Labour Weekend is nearly here! It's such an exciting time of year, with spring having firmly arrived, even in the colder areas. While all the non-gardeners are making plans to head away from home, there are probably quite a number of keen gardeners who are planning to take this three-day opportunity to really get into the garden and get some jobs ticked off. This post is a bit of an update on what has been going on in our garden, along with some ideas of what we are planning to do over the upcoming long weekend - perhaps you have some things you are planning to do in your garden as well?
First of all, I have to take my gardening hat off to my other half, who started getting excited about spring ages ago while it was still winter in my head. He has been working steadily in the garden for weeks and therefore should definitely be given credit for all the progress that has been made. Due to a bit of apathy on my part, he even took over my usual job of sowing seed and raising seedlings (with a bit of coaching) and our first batch of seedlings is ready to plant out. That is one job that is on our Labour Weekend gardening list.
Before starting sowing the seeds, he also built a seed raising bench into a quiet corner of the garden - an old sink from the local tip, along with various pieces of left over timber, and we now have a place to do our sowing and pricking out, after years of doing it hunched over on the ground. What an improvement! We've rigged up a plastic cover over part of the bench made out of tunnel house plastic, to try and protect the seedlings from cold winds, heavy rain, frosts (which are still a possibility here, even in October) and hail (which fell just two days ago).
He also built some seed raising flats so that our seedlings can develop some good deep roots before needing to be pricked out. If you are trying to think of a good project to get stuck into this weekend, how about checking your seed raising area and seeing what you can create to make it easier to sow your seeds, and to grow, prick out and transplant your seedlings?
Over the winter, we put a pond in the front garden, and recently we have been adding some aquatic plants to the pond and a few little goldfish went in last weekend. We chose brown ones to make it harder for them to be spotted by birds and cats, and they are all still there, so that is good. The pond is great to use for nutrient-filled water for watering the garden. The rainwater is plumbed from the roof into the pond, which overflows into the swales to help keep the water in the garden for as long as possible as we have sandy, free-draining soil. The pond also helps increase biodiversity in the garden, creates a micro-climate, and reflects more light into the house. We've planted our blueberry bushes around the pond and are keeping our fingers crossed for them to thrive and produce a good crop. If you don't have a pond or some water in your garden, perhaps this weekend is a good time to have a look at whether you can add a water collection system or a water feature in to your garden plan.
Another task for the long weekend could be looking at your watering system. Over winter we grew a crop of lupins as a green manure crop in our vegetable beds out the back, and we have recently cut them down and prepared the beds for planting out seedlings.
We have just brought out the electronic timer again and programmed our watering system to turn on in the mornings.....it's a great way to make sure you don't forget to do the watering. Just set and forget. Once the watering system is in place of course.
Putting in a watering system could be another good job for Labour Weekend......
After all my earlier talk of having been a bit apathetic, now that it is very definitely spring and warm enough, I have been doing some seed sowing. Last weekend I sorted through my tomato seeds and sowed tomatoes and capsicums. For those who live in warm areas, this may seem very late, as you are probably aiming to plant out your tomato plants this weekend, as is gardening tradition. It's not too late here though, and I got terribly excited choosing which varieties of tomato I want to grow this season.
Some of the varieties I have sown are Black from Tula, Sub Arctic Plenty, Brandywine Pink and Cherokee Purple. For pepper varieties, I chose Pretty and Sweet, and Dulce Espana as the varieties to grow this year. We had a couple of Pretty and Sweet capsicum plants in the garden last summer, and the tiny, sweet peppers are just lovely - perfect to use whole on pizzas, and just the right size to pick a couple for a salad or a sandwich. I hope I get away with having waited until now to sow these.
There are already some lovely flowers in our garden - some are plants that have wintered over, some are self-sown plants that have popped up and are very welcome, and it is so nice to have the lavender and chives flowering, and pretty little violas everywhere.
My sowing job this weekend is the flowers. My timetable for sowing these is a bit better - most flower seeds need warm germination temperatures so I may be back on track with my timetable from here on.
I did some of the preparation last weekend - checking through what I had on hand, making sure the seed wasn't too old, and deciding what I wanted to grow this season. I cut up an old milk bottle to make the plant markers and wrote them out in advance. Now I just have to sow the seeds. And then check through the catalogue to put a seed order in for a few more varieties. That is a really good job for a rainy day over the long weekend - it's not too late to do a check to see if there are a few more packets of seed you need for your successional sowing.
The other things that have been going on in the garden has mostly been about the fruit trees in the food forest. The family gardener has also been busy with the trees, pruning them for good form, and he has also tried his hand at a bit of grafting.....so a couple of our apple trees now have three varieties of apples on them, after he grafted on some branches (stems?) from the neighbours tree. He was so excited when the grafted branches started to show signs of life by beginning to bud. It was nearly a dance of joy around the garden! We are looking forward to our prune plum tree fruiting for the first time this year - see the tiny prune plums forming (photo on the far right)?? We've also added lots of strawberry plants under the trees in the food forest, plus lots of berries along the fence line.
The herbs have all sprung back to life, and it is so nice to have them in the garden (and the kitchen). The Lemon Thyme is my absolute favourite, but I'm pretty glad to have coriander self-seeding. However, the plant I am the most excited about is the chamomile (pictured on the right in a photo taken today). As you can see, it is just beginning to flower so I can look forward to soon being able to pick fresh chamomile flowers for tea (and drying the oversupply to see us through the winter).
Another piece of good news was when I could see that my tiny lemon verbena plant lived through the winter and is showing signs of life, so now I can anticipate picking two lovely herbal teas from the garden this summer!
So what are your gardening plans this weekend? Are you sowing, transplanting, redesigning, mulching, planning or something else entirely - we'd love to hear your plans in the comments!