Thursday, April 2, 2020

Panic gardening?

We've been hearing all sorts of stories about people panic shopping lately, but have you heard of anyone panic gardening? I'm pretty sure that's what I've been doing for the past week and a half.

By day I've been gardening, by night I've been watching YouTube videos about gardening. (I discovered Charles Dowding's YouTube channel, and it has been most educational.)

Well, maybe I haven't been panicking, but the urge to garden has been intense. Let's say that.
When our family decided to self-isolate (a week before the Government instituted its lockdown) I bought a bunch of seedlings and seed packets to fill out what I already had growing, so that I could avoid going out into the supermarkets as much as possible.
In one of my raised garden beds, I pulled out a couple of tomato plants that were dying of blight, and filled the space with cabbage, broccoli and kale plants instead. I covered the seedlings in bird netting, since I'm paranoid about any critters ruining my crops. Yes, I'm looking at you, Pearl, Rosie Posie and Bonty (my chickens and cat).
I then planted peas, lettuce and coriander in the understory of some tomato plants that had self-seeded in another garden bed and were still thriving. Initially I covered that garden with bird netting, but then I realised it might make it hard for bees to pollinate our tomato flowers, so I pulled it off again.
Spinach and coriander went into the space left behind by our sweetcorn in another garden bed. I covered those seedlings in bird netting too, since they don't need pollinating, but the chickens would go crazy over that spinach if they could reach it.
Speaking of chickens, I realised they were taking up valuable growing space in our garden, so they got the boot... to another part of the lawn, where their wire run can sit on the grass instead of on a raised garden bed.

I've actually set their coop on our fairy table, so that it will be raised off the ground and protected from heavy rains. That stroke of genius struck me about midnight a couple of nights ago when my brain wouldn't shut off because it kept thinking about ways to maximise our garden harvests.

Who said gardening was relaxing?
In any case, I've planted the garden that the chicken run used to sit on with three rows of carrots and one row of beetroot - good, hearty vegetables that can grow over the coming colder months. I've also covered that garden in black netting so that our cat doesn't use what looks like bare soil to him as his toilet and disturb the seeds.

Along with all this planting, I got to thinking about ways to top-up my raised garden beds with compost, since I always need it.
I do already have a rotating barrel compost system, which all our kitchen scraps go into, and a larger black compost bin for grass clippings and garden cast offs. These provide my gardens with a little bit of the compost it needs, but not enough.

I needed something bigger. Something to make serious compost with and to use up all the prunings and leaves from around my yard, which weren't fitting into my bins and were just making my property look messy.
This Charles Dowding video on composting inspired me to build something decent in a shady corner of our yard, so I cobbled together something passable out of the scraps of wood we had lying around, along with a pallet that my lovely friend left in the driveway for me. (Thanks Ruth!)
Back at Christmas time, I was blessed to receive a pair of long-handled secateurs from my mother-in-law. Boy howdy (see, even my language has turned more homesteady), have they been getting a workout this week, chopping up all our sticks and branches into smaller pieces for the compost. The kids have been helping me with the mammoth job of chopping everything up small enough that it will actually decompose. I don't know how we would have done it without the secateurs. (Thanks Judy!)
Leaves from the driveway and fresh grass clippings from mowing the lawns have also found their way into the new compost pile. It's satisfying because, as the compost pile grows taller, the yard grows tidier.

I keep looking around, wondering what else I can throw into the compost pile so that it can get big and hot and start cooking. My problem is that I have more brown matter than green at the moment, and nothing cools a compost pile faster than too much brown matter.

Anyhoo, that's where all my lockdown energy has been directed lately. How about you? What have you been doing with your self-isolation time? Are you finding it worthwhile? I have to say, I'm enjoying the chance to focus on things closer to home for a season, and am relaxing again now that the garden is fully planted.

If you are wanting to grow more vegetables in your garden space, Awapuni is sending out seedling bundles twice a week throughout the North Island (although not to rural addresses). Mitre 10 is also able to do online deliveries, so it might be possible to buy seeds and gardening supplies that way, although I haven't tried it. I've also heard that Kings Seeds is able to sending out seed packets.

If you do get busy in the garden, let me know what you do. I love hearing about your gardening endeavours.

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