to put in them. I found them for the low, low price of $6 each, along with Daffodil and Iris bulbs. Unfortunately I have no idea about succulents so I do not know what all of them are called.

I don’t know the name of this succulent but I do love it

Smiling Hanger with Jellybean Plant
Pincushion Plant and another succulent in German self watering pots

Day Two, after we ate the Hot Cross Buns from the Easter Fair and made a trip to the brand new ENORMOUS Bunnings (So big! So green!), I potted up the new succulents in my fancy schmancy German pots and then spent a ridiculous amount of time arranging them on the shelf.

A note on the Big New Green Shed: it’s the same as all the others. There, now I have found that out so you don’t have to. You’re welcome. I did pick up more bulbs (ranunculus, anemone and freesias to sprinkle around the garden like Easter eggs), and blue sweet pea seeds. Sweet peas are my favourite flower, and I always plant them on Anzac Day as my mother taught me. I have three varieties to plant this year: Bijou (saved seed from last year, that I plant each year and is constantly excellent), a variety called Surprise (purchased from last year’s Easter Fair), and this blue variety. I also have poppies, kale, cauliflower, romanesco and green sprouting broccoli, leeks, lettuces and silverbeet to plant.

Adorable children visited and chocolate and Marshmallow Bunnies were handed out to much joy. Easter rocks.

Day Three (Easter Sunday), started with a Hot Cross Bun and a Salted Caramel Lindt Ball, reminding me again of why this is my favourite holiday, and a visit to an adorable three year old to hand over more sugary treats.

Our backyard soil needs considerable work after its hard slog over the Summer. I dug over the compost and pulled out a nice lot of compost for one section. Then I spread Rapid Raiser and Blood and Bone fertiliser over the bed I am planting garlic this year, and watered in well. Tomorrow I will dig in some cow manure, then let it sit until Anzac Day when I will take four bulbs of our precious homegrown garlic and plant it for the new season. Homegrown garlic tastes so much better than bought garlic, that it is always worth leaving room for it in the garden.

My husband de-seeded five very seedy lettuce plants that I had left to form seed heads, picking off thousands of tiny lettuce seeds. We will plant them out on Anzac Day as well. While he was doing that, I weeded and trimmed back some of the boysenberry canes for safety and tidiness.

The boysenberry and I have a love/hate relationship. Last year was only its second year, and it fruited quite well with very little care required. Its thorns prevented pests like birds pinching any, so we actually got a nice little crop. Those thorns though make it very painful to prune and manage, and like all brambles, it spreads like crazy. I dug out many rooted brambles today and potted them up in case anyone else (friends, enemies) wants Audrey II a delicious berry plant in their backyard.

Tomorrow is Easter Monday, the last day of a lovely, relaxing weekend. I plan to tidy up my dry, weedy front yard, feed all the plants, and plant some seeds into my seed trays for Winter veggies (a little late but given how hot it has been this Autumn, I think it will be fine). After that, I reckon I will have just enough room for one more Hot Cross Bun before bidding farewell to another glorious Easter weekend.