Summer has passed in what feels like a flash this year. Autumn is already creeping into the air and the morning are getting darker. We’ve been quiet here and on our social media, but busy in life and in the garden. Join us for our summer garden summary and a look at what’s been happening behind the scenes in our home garden.
The Battle of the Birds and Bugs
Summer is my favourite season for harvesting from the edible garden, but around here, the bugs and the birds like it just as much. The birds seem to grow more brazen with each passing year. The dogs, a myriad of neighbourhood cats, people, decoys, tapes and other efforts have all failed to keep them away. I don’t mind sharing with the birds, but they seem to mind sharing with us.
Bird Netting Full Fruit Trees
We finally broke down and the plums and blueberries were netted. Not an easy or pretty task for the trees, but temporary and effective. Large nets were used to fully wrap the trees and secured in place with a combination of clamps (main attachments) and metal clothes pegs (minor closures and tidiness). Some branches had to be pruned to fit.
Bagging Individual Fruit for Protection
Other trees, like the Belgian fence espalier, are more difficult to cover and care for during the growth and ripening season. A bulk pack of wedding favour bags has been shielding some of the fruit on the apple, nashi, and pear trees from birds and seems to be working pretty well. It also looks a lot better than all-over netting. The bags are being washed, dried, and stored for re-use as the individual fruit are harvested.
Companion Planting Under Fruit Trees
Most of our large trees and shrubs have companion plants for beneficial insects and/or pest deterrence. In many areas, the companion plants are just bee-friendly flowers and living mulches (creeping thyme is a favourite). For the espalier fruit trees and another area with our cherry trees, we changed things up and are using a combination of mints and marigolds. Whether this is helping with the bugs is anyone’s guess really, but at least the garden looks and smells pretty. And the bees are happy!
Summer Garden Success Stories and Top Crops
I don’t want to jinx anything since the plants are still going strong, but this year’s eggplant crop has been a surprise standout. Our tomatoes are also still really healthy despite the end of season. We’ll happily keep harvesting those for as long as possible before removing the plants for crop rotation. Capsicum, peppers and, chilis are also all still going and delicious.
The plums also had another great year, until storm winds shook almost everything left from the trees and we abandoned the netting. The apples, pears, and nashi are just coming into harvest now and also really great for the first year that we’ve let our young espalier trees set full fruit.
Seasonal Failures and Flops
Stormy late-summer weather took a heavy toll on many of our crops. Some trees lost their fruit, others split, many lost leaves, and some had branch damage. The persimmon tree was badly damaged and had to be cut back to the trunk. Hopefully it will regrow.
Preparing for Autumn
I’ve just started clearing out the first of the raised garden beds for refreshing the soil and replanting with our autumn/winter vegetables. We’ll be cleaning the glasshouse next weekend and preparing the pots for planting in there, too. With the rising cost of food, the more we can grow for ourselves and for sharing with others the better.
It’s been a quiet year for us with all of the restrictions, but Humphrey is still a happy lad and brings much joy to our world. He might not be much help with keeping the birds away, but he loves taste-testing some of the crops. Carrots are still his favourite. Lucky for me, he doesn’t know how to harvest them for himself. Dog-lovers might also enjoy checking out our partner dog blog Dalmatian DIY or its corresponding social media for more regular updates and photos from Humphrey.
The New Year Ahead
2021 was another strange year, and already 2022 is off to a rocky and sad start between COVID finally taking hold here in New Zealand and the state of global unrest elsewhere. Let’s hope that things improve. From our family to yours, I wish you safety, health, happiness, and good things. Happy gardening (and garden planning for our wintery northern friends). See you again soon!