Happy Happy Gardener

I don’t generally enjoy growing things that grow under the ground as I can’t see the progress. Carrots, beetroot, and garlic are the ones that come to mind first. Obviously I still grow them but they make for boring garden tour specimens.

Today I decided to tentatively pull out the first garlic. I have a hit and miss history with garlic, a couple of bad years with tiny bulbs and a couple of good years. Last year was the best. I pulled a few out just to make room for some transplants. I was pretty excited!!! The joy oh the joy. I love love love gardening!!!!

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Turns out it is infectious. I couldn’t stop there. So I pulled the lot out.

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There were 66 bulbs in all. I planted 74 so that isn’t too bad. These are the sorts of sizes I got.

IMG_4282I separated them in to 3 groups, no science, scales or measuring involved. Small, medium, large. Pretty self explanatory in the photo above. When I sorted them the lines got a little blurred as to what constituted S/M/L.

IMG_4283Of course nothing has truly been achieved until it is assessed and approved by both the boys.

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I counted

Large 16

Medium 26

Small 24

Some of them were in the wrong pile but I won’t actually do anything with this information so inaccuracies don’t worry me. I put them on my upside down green house with a fly screen on top for aeration. When we moved into this house my grandfather made these for us as a housewarming present. In Australia who sells a house without fly screens is beyond me! He also made one for the laundry window which we have never been able to open so I treat this as a spare. It is good for drying things on. He certainly made it well.

IMG_4288In a couple of weeks I will plait them and hang them. I will probably rearrange them a couple of times before then to even out air exposure. Hopefully they last all year. I just composted the last of last years batch last week. This is almost a month earlier than I harvested last year (crazy weather!) So that is around 11 months of storage, fantastic. I would love to have that again. This batch right here were grown from that lot so hopefully I can expect a similar storage length.

ADDIT: I forgot about the garlic in the corn bed, upon closer looking I can actually see it in the photo above that has the corn in the background. Oops. I harvested another 3 Large, 5 Medium, and 2 Small.  This brings the total up to 76 from 74 intentional plantings. I think that I was not careful enough when separating some of the cloves and some doubles got in. These resulted in 2 heads of garlic growing almost joined to each other. They only grew to small or medium in this sort of non ideal planting scenario.

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Caring for what I have

My aim of a closed loop garden has almost been achieved, a few things to nut out (mostly my seed acquisition issue) but otherwise a massive improvement on when I first started gardening.

I no longer purchase organic fertilisers, sugar cane mulch for the garden beds, or plants that come in plastic pots. Now all I need to do is look after my tools so that they last me a life time.

I have a lovely hand trowel that I got from my grandmother when she had to stop gardening. I think it is great! I usually am very good at not leaving it outside when I am done in the garden, til a few weeks ago that is. I left it in my wine barrel where I store my ready to use compost. In my defense I went back to get it, saw it wasn’t there and thought I must have already put it away. A week later when I went to get it it wasn’t where it should be. I grabbed a poor substitute and went to the wine barrel. Upon digging I found my lovely shovel. The chickens had buried it. I should have thought of that when I could not see it the week before instead of just assuming I am a great candidate for early Alzheimer’s screening. The lovely wooden handle was soaked through and not looking its finest.

IMG_3656IMG_3657I let the poor thing dry out for a few days.

I sanded it, and gave it a few soakings with linseed oil (this is all I had) and it looks much better now.

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If I continue to look after the tools that I have I am hoping to not need to purchase any more. Initially I had quite poor quality tools that bent and fell apart within the year. I have learnt from this. Quality lasts!

This technically falls under DIY which I have been a little leery of in the past but baby steps like these give me hope for full on DIY adventures! The shovel looks beautiful again.

For the love of garlic

I really like garlic, I use it for all sort of things aside from cooking. I use it in a spray for the garden, I chop it up and swallow it raw to avert an impending cold, I use it in the chickens water to aid worm prevention and as a general immune booster for them. I do cook with garlic a lot, but my most favourite use by far is garlic salt on home made chips. It is the bee’s knees!

Last year there was a bit of a mix up when I ordered my garlic bulbs and they didn’t arrive, so I bought some at the market instead. I planted them out. Then a week later my order came.

I put garlic cloves everywhere. Between flowers, in pots, anywhere I could find space. When I harvested in December I was pleasantly suprised. I had assumed that a lot of the cloves wouldn’t have grown much due to their unusual locations, but most were great! I ended up with around 70 corms, 10 or so of them were small the rest a good size. I dried them out and learned how to braid them. Then stared at their magnificence…

That was in December. Now it is August. I have the next batch growing in the garden from the best looking and largest cloves. IMG_3548Hopefully lots more delicious garlic will be harvested in December!

But… I still have heaps of garlic left. IMG_3578I had given away only about 10 or 15 corms as I was unsure how much garlic I actually use and didn’t want to have to buy some because I had given it all away. This was ridiculous it turns out… It is just starting to sprout now, so every visitor has to take a corm home with them. I also decided to dehydrate more. More potential garlic salt! Yay!IMG_3587This is now ready to be blended (actually ready to be put in the cupboard exactly as is till I can be bothered blending it into a powder). You can see the sprouts. I was unsure what to do about that so I removed some and left some in. Laziness really prevailed.

Once I have turned it into a powder I will probably store it as is and use it in cooking if there is a gap between the last of the garlic (I assume it will sprout and not run out) and harvesting more as I have a fair bit of garlic salt already made up. I am trying to conserve the last of the potatoes so that I can plant them after the last frost. But now I Really want chips… and a mandolin slicer, that was a lot of slicing by hand. A mandolin slicer would be heavenly.

Soil health

Turns out, everything grows better when you pay attention to your soil. When I first set up the veggie gardens I filled them with mushroom compost. I had a great year of growing. Then the next year not so great. I was complacent, I didn’t add anything to the soil and expected the same results. I did not get them.  Now I am fairly slack at liquid fertilizing my plants but put a lot of effort into looking after the soil.  It all evens out…

My main sources of fertiliser are worm tea from my thousands of little worm friends. A fantastic investment for my garden. The compost bin, and the soil out of the chickens area. I do make some liquid fertilizer from the chickens droppings and in the future I plan to make nettle ‘tea’ fertilizer. This is my set up for worms. IMG_3569They are my favourite sort of pet, self caring. I am quite negligent of them for large periods of time. They are out of my line of vision in the back yard and I do forget about them for days on end. Every 2nd week or so I open up the lid, make sure there are plenty of worms moving about, give them a heap of food, make sure the soil is wet enough, and see how full the bottle of worm tea is. That is it. I am fairly certain you are supposed to feed them smaller amounts more frequently but this works for me. They haven’t complained once…

The compost is a cold compost one, quite slow at breaking stuff down but still produces lovely soil at the end which never fails to amaze me. IMG_3570Currently being guarded by Franklin. The chickens want to scratch around at the base as I have just tilted it and scooped some compost out of the bottom. Franklin is being mean.

I have recently had to move the compost.

There was an incident.

I did not handle it well.

I thought i saw movement when I went to put something in the compost bin one day so I jumped on trusty google. It said Rat. I have 2 fairly useless cats, they just don’t hunt. They are lazy, but I thought some dormant hunting instinct would be released upon sighting a rat.

I’ll set the scene so that others can learn from my mistakes. The compost was at the end of a pathway that goes between the water tanks and the chickens house. I had wheeled the wheelbarrow in so that I could start shoveling the compost into it and move it all to a new less secluded location. First error, I had trapped myself in there by bringing in the wheelbarrow. I had Franklin on the ground next to me when I tilted the bin. Second error, I screamed, loudly! In my defense that rat ran at me in an aggressive manner, fangs out, and leapt. I freaked. Screamed. Slammed myself into the water tanks and *gracefully* shimmied out.

My younger sister was all calm and logical upon my telling her about it, Oh it was just trying to flee, it happened to choose where you were as an escape route, they naturally have their teeth out like that. Whatever! It scared the bejeesus out of me.  Franklin bolted too. I blame the scream… He did not give a hoot about the rat. Didn’t even go back to see where it went. Error 3 was in assuming cats are hunters despite knowing the laziness of said cats. I haven’t seen the rat since. The new location seems to be working ok.

I seem to have become distracted in my soil health train of thought…. Oh well,

Healthy soil is important, don’t ignore it! Done.

My Garden

I love love love my garden! I rely on my garden to feed me and I love food but that is only the start of it. I enjoy spending time outside, I still get a thrill every time a seed germinates. It fascinates me when a seedling becomes a plant that I can eat. I am trying to run a closed loop garden which means no fertilisers or compost or anything really bought in from outside the backyard. This does not address my compulsive seed acquisitions. That is a problem I am working on. My current system is seed saving and only buying new and exciting different varieties when I have finished 2 other packets. Seed saving means I now have more seeds than ever but I am purchasing a lot less.

My closed (ish) loop garden means my worms and chickens provide liquid fertiliser which help the plants to grow, the trimmings and old plants plus lawn clippings go into the compost (or back to the worms or to the chickens as supplementary food) which turns it all into glorious rich dirt which then goes back into the garden and nourishes the plants so that the cycle can continue.  I aim to have all my fresh produce coming directly from my garden, I am about 85% of the way. The fruit trees produced their first fruit this year (8 apples, 6 of which the Sulphur Crested Cockatoos ate about a week before they would have been ready to pick, so very far from impressed and 1 Feijoa) so fruit (apart from melons which I grow myself in Summer) is something I am still purchasing at the farmers market. I also do not grow mushrooms (yet!) so I purchase those from my favourite mushroom man. The only other times I need to make purchases from the farmers markets are when I have people coming over that I did not plan for and cannot harvest enough food to feed them.

Winter is my least favourite gardening time, everything grows so much more slowly, there is no need to perform multiple tours of the garden a day as nothing changes very rapidly. I love that you can see the growth in a single day in Summer. Amazing! So here are some somewhat less exciting than Summer Winter garden photos. IMG_3504This is the first time I have grown Romanesco Broccoli (one of those coveted and finally purchased new and exciting [to me] different varieties) it is just starting to form. IMG_3514Blooming Rosemary, always a delight, roasted potatoes are just not the same without it. IMG_3516I have been waiting (slightly impatiently) for this mammoth spring onion to go to seed. It is finally ready to flower. IMG_3506The Borage has just begun blooming, when the bees find it they will be so happy, they adore Borage. IMG_3519The many beautiful colours of a strawberry plant that desperately needs attending to. IMG_3176And finally, my gardening helper.