Reward For Effort

It has been over two months since I put some gardening pics up.  A lot has changed in that time.  Summer has been, wreaked havoc, and gone.  A warm and milder Autumn is progressing.  The plants have breathed a sigh of relief and are putting in extra effort to do their thing.  Thankfully.  If only it were forever Autumn or forever Spring.  But no, that wouldn’t do either.  The four seasons are necessary.  Just as long as they don’t become continuous Summer, which for those who haven’t been paying attention, is a distinct possibility.

Since I tend to forget what I have planted and where, as soon as I have done it (don’t have time for labeling), and also because I planted some unusual varieties,  I have had a few pleasant surprises in the past few weeks.  That’s always nice.

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I haven’t grown corn before so I am not sure when to harvest but judging by these ‘ears’, ‘cobs’, or whatever they are called, it is getting somewhere near time to do so.  This is a Balinese variety.

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The  Yacon, with sweet edible tubers, while it isn’t as tall as it should be, looks healthy and I expect to get a good harvest from its tuberous roots before winter sets in.

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Tomatoes are still ripening but mostly finished now.  I expect to replace them with a more seasonal crop soon.  Also, you will notice that I have removed (well, almost finished removing) all traces of grass from the garden, replacing it with straw.  a) that will cut down mowing time, and b) I hope to reduce the amount of mud and dirt that I trail through the house this winter season.  Although that may be a forlorn hope and I may find that I am making trails of  both mud and straw.  Such is life.

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Garden greens and beets.  Plus, because I allowed my ‘Freckles’ lettuce to go to seed, there are lots of little seedlings beginning to appear.  Hopefully they will mature while the weather is still mild.  I must plant some more Asian greens too, since the ones that were there have all been eaten away.  There seems to have been a plague of grasshoppers this year.  I am not sure if that is just in my garden or a more general infestation.

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The cucumbers, while they seemed to be flowering for a very long time without doing anything else much, have recently begun to produce profligate quantities of fruit.  I also planted a variety of Apple Cucumber this year (one of the things I forgot about) and was completely surprised when these round things (pic below) appeared.  They don’t have a strong taste but are very tender and watery (juicy?).  I will definitely be saving seed from these.

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Apple cucumbers invading my Rainbow Chard.

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I have not (successfully) grown Sunflowers previously.  These ones are supposed to have edible seeds in flower heads that can be up to 40cm across.  They were sun-effected or heat-effected while still tenderly young and so have begun to mature quite late in the season I think.  They may not reach their full potential but I remain hopeful to at least obtain some seed for future years planting.

Just on sun and heat effects, I have ordered both sun and frost protection materials, yet to arrive, which I intend to use with framework that I will construct (there’s always something to do to try to make things better) over the next few weeks.  I will report on this some time later, I hope.

Another task yet to be completed is framing up the rest of the garden.  There are large areas that I have not so far been able to utilise due to undefined edges.  Every square inch must become gainfully employed in food production.  So much to do.  So little time and energy (well, energy more than time).

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Look at those beautiful dark green leaves.  Full of nutrition and beneficial substances.

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I know, I know, it’s time I started mowing grass again.  It is not easy to see what is Goji berry bush and what isn’t, here in this pic, but I am so please that it is coming on so strongly.  There are still a few flowers and I was surprised to pick half a dozen fruits earlier this year.  So different fresh than the dried fruits available commercially.  It can only get better.

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I’m cheating a bit here.  This picture was taken in February but I haven’t published it before, so not really cheating.  I was surprised to find a blossom on my Passionfruit or Pomegranite bush (I can never remember which without looking it up).  It fell off in the wind without producing fruit but is a good sign for future years.  I would rather it put its energy into growing big and strong anyway just now.

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More Apple cucumbers in a wicking box.  This is the first time I have grown anything in a wicking box.  They seem to be smaller and the leaves are a lighter green than the ones in the garden but I think they all came from the same seed packet.  Interesting.

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Beginning to look a bit more like a garden now.

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Even the shrub garden, which suffered quite badly through the heat (I think I have lost a few plants), is beginning to show a hint of colour now.

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Some recent produce from the garden.  Forget the beans, they are just there for seed saving, not eating.

Finally a couple of pics from February when the Golden Zucchini were in full production.

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Oh, and below is what the garden looked like in February.  A marked contrast to today.  Satisfactory progress after only two years.

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…and when I think back to when I started…

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Gardening. Yes, I Still Do.

It has been so long since I did a post on gardening (can’t bring myself to look back that far) that people may have forgotten that I still do that.  And I think that it is really important to do so.  For everyone.

This is learning time folks.  While there is still back-up in the form of shops.  The time to make mistakes, lose crops, find how to plant the right things when and where, and what to do with whatever it is you manage to grow, is now.  Now.

There will come a time, sooner or later, and it could be sooner rather than later, even this year the way things are going, when there will be no shops.  Or restaurants.  Or MacDonalds (I make the distinction MacDonalds  Restaurants, for good reason, but that’s another story) or other take-away places.  Don’t believe me?  Oh, that’s ok.  Until it happens.

Then the only way you are going to eat, unless you are growing your own food, or are prepared to steal from someone else (and I am sure there will be those), is to go out and hunt for it.   Good luck with that, when every Dick and his dog is trying to do the same.  It may work for a while, but eventually…  no more little wabbits to waste.

So, learn to grow food.  The best time is now.

Ok.  So, how’s my garden going?

Oh, just a note:  click on the caption link below each picture to see a larger version.

First, the orchard, if such it can be called.

Four apple trees produced four apples.  Well it is only one year since planting.  All four apples fell, were blown off, or knocked off before ripening.  I did get a taste of the last Cox’s Orange Pippin but it was nowhere near ready.  Next year will I hope be a different story, but with no high expectations.

The Nashi pear produced one fruit, which is still hanging in there.  You may just see it among the leaves.  I have never eaten a Nashi so I don’t exactly know how they taste or what they look like when ready.  A case of suck it and see (not literally).

It appears that I may see a few Goji Berries this year.  Well, there are quite a few blossoms currently on the plant.  Bear in mind that none of these plants have been growing for much more than a year.  The remaining plants, blueberries and I think a pomegranate (my memory is hazy on that), are going ok, but nothing to write home about so far.  The same goes for my two hazelnut bushes.  All are still hanging in there, which is Ok.  I will expect more of them soon.

I obtained a Black Muscatelle grape vine a few months ago (I do love Muscat Raisins) but I wasn’t sure where to plant it so l left it in its pot secured to the garden fence.  During a couple of consecutive really hot days before Christmas, all the leaves burned and I thought I may have lost it, assuming that the roots had cooked in the plastic pot (hope no-one reports me to the society for prevention of cruelty to plants).  I decided to plant it anyway and fortunately it has started to sprout shoots again.  A second chance for me.  I will try to look after it better from now on.

OK.  On to the vegie patch.  I am pleased to say that I had a spurt of energy today (which is probably why I am writing this) and got all of my remaining garden areas planted with sow direct seeds.  A crop of potatoes and also peas have already been harvested and a second lot of peas were planted a couple of days ago.  I planted them in the same spot because it looked to be too much effort to move all of the supports.  I will move them over winter of course or after this next crop is done, to a different spot.  I only have so much energy to devote to this and it is better served by planting more seeds.

Let’s do a roundup then.  My two Rhubarb plants are struggling.  They were too embarrassed to let me take a picture.  Each has only two leaves and half of those is only just making it out of the ground.  They were doing much better than that but bugs and heat have treated them badly.

Before I go on, let me say that I have put a huge amount of effort into the garden this year, but it is still not as ready as I want it to be and there is still a lot more to be done to protect the plants from the elements.  I think that is going to be a major factor in the future and not just for the backyard gardener.  Our global food supply, even if the globalised transport system remains intact for a while longer, is going to be greatly affected by the same two things which drive all gardeners crazy, bugs and heat, bugs and cold, bugs and flooding, bugs and drought.  Did I say it was just two things?  I obviously can’t count.  However, we have no option but to persevere, and win somehow, if we don’t want to risk starvation.  That is something that the modern citizen of the world really doesn’t want to think about.  But think about it we must.  And we must also begin to act.  To not do so, is to sign our own death warrants, whatever that old saying means.

So much for struggling Rhubarb. What else?  Well, I have some Sweet Corn growing, and some pitiful looking Capsicum plants.  While the Capsicums are at least beginning to get flowers, there is no sign so far of anything resembling that on the corn, much to my daughter’s amusement because hers do have actual corn cobs on them.  Ah well, we’ll see who laughs last.

Beans and Peas.  As I said before, the peas are a newly planted second crop and only just showing above the surface.  The seed is still from saved stock from a 2012 harvest I had back at my previous garden.  Three years old and still germinating at a high percentage.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I planted three rows of beans, a different variety in each row.  The middle row have all died off for some reason.  I guess it could have been a bad batch of seed or maybe I just planted the rows too close and they were starved of water.  Anyway the others have climbed well and have lots of flowers on them.  Some pods can be seen but most are still quite small.  Oh well, I will give them time, and maybe I have learned something from this.  It is the first time I have grown climbing beans.  I have definitely learned why there appears to be a no-growth gap about a third of the way along the rows.  I am pretty sure this is because a drainage channel runs diagonally across this bed which starts way over in the distance across the grass in the photo above and then out to the boundary fence.  I think it must have been put in there to get water to a dying tree which has since been chopped down and the trench is filled with white river pebbles.  Perhaps this is sucking all moisture out of the soil above it.  Just something else to think about.  I do hope to get a nice harvest of beans at some stage.

Note to self: That reminds me that I have kilos of various types of organic beans in storage that I bought for cooking.  I did make quite a nice spicy baked bean recipe at one time but since I have been at my present place of domicile (towards two years now) I haven’t done any of that sort of thing.  I must try planting some of those and see how that goes instead of buying more expensive seed stock.

Tomatoes. I planted 38 tomato seedlings this year, the most ever. Most of them I raised from seed in my cold frame. Another first. They were from seed stock obtained from a local gardener in Melbourne.

This patch is about 6 metres by 1 metre and the plants are in two rows with about 50cm between where each plant hits the ground.  A little tight, but I had to throw away quite a few good seedling specimens that I didn’t have room for.  I wasn’t sure how they would go anyway, being from a new source.  There are four varieties and until I had planted them and filled up the available space, I realised there were no red tomatoes among them.  There are some large ones that are supposed to be pink.  Some tiny pear-shaped yellow ones.  A variety called Black Russian with a purple-ish hue, and, I think, a green variety.  Well, they are all green at the moment but I can see the four different varieties.  A few are ripening and I have tasted some of them, which I am pleased to say that so far I am happy with the result.  They all have fruit on them but have not really grown to full height yet.  Still, it is only mid-summer season.

Raised beds.  You may have seen my three sided raised bed in an earlier post.  I have recently added a 2.3 metre square raised bed, to only one sleeper height.  None of this space has been utilised so far, until today that is, except for a few lettuce that are now going to seed, deliberately being left to do so.  But today was the day.  Seed Planting Day.  And now every square inch, or at least every few square centimetres is planted with some type of seed.  Wahoo!  I finally did it.  Now I can sit back, for a while, and watch them grow.  Hopefully.

I am very proud of my nettle which can be seen at the end of the three sided bed above.  This grew unexpectedly from the soil that I bought for these gardens.  I had been looking for one for quite some time for their medicinal benefits.  They have all been killed off in agricultural areas.  There is not too much that I can do with it at the moment I think.  It is just hanging on to get through the heat.  But over winter or next spring when it is at full vigour  (hopefully nettles are perennial, I didn’t check) I will be able to extract some good stuff from it.  Nettle tea, at least, but much more I hope.

Just one more thing.  I haven’t mentioned Pumpkins.  Pumpkins, along with Tomatoes were my first success story when I first started gardening in earnest a few years ago and since then I haven’t really done much with them.  But I have plans.

I am gathering materials to build a Hugelkultur bed around in the back corner behind the water tanks.  I plan to grow Pumpkins on that mound.

Hugelkultur beds come in all different shapes and sizes but their construction all follow the same basic pattern.  This is something that I have done before and I think it is a great idea.  These beds are built on a base of unwanted dead wood (the fallen poplar tree in one of the earlier snaps which was brought down in strong winds only last weekend will do nicely to form part of that) and cuttings, left to rot away under a covering of soil, compost material and grass or straw.  The whole thing gradually sinks as the timber rots, but it can be added to if necessary.  Most plants can be planted into such a mound, which has the dual purpose of producing good soil from waste material and providing an above ground level, minimum bending, harvesting experience.  If combined with a down slope water harvesting feature such as an on contour swale (which does not have to be a huge excavation project, depending on the area covered by Hugelkultur of course, and the amount of water run-off expected).  This area, like most of my garden, is on a slight slope but I expect any overflow from my water tanks throughout the wet season will take care of any watering needed here.  I might dig a shallow trench on the uphill side of the bed but I can decide that later.

Well, that’s all for now.  Happy gardening, all.

 

 

What’s going on in my garden?

It has been such a long time since I made any real reference to my continued attempts to earn the appellation ‘gardener’, a practice or profession that many of my ancestors made a living from doing.  But that was before we all lost the art of growing stuff and spent our lives as spoon-fed babies, totally reliant on someone else for our food intake, something that many of us will come to regret and eventually die from.

The King Parrots have returned after no show for several months. Always nice to see. I feed them with sunflower seeds and pepitas at least once a day. Swallows are back too, but they are too hard to catch with a camera.

The Cox’s Orange Pippin is about to blossom. Can I hope for apples this year?

So, it is Spring again, as evidenced by the new plant growth and, in my case, the return of the King Parrots to my garden.  Well, actually it is already one third of the way through
Spring according to the official and artificially prescribed seasonal calendar that many of us live by instead of ‘feeling’ the start and end of the seasons and/or letting The Sun and Moon tell us when that happens.

I will let the photo captions tell most of the story from this point.

I have to acknowledge that the ideas for the water collection bins and the wicking boxes a few photos down, were not original.  They came mostly from the Foodnstuff blog.

The Nashi pear was the first fruit tree to blossom.

These are my hazlenut bushes. A male and female tree are required for pollinating.

A long shot of my little orchard. Four different apples, a Nashi, two blueberries, goji berry and pomegranate. There is a Fig off camera and also existing (and old) Lemon and Peach trees.

In the Vegie garden: Three rows of peas. These are a mixture of sugar snap and snow peas grown from seed that I saved from my earlier harvest, two summers ago now, in Hazeldene. So, it will be interesting to see how they produce. There are also a couple of red onions that sprouted before I could use them. I have never planted red onions before so it will be a nice surprise if they do the right thing.

In the left side vegie garden: Potatoes, and behind them spindly garlic. The garlic I really planted far too late and I am not sure they will do anything much. We will see. The potatoes are simply left over stock of various various varieties, Dutch Cream, Sebago and Kipfler, that I didn’t eat and they sprouted so I cut them up and planted them. Oh, and in the foreground are two varieties of Rhubarb which don’t look terribly happy but they have survived the winter and I hope will pick up from here.

Over Winter I captured a supply of rainwater in these garbage cans with lids upturned and a central hole drilled to let the water in.  Behind are a set of wicking boxes where I hope to grow strawberries.

The shrubbery I am creating in front of the house is coming along nicely, most things having survived the winter.

I’m pretty sure this is a Quince. It came with the house.

This is a Camelia Sinensis. The Tea Plant. Maybe one day I will be able to pick, dry and drink my own tea leaves.

For the first time ever, I am producing seedlings from seed in my cold frame, which I built four years ago now. We could still get some frosts. I am quite satisfied with the results so far since all of the seeds are over a year old and I can replace them with much newer seeds.

My herb mound. I am generally very happy with what is going on here. What are Spinach and Kale doing in a herb mound? Well, I am growing them for seed and didn’t have anywhere else to put them before winter.

The other side of my herb mound. Have you ever seen a Parsley plant looking so happy? Lots of herbs are hidden at the moment, but that will change.

Shush, composting in progress. Last year’s closest. Grass recently mown on the other side.

I have plans for all this tree cuttings and fallen branches. They will make a fine base for Hugelkultur mounds, which means I will need to get some more soil delivered.

Cute? Well I think so, and I consider myself lucky to be living here.

Come on plants. Grow, produce flowers and attract some bees and other beneficial insects.

A happy Gooseberry plant.

A happy Chilean Guava. And I am happy to see the little red currant stick behind it, is growing leaves. The mulch, incidentally, is simply fallen leaves from last Autumn, raked over the garden. With Summer coming, and a hot, dry one by all accounts, I will need to add some further protection soon.

By uploading the previous photos in this album I shamed myself into doing something about the unmown grass in my vegetable garden. Here is what it looks like now. Not perfect but an improvement. Such a lot of work to do. So little time. So little energy. Incidentally, the bales of straw and planter boxes closing off the entrance are there to deter the local wombat from getting in, until I can build a gate for that.