Archive | September 2014

Don’t mention the “F” word!

Nothing great is created suddenly, any more than a bunch of grapes or a fig. If you tell me that you desire a fig, I answer you that there must be time. Let it first blossom, then bear fruit, then ripen.” Epictetus

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Plums!

My apologies, fellow-gardeners-over-the-fence, because I haven’t blogged about my garden for a month or so now. But I have my excuses. I have been up to my ears in figs, plums, grapes, carobs and the likes. Not to mention visitors, which has been wonderful as they often give me all kinds of ideas for the garden.  In short, I have been busy.

But as you sow, so shall you reap, as they say, and I am beginning to reap. Not only in produce, but also in the pleasure and satisfaction that starting a garden from the very beginning for the first time in my life is bringing me.

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A shady corner of the garden, where I have my pots.

We have been harvesting, both my farming neighbours and I. Some of our young trees are beginning to bear fruit. But even if they  weren’t it has been a bumper harvest this year, and as we are getting to know our neighbours, they are bringing their surplus fruit. Buckets of it. First of all it was plums. We ate a lot and it had rather unfortunate digestive side effects (don’t eat hot plums straight off the tree is my advice!) We made a lot of plum crumbles and froze them. Then I dried making prunes by drying them in the sun, but some rare summer showers didn’t make that experiment too successful. I gave a bucket or so to a friend and she made some lovely jam; that was more successful! And then I realised that soft fruit can be preserved very well in vodka, which can be bought quite cheaply in supermarkets here, so I have some very pretty bottles stewing in my kitchen, ready for Christmas.

No sooner had the plums finished and we were begging everyone not to say the “p” word than the “f” word started. Figs coming out of our ears! Donna Mervihosa showed me how to dry them in the sun (you can also do it on a low oven) open two into a flower shape and then put almonds in between each petal and close them together again. They look beautiful and taste divine.  I also learnt that after drying them, pasteurising them in the freezer for 48 hours is a good idea, as it sterilises the fruit. If you do dry them in the sun, make sure the fruit is well covered with netting, so no flies can get in.

Now it’s grapes. I have experimented with raisins by drying in the oven for four hours on a low heat and they taste delicious!  I will certainly do that again next year. We  look forward to the promegranates which will be ready soon. Although I am not a great fan of the fruit itself, last year I managed to get half a glass of jiuce out of each fruit and it was delicious! A neighbour made some grape juice, as well as making the most delicious cordial from her plums. I am tempted to try making country wines, but I havent got to that degree of sophistication yet!

I have also been seed collecting, especially with some of the annuals I have produced such as the Malope Triffida Vulcans and  Zinnias, not to mention the Salvia , which I bought from a supermarket herb collection  and which went onto be a giant pungent smelling and very beautiful plant. I am ready to plant many of the perennials from seed I sowed last Autumn and am just waiting for the first rains, which started today, so that they can get a good start in the ground before next Spring.

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I have tried hard not to water very much at all this summer. My more established gravel beds containing succulents and grasses are doing well with very little water. In fact, I have realised that watering in the hot months actually damages the aromatic native plants, once they are established, but it does take a great deal of faith to realise this. The mineral mulch has been excellent in shading the roots and keeping any moisture in and there is a huge difference in how much better a plant without the mulch survive in the summer, compared to those that have been mulched.

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Iris Sibirica, and Lavender “Blue Hidcote” grown from seed

I have just started my second lasagna bed and planted my first with this season’s cabbages. We  got a good crop of tomatoes and courgettes from the first lasagna bed this summer, which I was very pleased with. If anything, there was rather too much nitrogen, which meant less flowers on the courgettes than I would have liked, but I put all the year’s collected eggshells under the tomatoes and sprayed them with diluted milk and I had no blight or moulds, which I think is a great result!

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Start of lasagna bed using newspapers and “char” crushed from the barbecue and stewed in water and chicken poo!

Last yeat

Last year’s Lasagna bed, newly planted with cabbages and lettuce and irrigated with trickle hose.

So here comes the year’s beginning again, as the first rains fall outside the window. I hope you have had a good gardening year  wherever you are. I think of my fellow gardeners fondly as I work on my jobs in the garden. I hope your harvests have been plentiful too.

The first rains

The first rains and another gardening year begins.