Belladonna Bess

An edible garden in Wellington, NZ

Not even I can garden in this weather… August 29, 2009

Filed under: Garden — belladonnabess @ 11:37 pm

random narcissusBusy day, and I wasn’t free to garden until 4.30. By that time the storm with severe gales and torrential rain had arrived, so I didn’t get much done.

Sprouting: Baxter’s Blue geranium. Took me a moment to realise it wasn’t a weed.

Budding: some of my tulips, and one or two of my strawberries, including “Lipstick”.

Planting: a few more potatoes I found in my seed box. Not quite sure what they are or where they came from. May be a Maori potato variety.

Strengthening: the asparagus windbreak. One of the bamboo stakes had already broken.

Picking: most of my daffodils. They usually last longer in the garden than a vase, but not in this sort of weather. So I salvaged them while I could. The photo is what they looked like at about 8 this morning, before the storm arrived.

Wondering: what will be left of the garden by tomorrow morning.


Spring gales August 28, 2009

Filed under: Garden — belladonnabess @ 11:38 pm

I knew that they had to be coming soon. They turned up on Monday accompanied by 40 mm of rain. Mostly the garden has been drying out since then.

Germinating: currant tomato (Thursday), dill (Friday), red Russian tomato (Saturday).

Digging: my vegetable garden – the bit where root vegetables are going.  “No dig” doesn’t work too well for root vegetables, especially when the garden was formerly lawn and is reasonably compacted.

Discovering: the largest earthworm I have ever seen. I stared in shock for a moment and checked I hadn’t inadvertently chopped off one of my fingers  – I’m not kidding, it was that big – and then put the earth back over it. I didn’t dig that bit any more. I didn’t want to hurt it.

Weeding: bits of couch grass root.

Swapping: oca tubers, miner’s lettuce and miscellaneous seeds for potatoes and other miscellaneous seeds.

Planting: (right to left when standing on the deck, in rows!) “Inca Gold” oca, Desiree potato, Agria potato, parsnip (and radish) seed, pink fir potato, Touchon carrot seed, Chiogga (striped) beetroot seed, purple dragon carrot seed, (and then not in rows because it was all too neat for me) random carrots including Lubyana and a coloured mix, plus a few sugar beet out of curiosity.

Sowing: as well as the other seed, I scattered a few Flanders poppies over where the rows of potatoes are.

Netting: the entire area that I dug and planted today, with robust plastic mesh. I used to blame the cats for digging, but I realise now that it was the blackbirds. Of course, I was fair enough to blame the cats, as the blackbirds are only able to dig when the cats neglect their bird-scaring duties. Today a blackbird was trying to dig up my seeds and Faust was chasing a piece of pea straw nowhere near the blackbird. You just can’t get decent help thesedays.

Also planting: various Maori potato varieties in the corner garden that I don’t know what to do with.

Noticing: I have the sun until at least 5.15 now.

Constructing: a windbreak for my asparagus. I may need it. Severe gales predicted tomorrow night.

Smelling: my one freesia. Lovely.

Budding: first signs on Initial apple, also Candice grape, potted unknown grape, whitecurrant and autumn bliss raspberry (one cane only). Flower buds on Polka apple and Marcy raspberry, along with one caterpillar in a bud (promptly squashed). Presumably raspberry bud moth.

Eating: celery, silverbeet, salad greens

Anticipating: something other than celery, silverbeet or wild salad greens. Pak choi are coming along, maybe another month at most, also I have some red spring onions that might be edible soon.

Here are two alternative ways of keeping blackbirds off the garden. The grey furry one might be cuter, but the green mesh is actually effective.

Cute but ineffective blackbird control


The first seeds are up August 23, 2009

Filed under: Garden,Photos — belladonnabess @ 10:56 pm

Germinating: purple sprouting broccoli. No sign from anything else. That’s 8 days since planting.

Eating: silverbeet, celery, salad greens (lettuce, miner’s lettuce, chickweed mostly). I don’t have enough so I’m still buying vegetables and will probably be doing so for a couple more months at least.

salad greens


Planting things that aren’t edible August 22, 2009

Filed under: Garden,Photos — belladonnabess @ 10:01 pm

Planting: Primula veris, Arisaema nepenthoides, A. ringens, Fragaria blue lupin ‘Lipstick’ (a pink-flowered strawberry), white alpine strawberry, Geranium ‘Baxter’s Blue. Mostly ornamentals that will grow under my berry plants and make that garden a bit more interesting when the spring bulbs are gone, apart from the strawberries. The geranium is in a sunny spot by one of my apples. I also planted a second Fragaria ‘Lipstick’ in the blueberry garden, not sure how acid it will tolerate but I’ll know soon enough.

Repotting: more white alpine strawberries.

Budding: redcurrant and Albany Surprise. Also signs of leaves starting on one nectarine.

Spraying: copper oxychloride on my nectarines and grapes.

Wondering: what to do with the leftover spray mix, I didn’t use very much of it and don’t think it keeps.

Weeding: mostly buttercups today, but also some couch grass and a few other things.

Sowing: more mustard and blue lupin green manure, plus blue phacelia, meadowfoam, calendula and nemophila in some garden beds which I’m not quite ready to plant up yet. Partly so I have some pretty flowers, partly for the bees (or the bumblebees and random insects, because there are no honeybees), partly to eat (I like calendula petals in salad) and partly to have something to cover up the soil and save me having to buy more mulch.

August 23


The end is in sight August 21, 2009

Filed under: Garden — belladonnabess @ 11:02 pm

Completing: all the edging and garden construction that I plan to do this year. There’s still a lot of work to do, but the structure is in place. I’ve still got one area that isn’t done, but it will remain largely in grass until next autumn or winter. I haven’t quite worked out what to do with that area.Sarracenia catesbaei

Digging: weeds and rocks out of the garden I was edging.

Planting: boysenberry (Mapua), loganberry (Waimate). Loganberries are supposed to be a bit sour to eat fresh, but are meant to be good for cooking. My plan is to pick and freeze them, so I have something to use for baking in the winter.

Sowing: green manure plants, blue lupin, mustard and random wildflowers, in the newly weeded area where I finished the edging. I’m waiting for a Wiki Tu feijoa to go there, plus I’ve planted the boysenberry, but I’m really not sure what else to plant. The soil is really good there, and I think I may plant some of the potatoes there later.

Cutting: back the dead pitchers on my Saracennia pitcher plants and my rather straggly sage bush.

Repotting: my Sarracenia catesbaei. It had got so huge the pot wouldn’t even stand up. The only reason it was still upright was all the Sarracenia plants are crammed together in a tray. Potted in pure peat ( I think I potted the last ones in a mix of peat and pumice).

Watering: my mesclun seedlings, as it has been quite warm and sunny for three days. There was another frost on Friday morning though, but lighter than the one on Thursday morning.

Weeding: the couch grass is growing fast at the moment.

Budding: one of my Sarracenia plants and Neroli’s trillium. It hasn’t flowered for a while so I’m very happy to see a bud on it.


Late frost August 19, 2009

Filed under: Garden — belladonnabess @ 7:41 pm

Noticed it was cold when I woke up this morning. Opened the curtains and saw a frost on my garden.

Observing: I haven’t actually done any gardening today, but I have a few observations, so I’m getting them down.

Germinating: mesclun mix. So far it is mostly only brassicas. They are always first.

Raining: not for the last few days, but there was 23 mm from Sunday afternoon until about Tuesday morning.

Sprouting: the comfrey is up.

Breaking: buds of Ebony, Ivory, Marcy and Waiau raspberries have broken, although some individual plants of Marcy and Waiau haven’t yet. No sign of Qualicon or Autumn Bliss (nor the red and white currants and Initial apple). Polka apple is swelling, while the blackcurrant and potted hazelnut are very close – should be open by the weekend.

Flowering: Both nectarines are in blossom. There are plenty of daffodils and other Narcissus, also Muscari, both types of Nemophila are flowering quite well, although the plants are still tiny. A few random flowers on my southern highbush blueberries. Oh, and I don’t think I mentioned the wild cineraria (Pericallis x hybrida) by the letterbox, but they have been flowering for at least two months. So far the ones I have are a particularly lurid purple with a white centre, great with the yellow daffs.

Bolting: one of my coloured beets. The others have picked up and are producing more now that it is warmer.

Eating: celery, silverbeet, parsley

Recording: frost report. I’m sorry this is probably incomprehensible to anyone but me so I’ve left it to last.

Berry garden at soil level: frost

Berry garden 15 cm above soil level: no frost (judged by whether or not daffodils that had fallen over a bit were frozen solid or not)

Vegetable garden: frost (it had the most)

Table on deck: frost

deck steps: frost

strawberry step: frost

> 1 m from south fence: frost (fascinating the effect that that fence has)

1 m from south fence: no frost

Asparagus: half frost (lower half, further from the south fence)

“lawn”: little bit of frost

salad garden: little bit of frost in one corner

broad beans: no frost or almost none

plum corner: no frost

Deck: no frost

Citrus corner: no frost

former fig tree garden: no frost


Not much done August 15, 2009

Filed under: Garden — belladonnabess @ 10:42 pm

Raining: only about 3 mm this weekend, up until 5 today anyway, despite predictions of rain. A bit more now, so I’ll check the rain gauge again in the next few days.

Sorting: weeds from dirt. I’ve found that if I pile up the scraped off weedy layer and cover it for a few weeks, it becomes a bit looser (possibly worm activity) and I can separate most of the soil from the weed roots and put it back in the garden. Boring and it doesn’t look like I’ve done much when I’m finished.

Chitting: potatoes (Agria and Desiree), Inca gold oca (we call them yams here, but it’s such an ambiguous name I avoid it). Not sure how long to leave them, but I can see that the eyes are starting to sprout.

Sowing: the first batch of seeds in pots. In the little propagator (which keeps them a bit warmer) – yellow cucumber, chili mixed, capsicum mixed, Thelma Sanders pumpkin, crown pumpkin, Zephyr zucchini, Genovese basil and a red lettuce that I’ve found difficult to germinate. In pots inside – dill, lovage, currant tomato, red Russian tomato, yellow tomato, cocktail mix tomato, black dianthus (ornamental, I don’t think you can eat it), asparagus pea, purple sprouting broccoli, celery, Zephyr zucchini. It sounds like a lot, but I know where I plan to plant most of these. I think.

Budding: definite bud swell on Albany Surprise (grape) and Polka (apple). Both nectarines have some blossoms open. Ebony (raspberry) has past budbreak and there are a few twigs of Waiau (raspberry) that have too (I didn’t notice them before as they are largely buried in the mulch).

Buying: more seeds. Because I don’t have enough!


An unexpected fine day August 14, 2009

Filed under: Uncategorized — belladonnabess @ 10:51 pm

The weather forecast was wrong again. But no complaints, they predicted a miserable wet day and instead it was warm and reasonably sunny. And it rained at night so things did get watered.

Eating: silverbeet, rocket, lettuce, miner’s lettuce, chickweed, NZ spinach. I’ve been a bit more organised in the morning lately, plus my self-sown salad bed is producing a bit, so in the morning before work I’ve been picking a little container of salad to have with lunch.

Buying: the first asparagus from the market. In a couple of years I hope I won’t need to.

Digging: more removing the top weedy layer, this time from the garden around the catnip plant. I have now done all the converting of “lawn” I plan to do this year. There is still an area of about 10-15 square metres that is lawn (if it deserves such a description). I’m using it as a working area, which I still need. Hopefully by next year I won’t really need that space, or at least such a large space, and can use it to plant more stuff. Since I have such large decks I can use, I don’t want to waste any more planting space on lawn.

Mulching: the dug area with newspaper and pea straw, plus manure pellets, blood and bone, coffee grounds and compost from my compost bin under the mulch.

Planting: my other dwarf nectarine (which said Garden Delight on the label, so the other one I planted must have been Nectar Babe, as I know I got two different ones). Lepidium oleraceum and Rorippa divaricata – two threatened native cresses. I planted the lepidium by the letterbox, as this is the closest I’ve got to a coastal cliff. I mixed rather a lot of blood and bone in the soil around it. In the wild, this plant basically grows in bird poo, so it probably wants a lot of nitrogen in the soil. I planted the rorippa in my salad bed.

Wondering: what to do with the area I finished mulching today. I planted the nectarine in it, and there is the catnip plant which I can’t move as it is on Hades’ grave. Other than that, I’m not sure. There’s enough space for something else, but I’m not sure what. I don’t know if there is space for another dwarf stonefruit, but there is another one I’d quite like. It’s a white-fleshed peach with double blossom in bright pink.

Weeding: the area around my letterbox, plus a few other random spots.

Proving: just how effective a thick newspaper mulch can be. Unfortunately I discovered that is can supress daffodils and asparagus. I found blanched plants that hadn’t made it through the mulch when I decided to check. In some places they got through while in some they didn’t. I suspect that it was probably the thickness. I’ve removed most of it, but that means the weeds will get through too.

Wearing: sunglasses for most of the time I was working in the garden. I hurt my eye last week – I think I flicked something into it when I was in the garden, so I need to be a bit more careful.

Potting: miner’s lettuce. I’ve done five pots to give away. It’s always nice to have something from the garden to share. I don’t have enough produce at the moment, but I have plenty of seedlings of miner’s lettuce.

No photos today, I gardened until 5.55pm when it was nearly too dark to see my plants, let alone take pictures.


Signs of green August 8, 2009

Filed under: Garden,Photos — belladonnabess @ 10:46 pm

Harvesting: the vast crop of parsley that had taken over my salad bed. I’ll try drying and freezing some of it, but I never seem to be out of parsley, so I’m not sure it’s worth it.

Transplanting: three strawberries that I discovered under the parsley.

Sowing: three types of mesclun salad mix – Italian, lettuce and traditional (left to right when standing on the path facing the house). Theoretically it may be a bit early for planting seeds, but the “feral” lettuce is germinating naturally, so comditions must be ok.

Planting: a prostrate rosemary, behind the cotoneaster stump, hoping it will sprawl over the stump.

Constructing: a small windbreak for my potatoes.broad bean

Discovering: I don’t think potatoes like being covered with a thick newspaper mulch. I noticed one working it’s way out the side of the pile of mulch and when I dug down under the newspaper I found a lot of blanched stems unable to get through. So I removed the newspaper and just put back a big pile of pea straw.

Flowering: broad beans, Dampiera purpurea (one of very few plants named after pirates, in a pot because it doesn’t like phosphorus in the soil) , Nemophila “Penny Black”, more daffodils.

Budding: a few plants are nearing, or just past, budbreak. Gooseberry (past already), raspberries (Marcy, but only the one I planted last week, Ivory, Ebony), blackcurrant, nectarine (showing pink buds now). It won’t be long before my garden is green, as opposed to a garden full of sticks. No sign from the apples, reducurrant or whitecurrant.

Bathing: I’ve had a couple of hot baths after I’ve got in, in the hope that means I ache less after my efforts in the garden. Not sure it’s working. I’ve even got sore fingernails – how does that happen?

Here’s the latest picture – quite a bit of progress at the back of the garden since I posted the last shot.

9 August 09


It’s still spring… August 7, 2009

Filed under: Garden — belladonnabess @ 10:33 pm

Stunning: clear skies and light winds – the weather has been lovely for the last few days.

Weeding: the area along the back fence, also doing the edges of the garden and around the base of the Pseudopanax (I suspect it is some sort of hybrid one, but it is a nice tree).

Planting: feijoa “Unique”, more of the free raspberries (variety Marcy, which is one of the parents of the Waiau I’m growing), lemon balm.

Mulching: cocoa husks, and the sacks the husks came in.

Potting: my free hazelnut. I know where I want to plant it, but the area isn’t ready. The buds are just starting to sprout and I can’t leave it sitting around in an old bag any longer, so I’ve put it in a big pot and hope I can get it the ground before too long.

Sprouting: my trilliums. I’ve been carting these around in pots for years. In 1995, a friend gave me a division from one of hers. She died a few months later, so I’ve got a great attachment to that plant. I do have one other trillium, but I bought that one. I think I had them in the garden when I had my own place in Christchurch, but since then, I haven’t had a suitable spot. I’m sure they would be happier in the ground though.

Flowering: my lovely little Oxalis versicolor.