Archive | April, 2011

Companion planting

30 Apr

Garlic under the roses

I’m not sure there is any truth to the concept of companion planting, but I thought I’d give it a go. I read that roses love garlic (and I was running out of space elsewhere), so why not? I’ve described this in previous posts, but here are the pictures. The garlic is mostly from the Diggers Club garlic collection. There is Australian White, Cream and Oriental Purple.

Garlic sprouting

Gavin from The Greening of Gavin reckons that planting garlic in a bed with too much nitrogen causes them to grow too many leaves instead of big bulbs. This worries me, because I feed these roses generously with sudden impact, and they are still quite heavily mulched with Swanes Gro-Cubes. I guess I’ll just see how they go.

Good luck to everyone who is growing garlic this year.

Harvest time

27 Apr

Mini wombok

The Easter Bunny rocked this year – I scored a basket of carrots with a few packets of carrot and spinach seeds. So much better than chocolate – my mother in law is awesome.

I picked more stuff today. The early maturing plants in the front garden like the wombok cabbages, silverbeet and lettuces are reaching maturity, and the last of the summer crops are ready to eat. Yesterday we had a family Easter gathering, and I brought a salad with home-grown lettuce, rocket and beans plus a large bunch of silverbeet for my mother-in law.

Today I harvested the first of the womboks, and apart from a few nibbles it is great. I made some healthier 2 minute noodles for the kids at lunchtime with wombok and chinese broccoli (also from the front garden). For dinner I picked a bunch of green beans and some baby carrots. The carrots were out of the ground for about 30minutes before cooking, and they tasted absolutely amazing.

J harvesting the edamame (soybeans)

Also, today J and I picked the first of the edamame. The growth has really slowed down since the weather turned, and I’m doubtful that they will grow any more, so I started harvesting. There are still many more unfilled pods on the plants, so I’ll leave those to see if they grow further.

Edamame soybean harvest

Green manure

The green manure is now 40cm high in the front bed, and I’m in two minds about what to do with it. Should I hack it down now, or wait till spring? It really is pretty ugly, and I wouldn’t mind hacking it down.

My peas are finally starting to gain some traction in the front garden. The sweet peas are just starting to reach the first layer of twine on the tripods, and I really need to put more layers on.  It’s really obvious that these guys like the cooler weather because their growth is so much faster than just two weeks ago. The front garden in general looks pretty good. I’m struggling with the slugs, so I’m thinking of setting some beer traps over the weekend.

Pea tripod

Once I picked the wombok today I left a very obvious hole in the bed – you can see it at the bottom left of the picture below. My intention was that by the time the wombok was ready the broccoli and cauliflower on either side would need the room to expand. I think that will be the case, but in the meantime I’m wondering if I should plant some more leeks in the gaps. They should get tall enough to push above the brassicas, yet thin enough not to crowd them out.

I think I’ll also need to stake the brussels sprouts soon – I should have done it earlier so I didn’t disturb the roots.

The front garden

Lettuce 'Little Gem'

Oh, and a plug for the best lettuce ever – it’s a baby cos lettuce from Green Harvest – the variety is ‘Little Gem’. It is absolutely gorgeous, and so far, completely pest and disease free. I don’t know if that is because they are finding the cabbages more delicious, but I just want to plant hundreds of these guys – they are that pretty.

In other news – my dwarf mandarin has responded well to the root rot treatment I gave it. The leaves are starting to uncurl and it is looking like it is going to pull through. Phew!

Recovering mandarin

Project Lemon

26 Apr

I love lemons almost as much as I love feeding lemons to toddlers. You should try it sometime – best entertainment. ever.

I reckon all lemons should be Eurekas. Unlike the fraudulent Meyer, more sweet than a lemon, and the Lisbon – thick skinned and freakishly seedless. Eurekas are intensely sour, knobbly and fantastic.

The Eureka lemon- repotted

When my friend Sarah heard that my Eureka lemon was stolen earlier this year, she said I could become custodian of her one. It was in a pot, not getting much sun and looking a bit sick. When she described it I was imagining a pathetic bedraggled specimen, but when she brought it around a couple of weeks ago it was beautiful – much larger than I expected, and I started immediately dreaming of little D eating its fruit.

I repotted it into a terracotta pot about 40cm in diameter. Its is slightly wider than the pot it came out of and substantially deeper. It will probably only do for about a year, but until then it’ll be fine.

The tree had recently come under attack by furry caterpillars, but she has managed to ward them off with pyrethrum. I’ve been keeping my eye out for any other attackers, but I think she’s sorted them out.

Sick lemon leaf - what does it need?

I seem to always kill things when I try too hard, and I’m determined not to kill this one. So I’ve been trying to space the ‘treatments’ a week apart. First treatment was a watering with seasol on transplant. Next, I needed to sit back and think about it. I know that mineral deficiencies should be evident from the patterns on the leaves, but I’ve gone a bit cross eyed trying to work out what it needs.   Iron? Zinc? Bex and a good lie down?

So a week ago I took a stab in the dark and gave it a water with some iron chelates. I didn’t want to overdo it, so I made it up at half the recommended rate and watered it in. A week later I can’t honestly tell if it’s made a lick of difference, but I don’t think it has hurt anything.

A week after the iron treatment

We’ve had a lot of rain in Sydney, and it doesn’t look like easing, so I’m worried about my old nemesis – root rot. A few weeks ago I threw all organic standards out the window and bought some Yates anti-rot for my dwarf mandarin. You can apply it as a foliar spray, or put it in a watering can and water it in. I did it that way for the mandarin, and that’s what I’ve done again today for the lemon. I also gave it a sprinkle of dynamic lifter for citrus because I’m worried that all the rain is leaching all the nutrients from the soil. I’ll keep you updated on it’s progress.

Repotted Avocados

In other news, my avocados arrived from Daley’s Fruit. Avocados apparently crop better if you have two complementary varieties, so I ordered a Wurtz because it’s naturally small and an A pollinator, and a Sheppard, because it’s my favourite type to eat, and a B pollinator.

Daley’s don’t recommend growing avocados in pots, but I’m ignoring their advice and trying it anyway. They have a long tap root, so I bought some tall narrow pots on ebay that I think they’ll like. I plan to repot them in 12-18 months, and pinch out the vertical growth to encourage a horizontal growth habit. Today I gave them some dynamic lifter at the same time as the lemon, and I probably need to give them some preventative anti-rot too, because avocados are particularly susceptible, and if I can kill a citrus that way, then surely the avocados are doomed…

*Update* here

I grew this!

20 Apr

Home grown celery

The celery in the side garden has been fabulous, but the growth has slowed a lot. When I needed some celery for a recipe yesterday, I thought heck- why not- I’ll just harvest one! I’m happy to report that it’s delicious, although I’ve been a bit inconsistent with the watering over the summer, so some of the outer stalks were a bit hollow. The picture on the left is my bunch of celery with the outer stalks removed – impressive or what!

My pet worm

I pulled the last of the silverbeet out of the side garden yesterday and prepared the bed for more winter plantings. I gave it a good dose of cow manure, blood and bone and some lime. I turned the soil over, and wow- the soil really is amazing. I was uncovering about 4 worms with every fork. In place of the silverbeet I planted climbing snow peas (right along the back of the bed), some more baby ‘Nantes’ carrots and chinese broccoli, plus some green onions (shallots).

Preparing the side bed

I also replenished the seeds in the greenhouse. My last batch failed miserably to come up because I planted them in 100% cow manure. Apparently too much nitrogen – you live, you learn 🙂 The new batch I planted in seed raising mix, so I hope they will be a bit more successful. I sowed successive plantings of most of the winter veggies, like onions and most of the brassicas, plus some beetroot and some Zinnias. These last two were the free seeds from the Diggers Club Autumn catalogue. You weren’t supposed to sow the Zinneas till Spring, but I’m ‘experimenting’.

After my garlic and shallots order went missing in the post, it eventually came twice. Rather than returning one, I decided to just pay for the extra, and plant twice as much! Now the golden shallots are going to look wonderful along the back of the front yard garden bed, but I will admit that the garlic under the roses looks a tad ridiculous. Now that I have more than doubled the amount planted under there, I think it’ll look even crazier. I was trying to explain to P just how much garlic I had planted, but he wasn’t quite getting it. 1 clove will grow into 1 bulb, and I planted 12 bulbs worth. Given that there is about 12-15 cloves in a bulb, I’m going to have a seriously large amount of garlic on my hands. At least the roses will be safe from vampires 🙂

The white cabbage butterfly looks so innocent fluttering amongst my brassicas, but the little blighter’s babies are doing my head in! Today I gave up on the ‘hunt and squash’ method and broke out the derris dust. That’ll learn ya!

I had a really exciting incident a few days ago. Some people drove past our house, looked out the window at my veggie garden, and gave me a thumbs up. They drove back again about a minute later, parked, and came over to have a closer look! They didn’t speak a word of English so I couldn’t explain anything, but they looked really excited by my Asian veggies in particular. So happy someone likes it 🙂

Next post I’ll show you my new fruit trees, and detail ‘project lemon’. Exciting stuff!

Winter plantings

9 Apr

The winter veggies are coming along briliantly. I’ve been MIA this week because P has been overseas, so I’ve been flying solo with the kids. Today I took some time to wander about and take some photos of the developing garden.

Checking the progress in the morning light

The edamame (soybeans) were planted a little bit too late, but they are just about to crop now. They are slowly filling their little pods, so I’m keeping the water up to them generously, and I love to head out early in the morning to check on their progress while the bright morning sun renders them almost transparent. Next year I hope to put in much more of these, because they are fabulous for freezing. You just blanch them briefly in boiling salted water, then chill in a water bath and freeze. J loves to eat them by popping them out of their shells methodically, then eating all the beans at once – shoving them all into her mouth at the same time like a little piggy.

Emerging broad beans

Most of the summer plantings are finishing now. The weather has turned, so I’ve pulled out the tomatoes and the broad beans have taken their place. I sowed these a week ago, and they’ve just popped up their heads, and I hold great hopes for abundant crops in a few months time. Broad beans are just the most delicious things, and they keep J entertained for the longest time, shelling them for me while I prepare the rest of dinner.

Greenfeast pea seedling

The front garden bed continues to confound the neighbourhood, but it is absolutely roaring ahead. The winter veggies love the complete full sun from dawn till dusk. The greenfeast peas have shot up through the soil, and I love the way that the dew shimmers on the leaves in the early morning. I planted quite a number of these, and I hope we get enough pods to freeze a reasonable amount. I’m thinking I might have to make a successive planting of these in another week or so.

Marigold seedling

I scattered a whole packet of marigold seeds along the front bed, not expecting many to germinate because of the thick mulch. Surprisingly, quite a number of them have, and I have heaps (probably at least 100) of the little guys randomly scattered thoughout the veggies. I think I’m going to have to thin them – after all – marigolds don’t taste real nice 🙂

Garlic under the roses

I called the Diggers Club about my missing garlic and seeds. Thankfully they believed me that they hadn’t arrived, so they said that they would re-send them. In the meantime I have planted some of the organic garlic that I ordered from Lettuce Deliver. I’ve planted these under the roses, and they’ve sprung up really well. Once my proper delivery arrives I’ll probably have just enough to go under all of the roses, and I look forward to making garlic braids and hanging them to dry.

munched cabbage

I’ve been quite busy hunting cabbage moth caterpillars. They have been monstering my cabbages, broccoli and cauliflower, but I’ve managed to keep them at bay simply by the hunt and squash method. It seems that whenever I peer out at the garden bed I see the little flutter of white wings mocking me, but I’ll tell you, sweetheart – I’m winning this battle! In the photo on the right you can see the most savaged cabbage specimen. I think this one is actually the victim of snails, because I haven’t been able to find any caterpillars on it. I’m loathe to use snail pellets though, so I’ll see how it goes.

Mini wombok cabbages

My mini wombok cabbages are just amazing! They are very attractive to the cabbage moth, but I’ve kept on top of it, and these things grow like the wind! They are hearting up really really nicely, and I imagine I’ll be picking them in a few weeks, which will give the broccoli and cauliflowers either side of them a bit more room to spread out. I’ve put heaps of them in, so I think I’ll have to find a really good kimchi recipe to use it and preserve it. Maybe also some cabbage dumplings and sauerkraut – can you use chinese cabbage for sauerkraut?