Welcome to TheBloomingTales

Thanks for taking the time to visit my blog. Please feel free to make comments at the bottom of each post and tick the reactions boxes. If you have any gardening questions or want advice just post a comment (choose anonymous from the drop down) and I'll write about it. Regards JP.

Saturday, April 26, 2014

Make a Worm Tunnel

On the weekends I usually spend time reading gardening books, old magazines or surfing the net for gardening tips and ideas.  Months ago I saw a picture of a lady making worm tunnels for her garden out of plastic pipe offcuts.  At the time I thought it was a great idea, as my worm farm was not keeping up with the constant supply of food scraps that our household produces. This week I decided to try and make a couple, but do you think I could find the original instructions? Then I remembered.  I'm a man...I don't need instructions! The idea is to take a length of drainage piping, drill holes in it, put it in a hole in the ground, put your food scraps in the pipe so worms will enter through the holes and munch on the scraps. The worms help to break down the organic matter, adding nutrients to the soil, and also assist in aeration, which will help with air and water movement through the soil. Ultimately this will give your garden healthy soil for healthy growing plants. Once the worms have worked their magic the tunnels can easily be moved to other areas in the garden to repeat the process. Here is what I did.
Measure a 45cm length of PVC piping.  Drill random holes around the pipe.  I just used the largest drill bit I had.  Make sure you leave a 5 cm section at one end of the pipe hole-free, as this will be above ground.
This is what it looked like.  In hindsight I think it could have done with a few more holes.

Dig a 40cm hole in a spot where you want the tunnel to be. I chose to put mine in between the rows of broad beans I have growing.  The hole will need to be deep enough so that the 5cm "hole free" section of the pipe is just above ground level.
Give the pipe a gentle tap into the bottom of the hole (I used the flat of the spade) to secure it in place. Carefully back-fill the hole so that no soil goes into the pipe.

Put food scraps in the top and push down with a stick. I haven't totally filled mine yet. I want to see how quickly the worms are attracted to the tunnel. It's easy to add more scraps as they become available. The only scraps I wouldn't suggest putting in is onion peel and citrus.

I used old saucers turned upside down with a rock on top to cover the tunnels. Hopefully this will stop the rain filling them up and unwanted animals getting in. The tunnels can easily be pulled out and placed in other areas in the garden once the scraps have been broken down and there is no room left in the tunnel.

Friday, April 25, 2014

Photo Friday from the Garden: Tomato Seedlings

Decaying tomatoes in the glass house are sprouting this week.  It is a great reminder as to how many new plants you can get from a single tomato.

Friday, April 18, 2014

Photo Friday From the Garden: Sedum Spurium Fuldaglut

Sedum Spurium Fuldaglut
Purchased when I needed a few little ground covers to fill some gaps in one of my flower beds. This has to be one of my favourite perennials I have growing at the moment. I love the colour contrast of the red and green, perfectly arranged, leaves. It's common name is Dragon's Blood.

Sunday, April 13, 2014

An End to the Season

Tomato, tomato, tomatoes!
Last weekend brought the end to the tomato growing season for the garden. It was a bittersweet end to be honest. Tomato soup, tomato salad, frozen tomato, tomato sauce, tomato relish, tomato in the casserole, tomato in the curry, tomato on toast, tomato in the kids lunches, tomato, tomato, tomatoes! Even my family were declining offers for bags of freshly picked tomatoes. There is a limit right? Room had to be made for my winter crops to go in anyway. What to do with the 3-5kgs of fruit still hanging on the vines Ahhhhhhhhhh. I really don’t like being wasteful and I know that in a couple of months tomatoes are going to be the price of gold in the supermarkets. I have been freezing tomatoes in small zip lock freezer bags as the season has progressed, which are going to be very useful as we head into winter. My wife made a comment as to how many tins of tomatoes we go through in our cooking during winter. Easily two or three a week.
As we don’t have our own canning set up, freezing was going to be the less time consuming method (yes, I have had enough of bottling for the time being). I decided to make single serve bags of ‘ready to use’ flavoured tomato mixes. Main ingredients were tomato, garlic, onion and a fresh herb (coriander or basil). Here is the method:
Dozen small tomatoes, half an onion, two garlic cloves, herbs

Add to a food processor and pulse
Pour into zip lock freezer bags and label
Looking forward to more fresh tomatoes next year.

Friday, April 11, 2014

Photo Friday From the Garden: Calendula Officinalis

This Friday's photo is of a Calendula Officinalis bloom.  I raised the seedlings from seeds I had sown in punnets in January (now April).  Most gardeners would agree that they are one of the easiest flowers to grow from seed and provide a beautiful display of flowers. 

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

HOT TIP OF THE WEEK: Getting rid of weeds

All puns aside this really is a hot tip.
I have been searching for a ‘spray free’ method of getting rid of the weeds that have been popping up through the cracks of my driveway and paths. Can something as simple as boiling hot water really do the job? Honestly, yes. I came across other suggestions: Vinegar, salt, soap solutions, baking powder, blowtorch (which sounded like fun), getting on your hands and knees and pulling them up (boo) etc. But something as simple (and cheap) as boiling water was the method I chose to give a go first. Can’t believe I had not done this before.  It’s as easy as: Make a cup of coffee, tip the rest of the boiling water from the jug on to any weeds, sit down, drink your coffee and watch those weeds die.  Other boiling water I have used this week has been the the water from steaming my vege for dinner.
Here’s the proof.
Before (ie prepare to die)

Pour on the boiling hot water

The next day (even better the day after that)
I have read that you may have to try a second dose if the weeds don’t die.  I have had to do this to the ones with tap roots (
eg dandelion). JP

Saturday, April 5, 2014

Chilli Sauce

On my walk home from work one summer’s evening I passed a store with a stall of organic seedling plants outside. I find it difficult to pass by such plant stalls without taking a look and this time I was tempted by a punnet of yellow chilli seedlings. Now my only other experience growing chillies was something of a disaster. It was difficult to tell if they were ripe, they were extremely bitter and had no heat whatsoever! Consequently they all ended up in the garden bin.

Being yellow I decided that at least this time I would have some idea of when they would be ripe. I planted three of the seedlings (gave three away) in the corner of my glass house, with nothing more than a dressing of fresh compost. I then watered them every five or six days. Three months later I harvested near on a kg of brilliant yellow, sweet smelling chillies. Biting the end off one confirmed they were indeed hot chillies.
So what to do with them? A tip from my friend Jenny had me freezing some of the chillies, so I could use one or two when required. The rest I turned into sweet chilli sauce.
This is my recipe.
-  300g chillies, 200g red capsicum (if you want it really hot substitute capsicum for chillies), 3 garlic cloves, 3 cups white vinegar, 3 cups sugar.
-  Halve half of the chillies and put in food processor (with seeds), remove seeds of remaining chillies and add to processor.
-  Add chopped capsicum, garlic and half the vinegar to the chillies. -  Process until finely chopped.
-  Put the chilli mix, sugar and rest of the vinegar in a pot and on a low heat. Stir until sugar is dissolved.
-  Turn up the heat until the mixture boils.
-  Turn down heat to simmer and stir every now and then for around 40mins (until sauce thickens). Don’t worry if it’s not totally thick as it will thicken more as it cools.
-  I poured the mixture into jars that had been heated in the oven to sterilise.

As an aside, I remember as a kid my dad coming out of a public restroom laughing. He then told us about the graffiti he’d read. ‘If you feel like the bottom is falling out of your world, have a chilli curry and have the world fall out of your bottom’.

Thursday, April 3, 2014

The Blooming Tales is back.

The Blooming Tales is resurfacing after a long hot hibernation! Since my last post (over four years ago) a lot has happened.

I finished my Certificate in Horticulture (NZ open polytechnic) and two weeks later packed up our life in Auckland and headed to Qatar for work and an overseas experience with the family.

Active gardening took a back seat but my love of learning about and exploring the plant kingdom did not. From watching my friends date palms produce fruit to admiring the beauty of desert plants, there were still little gardening memories to be made.

Now back in beautiful New Zealand, we have settled in Hawkes Bay to a property with a glasshouse, fruit trees, vegetable and flower gardens and a rekindled passion for all things gardening. My blog is also going to be kicked back into shape. It will be a place where I share garden activities, things I read, learn and my trials and errors. Things I grow, propagate and make from my produce. I’d love to hear about your gardening life too, so feel free to share your photos and experiences.

My most recent harvest was a colourful kg of very hot chilies. Find out more about this in my next post. JP

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

I'm Partial to Naked Ladies

I discovered the Auckland Botanical Gardens at the beginning of the year when completing an assignment for a horticulture certificate I have been working. What an amazing place to discover new plants and get some ideas for you own garden.  It was there that I saw her.

Erect, void of a cloak, showing off her beautiful blooms stood the first naked lady I had ever seen in a public place.  I held my breath and could not break my constant stare.  It was like one of those moments when you know you have been gazing at something that you knew you shouldn’t.  I took out my camera and took some shots so I could continue my admiration in the privacy of my own home.  At the time I didn’t have a clue what the plant was, I just knew that what I saw was truly enchanting. 

At the beginning of winter this year I returned to the gardens to try and find the flower again and hopefully someone who could identify it for me.  I couldn’t believe it!  She was gone, my first true flower love had vanished without a trace, and in it’s place grew a bush of strap-like leaves.  I found a lone gardener tending to the perennial plants in the garden and poured out my heart to him, describing her distinguishing features.
“Ahhhh yes, Amaryllis Belladonna”, he began.  “She is still there, but will not be as noticeable, she covers up during winter, you will have to come back in summer once her cloak of leaves have died away and from her bulbs spring forth her impressive blooms”, said the knowledgeable gardener  (I’m taking poetic licence here).  Relieved yet left with a sense of longing I thanked him and turned to walk away. 
“Excuse me sir”, he called out.  “You may like to remember her for her common name”, he suggested.  “OK”, I replied.  “I’ll just get out a pen”.
“Oh, no… you wont forget it”, he was sure.  “Naked ladies”, he smirked.   
So, with baited breath I will await the summer, when again I will see her in all her glory, Amaryllis Belladonna.  My naked lady.

If you have any photos of Amaryllis Belladonna growing in your garden I would love to post them.  Please feel free to send them to thebloomingtales@xtra.co.nz with your tale of naked ladies.

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Cabbage! That's what's Growing.

Cabbage!  Boring?  Mmmm, maybe.  But it’s the only thing that has actually grown and ready for picking in my winter garden this week.  But boy is it packed full of all the good things my body needs.  Really high in vitamin K and C, great source of fibre (you may hear that coming from my bedroom later tonight), manganese, folate, vitamin B6, omega 3 fatty acids, calcium, potassium, vitamin A, protein, are you still reading?  Get my drift?   

I was inspired by a tweet (on twitter this week) when someone posted a picture of this fantastic looking cabbage grown in the Wairarapa, New Zealand, circa 1890s (http://mp.natlib.govt.nz/detail/?id=3190).  Ok, so my little one is nothing in comparison and I am suffering from size envy, but I’m still going to make really good coleslaw from it, even though it won’t be able to feed the whole town (and when I say “I”, I mean my lovely wife).  This is how she made it:

 STEP1  Finely slice cabbage (about 3 cups)

STEP2  Finely chop small onion (raw, don’t cook)

 STEP3  Grate two medium sized carrots

STEP4   Grate 1 cup of Edam cheese

STEP5  The dressing.  Combine in a bowl: ¾ cup natural yoghurt, 1 finely chopped gherkin, squeeze of lemon juice, 1/4tsp mustard powder, season with salt and pepper, parsley and thyme (these were growing in the garden so chuck in anything you have growing). 

STEP6  Mix the dressing through the chopped up vege and cheese and you are ready for dinner. 

I put a call out there on facebook for some cabbage recipes.  This is one I got from my friend Dave Dougherty. I’m a vegetarian so can’t vouch for the taste, but it does sound good for those carnivores out there.

Slice cabbage into roasting dish, sprinkle with finely diced bacon, sprinkle with celery seeds, salt and pepper, place a couple of knobs of butter over surface, cover with tinfoil, bake in oven for 10-15 minues, remove pan, remove tinfoil, toss everything together before immediately serving ...

What do you do with cabbage?