My friends are just great

Yesterday I called in to see a friend from olden golden days (school days), and out she came from her neighbours garden with some plants for my garden. One of those plants was Ceanothus Blue Sapphire. On the label it said it is an attractive dwarf ground cover featuring clusters of dark blue flowers in late spring and striking foliage which is ebony coloured during winter, changing to dark green in spring and summer. Which was a bit confusing because the plant I have is a standard form.

Ceanothus Blue Sapphire - standard

Ceanothus Blue Sapphire – standard

It also says on the label – originating from New Zealand and I have to confess I have not heard of this plant at all. The label says its size will be 40 x 60 cm – yet it is already over 60 cm grown as a standard not as a low ground cover.

It looks an interesting plant – so the question is how to propagate it as this plant seems to suit my environment very well indeed because it isn’t prone to insect or disease attack, tolerates a bit of shade or full sun, tolerates frost and will be great in garden beds or rockeries. So you can understand that this plant wants to be with me and I with it.

I love friends and I love google. The best method of propagating Ceanothus as per google does depend on whether it is evergreen or deciduous. I think that mine is an evergreen type.

Propagation options:

  • by seed, following scarification and stratification and planted out in late winter.
  • Semi-ripe cuttings in summer or hardwood cuttings in autumn – Plants raised from cuttings should be ready to flowers after two or three years
  • Evergreens can be raised from semi-ripe or hardwood cuttings
  • Deciduous varieties are best taken from softwood cuttings
  • blue sapphire 001

    My Ceanothus Blue Sapphire supposedly a compact evergreen low growing shrub will be covered in masses of intensely blue flowers in Spring. It will have long graceful arching stems covered in small very dark glossy leaves almost black in winter. I don’t mind that mine is not a low growing shrub. Being hardy, sun loving and drought tolerant makes this a low maintenance plant which will produce a wonderful haze of flowers. It is commonly known as California lilac because the flower supposedly looks a bit like the lilac flower. I’ll have to report later on that.

    Back to friends. My friend had a conversation about moi and my garden, with her neighbour and neighbours son living elsewhere had plants he didn’t need and I drive up having left Best Beloved at the Dentist for dastardly treatment and I am gifted the plants.

    How good is that.

    Now the fun begins – Where to plant and can I manage to propagate this plant?

    You too could carpet your garden paths

    Yes we know it is not usual BUT

    We have found in the winter that our paths are not very suitable for people of our very nearly advanced age and so we have been considering just what to do to make our garden safely accessible all year round.

    A friend had a big roll of old floral axminster carpet in her garage and she very generously offered it to us and of course we said yes please. We had already been using carpet pieces around most of our newly planted trees outside of our fully fenced vegetable garden. This was done to stop our free range chickens from digging up the young trees and for some reason we had positioned the carpet with its woven backing side up. Maybe it was because the carpet was a very unattractive beige.

    There is such a lot of carpet in this roll so we decided to use it for our paths inside the vegetable garden and you guessed it, because it is a floral carpet we positioned it floral side up. Wouldn’t you have done that as well?

    Yeah we know it’s a bit daft but a floral path inside a vegetable garden is just a bit special don’t you think?

    axminster carpet in garden

    Sadly we will cover it with some sort of mulch later. When the mulch breaks down it will be added to the garden beds and replaced as need be.

    In the meantime I shall enjoy strolling on my floral path as I work in our vegetable garden.

    Strolling on weed mat would not be nearly as enticing, would it?

    I am running out of containers

    And it is a bit of a bother.

    It seems as though I have been cooking for days on end – courgettes, tomatoes, peaches, apples and more. I have dried tomatoes and figs, stewed fruit, and I’ve even made Blackboy peach jam. Why would I do that? We don’t even eat jam, well, not very often. I have even pickled peaches which we haven’t tried yet and we have given away lots and lots of fruit and vegetables.

    But there are only so many people who will wish to take away a bag of cucumbers. Again I mean. After I asked would they like a few cucumbers and the answer was yes, and I gave them a few, maybe a dozen or so. Next time the eyes glazed over when I offered cucumbers. I just didn’t have the strategy right, give a few and they will take more next time, now that would have been sensible wouldn’t it. Maybe I’ll do that next year, or maybe our Audrey (the cucumber vine which has delivered 250 plus cucumbers), will not reappear in our garden next spring.

    IMG-20160318-WA0000Black Boy Peaches

    But the biggest bother of all is containers, or lack there of, and of course the fact that I have still more cucumbers, figs, apples and peaches etc to process in one way or another.

    My friends know that I have always shouted from the roof tops to anyone with half an ear listening that I simply don’t do desserts. My family has had to eat fresh fruit for dessert except on those rare occasions where a dessert really is required – maybe at Christmas or on a birthday or if we are entertaining.

    But now – you guessed it. I will now have to be a creator of desserts. I have stewed apples and peaches and I must use them. I must. I must. I must.

    So we have a freezer full of soups, sauces and stewed fruits. Cupboards with dried tomatoes and figs, a couple of jars of the pickled peaches and pots of jam.

    And it is what we wanted when we came here to Miranda.

    Yes it was.

    Yes it really was.

    I just didn’t realise how many containers I could need.

    We have lost count of the jolly cucumbers

    We have picked another 17 on one day and 4 or 5 or 8 or 1 on other days. Our plan to count all the cucumbers has gone awry as we have so much to deal with right now.

  • Buckets of tomatoes – to be frozen whole or made into sauces and soups
  • Courgettes
  • Blackboy peaches – they are not ripe yet but we (I) have been thinning them to make room for further growth and the the ones we have been picking are being stewed or are made into jam just because they are big enough
  • Aubergines
  • Beans – green and butter
  • We are also picking windfall apples, sorting pears to be stored and ripening others and checking our 6 fig trees daily to beat the birds.

    An after dinner fresh fig is such a delight.

    And we have just started a sourdough starter for making our own sourdough bread.

    So we have plenty to keep us busy right now.

    We think our cucumber count from one apple cucumber plant is well over 150.

    Another 10 cucumbers

    yesterday and I have yet to check today.

    Who would have thought – 90 apple cucumbers so far in the summer of 2016 – and all from one apple cucumber plant.

    another bag of cucmbers

    Since the beginning of summer we have been eating strawberries, loquats, plums, peaches and nectarines as well as our own avocados.

    What are we looking forward too?

    Pears, that’s what

    This year, our fifth summer and our very first pear crop.

    our first pears

    The tree is quite laden, but not dripping with pears but plenty for us.

    This excitement about another fruit is what it is all about, being here on our wee plot of land and literally enjoying the fruits of our labour.

    This year we will also pick a little olive crop and our first grapes and some blueberries too and black boy peaches and more strawberries and figs galore.

    Everything is good at the Fuddy Farm.

    Sometimes it is so exciting we forget to take photographs

    Yesterday was once such day.

    What were we celebrating?

    GOOD FOOD

    Best Beloved bought a fresh whole mullet which he smoked for our dinner and I gathered from the garden.

    I dug the first of our potatoes, and picked lettuce and tomatoes and radishes and the very first beans. There were only 10 young beans and we divided these equally. Not by length but by number.

    So we had boiled new potatoes smothered in butter and crunchy salt, steamed beans, and a salad of lettuce, tomatoes and radishes with the freshly smoked mullet.

    Oh and a glass of wine each.

    or was that two.

    But no photo – sorry

    But I should tell you about the beans – These are the 4th attempt to grow beans for this summer and the first that have actually grown. I am wondering if the seed growers are stamping a use by date on each bean and that the bean knows it and simply doesn’t grow.

    The first packet of seeds were past their use by date – 2014 and I planted them in early October 2015.
    The next were seeds with use by date end 2015 – planted in early November – no bean plants.
    The third lot were a new packet of seeds and we planted about half of them – and some popped bravely through the soil but sat there looking sad and lonely. We think they did not have enough sun and the soil was not warm enough yet.

    The remaining seeds of that packet and another full packet of seeds were then sown and they said here we come and I now have beans growing in three different beds – growing crazy, wild, and dramatic.

    We will have beans to eat and beans to freeze.

    Which is what we want.

    What did we learn.

    1. Use seeds by their use by date
    2. They don’t like cold soil
    3. We did add more compost and lime before we had success
    4. They do like warm soil

    where we are at

    To begin the process of change we do need to establish what we have and where and how it fits with the Permaculture strategy.

    We have 2 flat areas of garden with a bit of a slope between which was created by the previous owners of the property.

    The garden is fully fenced and the fence cover is windbreak cloth. It is about 2 metres high and is rabbit and chicken proof.

    Our chickens free range over the rest of the land except for two young ones aged about 11 weeks and they are contained in a fenced off area within the garden.

    Best Beloved has built 8 raised beds (about 30cm high).

    We also have 2 areas not raised but also in garden.

    Our worm farm is in a full sized bath with a door as the cover which hinged from the fence.

    We have 2 pallet compost bins, 2 other plastic bins, a 3 tier plastic compost bin and a tumble compost bin.

    Inside the garden we have 2 peach trees, 1 almond, 5 blueberries, cape gooseberries, 2 passionfruit vines, 1 grape vine, strawberries, an elderberry and 3 guavas and a kaffir lime tree.

    and lots of vegetables.

    The next step is to work out on paper what to do now.

    Maybe you have some ideas and of course I shall take photographs so it makes more sense

    we know not what we do

    In our garden we have been meandering along adding as need be, but recently I have been trying to work out the logic or the logistics of maintaining our garden into my 8th decade. I have about 18 months to go before I rush headlong into that 8th decade. Best Beloved is there already.

    I have been reviewing what we have done and how we can move forward with less physical labour but still harvest fruit and vegetables all year round.

    You would think that two people who have been gardening together for more than 47 years would now know something about gardening and I assure you we do.

    BUT

    We want to continue reaping the benefits of our garden but we do not want to continue working quite as hard at achieving it.

    I was lucky enough to find a book on the bookshelf of a friend a few weeks ago and I have now borrowed it, maybe indefinitely. The book is “The Permaculture Home Garden” by Linda Woodrow. The subtitle is “How to grow great-tasting fruit and vegetables the organic way – free of pesticides and chemicals”.

    I have not put the book down since it arrived at our house.

    My intention now is to convert what we have established into a thriving, easily manageable permaculture system designed to be sustainable and still easy for two oldies.

    I hope you come along for the ride.

    Best Beloved seems keen.

    Another 23 mm of rain

    We have had a drizzly sort of 24 hours and have woken up in the clouds. And we have still managed to gather another 23 mm of rain – everything is saturated everywhere I look. The wind has whipped leaves of the cabbage trees all over our grass – and that is a problem for Best Beloved as the long stringy leaves get caught in the mower blades and wrap them selves tightly and are the cause of blue blue rages. I guess to protect the environment from the blue rage I will have to gather the long leaves and deposit out of mowing range.

    I think the water tanks might be full but Best Beloved will have to check that.

    42 mm rain already in 2016

    Summer is here in Miranda and we have enjoyed the first seasonal El Niño weather event which has delivered 42 mm rain since the New Year began. I checked the rain gauge on Saturday morning the 2nd January and I was delighted with the reading.

    I know that in the scheme of things 42 mm is not that much and there are many who have suffered greatly under this weather event with a great deal more rain and extreme winds.

    For us it means full water tanks and that I do not need to water our extensive garden and orchard for a few days which is fabulous. The wind has meant our potatoes and tomatoes have been seriously buffeted and that is annoying but the extra water is fantastic especially as it is predicted that we may have a drought over the summer.

    The rain is appreciated.