Tuesday, October 25, 2022

My labouring weekend

This weekend was New Zealand’s Labour Day holiday weekend (the public holiday was Monday). It’s traditionally the weekend people get their gardens ready for summer, which starts in only a few weeks. So, I decided to have my own “gardenathon”—who am I to buck tradition?

It was supposed to be sunny in Hamilton from Friday through Monday, so that sounded like I’d be able to get things a lot of things done. My plan was to pick up supplies and plants on Friday (to avoid the crowds), and then start planting out my recently-moved Vegepod. I joked on Facebook that had “more that I plan to do, too (and by ‘more’ I mean more than I can get done in three days, LOL).” Yes, well that turned out to be very true.

As it turned out, it rained Friday afternoon afternoon—a lot. Before that, the home centre I went to had very little of what I was looking for, though there were quite a lot of plants they hadn’t put out yet. That meant I could only get some of what I wanted, something that made me contemplate going to the other homw centre—on a holiday weekend. That may well be a sign I’d lost my mind. It also meant that mowing the lawns had to be moved from Friday to Saturday. Or, so I thought.

Friday night, I fell asleep in my chair watching TV. I was extremely tired because I’d had the worst night’s sleep maybe ever on Wednesday night, and only a bit better one Thursday night, so I was still weary on Friday. When I woke up, it was already getting light outside, something that’s never happened to me before (I’ve only ever dozed for a bit, then got up and gone to bed).

Because of all that, Saturday was a write-off. I went out for lunch with family that day, which was about perfect for my energy levels. I wanted to take a nap when I got home, but didn’t. I was in bed early (by my standards). Moving on.

Sunday, day two of the National Gardenathon, was my first real work day. First, I planted stuff I’d bought to put in my Vegepod—just some coriander and some curly parsley—the only plants I wanted that Bunnings actually had on Friday.

I planted way too much coriander, but I hope to dry some for use during colder months. I also planted too much parsley, but the thing about that is that I again bought the parsley that Nigel liked, and just as reflexively as I would’ve if he was alive, or as I did last time. Clearly I haven’t fully adjusted to living without him. I’m going to get some of the flat leaf (aka Italian parsley) that I like, too. At any rate, I don’t mind having the “wrong” parsley because I can use it to test to see if it does better in the Vegepod than it did in pots last time, where it got sunburned. I think it will.

All that was easy, but next—potting the tomato plants I bought—turned out to be a HUGE project. I had to clean out the two pots I used last time first, then I had to scrounge three more I’d found in the garage when I was working on that last year. I don’t know why, but the punnet I bought had five plants in it, and apparently that’s all it was supposed to have. But, then, I only had five suitable pots, so that worked out well?

Overall, it was as big a job as when Nigel and planted tomatoes at the last house, four years ago this same weekend (and we also planted herbs, including, of course, curly parsley). Leo supervised, mostly from under the patio table, the only shady spot anywhere on the patio (the sun was intense!).

I got way overheated, so I retreated to the air conditioned house, hoping to sow some of the seeds that evening, when it’s cooler. I didn’t.

Okay, then: One day of work done, and so much to do. Monday had a lot to fit in. As it turned out, I got a lot done—not everything on my list, but what I got done was pretty massive—for me.

My first job was to use the line trimmer in the back, both along the fences along all the boundaries, and the perimeter of the house. I also attacked (well, I did…) some of the weed clumps on the bank along one side of my section. The battery ran out of energy just as I pretty much finished back there.

My arms were VERY tired, so I took a break to drink some water (I had to hold the glass with both hands!) and to cool down. Then I got another battery and the charger from the garage, put the first battery on to charge, snapped the fresh battery on the line trimmer and headed out front. I was about two-thirds done when I suddenly ran out of line. So, I took the trimmer into the garage and put in new line filament on the first try, which hadn’t happened before. I finished the boundaries and house perimeter then went to get the lawn mower.

I mowed the front lawn and took another water/cooling break. When I walked into the house, the Move Ring on my watch was nearly closed (and closed as soon as I sat down to rest, LOL). My Exercise Ring was nearly closed.

After my rest, I went out back and started mowing that lawn. I also touched up some areas I hadn’t trimmed properly earlier. When I went back into the house, the Exercise Ring was at 150% of the daily goal, and Move Ring was nearly there.

I went back out one last time after the evening news and spread some grass seed where the Vegepod used to be. I also sowed some seeds in the Vegepod itself, and a couple pots. I’m not holding my breath, though, because the seeds are old, but, I didn’t have any reason to NOT use them. I also watered everything I’ve planted over the past two days.

I still had two plants to plant along that bank, but I left that job for this morning. In sum, over the three-day holiday weekend I managed to get done nearly everything I planned—and both the Move Ring and Exercise Ring on my watch ended up at more than 200% of my daily goal.

Today was to be the final planting (for this round), and, well, I ended up with a change of plans: I now won’t be planting my citrus trees on the bank along the side boundary. I began by loosening the ground with this thing I bought for digging holes: It has four tines, and a T handle at the top to make it easy to turn the thing to dig a hole—or, it did the last time I used it.

The spot where I was going to put the tree turned out to be very dense, solid clay, so solid that it looked denser than the kind we used in art class in school to make fancy fired and glazed pottery stuff for our parents (I did briefly consider buying a kiln and becoming a ceramicist…). Joking aside, it’s the densest clay I’ve ever seen in the ground.

Mostly, it came out in big, almost rocklike chunks, a couple of which are in the photo up top (with gloves for scale). After a half hour of hard work, the hole was no more than half as big as it needed to be, and I realised it would actually need to be many times bigger because it’d end up being an in-ground clay pot—but that meant poor drainage and the likelihood the tree would probably die.

So, my back-up plan: I’m going to plant them in containers (basically, a small raised garden bed), something a lot of people do, actually. I’m ordering them today and then get the soil once I know when the containers will be delivered. A setback, yes, but one I can work around.

Back in 2020, I planted a pittosporum along that boundary, but the other end, near my patio. The slope is a lot lower there, and the clay much less dense. There was also some topsoil. But I noticed the plant grew very slowly the first year or so, probably because of the dense soil (it’s doing great now). But I’d originally planned on planting them along the entire boundary to give me privacy, and now I have to rethink the whole thing. I guess I was lucky that Bunnings didn’t have any on Friday.

When I moved in, the lawns were barren patches of clay (builders always strip out the topsoil, but he didn’t put any back, and then he just had lawn seed sprayed onto the barren clay (and then never watered it…). It took two years before it filled in, partly because my mowing added organic matter through the grass mulch. It’s now largely weeds, but at least it’s green and full.

I guess it pays to be flexible.

This post is derived from posts I made to my personal Facebook over the holiday weekend.

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