I have taken up sloth gardening. I wasn’t planning on having an injury in the spring of my ‘Best Cropping Season Ever’. Ha! But I cannot let the garden slide away. I must grow stuff! Not just because I love growing stuff, but while I don’t have a job, I consider it my job to grow and preserve food for the family. And the more I grow, the less money will need to be spent on food throughout the year. And so, I am getting my head around gardening like a sloth: little bits here and there, each day, often on hands and knees, trying not to stress about it, but celebrating each plant that gets planted or structure that gets put in place. The weather has been crappy anyway, so I probably haven’t lost too much time.
Most people had decided that the worst of the rainy weather was over. It rained most of the time through March, April, May, June, July, August, September and October. But, oh no, the rain had not finished. Last week we had surface flooding and a flooded road again. The chicken coop got saturated (I need to make a raised floor) and we were holed up inside again. We garden when we can, bit by bit, and we are slowly getting things done. It is not a matter of waiting until the weather settles down (we’d be waiting a long time) or comparing ones garden progress to that of others, we do what we can with the challenges life has thrown us.
Some of the tomatoes have been planted: three Black Krims and five Amish Pastes in the Climbing Bed alongside the chicken pen. Two Gold Nuggets have been planted and that leaves two more cultivars. I have only allocated space for one Golden Roma and one Gardener’s Delight in the Vege Garden, giving me a total of 12 tomato plants, which is less than I have had previously and less than I’d like. I’m just growing so many things! However, I have a lot more tomato seedlings than that since most of the ‘bombed’ ones actually came back quite well and there are the next lot that I sowed as replacements too. I will try to find random spaces around the general garden to plant some more. And maybe I can sell some after all. I am working on the bamboo trellises for the rest of the tomatoes and have done a trellis for the climbing beans, which are yet to be planted.
I finally got my leeks planted. Better late than never! I have also planted three Alma Paprika capsicums, one of the seven mixed colour capsicums and more beneficial flowers in the Vege Garden: Salvia farinacea ‘Victoria Blue’ and white-flowered Lobularia maritima ‘Snow Crystals’ (sweet alyssum) to feed the pollinators. Three Cayenne chillies have been planted in a planter on the deck. The Tobasco chillies I grew last year gave us some very hot chili powder, so we will see how the slightly milder Cayenne compares.
Two cucumber plants have been planted and some of the pumpkins are in. I had six Wee Bee Little pumpkin plants in my plan, but I had a very poor germination rate, despite sowing all the remaining seeds. I got two good seedlings and one very poorly seedling, so I have only planted the two good ones. I definitely must remember to save my own seed this year. Germination rates for the Winter Luxury Pie and Small Sugar pumpkins were not good either. It’s disappointing that they’re a bit dud. I sowed three Crown pumpkin seeds that I saved from last season and they germinated very well, as did my saved Atlantic Giant seeds. I didn’t really want to plant any Crown pumpkins after having tasted something so much better, but I thought they could be handy to have with the germination issues going on. I have one Winter Luxury Pie seedling and a few Small Sugars, so I have to decide what to fit where.
I have planted the first Atlantic Giant pumpkin in the future patio space beside the deck. The Little Fulla and I moved all the bark from that area onto the new Apple Tree Garden, making it officially finished and tidy. I figured we wouldn’t get around to doing the paving for a while so I might as well use the space to grow a giant pumpkin, right?
The wee parsnips are coming along, the boysenberry is smothered in flowers and the potatoes are growing well and need more mounding. At least I haven’t had to water the garden yet.
This week we were excited to receive the kumara (sweet potato) shoots, or tupu, in the mail from Koanga Institute. The cultivar I chose is Reka Rawa, which is cream-skinned and -fleshed and said to have excellent flavour. One quantity was 15 shoots, but I received 17. This is the first time I’ve grown kumara, so it’s going to be an interesting learning experience.
Kumara are said to need sandy soil and a hard pan about 30cm down so the roots don’t keep running and not producing anything. Some information I read recommended quite sandy soil and some recommended rich soil, but definitely no feeding after planting, so we’ll see how we go. The Little Fulla and I prepared two large planters with sandy soil taken from The Cedar Pen, where there was a sandpit in the past. We mixed in some compost and a small amount of wood ash since kumara like slightly alkaline soil. Lime would be a more effective option overall but I didn’t have any on hand and it also takes longer to work. In an ideal world the soil would sit for a few months before planting, as always, but here we are. I planted the kumara in the planters yesterday, four in one pot and three in the other. I have placed netting around the planters for the shoots to climb up to stop them from rooting all over the ground, which helps concentrate their energy on tuber growth. That leaves 10 kumara to find spaces for…
That brings us to the building of the newest vege bed. It has happened! The Great Vege Garden Expansion Plan is progressing! The pieces of timber were cut this week and the assembly finally took place during a break in the rain yesterday. The Garage Bed is 4.2m long by 90cm wide by around 30cm high. I am very excited about this. I can plant the rest of the potatoes in there! And the rest of the kumara! My excitement is somewhat tempered by the ominous task of filling the bed. It always takes more material than you think. This one needs about 1.1 cubic metres. I put some layers of cardboard down the kumara end, which will hopefully stay hard enough to act as a pan for one season, then I started to shift sandy soil in there and compost down the potato end. I didn’t get very far. I have already been working on topping up the other vege beds and, although I’m going slowly and trying to be careful, my back can’t handle much more at the moment. Also, I’m sick, possibly with tonsillitis, sooo I really need to swap the vege beds for an actual bed… I guess we’re going to have to buy some soil, compost, poop or such like to help get it filled. Almost there!