Monthly Archives: November 2014

The Things We Do!

Cabin fever has hit in force! Unable to sow, weed, or even turn soil over because of torrential rain and icy conditions, unable to get anything to grow, I’ve resorted to installing into the garden items which require no warmth (or shelter)! The only problem is,  unless the weather improves, I doubt the nasturtiums will survive in these new ‘pots on plinths’ which I erected in between snow showers!

In my 'working garden' these sorts of ornaments are so 'not me' but what is one supposed to do when icy temperatures mean that even the broad beans won't grow!

In my ‘working garden’ these sorts of ornaments are so ‘not me’ but what is one supposed to do when icy temperatures mean that even the broad beans won’t grow!

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Bless lupines! They just keep on growing – and flowering – regardless of the weather.

 

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Stevia success (well, getting there, anyway)!

The Catlins has decided to skip spring and continue with winter for a few months but that hasn’t stopped the STEVIA! After taking the precious seedlings to bed with me every night for two weeks to protect them from rodent attack, and religiously carrying them into the warm living room every morning to place them on a sunny (sun – this spring – haha!) window ledge, they have finally decided to put on a little growth. So much so that I’ve now potted them up. Don’t they look great? I am SO tempted to pick off a little leaf to see if it really is a billion times sweeter than sugar (or whatever it is ‘they’ claim) but I’m holding back. If it ever stops sleeting and hailing outside, these little darlings really may  be my sugar alternative of choice. Must dash – I hear them calling for a little liquid plant food – and who am I to deny them whatever they ask for!

This is the biggest of the clan. He's 3 cm high.

This is the biggest of the clan. He’s 3 cm high.

 

And these are his friends. I've got another couple which I've popped into the glass house as a trial (to see if they survive out Antarctic conditions in the semi-outdoors).

And these are his friends. I’ve got another couple which I’ve popped into the glass house as a trial (to see if they survive our Antarctic conditions in the semi-outdoors).

 

 

 

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It’s the ‘Year of the Pea’

It’s the year of the pea here in the deep south. With a spring like the one we’re having, it has to be! It’s far too cold for anything else to grow! But chin up – onward and upwards (literally, if you’er a pea) because there’s no point planting tomatoes and cucumbers when it’s too cold even for carrots. So peas it is – row after row of them.

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Builder’s reinforcing iron makes a great climbing frame for peas.

Peas are amazing. They may not grow fast when the weather is damp and cold, but they don’t give up, either. Consequently, I’m sowing more of them each day. After all, they’re one of the few proteins you can get without having to actually go out and slaughter anything. These purple ones are the prettiest.

Pretty purple peas -  I bought my seed from Kings Seeds.

Pretty purple peas – I bought my seed from Kings Seeds.

I grew them for the first time last year, and despite their being a teensie weensie bit on the woody side if left to fill out the pod (best eat them when they’re French petit-poit sized) they are so beautiful to behold. I spent more time drawing mine than I did eating them!

Sugar snaps and snow peas are the first to go in the ground, of course. That happened way back in September. And because they grow a couple of metres high, tricky planning is required to support them. A tee-pee of stakes is what I use, plus my patent tee-pee wrap-around to get them started. The plastic seals in the moisture and any heat that’s on offer, while offering protection from cold winds.

The patent pea-tee (or should that be tee-pee?).

The patent pea-tee (or should that be tee-pee?).

As soon as the peas are away on their own, I unveil them to the world (and the birds, unfortunately).

Placing bricks or stones around the base of the peas not only keeps birds from scuffing the plants out of the ground, it keeps the peas' roots moist, too.

Placing bricks or stones around the base of the peas not only keeps birds from scuffing the plants out of the ground, it keeps the peas’ roots moist, too.

Good old garden (excuse the pun) varieties of pea are sown on-goingly throughout the season, though if it gets dry (a rarity in The Catlins!) they do need to be watered ‘cos peas really don’t like to dry out.

My pea tips:

* add a few handfuls of lime to the soil prior to sowing

* soak the peas overnight before sowing to hurry along germination

* protect with netting or plastic and slug bait until the peas are several centimetres high

* grow loads – they’re protein-rich and require no butchering

* builder’s reinforcing iron makes a great climbing frame

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Lateral Thinking

Tomatoes are basically vines, and to get the best results from your tomato plant, you want it to do two things: grow up and produce fruit. What you don’t want is for it to put all its energy into growing out. That’s why, every few days, you need to give your tomato plant the ‘once-over’ and pinch out it’s laterals. Laterals are the little side branches that grow between the main stem and the leaf branches. Left to their own devices, these laterals will form new vertical side stems, using up a lot of energy that could be put into fruit and main stem-growing instead.

But here’s the crunch – unless you know what you’re doing, you may end up either pinching out the tip of the main stem (which means the tomato plant will have to waste energy developing a new one) or (and this is so ghastly you almost don’t want to know about it) you might end up pinching off (gulp, I can barely say this without breaking into a sweat) a fruit truss – that’s a a branch that carries young flowers which tun into juicy tomatoes. There s nothing worse than discovering you’ve just killed off a bracket of potential tomatoes. Believe me. I know. I’ve done it!

But fear not, because, in the diagram below (illustrated by my obliging and talented husband!) you can clearly work out what is what so that you never make this horrible mistake. Happy lateral hunting!

 

Tomato Laterals

Laterals are the ones to pinch out. Use a small pair of nail scissors for the job or, if you don’t bite them, your nails.

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