The Spring Garden 2015

It’s been ages since I sat down to write on my blog….far too long! But I am here now…so much to talk about….this is the second year I’ve grown the tomatoes from seed (last years’s crop). 4 different varieties – 40 plants and we’ll let some of the self sown ones grow too, so if all goes well we’ll have another freezer full of tomato puree for next year.

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The purple peach tree that I grew from seed last year is about 50cm tall with 4 main branches, it’s growing so fast you can almost see it growing. Over winter we planted a red currant, some raspberries (have fruit on them!), 2 blueberries and replenished our strawberry crop. I wish we had room to plant more berries but I’m hoping we’ll get enough to eat and may be freeze some too? How cool would that be? A Cox’s Orange Pippen, a Snowapple and a Villa Franca lemon also found there way into our garden over winter.

I bought a pair of kiwi fruit at the supermarket a while ago (going cheap – $6 for both!); they looked a bit sad but hey you can’t go wrong for $6. We potted them up, fed them and off they went like a rocket; we needed a structure to grow them on – they can be a very vigorous plant and need lots of support and space – Neil used the old trampoline frame to build a structure and one day the kiwi fruits (and a grape vine) will create another feature in the garden.  I’ve seen photos of kiwi vines growing over trellises – beautiful foliage, golden fruit hanging down, that’s what I want to see here!

Winter was a busy time in the garden, we decided to move the rose bed (14 old roses) to a more suitable part of the garden – they were in a prime vegetable growing position. To do this Neil built 2 new raised garden beds – one for the roses and a new vegetable garden. Moving the roses was not fun, we certainly hacked into them but you know what, we didn’t lose a single plant! Just how tough are roses? Very tough! We replenished our paths with a thick layer of mulch – local wood chips from the crew who trim the street trees – this really brightened up the garden.

The summer garden is still a way off, the next peak above ground planting period (growing by the moon) comes up around the 13th Novemeber; so it will be all hands on deck to plant zucchini, tomatoes, eggplants, okra, fennel, lettuce, silver-beet, spinach, capsicums, beans, cucumbers, pumpkin and probably heaps more! I’m going to try some new crops this summer – okra, spaghetti squash (pumpkin) and snake beans, it’s always nice to have some unusual plants growing; okra plants look really interesting and I would love to eat a truly fresh one for once. I hadn’t even seen a spaghetti squash until last summer and was blown away by them! They are not cheap to buy so why not try and grow them – it’s just a pumpkin after all – 4 of the 6 seeds I planted have taken and I gave the rest away…. lots of spaghetti squash this year!

Our young avocado tree produced 2 wonderful fruits earlier this year and has been absolutely covered in flowers, thousands of them; we were wondering how many flowers would produce fruit, well we are delighted to announce some babies are forming…

We planted another lot of root crops last weekend – beets, celeriac, carrots and parsnips; the last month’s root crops are up but the cat decided to have a bit of a dig and damaged some of them, so we’ve put a net over the bed to stop all manner of pests.

Had to pull up the shallot crop a bit early I think, but they were going to seed and had to be lifted, hope they are OK, they’re drying on the deck and will be ready to hang in a week or so. The garlic crop is looking good; we planted a smaller crop than usual so we’ll keep our fingers crossed that they are robust plants.

I’m loving my herbs – got some beauties – tarragon, fennel, parsley, coriander, various mints, sage, rosemary, marjoram, thyme, basil, lemon grass, lavender and chives (the garlic chives are awesome). Phoebe makes the most beautiful omelettes with next door’s free range eggs, lots of fresh herbs and cheese – simple and delicious. Is horseradish a herb? This crop will yield more horseradish than we will ever use….I make horseradish sauce and use it fresh but…

Anyway enough rambling on for one blog…till next time….

 

 

The summer garden

Well Xmas and New Year (seasons greetings to you all) have come and gone since my last blog (how time flies) and the garden is just starting to produce enough to eat. We’re harvesting zucchini, tomatoes (early ones only), purple king beans, radish, green bull chillies, beetroot, assorted greens and herbs of course! The eggplants are just starting to fruit – hopefully we’ll be inundated with tomatoes, zucchinis and eggplants in a few weeks time. I’m not having much luck with florence fennel, the seed just doesn’t seem to strike well, anyway I’ve just planted another lot (organic local seeds) so let’s hope they take off. The zucchinis are an organic italian variety, they’re so pretty and seem to grow long before filling out – a lovely striped fruit too. I’m hoping the golden beets grow as big as the ones I bought from Magic Meadow (organic farm produce) and can’t wait to be able to pick our own carrots too.

The plums pictured above come from a friend whose plum tree was getting attacked by birds – she  had to pick them before they had fully ripened – I’m in the process of making plum sauce and jam. I tried one of our apricots today, it was nearly ripe and probably fine for cooking, might have to pick some tomorrow. We’ve netted the apricot and mulberry trees (as well as some of the tomatoes) or we would have lost the lot to birds. I don’t mind sharing some produce but the birds indiscriminately peck at everything in sight and don’t eat the ones that drop on the ground! What a waste!

We usually buy about a dozen advanced tomato plants, the rest of the crop being the self sown varieties that pop up all over the garden. This year we only bought two tomato plants (the ones that are producing now) and the rest we’ve grown from seed collected from two sources – a huge Italian variety brought over from the “old country” years ago and an Italian small green striped heirloom tomato. It was fun growing our main tomato crop from seed and we ended up planting about 10 of each variety  plus kept a crop of self sown tomatoes too, so we probably have about 40 tomatoes growing! We weren’t going to plant so many this year!

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A few years back I rescued a small half dead San Pedro cactus from our daughter’s share house (it was strewn in the garden amongst a tangle of weeds) and it certainly rewarded us this year with about thirty blossoms all in different stages of development. On Xmas day 7 blooms opened at once – absolutely amazing!

The weather has been crazy lately – too much wind and scorching heat – I hate seeing the garden being blown about like that – but at least it’s raining tonight!

Until my next blog…cheers Lemmie

Winter flowers and vegetables

It’s always nice to have flowers in the garden but especially at this time of the year; the maroon pansies haven’t stopped flowering for months and the vibrantly coloured cinerarias are in full bloom. There’s also camellias, grevillias, some roses, wattles and the lovely ornamental quince blossoms.

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The broad beans are looking good, they have a long growing season and we won’t be eating them for a while yet, the celery can be seen poking out of the milk cartons – they don’t seem to mind the cool weather. I’m still picking beetroots and a variety of greens and not a lot else. We’ve been resting and building up the main garden beds, preparing them for the growing season, thankfully we live in a temperate zone and can grow some food all year round. The garlic, shallots, purple cabbages and romanesco broccoli plants are slowly growing, I bet they’ll take off when the weather warms up a bit. There is so much parsley growing – I really should use it more – I put it in everything already – so versatile and good for us too! Until next we meet…..

Winter in the garden

Despite the cold and windy weather some parts of the garden are thriving including thistles and oxalis (or sour sob – impossible to get rid of – the act of pulling them actually promotes their bulb growth). I’ve posted some photos of  feature plants like the blood lilly leaves, red devil featured above, bird’s nest fern, cycad and vegetable garden shots.  There’s only 1 little purple cabbage left until the next crop grows, wish I had planted a few more, so yummy, romanesco broccoli is on the menu tonight and there’s plenty of greens for salads or cooked greens, a few beetroots, lots of herbs and that’s it for eating from the garden.The potatoes are gone, having to buy spuds again (drats) but there’s still a few shallots, going to seed garlic, pumpkins and frozen goods (tomatoes & grated zucchini)! The latest celery plants are looking OK, this weekend we’ll place 1Lt milk cartons over them to protect them and help to be crisp and tender.

The kumquat is finally starting to grow over the trellis top but the lemon and grapefruit seem frozen in time (planted at the same time), hopefully they’re growing underground and will put on new top growth when the weather warms up a bit. Lemons and limes are in abundance, what a cool problem to have, I’ll make a few more jars of preserved lime/lemons – so versatile and add a spark to most dishes – give some away and make some juice ice blocks.

Pasta man rejuvenated the worm farm (by adding some air vents – drainage tubes – and layers of nice fresh mulch) = happy worms and we’ve decided to rest 2 vacant garden beds for replanting in a month or two, it’s just too cold to plant right now. The other night we watched an old DVD on permaculture, it was interesting to see how our gardening practices have evolved over the years, I like the idea of permaculture and tried to live that way for a few years, it was fun having chooks, pigs, fish, an orchard and large vegetable garden, but now we are on a suburban block and our only animals are worms, insects and the odd amphibian and that is enough for us! Sometimes I’m tempted to have a few chickens again (what a delight to eat fresh eggs) but our next door neighbours produce the most beautiful organic eggs and I just pop over and buy some, how easy is that? Until next time…..

The autumn garden

Well I am finally back onto the computer and my blog, life seemed to get in the way for the last few weeks. So what’s happening in the garden? The only summer crop left are the chillies, everything else is over and out. There is however new life in the garden, the garlic and shallots are showing their new growth, the first crops of broad beans and peas are about 3cm tall and the next plantings are yet to show themselves (we are tending to plant small crops over several plantings so we don’t get too many at once). There are several varieties of spinach growing and a whole patch of self sown ones  too, the silver beet and kale are looking good, I’m looking forward to making spinach, potato and cheese pies especially. I love all greens and if we could only grow one crop it would be a green crop of some sort (my favourites are spinach and rocket). We usually always have staples of lettuce, rocket, herbs, beet root and carrots growing but we are having to buy carrots for now until the next crop is ready (we use a lot of carrots especially in the juicer). The miniature purple cabbages and brussels sprouts were infested with aphids so I sprayed them with an organic spray otherwise we would have lost them I think, I’ll have to check them again to see if they need another spray. I was hoping that some natural aphid predators would do their job but alas that didn’t happen. The broccoli plants in another area of the garden have no aphids on them at all, hooray!

I didn’t realise there were so many oranges on the Washington navel as they blended into the deep green foliage but now they are changing colour they stand out more. The younger blood orange hasn’t got any fruit at all which is disappointing but actually good for the tree to help it develop more before putting it’s energy into fruit. The flower seedlings I planted are growing well, the pansies are flowering but the cinerarias and hollyhocks still have some growing to do before they flower. I’ve been admiring the cosmos flowers in gardens on my walk to work, think I may have to get some of them soon. The pressure is off me to cook so much now as the produce has nearly come to a standstill but there are still things like rhubarb, citrus and beetroot to play with. I used to give the beetroot tops to the worm farm but have been saving them to use in pasta sauces and for a lovely filling for omelettes.

 

I hope to do a bit of weeding tomorrow and maybe feed the young seedlings with some seaweed emulsion to help them along. We are so lucky with the mild weather lately, we may as well enjoy it while it lasts.

The floral garden

A couple of years ago I noticed a spectacular climbing plant growing over the wall of the old Geelong gaol and grabbed a piece to identify it. I couldn’t find it in any of my books or on the internet but the local nurserywoman named it “Russian Lady’s Slipper”. She thought it looked easy enough to grow from a cutting (it looks like a succulent) so I did just that, one little cutting and now it has taken over a large part of the fence and will climb into all the neighbouring plants and across the ground if we let it. I wonder what I have introduced into  our garden it is so vigorous, I imagine that if left alone it would eventually cover up the whole block, house and all. It has a tendency to damage the fence too so I think eventually it will have to go or at least have a massive regular prune. When flowering it is absolutely amazing as you can see in the photos….

I’ve spent a couple of hours in the garden this morning and now it is raining, I couldn’t have asked for a better outcome! I just wish I had planted the broad beans, peas and spinach seeds, it would have been perfect timing. I did plant 3 punnets of flowers (mixed coloured hollyhocks, red pansies and white cinerarias) and a french tarragon plant to add to the herb collection. I found a lovely curry leaf tree at Van Loons yesterday and had to buy it, our last one died while we were on holidays last year and I’ve missed the convenience of being able to pick the delightfully fragrant leaves to use in cooking. We decided to plant it in the bank of shrubs that are growing to form a colourful screen or hedge dividing the lower garden and the newer top garden and helping to create a much needed wind break and gentler climate. Our back yard garden is slowly being transformed from a desolate, windswept, barren piece of dirt to a lush environment with the addition of split levels, lots of plants, time, water and muscle power. Our garden is a mixed up blend of herbs, vegetables, fruiting plants and our favourite ornamentals, we want to create different rooms or aspects in the garden and so it is evolving and changing as time goes on and as we do too. I do like my ornamentals but I’m more interested in edible plants lately, there are so many amazing edible plants available it seems silly not to grow as many of them as we can (space is the key).

Garden update

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Well another week has passed and the garden continues to produce, I have to wonder just how long the zucchinis can keep going, surely they must end soon. We are down to the self sown tomatoes only and they are still going strong, I’ve made litres of pasta sauce, chutney and relish. The eggplants are awesome, pasta man grills them on the webber or I shallow fry them and then pop them into a salad, pasta sauce or for parmigiana (which we had again tonight). Note to self – must make moussaka soon. The potatoes are ready to lift and we have to work out where we are going to store them (a shady, cool room in a hessian bag is the best). We did  a bit of a tidying up in the garden this weekend (filling up a large green bin easily) weeding, cutting back the out of control climbers and giving the roses quite heavy prune. The newly planted onions, herbs, cabbages and brussels sprouts are growing nicely but I had to “deal” with some caterpillars on the cabbages (tiny green ones). White fly is becoming quite a problem but what can I do? I am trying to keep the use of sprays to a minimum and  was nearly at the point of spraying when I found 2 different praying mantis in the garden, creatures like these might be harmed if I sprayed (even with organic sprays) so no to sprays for the time being. The avocado tree (bacon) is growing very well, the trunk is thickening up and it looks strong and healthy, hopefully it will be a good provider in the future. We’ve had some heavy pickings of beans too and I made an indian curried bean dish that was easy to make, fragrant and delightful to eat. It’s fun if you have the time to search for new ways to use an abundance of fruit or vegetables and I do enjoy zoning out in the kitchen, experimenting and up to my eyeballs in produce, pots and pans, loud music, nice smells happening, feeding family or friends, my perfect day – maybe add some yoga too! Till next we meet……