Green and Thrifty

One way to keep the dandelions down is to pick them and put them in a vase before they go to seed..

So much glorious weather this week, all the sun, and now gentle rain, the most perfect combination of weather events for kicking along the vegies that I have put in the garden recently, which need to bulk up and heart (in the case of broccoli and cabbage) before the cold weather sets in. Fingers crossed I got them in early enough. Weather pundits are predicting a cold winter, but who would know? In the Little House on the Prairie series, a long winter was predicted by a)the local native American people and b)beavers. I do not have access to either of these sources of information. There must be clues in the landscape and knowledge passed down for generations, but I am at a bit of a loss as to how to come by either. I feel like it is important information we should all learn - how to live in our landscape, what our weather is doing. Knowing when the rains are likely to come (generally end of May), when to plant winter veg (generally slightly earlier than I tend to get around to it). Here is a useful piece of local information which always works for me: plant peas in Spring when the wattle first comes out. Also plant peas now, and they will sulk all through winter, then burst into flower in spring for the earliest peas. This information is really only useful for local gardeners though. Which is true of most gardening advice. Local knowledge is golden, and that's what gets lost if generation doesn't follow generation learning the secrets of the one that has gone before.

Phew, rant over for the day.

One of the marvellous things about Partner Paul is that he has fabulous friends, who now get to become my fabulous friends whether they like it or not (my fabulous friends also get to become his, because sharing). So Paul's fabulous friend Bron gave me a box of pears from her tree which I cut up and put in the dehydrator, so now I have lots of delicious dried pear chips to nibble on and put in the muesli.

Having finished off last year's walnuts a couple of weeks ago, I have been filling my pockets with the first of this year's walnuts as I walk the dog of a morning. There are three walnut trees that I know of on my dog walking round, and I am getting a pocketful or so each time. Into the muesli they go.

Speaking of foraging, my friend Karlin was telling me about her friends who picked 250kg of roadside apples the other day and made it into cider. I am not normally a jealous person, but right now I want to go apple picking and get a cider press..

I planted lettuce. Finally.

I came home one day to find a packet of parsnip seeds at the front door. I had planted a packet of commercial parsnip seed but only eight parsnips germinated. Parsnips are tricky like that. They germinate reliably only from absolutely fresh seed. But once you have a few parsnips in your garden, you will always have them, because they self-seed prolifically. My friend Maria offered some seed from her parsnip forest, and now that has gone in and will hopefully fill out the gaps in my parsnip rows.

I cleaned out the shed. Why is this green and thrifty? Because I found several things I needed and didn't know I had. Two tap timers. This is good because I often accidentally leave the sprinkler on. A bunch of hose fittings, also good because mine are getting old and the taps have started dripping. Now the shed is nearly ready to house the wood pile for winter. And, it is tidy. I can find all the things that I need. It is a joy to go in there. Before, I dreaded climbing in over all the things and hunting under bags and boxes and having other things fall on my head.. I am going to give away the electric mulcher, a whipper snipper, the bike that none of us have used in two years. So many things I have in my pared down life that are still excess to requirements. Let it all go..

I love my garlic braid. This is the first year I managed to make one that stayed together..

Having said that, my parents have been cleaning out their garage and keep sending me texts asking me if I want paper from the moving boxes, and egg cartons to use as firelighters, and the plastic from covering the furniture when they moved. They wondered whether I would like it to make a little green house. And of course, I said yes. It is all on the way to recycling, so if I don't successfully turn the plastic into a green house, I will just send it on to the recycling centre at the tip, but until then it might warm up my tomato seedlings in the spring.

I cut back the lemon verbena bush as it is getting hard to walk past it. It is growing in a large pot along the walkway at the front of the house. It is so gloriously perfumed, both the leaves and the lovely delicate white flowers, which waft their scent seductively as I walk past, tempting me every time to stop and smell.. because the good life consists in always stopping to smell the lemon verbena. I hung up the cuttings in the shed to dry for tea. This winter I will be drinking the memory of those delicate white summer flowers.

When I arrived at one of my gardening jobs this week at my friend Katherine's place, I discovered that as well as leaving the whhelbarrow out she had also left a bag of vegies from her garden for me. Thanks Katherine:)

This week from the garden we have been eating potatoes, tomatoes, capsicums, garlic, rhubarb, lemons, tarragon, basil, rosemary, Cape gooseberries, pineapple ground cherries, and the first handful of green beans. I don't have many green beans because I planted them too close to the tomatoes and the tomatoes swamped them. We live and learn.

Tell me about your green and thrifty projects this week :)


Anonymous said…
I am envious of your garden and it's wonderful plants...we are still in the grip of winter here (Canada)
I am also envious of your garlic braid...I want to do one just like it come garlic season.

I have gardened for 40 years in this backyard and the way the weather is now, none of my local knowledge is helping me this year, actually the last couple of years have been weird.

Someone asked me the other day when they can plant out their tomatoes. May 15th is usually the answer but I hedged my bets this year "perhaps later in May" I said with my fingers crossed.

Your post gave me really itchy garden fingers :)


Jo said…
Marieann, I get the same itchy fingers when looking at Northern Hemisphere blogs in our late winter.. and yes, you are right, maybe we are the first generation that actually can't benefit from the collected gardening lore about when to plant, as everything changes.. that is a sobering thought.
GretchenJoanna said…
I agree about the good life with lemon verbena!!
Hazel said…
I'm in the UK and envious of your garden and sun. It's been a long cold winter here. And it's just started snowing again...

I've been telling anyone that will listen about our local and weather folklore recently. There's so much that I can see is going to get lost as it's not passed on to the next generation. People don't use local names for lanes and areas any more (A sharp bend in the road on a hill near us is called Bloody Bones which my children used to like saying when they were a bit younger because it sounds rude to a Brit! It's supposed to date from a Civil War field hospital. True or not, it would be so sad if we forgot that history.)
I parrot weather sayings to everybody because I think they hold some truth. People have watched the patterns of the year for generations and we wouldn't say that if March comes in like a lion (which it definitely did this year!) it goes out like a lamb or vice versa if that didn't generally hold up. I have started to document things like that in my garden book so I can see how often they're true. My other favourite is watching the leaves to see which emerge first- 'oak before ash we're in for a splash, ash before oak we're in for a soak'- to predict how soggy the summer will be.

Anyway! I'm also envious that you can grow a lemon verbena so big you can't walk past it! I'd settle for one that didn't die over winter...
Pam in Virginia said…
Hi, Jo:

You have accomplished much, and doesn't that tidiness and organization just make life that much easier? But I have such a terrible time letting some of this stuff go as, really and truly, there have been too many times when, as soon as I send something off to a charity shop or consent to have something hauled off - like a pile of old lumber - then I need exactly that thing for a project. It is a good thing that at least we have a small barn for stuff that the mice let us share.

I feel sure that I have been green and thrifty this week, but darned if I can remember where - maybe much has become habit? I certainly hope so.

Like Hazel, I am envious of your lemon verbena as mine always dies, too. But I do have lettuce growing!

Anonymous said…
Lemon verbena is the most treasured plant in my garden. The perfume is just beautiful, and I can't help myself - I pull off a few leaves every time I pass it. I cut it back almost to ground level in winter, and it never fails to grow back into a sprawling bush each spring. I can't persuade it to remain compact, though. It reaches out and demands to be picked!

Linda in NZ
Jo said…
Grentchen Joanna, I think the good life consists of being able to stop and smell all the good things. Lemon verbena is one of the best!

Hazel, I am shuddering at the thought that Bloody Bones corner (fantastic name) was because of an army hospital. Ugh.
I do love bits of gardening lore. Here in Northern Tasmania folklore has it that you don't plant out tomatoes until after Show Day (first week in October). In one of the Little House books the farmers know to plant corn when the oak leaves are as big as squirrels' ears.. but all that does get lost when you learn to garden out of books or on the internet. I love that you are writing all this down.

Pam, I figure I can always borrow something if I need it again. abut piles of timber - yes, they are pretty important. You can do so much with a pile of timber..
Have you and Hazel thought of keeping the lemon verbena in a pot inside over the winter? It just needs to be somewhere where it won't freeze too hard, not necessarily warm. My lemon verbena pops back up in spring after dying back to bare branches in the winter. It survives frosts at my place.

Linda, yes, it sprawls! I was reading recently that cutting it back before it flowers helps to keep it compact, but having to brush past lemon verbena flowers is not a hardship, is it? Have you tried making tea with it? I really enjoy it.
Hazel said…
My lemon verbena is in a pot in the greenhouse but I think the unusually low temperatures we've had this year may have finished it off. I'd like it to make tea from, and syrup. I drink a lot of lemon balm tea in the summer but it's not as lemony as the verbena.

I love the squirrel ear-sized oak leaves. I don't remember that from the Little House books (must add them to my list of books to read/re-read). An old gardener once told me that you shouldn't plant potatoes until the soil is warm enough to sit on with your bare bottom which is more prosaic but a very good guide!
Jo said…
Hazel, thank you for mentioning lemon verbena syrup - I looked it up, and it is on my list of things to make this week! Looks delicious! Farmer Boy is the Little House book that follows the childhood of Laura's husband, Almanzo, on a farm in New York State. It is one of my favourites, and includes the squirrel ear-sized oak leaves.
I have to admit, that while I have heard the folklore about sitting on the ground on your bare bum in spring, I have never actually done that prior to planting my potatoes..
Hazel said…
No, nor've I- garden is far too public for that!

I have read Farmer Boy so I must have just forgotten that bit. I think it's in there that Almanzo says you can put a whole cup of milk onto a whole cup of popped corn (or the other way round) without it overflowing. My son had to test it and he still often has popcorn and milk :-)

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