WINTER GARDEN

taking stock of garden winter 2018

Beginning of January, and even though the days are still quite dark, there is a change to be noticed and it does the soul good.  The mist and heavy clouded days have left us for the last few days, and though we have still not seen any sunshine, there seems to be more light in the sky.  It is good, I think that one could learn to live without any sunshine, though it is hard to get used to it – it seems to be here to stay!

This morning I went into the garden and took stock of what is happening, and there is lots!  There are the strong rigid and juicy looking leeks, the bright red and colourful chard, the celery and the cropping cabbages.  There are also the many different herbs which are flourishing right now, oregano, thyme, lavender, sage, feverfew, dandelion, mullein, broad leaved parsley, three-cornered wild leeks, young cleavers, and even some young and tender nettles.  It’s a very mild winter here, though we had very much rain during October, November and part of December.  The temperature has not gone much below 10 or 11C and the soil temperature has only just now reached 10C whereas it kept to a steady 12 to 15C before Christmas.

The days for planning my garden for the next season are now, that is always very enjoyable.  This year my plan it to grow many more flowers, wild and cultivated, so that as many as possible insects will have food.   For ourselves I plan to grow some flowering shrubs that will cheer us during winter.  Bright yellow Forsythia comes to mind, but more research is wanted.

What I take away from this winter is that there are certain vegetables that will grow easily and that we eat every day, these would be leeks, kale, chard, and herbs, these I will grow again and more plentiful next winter.

I wish those of us who garden a great season and much fun and happiness in their garden! 🙂

 

DISTRACTED BY LIFE

As it was an overcast but still very nice day, I decided to do some work in our own garden. I cleared one raised bed ready for growing some plants, but I am delighted with what is growing there already, there are plenty of herbs, such as rosemary, lemon balm, lavender, evening primrose, oca, oregano (two types), and of all things some Jerusalem artichokes have come up too. So I just took out some grass and some other stuff that was smothering those plants. Ian decided to come and work with me, so he cleared the path on his knees with a small little knife, no easy task to be sure.  Now and then we took a rest, either for tea or chat, or to admire the creatures flying or crawling around.  Meanwhile I took a few shots of them.

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These are three wild plants that I am keeping my eye on very closely, number one is a huge thistle, it is almost in flower, I know that the seeds are what the gold finch feed on and that is why I want to keep it, to attract these birds and see how it goes.  The second one is our comfrey plant, it’s flourishing and what I am watching is the amount of insects that are using it, most of what I see are the bumblebees and I would love to see some honey bees on the comfrey too, of course.  The third plant is two years old, I grew it as a salad plant but it was so beautiful that I did not want to eat it, so I let it grow, and when we returned from Gozo it was so large and I recognised it as a plant you see a lot around here in the wild, a type of sorrel perhaps.  These three are on my watch list.

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And this is a view of our garden, we have had the pleasure to sit under the hawthorn tree all week for our meals, in the dappled sunlight with the garden scents all around us and the birds singing, what a perfect summer weather, aware that for people in other lands, not as lucky just then because of rains and floods.

Always nice to appreciate what we have in the moment.

A FEELING OF AUTUMN

These last few days have been very autumn-like around here, high winds, rain, cool evenings, but also quite a bit of sunshine in-between, a real feeling of autumn in the air.
While checking over the garden there is a lot to be seen that is going well. I even found a French bean plant in flower that I had all forgotten about, it has been growing in-between the profusely flowering sweet peas. The winter vegetables I planted out weeks ago are growing fast with all the rain they are getting, good to see this happening as I take the supplying of vegetables during the winter very seriously (and it’s fun).

And in-between the leeks there is yet another crop of young dandelions growing, the third crop this year so far!

The courgettes though, have not been doing so well, finally I will be able to harvest one, all the others rotted while still small.  Then there is the rhubarb, this is a young plant, started off during the summer, and now being covered with the leaves of the silver birch tree that is towering above it.  It promises to be a good rhubarb producer for next year, so the making of rhubarb jam will be on the agenda.  During this summer there was very little fruit for sale at the market, probably due to the lack of sunshine there was little fruit around, but having said that, my sister-in-law had kilos upon kilos of strawberries in her garden, so I could be wrong.  I do not have enough space to grow a lot of fruit that is why I like to buy it from organic local producers.  Last year I made a lot of jam, we are still eating from it, this summer I made none.

The few flowering broccoli plants that were left over, once I got a handle on my slug control, did rather well, we ate some already.  Today I found some caterpillars on one of the plants and removed them.  No harm done.

The sprouts are starting to get too large to grow under the netting so I will have to remove that this week.  I will also be harvesting beans and peas to dry for seeds.  Then to mulch the soil with the leaves and branches that are left over as good for the soil.

There is other work to do too before the weather really gets bad (but I am actually expecting an Indian summer soon).  I need to tie down the cold frame before I put the plastic back on, wind can get very high here and I don’t want to lose the frame.  On Saturday market I will buy some more plants to go in there for the winter.  I have plants ready, beetroots, to plant out too in another week or two.

And so the early autumn time is still busy, much is happening, love this time of the year too.  Schools starting next week, my grandchildren are all getting ready for that.  Almost unused garden furniture is about to be stored for another winter.  A few checks have to be made to secure and maintain other things in the garden, and birdhouses have to come out.

And I have a project inside the house to do and am slowly but surely getting ready for that (next real rainy day).  Trying my hand on a bit of DIY.  I like to be really self sufficient, but I have a good adviser in my partner, thank goodness for that.
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Round courgette doing well first one after many flowers rotted from the rain.

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Discovery of a French bean plant I thought had died, and seeds of the sweet peas appearing

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Kale and more kale for this winter, and the rhubarb plant covered in birch leaves already falling.

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Flowering broccoli and little visitors which I caught today, before too much damage was done.

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Sprouts and leeks for the winter months doing well.

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More kale growing fast at this stage, and the garden how it is beginning of autumn 2015

WHAT HAPPENED TO MY BITTER GOURD?

This evening while having a bite to eat in the conservatory, Ian all of a sudden noticed something about the bitter gourd. The other day I had taken away the four other gourd plants that had done nothing all summer and were obviously not going to produce any gourds. Because I have been busy with other stuff today I had not noticed that something was happening with the gourd, and happening it was! First thing we noticed was the change in colour, from green to yellow, this had happened very fast, then the fact that the bottom of the gourd had split open, and red seeds were to be seen. Amazed, I had never expected the gourd to act in this way, I was planning to harvest it some day soon, maybe I waited too long. What a surprise it was. I better make a note of this for my next year’s management of growing gourds. Well it was my first time growing them, and I only got one female flower which in turn became this particular gourd. I’m very glad to have been able to follow it’s development even despite this surprising end 🙂
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THE SCENT OF BEAN FLOWERS

This evening after my grandson Ruben had gone home I went for my daily check around the garden, everyday there is something else that is wonderful and amazing. Today it was the scent of the bean flowers which I noticed while observing them, a faint sweet scent. The bean flowers themselves are doing great, it promises to be a good crop I think, lucky for us as we both love the broad beans. The overall view of my vegetable beds is one of very lush flowering now, there are several kale plants giving a bright shower of yellow, the chives are starting to flower, the marigolds are flowering profusely, and several other smaller flowers are to be seen. The dandelion though, is finished for the moment and what is happening is that yesterday two little gold finches were eating from the seeds.

I also planted out the rest of the oca plants, some flowering broccoli, and a variety of leaves for salads. The garden is more wild than anything else at this moment, and yet I am picking some greenery every single day to use in cooking, so a colourful and pleasurable,  but also a useful vegetable garden, very good for wild life and for humans like ourselves too.
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Above: the broad bean plants flowering.

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Above:  Some dill or fennel, not sure.  And the Azalea plant is flowering too now.

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Above:  Lily of the Valley, and a buttercup.

SATURDAY AFTERNOON IN THE GARDEN

A bright and sunny day saw me planting out more beans, green ones this time, and some flowering broccoli that we bought at the market this morning. Every thing is growing quite well now and the broad beans are fully in flower. I’ve had to shift some of the wild plants that we are not using for food in order to have space for planting out the oca which has become quite big and beautiful now (it’s a vegetable though :-)) The garden is producing so much wild food at the moment that I did not even sow or plant, just comes growing there, and we are using it all in soups and other dishes.   I harvested almost the last of the spinach from last year. The English marigolds, also in their second year, are flowering absolutely amazingly and beautiful. I do recommend growing lots of marigolds, not only are they beautiful and vibrant but one can make marigold oil to use all year round. I grow them in between vegetables. The oca plants have to be earthed up just like potato plants, I did that too today, it is a big experiment, never grown those before. And finally the bitter gourd is doing very well and tomorrow they will be put in their permanent place for the summer, I believe they become very large and need to be kept inside as not hot enough here in this climate, so inside I will let them trail, I have decided on a pot and I am very curious what they will be like and if I will get fruit. Much to do in the next few days!
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Above:  Lady’s mantel early morning.

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Above:  flowers on my aubergine plant.

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Above:  Lady’s mantel and chives, and the flowers on the broad bean plants.

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Above:  A nice buttercup among the vegetables, but this is the only wild plant that I pull up from between the vegetables.

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Above:  The oca plant now earthed up, and glorious English marigolds.

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Above:  Newly planted out bean, broccoli and rhubarb.  And one of the thousand dandelions finished flowering.

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Above:  The bitter gourd doing great, lovely to see it grow so well and holding my breath!

HAPPINESS IS SEEING SEEDS SPROUT

An exciting and busy day today, went to Deelish Garden Centre, bought organic compost to sow more seeds in, as the cheap soil I was using was literally useless, and I lost some seeds as a result. I also bought safe slug pellets, safe for other wildlife! But I got some surprises today, my Oca (Oxalis tuberosa) tuber has sprouted, for me it is a new vegetable, have not tried it before, so it is very exciting, I believe that it is also called New Zealand Yam though in fact it is not a Yam at all. Other good news is that there is another leaf on the White Bitter Gourd, and that the Green Bitter Gourd which is supposed to be of more worth medicinally is also sprouting. I put down seeds of many other sort, such as Okra, Fenugreek, Cucumber, Courgettes (little round ones), Yellow Cucumber, some French Beans, some Parsley, some Camomile. I am most excited about the Okra as I used to eat this vegetable in India and in Mauritius, and though you have to know how to cook it in order for it to be tasty, I got used to it, it is valuable for health. It gets a bit slimy if you cook it wrong.  And the Yacon root is up too, I planted two but one rotted, the other one has started to make long white roots, I hope that this vegetable will also grow as it is another new one for me.  It is a Peruvian ground apple, sweet apparently, I found loads of information on Wikipedia for both Yacon and Oca tubers.     http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Yac%C3%B3n     http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Oxalis_tuberosa

Below; the Oca, This plant was cultivated for its tubers, which are then used as a root vegetable, first found in central and south Andes but brought to Europe during the 19th century.  I learnt that the roots contain Vitamin A, Potassium, Vitamin B6, and small amounts of fibre, well that’s good.
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My little Tomato seedlings are now doing very well and growing rapidly.

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This is the seedling of the White Bitter Gourd, and since this morning the secondary leaf has grown and opened up!

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The Turmeric plant doing fine and better everyday, so happy, must start off some more as I use it in cooking everyday.

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The Green Bitter Gourd is only sprouting, needs tender loving care and good warmth.

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I have some seedlings that I cannot remember what they are, can’t believe that this happened to me this year, but it did, so now when the secondary leaves really start to show I can start guessing.

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MORE UNUSUAL TUBERS FOR EXPERIMENTING

Been absent from my blog the last few days, busy with a lot of things, among them sowing, thinning out, and sorting seeds and buying more unusual tubers. The other day I was in a local health food shop and found there some tubers that I did not see before, they are called:
‘Yacon’ or ‘Smallanthus sonchifolius’,this is a root vegetable that has been domesticated by the indigenous peoples of the Andes, so they originate in South America. Yacon is a member of the sunflower family, so it has small yellow flowers, and — like its cousins, dahlias and Jerusalem artichokes — it develops huge tubers. I Googled them and found out a few things about them, first and foremost how to grow them, as I am not going to cook these few I bought, only sprout them for growing. The plants are very easy to grow and seem to thrive in almost any soil or climate. So you have to put them in small pots with slightly damp compost. They will make roots and once they are a bit bigger, after all danger of frost is past – you can plant them out in the garden. The foliage and leaves become very large, I better only grow one or two, anyway I am growing them as an experiment, not even sure if they are tasty as I never did taste them. These roots are supposed to be useful in blood sugar management, liver health, and in helping with health of the colon. I’m sure excited to see how they will do in my garden. As they take 6 to 7 months before you can harvest, and some years before they are really well established, it will be a long-term experiment.

This reminds me of once I bought a Taro root in the supermarket, as a vegetable, but when I came home I decided to plant it instead of cook it, it became a large indoor plant, (Colocasia esculenta), quite interesting, but it died when I left it with friend when I went travelling, I have not seen another Taro root since in the shops.
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Jerusalem Artichokes – some sprouting, and some just bought and ready to sprout.

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My Bitter Gourd seeds arrived from India thanks to my dear friends over there.  And some of the peas sprouting already, and leeks ready to pick out in larger pots.

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More seeds sown, Ginger sprouting finally, Turmeric too.  And Holly Basil sown under an inside glass house.

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My Sweet pea seedlings had to be protected from slugs, who knows where they came from, inside the conservatory and all.  And Leek seedling after being pricked out.

 

WHAT A DIFFERENCE SOME PLANNING MAKES

This was my garden before I started with the raised beds, the reason why I actually decided on raised beds was that because of all the trees the soil was difficult, full of roots and sunken. My garden sloops down towards the S.W. the soil was drying out too quickly too. But my garden was wild as I did not have time to work in it, I loved it’s wildness and thought that it was beautiful, but then I decided, that is when I retired, to grow vegetables organically (of course), and it is only last year then that I decided I would look at permaculture and go that way.

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Now there is a lot more light in the garden as we cut down some branches of the trees.  There are five trees in my 300 square meter garden.  I am very happy with the raised beds some of which I still let wild plants grow in whenever they want and where they want, I just guide them along a bit.  There is much more to learn and to apply, time will tell, a huge part of permaculture is watching your garden, observing and seeing what comes to grow where etc.  It’s all very rewarding, seeds have been put down, and tonight I am attending a meeting of the local GIY group, about the community garden, there will also be a seed swapping, it should be interesting.  So off I go.

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