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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!


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!

New Growth

1 Oct

I love spring for all the rapid new growth that plants put on. When it warms up, but not so much that the plants are stressed.

My Australian native finger lime is loaded with flowers 

My new baby caper bush is actually putting out leaves

The overwintered capsicums have all woken from their slumber

If only just…

And the rhubarb is rapidly growing more and more monstrous.

The challenges are that the weeds are doing the same thing. The summer weeds, dormant in the cold are now springing back to life too.

Now is the time to be getting your mulch ready to suppress weeds and protect the plant roots from the soaring heat of summer.

Meet the new additions

22 Sep

As mentioned in my last post, I’m constructing a wall of espaliered citrus varieties.

We trekked out to Dural (North-West Sydney) today to buy the trees because they have specialist citrus grower Engalls out there.

I have a very understanding family!

In the end I only bought one of my trees there because the trees were all a bit too good! I plan to start my espalier quite low to the ground, so it was important that the trees I bought were still pretty young and whippy. If they are too established then they won’t be ‘bendy’ enough for me to manipulate them into the shape I want. Engalls sold beautiful established trees – too strong to bend to my will.

I’m planning on using the KNNN method championed by Bob Magnus. Thanks to Bek for the link.

Bob says I need to use dwarf trees for the KNNN method. I like breaking rules, and given the low-light situation a bit of ‘rapid growth’ might be just what I need.

I had a chat with the lovely and helpful guy at Engalls, and he quickly shot down the idea of a grapefruit. Apparently you really need a full-sized tree to support fruit that size. He also tried to dissuade me from a mandarin because their structure doesn’t suit espaliering very well. He said that I should absolutely get a Tahitian lime because they are the best suited of all, and a Meyer lemon because they are close behind. Apart from that, oranges are also well suited.

I mostly listened to him, but ended up pushing my luck a little.

So I bought:

A Tahitian Lime and a Meyer Lemon

An Imperial Mandarin and Eureka Lemon

And a Nagami Cumquat and a Tarocco Blood Orange

According to the expert, I’m going to struggle a little with the cumquat and the mandarin, but I’m willing to take a risk. I can always transplant out to another location (maybe even where the mulberry currently lives!)

So I spread them out along the fence to get an idea of placement. Gosh – that backyard is a mess!

And I’m struggling a little with the decision. The trees at the right will get the most light. I think the first 3 from the right will do pretty well. The last 3 will be under the tree and will struggle more. So, should I give the most promising varieties (Lime, Meyer Lemon, Eureka Lemon) the prized positions and let the others struggle, or do I give the ones that are more likely to struggle the most light, and perhaps fail at the lot?

Next step, sledgehammer. The beds are coming out!

And once the banana fruits, it is too.

Dwarf Mulberry – An Error

20 Sep

My dwarf black mulberry tree is planted in the ground at the side of my front yard. I planted a number of my fruit trees there in March 2011 – it was a hasty decision brought about by the theft of a number of my trees from pots.

All of these trees are dwarf, but what I didn’t realise when I planted them out is that dwarf is a relative term, and that a dwarf of one tree may end up much bigger than the dwarf of another.

This brings me to my dwarf mulberry. You can see here that it has grown way beyond the proportion of the other trees.

It has been pruned heavily many times, but comes back with a vengeance and fruits prolifically again. The trunk has gone from the tiny stick it was 15 months ago to a monster trunk that gets fatter daily.

At the moment it is carrying a heavy load of fruit

And it is ripening at the moment

The nursery I bought it from said that I could keep it pruned, but I realise now that while it’s growing in the ground I am not going to be able to sufficiently contain its growth. It is going to overwhelm everything around it, and become more unwieldy every day.

So I realise that it has to come out – back into a large pot. But the question is when?

Ideally, I would move a mulberry in winter during dormancy. The problem is that I’m sure the root system is already getting large, I don’t want to wait until then and find that I can’t get it out of the ground.

I think I’m going to wait until this current crop ripens then attempt my transplant. If any fruit tree can survive such a violent operation, I reckon it’s a mulberry.

Do you think I’m mad? Got any tips/suggestions for me?