Preparing for winter!

Preparing for winter!

Winter is coming. When we take stock and take charge, we can enjoy winter. What do you need to sort so you can enjoy this winter in your garden?

This info comes from an article I wrote for our local newsletter – and I thought it might be helpful to you as well so have included it here. Not all about gardens, but to enjoy our gardens we need the rest sorted too so here goes.

In our gardens

Trees – check for safety in high winds. Whole trees or dead branches ready to fall? Sort these now.

Wind and frost shelter for small, young trees can really help them survive and thrive.

The piks below show young citrus trees protected by mesh in an area exposed to strong, cold winds and frosts. They are doing fine in spite of the weather.

 

Protection for other crops can extend their season too. Lettuces go slimy in too much rain so a plastic cover can help grow nice lettuces.

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Paths and driveways can get slippery in winter. Do they need a clean off now so they will be safe?

Areas prone to become bogs? Standing water on grass/garden beds/paths? Any drainage you could do to sort this better so it is safe and more enjoyable to work in these areas?

Mulching can protect garden beds from heavy rain impact.

Slugs and snails emerge when the summer dry weather changes to wetter, cooler weather. Now’s a great time to reduce numbers so fewer are around to decimate leafy green crops and seedlings – 1 snail can chomp through so many seedlings that I had trouble believing it! Do you want more ideas on slug/snail control? Here’s a post I wrote with strategies we tried.

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Rain water

Winter can replenish supplies of water in the ground, re-vitalise soil, refill our water-tanks and dams. Wonderful!

If you want to catch water to use on your garden next summer, now is a great time to put in rain-tanks. There are so many options! Some are quick, easy and cheap. Others take more effort, time and $$. Here are a few ideas to start with.

 

It can also bring too much rain too quickly so the overflows surge out of streams, gutters, down-pipes, etc washing away our prized soil and plants, causing havoc in buildings, flooding roads etc.

Now is a great time to sort any issues with:

Gutters and downpipes on houses, sheds, garages

Are they working properly? Any obstacles to free flow of water down from roof so overflows don’t go down inside walls/ceilings? Some gutter types are better designed than others to clear excess water away from our homes. Worth a few minutes to check and clear debris collected in gutters now.

[PS: ‘ladder-safe’ awareness – you do not need to climb ladders – a plumber or home maintenance person will sort the gutters for you – it’s worth it from a safety aspect. Please be ‘ladder safe’. ]

Gully traps

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Connections to the sewerage system take dirty water from kitchen, bathroom and toilet through the gully traps. If not free-flowing – yukky mess which can spill out! Do you know where the pipes go down into the gully-trap pit? Can you check that the covers are in good condition, free from blockages? Otherwise, now is a great time to call a plumber to fix it.

Check storm-water flows in it’s own pipes so it does not flow into the sewerage system and overload it. If overloaded, the pipes overflow yuk around your place [or anyone elses]. Or into the beaches and harbours. Not nice at all. Sort it now.

Street gutters and catch-pits

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Rainwater falling on the ground flows down-slope into city/town streets where it is channelled to underground pipes via the gutters and catch-pits. People living down-slope from roads can be flooded in extreme rain when pits and gutters are blocked. How are your garden beds in relation to potential over-flows? Your paths and driveway? Buildings?

Roads themselves can be flooded and dangerous to drive on. It’s worth checking and clearing the road gutters and pits near you so excess water can get away rather than flood areas. Where is the nearest pit to your place? Is it clear?

Rats and Mice!!

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As the weather becomes colder and rainier, rodents look for warm shelter – our homes, garages, sheds are attractive targets. Compost bins and chook sheds are prime targets – warm and food provided!

Rodents [and possums too] also like quality home-grown food crops so if your fruit is munched, or carrots dug and mutilated etc, it’s worth making your place far less attractive, however works for you.

Check all round each likely target at your place. Also check under-floor spaces, in roof cavity and walls too for droppings. Also vehicles, engine areas etc. Target your defenses to places rodents like.

Which of the many defense options are best for you? Traps, live-catch traps, baits or ‘Good Nature’ traps as used by DOC. Ultrasonic deterrents? Other? Baits are recommended to be locked into traps inaccessible to small children and pets. Check traps often and remove rodents as appropriate, or replenish baits if needed.

Health

Your health and well-being matter – physical and mental.

Our gardens can help lift our spirits if we get out into them. When we are down, it’s hard to feel motivated but making an effort is so worthwhile.

Here’s a few other ways to support our health this winter.

Check stocks of remedies for winter ills [coughs, colds, etc] are current and ready.

Time for a health check with a doctor/nurse/health practitioner before winter?

Vaccinations – any relevant for you/ your family /pets?  flu up to date? 

Exercise – not so easy to keep fit [so helpful for staying healthy] in the colder, wetter months with shorter days – what strategies can you include in your days? Gardens can really get us warm and energised when we work hard clearing ground, digging [if you dig!], turning compost, carting compost to gardens, etc. So good.

Heating

Keeping warm really helps maintain health. We can be warm while physically active in a garden. We also benefit from keeping warm inside our homes.

Time to get heaters out of cupboards, dust them off and turn them on to check they will work when you need them.

Heat-pump – need filters cleaned [easy] or a service to work well?

Electric blankets – new? old? been folded up in a cupboard/box?If so, do have them checked for electrical safety before use. Many house fires have started from failed electric blankets, and that’s a big cost.

Wood-burners – does it need the flue checked and cleaned before use? No birds nests inside?

Ultra-dry firewood burns hottest and cleanest with minimum smoke  produced – time to check supplies? And/or purchase from a reputable seller so you get dry, long-burning wood?

Draughts – waste your precious heat and bring cold air in. Can you block up draughts? Seal door frames and window frames, fit protective curtains [apparently duvets or bubble-wrap make great insulation over windows to block heat loss!] Make ventilation, not draughts.

Humidity and mould

Excess humidity encourages mould growth on our plants, and in our homes it contributes to poor air quality.

In the garden, check and sort mould issues on leaves, fruit and flowers.

What strategies can you use to reduce excess humidity to make a comfortable home? Ventilation, dehumidifier, heat-pumps also remove moisture.

Wet clothes give off lots of moisture as they dry. Can they ‘solar dry’ sometimes outside? Can a dryer be vented to the outside?

Check windows, frames, blinds, curtains etc for black mould spots to be removed before winter humidity sets them growing.

Clothing

Are the winter clothes still OK to use? Are your winter garden clothes threadbare/falling apart with much use? Still warm or time to be replaced?

Boots, gumboots, clogs, shoes, or whatever you wear in the garden in winter – waterproof? Or cracking up and need repair/replacement?

Kids outgrown theirs and need bigger ones? Any you can pass on to other people to keep them warm this winter too?

Bedding

Are winter bedclothes still warm or getting worn and it’s time to replace them? Pillows, too as dust mites love old ones.

Hot-water bottles – still pliable and in good condition? Or getting small cracks indicating possible leaks? Is it time to replace before this happens?

Cars and other vehicles

Battery – as weather gets colder, batteries work harder to start the car. Is the battery a few years old? Time to visit a battery supplier/auto-electrician for a check-up before it fails?

Tyres – wet roads bring oil to the surface and can be very slippery. Have tyres lots of tread [>1.5mm thick all over] to grip the road for you? If they seem smooth and lost their grip, is it time for replacements? You and your family are important!

Wet slippery roads – accidents waiting to happen as other drivers forget to slow down and drive to the conditions. Allow extra time for trips so you and your family are safe on the roads.

Windscreen wipers getting old and leaving streaks across the windscreen? Not giving a clear view ahead? Will cleaning them remove build-up along the blade? Or a new set?

Does the windscreen washer container need filling with water/detergent solution/your favourite mix so it cleans the wet road grime off for you to see clearly, even in the rain?

Service cars [brakes, etc] before winter sets in?

Whatever you do now will be so much easier than when winter weather really sets in.

So you can enjoy the cooler months and the gifts they bring. Beauty of winter flowers, sparkling frost, crisp fresh air and sky.  What brings joy to your heart in winter?

Take a rest from sowing seeds this week

Take a rest from sowing seeds this week

 

This is a time to wander around and really LOOK at:

  • what is doing well,
  • what isn’t,
  • what is ready for harvesting,
  • where you will soon have space for new plantings,
  • where you would like more screening from un-wanted sights,
  • where your lovely views are being covered by previous plantings,
  • where the cold/hot winds usually come from so you can screen, diffuse and moderate them

 

Do other garden stuff instead of sowing seeds this week. Eg, renovate your garden beds ready for Spring planting.

From Sunday 18th June until after the dark of the moon on Saturday 24th June 2017.

 

Add into the mix – the solstice, which, in the southern hemisphere, is on Wednesday 21st June 2017. Then days will lengthen again hooray! How might this affect our crops?

 

As the moon nears its smallest visible ‘dark of the moon’ phase, it is best to take a week off from planting or sowing seeds at this time as it is associated with spindly, weak growth.

For more information about moon planting, this post may help, or Organic Lesson gives a different, reasonably clear over-view. I like exploring such ideas for myself rather than just trusting and believing.

If you like experiments about when to plant for best results, check out the idea from a past month to see how the recommendations for best/worst seed sowing outcomes from moon-planting guides work for you. Maybe they do, and maybe they don’t.

 

At the minimum, these moon planting guides remind me to

  • plant SOMETHING,
  • plan a little,
  • and help me have a continuous supply!

 

Enjoy your garden and whatever it offers now!

Take a rest from sowing seeds this week

Take a rest from sowing seeds this week

Do other garden stuff instead. Eg, renovate your garden beds ready for a green-manure crop or for re-planting.

From 19th May until after the dark of the moon on Friday 26th May 2017.

 

This is also a great time to enjoy the garden, and see it from a broader perspective than just working in it – one thing after another. What does yours offer you? What gifts – large or small – has it for you now:

  • Scent of flowers?
  • Beauty of flowers to gladden and lift the heart [a wonderful balance to the ‘heady’ world many of us live in]?
  • Something to harvest – a great bounty or a few dandelion leaves [small new ones, un-sprayed, can do great things for our livers and digestion]?
  • Butterflies to remind us of the importance of joy in our lives as they flit here, there and somewhere else for no apparent reason? Are any still around?
  • Birds which are great friends in the garden [clearing up pests on our plants] and how can you encourage the helpful ones [and discourage the nuisance ones]?
  • Worms! growing rich soil to grow great plants?
  • A seat to sit on and reflect
  • Views to enjoy
  • Space
  • Energy and vibrancy of growing things

 

Here are a few areas we turn our attention to:

  • Remove annuals which are past being useful [read – scrawny silver-beet, lettuces, other greens heading to seed and not needed as future seed stock] to prepare a bed for planting come spring.
  • Plan to create optimum conditions to grow GREAT crops of your favorite veg or fruit. Check their needs – do they want very rich soil or less nutrients?
  • Plan your next seed sowing, your garden layout, or crop rotation to minimize pest and diseases.

 

Harvest the fruits of your efforts from past months – this is a time to enjoy results. Store mature pumpkins, squash, Tromboncino squash [ like zucchini but tastier], chokos, lettuce, endive, chilies, broccoli, kale [which is pretty well perennial here now and self-seeds well], silver-beet, bright-lights beets, beetroot, daikon radish.

 

As the moon nears its smallest visible ‘dark of the moon’ phase, it is best to take a week off from planting or sowing seeds at this time as it is associated with spindly, weak growth.

For more information about moon planting, Organic Lesson gives a reasonably clear over-view. I like exploring such ideas for myself rather than just trusting and believing.

If you like experiments about when to plant for best results, check out the idea from a past month to see how the recommendations for best/worst seed sowing outcomes from moon-planting guides work for you. Maybe they do, and maybe they don’t.

At the minimum, these moon planting guides remind me to plant SOMETHING, plan a little, and help me have a continuous supply!

Enjoy your garden and whatever it offers now!

Take a rest from sowing seeds this week

Take a rest from sowing seeds this week

Do other garden stuff instead. Eg, renovate your garden beds ready for a green-manure crop or for re-planting.

From 19th April until after the dark of the moon on Wednesday 26th April 2017.

Here are a few areas we turn our attention to20141225_171548:

  • Weather is getting cooler here in New Zealand, so check soil temperature when sowing seeds. Simplest way is to poke a finger into the soil – is is warm still or not? Some areas of the garden will get sun and be warm. Some areas in shade will be cooling down too much to grow seedlings well.
  • Remove annuals which are past being useful [read – scrawny silver-beet, lettuces, other greens heading to seed and not needed as future seed stock] to prepare a bed for planting maybe broccoli? Cabbage? Kale? Cauliflower? Brussels sprouts?
  • Plan to create optimum conditions to grow GREAT crops of your favorite veg or fruit. Check their needs – do they want very rich soil or less nutrients?
  • Plan your next seed sowing, your garden layout, or crop rotation to minimize pest and diseases.

 

Harvest the fruits of your efforts from past months – this is a time to enjoy results. We are harvesting Tromboncino squash [ like zucchini but tastier, chokos – in bulk now!, lettuce, endive, chilies, broccoli, kale [which is pretty well perennial here now and self-seeds well], silver-beet, bright-lights beets, beetroot, daikon radish, beans [including snake-beans/’yard-long beans’ which are giving a great harvest this year]

 

As the moon nears its smallest visible ‘dark of the moon’ phase, it is best to take a week off from planting or sowing seeds at this time as it is associated with spindly, weak growth.

For more information about moon planting, Organic Lesson gives a reasonably clear over-view. I like exploring such ideas for myself rather than just trusting and believing.

If you like experiments about when to plant for best results, check out the idea from a past month to see how the recommendations for best/worst seed sowing outcomes from moon-planting guides work for you. Maybe they do, and maybe they don’t.

At the minimum, these moon planting guides remind me to plant SOMETHING, plan a little, and help me have a continuous supply!

Enjoy your garden and whatever it offers now!

Take a rest from sowing seeds this week

Until after the dark of the moon on Monday 27th February 2017.

This week, take a rest from sowing seeds – do other garden stuff instead.

Or

Down-under, enjoy holidays, beaches, etc.

Or, harvest the results of your efforts and store for future use – freeze, preserve, dry, make flavored oils, vinegar, jams, chutney etc

In the northern hemisphere, it’s time to plan to sow seeds big time for future planting out into the ground when it’s warmer.

 

Here are a few areas we turn our attention to:

  • Weather is warmer [hot? depending where you are], so check soil moisture. Simplest way is to poke a finger into the soil – is is dry or moist? Some areas will be drier than others in different parts of a garden.
  • Put out water in shallow dishes for birds – their pest management efforts will increase as a thank you. Summer is a time when fresh water may be harder for them to find otherwise. Keep the dishes clean and refill frequently.
  • Remove annuals which are past being useful [scrawny silver-beet, lettuces, other greens heading to seed and not needed as future seed stock] to plant another round of ???  maybe a green manure crop soon?
  • Read up on types of seeds to plant for success in summer/autumn – and what not to plant now as they will bolt from small seedling to seed production rather than the parts we like to eat.
  • Plan to create optimum conditions to grow GREAT crops of your favorite veg or fruit.
  • Plan your next seed sowing, your garden layout, or crop rotation to minimize pest and diseases.

 

As the moon nears its smallest visible ‘dark of the moon’ phase, it is best to take a week off from planting or sowing seeds at this time as it is associated with spindly, weak growth.

 

If you like experiments about when to plant for best results, check out the idea from a past month to see how the recommendations for best/worst seed sowing outcomes from moon-planting guides work for you. Maybe they do, and maybe they don’t.

At the minimum, these moon planting guides remind me to plant SOMETHING, plan a little, and help me have a continuous supply!

 

Enjoy your garden and whatever it offers now!

Grow great tomatoes – picked our first tomato in late Spring!

Grow great tomatoes – picked our first tomato in late Spring!

Here’s a story I think is like ‘Jack and the bean tomato stalk’: or also called an update in our experiment to grow great tomatoes.

So far:

In early spring this gardener’s family were looking wistfully at the tomatoes bought from shops – solid chunks of red which looked like a tomato but didn’t taste of much at all. So, I decided to aim high – for something better – quality, taste, and an abundant harvest.

I planted seeds early [over a heat pad so they were warm enough to decide to sprout – tomatoes are warmth-lovers]. I planted seeds from varieties which had grown well in past years.

And I also bought an early seedling cherry tomato from a garden shop – you know the ones – where the little seedlings are shivering in September cold winds? I know it’s too early and they struggle when they are cold but thought ‘we can only give it a go’ so home it came with us.

To sit on the back-patio pavers, in a nook protected from the cold winds blowing through, where the sunlight encouraged it to grow, and was surrounded by a clear plastic bag to make its own ‘mini-greenhouse’. It liked this place.

20161009_171710And grew, and grew, and out-grew its plastic hot-house – and its pot.

 

It was still very early, well before traditional time to plant tomatoes out into the garden.  So, we improvised. For the details of what we did, see post Joy in growing and eating early tomatoes

 

And, in the garden, it grew, and grew, and out-grew its plastic hot-house in the garden too. So, I slit the top of the plastic-bag and let the new shoots grow freely up, up and away. I made more holes in the bag for air flow.

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And still it grew, pushing new shoots outwards, trying to grow through the bag. So, next, I folded the bag down, rescued the shoots, encouraged them to go where I wanted rather than out onto the patio, over the parsley, the beans and anything else. Cherry toms growing well make a rampant, large vine! In fact, we have a hedge of tomatoes now.

 

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Traditional wisdom says to remove lateral shoots to increase air flow so disease pockets are minimized. I find this a challenge!

The little plant I nurtured lovingly is now growing wonderfully, happily and I like watching happy plants. How could I hurt it by taking parts of it away? I leave it to grow as it will.

I do keep a watchful eye on plants. If/when I see diseased leaves or stems I remove them. Removing sources of infection, reduces the spores floating around the plants. Diseased leaves with blight have black patches or streaks, so these are taken far from tomato plants pronto quick when I find them.

Yellowing leaves, mottled leaves, dead, black or oddly curling leaves, I remove.

I also remove leaves from the lower stems so there are none resting down onto the ground where they would be closest to disease spores.

Keeping a covering of clean newspaper and mulch over the ground which could have spores present, seems to have greatly reduced the potential for damage so far.

Having plants close to the back door and patio means I see them frequently, so it’s easy to care for these ones. The other plants are scattered around gardens further away and get far less attention. These others went in around late October and are growing much more slowly than the cherry varieties near the patio. Most are 20-30 cm tall at present, and just starting to flower.

The experiment to grow early, great tomatoes is so far, a resounding success, providing our first [red] tomato of the season in late November – woo hoo!

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I’ll do a review after harvests finish next autumn, so if you are interested, keep a look out, or join our mailing list to receive it to your inbox.

The technique we used this year has already given far better plant growth and harvest than last year’s efforts where we added compost and planted sort-of ‘normally’. We’ll certainly consider this for crops in future years.

 

Take a rest from sowing seeds this week

Take a rest from sowing seeds this week

Down-under, this week take a rest from sowing seeds – do other garden stuff instead.

Until after the dark of the moon on Tuesday 29th November 2016.

Here are a few areas we turn our attention to20141225_171548:

  • Weather is getting warmer, so check soil moisture. Simplest way is to poke a finger into the soil – is is dry or moist?
  • Put out water in shallow dishes for birds – their pest management efforts will increase as a thank you. Summer is a time when fresh water may be harder for them to find otherwise.
  • Remove annuals which are past being useful [read – scrawny silver-beet, lettuces, other greens heading to seed and not needed as future seed stock] to plant another round of ??? maybe beans? or a lovely bed for chilies or capsicum or aubergine which like hot weather
  • Read up on types of seeds to plant for success in summer – and what not to plant now as they will bolt from small seedling to seed production rather than the parts we like to eat.
  • Plan to create optimum conditions to grow GREAT crops of your favorite veg or fruit
  • Plan your next seed sowing, your garden layout, or crop rotation to minimize pest and diseases.

As the moon nears its smallest visible ‘dark of the moon’ phase, it is best to take a week off from planting or sowing seeds at this time as it is associated with spindly, weak growth.

If you like experiments about when to plant for best results, check out the idea from a past month to see how the recommendations for best/worst seed sowing outcomes from moon-planting guides work for you. Maybe they do, and maybe they don’t.

 

At the minimum, these moon planting guides remind me to plant SOMETHING, plan a little, and help me have a continuous supply!

 

Enjoy your garden and whatever it offers now!