Monday, August 30, 2010

Bud Burst in Vineyard

Flora & pinot gris vines have started growing, exactly the same week as they did last year. It hasn't gone below 10 degrees C here over the past three weeks - maybe that's the trigger. No bud movement on the Syrah yet. Here's to a good season for grape growing.

Friday, August 27, 2010

Bits and Pieces

I've had a cold for the last few days which seems to put a dampener on my blogging efforts. I have been slowly ticking things off my never-ending list though, albeit at a slightly slower pace than usual. It's been raining all morning though so the berries haven't been mulched like I planned. Waiheke actually made the third page of the Herald today with some pictures of landslides which happened on Wednesday night after a torrential downpour in the middle of the night - my rain gauge recorded 64mm in 2 hours.  (See story here - although despite living in Owhanake Bay, I'm not actually sure where that landslide is, I think it must be out on the point, I did hear a helicopter flying around for a bit yetserday). I managed to sleep through it all, quite disappointed. When I went outside in the morning I was quite confused for our pond had obviously overflowed in the night, almost to the front door, and that hasn't happened before. Then I took Alex up the road to catch the school bus and there was debris strewn over the road so figured there must have been a lot of rain.

My big effort this week was dealing with noxious weeds in the bush. We have about 3 acres of  native bush, and need to spend a full couple of days each year to keep the weeds under control. With quite a lot of help I managed to get rid of all the tobacco plant & boneseed, I hope, and some moth plants, and a bit of honeysuckle. I think I'm going to have to spray some of the areas of honeysuckle though, it is just too well entrenched.

No photos of weeding efforts, but here's some of the garden at the moment that I took a couple of days ago.

Leeks, sweet peas, calendula, silverbeet, red cabbage, garlic, and at the far end, beetroot and parsley.
Purple sprouting broccoli which despite looking impressive is yet to show any purple sprouting action. It is supposed to be a cool climate crop, I'm curious to see how well it does here.
Borage, perpetual spinach, parsley, and leeks and calendula in the background.

Sunday, August 22, 2010

Berry Pruning

Pruning my berry patch has been done in dribs and drabs over the past couple of weeks. I've developed my own methods over the past couple of years but have no idea if 'best practice' or not! The raspberries are relatively painless, but the thorns on the boysenberries & blackberries manage to occasionally make their way through my leather gloves, I do get a little tetchy with them, but all will be forgiven come berry producing time.

Here's some before and afters:
 Red raspberries

I leave some of the canes that have already fruited so that I get an early crop this year. Then the new canes that grow up will produce the majority of the years crop later in the season. These raspberries also got some bought compost and a layer of seaweed.

Black raspberries

No thorns on these! My black raspberries have a short season but do produce good quantities. I've been reading up about soils and the importance of having the right balance of the right minerals and nutrients. I've got a long way to go, but it did prompt me to put a layer of seaweed along my berry rows, which wasn't originally planned.


Last year when we were on holiday in the Hawkes Bay I invited myself to a commercial boysenberry farm at pruning time to see what they did. It was incredibly useful - mine are a lot more under control now!

I still need to check all the irrigation lines to make sure they are good for summer, and mulch beds with straw. Also want to get on a lime sulphur spray on the boysenberries before they start growing again, but have been waiting a while for a perfectly calm day with no rain forecast. I don't want any drift onto anything else as lime sulphur is quite strong.

And the peach tree which is in the vege patch didn't know what had hit it today. I decided that it was getting too tall, so I cut it down to as tall as I could reach with the loppers. I also took out most of the previous years growth - peaches can take a hard prune, and despite keeping this one small it still produces at least a hundred peaches each year, maybe more, I never remember to count them.

One of the benefits of working from home is that I can use my break time to do some gardening - tomorrow I'm aiming to get the grape vine over the pool deck pruned, although technically it's not a 'garden' day.

Monday, August 16, 2010

Seed Mat Planting with Small Ones Help

With all the spring anticipation that seems to be happening on other blogs down here in the southern part of the globe, I thought that I should plant out my pre-prepared seed mats. This is gardening on a very small scale, but suits my little plot, and the children's desire to grow carrots, just for the fun of pulling them out.

I blogged about making these here. So now they are getting put to the test. First we weighed them down with a bit of soil to stop them flying away in the wind.

The Alex watered them with some of his special water (with added lemon balm leaves for some reason). One benefit to this method is that the little seeds can't get washed away by enthusiastic watering.

Then we covered with some seed raising mix, as my soil filled with my rough compost is rather lumpy - and we're going for 100% germination here. If this doesn't work then nothing will!

Then we pinned some shade cloth over the patch, to stop the surface of the soil drying out (and watered some more). I'll remove this as soon as we see signs of germinating - just have to remember to keep checking it.

The latest favourite activity in the garden is using Melina's plastic teaset to make up mixtures and fertilsers which then get poured over plants. I let them make up a very weak solution of one of my organic fertilisers.

It's a rather random way of getting my plants fertilised but how could they not grow with such loving care and attention, delivered in a pink teacup?

Friday, August 13, 2010

A Brave Salad

I've been meaning to make more use of herbs and greens in salads, for myself anyway. The children have only just starting eating lettuce in salads so don't want to push it too much yet. So when I was eating alone I took a wander around the garden and harvested some lemon balm, different sorts of mint, garlic chives, regular chives, sorrel, spring onions, nz spinach, ordinary spinach, beet leaves, fennel, dandelion leaves, and beet leaves.

Then I added some pickled capisums, grated beetroot, and feta cheese to make it more palatable, and bravely tried it all. And it was surprisngly ok, except for the dandelion which was so bitter I had to fish every little bit out. Obviously need to develop my bitter taste buds more. I'm tempted to grow witloof - does anyone know just how bitter that is?

Sunday, August 8, 2010

Spring Growth?

I went down to the garden with my camera this afternoon to take photos of berry pruning but got distracted looking at the vegetables. Despite being wet, it has been a little warmer this week and everything seems to have put on a growth spurt.

 The sweet peas have put on a good three inches since I last looked.

The self-seeded borage has started flowering. I'm enjoying having a few around the vege garden, and if they get too big then they are good chook fodder. 

The florence fennel is fattening up. I've never eaten this before, looking forward to trying it - and seeing what the kids think of it. 

 More un-labelled brassicas reveal themselves - must have planted some green cauliflowers.

 I let some of my red lettuces go to seed last summer, intending to collect the seed which I never got round to, but was pleased to see this little seedling come up of its own volition.

 Miriam - here's your garlic coming up - if yours doesn't appear I may be able to return the favour...

 Some potatoes were obviously left in the ground from the summer harvest, and are looking quite lush at the moment. I'm curious to see how these winter grown potatoes develop. Some more garlic is planted in front.

Red cabbages continuing to grow, and remarkably untouched by slugs and snails at the moment.

Some slow growing peas, with some manuka branches in front to stop pesky birds flinging mulch everywhere.

Am about 1/3 way through berry pruning, aiming to get rest done this week. Also desperately need to do some seedling pricking out.

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Progress being made

Slowly but surely. It's been a little wet the past couple of days (and we've developed a roof leak, eeek!), but have managed to make some headway with the job list.

The vineyard pruning has officially finished, we've had some contractors pulling out the old canes and now they are all lying on the ground, and the vines are looking very bare. Now I need to go around the spur pruned vines and do a little tidy up of the odd cane that I missed when I did the main cuts. We also need to hire a ride on mulcher to mulch the prunings. This is one of Mike's favourite jobs of the year.

I've pruned the roses at the end of each row. We have 36 rows. The first year we were here I put roses at the end of each row. I chose 36 different varieties, mostly hybrid teas that were noted as being fragrant and good for picking - we use them in our guest rooms. They are traditionally used in vineyards to give early warning of diseases (they are more susceptible to the same diseases as grapes). I'm not sure how useful that is nowadays, but it's certainly aesthetically pleasing. I have also weeded around each one, and fertilised, and put in a request to the resident tractor driver to have some wood chip mulch put around them in the next couple of weeks.

 The rest of the garden is continuing to provide us with veges for soups and dinners, including this first harvest of carrots from our tiny patch. Carrots are the favourite vegetable for the kids to harvest - they adore pulling them out of the ground.

I have a day in the garden tomorrow. The weather forecast is okay. If it's fine enough I think I will check the bees for they have been very active in the manuka whenever it has been sunny, and I'm curious to see how much storage space they have left in their brood boxes. Am also planning to finish weeding the thyme bank in the vineyard, dig some holes for some new flower carpet roses, and make a decent start on the berry pruning and weeding.