Ewen's garden

A collection of columns, paintings and photographs about gardening on an offshore island in New Zealand.

Wednesday, June 16, 2004


What a relief this week of fine weather has been after all the howling sou-westers! I can now report, having commenced maintaining a journal, we have, at our section, recorded so far this winter a low of seven degrees and only thirteen mm of rain. Dry and warm I would say, but I believe our site is very much a microclimate. Have just picked fully formed trusses of tomatoes (the plant was still fully growing and
flowering!) which reinforces my idea of growing ever more tropical species in my garden here. The said tomatoes had to be removed after transplanting the citrus trees which were cohabitating with them.

So I now have a terrace in my garden containing solely citrus, six in all. A veritable grove, lined beneath with local gravel and at the base of each tree, a curb
of local rock to keep the compost in around the base of each specimen. I hope my citrus will now thrive in their new home. However I still need to prune the top
growth to balance the damage to the roots. They also need a spray of copper and an insecticide to combat the bad infestation of mealy bug and scale insects. These pests take advantage of plants under stress aided and abetted by the ants who positively farm the scale insect to harvest the honey dew.

In my new vegetable plots I have sprouting through the ground sugar-snap peas and enough lettuces to supply us with winter salad, a refreshing change at this time of year. All these details are dutifully recorded in my journal, not kept every day just every so often. It will be interesting to compare next year with what happens this year. Extra to my arsenal, I hope soon to have a soil thermometer; this will enable me to really know what I can get away with in the garden in terms of tender plants. It is often not the air temperature that is the problem rather than cool/cold damp/wet soil. The roots of many subtropical and tropical plants simply won/t tolerate cold damp feet (I don’t blame them!)

The other thing my journal is encouraging me to do is a little drawing. This occupation is not only very pleasant, but also helps us to look more intently at our vegetable specimens and the environment in which we are surrounded. While at university studying Landscape Technology, my favourite class was speed sketching, going out into the field and doing five minute sketches of trees plants buildings, whatever was around, great fun. We also took specimens into lab to do botanical style drawings, one way to really study and look closely at a subject, time I guess is the usual enemy in achieving these things, still I have made a start!


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