New Look and Domain for 500m2 in Sydney

17 Aug

After a few months break I’m excited to be back and ready to write about all things edible. As part of my new start I have a new address ( and a fresh new look and layout for my blog. I hope you all like the changes.

I’m still working on converting my subscribers over to the new blog, but I’m hoping that will be sorted out soon. In the meantime, feel free to subscribe manually to the new site if you would like to follow along.

My garden is heading out of winter and I’m planning for the Summer planting season. This year I’m quitting full size tomatoes due to fruit fly, but I hope to revisit to zucchinis, and I am also looking forward to trying to grow gem squash for my South African friends.

I’ve been excited to read that other Australian garden bloggers have been busy – Barbara and her family have made a tree change to Ballarat,  Liz is sharing her knowledge kindly and regularly as always and Frogdancer is still gardening and Thermomix’n. I’m looking forward to catching up with everyone else.

Google went and discontinued Google Reader during my hiatus, so I’m in the market for a new RSS reader, too.

Happy weekend everyone!


An update

7 Aug

This year has flown past, and although I always think I’m busy, this year has brought busyness  to a whole new level. To complicate things further we went and bought ourselves a very naughty dog, too!


So I decided that I should probably actually look after my family rather than blogging about pretending to.

I always struggle to half-commit to anything, so when I let something go, I tend to drop it entirely. But the problem is, I do actually miss blogging, and (particularly this winter), I’ve found lots to write about.

J started kindergarten in January and recently lost her first tooth.


Baby T has grown up considerably


And I have a winter tomato glut as usual, but it will be my only one of the year -I’m giving up on tomatoes in Summer – fruit fry is breaking my heart 😦

And it’s mid-winter in Sydney and we still have cabbage moths and stink bugs on the citrus trees – crazy!


Countdown to Kindergarten – lunchbox baking

20 Jan

J starts big school on the 31st of January, and I’m almost as excited as she is. We are counting the sleeps, labelling clothing and packing her bag (yes already!). I’ve also been preparing food for the freezer to make packing her lunchbox each day just a little bit easier.

Today I salvaged a whole load of woody carrots from the garden by turning them into carrot and pineapple mini muffins. It worked brilliantly!

The recipe was from the Coles website here

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I didn’t ice them. I simply made them according to the recipe then threw them into zip lock bags and straight into the freezer. They will go with some blueberry muffins I made earlier. Hopefully I’ll have time to make quite a few things that I have planned (including savouries) so she can have a bit of variety in her lunchbox from day to day.

The ideas I have so far are:


Blueberry (and other sweet or savoury muffins)

Cheese and bacon scrolls

Cheesymite scrolls

Zucchini slice made into muffin trays

Home-made muesli bars

Mini quiches



Corn and Zucchini fritters


Hard boiled eggs (could boil a dozen at a time and leave in the shells in the fridge)

Veggie sticks for dipping…

Does anyone else have any good recipes for kids’ lunch boxes? I’m hoping to avoid lots of packets of things and the rubbish that goes with it.

45.8 Degrees Celcius

18 Jan

That’s what the temperature hit in Sydney today – 114.4F – the hottest day ever recorded. As you walked outside the heat hit you violently and even the grass was too hot to walk on.

I watered the garden deeply in the morning, yet at lunchtime many of my plants looked like they had given up.

The new growth on the citrus was frizzled

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The silverbeet had melted


And the daikon was suffering.


I hope there is no lasting damage. A friend of mine in the mountains (where it was 46.5C/115.7F) lost a number of plants today, but i’m hoping mine will pull through.

Luckily we were safely in the air conditioned house, but I really feel for those (particularly sick and elderly people) with no way to keep cool.

Last summer we had only two days over 30 degrees. The difference this year is staggering, and much more like the years I remember from my childhood, although with more extremes.

I hope all the other Sydney gardeners coped OK today and that the weather in other parts of the world has been kinder.

Slowing the summer bolt to seed

17 Jan

I’ve been musing about something I’ve noticed over the past 2 years about green leafy herbs. Specifically, parsley, coriander and basil.

A few months ago I sowed a few separate patches of continental parsley at the same time. One was in full sun on the south-most corner of Bed A. The other was right up against the house in Bed B, getting only a few hours of sun per day. I would have expected that the parsley in full sun would be more prone to bolting to seed, but quite the opposite has happened.

Here is the patch out the front in full sun.

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And here is the patch in part shade. It’s bolting.

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The difference is water. The one out the front gets water from the tap when it drips, whereas the other only gets the rain (and when I think to water it).

I observed the same thing with my potted coriander. Going along quite happily until it dried out for a very short time, then wham! Off to seed.

So my new theory is this (probably bleeding obvious to those who have a clue about these things):

Stress of any form (heat, water, transplanting, lack of nutrients etc) will cause bolting. That’s why coriander seedlings also fail – transplant shock sends them straight to seed.

Has anyone tried growing coriander in a self-watering pot? Do you get longer out of it? I think I’ll try it, and also be sure to keep it well fertilised. I’m getting confident that I might be able to grow coriander more successfully in summer that way.

A great summer for chillies

16 Jan

With all that rain last year I struggled with chillies, but this year it has been hotter and the plants are thriving.

My Tobago Seasoning chillies are prolific and much hotter than last year. Who needs a Christmas tree when you have gorgeous ornaments like these?

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Most of the chillies are habanero-esque like last year,

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While others look more like Liz’s scotch bonnet (or bishop’s crown).

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My old faithful bird’s eye is going through its green-black-red sequence

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The jalapenos are producing amazingly well and my long red thai chillies (retrieved from my restaurant curry) are starting to produce now.

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Also enjoying the heat are the lebanese eggplants, which are approaching first harvest rapidly.

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And I’m happy to report that the fruit fly have been far less destructive this year, although number are increasing now.

Happy Summer everyone! Hope you are enjoying the tennis 🙂

Update from a lapsed blogger

1 Jan

Well it’s the day for it, isn’t it? New year, resolutions and all that? Actually it’s just that today is as good a day as any for an update on what’s happening around here.

In October I had more demands on the family front and decided to switch off the computer in the evenings. I started playing jazz music after the kids went to bed, took up competitive canasta with P and enjoyed a few months of down-time from the Internet. Our end-of year is always crazy with 5 family birthdays, our wedding anniversary and all the usual Christmas events so the timing was good. This year I’m back but I’ll be blogging more ‘sustainably’. That is, at a schedule I can maintain rather than pushing myself to update every Monday on harvests (and the like).

I’ve still been gardening and harvesting, but I admit that I have dropped the ball a little over December. So first the walk of shame:Image

I killed one of my Nellie Kelly blueberries! I let it carry too much fruit and it dried out one day in the summer heat. The rest are OK, and I’ve harvested almost a kilo of blueberries so far this year. The lesson I’ve taken from this is that I really need to thin the fruit, because the fruit size seems to be inversely-proportional to the number of fruit set. My younger plants with less fruit are producing enormous blueberries.

And my tomatoes. They look terrible.


The ones in the main bed have suffered terribly from fungal disease and lack of nutrients. Despite this they have actually fruited well. I’ve used them fresh and even canned a few bottles for a later date when I don’t have an excess.


I’ve discovered a new variety that I love – Speckled Roman.


I pulled put my dwarf mulberry tree because it was getting too big and donated it to friends who have more space. Now I have an ugly gap that I need to fill, but I’ll probably just space out the dwarf citrus trees that are already there.

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And my banana:


Strangely the flower stopped descending, but the bananas themselves are still developing.


But there are highlights too. My caper bush is loving the hot weather.

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The apple trees have been really productive. I’ve lost no fruit at all to fruit fly, even the ones that I didn’t bag. I guess the eco naturalure trap has helped with that.

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I let about 30 fruit develop on the trees this summer and most of it has been quite sizeable.

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The Golden Nugget pumpkins are sprawling across the front lawn as usual preventing proper mowing.

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And the chillies are really exciting. My tobago seasoning chilli has set loads of fruit

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I also have many young plants, such as the mini mana capsicums and scotch bonnet chillies grown from seed from Liz and the jalapenos grown from seedlings this year.

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I managed to kill my old reliable bird’s eye chilli over winter, but my friend Vincent gave me an established (that’s understatement) plant to replace it.

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This variety first came from Sarah, who gave small homegrown chilli plants to some of her friends for Christmas. They ripen from green to black and then red, and we’ve all loved this variety ever since. He’s is one of the ripe bird’s eyes with the tobago seasonings:

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I’ve had dreadful trouble with broodiness in the chickens. It’s common for us to have 4 of them broody at once, and it really impacts the egg production. But they have still managed to keep us supplied with eggs, albeit with no excess for gifting.

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And on the preserving front – I reestablished my supply of bottled tomatoes with my friend Emma in November when we processed a large tray of fresh seconds from a tomato farm local to her in-law’s place. I’ve been topping up my store a few jars at a time when I have a small glut in my home grown ones. I’ve also canned applesauce made from my home-grown apples and made loads of Liz’s bread and butter cucumbers.

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And just today I’ve pickled 2 jars of jalapenos from the ones I picked today. The plants are loaded with young jalapenos too, so there should be more jars to come.

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Well that’s what’s happening around here. Now I’m off to see what everyone else in the blogging world has been up to over the last 2 months.

My Dwarf Banana is flowering!

21 Oct

There was all manner of terrible titles I could have given this post. Please appreciate my restraint.

It is a good indication of how distracted I’ve been over the past week when I say that I noticed this last Saturday

A banana flower, 20 months after planting the tiny pup. This is a dwarf cavendish banana, and it was sold as a ‘cool climate’ banana in Bunnings.

Over the week I’ve been checking the progress daily as the flower petals unfurl to expose more hands of tiny bananas. This is what it looked like a week ago:

And today:

It looks like some of the bananas have been bruised in the unfurling process. I read that they are extremely delicate at this stage and even leaves brushing against them in the wind is enough to damage them.

At first I was very worried about the angle of the flower and whether it was going to grow over (or right into) the side fence. Luckily it seems to have turned downwards fairly quickly.

P estimates that I might have somewhere between 150 and 200 bananas on the bunch. Should keep us in smoothies for a while!

DIY: A Collapsible Chicken Tractor

20 Oct

I’ve been acting a little too normal lately, so I felt it was time to insert a little dose of weirdness back into the neighbourhood. What better way to do that than to park a chicken or two in the front yard?

I’ve been thinking that it’s a good idea to use the chickens to assist in weeding, cultivating and fertilising the soil. It’s not a new concept, but up until now I’ve found that the girls do more damage than good. They’ve eaten my veggies more times than I can remember, and when they even dug up and ate my flower bulbs It made me very cross indeed!

I’ve been thinking of constraining them in some form of moveable chicken tractor. As most of my gardening occurs along the road, I’ve been thinking that a small bottomless coop in the same width of my Bed A is the best idea.

So during the week P spent a good portion of his birthday designing and purchasing the materials for this little masterpiece. Isn’t he sweet?

The idea is that the tractor would:

  1. Be bottomless for the chickens to scratch
  2. Be collapsible so it doesn’t take much room to store
  3. Provide shading for the chooks on hot days
  4. Prevent the chooks scratching the soil sideways out of the garden bed
  5. Be big enough for a couple of chooks to comfortably scratch around
  6. Be able to be anchored down so it wouldn’t blow over (and allow the chooks to escape)

So after a few iterations in the design, today he finished it.

It is square, lined with shadecloth and quite sturdy.

And as per the brief, it collapses down flat.

My parents visited today and helped in the commissioning. It was a perfect fit, and P pegged it down through the eyelets installed for the purpose.

We decided that one of the broody hens was the best candidate to get us started. I’ve been trying to get the broody ones off the laying boxes without much success.

She went in quite happily. There was plenty of baby spinach to gobble up and worms to scratch around to find. The kids thought it was loads of fun!

We left her there for a couple of hours this afternoon. There is still plenty of digging to be done, so I might put two hens out tomorrow.

So P is a very popular husband indeed!

Hate weeding? Then fill those gaps!

12 Oct

Do you ever have those ‘aha!’ moments? When suddenly something (often quite obvious) just clicks in your mind and makes so much sense. I had one of those recently, thanks to Jason and Linda.

Linda is the author of The Permaculture Home Garden, and although I don’t own a copy (something I must rectify), Jason does and follows its principles at his place in South Australia. Recently he spoke about planting density, and Linda’s concept of how you can reduce your weeding by planting more densely. She explains that if you leave gaps, that’s where the weeds will take hold. What a revelation!

So I’ve been quite mindful of this in my planting for the summer. Take the first section of my front garden bed as an example.

At the back I started with overwintered capsicums. Because of their headstart, they should get pretty tall this year so I put them at the back (the sun comes from the northern side at the front).

Then I looked and realised that although I put the capsicums at the back, I could fit in a bit of parsley behind them. Parsley doesn’t need full sun, so it should be fine sitting behind in the shade. Also along the edge (next to the neighbour foot traffic) I like to put a bit of pretty stuff, so in the gaps between the parsley I planted some zinnias.

In front of the capsicums I planted some new chilli seedlings. These are jalapenos, and I planted a number of them in the hope that I’ll have enough to pickle this year. I also put in some of Liz’s mini mama capsicums around to the left. All these plants will grow significantly to cover the space densely at maturity. In the meantime however there are large gaps for the weeds to thrive in. I have therefore put some fast-growing tatsoi into the gaps, along with some nasturtiums, a cabbage and some garlic chives towards the front and a rockmelon to ramble throughout everything and spill out of the bed.

Platings don’t need to be permanent. Fast growing things are great to put in, harvest from now and pull out once the larger plantings get to size later in the season.

I’ll need to do some weeding in the short term, but pretty soon it should almost take care of itself.

I actually took that photo exactly a week ago. This is what it looks like today.

You can see that the tatsoi grows fast. I’ve been harvesting from it this week too. Another good contender for fast gap filling is wild rocket. It self-seeds like crazy and it grows really really fast. It is probably my favourite salad leaf, so I can never get enough of it. I might actually scatter a few seeds around this bed today because I still think the gaps are a little too wide.

And now lets have a look at another section. This is down the other end of my Bed A, which is along the front of my block against the road.

At the back we have the sunflower, because every neighbourhood needs a bit of cheer. I like to plant them right along the front in early spring and there should be a happy show by late November or early December.

Cucumbers line the front and will climb my dodgy DIY trellice. I also have some curly parsley going on at the right, which was a self-seeded transplant, then some lettuces and sugarbaby watermelons at the front. I have put wild rocket through the gaps, but it is still too small to pick out in the photo. I think I should have put more curly parsley in – I love how decorative it is as a border planting.

To the right I have a carrot patch that I planted one month ago.

Behind the carrots are some chillies that couldn’t quite keep up with the carrots’ growth rate in the short term, some more zinneas and another sunflower. I had to keep on top of the weeds for a few weeks while the carrot seeds were germinating and still small, but now they will take care of themselves.There just won’t be enough light penetrating for the weeds to thrive.

Way up to the left I have snow peas and okra that is just germinating. I think I’ll throw some dwarf green beans in around the okra because the okra is nutrient-greedy and will grow very tall.

So thanks Linda and Jason for the insight. I’m loving my new found freedom to plant densely and not feel constrained by recommended spacings. In the worst-case scenario and things get crowded – I can just pull something out or transplant it to somewhere else.

Have you had any ‘aha!’ moments lately? Or do you have any suggestions how I could improve my dense-planting approach?