Tag Archives: October

Gardening Chores and The List That Grows

 Garden Diary

Glass of Corbans 2002 Private Bin Hawkes Bay Chardonnay, after a day gardening
A welcome glass of Corbans 2002 Private Bin Hawkes Bay Chardonnay, after a day gardening

After a calm and rainy Saturday, the sun showed its face again today and we spent our time trying to knock some items off our ever-growing gardening ‘To Do’ list.  The trouble is, one thing always leads to another – and the ‘other’ is usually something that wasn’t on the list to begin with.

For example, we had two lovely dahlias growing (or trying to grow) under the Feijoa trees.  This had turned out problematical for two reasons…

  1. it’s extremely dry under the Feijoas and even though they have struggled on bravely, the dahlias have definitely suffered during the height of summer.
  2. The hens.  (Isn’t it always the hens?)  They love to sit in the shade under the Feijoas and scratch around, digging up anything that isn’t solid rock.  Their scratching shreds any new growth trying to push through the dusty soil.

Multiplication and Division

So, the plan this morning was to move both of the dahlias to a new site.  Stage One was accomplished without undue hassles.  This thanks to the fact that a space became available yesterday when Ben removed the Buddleja Globosa growing alongside the banana plant at the front right of the house.  The Buddleja had been a disappointing addition to that part of our garden – it had never done very well, hadn’t even flowered in the three years it had been there, so we’d decided to get rid of it.

Actually getting rid of any plant is always difficult for me, but this decision was made easier by the fact we’ve been able to take two rooted runners from it and plant them elsewhere.

The new site for the dahlias with Campanula persicifolia around the edges.
The new site for the dahlias with Campanula persicifolia around the edges.

It was while Ben was digging up the dahlias that I noticed the clump of Campanula persicifolia growing alongside.  I’d grown this from seed way back in 2011, but it, too, had never flowered.  However, the clump was looking surprisingly healthy this morning.  So we dug this out as well.

It’s really too late into Spring to divide a perennial – and it had quite a bit of new growth – but we managed to split it into about 20 separate plants.  These have now been transplanted into various other flower gardens, and watered copiously.  Fingers crossed, they’ll survive.  I should have done this a couple of months ago when we divided the Geums and the Asters.

Vegetables

Rocket thinnings - these were great in lunchtime sandwiches with avocado and egg.
Rocket thinnings – these were great in lunchtime sandwiches with avocado and egg.

I didn’t get much achieved in the vegetable garden today – in fact I pretty well gave it a wide berth.  But I did manage to thin out the rocket seedlings.  I’m so glad we have rocket again – just the smell of it makes my mouth water.

Pruning – Long Overdue

Left: Mandarin trimmings - pity about the fruit but we couldn't reach it anyway; Right: Firewood-sized plum tree trimmings.
Left: Mandarin trimmings – pity about the fruit but we couldn’t reach it anyway; Right: Firewood-sized plum tree trimmings.

Another task that hadn’t been tackled yet was the pruning of the old branches off some of our very old fruiting trees – especially the apricot and one of the three plum trees.  We’ve been working away at this judiciously each year to encourage new growth further down the trunks.  It’s a slow process, but of course today I noticed that we still hadn’t done this for this season.  Again, it’s getting too late into Spring for this task – but what is the best solution?  To just leave them as they are?

Left: View of the lichen-encrusted branches on the old pear tree; Right: Pear prunings.
Left: View of the lichen-encrusted branches on the old pear tree; Right: Pear prunings.

I still felt it was better to clean things up a little bit, so we set aside one hour and spent that time cutting back branches on our two mandarins, the pear and that one plum tree.   Mainly to remove the worst of the out-of-reach lichen encrusted limbs and to (hopefully) encourage lower growth to sprout.  Many of the branches we removed had died back, or had only a few straggly leaves.

We didn’t manage to get to the apricot – this will have to wait for another day.

Perhaps we should just give up on these old trees, as they don’t always produce much fruit, but I like the fact that they’ve been here so long and that someone else planted them all those years ago.  I like to feel the links to the past, I guess, the continuity.  And why destroy a tree if it still provides something –  even if it’s just shade, a place for birds to build their nests and the occasional piece of fruit.

Update on Blackbird Chicks

Left: Nest with chicks, 15 October; Right: Empty nest, 17 October.
Left: Nest with chicks, 15 October; Right: Empty nest, 17 October.

We were away from South Head almost all of Friday.  When we arrived home later in the afternoon and I checked the blackbird nest, it was empty.  There was no sign of any damage to the nest, nor were there any signs of anything worse, i.e. feathers or baby chick body parts.  I can only assume that they grew large enough to fly.   I last took a photo of them on Wednesday 15th (see above).

We’ve seen the hen blackbird a few times today and she seems to be taking worms, etc., up to the Lilly Pillies over the fence behind the plum tree.  We’re hoping that this is where the family has moved to.

Vriesea

Vrisea hyeroglyphica.
Vriesea hieroglyphica.

Finally, here is another photo of one of our bromeliads.  Again this is a form of Vriesea hieroglyphica.  A striking green one, this time.

Mid October Musings

Garden Update

Siberian Irises (Iris sibirica) growing against the west-facing wall of the house.
Siberian Irises (Iris sibirica) growing against the west-facing wall of the house.

For the first time in several weeks, there is no wind.  (Hooray!!!)  It’s a beautiful, partly overcast day with a very  light breeze.  Every time the sun comes out from behind a cloud I’m reminded of how hot it will soon become – it’s currently sitting at about 21C in the shade.

New Life

I was in the vege garden on Friday when quite by accident I came across something especially evocative of Spring.

Our young Bay tree (Laurus Nobilis)
Our young Sweet Bay tree (Laurus Nobilis)

We have a small (but very bushy) Bay tree situated within the fenced off (that is, hen-free) section of our garden.  I had gone there to collect a few good-sized bay leaves for a batch of fagioli I was preparing.

A blackbirds' nest, complete with chicks.
A blackbirds’ nest, complete with chicks.

I parted the top leaves looking for some decent leaves and was surprised to discover a nest complete with four tiny chicks.

We’ve been watching the black bird pair all year.  We think they are most likely the same two that built a nest in the right-hand section of the barn last spring.  The hen, in particular, is very plucky and will fly down beside me when I’m weeding in the vegetable garden – usually to pull out worms or scratch around where I’ve been weeding.   For some time we’ve been wondering where their nest might be.  It seems so obvious now!

The parents don’t seem to mind us peering in – earlier today when I checked to see if the babies were okay, I saw four bright-eyed little faces peering back at me.  Mum and Dad were watching from the branches of the plum tree, above.  The chicks are very quiet, which is just as well, as our cat Molly could easily knock the nest out of the tree.  I’m sure she’d love to munch on some tender young chicks!

On Saturday, Ben found another nest on a shelf in the ‘man cave’ section of the barn; but all that was inside were broken blue pieces of shell.  It’s hard to know if any chicks ever hatched, or (and this seems more likely) a rat got them.  The amusing thing about the second nest is that the parents had woven some red and black plastic-coated leads (still attached to a small battery charger) into the base.  It was very well-constructed – they’d put down a base of mud, then built up the sides with twigs and stalks.  The inside was a perfectly formed circle, made with delicate pieces of dried grass.  I’m always impressed at how beautifully these nest are made.

Banana

A new flower on Banana 'Mons Mari'.
A new flower on Banana ‘Mons Mari’.

The new flower spike on our Banana (Banana Mons Mari) is already developing fruit.   Earlier today, I spent twenty minutes or so cutting away some of the old and battered growth from the plant.  The howling winds I’ve been complaining about really wreak damage on the leaves, but the plant itself is surprisingly resilient.

Vegetable Garden

Broad beans.
Broad beans.

The vege garden is coming along nicely.  The broad beans survived the wind – thanks to some stakes and string.

Peas.
Peas.

The peas are forming pods.

Rocket.
Rocket sprouts

And I’ve had a good strike rate with the edamame, rocket and lettuce I sowed a couple of weeks ago.  Thank goodness!!

The early potatoes (Cliff’s Kidney) have needed earthing up a couple of times and are looking very vigorous.  The asparagus patch is producing fat shoots each day, so we are eating them as they appear.

Passion fruit flower, after pollination.
Passion fruit flower, after pollination.

The passion fruit is in good shape after my fairly brutal pruning.  It’s started to flower and their are many, many unopened buds on the vines.

Vriesea

Bromeliad xx
Vriesea hieroglyphica

To finish, I just had to include a photo of this spectacular bromeliad, Vriesea hieroglyphica, as it’s flourishing at the moment.  It’s growing in the sunnier of the two gardens we have devoted to plants from the family Bromeliaceae.

This time of the year all our bromeliads are putting on new growth and developing ‘pups’.  We’re hoping to establish some of the varieties more suited to the purpose, in some of our larger trees – many grow as epiphytes in their natural environment.