Stacks Image 9

Outdoor Citrus Frost Cloth Project

Hello friends,

Sometimes it's just easier to buy stuff you need for the garden, and especially when the task you need to complete takes up a lot of time.

We were in the local garden center the other day and spied a new product on the shelves. Egmont is now selling a frost cover with a drawstring and toggle, and the frost cover is zipped on for easy placement and removal. The frost cloth is commercial grade, and the fabric is 30 gsm. I didn't buy one at the time because the bag is only 80 cm wide by 100 cm tall. The bag wouldn't be big enough to fit any of my citrus plants.

But after thinking about it over the Easter weekend, the bag would be big enough to use as a template to make larger versions that would fit my citrus plants. I went out and bought one after Easter, and it was only $10, which is a pretty good deal considering how big the zip is.

As you can see from the photos the frost cover bag is a rectangle which has been folded in two halves with a zip down the middle. The top is sewn across with a heavy seam which won't rip easily. The bottom contains a fabric casing to hold a thick cord, which is held in place by a strong toggle.

I tried placing the frost cover over the smallest citrus plant I have, which is our mandarin bush, and as you can see it is pretty squished inside the frost cover. It definitely needs more space so that the branches don't get squished. But the frost cover was pretty easy to put on, and the thick cord and the toggle did a great job of keeping the frost cover in place.

So even though I can't use this frost cover to protect my citrus plants, I can use it as a template to make bigger versions that I can use. And afterward I can use this frost cover for my small Camellia sinensis tea plant over winter, so that is a good bonus for me. In the coming weeks I'll make up the template for the citrus plants, and build a trial one for testing.

I did ask the garden center if Egmont planned on making bigger versions, but she said that this product had only just come onto market, so not likely this year. They were going to pass on my suggestion for Egmont make bigger versions in the future.

My suggestion is if you do have smaller citrus plants, that the Egmont frost cover is definitely worth buying for your plants over the coming cold season. With it being easy to take on and off, it'll save you time and protect your precious plants from any frosts that do happen.

I just need to now pull out all my current frost cloth stash and see if I have any frost cloth that can be used for making some bigger covers for my own plants.

Have a wonderful day


Want to discuss my post? Feel free to chat with me on Instagram or Mastodon or Bluesky.

Growing and Harvesting European Linen for the 2023-2024 Season

Hello friends,

As a crafter and a gardener, I like to combine my hobbies in interesting ways. In this case it was growing and harvesting European flax (Linum usitatissimum) in order to prepare some linen for spinning and weaving.

Back when we lived in Wellington I bought some Essene European flax seed (Linum usitatissimum) from Koanga Gardens. In the first year I sowed half the seed packet into a 1 m x 2 m space, and grew the linen plants mainly for producing seeds, so in years afterward I could grow even more flax for linen. My linen harvests thereafter would be self-sustaining. I now grow linen every couple of years for collecting seeds, and stockpiling flax stalks for making linen.

This blog post is showing the process of growing linen from seed sowing to harvesting. In later blog posts I'll share as I go through the flax processing and then spinning and weaving it.

The first thing I did was buy the book "Homegrown Linen: Transforming flax seed into Fiber." by Raven Ranson. This book is very detailed, and shows all the necessary steps in growing homegrown flax for linen. I then used it to calculate how to grow it in New Zealand seasons.

The first step in growing flax seed is deciding when to sow the seed. Flax seed is sown in spring when oats and barley are sown, and in our case it was in mid-October. If flax is grown for linen then the seeds are grown very close together so that long tall stalks are produced, but if flax are grown for seeds, they are planted further apart to allow for branching and more flower production.

After weeding the patch of ground it was to go into in spring last year, I fertilized it with a high nitrogen fertilizer in the form of sheep pellets, and then prepared the soil to a fine tilth. I then sowed the flax seed in a broadcast fashion very close together, so that the linen plants would grow very tall, with little to no branching. After covering the seeds over with a fine layer of soil using a rake, I watered the seeds in, and then covered the crop with bird netting to protect the seeds from the local very hungry avians. It takes approximately 100 days from seed sowing until plant harvest, so this was classed as day 0.

Within a few days of watering each day, the flax seedlings began to appear. It is always very exciting to see them come up.

And within a week, the seedlings were actively reaching for the sky. In the photo below I was growing the linen plants for seed, but as you can see, I spread them a little too far apart.

Once the flax starts growing, it basically fends for itself. If sown very close together no weeds will grow, making it an easy crop to take care of, as long as it gets enough water. And once the flax reaches about 50 cm tall, it begins flowering at around day 60. The beautiful blue flowers open during the day, and close again at night. And now that the plants are tall, they sway very prettily in the breeze.

Flowering and setting seed boils takes around a month. One of our neighbourhood cats, who we call Patches, decided to make their snoozing spot inside the linen crop. No matter how many times I tried to shoo them away, they kept coming back, so I let them be. It's a good thing they're cute because they ended up squishing a bunch of linen...

Once the seed heads (boils) have set, now is the time to think about when to harvest. It's a good idea to set aside a section of your crop to let the boils (seed heads) mature and turn brown, which means they are then ready to harvest for next years seeds. Their plant parts will be dry and thick and yellow, and they won't make good linen.

The rest of your crop will be used for producing linen. When the bottom half the plant has turned golden, it is time to harvest the plants. The seed heads will not usually be viable for collecting seed, but I've found in the past that some of them can be.

The best way to harvest linen is to pull them out by hand in clumps. Lay the harvested linen plants out on the grass, all facing the same way, with the roots at one end, and the boils at the other. Once you've harvested all the linen plants, it's time to stook the plants, which means creating bunches of sheafs, and then tying them in the middle like the poles of a teepee. You want air to get up into the middle of the sheaf to dry it out. Place the sheafs upright with the roots at the bottom and let them dry in the sun on sunny days.

Once the linen plant sheafs are dry you can store them until you want to begin processing your linen. The next step is processing my current linen crop, and this will occur in a couple of weeks after autumn starts...

Have you ever tried experimental gardening? I've done this in the past with growing wheat, and it's very interesting to see how food and fibers are processed. It makes you appreciate how complicated food and textile production is.

Have a wonderful day


Want to discuss my post? Feel free to chat with me on Instagram or Mastodon or Bluesky

Our Weather Station, and Our 2023 Weather Data

Hello friends,

With it now being the new year, I can now share the 2023 weather data from our home weather station. I like to track the weather each year, so I'm aware of trends like first and last frost date, snow, and also how much rainfall we're getting.

Up until March last year, I had been using nearby weather stations for our data, but when the two closest weather stations shut down, it was time to once again invest in a weather station of our own. We had a weather station when we lived in Wellington, but my husband accidentally smashed it when he chopped down a tree on our property (I did suggest before he chopped the tree down that we should move the weather station out of the way, but he said it would be fine...).

After much research last year we chose the Ecowitt GW1101 WIFI weather station, which has a 7-in-1 Outdoor Sensor Array: (wind vane, wind cups, UV / solar
radiation sensor, thermo-hygrometer sensor, and rain gauge), and a USB Wi-Fi Gateway. The WIFI gateway lets you import your weather data in a number of ways, and we chose to import the data onto our local server, and hubby made a local web interface for looking at the data. We also chose to add on a number of other sensors to the WIFI gateway, so we also have four soil water sensors, and a PM 2.5 air quality sensor. We currently have one soil sensor in our glasshouse, and the other three under each citrus tree we have. The air quality sensor is installed between us and our neighbour who has a very smoky woodburner. We have also just purchased two water leak detection sensors to add to our system, as we got a leak in our roof space last week, and had water coming down from our garage ceiling. We're going to place the sensors near our old hot water cylinder, and also near the garage in the roof space as an early warning system for the future.

We positioned our weather station in one of our vegetable garden beds, as it was away from lots of heat sinks like the house and concrete paving, and we reused the pole from our old TV aerial to mount it in place.

In this blog post, I will be sharing the general weather data that was collected during the 2023 year.

Yearly Weather Totals:

Lowest Temperature of the Year:
The lowest temperature for the year was -6.8˚C, which happened on the 8th of June 2023. This temperature occurred during a week of heavy frosts, we had 7 days of no wind and clear nights. This temperature happened on the third day of frosts in that week. This frost was responsible for killing one tree, as all the leaf buds had been heavily damaged. This cold weather led to very high PM2.5 air quality readings in all of Mosgiel, and we had to have two air filters running inside the house to keep the air clean.

Highest Temperature of the Year:
The highest temperature for the year was 34.5˚C, and this happened on the 2nd of February 2023. This happened on a summer day where we had strong North Westerly Foehn winds. This NWer Foehn wind set up is common in Dunedin before a Southerly arrives, and this can happen at any time of the year. NWers are common in winter just before a winter snow storm from Antarctica, so the temperature change can be quite drastic within a day.

Rainfall for the Year: This year we had a rainfall total of 931.4 mm rain. March was unexpectedly rainy, it's usually one of the driest months of the year in mid autumn. January 2023 was particularly sunny and dry, and we were on water restrictions until March.

Frost Days: Here in Dunedin it's cold in winter, and we get a large number of frosts, which is good for killing off pathogens in the garden, and helping fruiting in trees and bushes like apricots, cherries, and blackcurrants. We had 38 frost days in 2023. The first frost was on 22 May 2023 and was -0.8˚C, and the last frost was on 10th November 2023 and was -1.1˚C. The last frost date was particularly terrible, as it was well past the date where it is assumed plants growing in the vegetable garden would be safe, and I lost many vegetable plants including beans and pumpkins. My grandad always told me it was safe to plant vegetable plants outside from Labour day weekend, and that's the date I use in planting frost tender plants. You can find an in depth blog post on the November frost here.

I've included other Frost Days in the years since we moved into our home. As you can see in general, the first frost is usually in May, and the last one in October. The last frost in November 2023 is an outlier.

As another way of visualising the frosts in 2023, I've graphed out each instance of frost against time for 2023. There are distinct clumps of frost occurring throughout the year, and they usually happen after a southerly front has gone through.

Snow Days: I count snow days as days that we have snow falling outside our home at our height above sea level (30 m), whether or not it may settle. Snow means that a big southerly storm has gone through, and this will lead to frosts afterward. In 2023, we had three snow days, two in July, and one in October. The one in October was very out of character, as usually we get snow events between July and September.

These are the most important factors I look at in interpreting the weather data, but there is much more I could look at, for example comparing frost and snow days verses days that NWers come in before a Southerly storm. 2024 will be the first year I will collect data on NW days.

Do you collect your own weather data for the year? I found it's very useful for in planning in the garden. There's lots of amateur weather stations available online to collect your own weather data, but if you're a big weather geek like me, it doesn't take long before deciding to get a weather station of your own.

Have a wonderful day.


Want to discuss my post? Feel free to chat with me on Instagram or Mastodon.

We Had A Late Frost

Hello friends,

The very worst thing that could possibly happen in the vege garden at this time of the year, happened on Friday the 10th of November when we had a super late frost. The day before had been blue skies and sunny, with a cool breeze. Our local weather forecast mentioned nothing about a frost occurring, so I stupidly trusted their judgement.

We woke up on Friday morning, and it was cold. I quickly checked our weather station, and the temperature in our backyard had dropped to -1.1˚C at around 6 am in the morning. I quickly donned my ugg boots and dressing gown, and raced outside.

So much damage had been done. The ground was white and crunchy with frost, and so was the vegetables in my vege garden.

I was so upset. Thank goodness that everything in my glasshouse was well protected, and most of my dahlias were unharmed thanks to me being way behind in weeding those areas of the back garden.

My pumpkins were dead.

And so were my beans.

My potatoes were damaged, but they will bounce back over time.

My corn plants were frost burnt, but are putting on new growth already.

After allowing myself to be grumpy for half a day, I pulled out the now dead pumpkin plants and resowed seeds directly into the ground. I'm about to do the same with the bean seeds. I'm not overly hopeful, but it's better than just giving up I guess.

Have a wonderful day.


Want to discuss my post? Feel free to chat with me on Instagram or Mastodon.

Planting the first of my Potatoes

Hello friends,

I finally started planting out my potato tubers for the spring growing season. I meant to do it a couple of weeks ago, but more urgent gardening tasks got in the way. Every year I grow four different varieties of potatoes in the garden, and each variety we use for different reasons.

The first potato variety I grow is Rocket, it's a 1st early potato which only takes 60 - 70 days to maturity. I like planting these in early to mid-September as it means they will be the first potatoes to be ready to eat in mid-November for boiling and roasting. The second variety of potato I grow is Jersey Bennes which is a 1st early potato that reaches maturity in 80 - 90 days. When planted at this time of the year the potatoes will be ready to eat in time for Christmas, and we eat them boiled and also in potato salads.

The other two varieties of potato I grow are Ilam Hardy and Haylo, but they won't be planted until October. Ilam Hardy is a 2nd early/main potato that takes 70 - 80 days to maturity, and is great for mashing, baking, roasting, chips, and wedges. We mainly use this potato for turning into gnocchi, and also in potato and leek soup. The last variety of potato I grow is Haylo, which is an improved variety from the Agria variety potato. It is in my opinion the best roasting potato, and we in fact did an experiment one year to test this. I grew Ilam Hardy, Agria, and Haylo one year, and compared roasting them using hubby's double cooking method for making roast potatoes. Haylo was by far the best tasting roasted potato variety. Haylo is a 2nd early/main potato, and matures in 80 - 90 days.

With these four varieties of potato growing in the garden, we are self sufficient in eating potatoes pretty much throughout the year in various forms, thanks to storing gnochhi and potato and leek soup away in our chest freezer.

I began chitting both the Rocket and Jersey Bennes potato varieties back at the beginning of August, and it wasn't long at all before they started growing, and by the time it was actually time to plant them, they'd unfortunately gotten too big. A disappointment for sure, but they were still fine to plant into the ground, I did so very carefully, taking care not to break any growing shoots.

After digging two trenches in an area of the vegetable garden, I sowed five of each of the Rocket and Jersey Benne tubers into the ground. I always plant them in order from right to left, with the Rocket on the far right, then the Jersey Bennes to the left of them. Experience has taught me that the Rocket variety will indeed rocket up and produce a copious amount of leaves which will smother any other growing potato plant varieties, and block them from sunlight given half a chance. If I do it this way, any new rows of potatoes will get morning sun preferentially to the rocket potatoes.

It didn't take very long to plant those potato varieties, and then gently cover them over with soil. For the next few weeks as they grow up they'll be safe from any late frosts, and once they're above ground, I'll cover them with frost cloth every night until the last frost has passed.

In a couple of weeks it'll be time to plant the Ilam Hardy and Haylo potato varieties, but before that can be done, I need to transplant some dye plants I have in that part of the vege garden. But before that can be done, I have to prepare another area of the garden for the dye plants to move into...

It's pretty much a big juggling job in the garden right now, with the most urgent tasks being done first, even though they may not be the tasks I want to do. And I'm now behind in seed sowing as well, but I will get there I'm sure. The next rainy day in the garden will be a huge seed sowing session, and my aim will be to sow everything else that needs to be sown.

Have a wonderful day


Want to discuss my post? Feel free to chat with me on Instagram or Mastodon.

Show more posts

Social Media