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#catholic gardener

monster awakes, the kiwi (personal picture); this is the crown two weeks ago that just the mounding portion (not the grabbing trendles) are now 1m/1yd above the supporting structure

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Today was more of a harvest day. Most of the herbs I wanted to do are done/ in process except for the honeysuckle which the winds took care to obliterate. Took advantage of the open space and put in rhubarb. Started the process of rotating herbs stocks (dried) and looking at what is coming on pretty strong right now for harvest.

Lettuce is coming off. Chives are coming on strong. The thin little asparagus bolts right out of the ground.  For two and three year crowns, they are pretty puny. 16-16-8 will be on the menu for them. Various marrows veg are looking great. The straw flowers are being decimated by the slugs.

One day out and the chicks seem to think that should be a thing for them. Looking into making them a baby play pen so they can actually get their feet in the earth. They keep wanting to jump out of the rabbit run. Have two panels of the deck to lift and move but will need some help (but where to put them!).

Was given some tulle today but its just enough to make a wee patch in open spaces. Definitely have to plan to hang the seed plants as I went out there mid day and the flurry of wings was WHOA! I won’t have a seed crop with that kind of flocking thinking that I am running a buffet.

My wasp friends must be loving the caterpillars as that there are very few now. There are wonderful bunches of bees and bumbles! So nice to hear them in the garden when there is a space of quiet.

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praying mantis baby/ hatchling [pix not mine just using as example how small they are]

Some one just gave me a whole netted bag of baby mantis that was gifted to them (but don’t want because they keep bees)! More babies than I know what to do with and are they hungry mites! I got  to figure out how to get them out of the butterfly carrier before they start eating each other!

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Tomorrow I install floating row cover and get rid of the bird netting for my seed plants. I had to cut out a pair of red finch. They were both tangled pretty well. Didn’t seem to be injured. I was scared for the little female as she had her shoulder and her neck pretty tight in the poly net but there seemed to be no blood/ rawness/ exposed skin nor flesh. I was thankful that once I had them in hand, they seem to understand I was trying to help. I think knowing how to handle birds and was confident in what I was doing, they were able to relax as much as they could. I hope they weren’t there too long as I had not been there since very early morning when I watered. They each took into the wind and their flight went well. Lord I hope they had no nestlings waiting all day!

Garden Suggestion of the Year: Get rid of the bird netting. Invest in poly-spun row cover (its also investing in your backyard birds’ lives)

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Today was flat day: mainly seeding flats of flowers. I’m seeing that the quality in the potting soil is changing with much more wood product and peat which I’m not thrilled about (it stays too soggy). I really don’t want to be switching up brands because so many vendors are taking the ‘take it or leave it’ approach and it makes for hard feelings. They use to have an open bag or at least a sample for you to see. I will probably just get a couple bags of other potting amendments to lighten things up since quality has fallen. Soggy soil = rotting seeds. If I purchased separate components that would be grand but I don’t have the storage facilities at this point in time.

The toms are doing fine on their perch. I will need to get a watering extender as I don’t want to be up and down ladders to water. That is a recipe for disaster with my klutziness. 

This morning I put the dried motherwort in jars. The bay leaf that I left on top of the dehydrator was not finished so I stuck it in. Lemon balm and lemon verbena went in.

I’m gaining on the caterpillars! But now there are click bugs. I haven’t seen them eating any thing (they are on gooseberries) but I am very suspicious at their intent! They are know to gnaw on roots. Into the water can they go. I did see a waspish creature taking survey so maybe he/she is coming to eat caterpillars! Saw more saw fly so not real thrilled at the thought of a second crop of caterpillars?!

Starting to clean and saw up things around the old coop. Tomorrow I hope to have help moving the rabbit run out into the sun (and back in after a bit) for the babies to get some outdoor time. Bronte is such a bully and thinks she is a falcon the way she wants to sit on the wrist and pounce on her sisters. Rossetti is the original Henny Penny with her antics – something is always after her in her mind (she is literally scared of her own shadow at times), just a wee bit too skittish unless it involves seeds! Then she’s bustling in bold as brass. Alcott is the little brat sib, very clever, very observant and out maneuvers her sisters while they are trying to get the better of it all/each other and she ends up ‘winning’. I want them to be able to feel the sun and the warm breeze and look forward to being out more. Like all babies, they need to feel the sunshine on their face and fresh air caressing their little beings … and maybe eat a bug or two!

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The toms are holding! As long as the wind does not increase nor shift more westerly, they will be fine.

Making a list here of things I have to get in the dehydrator. I’ve gotten many blueberries, strawberries (both from commercial sources) and rose petals (mine) done. This evening I put in motherwort. Next in for the weekend:

lemon verbena

lemon balm




fennel leaf



bay leaves


honeysuckle blossoms


blackberry leaf

herb Robert (this I usually have year around but want to see if I can slip it in a medicinal tea blend w/o being too bitter).

I am going to have to gather up all my jars and make sure I have lids!

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Hanging tomato day: So the saw was lend out, never to return so I resorted to the next best thing in dealing with plastics: a hot butter knife.  Kids, don’t try this unless you have some experience (I know, how to do get experience w/o practice – just be safe, have good ventilation and go slow). Heating the knife in the flame of the gas burner, I proceeded to slowly work my way around the neck of the plastic water jug. I chose to heat with every insertion instead of trying to complete cut with one or two passes. Once I had worked around to eliminate the neck, I heated again to smooth the top and again on the inside. Found my spray paint collection; perfect black matte. Gave a quick coat to the outside and bottom. Once dried, filled half way full with quality potting soil. Un-potted tom, gently comb away soil at roots enough to insert through hole in jug, continue to fill and shake (you can bury they stem part way w/o problems). Repeat for all tomatoes. Everybody in their new jug, water down soil, drain. Get boy to climb ladder as I thread pvc pile that I keep as a spare hoop through bracket as he threads through jug handles. He thought that I was turning goth in the garden with the black jugs until I gave a quick passive solar talk and heat loving plants.  Then the f-ing wind came up from the north.  Not just a wind but the kind that breaks limbs. Really? Well, let’s hope they live!

Dividing the worms again. They are doing fabulous.

Ripping up more of the deck. Almost done!

The chicks are growing so fast I might just make a stand and roof for the rabbit run for when they go out for warmer days but not ready to go out permanently. Can’t seem to source a double rabbit hutch within driving distance and am unwilling to pay freight that cost as much as the hutch! I just wanted the convenience of pre-made but its not worth it in the pocketbook department. I have more than enough time and materials… now I have the incentive!

I almost feel like I am gaining on the caterpillars until I noticed that I am getting more immatures that haven’t molted yet. Those are harder to see and one touch, they drop to the ground, never to bee seen. The organic control I would like to have can not be imported where I am so I will continue to hand pick, drown and give back to the plants as rotting caterpillar mulch/fertilizer.

The quince is self thinning.

The elderberries are getting ready to bloom. The cutting I gathered off the ground from the winter pruning are starting to leaf and bloom as well.

I found my horseradish! I thought I had lost it as it was in a big pot but had semi escaped (grew through the drain hole then leafed outside the pot) last year. When I pulled the pot, it broke and the root in the ground was not good enough to eat/use. Moving the last of my pots and what do I see? Yes! I am going to up it in a larger pot as soon as I can find land. I would like to cultivate it more so I can start harvesting regularly. It might be too much into the season to do it this year, will evaluate when repotting.

Most of the black berries, strawberries and other rubus are blooming. I spied a small alpine strawberry forming. The raspberries and tays should be ready in less than a month.  I really wanted to get a yellow variety of autumn raspberry but the prices are so outrageous, they can keep them. I’m not in a panic; I just want to extend my raspberry season. I think I will go into the woods at a friends and gather some natives to grow. I can put a couple of rocks on canes, wait for the root to form then collect. I’ve heard you can not mix wild with domestic so this will need more research on my part. Don’t want to wipe out my domesticated berries that have been so strong and loyal!

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Today I vacillated between between wanting to be productive and trying not to climb the walls. Let me explain.

I woke up and it was quiet except for the constant electronic whining I have in my head/senses. I jumped up ready to go because silence of sorts is like a forewarning (no birds). I can usually  push those electronic noises aside but today it was like me being pushed around as in addition to that, I had a series of  weather fronts coming through (the calm before the storms).

Nothing in itself by that except for the moaning, howling and shreking of the wind that was mounting which always sets me on edge. Then when the trees start in with their creaking and shrill noises… I tried to be busy working, tidying up a bit of storm damage for more damage and debris, removing half eaten rats from traps (damn cannibals!), baked a plum cake for tea (reminded me of Thunder Cake), tended some flats for next week, rid myself of some slugs and snails (obviously the bait is not working!), trying to ignore the helicopters buzzing around low (ground that shite in this wind, mate!) and moved the chicks from the flight cage in the half bath to the rabbit run in the full bath. Trimmed up the ‘clam shells’ (last night I had someone go to the wholesale grocery warehouse where they brought me multiple flats of blueberries and strawberries to dehydrate) so I got that fruit well underway as well. I was just getting exhausted trying to manage a few chores while on sensory over-load.

One blow through, downpour for an hour  then another blow. I felt more like a wobbly top than anything as the day went on. Its usually not this bad. Finally gave up and decided to just organize my seeds, relax, make notes and drink tea. Sometimes a warrior needs to retreat to come back stronger – this is how I felt about today… a bit of a losing battle, the need to retreat and regroup but it will all be good in the end. Patience. Trust. Faith.

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Thinking Thinks! Garden Thinks!

I know that this could be dangerous this late in the evening as I get wound up instead of settling down but I was just thinking about how annoyed I was I had to dismantle my window sill project outside my bedroom window (where I keep all my cacti and succulents). I took every thing down because vermin were running down the fence highway, leaping onto my branch arbor that supports the brambles then making a small jump to the window sill boxes, scurry across then make an upward jump to the lean, to roof, and beyond. I don’t want to participate in their ease of movement and I bloody well DON’T like them peeping in and scratching at my windows when I am trying to peek at stars through the clouds and fog before I drift off to sleep. Just too freaky. No.

So… I don’t want to take down the heavy metal brackets but yet don’t want to add to the rodent autobahn. Then I came upon it! I have these large plastic water jugs (almost 4 litre each) piling up; I was going to use as cloches in the garden but its just been too too much so I cut them up as plant markers for the flats I send out. If I cut a bit out of the top and a little out front (or not), put some holes in the bottom for drainage, put a bit of soil, put the cherry toms in there, add more soil THEN run a heavy round dowel (or maybe a branch with tangle foot or some other sticky pest deterrent!) through all the handles of the jugs and use the brackets to suspend by.  I could spray paint the jug fronts black to heat it up a bit with some passive solar heating for the root zone. Ooo, I like this more as I try to explain it.

I don’t know … sounds very plausible/do-able making like hanging cherry tomato baskets and give me/ saving me ground space. I think that will be the plan!

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Today was cut short by rain. I did stay out picking caterpillars until I started getting too cold and wet then the frustration factor started in so in the name of Learning Patience, I let it go, sat down the water can (drowning method pest control then once dead a couple of days, I feed it back to the plants) and came in. Tea helps.

Its quite comfortable sitting here as earlier I had harvested a big basket of roses for petals, oregano, thyme, nettles and rhubarb. The aroma of thyme, oregano and roses I had put in the dehydrator was filling the house. So I  sat here out of the rain and still enjoyed the smells of the garden. Poor Shally is in decline so even with recording of birds, he just hunkers down and tries to sleep instead of his happy dance and out-singing those in the recorded forest. His breath is pretty labored now, a little puff ball of huffing yellow; his eye (he has a cataract in the other) has lost its sparkle and he can’t just be bothered. I’ve been feeding him his favourite, nasturtium blossoms and moved some seed in a treat dish close to him so he doesn’t have to struggle to get some. I have a heating pad against the wall of his flight cage next to him even though he is on a seed mat under his cage. Later I will try to offer some water. He just wants to be left alone and I understand; when I don’t feel well, I want everyone to just let me be.

Chicks are fledging out. They have lost a great deal of their fuzziness, have little butt feathers and wing feathers and quadrupled in size (if not more so). They are still babies and silly as can be. Today I tried to get them to eat the saw fly caterpillars; it was as if they couldn’t see them even though they would knock them out of the dish and step all over them. My little feathered barbarians. I will go hang lettuce and winter green flowers in their cage soon. I make them work for their treats hoping that they will appreciate their mash and not be billing it out in boredom … no, little barbarians have no concept of that but at least they are getting some exercise.

I did get four zuc starts I held back planted in a potato tote someone gave me. I also planted five hickok bean seeds with them. Probably too many plants in one bag but we’ll give it a go as I expect to supplemental feed late summer. I filled half of the container full of commercial compost and topped off with a higher quality of potting soil since I am crowd planting this year. I had actually planned to put two cherry toms in there but I still have them on the back stoop waiting for some of these bigger storms to pass. I still have another large tote and two big tubs to fill and plant but I am losing ground (literally) in the garden. I mean, the ground is still there , its just that I am running out of space as things grow and mature. Need to get some serious business in that summer house repairs And get a wiggle on the plan for moving the chicks out in a month or less as they will have outgrown all my flight cages and rabbit run cage at the rate they are going.

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This isn’t going to be much of a report (more like observation report): taking it easy with a spazzy back so no real work. Lots to be done after the last blow through ripped up so much that was tender and green. But the garden is defiant and just produces more green.

I did stake up with bamboo poles a couple of saplings that needed a little help after being whipped by the kiwi. I swear that monster is going to be the death of too many plants if I can’t get the upper hand with it. But I can’t do ladder time, right yet. I am beginning to understand my uncle: you don’t want a kiwi in your garden because you will need an entire farm for just that plant… slow learner here or just going to do it my way and learn the hard way.

Harvested some lemon balm. Some for starts and some to dry for the pantry.  It will produce all spring and some into the summer before it gets too woody but the leaves are still tender.

I have a wonderful crop of burdock in my grow beds. No, I did not plant it there – those are volunteers. I need to get them up and out because the leaves get huge and the roots (which is the only part I’m interested in) are so invasive. I like them in pots for this reason as it is easy to harvest and I don’t want them in my asparagus bed. I’m already crowd planting to the max.

I am just about ready to invest in a New Zealand rat trap (they are actually world wide distributorship but wanted to see what NZ was using since they have invasive species/rat problem). I am just about at my wits in (no jokes about my lack of wit, please ;)  ). It has a feeder tube and when they stick their heads up in it to get the chocolate sauce *pow* they trip a piston that kills them instantly Goodnature A24 self-resetting rat trap. I have to get something going as the traditional traps they have learned and are now avoiding the newer jaws of death I have (except to eat the random noob that tries it out). They are violating anything that has sap running right now which means decrease in blossoms which means decreased food for the family and an entry way for disease and fungus/mold for the poor plant. Soon the rats will be in the ripening fruit and about that time the chicks will go out … I know I provide a great habitat and with all the apartments and their rubbish bins open, its to be expected. In the dawn hours from my front porch, I can see in the distant a barn owl that patrols the green zone through the city. I just wish he would come to my garden. Is there a flag I can raise to call in the owls?! Maybe one made of rat skins and tails?  I do have a barn owl nesting box in my closet (long story) but if its accepted, then the neighbors will hate me (more so?) because owls and their  owlets are NOISY!  And if you don’t know what its like, think scary sounds off a horror flick … on and off all night long, nails on the chalk board … for weeks. Yeah, its not going to happen.

I need to invest in more baking soda for the garden. The humidity level with the rise in temp will certainly spawn an outbreak. I am also going to use it as a weed and pesty bug solution. I don’t know, they are probably limiting how much you can buy of baking soda now too with this panicdemic strangle-hold. Please sir, can I have another baking soda …

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