Belladonna Bess

An edible garden in Wellington, NZ

Battle of the berries October 29, 2010

Filed under: Garden,Photos — belladonnabess @ 10:05 pm

Netting: I spent much of today preparing for the annual battle between berry-loving gardeners and blackbirds. I lost the first round, because I had some strawberries that were ripening during the week and the birds got those. But the nets should do the trick. I’ve netted 3 strawberry beds, plus my blueberries and my nectarine (which has a bunch of strawberries around it. I’ve still got 2 strawberry beds to net (one which is next to my boysenberry), as well as my raspberry and currant garden. The raspberries and currants aren’t so close to being ready, so they can wait another week I think.

For future reference, the good netting that I like is “Gardman” brand and I bought it at California Garden Centre. Bunnings had it last year but didn’t this year for some reason. I had to go to 4 shops with a sample of the netting I wanted before I found it. It’s good because the holes are large enough that they don’t trouble the bumblebees so much.

Eating: broccoli, white alpine strawberries, lettuce, Cape gooseberry, spinach (just a first taste in a salad so far), miner’s lettuce, puha, edible flowers including calendula, borage, pansy, rocket.

Germinating: I noticed one bean seedling just starting. No sign from the rest.

Cursing: I’ve no idea what is wrong with WordPress, but it is starting to do strange things, like not let me insert a picture and then edit it. Certain sites do this sometimes – they make “upgrades” and things stop working in Opera. That’s why the picture is tiny – I can’t adjust it.


A long weekend gardening October 24, 2010

Filed under: Garden,Photos — belladonnabess @ 10:25 pm

Four days off all at once. I managed to spend a good part of it gardening. Only one post for 4 days – this is mostly chronological but not quite.

Constructing: a cloche/ Faust house. It was meant for my zucchinis, but Faust moved in before I had even got it fully secured. He has spent most of the last 4 days in it. Here he is.

Planting: 3 zucchinis (one Cocozelle, one Zephyr, one of the usual dark green variety) Рat the  other end of the cloche from where Faust has taken up residence. I grew the Zephyr from the last of my seeds, but the others were bought.

Also planting: pak choi seedlings

Unearthing: a wheel of concrete 2 feet in diameter. I tried to dig a hole in which to plant one of my apples, and ended up doing some sort of suburban archaeology, excavating this enormous piece of concrete. I got it out, but I can only move it by rolling it, and I’ve no idea what I’m going to do with it now.

Planting: apples – “Blush Babe” (where the achaeological dig was), “Polka” (it’s so nice I need two, especially because it tends to biennial bearing) and “Adore”. Blush Babe is a genetic dwarf – it branches but stays small, Polka is columnar and Adore is one of the new disease-resistant home garden varieties, on M9 rootsock.

So now I have an orchard! Six apple trees (plus the two pears).

Staking: Adore is a little flimsy, with a long trunk and 3 perfect branches for a vase-shaped tree. I’ve used 3 strong stakes and very firmly attached it to the stakes, otherwise I doubt it would still be there now.

Wiring: I put up the third wire on my fence (for the espalier). Should have done it earlier, because last weekend’s wind broke off one of the pear branches that I was going to use.

Tying: my espalier pears to try and get them into shape and somehow encourage a replacement branch for the borken one. Also doing a bit of pruning.

Transplanting: strawberries from various locations around the garden to the bed in front of the boysenberry. I have to net that garden if I want any boysenberries, so I might as well grow something else that needs netting in there. I also found some self-sown white strawberry seedlings, so transplanted them, as well as some borage, lettuce and limnanthes seedlings.

Sowing: more cucumbers since most of my last lot got eaten by a snail.

Weeding: everywhere. Especially the blueberry bed and around the pear trees.

Piling: weeds and half-made compost with dug up dirt from the apple holes, coffee grounds, sawdust etc, into two piles. One will probably become this year’s pumpkin pile. If you look at the photo of my garden – the piles are the sawdusty things at the back, between where the apples are.

Protecting: the asparagus – I’ve put a windbreak up because it was just getting so bashed around. It might be a coastal plant naturally, but clearly not a wind-tolerant coastal plant.

Germinating: peas, beetroot (started coming up at least a week ago though), carrots. No sign of the beans yet.

Sprouting: my Jersey Benne potatoes are up. I mounded the ground up around them a bit.

Flowering: my garden has lots of flowers. A lovely dark red dianthus that I grew from seed, Geranium phaeum, Primula veris (orange one), Limnanthes douglasii, Nemophila ‘Penny Black’, Calendula and Tagetes marigolds (no not for pest control – that’s largely some sort of urban garden myth – but because they are pretty and I like eating Calendula petals), Lipstick strawberry, pansies, still a few anemones and daffodils, sage, honeywort, a little bit of borage and phacelia. Basically it is quite colourful right now.

Anticipating: more broad beans. The dwarf early green, only sowed on June 20th, nearly have pods ready. Sutton’s dwarf doesn’t even have pods forming. So I’m really impressed with the dwarf early green – have to see what it tastes like though. Also spinach, which is close the size where I can harvest some leaves. And strawberries, which will need netting next week.

Eating: radishes, broccoli, lettuce, miner’s lettuce, Cape gooseberry, broad beans, carrots, white alpine strawberries (the plant in the asparagus bed seems to be the earliest – plus it is a giant of a plant).


A break from silverbeet, finally October 16, 2010

Filed under: Garden — belladonnabess @ 10:58 pm

Pulling out: the old silverbeet plants that I’ve been eating from since last summer. They were beginning to bolt, and frankly I need a break from silverbeet. More importantly, I needed the space.
Preparing: the bed where I will plant my zucchini and cucumber this summer. I dumped sheep manure pellets, blood and bone, coffee grounds, “rok” fertilizer (organic fertilizer with trace elements etc), compost and a few weeds and bits of silverbeet that I had pulled out under a cardboard mulch. I topped the cardboard with pea straw and green plastic mesh, which has the dual purpose of keeping the blackbirds from digging it up and stopping the gusty northwesterlies from blowing it all away. None of this will be properly broken down by the time I plant the zucchini (one of the problems with intensively managing a small site). But I’ll plant the zucchini in a wad of compost, and things will be breaking down enough by the time the roots are spreading. Or that is my theory. It has worked before.
Hoping: that I’ll get some decent weather for getting on with the garden next weekend. Most of this was done in not very pleasant weather yesterday; today was far to horrible for even me to be in the garden. It’s certainly not zucchini planting weather now.
Eating: radishes and Cape gooseberries. Apart from those, silverbeet and all the other stuff I’ve been mentioning. Still, silverbeet was the only thing in abundance.

Pruning: cutting back some of my soft fruit, at completely the wrong time. Should have done it a couple of months back.
Observing: 2 hazelnuts in full leaf. One has only just broken. Most odd. If this is a consistent pattern, I can’t imagine how it will cross-pollinate with the other two I have, even though I’m sure the books said it would.
Wondering: when I dare to try planting my beans. It really doesn’t seem like bean weather yet either.


Different year, same awful weather October 10, 2010

Filed under: Garden — belladonnabess @ 9:47 pm

Freezing: a spectacular southerly storm arrived last night, with wind, rain and hail. Last year the whole of October was plagued by freezing southerlies – it was apparently the coldest October since 1946, following an unusually warm early spring. As a result, some of my biennial plants, which are supposed to flower following their second winter, flowered in their first year. October was so cold that they thought they had already had two winters.

So I am really hoping that today’s southerly is just a one-off, and that I don’t spend the rest of the month freezing and watching the spring growth grind to a halt.

the first of my leeks. They aren’t very big – more like large spring onions – but they taste like any other leeks.


Plant more carrots October 9, 2010

Filed under: Garden — belladonnabess @ 10:57 pm

That’s my current garden motto. Carrots are so reliable and easy, and grow year-round. I just need to remember to keep planting them regularly.

Two days of gardening in one, as I’ve been too busy with the Botanical Society newsletter to write much.

Sowing: carrots (Berlicum, purple dragon, white Belgian, amber), parsnip (failed with this last year and don’t expect to succeed this year as the seed had been in the fridge for a year, but my neighbour says that you can refrigerate parsnip seed so here’s hoping.).

Also sowing: peas. I learned something last year. Plant your shell peas separate from your sugar snaps and snow peas, because otherwise you don’t know whether to eat the pods or not. I planted Alderman’s tall climbing, saved seed from a really good random plant that came up from the pea straw, Carouby, snow pea, sugar snap.

Planting: apple (Bolero, one of the columnar apples).

Moving: my rhubarb to the feral potato corner – it was too big for the space between the redcurrant and blackcurrant. Also, my cutting-grown redcurrant, into the space left by the rhubarb.

Preparing: one of the frames for my climbing beans. I’ve also bought some seeds of dwarf beans. I haven’t grown them recently because they take a bit more ground space than the climbing beans, but the wind is hard on the climbers and I thought I’d see how they go.

Pruning and tying: my pear espalier and my Albany Surprise grape.

Weeding: forever.

Mulching: not much. I’ve decided that since the mulch encourages blackbirds and slows down the ground warming, that I’ll mulch a bit less in spring (when the blackbirds are most destructive). In summer, when it warm and drier, and the blackbirds less active, I’ll put in some heavier mulch.

Eating: silverbeet, broad beans, carrots, broccoli, ¬†lettuce and other greens, potatoes and a strawberry from my “Lipstick” strawberry. They don’t produce a lot of fruit, but they are certainly early.


Sprung October 2, 2010

Filed under: Garden,Photos — belladonnabess @ 7:21 pm

A proper spring day today – spring is well and truly here and hopefully there will be no more flashbacks to winter. I wore a t-shirt and got hot working in the garden. Today is the sort of day that reminds me summer is coming. And I can’t wait.

Weeding: the weeds are rampant. I bought a weeding tool that is good for getting the roots out and have been tackling dock and buttercup plants in the vegetable garden. I’ve also been cutting back the rampant weeds on my paths, by hand.

Planting: Jersey Benne potatoes. I also planted my Agria potatoes yesterday and also a couple of Swifts, which are supposed to be ready in 60 days. Here’s hoping I don’t get too much blight. Also planting a few celery seedlings in the corner of my feral potato bed. I’ve also got spinach and onions planted within the last 2-3 weeks.

Harvesting: the feral potato bed had died back in one patch, so I harvested some of the various random potatoes there. Not a lot, but I’ll get a few meals from them.

Eating: silverbeet (the only thing I have in abundance). Also small amounts of broccoli, carrot, broad beans, celery, garlic (stored), lettuce, miner’s lettuce, land cress, puha, edible flowers (borage, viola, calendula, broccoli).

Bolting: all my pak choi bolted a few weeks ago without ever getting to an edible stage. Note to self – don’t bother with pak choi in late winter/ early spring. Various salad green brassicas are bolting too. Now my giant parsley is bolting, so I’ve been pulling the plants out.

Catching up: I planted a bunch of seeds 2 weeks ago. The pak choi were up in 5 days, 2 days later the yellow cucumbers were up and I’ve now also got zucchini, spaghetti squash, pumpkin, mixed basil, mini cabbage, and the first cherro tomatoes in the last couple of days. But I’m cursing now, because a snail got in and ate most of my cucumber seedlings. I’ve got two left now, so I will need to plant some more. I’ve also got carrot and radish up, from sowings 3-4 weeks ago.

Pictures – click on the picture for a higher resolution version.