Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Moving Heaven & some earth

It was nice to pretend that I was operating the weather levers while Huey had the weekend off. In control over the weather dial, I seemed to be. Some rain on Sunday, not too much, about 9mm did the job nicely, weakening the weeds' grip on the soil while readying everything else for planting the next day.

And then I set the weather dial to very fine and very mild on digging and planting day, Monday (Aussies got a long weekend too, in honour of all those who served in wars for us – Anzac Day). Warm but not hot 22°C, no clouds, blue skies, perfect gardening weather. Hmmmm, autumn in Sydney...

The colour of our sky was the first thing I noticed when I returned from living in Europe for a year, quite a few years ago. Since then, I don't take our wonderful blue sky for granted anymore.

When I started digging I came across lots and lots of my best farm workers, like this person, who was not at all thrilled to meet me. While I mulch most of my garden pretty well most of the time, there were a few patches which I had deliberately decided not to mulch over the last few months, and in those spots worm numbers were well down, compared to the mulched areas. If you want worms, mulch!

After all the weeding, which doesn't warrant a photo, and turning of the clods of soil with a fork, which I forgot to take a photo of, the next step was much more fun – turning the clods and clumps of soil into a fine tilth ready for planting. For this task I always rely on my trusty Japanese Niwashi, which I have blogged about before here. It's my favourite job too, because I get to sit down on the ground and contentedly plug away at the soil until it's right. Deep down, I love my drudgery. It's good quality thinking time.

Rake level, ready for planting. Doesn't that sound easy? Perhaps I should add that all the weeding, digging, tilling and raking took up the first three or so hours of that glorious, sunny but mild Monday.

My excellent gardening adviser Geoffrey told me to not plant my brodiaeas too early – wait until Anzac Day – and so they have been chilling out in the crisper section of my fridge for the last two months. Monday was planting day for these blue-flowered spring bulbs.

For the last two years I've grown poppies for Pammy, who just loves these blooms. The first year I grew them from seed, and the results were pretty good. In the second year I used seedlings, and the results were much better, with more stout stems. So it was seedlings for sure this year.

Instead of doing my usual 'grow from seed' method with shallots, I bought a punnet of seedlings, to save time, which is what punnets are very good for. However, I sowed seeds galore in several other spots, so I'm really looking forward to seeing what comes up.

This is a photo I pinched from Google Images of one of the seeds I sowed. Nigella, or love-in-a-mist. I grew this flower many years ago and really liked its old-fashioned charm, and so I thought I'd sow a packet of seeds this year. As well as the Nigella I sowed some seeds of mesclun mixed lettuce, coriander, spinach, calendulas, baby beetroot, curly parsley, Chinese buck choy and another Asian green called celery leaf plant, which is a celery relative with all that celery flavour, except that it's very leafy, and the stems are thin. Should be useful in cooking, and yes, it was an impulse buy at a seed stand.

A while back I had made a careful garden plan, and then on planting day I didn't follow it. I did what I usually do: I laid out all the punnets and seed packets where I planned to plant them, and then had a think. My other great garden adviser, Don, calls this method 'put and look'. As a garden design tool, it works. Once consultations with Pammy were done and we both agreed that this is what we wanted (after adjustments), away I went with the fun bit, planting.

Poppy seedlings in, 20cm apart. The black strip on the right is my special 50:50 mix of potting mix and home-made compost, into which I sow seeds. That strip is a parsley border in the making. I love parsley borders. The rear strip running at right angles is mesclun lettuce. The seemingly bare, unmulched bed behind is where the brodiaeas went in. The rest of the planting was not all that photogenic, just seed sowing direct to the ground, but it was good fun nevertheless and the next few weeks promise to be enthralling (if you're weird like me and love watching seeds come up).

And that was about it for the weekend. There are a few parts of the garden that remain happily productive. Another batch of lettuce is at picking size, the sage behind is having such a good autumn that it still thinks it's summer, and an early pot of coriander raised from seed saved from last year's crop is nicely leafy, ready to add its flavour to both cooked dishes and salads.

The real highlight of the day for me was the sheer luxury of spending a whole day in the garden again. I've been so busy with work lately that I haven't had much time for gardening (apart from watering) or blogging. And so thank you Huey up there in heaven for laying on such a wonderful day to be outside just moving some earth and planting seeds and seedlings.

Now, if I could have that weather dial back for a moment, could I set it to steady 22s for the next few weeks, with goodly, soaking showers on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays? There's a good chap, Huey. Thanks so much.


Lanie said...

You had the weekend that I was yearning for. Although it was fun with social engagements, an ocean swim (which was cancelled) I found myself wanting to get home and plant my seeds, do some weeding and get the seedlings into the ground. Isn't autumn in Sydney great?! Good reminder about our blue sky too. A pleasure to read as always.

Chandramouli S said...

Huey sounds very friendly. A full day in garden! What more can a person with green thumb ask for! I too am a weirdo like you and wants to grow everything from seed - even strawberries that most people here think can't be grown from seed at all. I love that Love-in-a-mist - in fact a sweet friend sent me a packet of its seeds - only my first batch didn't germinate. I'm gonna try it again with paper towels.

Friko said...

from one gardener to another: dig deep and prosper!

Send me some of your worms, would you?

Chookie said...

I had a lovely gardening day on Monday too!