Gardening jobs – Sunday 3rd June 2018

This weekend has turned on some spectacular Winter weather – cold, crisp, and sunshiny, with barely a cloud in the sky. Perfect weather for that endless winter weeding, provided I rug up well! It was touch-and-go for a minute, when I couldn’t find my woolly winter beanie, but crisis was averted, and out I went.

The sunshine of the past week that followed some wet weather caused germination of many weed seeds, so I have spent two days weeding, and then mulching with sugar cane straw to try to prevent the weeds returning. Some people believe that sugar cane mulch causes nitrogen drawdown, but I have never seen any evidence of that, and I am happy to use it in my garden.

Compost ready for the garden bed

I also spent a happy hour turning the compost in my bin and digging out the fresh compost to add to the garden. There was enough in there to add to a whole new section of garden. I cleared that section of weeds, and added the compost, before planting brassica seedlings from my raised seedling bed. These included a mix of broccoli (Green Sprouting), cauliflower (Purple Cape), and cabbage (Mini Drum). After watering in, I mulched and then fed with seaweed solution to prevent transplant shock.

Happy Broccoli seedling tucked into a freshly mulched garden bed

Hand weeding allows you to take stock of changes in the garden. For example, my bed of mixed greens (silverbeet, rocket, and coriander) are now ready to start picking. They are still at the lovely, sweet, tender stage and are really delicious. Coriander is a tricky herb. It can only be planted in cooler weather, as it will bolt straight to seed as soon as any hint of warmer weather hits. It also dislikes transplanting, so it is best to grow it directly from seed and then leave it alone to grow quickly. Pick it frequently so it grows nice and bushy, and ensure you keep it well watered. Some people dislike it intensely, but our family loves it. I have planted a lot and will plant some more in a couple of weeks to ensure a good supply while I can grow it myself. I tend not to buy herbs, as I have the space to grow all I need, but I make an exception for coriander in the Summer.

Rocket, silverbeet, coriander

The beetroot I thinned a couple of weeks ago is responding to the extra room. It is time to plant some more though so I can have a steady supply of fresh beetroot during the cooler months.

Beetroot seedlings

The broad beans and peas I planted recently are taking off. I have purple-podded peas, dwarf snow peas, and although I have planted three kinds of broad beans, to date only two have germinated. I think the third packet, which I found at the bottom of my seed tin, was too old. I will give it another week before accepting defeat, though.

Broad bean (Aquadulce)

The Crimson-flowered broad bean started flowering this week. These were planted about a month ahead of the Aquadulce, so this is not surprising. It was exciting to see the flash of red in the mostly green and brown garden.

I’m having a week off work this week, so I’m hoping for a few more pleasant days to get out in the garden. Next job on my list: rose pruning, and transplanting some very unhappy feijoas.

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Gardening jobs – Weekend 20 May 2018

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Pumpkins – the last until next year

 

The weather turned! And just like that, the rain set in, and with it, my ability to get outside in the garden much for a couple of weeks. I’m not complaining though – it has been lovely to have some rain on the roof and in the garden.

With the rain also came: weeds! So many weeds! So this weekend I really spend my Sunday morning out among the damp soil, hoeing weeds in my vegie patch.

Weeding is one of those gardening tasks that many people dislike, but I find it therapeutic. I think of it as an exercise in mindfulness. For my lovely plants to flourish, the weeds must be removed regularly, and we only hand weed at our place as we garden organically. I plod along, pulling out the weeds, and listening to a podcast and occasionally standing to stretch my back (boy, have I learned that lesson! A week in bed and months of physiotherapy are expensive and not worth repeating). As the weed pile in my rusty old wheelbarrow grows higher, the rows of happy plants grow neater, and I feel a sense of satisfaction that Henry Howard, Earl of Surrey called “the quiet mind.”

My friend, the things that do attain

The happy life be these, I find:

The riches left, not got with pain,

The fruitful ground; the quiet mind;

Of course it would have been better for Henry Howard if he had taken his own advice, but alas, too often we don’t.

After weeding about half the garden (the rest to be left for the upcoming weekend), I had the sad/happy task of removing the tomato and pumpkin vines, and picking the last of our very happy tomato and pumpkin crop. Look at the pile! I have more pumpkin vines than I can fit in our green bin, and more than I can cram in my compost. I think I will be discarding pumpkin vines slowly in the green bin for at least a few months.

pumpkin vines

The pumpkins were a wonderful success this year. We grew three varieties, with the Butternuts ‘volunteering’ from our compost, and the Kent grown from saved seed. I estimate over 40 kilograms of pumpkins harvested, with some now in our freezer and a couple left in storage in our pantry cellar. I gave a lovely Butternut to my sister, made some more pumpkin soup, as is the law, and cooked the smallest Butternut drizzled with maple syrup and olive oil with a roast chicken the other night. Yum!

Finally, I sowed more broad beans (I have warned my husband that this Spring will bring a plethora of broad beans!) and planted out some broccoli seedlings I have been raising. I am hoping against hope that they will survive slugs, snails and white cabbage moth caterpillars. I have more to plant out this weekend. I also thinned the beetroot and carrot seedlings. I hate thinning, but it is a necessary evil to sacrifice all those baby plants so the others can grow nice and strong.

I’m hoping for some lovely weather this Sunday so I can finish my weeding and plant out the rest of my seedlings, and then – bring forth the rain!

Gardening jobs – Week beginning 23rd April, 2018

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This odd Autumn weather is continuing, with warm days punctuated by brief storms. I am still picking eggplant, capsicum, and tomatoes almost as much as I was in the heat of the Summer. While I am happy to have this abundance of Summer vegetables, it is now almost May and it seems strange to be still picking eggplant right now.

One of my eggplant bushes has grown so large and has been so prolific it deserves a name. It spans about a metre across and at the moment has about ten fruit still on it (it is actually impossible to capture the full plant and all its fruit in one photo). I am hoping it will over-winter and I can keep it for next Summer. I have named it Audrey II.

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We picked 13 kilograms of pumpkins this week. I used one pumpkin to make a big batch of pumpkin soup, and put the rest in the pantry to store. We have quite a few more Butternuts and Kent pumpkins still growing on our vines, including this one just hanging around. We will wait for them to get bigger before picking them, although we could pick them at any time if we wanted to (they would just not have as rich a flavour and colour). This has been my most successful year with pumpkins. All we have done is water them. I have just let them do their thing, and they have rewarded us with about 25 kilograms of delicious pumpkin goodness so far. Considering most of the vines have popped up from the compost of their own accord, I would say they have been a great deal for the garden space they take up.

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I have had a lovely week off work, and spent quite a bit of it out in the garden (of course). Much of it was spent doing the boring tasks that have to be done this time of year: weeding, feeding, and watering.

On Monday, I spent a pleasant afternoon potting up some plants that have been waiting for me to have a spare minute, including a beautiful Cinnamon Myrtle that I bought from the Diggers Club a couple of weeks ago. This is a gorgeous cinnamon scented native shrub that can be used in herbal teas. Later I will plant it into the garden and hopefully it will attract native bees. For now, I have potted it into a large terracotta tub. I also potted up dark purple violas into a large ceramic bowl and into window boxes now hanging on our balcony.

A few weeks ago we planted up our Autumn/Winter garden beds, and while our seedlings all germinated, so did a whole lot of weed seeds. My husband and I spent a couple of hours this week weeding out grass and other annoying weeds from in between the baby plants. Now our seedlings can grow unimpeded.

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Garlic, red and gold beetroot, and rocket seedlings
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Dwarf snow pea seedlings (front); Purple podded pea seedlings (back)
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Broad bean (Crimson flowering) seedlings

After the boring part of weeding, I turned the compost, retrieving a couple of barrow loads of fresh compost for the garden, and my husband moved a raised garden bed from the front garden to the back. Thanks to my parents’ chooks, I was able to refresh the compost bin with manure and straw, and I can see that in about six weeks I will have a nice batch of compost to feed the rhubarb. Rhubarb is a very hungry plant and my six rhubarb plants will be ready for a good compost feeding by then.

We placed the new compost in the bed and planted some new seeds in the garden and in the raised bed:

  • Asian greens: Tatsoi, Pak Choy, and Shungiku;
  • Cauliflower: Purple Cape and Purple Sicilian;
  • Kale Red Russian;
  • Cabbage Mini Drum;
  • Broad bean Aquadulce;
  • Snow pea Dwarf.

I have planted quite a lot of peas and broad beans this year, mostly to fill in some spaces that would otherwise lie fallow, and also because these plants are nitrogen fixers. Some people do not like broad beans, but if they are picked nice and young they are really delicious. The peas I expect my children will eat before they ever reach the kitchen.

I have planted many types of Asian greens because my eldest daughter loves Chinese, Vietnamese and Japanese food. She chose the Shungiku (also known as Chop Suey Greens) seeds and asked me to grow them for her. I have never tried them before, but like all Asian vegetables I am sure they will be fast and easy to grow.

I also planted Daffodils Erlicheer in the front yard, and had the joy of noticing the return of last year’s Spiraxis, Yellow Crocus, and Ranunculus. We are still waiting hopefully for the return of one of my favourite flowering bulbs of all time, the Pickwick Crocus. I remember where I planted it last year and can’t see any sign yet, but perhaps in a few weeks they will pop their heads up. Crocuses grow for only a short time but are so beautiful that it is worth growing them for the brief splash of beauty in the garden.

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Crocus ‘Pickwick’ – please come back!

I have one last packet of Ranunculus to plant out – that will be a job for tomorrow, along with a great deal of weeding in the front yard, which has been sadly neglected of late.

And then, back to work and the real world of 9-5 and part-time gardening.

Gardening jobs – Weekend 7 & 8 April, 2018

After planting seeds and garlic last weekend, I listened to the BOM Weather forecaster on Saturday morning and learned that we are about to be hit with a period of unseasonable warmth in South Australia, with temperatures in the mid-30s over the next week, and continuing dry weather into May.

This is bizarre weather for mid-Autumn, even in Australia, but also disappointing news when I have just planted up a whole garden full of seeds for Winter. It also explains why my late-planted tomatoes are still setting fruit, I am still picking three to four eggplant a week, and the capsicum and chilli plants are producing heavily. I may end up with a full crop of sauce tomatoes after all.

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San Marzano tomatoes

My main task for this weekend was to ensure that the new seedlings popping up (so far, rocket, pak choy, and green sprouting broccoli) survive, and to keep the rest of the plants going. So we watered everything well and will continue to do so.

On Sunday, my friend Lisa and I attended the Heirloom Weekend at the Adelaide Botanic Gardens. In previous years, this has been a very busy and well-attended event with a lot of stalls and displays of heirloom vegetables. This year was very quiet, with only three stalls. We were able to turn our coffee cups (we forgot to bring Keep Cups) into pots for free rainbow chard seedlings, and taste and buy raw honey from a community garden in Henley Beach. We also bought plants and seeds from the Diggers Shop because that is the law. I bought:

  • Lemon Balm to replace the plant I killed earlier in the year (it is apparently possible to kill a lemon balm plant);
  • Cinnamon Myrtle. This is an Australian flowering native with cinnamon scented leaves that are edible and can be used for herbal tea. I want to grow this to attract native bees;
  • Cauliflower Sicilian Purple. This is a beautiful, vibrant purple cauliflower. Growing cauliflower takes commitment as it is very slow growing. You have to be prepared to allow the space in your garden to be set aside for almost half a year. It is worth the effort, as the flavour of homegrown cauliflower is not replicable with storebought, and you can’t buy the purple variety in the shop;
  • Cabbage Mini Drum. You can buy mini cabbages in the shop but I do like to grow them myself as the freshness of the flavour is really lovely.

I am hoping for some cooler weather next weekend and some time on Sunday to plant these lovelies. I also have a Lemon Myrtle to plant. I am starting to run out of room…

Seed Saving, Part II

Saving seeds for home gardening

If you come to my house, you are more than likely to find a plate or a saucer on our fireplace, with some seeds drying on it. I often wonder what visitors to our home think we are doing. Who are these people, with their plates of dried out husks all over the place?

I save seeds for future planting in my garden because it’s fun, it saves money, and it contributes in a very small way to plant biodiversity.

Saving seeds is very easy. I have learned to do it over time by reading about how to save seeds from different plants, watching YouTube videos, and testing it out myself. For some plants it is very intuitive, and you don’t need a guide. For others, it is helpful to read about the plant and the way seeds are reproduced in nature.

I save seeds in two ways: by allowing the plant to self-seed in my garden, and by actively sourcing and saving seeds for replanting later.

Self-seeding (a.k.a the lazy way)

Only do this a) if you have the space (I do); and b) for plants you don’t mind spreading around the place. I mostly allow plants like herbs and some flowers to self-seed. But a word of warning before you do this: make sure that you know for sure the plant will self-seed true-to-type the following year (i.e that it is an heirloom variety). I made this mistake two years ago with a variety of Cosmos (an annual flowering plant) that I believed would self-seed prolifically. The first year, the plants were spectacular, and I really wanted a second crop from the seed heads that grew very easily from the spent flowers. I sprinkled them far and wide in my garden. Sure enough, the plants regrew the following year. However, they produced only one or two flowering heads, and are now an annoying weed in my garden. I am still pulling them out. The lesson here is: really know your plant before you go ahead and allow it to self-seed in your garden. Plants are biologically hard-wired to try to reproduce, even when humans have bred them not to be able to do so. You may not get what you want.

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Cosmos

The plants I allow to self-seed are: parsley (both Italian and curly), violas and pansies, lettuces, lamb’s ear, sweet peas, nigella, and white alyssum.

Parsley is a good one to try first, as it goes to seed at the end of its two-year lifespan, and is not happy to be transplanted. When it does go to seed, it will often grow to an enormous size, so you will need to be ready for this. Choose a plant that is in as unobtrusive a spot in your garden as possible, and let it bloom and the seeds form.

Allowing plants to go to seed is a lesson in patience. You have to accept that the plant will look sprawly and overgrown for some time. However, you will be rewarded by beneficial insects (in my garden, primarily foraging bees and ladybugs) that love to visit your herbaceous flowers.

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Parsley seed heads forming

After several months (yep, months!) the parsley seed heads will dry and you can either collect them and save them in a jar for future planting, or sprinkle them around your garden. It is likely that they will already have spread by wind or birds, and you will start to find little parsley plants popping up at odd spots throughout your garden. Personally, I love this look and am happy to let them grow where they will. However, you can transplant them when they are young. Do it before the parsley has had time to develop its long taproot, or it will be grumpy and will not do well. One thing I enjoy about having so many herbs all around the place is that friends and family know that we always have herbs free for the taking. If they want a bunch of parsley for dinner, they can just grab some from our garden.

This is also the case with Lamb’s Ear, which really struggles to be transplanted. I have only had success in a few cases. It self-seeds readily, but hates to be moved. I don’t mind letting it go to flower and seed though, as the tall pink flower spikes atop the soft grey foliage are stunning and provide a point of difference in my garden. The bees also love these.

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Lamb’s Ear flower stalk

Alyssum and violas are very easy to self-seed. Since I planted a punnet of white alyssum three years ago I have never needed to replant. I let it go along its own way, and I now find the flowers in cracks, between other plants, and in my grass. Again, I don’t mind this, but if you want a neater garden you will need to plant it in a pot. For a less invasive variety, plant the purple variety. In my experience it does not self-seed readily at all (kind of annoying from my point of view, but good if you do not want a spreading variety).

Sweet peas were an unintentional self-seeder. In 2016 I planted Sweet Pea Matucana, a purple and pink heirloom sweet pea that grows very strongly and is very sweetly scented. Due to time constraints, I let it develop a lot of seed heads before I removed the spent plants. I deliberately saved some to plant the following year, but a full stand of flowers grew without my help last year (I also planted some in a different spot). I saved more seeds from that crop and this year I will plant them again, along with the new seeds for Sweet Pea America I just purchased. Sweet peas are my favourite flower, so I am more than happy to have them reappear annually without any effort on my part.

 

Saving seeds

I save seeds from plants that have been highly prolific, or that are especially tasty. Some of my efforts at saving seeds have been highly experimental and very successful; other efforts should have worked but were dismal failures. It is very much a trial and error process. In terms of saving time, it is not a hobby for that. I could buy a packet of seeds or a punnet of seedlings and be done with it.

Tomatoes

Saving tomato seeds is a fiddly business. If you have an heirloom tomato that you want to grow again next year, wait until you have a nice, ripe specimen. Fill a cup or small jar with water, and scoop the seeds into the cup. Let the tomato seeds sit in the cup overnight. They will ferment slightly. Strain in a fine sieve, ensuring you remove all pulp from around the seeds. Dry on a plate lined with paper towel until completely dry. They will stick to the paper, but they are easily removed. Store in a labelled jar in a dark place.

Pumpkins

Can you say ‘easy’? Pumpkins are the gift that keeps on giving, provided you have the room to grow them. Easy to grow, easy to save seeds, easy to eat. There is nothing about pumpkins to dislike. I saved my first lot of pumpkin seeds from a Kent pumpkin bought on sale at the supermarket, and it produced perfect replicas of that original pumpkin. In fact, it’s hard to keep a pumpkin seed down. Try composting them – you will just end up with pumpkin plants down the track. We currently have about ten pumpkin plants in our garden, and we only planted four of them. The rest are self-seeded butternuts from our compost. They are also producing beautiful, fat butternuts. I see pumpkin soup, pumpkin dal, and pumpkin scones in our future.

To save pumpkin seeds, just scoop them out of a fully ripe pumpkin, give them a rinse to remove the pulp, and dry them on a plate. Too easy.

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Ripe pumpkin with seeds ready for harvesting: just scoop, rinse, and dry on a paper towel. Easy!

Zucchini

I have to be honest: my success rate saving zucchini seeds is low. I find the seeds to be flimsier than pumpkins, and they do not dry as well. The process for drying them is the same as pumpkins, but the result is not as good (for me). I will keep trying but so far, not great.

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Scoop the seeds from a very mature zucchini plant

Capsicums and Chillies

These are as easy as pumpkins. Let the capsicum or chilli ripen on the vine until red (or yellow or black, depending on your variety). Cut open and remove the seeds. Dry on a plate, and store in a jar in a dark place. I have had good success with both chillies and capsicums.

Beans and peas

These are very simple. Toward the end of the season, when the bean or pea vines are almost at the end of their natural cycle, let a couple of pea pods or beans grow larger than you normally would if you were planning to eat them. Let the pods dry on the vine for as long as possible. Give them a shake: you should hear the little peas and beans inside rattle. If you are worried about mildew, gently remove from the plant and bring inside to dry. Voila! Bean or pea seeds! When completely dry, remove from the pods and store in a jar until next season. I have saved both beans and peas this way with success. They can be prone to fungal diseases, but I have not had this problem.

Eggplant

This is kind of a pain, because you have to sacrifice an eggplant. To get an eggplant to the point that it has set seeds, you need to let it get to that old and bitter stage, when they are not really worth eating. Some people recommend pulsing your ancient eggplant in a food processor with water until the seeds rise to the top. I have not found that to be necessary. When they have reached the seedy stage, the seeds more or less fall out as you cut it up. Save the seeds you want and then compost the rest.

Lettuce

A lettuce sets seeds in a similar way to a thistle or other weedy plant you have seen in your garden. It has yellowish flowers that then sets a woolly seed head. These need to be allowed to dry out to brownish small seeds. The seeds are very fine, so when it reaches the dry stage, cover the head with a brown paper bag to catch the seeds.

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Australian Yellow Lettuce forming seed heads. As the seed heads dry, cover with a brown paper bag, or all your seeds may blow away!

In the end, much of seed saving is about trial and error. Try saving some of the simpler seeds, such as pumpkin, beans, and peas. I have had most success with capsicum and chillies, and pumpkin. I have yet to try silverbeet or any of the greens (except lettuce), carrots or root vegetables, brassicas, or sweetcorn. One day, I hope to be self-sufficient in seeds and have no need to buy seeds from a seed company.

 

Gardening jobs – Easter Weekend, 2018

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Save the beeeez

 

Is there anything more wonderful than Easter Weekend? Four glorious days off to spend with family, friends, and chocolate! And for those of us with green thumbs, the Easter Weekend really does mark the beginning of the Autumn gardening season.

Each year we attend the Meadows Easter Fair with our close friends. This annual country fair is held over the four day Easter Weekend in the tiny hills town of Meadows, which becomes inundated with visitors from the city. We arrive early so we can find a park, and usually leave by about 1 p.m., which is about the time that everyone that has slept late starts to arrive in droves. There are certain things we do every year, by tradition and rule: we buy freshly picked apples, dried fruit, crocheted hand towels, marshmallow rabbits, zucchini pickles, my kids have their names burned on a stick, and hot cinnamon donuts from the Rotarians. This year, in addition to the donuts, they were also selling heirloom sweet pea seeds called ‘Surprise.’ Sweet peas are my favourite flower, so I had to buy them, and the man told me to plant them now. So there you have it folks: if the Rotarians at the Meadows Fair say it’s time to plant sweet peas, then Autumn gardening season is officially on.

Saturday, March 31

Before I could have the fun of planting the sweet peas and everything else I had ready for the Winter vegie patch, I had to do the very boring stuff. Weeding, tidying up, and watering a very dry and sad yard that is desperate for a drink. This Summer has been extremely dry in South Australia, and the soil in our front yard is parched and very unhappy. I have established fruit trees and herbs, and they are mostly surviving, but it is hard to plant anything new, and I have lost a couple of the more delicate plants. Violets, some creeping thyme, and a couple of rhubarb plants that have survived previous Summers have given up the ghost.

The soil in our front yard is generally not great. I am offering up this plea to anyone considering a weed mat to deter weeds: do not do it. It does not prevent weeds, and it does prevent you from building good soil with organic matter because you can’t dig deep enough to fork in compost and manure. Weeds are shallow rooted, so they just happily grow on top of weed matting, while plants worth growing struggle to form a deep root system.  Moreover, weed matting deters mud nesting native bees from taking up residence in your garden because they cannot dig a hole through the weed mat to build a nest. Many of the native bees in Australia are endangered because they cannot find food or nesting places in overly landscaped Australian yards (think golden diosmas, strappy grasses, hard paving, and artificial turf). Weed matting is just another barrier to stop bees like the blue-banded bee from finding a safe place to land and reproduce.*

The previous owners of our land installed weed matting and black plastic before dropping a (relatively thin) load of clean fill and then gunmetal gravel on top. Over time that soil has become hard and water repellent.To restore the soil to the point that I can grow much of anything on it has been a labour of love. I am going to engage in a metre-by-metre soil restoration project for the rest of the year, starting in the top corner of our large, sloping front yard, and moving down. My plan is to essentially create an enormous ‘no-dig’ garden on top of the sad soil that is there. That will be expensive and time consuming.

Happily, the soil in our backyard was left to its own devices and is rich, loamy, and healthy. We have found that everything we plant in it grows with almost minimal effort. There were however many shallow-rooted weeds that popped up over the past few weeks, so I spent a warm Easter Saturday afternoon weeding, turning compost, and digging over the soil. Then I watered both front and back extensively, ready for planting on Easter Monday.

Finally, I picked more eggplant and pumpkin ready for Easter Sunday roast and a curry on Easter Monday.

Monday, April 2

How much planting do you think one person can do in a single day?

The answer, apparently, is a lot.

I started with a quick trip to Bunnings to pick up some sheep poo, blood and bone, and mushroom compost. Although the soil in the backyard is healthy, we grew a lot of vegetables over the Summer, and I wanted to dig through some soil conditioners to boost the health of the soil. In some spots where I am growing nitrogen-fixing crops over winter (broad beans and peas), I did not dig through any manures, but in areas of the garden where I am planting greens and garlic, I dug through the sheep poo and mushroom compost. My own compost is not ready yet, so that stayed in the bin after a turning on Saturday. Hopefully it will be ready for Operation Soil Repair in the front yard in a few more weeks.

Today I planted:

  • Parsnip Hollow Crown – this is a classic heirloom variety of parsnip. I love, love, love parsnips and have had great success with this variety. It is seed leftover from last year though, so may not germinate as well. Ideally, parsnip seed should be very fresh for successful germination;
  • Carrot Heirloom Mixed and Carrot Early Harvest – homegrown carrots taste really amazing, and I love to grow them for my niece and nephew, who get very excited about pulling a carrot from the ground at Aunty Mand’s;
  • Coriander (a.k.a Cilantro) – some people hate it, my family loves it, except my brother, who despises it. That’s OK – more for us. It can only be grown in the cooler months around here, or it bolts straight to seed;
  • Leek King Richard – I have not grown leeks before; I am excited to see how these go;
  • Pea Purple Podded – these are an heirloom variety I grew last year, and I saved seeds. They were delicious and prolific, although my kids ate most of them off the vines before they got to the table;
  • Pea Dwarf Snow Pea – I hope these grow well. Again I am not expecting many to get to the table;
  • Broad Bean Crimson Flowered – Fresh broad beans are a lovely spring delicacy and like peas, are good for the soil;
  • Silverbeet Fordhook Giant – You can’t really go wrong with the classic Fordhook Giant. It grows like a weed, really;
  • Beetroot – a red variety, the name of which escapes me, and Golden Burpee;
  • Asian Greens – Pak Choy, Choy Sum, and Tatsoi;
  • Broccoli – Romanesco and Green Sprouting;
  • Garlic – I went a little crazy with the garlic and planted about 100 cloves of garlic! Melbourne Market, Cream, and Purple Dynamite. These are all late harvest varieties. I may have been a week too early though, as the temperatures are forecast to be 35 degrees centigrade next week! Garlic does not like to be planted in too warm weather. But how was I to know that we would have Summer weather in literally the middle of Autumn? The start of this year has been far too warm and too dry, and I think we are in some trouble if it continues like this;
  • Sweet pea – American and Matucana;
  • Bulbs – Sparaxis Violet and Allium Drumstick;
  • Viola – Heartsease.
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Really….save the beeezzzz

I lost the cauliflower and kale seedlings I planted earlier to cabbage moth caterpillars. As I do not use any poisons in my garden, I built a miniature greenhouse to exclude the white cabbage moth from laying any eggs over the brassicas I planted in the raised bed. I am hoping that this will stop the moths laying their eggs long enough for the seedlings to grow large and strong. If not, I will just have to do it the old fashioned way: by pulling them off and squishing them. Nature is red in tooth and claw, after all. Or in this case, green.

 

*Why yes, I am a little obsessed with bees.

Weekend Jobs – Sunday March 18 2018

This was a “low effort” weekend in the garden. I prepared a whole heap of zucchini and pumpkin for the freezer and for our bellies. I swear I have never eaten so much zucchini in my life as we have this Summer. I feel very fortunate, and also a little tired of zucchini. As it is my favourite vegetable, I didn’t think it was possible to tire of it!

I made a pumpkin and chicken lasagne with fresh basil (it also had grated zucchini in it) and a lemon and zucchini cake. I grated zucchini and chopped pumpkin chunks for the freezer. We still have about five zucchini in the fridge, and more pumpkin in the garden, along with capsicum and eggplant. My husband is on curry duty this week to use up the rest of these zucchini!

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Purple capsicum

I find that homegrown capsicum tend to be less fleshy and juicy than the supermarket variety, probably because I use less water. It has a grassier, fresher flavour that makes up for it. Mine also do not grow to the enormous size of the supermarket capsicums; they tend to grow to the size of a fist.

This year I grew a punnet of mixed capsicums from Bunnings, and an heirloom mini variety from seeds I saved last year. The mini capsicum are a little bit pointless (they are tiny, about the size of a fifty-cent piece, and pretty seedy), but they are cute and prolific. I am not sure if I will go to the effort of growing them again. The mixed capsicums have no name. They grow green and a dark purple, and are very glossy and beautiful. I will try saving the seeds from the purple variety and see if it grows true-to-type next year.

On Sunday I went for a stroll in the Adelaide Botanic Gardens with my friend Lisa, and we accidentally-on-purpose ended up at the Diggers Club Shop. Our stroll lasted about as long as it took to buy a latte and make it to the Diggers Shop, where we spent about an hour buying bulbs and seeds for Autumn. Whoah baby, did we have fun and spend a wad of cash on bulbs, seeds, and garlic.

diggers
Autumn planting fun

I’m looking forward to Easter weekend, when I will plant these beauties. Although I mostly grow productive plants, I also love ornamentals. I especially love to grow bulbs. Poring over the annual bulb catalogues is an obsession of mine, and I love to grow unusual flowers rather than the standards. I do usually grow the classic ranunculus each year, but I also like to try something different. This year I bought Violet Sparaxis, and Allium “Drumstick”, a striking pink and green ball-headed flower that stands 90 cm tall. I am also hoping that the crocuses I planted last year (the beautiful Mr. Pickwick, among them) return for another showing.

I have planted garlic annually for the past two years, and am trying again this year. Last year’s crop was moderately successful and very delicious, but the heads were a little small. I am going to try planting three different varieties (Dynamite Purple, Cream, and Melbourne Market), and I will plant in a different place with better soil. I have prepared a spot in my backyard that previously grew climbing beans. To prepare the soil for garlic planting, I have turned it well and added Blood and Bone, a high nitrogen organic fertiliser. The combination of soil that has grown a nitrogen fixing crop like beans, plus the Blood and Bone, should provide a good start for a nitrogen-loving crop like garlic. I hope that the bulbs prefer it and we will produce larger heads this time. Garlic is a slow-growing crop, so I will need to accept that this patch of the garden will not be available until late Spring.

The rest of the items from the Diggers Shop were a collection of seeds for the Autumn/Winter garden: snow peas, pak choy, tatsoi, spring onions, coriander, sweet peas (a beautiful variety called America), Romanesco broccoli (for fun), and golden beetroot. I already have Macerata cauliflower, a sprouting green broccoli, and kale started in my seedling box. Looking forward to a lot of healthy fresh greens and brassicas over the Winter months!