Yay, today is the Winter solstice in the Southern Hemisphere!! It sure does feel like the shortest day of the year. Still dark outside at 0730. Even though it really is only the start of Winter knowing that each day is getting a little longer now will help me get through the cold, a little positivity to hold on to.
I am thinning out the nettle. I was treating it like a plant and being all gentle with it. Not harvesting too much from any one plant. I realised this morning when I could barely see the garlic that I was being too kind. It is a weed after all.
I have started cutting it back, I am aiming to cut about 90% of it down to the soil. This will give the garlic some light and space. It also means I can get the weeds out with out getting stung. I have only done about a quarter. I am trialing drying it like mint or peppermint to save on power. I feel I have nothing to loose as I have so much more out there. My plan is to keep the nettle under control and only let one set seed. If all these set seed I would be in big trouble I think!
I have left the self seeded flat leaf parsley in there. I have pulled out the self seeded tomatoes as they will not be able to survive the frosts in Winter without protection.
I think I will let the inside nettle dry then attack the next quarter. Repeat til all done.
I have had this pair of cotton pajama pants for at least 10 years. I had mended a few holes over the years but they finally reached the end of their PJ life recently. I intended to cut them up and put them through the compost. Seemed like a good idea for material that is thread bare in parts. As I started cutting I thought long and hard about what I was doing. I stopped. I started cutting in strips. Now they will have a few more years of use before they reach the compost pile.
Plus I have heaps of them so I can use them all over the garden. Need to tie up the tomatoes in Spring? PJs. Need to re-stake the lop sided apple tree? PJs. Need to help the beans til they learn to hold onto the trellis properly? PJs. Need to attach wire to the fence for the sweet peas? PJs. I am only limited by my own imagination.
From this to this
I made the decision to add a somewhat invasive weed into my garden about a year or 2 ago so that I could utilise its many purposes. So far I have not regretted this decision.
I have made basil and nettle pesto. Nettle, spinach, carrot tops and kale barley risotto. Yesterday I made nettle tea. More specifically I dehydrated nettle for Winter tea.
I picked a heap for the risotto and the next day I am almost certain that it had all grown back so I picked a heap more for dehydrating.
I rinsed it, pulled all the leaves off, and managed to turn enough stuff off in the house that the solar panels could run the dehydrator on a not particularly sunny day.
I filled the dehydrator, the nettle leave shrunk down so much that I ended up with a large jar full.
My dilemma is around the waste. I rarely wear gardening gloves. I like to feel what is going on in the soil, the plants, nature in general. I feel like I lose a lot of dexterity and I am somewhat disconnected from what I am doing. I also seem to crush a lot of plants unintentionally as I wield my cumbersome gloves. I am a nurse, I create unconscionable amounts of waste at work. Horrible, horrible amounts. Largely unavoidable due to single use items to prevent spread of infection.
I do try really hard at home not to create waste. When I was buying nettle tea it came in plastic. I thought growing my own may reduce one more bit of plastic in my life. But how does one comfortably pick nettle?
I dropped a pair of gloves on the floor at work about 18 months ago. They would usually then be thrown out due to hygiene. I kept them and have used them approximately 8 or 10 times picking nettle. I know they don’t have a long life ahead of them, I am sure they will become brittle and crack in time. Which is worse, annual plastic nettle tea or who knows what they are made from gloves?
Autumn is nearly over, the garden is slowing down for the Winter season. I decided to do a tidy up. 2 of my garden beds do not get any sun to 7/8ths of them throughout Winter. I do not plant anything in that area from Autumn til Spring.
Today I tidied.
I brought Maggie in, as she cannot dig she does not do any great damage to my garden. She found some fairly tasty worms and bugs to eat!
I allow the garden to get overgrown throughout Summer to minimise the amount of concrete pavers exposed to the sun. I think this helps keep it a little cooler in there. It certainly means I get burnt soles of my feet less often! I tidied all that up today.
I did not take before pictures. Too enthused to start the job! The next 2 pictures are taken some time during Spring/Summer to give an idea of my overgrown pathways.
Today I pulled out a lot of nasturtium, old beans, tomatoes, more nasturtiums, weeds, a few baby sweet peas and whatever else was where I didn’t want it to be.
I did leave some things like the thyme growing over a full paver, but this is unlikely to get out of control and I can still use the path.
I also have yet to cut back the salvia. I still love looking at the purple. Til it dies back a bit it will stay.
Next on the list is to prune the apples and pears. That is for another day. Today I am done.
I planted 2 plants, then a couple of weeks later put my bee hive there.
The sweet potatoes were promptly given a fairly wide berth. They were with the potatoes, once I harvested the potatoes I ignored the sweet potatoes. Mostly, as I didn’t want to be too close to the bees flight path, but also so that I could see what happened with my irrigation free self seeded tomato plant.
I only harvested one sweet potato per plant. Pretty poor!
Obviously I had help in digging them up. I waited til a cool day so there would be less bee activity. I was aware that I was in their path. A few flew into me, one stayed on my arm for quite a while. I would like to say I was cool with that but I wasn’t really. I was a bit nervous.
Things I took away from this:
-Don’t allow the chickens to help dig them up, they don’t respect the sweet potatoes.
-Don’t let the chickens free range as they will eat most of the leaves making things difficult for the plant.
-Watch where the trailing vines go and make sure they stay on the ground so that more sweet potatoes can grow. The ever giving feijoa tree that grew tomatoes for me also has sweet potato growing through it…
-Put more effort into the soil and continue to care for them after planting them
-Don’t plant them in front of a bee hive.
Next season will be better 🙂