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Thank you for the congratulations on my residency! Truly appreciate it.

I had to get a new pair of glasses this week after a pineapple attacked me at work and broke my glasses. I was stacking off cartons of pineapples in the chiller when one decided to jump out of the box and land on my face. My glasses, which I have had for 4 years, had one of the nose pads broken off beyond repair. I only had a minor bruise on the nose, but I was shaken. I was attached to this trusty pair of glasses, I have had it for 4 years when I used to wreck a pair of glasses just about every other year. And getting a new pair of glasses usually goes with an image makeover. And the new pair of glasses that I have chosen, after 3 painful hours of choosing, and deliberating, is quite a radical makeover. From the Oakley Bracket 4.1 to the Oakley Tailspin. I could have gone for the Oakley Tincup but I did not, for a split second, I was feeling adventurous.

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Rainfall this week, almost 1mm. Almost. High of 31.3dC and low of 4.9dC.

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Back at the Orchard Cottage, the garden has decided to have a life of its own. It is thriving on neglect.

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There’s plenty of spiders around, this is just one of them.

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This looks like a giant earwig?

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Plenty of bird food? What does stink bugs do? I don’t think they are a good thing, will be getting some Neem Oil and give the patch a good spray over.

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The raised beds have been taken over as well. Everything has been growing in a truly awesome way. Really fat good size corn like the ones found in supermarket too!

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The apples are coloring up nicely.

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Red tree-ripened apples. These are for cider, or juicing.

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So, some Jerusalem Artichokes decided to show up. I bought the roots from work and planted them.

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A very late blooming sunflower. And the only sunflower at the Orchard Cottage after I have sown so many earlier on. This is a sign that my new irrigation setup is working.

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The impulse sprinkler is also doing its job quite well, helping some of the young trees that were struggling to establish better.

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The Orchard Cottage this week. I am grateful for my new dentist, usually the most painful part of a dental surgery is the anesthetic injection, that large probing needle. The way the new dentist does it, I don’t feel much of the jab at all. Amazing!

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Received an email the other day from Koanga Institute, part of the content is about the potato trial. In the past, all you do is pay $40 to sponsor a variety, and that’s about it, at the end of the season they published the trial results. This year, they decided, and I quote “Everybody who sponsors a potato this year will receive a kilo of potatoes of the one(s)  they sponsor, that you could either eat or grow! We’ll send them out when we harvest them in February.”. That’s new. In the past, I sponsored Paraketia, this year however, I decided to go for Whataroa, as its the type of potato that is more suited to my culinary style, “Great for making oven-baked chips”. So which is your spud? Click here to sponsor one.

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15mm of rain has accumulated this week. 10mm of that, was accumulated within an hour. The high of the week is 23dC, while the low is 0dC.

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I’ve got a spare Albion Strawberry, and I decided that I will attempt hanging strawberry planters again. I started contemplating what sort of planter I should use this time, and saw the cute little 1L watering can that I have by the window sill. This cute little thing is just ok at doing the watering can job as the spout doesn’t work that great. Its new role, really makes me smile, childishly, like a kid, ear to ear, now I’m smiling at my laptop just looking at the photo, mum and dad used to think I’m up to no good when I’m smiling at the screen back home, lol.

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Guess what?! There’s 3 other types! Maybe I should start a family, it would be so kiddish cool. I use a coir and peat mix, and a teaspoon of water holding crystals. And 3 other variety of strawberries. Or even tumbling tomatoes. Or the ever so elusive Rhodochiton Purple Bells that I have tried for years and been unsuccessful.

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Daylight savings kicking in means that when I come back from work in the evening, I can still see the sun filtering through the Willow trees.

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And wander about the forest garden, marveling at the amazing beauty of nature.

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Tulips come in so many different shapes and shades. This is just lily like.

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I planted a whole line of them. And more around some of the nut trees. I’m definitely adding more Spring bulbs next season.

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What do you call this? Pink frills?

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Beautiful champagne color poppies.

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Nothing defines orange better than Calendula.

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And this Cornflower out blue Monday blues.

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I think Caesar has a better view of the forest garden than me. Bluebells, poppies, and tulips.

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Lapin Cherry flowering. This, I am training into a trellis beside the Dawson Cherry, both on Edabriz interstem rootstock. I was reading a commercial growing magazine the other day, and realized that some orchardists are moving towards a 2D trellis system. I think we saw the same potential adapting from the grapevine intensive monoculture.

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The apple trees are in bloom now. Beneath it, a White Borage, a bit rare but I’ve got a few self-seeded plants around the forest garden.

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The Pinot Gris from Okana Vineyard finally waking up. This year is production year. I’ll train the shoots over the 2 wires on each side, they can have grapes hanging down and I’ll throw a net over them.

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More sweetcorn is popping out of the compost bags. I’m into my 5th week of sowing now. The soil temperature is coming up nicely too, well above 10dC now, its time to sow the sunflower seeds as well.

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I poked some second year wood of currants into the ground, and viola! It rooted! Then I realized, I poked it into the same spot where I poke the stone of a Blackboy Peach. The Blackboy Peach seedling is just popping out now. Amazing how they punch through the pebbles.

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That’s all the tomatoes and capsicums seedlings. The big pot of tomato is Tomaccio, I bought 2 plants from the garden centre, and potted them into the same pot. All the tomatoes are grown two in a hole this season. I think I’ve made very good progress with the capsicums this year compare to the past. I guess the key is to keep potting up. The Sungold Tomato seedlings don’t look that great, I hope they will grow out of it. I realized that the stronger varieties are the ones that I have save seeds from. They seem to naturalized really quickly to local conditions. More reasons to save your own seeds whenever possible.

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This a a chard, going to seed. Its in the poultry patch. Not that there’s any chickens, or ducks in sight, there will be some in the future. Behind it, the kiwiberries are just waking up.

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A very sorry sight of the lemon and lime that were ravaged by those gusty wind last week. They are now placed in a sheltered area. They were once just cut back to a 12 inch whip and been indoors ever since, they done well indoors, and their foliage were not grown for the outdoors. Hence, I’ll leave them outdoors now, and I’ve got plans for them at the end of the season, they are coming indoors no more.

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Caesar is looking longingly at the playmates on the other side of the fence.

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The Orchard Cottage this week. I’m thinking of taking the weeping flowering cherry out of the pot, and planting it back in the forest garden. Plans for tomorrow, a lot of hedge trimming, and I got to give the wet room a good clean. I’ve sprayed the driveway and some other areas with pre-emergent today, its a 12 months thing, but I’m not sure if it will last for 12 months. I’ve also inserted tricodowels into the Goldbar and Goldstrike Apricots to treat for Silver Leaf disease, I hope it works. It’s not easy drilling holes into apricot trees, the wood is hard!

Come again next week and you might see more kiddy planter pots!

5 more days, and we are into Spring 2014! Can you believe it? 3 more months to Christmas, then its the New Year! Time sure goes by really fast. The trees that I have ordered from Edible Garden arrived yesterday, and planted out today, that pretty much concludes the Winter planting, until a hundred apple rootstocks arrive in Spring…

I’ve started my spraying regime. A blend of seaweed and mycorrcin. This is done weekly until I get lazy. I might switch to Nature’s Way Bio-Gold and Mycorrcin at a later stage. Currently, thinking of applying BioPhos around the trees instead of Gypsum.

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Rainfall this week, 8.5mm. High of 17.2dC and a low of -0.3dC. For a few days, I was enjoying the clear skies in the city, only to head back to a cloudy Banks Peninsula. Just grateful that we have nice warm weather today.

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I had a long weekend which started on Tuesday. So, I started work on some projects that I have had at the back of my head. I ran bamboo sticks around the top of the raised beds, nailed them in with 13mm pipe saddle clamp. I’ll be training the grape vines along the bamboo sticks. White Dalmation Grape arrived from Edible Garden too, and that went straight into one of the raised beds for grapes. I have added more windbreak shelter to the raised beds, the ones at the back were some old Olirete bird netting that I have, folded into 4 layers, now the windbreak run around the raised beds completely. I’ve also crushed up plenty of eggshells and spread them out on the raised beds too, that should help raise the Calcium levels in the raised beds. And some mowing and laying down grass clippings to cover up muddy patch.

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The sun is out today, so I took the lemon, the lime, and the coffee out for some sun bathing. If the weather is good tomorrow, I’ll have to take the coffee out tomorrow for a good spray to get rid of the mealy bugs.

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Checking in on the cuttings. This is not good news yet. Apparently, if roots have formed, the shoots will elongate.

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My very own Nikau Palm waiting to go into the ground when the weather is more friendly.

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All the grafted fruit trees are in the Belgian Fence line up now. 49 rootstocks will go in next and grafted on.

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The 4 peaches. From top, going clockwise:

Keri Gold on Myrobalan – The Skin is a golden colour and when fully ripe has a red blush. A freestone peach, with firm flesh, sweet and juicy with a slight red blush around the centre. The tree is reasonably tolerant of leaf curl. Grown by Mr & Mrs Cannon of Keri Keri.

River (seedling) – River Peaches are the ones that set Kay Baxter off on her journey. They are disease resistant, easy to grow and grow true to seed. They are prolific croppers of sweet medium sized, green skin with a red blush, white fleshed, free stone fruit. Ripen late January.

Red Leafed Blackboy on Marianna – Small/medium sized, with dark red grey skin, bright port red and white streaky flesh. A freestone variety, which ripens in late Feb. The fruit is juicy with a strong flavour and is god for dessert or bottling.

Batley on Marianna – Firm, honey coloured skin and flesh when ripe, tender and sweet, wonderful texture and flavour , clingstone, dessert. From  the historic house at Batley on the Kaipara. Outstanding peach, reliable cropper and disease resistant. Ripens March April.

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Then I did some grafting, mainly just stonefruits. Two stray wild plum in the far corner of the forest garden, grafted Whakapirau Gold on the left and Transparent Gage on the right.

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Then, some guerrilla grafting took place by the road. I am using this omega grafting tool, and trying to get used to it. It is different from the classic cuts with the grafting knife. I might try a mix of classic wedge grafting and omega grafting tool, just to hedge my bets with the 100 apple rootstocks.

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Then, I got carried away and decided that the Orchard Peach tree could use a lot of grafting. So, I grafted Keri Gold, Red Leafed Black Boy, Whakapirau Gold, and Transparent Gage onto it. I’ll graft some other varieties onto it next season too, just see what I can get my hands on. It’ll be my Rojak Peach tree. I’ve got a Rojak Apple tree planned for the food forest too! Rojak is sort of a Malaysian salad, a mixed plate of really delicious stuff, we use that term for anything or anybody that looks like a plate of assorted fruit salad.

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This is how I am going to be growing sweetcorn and cucurbits this season. Each 35L bag will hold 6 sweetcorn, 2 climbing beans, and 1 cucurbit. I’ve just sow 12 sweetcorn kernels that I saved from last season to see if my half baked seed saving is viable. There’s 20 bags in total, makes up 120 sweetcorn, 40 climbing beans, and 20 cucurbit.

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So, here we go again. The Orchard Cottage this week. I have decided to add nuts to my weekend diet from now on. I think there’s some nutrient in there that I am missing out, and craving for. I had this crazy cravings yesterday, it felt like I was craving for sweet desserts, like a cookie or a slice, and I decided to ask Google about my cravings, and my eyes landed on nuts, the section of the brain that handles cravings lit up like a Christmas tree. So, I head into Lincoln today, and got myself some nuts, and slices, and find out I really enjoy the nuts, but not the slices.

I realized how I enslaved I was to my smartphone last Friday. I dropped it, chest high, onto concrete floor, at work while I was having a conversation with my colleagues. Pretty much, for a moment, all of us had mouth round as goldfish. Something was obviously wrong with the display, but it worked for a moment, and later gave up the ghost. At that moment, I became a lost soul, disconnected from the world, dramatically speaking. I purchased a new smartphone that very same day after work.

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I did more work on the raised beds. The very mature compost from the old raised beds were transferred into the new beds. This gave me an opportunity to redo the old beds, layering the base with cardboard and newspapers, then a bale of pea straw goes into each bed and compacted down. Now, just a few good dose of used coffee grounds, fresh compost, and crusher dust, and Bed 1 to 3 is ready to go.

I did some sowing at the same time. Bed 4.

Pak Choi Flowering Kale Squire Mesclun Italian
Mesclun Kale Mesclun Lettuce Mesclun Oriental
Mesclun Red Alyssum Mesclun French
Carrot Mini Sweet Alyssum Carroy Paris Market
Chicory Palla Rosa Early Spinach Santana Chicory Sugarloaf
Baby Beets Onion Red Bunching | Onion White Welsh Spring Onion Ishikura | Leeks Lungo Della Riviera

Bed 5.

Flower Sprouts Kaleidoscope Flower Sprouts Kaleidoscope Flower Sprouts Kaleidoscope
Brussels Sprouts Red Ribs Brussels Sprouts Fillbasket Broccoli Sprouting Winter Rudolph
Flower Sprouts Kaleidoscope Alyssum Broccoli Sprouting Winter Rudolph
Flower Sprouts Kaleidoscope Alyssum Broccoli Sprouting Winter Rudolph
Brussels Sprouts Red Ribs Brussels Sprouts Fillbasket Broccoli Sprouting Winter Rudolph
Brussels Sprouts Red Ribs Brussels Sprouts Fillbasket Broccoli Sprouting Winter Rudolph

I was wondering, is irrigation really necessary for these raised beds?

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Harvested the corns today. From left, Early Gem, Painted Mountain, Rainbow Inca, Silver Platinum. Taste test, Silver Platinum is the best, however, its not the strongest grower. Early Gem is the strongest grower, but lacking in sweetness. Rainbow Inca is a bit starchy, seems to struggle a bit in the local climate. Painted Mountain is an awesome grower, only to realized its a flour corn.

I am most impressed with Painted Mountain, unfortunately. Its unfortunate that I have no intention of incorporating it into my diet, or perhaps, I have not explored that path yet. What do you do with flour corn? However, if I do plan to grow this on, it will be for the chooks.

My cross breeding project failed miserably this season due to poor site selection. Let’s try again next season, just 3 varieties, Early Gem, Rainbow Inca, and Silver Platinum. I have saved most of the cobs for seeds, hanging under the garage to dry out.

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The garlic that I left in the ground has started to sprout again. And they will keep multiplying, and that’s my garlic bank securing my food (garlic) security.

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At this time of the year, there’s really not much to do in the garden except observing, and what little projects I have that I need to work on. Of course, there’s the spraying and grubbing that needs to be done whenever I feel like it. Perhaps, I should get on to transplanting the old world roses into the forest garden, move those lavenders. Probably time to start saving seeds on the tomatoes. I am on the fence about giving the plants a few seaweed foliar sprays. The whole place is just about spray free now, except for some pre-emergent and grass killer that I spray occasionally. The only input is when I was fertigating from a fermenting drum of comfrey and other weeds. Even that has stopped since Summer ended.

I think I would do the seaweed spray next week, if the weather is good, just for insurance. Something about making swales in the entire forest garden has been playing in my mind for a while now. However, its quite a flat land, so I plan to do it differently. Its going to be used to just keep more rainfall on the land and slowly soak into the soil. Still thinking. Because it will be hard work.

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The Orchard Cottage this week. I am getting ready for an influx of plants next season. Grant from Thunder Mountain Nursery was kind enough to supply me with an Apple Foxwhelp scionwood for grafting as he was unable to supply it as a grafted tree. Among other things, more pre-1800 apple trees, and connoisseur rated apple trees, crabapples, prune plums heading this way. Oh yeah, 50 mm106 rootstock coming this way, a lot of grafting happening! And I am very keen to get the Red Leaf Black Boy Peach grafted successfully next season. All my stonefruit grafting failed because the scionwood has degenerated by the time I took them out of the fridge. I’m going to graft earlier this time round.

There’s the easy way, and there’s the right way. Unfortunately, they don’t rhyme all the time, but when they do, it’s called the smart way. Otherwise, its just hard work.

Last week, I mentioned about my citrus troubles. And I asked around for opinions and got quite a few, that I sort of just lost myself in it, and decided to go about and improvise.

For the indoor potted citrus, the challenge is to keep the top layer of soil moist to keep the surface feeder roots healthy, as potting mix are quite free draining, all the water will eventually goes down to the bottom catchment. Usually, before this catchment dries out, the surface dried out, and you would have to water again, but as the water seeps down, and the catchment overfills, you get water everywhere. The solution I came up with is to incorporate water holding crystals into the top layer of the soil and just about anything that holds moisture well, and the mulch heavily. I hope it works. And I really have to watch my watering on the potted plants. To improvise even further, I decided to hydrate the water holding crystal with liquid seaweed solution, which essentially, we can hydrate the water holding crystal with any form of liquid fertilizer.

For the outdoor citrus, they were planted in raised beds with very free draining soil. I have already mulched the top heavily with used coffee grounds, so I am probably not going to break up the mulch and incorporate water holding crystals at the moment. Instead, I tried dealing with the spider mite problem by reducing dryness which spider mite thrives on. I’ve setup misters, 2 on each side, that jets mist into the canopy every morning for 3 minutes. The subsequent droplets will also fall on the drip line of the tree and help keep the soil surface sufficiently moist for the rest of the day. It seemed to be working and I am going to setup the same for the citrus on the hugelkultur beds.

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As for nutrition, I am going to try Wallys Matrix Reloaded, N:P:K 53.9: 11.0: 86.8 (g/L), also Ca 43: Mg 10: S 16.8: Plus Fe, Mn, Cu & B. Highly concentrated stuff used in high dilution which I will use to foliar feed. And Garden Works Garden Guano Bloom, NPK 10-10-2+TE for watering in. Then, of course, there’s also the diluted man juice, for outdoor plants only! I had a feeling I am going down the path of, if you can’t fix the soil, foliar feed instead, if it works…? Not a very organic approach to the purist.

Finally, I’ve got a proper soil PH test kit which I am going to start testing them soil. I’ve just tested the used coffee grounds, and they had a pH between 5-5.5, which is pretty acid. There in proving that the McGregor’s 3 in 1 Soil Tester is not getting the pH right as suspected, the tester read a 7 on just about all solid medium, it did get the pH right when I put it in a vinegar dilution. Good mulch for all the acid loving plants. I’m also going to feed them to the worm farm.

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The latest addition to Orchard Cottage, a tea plant. So it says on the label, “easy to grow, easy to brew”. Seriously hope so. There’s this little spot by the house facing the North, I used to grow, and is still growing Biodynamic weeds in here, but guess its time for a bit of an upgrade. After all, an empty plot can’t grow weeds forever, natural progression sees to it that a higher form takes over.

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Finally, after a year, General Gallieni (1899), is flowering properly. Last year, it keeps putting out ugly deformed flower. I think one of the key to dealing with these old world roses is to prune them consistently. If any flower buds are facing the wrong way, cut if off. If the flower is done, cut it off. If the stem is weak or going the wrong way, cut if off. Prune prune prune, and be rewarded.

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Glamis Castle flowering well too. Somehow, I don’t enjoy David Austin roses that much, it is probably because they don’t comply very much to the modern romantic bouquet of tea rose. But if you are looking to amass lots of rose petals, these are the one to go for.

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And I spotted the latest bloom in the wildflowers meadow. A velvety red flower.

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Poppies of different colours.

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Phacelia has started to flower too. That will totally bring on the bees who are now still obsessed with the lavenders.

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This will be the final year for me to grow climbing peas. I will stick with dwarf peas next season onward. Though, there are just masses of them, my greenhouse looks as if it is weed infested from the outside. The peas are podding up beautifully, I will hold back from harvesting them for a week. The carrots in there, most of them are going to seed, they got pulled out and chucked into the compost bin. I also took heaps of wasted brown mushrooms home from work to add to the compost bin, with hope of introducing the spores to the Orchard Cottage.

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Look! A broccoli head is forming! Broccoli is in very short supply in South Island right now, prices are sky rocketing.

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All the citrus on the hugelkultur beds out back have received grass clippings mulch. Cosy and nicely tucked in. Further watered down with diluted man juice. I planted a spreading rosemary in between each plant. Sow lucerne, lupin, allysum, borage, and whatever herbs I have in the seed box.

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Walnut is finally waking up, mid-Spring. Sure take its own sweet time to wake up.

Last weeks wet weather has resulted in leaf curl on the supposedly healthy Orchard Peach. Interestingly, the Northern part of the tree is least affected, most of the curly leaf is concentrated on the Southern aspect. I am doing a tripple mix of Seasol, MBL, and Mycorrcin foliar spray this week.

John and Tina came over today to pick up some green coffee beans for growing. Gave them a tour of the forest garden and picked John’s brain on a lot of thing. After all, he is greener than me. So we decided on a way to do cherry on trellis. And to get the hazelnuts into open centers. And to strip the fruits off the top canopies so that it does not distort the shape of the tree. And the sad looking new growth on the Santa Rosa Plum is perfectly normal. And my broccoli is perfectly healthy and unaffected by the caterpillar! Well, I have not seen that white butterfly around, yet.

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The herb pot was renovated. I don’t use the herbs anyway. In they go, soil and all into the compost bin. I got 2 funky ficus and 3 sticks of bamboo to occupy the pot. They look very interesting. Definitely more of a sight compare to herbs.

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The Orchard Cottage this week.

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Caesar is enjoying the shade right now. The weather is getting warmer, soon the soil will be warm enough for Jerusalem Artichokes to go in.

It was a hell of a week. I got the tummy bug for the first time in my life and it is almost like the killing me softly type of food poisoning. However, I’m lucky not to get into the vomiting and diarrhea. I do remember shitting my guts out till I faint in the toilet thanks to food poisoning. This time, just a very uncomfortable tummy, a rather sore body, and immobilizing headache, the occasional fever too. I was on Powerade and digestives diet yesterday and day before, and today I was on Gatorade and coconut water, and started to try and get back into a normal diet, starting with soup. The worst is now behind, I just have to get my appetite back and regain energy.

I thought I would have gained immunity to all kind of sickness after growing up as a sickly child. I don’t even need the winter flu jab to fight off the flu. Guess what, I have never developed immunity to the tummy bug before, this will be the first, and the last!

Alas, Spring is here just around the corner! I am supposed to broadcast more wildflowers seed before a rain event, and two just passed and I missed both of them! Come again, a good dose of rain please. Winter is still making its mark, some fine frosty morning today and perhaps tomorrow.

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The peas have climbed and climbed and climbed and they have reached the top line that I have strung. I’ll have to make two more levels soon. Pea soup soon too!

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Seedlings are screaming to get out of their tiny cells. They’ll still have to wait a bit more. Maybe next Friday I’ll have the time to do it. Here’s the dilemma though, there’s tomatoes, peppers, basil, sprouting broccoli, and tomatillos in there. When I put those tomatoes in to PB 3/4, someone is going to have to make room and go onto the window sill tray, which is unheated, who? I am sure the first to go will be the sprouting broccoli. Who else? Maybe the basil.

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This is a view of the forest garden today. The ground is pretty green. Wildflowers abound! There’s still plenty of thistles coming up too, I’ll deal to them with the help of that salty product soon. Most of the plants are already moving! In a few weeks time, we’ll have some assorted beautiful spring flowers 😉

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This year’s paraketia potatoes are going to be growing in pots. I might be able to grow them all year round too because my hot sunny citrus corner is virtually frost free all year round! Anyway, this is the first time I have successfully “chit” seed potatoes! I wasn’t even doing them right like the experts tell me to put them out as single layers not to lay them on top of each other. I simply bang them into a box and commanding-ly says, “thou shall chit!”. Works.

Come again next week and I shall have fully recovered and doing more.

Part of the challenges of expanding into a thistle infested paddock in order to quadruple the size of the Orchard Cottage is that the new grounds are thistle infested despite of having been sprayed and rotary hoed to its death. Thistles and nettles are my worst nightmare in the book of weeds, I’m cool cucumbers with the other weeds, except for nightshade of course… but these thorny stinging things are quite a nuisance when one decide to wander the garden in their birthday suit.

So, I decided to unleashed the ultimate, the awesome, the amazing Malaysian Chinese Weeding Duck. This creature has the eyes of an eagle, able to spot the tiniest thistle seedlings from a mile away, diligently worked it way up and down the garden systematically to ensure every square micro-inch is covered and weeded of thistle. Yes, you can teach it to target an exact weed, and it will do only that and nothing else. The only drawback of this creature is that it does not like the cold nor the wet, gets the wet feet… Otherwise, its amazingly efficient and doesn’t quack.

And I ended up with really sore thigh this morning having duck walked the whole grounds, snips in one hand, and a spray bottle of Roundup on the other. I used the cut and spray method on the thistles. First, with a pair of snips, cut the top off the emerging thistles, and then a well targeted squirt right into the core of the plant. Repeat on every single thistles in the ground no matter how big or tiny. What I have achieved is severely attacked the spreading and very resilient root system of the thistles, knocking them back real hard, and at the same time the plants around them continue to flourish and become more competitive, crowding out the already knocked back thistles. Essentially, dropping a bomb into every single hole of a massive rabbit colony.

If you would like to embark on the same crazy adventure, some tips here may serve you. Compressed spray bottle is less tiring to use compare to the squirt as you pull the trigger type. If you have the means, perhaps, try using the squirt as you snip secateurs? Thistles form a root system, if you see one thistles, there’s bound to be more coming up around it. Thistles, don’t infest alone. You have to be physically fit to be able to duck walk the whole garden.

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Back in the cottage, the covers are off and the seedlings are fending for themselves. Tomatillos are getting really leggy, I may have to transplant them into taller pots sooner than later. This season, I plan to use PB 3/4 as the next step up.

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The tip of the flowers are showing in the very swollen apricot buds. The plum stocks by the road are already flowering too. I could start guerrilla grafting on them anytime now.

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Elderflower St Kentigerns, named after the church where the cutting was taken from a massive old elderflower bush.

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Finally the Peach Hiawatha and Fig Mrs Williams arrived from Edible Garden. I ordered the red leaved Peach Arapahoe before but they sort of sold out of it and offered the purple leaves Hiawatha instead, which is just as well, a reasonable substitute, they do have the telepathy to sense that I am after colored foliage. Purple skinned fruit with orange flesh, and again, claims to be resistant to leaf curl.

On the peach leaf curl subject, to be honest, I do not believe in any claims of a particular variety having resistance, or any sort of spray could prevent peach leaf curl. You can get a peach leaf curl resistance variety, and spray it first with copper oil, then with Mizar, twice, and you will still get peach leaf curl. So, why spray? I believe it is just a crutch, just like how I spray seaweed onto all them plants religiously every week. I did not get peach leaf curl at all last season, and I did not put any synthetic sprays on, and that orchard peach of mine wasn’t even leaf curl resistant. Yet, my friend on the other side of the hill, planted resistant variety, and all their plants were curled up, and spray free of course. Verdict? God works in mysterious ways that mankind is just too young to figure it out by means of quantifying and qualifying.

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Discovered some little Blackberry Navaho while I was prowling the garden. I am going to dig these up and transplant them into the canopy edges of the forest garden. And that was the plan for the Raspberry Ebony as well. To go into the forest garden’s canopy edges.

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Asparagus season starting soon.

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Tart cherry flowering. It’s heart warming to see the fruit trees starting to flower. I also noticed the Pear Louise Bon Jersey is going through the bud burst stage, but I have not inspected it to see if it is flowering or leafing out. Will do that in a minute.

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In the greenhouse. Peas are about 2 feet high now.

Dieter came back to me with some pretty positive news. He may be able to provide me with the required scionwood! Yays! Koanga on the other hand did not responded well, they are unwilling to break up the bundle of 4. So, my decision is that I have to put in my gladioli and artichoke back orders to them by the end of this month along with some corn and bean seed orders, if those kiwiberry are still in stock, I will get them too. I’ll plant them as pairs to induce some root competition for vigor control.

I finally understand what pay yourself first means after mum showed me the simple formula last night. It sounded easy, but it wasn’t. I was sort of trying to do that, but I wasn’t very disciplined about it either. I am trying to put away 50% of my take home pay every week, and that means that I really have to be careful about controlling my spending on non-essentials, like my garden.

I’m getting there, holding myself off from buying more seeds than truly needed, to keep reminding myself to check my seed bank before ordering any new seeds. I can’t help it, one of my favorite part times is reading seed and plant catalogs. I wanted to spend $360 on a Quad Thermo Heat N Grow propagator. But I already have a set.

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This thing of mine holds from 96 cells to 144 cells at one go. I’ve also make a mikroclima cover for it, everything works like clockwork. Then, a bit more contemplating, I thought of spending $156 on 4 Vented Large Propagator instead. I could use that to finish off the seedlings outdoor. And more thinking later, I decided on the most utilitarian form. I have plenty of wooden 100cm x 50cm seedling trays that I salvage from the orchard, I can incorporate them into a simple shelf unit 2m high, and with mikroclima covers for minimal cost, and there, I have my own outdoor seedlings nursery. It’s really time to rein in my expenditures, and bring in some side income.

The heated propagator are all ready to go, I’ll start the Pepper Jingle Belles and an assortment of tomatoes next week. The plan with the tomatoes is for grafting onto some interesting selection of rootstocks. I had in mind for rootstocks, a wild tomato where the seeds were saved from MegaTom, Tomato MonteCarlo F1 which is a vigorous plant resistant to wilt, fusarium and nematodes, and finally, Tomaccio, though mine will be of seeds saved from the F1, Tomaccio is the result of a breeding program using a wild Peruvian tomato species. Thing about the nightshade family is that the rootstock is able to transfer its properties to the scion, therefore, grafting a tomato onto a poison nightshade might give us a poisonous tomato.

There’s 3 rootstock selection, but I only want 2 of each scion variety in my greenhouse at the end of the day. How do I go about it? My feeling about it is to pair the cherry tomatoes scion with MonteCarlo F1 and Tomaccio F2, and the regular size tomatoes with MegaTom and MonteCarlo F1. Hopefully, MegaTom will prove itself the least favorable of them all and I can easily continue the trend in the future without the MegaTom, which I am not sure if it is really a wild tomato because we accidentally consume it last season and couldn’t really tell it apart from a mainstream tomato. I had a feeling it is just a more vigorous and disease resistant mainstream variety, hence why I decided to try MonteCarlo F1 and Tomaccio F2 to discover my own favorites.

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I’m all set for grafting, budding, slicing, or whatever. I am yet unable to explain this thing about boys and knifes. Throw in a sharpening stone and it gets worse. In my honest opinion, the Bahco grafting knife is my least favorite, though it has the meanest look. The Victorinox grafting knife looks like a shaving blade. And there, my trusty Victorinox Swiss Army knife which I have had for ages. I’ll be using the Victorinox grafting knife for all my propagation work as it comes highly recommended during a plant propagation workshop last season. Mainly due to the design of the shape of the blade, which makes top working easy, and that the blade is single sided, which makes shaping the scionwood easy too!

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That’s the display for my old weather station which sits in the greenhouse. 31.4dCelcius in the greenhouse! It is only half that temperature outdoors. On a sunny day, the greenhouse can be 10dCelcius warmer than outdoors. Very interesting.

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That’s the peas growing in the greenhouse. They are absolutely roaring away. Good news too, I’m measuring the ground temperature. Its about 10dCelcius in the greenhouse. 8dC in the tucker patch, 9dC in the forest garden, 7dC behind the house, 8dC where the Citrus will be doing. I’ll try to take a measure every week in the late afternoon. So far, the temperature has not gone below 0dC this week, though I noticed there’s a light frost in certain parts of the garden.

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I think I am finally going to have a flowering plum display this season. The buds are swelling up, just almost ready to go! Same to the blueberries and sour cherry! One can truly feel Winter is coming to an end and Spring is just around the corner. The hills are painted yellow by gorse flowers, and of course, the farmers got the chopper in to spray them off.

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The wildflowers are coming through. The seedlings are now at a distinguishable size. I can see phacelia, allysum, poppies, so on and so fort! There’s also plenty of thistles and nettles, which I am going around weekly to spot spray the thistles, which badly infest the ex-paddock.

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Dawson cherry on edabriz interstem getting espaliered. I’ll have to do some notching to get it to push out some shoots at some intended spots. Hopefully, it will know what to do and I don’t have to do it. Lapins cherry on edabriz interstem coming soon too, from Diacks Nurseries.

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I like brussels sprouts, or I thought I like brussels sprouts. But I don’t have much luck growing them, in photos I see them standing up on their own, so I didn’t bother to stake them. And they just flop over for the whole season and gave me dirty sprouts, slugs seconds, and so on. I’m not throwing in the towel yet. They got staked, and all the ugly sprouts stripped. Hopefully, they will give me a good crop in Spring. they do look better standing up.

There are so many things on my mind. So many things I want to do. I better start generating some income on this very capital intensive obsession of mine. And the best way would be plant propagation, and high value plants would be the way to go. Will the Almost Organic Orchard Cottage turn into a homegrown Almost Organic Nursery? Time will tell.

I have taken my life off Facebook for almost a month now. Maybe more. I did not keep track on that. It feels good. Not to be an addicted slave to a virtual world, virtually empty. Not to lay in bed before I go to sleep, and when I wake up in the morning, smartphone in hand viewing Facebook. Not to jump onto Facebook during every break. A recent research shows that Instagram can be depressing, and I would like to add, so can Facebook. If I roll over and die every time I get exposed to nonsense, Facebook would be like exposure on steroids. Anyway, if you are reading this, and you are on my friends list on Facebook, just know that I have disabled all forms of interaction and sharing, I only used the messenger to chat with my mum and friends now.

Now for some mind boggling stuff which I came up with when my mind is boggling. I’m not sure if they are original, I am sure someone with perhaps equal or more wackiness in their brain cells would come up with these…

What tractor climbs tree?

Caterpilar.

Why can’t the John Deere get into the farm?

The farm was deer fenced.

Why was the blue tractor deported?

It didn’t have a valid visa (New Holland).

Seriously lame aye~ Good night!

 

We had a closed to flooding situation on Monday. The river flow went right up to 30 cubic meters per second after more than 50mm of continuous rainfall and cold Southerlies! I have never seen the river level this high in Autumn before. Seriously need to think about my chooks plan.

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I got quite a handful of books from the library with regards to building my own coop. I have just about designed the ideal coop in my mind for the Orchard Cottage. It will be a walk-in all-in-one coop. The coop itself will be raised 1m off the ground to keep the chooks dry if it ever floods, at the same time, up and away from the cold air beneath. This means that there should also be room to put the feeder and water up, hmmm, maybe a mezzanine floor? 2 nest box with a roll away tray, in which case I might have the nesting box actually inside the coop, while the roll away tray would be outside. It will not have a very high ceiling so that the chooks can keep the place warm easily with their body temperature.

Its a week of reading. I didn’t get much done. Just bits and bobs here and there.

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I’ve got my hand on some concrete pavers, No better place to put them than there. Now, that’s a straight line, easy on the lawnmower. Keeps my boots dry too while unloading stuff from the car straight into the house. And to think of my parents always tell me to take off my shoes before I enter the house back home, and the floor on the car porch is tiled.

I’ve got the netting for the raised beds lined up. The mikroclima for the greenhouse lined up, just need to build a door, tomorrow. The irrigation for the vege garden lined up, to be installed tomorrow. The windbreak for the new fence in the South lined up, need some screws for mounting, next week. Low grow blend of wildflowers seed to sow, tomorrow, and I will thin it down with coal dust. Trees to order and plant. Lots of them!

Coal dust. What is it? Essentially the by-product of the coal industry. If you have read the Bio-char Solution, you will know where I am adapting from. Mind you, what I have here, is what fertilizer manufacturer use as raw ingredient to produce humic acid and the lot. Coal, is essentially mineral of fossilized carbon. It is the charcoal of Mother Nature. This will be my attempt to improve the long-term carbon levels of the soil. I call them dust, but they are about the grit of sand, if not larger, and a bit of dust in between.

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I can’t wait for my very first lemon from the Meyer! Mind you, there’s a major local grown lemon supply shortage last week due to the drought in Summer. Will spray my citrus trees with some citrus food tomorrow morning!

Caesar did not like his roof garden and sought to remove all the cherry rootstocks and scatter them all over the place. On second thought, he might be trying to develop green paws and plant some trees instead. He is no vegetarian.

 

 

We have started the pick your own season at the orchards. It was absolute mayhem. People seems to be mentally challenged in reading signs. Or appreciate the fact that food is scarce and should not be thoughtlessly discarded. At the end of the first day, the orchard floor is littered with cherries! I was so disgusted and I am still very  disgusted now. What has humanity done upon itself?

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Well, at least those people figured out how to park their cars in the paddock. Despite them not using the planned path on occasion. There’s always a first time for everything, so we just put up more signage. If people can’t read arrows and symbols, they can read words. If they can’t do that either, they should really not be driving.

Anyway, we have ran out of ripe cherries. These hungry people cleaned us out. We have to shut the gate for a couple of days so that the next variety have time to ripen up for the picking. Ripe cherry makes happy customers. Ripe cherry weighs more too! However, it has always amused me to see people pick unripe dark cherries thinking they were picking white cherries. That’s for not picking in the designated area!

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My yoghurt finally made it, after the 3rd try! I use the Natren Yoghurt Starter which makes traditional Bulgarian-style yoghurt. I use it on raw organic milk. And add my Bio Dynamic strawberries into it along with honey. That’s wholesome goodness 😉

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At the Orchard Cottage, the Summer has brought in rapid growth. The tomatoes and potatoes growing alongside each other in the cloche bed are doing really well. I started the potatoes quite early, and used the cloche to protect them from frost. A lesson learned about planting out tomatoes and peppers is to wait until after show day, as long as I have them in a pretty large bag to grow in. And did someone say something about not growing tomatoes and potatoes together? I am taking a risk here, but I figure if my potatoes are coming out of the ground by Christmas, I don’t really have much to worry about.

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The corns and beans are doing really well too! In my ignorance, I did not sow the beans a week or two later than the corns. Now the beans are looking for something to cling on to… Air. The corns are growing really well though. Early Gem definitely going for it, so much vigour. I am very keen on developing open pollinated cross between Early Gem with Rainbow Inca and Silver Platinum which will give it more flavor, and yet have a shorter sowing to harvesting period which is very ideal for the local climate.

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The roses are infested by aphids. Every single one of them. They give me the chills up the spine. I have never seen such mad infestation before. Disease resistance, old world, David Austin, doesn’t make a difference, still covered with aphids. I’ve done a neem soap spray in the evening yesterday followed by a neem oil spray this morning. Tomorrow morning I am likely going to do a soil drench with Seasol, in hope the seaweed will help give the roses a booster.

There will be no picture of Caesar today as he is becoming very famous. The customers just love him and his picture is probably all over some Chinese version of Facebook by now.

 

 

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