I'm in the middle of working on my Winter Citrus Garden Project, so that I can put my lemon, lime and mandarin plants into the ground this coming spring. They are too big for their pots, and need their own space to expand into in the garden. Of course this means that from next autumn and winter I will need to protect them from frosts and snow while living outside, but I've figured that this a problem for future me to sort out...
For the past couple of months I've been planning, and then preparing three areas of the garden for the citrus plants will move into. My citrus plants currently spend spring, summer, and the first part of autumn sitting on the patio, which pretty much gets all day sun. I love the way the plants look in our brick patio, especially when they're in flower and fruiting, it makes the area feel very Mediterranean, so I decided that the plants had to go into the ground near this space.
The mandarin tree is quite wide, so it will be going into the position previously held by the rhododendron bush behind the fence as shown in this photo.
So far over the winter, hubby and I have chopped down the rhododendron behind the fence, and more recently I've water blasted the fence for painting. I don't particularly like rhododendron plants, the main reason being that rhododendron nectar is actually poisonous to Tui, and can kill them, which is why I didn't mind getting rid of it. My plan here is to paint the fence white, not only will the fence and mandarin provide a pop of colour in the garden, but it will also make the fence easier to see in the dark while driving down the driveway...
The next area to prepare, is for the lemon tree. As seen in this photo, the lemon tree is small and round, and it will be moving sideways as seen in this photo, into the herb garden bed under our kitchen window.
Last week I tidied up the herb garden for the winter, and left the thyme and rosemary plants to stay where they currently are (after giving them a big hair cut). The lemon tree will sit in the middle of the herb garden as seen in the photo below, and the mint and saffron plants will sit on the right.
The last area to prepare is for our lime bush. It is much more bushy and bigger than the lemon bush, and it will be going into the spot where the small Japanese maple tree used to be.
We really loved the Japanese maple tree, that you can see in the photo above, but the previous owners put the tree in a bad spot in the patio. The base of its trunk was right up against the brick wall for the driveway, and as it got bigger, its roots and trunk started damaging both the fence and the patio. Half the tree also stuck out into the driveway, making driving out of the garage tricky at times.
Over the last couple of weeks we chopped the Japanese maple tree down, and then spent a lot of time digging up as much of the roots as possible, in order to ensure there would be space to put the lime bush into. This part of the project actually took way more work than I first envisioned, so I feel like I'm somewhat behind in the project at this stage.
The next step in this winter citrus gardening project is to paint both the fence, and also the board holding back the soil where the lime tree will go. And given that it's winter in Dunedin, and it's rare that the temperature will be above 10˚C long enough for paint to dry and cure, this step will only happen on a sunny day with a warm north westerly wind, no doubt. This may take weeks to happen, so in the mean time I'll continue to work on other garden projects.
What winter gardening projects are you up to? I'd be interested to find out.
Have a wonderful day
We're now into the last month of winter, and it's finally time to start sowing seed for spring. It's a tricky time of the year, as it's possible to get snow here in Dunedin even into the first week of October, so there's nothing worse than sowing seeds too early, and then having to try and keep them alive if there's a late frost or snow in early October. Last year we had snow laying on the ground the first week of October, and a couple of frosts the weeks after that, so it was a stressful time trying to keep all my seedlings alive, looking after my growing potato plants, as well as my new dahlias which had just popped out of the ground. Seedlings don't get transferred outside and into the vegetable garden until Labour Weekend, which is the third weekend of October, so that's a long way off right now.
I have a specific order in which to germinate seeds, so that I don't have too many plants sitting in the glasshouse for such a long period of time. The first seeds sown are my tomato plants. I grow enough plants for our own needs, but also for family members as well. I usually have at least 12 plants growing in our glasshouse, and poke any others that are spare in free space I have in the vegetable garden. We eat a lot of tomatoes fresh throughout the summer, but the bulk of it is frozen away for using in autumn and winter cooking.
This year I'm growing the following tomato varieties:
Franchi Sementi Pomodoro Red Cherry - A red cocktail tomato with great taste. This is no longer for sale in New Zealand, I save this seed every year.
Kings Honeybee F1 - I haven't tried this one before, I wanted to try another cocktail tomato, we'll see how this goes. One of my sister's grows her tomatoes outside, and it's far easier to ripen smaller tomatoes in Dunedin's short summers.
Kings Tomato Juane Flamme - Our favorite tomato, an orange tomato with the best taste of any tomato I've ever grown.
Tomato Grosse Lisse - A beefsteak tomato that was a favorite of my grandfather. The best tomato for putting a slice on a hot piece of toast, and eating it with a pinch of salt on top.
Tomato Island Bay Italian - I haven't grown this tomato variety before, but I've heard good things about it. Good for eating fresh and processing apparently.
Tomato Lebanese - Also a new tomato variety this year, I'm hoping it will have good disease resistance, and tastes good too.
The next seeds to be germinated are my chilli and capsicums plants. I've successfully grown chillies in our greenhouse, but I haven't had any luck with the big traditional bell pepper capsicums.
This year I'll be growing the following chillies and peppers:
Chilli Serrano - I had a huge crop of chilli last season, so I'm growing this variety again.
Alma Paprika Pepper - Trying once again to grow my own paprika. Last season they didn't grow as well as I hoped, am trying again for the last time.
Capsicum Marconi Red - A prolific sweet Italian variety. I'm hoping that it's narrow shape will mean it ripens faster.
Capsicum Orange Sun - My last attempt at growing a bell pepper variety.
Capsicum Red Bell F1 - Also another last attempt at successfully growing a bell pepper variety.
The tomato and chilli seeds were sown into two mini greenhouses, and placed in a warm sunny spot in our dining room. It's warm in there on sunny days, and also thanks to the benefit of our wood burner being in that room, they're kept warm in there every night in winter. I'm eagerly waiting for the seeds to germinate.
The next seeds to be sown are all my sweet pea varieties. I've collected quite a lot of Keith Hammett varieties over the years, he's a New Zealand breeder who produces the most stunning sweet peas. Sweet peas germinate in cool temperatures, so they are now potted up and put into the glasshouse.
The last of the seeds to be sown for now are the herbs coriander and dill. Coriander prefers to grow in cool temperatures, otherwise they will bolt, so I sow one lot in late winter, and another in early autumn. They don't like to have their roots disturbed while planting into the ground, so I sow a bunch of seeds into a biggish pot, and then when it's time to transfer them into the herb garden, I plant the whole container worth in one spot, I don't separate out the seedlings at all. For the dill seeds I do the same thing as with the coriander, it ensures I get a relatively big crop of leaves without the problem of using up a lot space.
The sweet peas, coriander, and dill are all now sitting in my glasshouse. We're were expecting snow down to 200 m last night, so I've put off doing any more seed sowing tomorrow. Hopefully soon they will be joined by a lot more seeds as the month goes on.
Have you started seed sowing yet? I'm interested in what choices you've made for the coming growing season.
Have a wonderful day
Down here in Dunedin, we are currently in the depth of winter. The winter solstice may have been a month ago, but now is the coldest time of the year for us, and will probably stay that way until late August at least. If it's not freezing cold and sunny, it's gray and rainy and soggy (and also still cold). Both outcomes mean not much can be done in the garden at the moment, on frosty days the ground is frozen solid, and on rainy days the garden is very squishy.
My frustration at not being able to get into the garden due to the weather has been made worse by me having minor toe surgery two weeks ago which has turned complicated thanks to an infection (as always, sigh). At the moment I can't fit my bandaged toe into any shoes (well apart from jandals), and if that wasn't bad enough, I'm not allowed to get my bandage and toe wet at all which would totally happen if I attempted to wear jandals in the garden right now. This pretty much means I have been confined to inside my home since the surgery, well apart from when I have to go to the doctors to get my dressing changed.
Just when I began to feel a little down about all this, one of the most exciting gardening days of the year happened, the arrival of the 2023/2024 Kings Seeds Catalogue. There's nothing like ripping open the packaging, sniffing that new magazine smell, and then flipping through the pages to see what seed goodies are available this year.
The first responsible thing to do though is to go through my current flower, herb and vegetable seed stashes and see what I have, there's no point in buying seed when I have plenty stored away already. My seed stashes are split into three sections, flowers, herbs, and vegetables. The flowers and herbs seeds are in disorganized chaos inside some plastic tubs.
The vegetable seeds however are meticulously organized in a craft storage box from Spotlight. It has lots of small containers which I use to separate the vegetable seeds based on each vegetable type. And thanks to my handy dandy label maker I know exactly which container is which. I also use the coloured boxes to match each vegetable type, and this makes it super easy to find the corn and carrot boxes for example.
After I pull out each box I open my garden seed database and check each seed packet, and their use by date, and update the database accordingly. If any seeds are low, or finished, I highlight the database to show which seeds I need to reorder. My database also includes a section to show what times of the year the seed can be sown, and when it has been sown. It's been very handy over the years as long as it's been kept updated.
Once that is completed, it's time to browse the Kings Seeds catalogue. On the first go through I highlight all the things I need, and those that I want. I let myself go wild. After that is done, I knuckle down and make post it notes lists. This list is more focused, and I make a point of deciding things like if I do really need three different varieties of calendula...
After that, the next step is going onto the website. First of all I add stuff to the cart that we absolutely really need. After that I narrow down the other stuff I want and put it in the cart. Sometimes the seeds that I need and want appear in the Kings Seeds shopping rewards list (they have a system where after you spend a certain amount they give you free seed packets). Then I tend to juggle the cart based on if some of my seeds will end up on that list, there's no point wasting money on what will be free seeds.
After all that is done, and I've justified to myself every seed packet in the cart, it's time to pull out the credit card and pay for all my precious seeds. And then the waiting at the letterbox begins...it's nearly just as exciting sorting through all the new seed packets when they arrive.
Are you buying and growing any new varieties of plants this year in your garden? Do you have a seed database like I do? I'd be interested to find out.
Have a wonderful day
We recently had our first snow day for the year, with snow falling and settling briefly at the beginning of July. During the week before, meteorologists and local weather experts began mentioning the possibility of snow over the coming weekend, first at high elevations, and then coming down to lower and lower levels as the week went on. By the time it got to Friday the 31st of June, they predicted snow to sea level on Saturday the 1st and Sunday the 2nd of June.
Hubby was very excited about this prospect, as his birthday was on Saturday the 1st of July, and he wanted snow for his birthday. The weather got colder and colder on his birthday, but all we got was a few sleety showers passing by, but unluckily no snow. The weather was so insignificant I didn't even bother taking any video for the blog.
On Sunday the 2nd of July we woke up to snow on the nearby mountains and hills, but no snow on the ground. It was all very disappointing, so we cranked up the wood burner, and kept warm on the first day of our week long staycation at home. I had basically assumed that the cold weather was all over at that point.
But then we had a small snow shower come through, but the snow was very wet, and it was too warm to settle on the ground.
And then an even bigger snow shower came through, and actual, real, proper snow came drifting down out of the sky. The flakes were big and fluffy and dry, the perfect snow for settling on the ground.
The snow shower then turned even heavier, and lasted for about 20 minutes, and it was finally cold enough to begin to land and settle on the ground.
It wasn't a lot of snow, but it was nice for it to feel all wintery and cold even for an afternoon. We snuggled up next to the wood burner drinking hot chocolate and left over birthday cake. It wasn't very long at all before the snow melted away, and then the rest of our week long staycation ended up being warmish and sunny, which I appreciated because I had some winter garden projects to do.
Down here in Dunedin, we don't start to get the possibility of snow until after the winter solstice, and then it can potentially happen all the way through until the beginning of October, like it did last year. I'm sure there will be another two or three possibilities of snow in the coming months until Spring takes over.
Have a wonderful day
And happy Winter Solstice to those of us in the Southern Hemisphere. It's a day for wrapping up warm in your winter jacket, hat, gloves,and scarf, and going for a walk in the chilly air, followed by coming home and cuddling up in front of a cozy warm fire (or putting one up on your TV if you don't have a fireplace).
And what better way to defrost from the cold than to make a pot of my favorite Hot Spiced Apple Juice, and then toasting with your loved ones to the coming of light. From this point on the days will slowly get longer, and eventually spring and summer will be on their way. I love the idea of the wheel of the year, and the perpetual cycle of winter followed, by spring, summer, and eventually autumn.
My spiced apple juice recipe is very easy to make, and because of the citrus and spices, your home will smell wonderful afterward, let alone the lovely taste of the spiced apple juice. Another wonderful thing about this recipe is that the slices of orange and lemons in the pot while cooking remind me of all the sunny days to come.
Spiced Apple Juice Ingredients (makes 3 liters, but I usually only make up 1L and cut back on the spices)
1 x 3L container of Apple juice
1/2 Cup of Sugar
1/2 a Cinnamon Quill
8 Allspice Berries
Spiced Apple Juice Recipe
1. Wash and then cut the whole lemon and orange into 1/2 cm slices. Remove all seeds before adding to the pot.
2. To a medium sized pot add all the ingredients.
3. Heat the ingredients until simmering. Let the spiced apple juice continue simmering and taste test until it reaches your preferred taste. If you leave it too long the cinnamon, cloves, and allspice berries may get quite strong. I usually find 5 minutes simmering is enough.
4. Take the pot off the stove and sieve all the ingredients from the hot spiced apple juice.
5. Serve in cute mugs, sip, and enjoy.
6. If you have any left over spiced apple juice, let it cool and store it in the fridge. It doesn't take long to heat back in up in the microwave for enjoying later.
I hope you love my recipe as much as I do, it's become a winter solstice favorite over the last couple of years. This recipe would also work wonderfully while celebrating Matariki, after waking up early to try and spot Matariki before dawn.
I find it hard to celebrate winter-themed Christmassy things in summer—when hearty food and drink are much more appreciated when the weather is colder. In our household we celebrate the winter solstice with hot spiced apple juice, a roast dinner, followed Christmas pudding with custard and ice cream.
Have a wonderful day,