It’s time for Green in Real Life’s regular seasonal gardening update, but it’s been a most irregular season. Here’s the special autumn lockdown bubble edition of what’s been happening in our home garden. It’s been a most unusual autumn for us this year, with almost the entire season spent at home in COVID-19 lockdown. Fortunately, New Zealand has been lucky thus far and now life is slowly returning to normal.
Autumn in the Bubble
It feels almost as if the entire fall has passed us by, and now suddenly it’s winter. Our newly developed neighbourhood has few mature trees, so it was a stark contrast to drive through town when New Zealand stepped down to Level 2 and see all of the autumn colours and fallen leaves. Fall was just hinting its arrival when I last drove through. Crazy times indeed.
We’ve been fortunate. Our family has been safe and secure at home, other than essential errands and a few time that my husband (an essential worker) was needed on site instead of working remotely. I’ve been busy working as well, including transitioning Green in Real Life to our new website. I hope you like it! There are still a few tweaks in progress, but the main transition work has mostly been completed. I wish I could say that all that time at home means that the garden is fully prepped and ready for winter, but also, there are still plenty of chores on my to-do list.
Growing and Giving
Our summer update was shared early, before our guests arrived, but the late summer harvest was excellent this year. Prior to lockdown, my visiting parents were able to sample many of our fresh grown fruits and veggies. Dad was particularly keen on our many cherry tomatoes and was spotted making a few sneaky raids under the grapevine bird nets. One of the last things we did before they flew home just before lockdown (very stressful all around) was take in a massive harvest of tomatoes. Mom and I made homemade tomato sauce base, which is a very handy freezer staple but all the more so when the world started getting a bit crazy about groceries.
Late season tomatoes, zucchini, squash, and pumpkins were all shared between neighbours before we began isolating in our bubbles. Thanks to my enormous seed stash, I was also able to give seeds to start winter gardens when neighbours were unable to buy last minute seedlings or seeds. Then lockdown limited our ability to share, beyond a distanced smile and wave. Strange times.
Seasonal Success Stores and Top Crops
The tomatoes were stars of our summer and autumn. There are actually still a few in the garden now! I clear most of the beds for winter planting, but still have one last lingering cherry tomato plant. It’s been fruiting straight through, but this week’s arrival of frost has finally put an end to things. Classic cherries are my favourite, but we grew a number of different varieties this year. I planted extra for Dad. Haha! Of special note, the yellow patio choice plants were incredibly prolific and indigo rose, our first time growing a black variety, was surprisingly delicious and very unique looking in salads.
The passionfruit crop was also exceptional. Our neighbours were all well supplied and I have a stash in the freezer, frozen in easy-use cubes using ice cube trays. I did the same with our overabundance of lockdown grapes, but seeded and slow cooked those first. The smell was downright divine. The strawberries also put on surprise a third crop this year. It’s still fruiting and ripening, although it’s hard to beat the birds and beasts around here! My canine raiders have been quick to harvest as they ripen.
Our olive tree is still very young and small, but it has a beautiful looking little smattering of olives. It seems a shame to waste theme, so I may try a very very small batch brining. This is our first olive tree so it will be my first attempt at curing olives to be edible. Fingers crossed!
Seasonal Failures and Flop Crops
We had a very hot and dry summer. It was difficult keeping even moisture levels to some of the pots and planters and all of the usual suspects were keen to bolt. No exceptional or unexcepted flops, but it was a whole lot of hard work. We’re going to modify the irrigation systems before next year.
Our fig fruited well for a young tree, but despite trying a few different recipes, neither of us really enjoyed the flavour. Perhaps they will improve with maturity or perhaps it was this year’s weather. We’ll see what next year holds.
It wasn’t a crop flop, but I’d definitely call it a seasonal failure when our garden arches collapsed in heavy storm winds! I had trained cucumbers and tomatoes on large walk-under arches at the end of our raised beds. They were stunning, until a massive thunderstorm with gales from an unusual direction bent the rods. That’s what I get for using cheap arches. Oh well! It won’t stop me from trying again, but I will be more careful about the materials next time.
Last but never least, a little update on our furfamily. Our dogs loved having their grandparents here for a visit during the summer months. We even managed to squeeze everyone in for some pet-friendly road trips! Through the autumn lockdown, we’ve all been at home. Having their Dad around while working from home has been an interesting change for the boys. They won’t be keen on returning to our usual family routine, but Humphrey will love being back to off-lead areas and social time with his dog pals. Oli is feeling his age, but still happy. We’re taking things slowly and treasuring the time we have together. Dog lovers can follow our boys on Instagram and via their blog.
Lockdown Garden Love and Gratitide
I’ve felt incredibly fortunate throughout the lockdown here to have our home garden. It’s just an urban garden, but it’s still a garden. Space to escape the house and enjoy the outdoors at home is a luxury. Especially with our dogs. The autumn weather has been beautiful here, other than a few big storms.
Walking out to collect fresh fruits, veggies, or herbs also left me feeling incredibly grateful. I know many people were making do without because of safety, availability, or finances. There has been a huge uptick in people interested in growing their own food. If you’re keen to start an edible garden, growing food at home is possible on any scale, even if you start with a small pot of herbs or jar of sprouts. If budget is a factor, starting from seed is inexpensive compared to buying plants or produce. It can become almost free in time if you save seeds or swap. If you have gardening friends or neighbours, they might be happy to share some cuttings, seedlings, or seeds to help you get started.
As much as I hate to say farewell to autumn, I think we’ll all be glad to put this season behind us. Wherever you reading this, I hope that you and those you love are safe and well. I hope that the coming winter (or summer for our northern readers) is kind to you. Take care, stay safe, be well.