That hedge by the road has not been trimmed for probably more than 5 years. I trimmed it the week before, and I trimmed it again last week, and there’s still more trimming to be done.

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Basically the hedge has grown too tall, too wide. I was at the top of the ladder with a pair of loppers pruning back to where the previous cut back was. Once I done that, I realized that I wasn’t going to be able to reach the center of the hedge from the other side. So the hedge, needs slimming down, which will be the next job, before I continue bringing down the height. Those trimmings, on the other hand, will make good mulch for my swales.

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Rainfall this week, 1.75mm. High of 27.7dC and low of 2dC. Noticed I’m now blogging on Thursday morning? I have successfully started on my 4.30am wake up every morning, 7 days a week! And kept up with my 4 days a week workout routine. Feeling pumped~

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This is last season’s guerilla grafting success. Angelina Burdett Plum from Koanga Institute collections. Soft, very sweet dessert, purple skin, yellow flesh. From Red Bluffs Nursery, Warkworth, from the collection of Tom and Robyn Morrison. Over 150 years in Northland. Ripens February. I did a cleft graft on this which I learned at a grafting workshop.

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This is current season’s guerilla grafting. Green tip on one of the scion.

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Apple grafting, these are all done with the omega grafting tool. I’m very pleased that green tips are forming. I was doubtful at first as some of the scions are of smaller caliber than the rootstock, and looks odd with the two omega cuts merging together.

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Most of the tomatoes have been planted out into the greenhouse. They have grown too tall, and without any supporting stakes in the pots, they have reached the point of flopping over.

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The peppers have been potted up further. These will go out into the greenhouse mid-November. Some have started forming the first set of flower buds, which will be pinched off to encourage further bushing out. A few more tomatoes still need growing out.

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In the raised beds, this looks like the start of a broccoli. I don’t really know because I bought a mixed brassica punnet.

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This little Pecan tree is very enthusiastic, the other one is just started to leaf out.

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And this Walnut tree is waking up to a dazzling season.

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Someone got caught selling OZ toms as locals, and of course without irradiation signage. I like the new signage, but I would pay a dollar for that, not four.

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From the far side of the Orchard Cottage this week. Poppies all about, along with Phacelia Lacy. The Red Soldier Poppies are starting to come up too.

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This week at the Orchard Cottage. Another step towards a healthier lifestyle.

As we grow up and get caught up in all that adulthood. How often do we consciously try to reengage with our inner child?

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After last week’s brief moment of childish art. I went out and got the rest of the range. Unfortunately, I don’t think they sell the yellow version of the kids watering can anymore. Strawberry Albion in the green one, Elsanta in the blue and Chandler in the pink one. I use a Coir and Peat mix with plenty of water holding crystals added. The spout of the watering can is where the excess water drains out. I have also sown Rhodochiton Purple Bells in each can.

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1.75mm of rain accumulated this week. High of 22.1dC and a low of 2.2dC. I’m still keeping an eye out for the next heavy rainfall event, got to be ready for potential flood event.

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Without noticing it, it’s already mid-Spring today. And we shall mark it with this dashing tulip specimen. This is totally my type of tulip. The contrasting highlights on the lips makes it stand out strongly.

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Beautiful crimson clover coming through where the Austin roses are.

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The Ebony Raspberries are all flowering. Just can’t wait to fill my mouth with these. I would enjoy black raspberries better than blackberries without all the seeds crunching in my mouth.

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Tasty boysenberries and hybridberries. Yum!

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Goldstrike Apricot has got a nice fruit set this time round. Hopefully I will be able to savor them again this season. These are amazingly delicious apricots! However, one must be careful not to harvest these until the colors are bold orange and not too firm. I have never enjoyed crunchy apricots, nor peaches and nectarines. I prefer them fleshy and fully ripen.

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So this is how figs come about. Very interesting.

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I have started linking the limbs of the three plum tree, Damson, Greengage and Coes Golden Drop. I hope the limbs will naturally graft together in the future. And maybe, just maybe, some sort of graft-chimaera or graft-hybrid will occur.

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Planted the potato seedling grown from aerial seeds. I wonder what sort of potato I will yield from them.

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This is the Orchard Cottage taken from the far corner of the forest garden. Just taking it from a different perspective. I was reading an article today about going to sleep and waking up at a more routine time everyday, and think to myself, how am I going to do it if my work roster is not going to allow that easily?

  • Monday – wake up 4.30am, work 6am to 3.30pm, sleep by 11pm.
  • Tuesday – wake up 7am, work 8.30am to 6pm, sleep by 11pm.
  • Wednesday – wake up 7am, work 8.30am to 6pm, sleep by 8.30pm. 2x One Square Meal on the drive home for dinner, and a bottle of Guinness to finish the night off.
  • Thursday – wake up 4.30am, work 6am to 3.30pm, sleep by 8.30pm.
  • Friday – wake up 4.30am, work 6am to 3.30pm, sleep by… what? It’s the weekends.
  • Saturday – wakes up whenever, sleep whenever. Workout in the morning.
  • Sunday – wakes up whenever, sleep by 8.30pm. Workout in the morning.

In order to have a better night’s sleep every night. And I quote, “Not only will a stable rhythm of sleeping and waking improve the quality of your sleep, but it will probably also improve the quality of your life.”. So, the new plan after examining it from a different perspective.

  • Monday – wake up 4.30am, work 6am to 3.30pm, sleep by 8.30pm.
  • Tuesday – wake up 4.30am, work 8.30am to 6pm, sleep by 8.30pm. Workout in the morning before going to work. 2x One Square Meal on the drive home for dinner, and a bottle of Guinness to finish the night off.
  • Wednesday – wake up 4.30am, work 8.30am to 6pm, sleep by 8.30pm. Workout in the morning before going to work. 2x One Square Meal on the drive home for dinner, and a bottle of Guinness to finish the night off.
  • Thursday – wake up 4.30am, work 6am to 3.30pm, sleep by 8.30pm.
  • Friday – wake up 4.30am, work 6am to 3.30pm, sleep by 8.30pm.
  • Saturday – wake up 4.30am, sleep by 8.30pm. Workout in the morning.
  • Sunday – wake up 4.30am, sleep by 8.30pm. Workout in the morning.

Am also going to invest in a firmer mattress.

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The forest garden is lush with vegetation and all that wildflowers and Spring bulbs are starting to show off their colors.

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The Orchard Cottage this week. Caesar’s curious head on the bottom left.

Received an email the other day from Koanga Institute, part of the content is about the potato trial. In the past, all you do is pay $40 to sponsor a variety, and that’s about it, at the end of the season they published the trial results. This year, they decided, and I quote “Everybody who sponsors a potato this year will receive a kilo of potatoes of the one(s)  they sponsor, that you could either eat or grow! We’ll send them out when we harvest them in February.”. That’s new. In the past, I sponsored Paraketia, this year however, I decided to go for Whataroa, as its the type of potato that is more suited to my culinary style, “Great for making oven-baked chips”. So which is your spud? Click here to sponsor one.

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15mm of rain has accumulated this week. 10mm of that, was accumulated within an hour. The high of the week is 23dC, while the low is 0dC.

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I’ve got a spare Albion Strawberry, and I decided that I will attempt hanging strawberry planters again. I started contemplating what sort of planter I should use this time, and saw the cute little 1L watering can that I have by the window sill. This cute little thing is just ok at doing the watering can job as the spout doesn’t work that great. Its new role, really makes me smile, childishly, like a kid, ear to ear, now I’m smiling at my laptop just looking at the photo, mum and dad used to think I’m up to no good when I’m smiling at the screen back home, lol.

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Guess what?! There’s 3 other types! Maybe I should start a family, it would be so kiddish cool. I use a coir and peat mix, and a teaspoon of water holding crystals. And 3 other variety of strawberries. Or even tumbling tomatoes. Or the ever so elusive Rhodochiton Purple Bells that I have tried for years and been unsuccessful.

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Daylight savings kicking in means that when I come back from work in the evening, I can still see the sun filtering through the Willow trees.

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And wander about the forest garden, marveling at the amazing beauty of nature.

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Tulips come in so many different shapes and shades. This is just lily like.

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I planted a whole line of them. And more around some of the nut trees. I’m definitely adding more Spring bulbs next season.

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What do you call this? Pink frills?

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Beautiful champagne color poppies.

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Nothing defines orange better than Calendula.

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And this Cornflower out blue Monday blues.

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I think Caesar has a better view of the forest garden than me. Bluebells, poppies, and tulips.

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Lapin Cherry flowering. This, I am training into a trellis beside the Dawson Cherry, both on Edabriz interstem rootstock. I was reading a commercial growing magazine the other day, and realized that some orchardists are moving towards a 2D trellis system. I think we saw the same potential adapting from the grapevine intensive monoculture.

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The apple trees are in bloom now. Beneath it, a White Borage, a bit rare but I’ve got a few self-seeded plants around the forest garden.

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The Pinot Gris from Okana Vineyard finally waking up. This year is production year. I’ll train the shoots over the 2 wires on each side, they can have grapes hanging down and I’ll throw a net over them.

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More sweetcorn is popping out of the compost bags. I’m into my 5th week of sowing now. The soil temperature is coming up nicely too, well above 10dC now, its time to sow the sunflower seeds as well.

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I poked some second year wood of currants into the ground, and viola! It rooted! Then I realized, I poked it into the same spot where I poke the stone of a Blackboy Peach. The Blackboy Peach seedling is just popping out now. Amazing how they punch through the pebbles.

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That’s all the tomatoes and capsicums seedlings. The big pot of tomato is Tomaccio, I bought 2 plants from the garden centre, and potted them into the same pot. All the tomatoes are grown two in a hole this season. I think I’ve made very good progress with the capsicums this year compare to the past. I guess the key is to keep potting up. The Sungold Tomato seedlings don’t look that great, I hope they will grow out of it. I realized that the stronger varieties are the ones that I have save seeds from. They seem to naturalized really quickly to local conditions. More reasons to save your own seeds whenever possible.

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This a a chard, going to seed. Its in the poultry patch. Not that there’s any chickens, or ducks in sight, there will be some in the future. Behind it, the kiwiberries are just waking up.

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A very sorry sight of the lemon and lime that were ravaged by those gusty wind last week. They are now placed in a sheltered area. They were once just cut back to a 12 inch whip and been indoors ever since, they done well indoors, and their foliage were not grown for the outdoors. Hence, I’ll leave them outdoors now, and I’ve got plans for them at the end of the season, they are coming indoors no more.

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Caesar is looking longingly at the playmates on the other side of the fence.

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The Orchard Cottage this week. I’m thinking of taking the weeping flowering cherry out of the pot, and planting it back in the forest garden. Plans for tomorrow, a lot of hedge trimming, and I got to give the wet room a good clean. I’ve sprayed the driveway and some other areas with pre-emergent today, its a 12 months thing, but I’m not sure if it will last for 12 months. I’ve also inserted tricodowels into the Goldbar and Goldstrike Apricots to treat for Silver Leaf disease, I hope it works. It’s not easy drilling holes into apricot trees, the wood is hard!

Come again next week and you might see more kiddy planter pots!

The gutsy wind tends to annoy the hell out of me. It limits outdoor activities, not that it stopped me from going for my morning run this morning, some projects had to be held off. I kept waking up at night to the howling wind. I think I might consider switching bedroom in the future, but I’ll have to paint the other room first.

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This Tree Lucerne got blown over. The high winds on Monday did a good defoliation job on the Lemon Yen Ben and Lime Bearrs that I was growing in a pot and decided to let them hang out outside. Same to the coffee plant that had the younger leaves shredded. Top recorded wind speed on Monday was 51.5kmh. I need my shelters.

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The weather this week, 0.3mm of rain accumulated. High of 22.7dC and a low of -1.4dC.

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Look at that Belgian Fence! It took me a whole day to get all the grafting done. I figured that in the future, if I come across more ancient varieties, I can always modify the Belgian Fence planting to be doubles, meaning there will be two different varieties off a single stock, at the Y intersect.

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Half of them grafted onto rootstocks in planter bags. I can only hope for a 50% strike rate.

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Don’t believe it when peaches and nectarines varieties were advertised as leaf curl resistant. This season, I’m going to try something different. I’m not going to remove any curly leaf. Maybe leaving it on will trigger the plant to produce some internal chemical or biological reaction. Like us falling sick and the body produces its own antibody to combat sickness.

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The shellout pea that I sown in the strawberries bed. Its got very interesting smaller leaf offshoots. I’ve never seen anything like this before.

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The sweetcorn project is slowly starting up with this little seedling corn popping through the compost bag. 4 more weeks of sowing to go. The pumpkin, squash, and watermelon seeds will be sown on Labour Day. The beans sowing cycle will also start then.

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Apricots flowering. Beautiful white flowers. Somehow, apricots seem to be very prone to silver leaf disease. One of them on the West fence has got it, and I had to pruned some of the branches out. Maybe I’ll try hammering a copper nail into the tree. On the other hand, I hope its just false silver leaf disease. True silver leaf disease will have dark stain in the wood when cut.

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The bluebells have started flowering in the forest garden. They are so small, so tiny, so easily overlooked. I hope they will divide well into enchanting masses.

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Caesar loves eating grass. Or at least, lawn clippings.

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The Orchard Cottage this week. I’ve been doing my due diligence giving those thistles a good hoe. I’ll also need to get a billhook to rid myself of those wild mustard weed. I can’t find my Niwashi Shark, its gone missing. Hence, I’m upgrading myself to a Fiskars Brush Hook X3, a reminiscence of my younger years out hiking in the bush with a parang (machete) as a sidearm. We used it to make chopsticks in the jungle for our instant noodles.

So, the rootstocks arrived, not on Thursday, but Friday, and I managed to get them all planted after work, just in time before the setting sun cast its last ray of light into the valley. We are on schedule for grafting tomorrow. Plus the crazy weather on Monday gave the soil a good Spring drenching too.

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14mm of rain has accumulated this week. We have a high of 21.4dC, which is today, and yesterday, and a low of 0.1dC.

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I discovered this pretty daffodil yesterday, unlike the other singles, this is a more fancy type.

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However, I prefer the ones with smaller flowers, more petite looking ones. They appear more balanced, compared to those bred to have larger flowers.

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And some frilly tulips. Lots of tulips popping up in the garden now.

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Checking on the apricots, some fruit set. The Goldbar and Goldstrike variety tend to have lighter fruit set. Commercially, less thinning work to be done.

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I’ve upgraded the citrus in the hugelkultur bed with “weedmats”. Something, either Caesar or the rabbit kept meddling with the rootzone of the citrus plants. Surprisingly, they managed to cope well, but something needs to be done in order for them to thrive. I found a piece of shadecloth in storage and decided to repurpose it into weedmats. It should now protect the rootzone from nosy creatures.

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The poor Tangor had smoldering wood ash tipped onto it a few weeks ago, it melted a hole in the tree guard, and something have almost ringbark the plant. I applied aloe vera onto the bark and wrapped it up with grafting tape, hopefully it will heal in time. Also gave it a good cut back as the tops have started to wilt.

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This Tree Fuchsia came back from the dead and survived the Winter!

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The vegetable garden received another upgrade.

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The path in between the raised beds are getting a layer of pebbles. A few benefits, it increase the heat level, reduce the need to mow and trim the area which is not easy, no more soggy ground. I have contemplated using bark which is cheaper. However, it might get washed away in a flood event.

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Tomatoes and peppers continue hanging out on the kitchen counter. Some of them are in much larger pots now. Something different this year with the tomatoes, instead of having two leaders from each plant, I decided to have two plants of a same variety in a planting hole. So far, they are doing good sharing the same pot, I’m sure they will be fine once they go into their final spot. It gives me two sets of a variety to choose which one to save seeds from.

In the meantime, the potted lemon, lime and coffee is going to be staying outside for a while. They have a tendency to be host to aphids, which spread on to the seedlings.

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The Orchard Cottage this week. Exponential growth.

Last week, I had my rootstock drama. This week, I’m happy to say that it has been resolved! Tomorrow, I’ll be digging 52 holes, 48 along the Belgian Fence, and 4 more in the forest garden. The other 48 rootstocks will be in PB5 planter bags. That’s 100.

Here’s the grafting list (required/graft):

  1. Crabapple Golden Hornet (6/9)
  2. Crabapple Gorgeous (6/9)
  3. Crabapple Jack Humm (6/9)
  4. Crabapple Jelly King (6/9)
  5. Crabapple Wrights Scarlet (5/8)
  6. Mayflower (1/3)
  7. Willie Sharp (1/3)
  8. Winesap (1/3)
  9. Captain Kidd (1/3)
  10. Tan Montgomery (1/3)
  11. Alfriston (1/3)
  12. Kaituna (2/3)
  13. Ataahua Alpha (1/3)
  14. Ataahua Beta (1/3)
  15. Golden Pippin (1/2)
  16. Golden Reinette (1/2)
  17. Api Rose (1/2)
  18. Glockenappel (1/2)
  19. Rhode Island Greening (1/2)
  20. Devonshire Quarrenden (1/2)
  21. Ribston Pippin (1/2)
  22. Ralls Janet (1/2)
  23. Blenheim Orange (1/2)
  24. Reinette Du Canada (1/2)
  25. Norfolk Beefing (1/3)
  26. Keswick Codlin (1/3)
  27. Foxwhelp (1/3)

The plan is to do cleft graft for all the insitu rootstocks, and the ones in planter bags will be done with the omega tool. The rootstocks will be planted tomorrow, and the grafting will be done next week. I’ll need to get a few bags of sawdust and black electrical wiring tape ready for the big day. And pray for good weather, current weather forecast for next Wednesday is clear!

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The weather this week, 13mm of accumulated rainfall. High of 22.7dC, and low of 1.2dC. The outlook is still quite mild with no sign of frost yet.

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I have refreshed 2 of the raised beds that I attempted to grow veges for over-Winter. Each of the raised beds have a 20L bag of crusher dust and 30L of coarse vermiculite added to it. I have finally decided to add vermiculite to the raised bed mixed as a means of water retention and most important of all, aeration.

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Asparagus woohoo!

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Spotted this lovely calendula in an unexpected place. I have decided that soft brown sugar makes a very good seed coating, as inspired from Nourishment Home Grown. What I have done when I decided to over sow the forest garden with lucerne and crimson clover, is to pour the seeds into a bucket, and then add just about the same amount of soft brown sugar in, shake it up, then mist it lightly, and shake it up again, before thinning it down with compost, and broadcast into the forest garden.

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Tried to take a selfie with a horse. I might take horse riding lessons next season.

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The Orchard Cottage this week. Everything’s moving.

This morning I received an email from Grant of Thunder Mountain to inform me that shipment of Myrobalan rootstock was delayed because his supplier managed to freeze them to death in refrigeration. And he asked me if I wanted a refund… Hang on?! I didn’t order any Myrobalan rootstock! So I range him up, and realized there was a mix up and my 100x mm106 rootstock somehow showed up as 100x Myrobalan rootstock on his system, some gremlins somewhere. He’s going to check if he’s got enough to dispatch to me and I have let him know its ok to mix in nSpy and m26.

I realized at this point that if I wasn’t able to forgive him for the mistake, how can I expect others to forgive me if I make a mistake? Sure it puts a dent in my plan, or at this point, it might, but on the bright side of things, at least I won’t have in my own silly attempt grafted apple scionwood onto Myrobalan rootstock and wonder why I have 100% grafting failure in Summer. The other day I stumbled upon this quote, “There’s 7 billion people on Earth and you let 1 person piss you off?”. That’s a bloody good quote.

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The weather this week… Well, the internet connection has been playing up, so the data on WUnderground wasn’t that good. I had to refer to Acu-Link for the data, which has got no decimal point for temperatures. Rainfall this week, 1.5mm,  high of 21dC, and low of 1dC. That’s my new sensor in the Subtropical area. It only records temperature and humidity and transmit the data to the bridge. I managed to recycle an old Stevenson screen to mount the sensor.

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As we settled into the first week of Spring, I realized that my vege patch has been quite of a flop in terms of Winter crop. No sprouts from the Flower Sprouts, the Brussels Sprouts remained a mere 10cm tall, the Baby Beetroots remained a seedling for the whole Winter, and all I get is a miserable 3 servings of baby mescluns. That, pretty much sums it all up. On the other hand, the garlic that I have left in the ground over last Summer all came back strong this season, a consolation prize. On the other hand, silverbeets and perpetual spinach were going crazy in the chooks and ducks patch, at least I know where to get leafy greens when the world ends today.

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Well, I hoped I will fare better this season with all the improvements I have done to the raised beds. Photo above is for the sweetcorn germination test. The one on the bottom left is Painted Mountain (Kaituna 2013), which is the seeds saved from last season. Top left is the original Painted Mountain sent to me by Mark Christensen in 2013. Bottom right is Early Gem. The other two is Rainbow Inca, which is the core variety of my breeding project. Here, I am trying to cross Early Gem, Silver Platinum, Golden Bantam, and Painted Mountain into Rainbow Inca. And then, see what happens. I have already started sowing the corns, I split the plot into 8 lots, which means 8 weeks of sowing, and if the frost wipes out the initial 4 weeks of work, I have another 4 more weeks to resow which still keeps me ahead of Canterbury Day.

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Done the grape trellis. I started the design process with rigid rules. Then, I proceed to question and challenge the rules that I have set. And I break the rules and set new ones. And I break them again, and again, and again, until I am satisfied.

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And this is the end result. 2 sets of 2 trellis. Originally, each trellis is on its own and space 90cm apart. The first change in the thought process is that they don’t have to be 90cm apart, then, they don’t have to be equally distanced. The second change, is they don’t have to all be apart, I could join them up. The end result is a layout that is in harmony with the rest of the forest garden. Each trellis runs 2.4m, designed for single cordon system, that allows for 2 vines, high density planting. Right now, I am just starting with 1 vine for each trellis.

  • Moores Diamond – A hardy variety resistant to fungal attacks, ripening in mid March. A table grape with good flavour, white flesh and skin. Makes a dry white wine and also champagne.
  • Schuyler – A regular cropping outdoor, table grape, bears from first season. Med/large berries, jet-black with heavy bloom. Flavour neutral pleasant. Early ripening.
  • Urbana – Good crops of large cherry red berries. Fruit is thick skinned with a Jelly texture and an exquisite sweet Lubrusca flavour. vigorous and disease resistant late season variety.
  • Niagara – A very early white dessert grape, which is very sweet with a good mild flavor. One of the few dessert grapes that can be grown organically making it a must for the home gardener. Ripens early/mid March.

The varieties are chosen for their disease resistance, ease of growing, and bonus for outdoor cropping selection. If I am to do high density planting, then I’m going to have to pick from the following:

  • Bishop Pompalier – A large black grape, sweet with a full flavour , excellent as a dessert grape. Originally from France, this variety came out from France with Bishop Pompallier , and came to Koanga via the Andrews homestead in Kohukohu. Disease resistant, ripe in March.
  • Torere – Tiny but very sweet thin skinned black grapes, outstanding table grape. These plants were grown from a 100 year old vine that covers over 1/2 an acre in Torere in the eastern Bay of Plenty. They are like currant grapes and may well be.
  • EA Robinson – A black outdoor table grape raised in Palmerston North presumably of a Hamburg type. Fruits very successfully and ripens well, fruiting twice.
  • New York Muscat – Good crops of medium red/black grapes held in loose bunches. They have a pleasant Muscat flavour with a “jelly” texture. It ripens early to mid season. A Muscat flavour is one with pronounced pungent, sweet floral aromas
  • Buffalo – A high quality Table Grape with reddish-black fruit with an attractive bloom. The flesh is green, tender and juicy with a hint of spice. Regular generous cropper that shows good disease resistance. Ripe around Feb-March. Plant in a sunny well drained position. Deciduous.
  • Steubens – This grape is recommended for the home gardener as it is easy to grow and shows good disease resistance. The grapes are reddish-black with a sweet and spicy flavour. Ripe around March-April. Plant in a sunny well drained spot and winter prune only. Deciduous.
  • Pappa Jack – Very large, very sweet dark red brown berries of excellent flavour. Hardy and disease resistant.

I can’t make up my mind, pick 3 out of 6. I definitely want the New York Muscat.

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Perhaps, the answer will become clear next season. Meanwhile, the pears are flowering! The apples are starting to move. Cherries are having swollen buds. Female flowers on Hazelnuts are opening, with their little red tongues sticking out. Roses are growing with more vigour. The weather seems really optimistic. Just about too optimistic to be truly optimistic. Ya get what I mean. One always have to be prepared for the next hard frost, or the second Once-In-A-100-Year-Flood within a year. October 2011, August 2012, June 2013, April 2014, noticed the flood event is getting earlier and earlier?

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The tulips row are coming through now, ready to start the show. Just about all the planted daffodils have come up too, ready to start flowering soon. I have to be very careful when walking about the forest garden being careful not to trample on emerging bulbs.

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The blueberries are starting to flower. Unfortunately, iPhone sucks at taking macro shots, I would love to do a lot more close up. Fortunately, mum and dad is coming to visit in Summer, and I am going to ask them to bring my Canon 50D over, with whatever lens that my sister is not using. I’ll use the DSLR exclusively for macro as it is too heavy to lug around for anything else. I am so over over-sized heavy bulky camera with huge lens.

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The Orchard Cottage this week. Amazing day, beautiful weather, I went for a long walk doing a loop up the hill and down another hill. No camera, no iPhone, just me and my dog Caesar. If the weather is awesome tomorrow, I’ll explore another track which I have not gone down/up before.

Spring is just starting. Yesterday, the wind was howling from the North, and that limited my outdoor time severely. Today, we had a mild breeze from the South, but overall a nice warm day that allowed me to take Caesar for a nice long walk through the rolling farm lands. We had no rainfall this week, a high of 17.2dC, and a low of -0.9dC.

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I am in the midst of re-reading Nourishment Home Grown by Dr AF Beddoe. It is a great book, I last read it about 2 years ago, and decided that now is a time to refresh my mind about it. This book presents soil science in a different way, and casts a different perspective on how we understand the different nutrients. One key take away is that the effectiveness of foliar spray is dependent on how healthy and mineralized the soil is, plants growing in healthy mineralized soil is better able to take in nutrients through its foliage. His book also made me realized the importance of Phosphate in the soil, and the use of RPR.

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I have already spread Gypsum and RokSolid around and I am now waiting for my 10kg bag of BioPhos to arrive in the mail. BioPhos is formulated from Reactive Rock Phosphate (RPR).  Using a world-first patented process BioPhos harnesses the resources of phosphate fixing fungi and bacteria. Naturally occurring fungi are selected and cultured by Landcare Research and added to RPR along with an organic nutrient.  As a result of the inoculant and multiplication of these organisms during a controlled composting process, the RPR is converted to a highly plant-available form: Polyphosphate. If all goes well, I will repeat this process in Autumn, which is usually the time to do this stuff.

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Apart from that, the book also mention the use of Sul-Po-Mag, applied between mid-Summer to mid-Autumn, which enhances the trees uptake of Copper, and reduced the splitting of the bark, or cankers, which we commonly see in stonefruit. Sul-Po-Mag stands for Suplhate of Potash Magnesia, I have asked my Elders and FruitFed guys before, but neither know where I can get my hand on them, as it will be a very useful horticultural product for stonefruit growing. I asked Google yesterday, and much to my surprise, PCG Wrightson Turf carries it, and they are using it on turf! Its called Patent Kali and it comes in 25kg bag. I’ll try to get my hand on a bag this Summer.

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There’s a lot more unsung knowledge in this book than I can talk about. The use of sugar or molasses to improve water retention. How about improvising that to seed balls making?

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The Spring bulbs are popping up readily now. Here, the first Earlicheer daffodil is flowering! Next season will be an even more amazing sight after the bulbs divides, there will be more flowers in a clump.

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Apricots are flowering!

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Look at these really thick asparagus shoots. I won’t be harvesting the thick ones as I prefer the more slender ones.

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Still eyeing the Cara Cara Orange. I am proud to announce that all my Citruses have survived the Winter! The ones grown in Hugelkultur beds on the South of the house have fared quite well too! My system is working.

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The tomatoes and capsicums. Bottom right, potatoes from aerial seeds. The only seeds that seems to be weak is the Tomaccio seeds that I have saved off the plant last season. I sow 3 sets, and only 1 weak seedling germinated, I might have to buy a plant from the garden center. I also have Sungold seeds, which I will sow tomorrow.

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The Orchard Cottage this week. There’s no reseeding of wildflowers being done at the end of last season, the self-seeded ones are starting to pop up now. I am going to over sow Lucerne in two weeks time. Along with Calendula, Cornflowers, Crimson Clovers, and Allyssum.

5 more days, and we are into Spring 2014! Can you believe it? 3 more months to Christmas, then its the New Year! Time sure goes by really fast. The trees that I have ordered from Edible Garden arrived yesterday, and planted out today, that pretty much concludes the Winter planting, until a hundred apple rootstocks arrive in Spring…

I’ve started my spraying regime. A blend of seaweed and mycorrcin. This is done weekly until I get lazy. I might switch to Nature’s Way Bio-Gold and Mycorrcin at a later stage. Currently, thinking of applying BioPhos around the trees instead of Gypsum.

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Rainfall this week, 8.5mm. High of 17.2dC and a low of -0.3dC. For a few days, I was enjoying the clear skies in the city, only to head back to a cloudy Banks Peninsula. Just grateful that we have nice warm weather today.

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I had a long weekend which started on Tuesday. So, I started work on some projects that I have had at the back of my head. I ran bamboo sticks around the top of the raised beds, nailed them in with 13mm pipe saddle clamp. I’ll be training the grape vines along the bamboo sticks. White Dalmation Grape arrived from Edible Garden too, and that went straight into one of the raised beds for grapes. I have added more windbreak shelter to the raised beds, the ones at the back were some old Olirete bird netting that I have, folded into 4 layers, now the windbreak run around the raised beds completely. I’ve also crushed up plenty of eggshells and spread them out on the raised beds too, that should help raise the Calcium levels in the raised beds. And some mowing and laying down grass clippings to cover up muddy patch.

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The sun is out today, so I took the lemon, the lime, and the coffee out for some sun bathing. If the weather is good tomorrow, I’ll have to take the coffee out tomorrow for a good spray to get rid of the mealy bugs.

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Checking in on the cuttings. This is not good news yet. Apparently, if roots have formed, the shoots will elongate.

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My very own Nikau Palm waiting to go into the ground when the weather is more friendly.

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All the grafted fruit trees are in the Belgian Fence line up now. 49 rootstocks will go in next and grafted on.

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The 4 peaches. From top, going clockwise:

Keri Gold on Myrobalan – The Skin is a golden colour and when fully ripe has a red blush. A freestone peach, with firm flesh, sweet and juicy with a slight red blush around the centre. The tree is reasonably tolerant of leaf curl. Grown by Mr & Mrs Cannon of Keri Keri.

River (seedling) – River Peaches are the ones that set Kay Baxter off on her journey. They are disease resistant, easy to grow and grow true to seed. They are prolific croppers of sweet medium sized, green skin with a red blush, white fleshed, free stone fruit. Ripen late January.

Red Leafed Blackboy on Marianna – Small/medium sized, with dark red grey skin, bright port red and white streaky flesh. A freestone variety, which ripens in late Feb. The fruit is juicy with a strong flavour and is god for dessert or bottling.

Batley on Marianna – Firm, honey coloured skin and flesh when ripe, tender and sweet, wonderful texture and flavour , clingstone, dessert. From  the historic house at Batley on the Kaipara. Outstanding peach, reliable cropper and disease resistant. Ripens March April.

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Then I did some grafting, mainly just stonefruits. Two stray wild plum in the far corner of the forest garden, grafted Whakapirau Gold on the left and Transparent Gage on the right.

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Then, some guerrilla grafting took place by the road. I am using this omega grafting tool, and trying to get used to it. It is different from the classic cuts with the grafting knife. I might try a mix of classic wedge grafting and omega grafting tool, just to hedge my bets with the 100 apple rootstocks.

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Then, I got carried away and decided that the Orchard Peach tree could use a lot of grafting. So, I grafted Keri Gold, Red Leafed Black Boy, Whakapirau Gold, and Transparent Gage onto it. I’ll graft some other varieties onto it next season too, just see what I can get my hands on. It’ll be my Rojak Peach tree. I’ve got a Rojak Apple tree planned for the food forest too! Rojak is sort of a Malaysian salad, a mixed plate of really delicious stuff, we use that term for anything or anybody that looks like a plate of assorted fruit salad.

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This is how I am going to be growing sweetcorn and cucurbits this season. Each 35L bag will hold 6 sweetcorn, 2 climbing beans, and 1 cucurbit. I’ve just sow 12 sweetcorn kernels that I saved from last season to see if my half baked seed saving is viable. There’s 20 bags in total, makes up 120 sweetcorn, 40 climbing beans, and 20 cucurbit.

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So, here we go again. The Orchard Cottage this week. I have decided to add nuts to my weekend diet from now on. I think there’s some nutrient in there that I am missing out, and craving for. I had this crazy cravings yesterday, it felt like I was craving for sweet desserts, like a cookie or a slice, and I decided to ask Google about my cravings, and my eyes landed on nuts, the section of the brain that handles cravings lit up like a Christmas tree. So, I head into Lincoln today, and got myself some nuts, and slices, and find out I really enjoy the nuts, but not the slices.

Last Thursday, something happened. It had me delighted!

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We have quite a lengthy period of hail, tiny hail, and the ground is just covered in tiny ice balls!

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Nothing stopped me from getting out into the garden to be in the midst of all the hailing action. To me, this is one of the amazing wonders of Mother Nature. The valley doesn’t go white very often…

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Caesar giving me the intelligent look, telepathically telling me the greens are going to be spotty after this from the hail.

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Rainfall this week, 5mm. Weekly high of 18.7dC and low of -2.5dC.

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I have trimmed all the corner stakes down to just 1m above the raised beds. Visually, it helps open up the field at eye level. I am going to run lengths of rope around the corner stakes to train the table grapes onto them. The weedmat covered area have also been reduced by 1.8m as I have altered the layout of the future vege garden.

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The great thing about planning ahead, way ahead, is that it gives a lot more room to deliberate, and to change things around, and budgeting. So, in a bid to cut cost, I’ve decided not to build a larger mikroclima greenhouse, instead, I’m going to modify the existing one which will also comfortably fit in a dwarf Bearrs Lime and dwarf Yen Ben Lemon side by side. The space infront, I have the option to build a 2.7m x 1.8m agphane cloche, fully covered, ideal for growing peppers. Also means that I don’t have to move some raised beds around.

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The Gold Bar and Gold Strike Apricots have started with full on bud movement. One flower has opened. Apricots are quite early flowering, and hence, the importance of choosing a less frost prone location.

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The Iona Grape is the first with bud burst. Perhaps, it is in a nice cosy spot, right in front of the dilapidated sleepout.

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The tulips are starting to come out of the ground! Yays!

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Pretty pansies parading underneath the apricot trees.

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Found this interesting little weedy plant in the ground. The purple flowers at the top, with the young  foliage at the top having a purplish hue too.

Just thinking out loud, the collector in me would like to have more grapevines. As if 7 is not enough. There’s a few places they can go in the garden… Not anytime soon… But just thinking out loud. Just how intensively can I plant them? Vertical trellis, with lavender underneath. Hmmm… I’ll spend some time dreaming about it.

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The Orchard Cottage this week.

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