Spring 2011 plantings in pictures

3 November, 2011

I’ve done a bit better this spring. I actually got most of my vegetable seeds and seedlings in at the right time in Spring, i.e. at the beginning of the season, rather than the end of it like last year.

Right now the garden is bursting with a heap of growth (verdant, AnnMaree just called it), some a few weeks old, some planted just this morning. There are tomatoes (mostly planned, others not so much), spinach, capsicum (hangers-on from the winter crop, but they don’t take up too much space), French beans, oak head lettuce, Lebanese cucumbers, eggplants and sweet corn down the western end. Hopefully all of it will have been harvested by the end of summer, if not before, and not be limping on into autumn and ruining my mid-2012 schedule. We’ll see. Mother Nature can be somewhat capricious – anybody else noticed that?

I thought that instead of coming up with a thousand words I’d just let the pictures do the talking, so here goes:

View of the vege garden from the southeast, Spring 2011

View of the vege garden from the southeast

View of the garden from the southwest with Helena's backyard in the background

View from the southwest with Helena's backyard in the background

Central section, with beans, lettuce and cucumber

Central section, with beans, lettuce and cucumber

The capsicums growing well

The capsicums, already growing well

Tomatoes, spinach and capsicum

Tomatoes, spinach, capsicum

The vegetable garden viewed from the northeast, Spring 2011

The garden as viewed from the northeast

Cucumbers

Cucumbers

Eggplant

Eggplant - 2 large, 1 runt

Sweet corn, western end

Sweet corn, Spring 2011

Tomatoes, already going feral

Tomatoes, already starting to go feral

Workshop notes on worm farms

13 August, 2011

As promised, here’re my notes on worm farms and farming taken from a recent workshop provided free by the Brisbane City Council and hosted by the Inspiration Garden at Morningside. Thanks to the delightful Deana (sic?) for the tips. I’m still not sure if I’m going to try my hand at worm farming, but just in case I do one day, at least the notes will be here in perpetuity (or whatever passes for perpetuity on the web).

For more information, check out Deana’s BCC brochure on the topic.

Worm farms need much less interaction than compost bins.

Acquiring worms

The “Can-O-Worms” brand of worm farm comes with a very useful 16-page instruction booklet!

Buy worms locally – you get a better survival rate, i.e. don’t buy them through the post.

Start with a minimum of 500 worms (or 2 good-sized handfuls of worms from a friend).

Setting up

Worms need a damp environment.  Use the cardboard packaging from the new worm farm as the floor of the top tray. Then add on top of it coconut-fibre bedding or shredded newspaper. Then layers of wet newspaper as the roof – you lift the side of the roof to put in feed.

Keep worm farms in the shade.

Usually you only need 2 trays at most in your farm.

Feeding the worms

Don’t feed worms citrus, potato peelings, onions or garlic – too acidic and/or starchy.

Chop the food up so that the pieces have more surfaces for bacteria to grow on – that’s what the worms eat.

When going on holidays, stock the worms up with lots of food, to the top of the tray, in fact. And leave the tap at the bottom of the farm open, so the worms don’t drown.

Worm tea

Comes out of the tap at the bottom of the worm farm. Use it as plant food in your gardens and pots.

Use it diluted – 1 part worm tea to 10 parts water.

Other tips

Farm worms are NOT suitable for gardens and vice versa.

Add very small amounts of lime to the tray if conditions get too acidic, which worms don’t like.

To keep ants out of the trays, rub vaseline around the farm’s legs.

And that’s all, folks. There. Now that wasn’t so bad, was it?

Composting and worm farm workshop – report back

13 August, 2011

On the morning of Sunday 7 August I went along to a free workshop on composting and worm farms. And I’m very glad I did – I brought home a bunch of useful information and advice; far more than I expected.

Our compost bin is taking a very long time to fill, and tucked away behind the hibiscus down the far end of the back yard, it’s a bit of a case of out of sight, out of.. well, you know. So when I noticed a flyer advertising a couple of free, upcoming Brisbane City Council composting workshops one day a couple of months back at our local public library, I immediately sprang into inaction! What I mean is, I grabbed the flyer, brought it home and left it lying on the scanner lid in the computer room for a couple of weeks, long enough for the first workshop to go flying by. Mostly the problem with these sorts of things for me is being in a location where it’s possible to make the booking when I actually remember about it. But then one day at work I did remember, and there was the phone right in front of me. And so I actually made the call and booked a spot at the next workshop (the last in this series).

Assuming it wouldn’t be that interesting a topic to many people, on the Sunday I geared up and headed over to the venue, the Inspiration Garden which is a permaculture garden open to the public in the back streets of Morningside, backing on to the nature reserve there. As I backed the car out, I considered taking a folding chair along. But it seemed like too much effort, getting back out of the car, so I just trundled off.

Ooops. As it happened, about 50 people turned up for the demo, out of about 60 bookings! And there were very, very few seats around – that folding chair would’ve been most handy. Luckily I snagged a spot on the stairs up to the house, overlooking the area at the front of the garden where Deana (sorry if I’ve spelled that wrong) from the Brisbane City Council gave us 3 hours of highly useful information, answers to many crowd questions, a demonstration of how to fill a compost bin, and a look through a working worm farm. At the end of the session I came away far more informed about the whole composting process, and in particular what I was doing wrong with my own bin – i.e. lots.

So here,  very slightly tarted up, are some of the more useful notes I took during the workshop. Deana has also written a brochure available through the Council website, which probably says everything my notes say and more, and in a more elegant and visually appealing way. Oh well – story of my life.

Location

  • Move compost bins around the yard and garden – improves the soil no end.
  • Best spot for a bin is somewhere with full sun, away from the house (they usually don’t smell, but they can attract pests), on well-drained soil (clay gets swampy) and on a slight slope.

Ingredients

The four main ingredients are nitrogen-rich materials, carbon-rich materials, air (speeds up the decomposition process) and water (ditto).

Rule of thumb: nothing thicker than your thumb goes in.

Nitrogen

Food scraps – vegetables, fruit, egg shells, tea bags, coffee grounds

Vacuum cleaner dust

Green grass clippings

Manure from herbivores (very active, speeds up the decomposition process) – but not if the herbivore (e.g. horses) has been wormed in the last 4 weeks. Evidently Brisbane horses are wormed on average every 4 weeks, so there you go – I don’t think I’ll be using a lot of horse poo anyway.

Comfrey leaves – very high in nitrogen. Don’t add too much of these at any one time, as they turn into a thick sludge very quickly.

Carbon

Dry grass clippings

Dried leaves, dead twigs

Hay, straw

Mulch, e.g. sugar cane mulch

Old potting mix

Old compost

Newspapers – though not glossy – scrunch into balls to trap air in them.

Cardboard

Wood chips from untreated wood

Sawdust

Ash from fireplaces – good for neutralising PH levels

Avoid

Meat scraps, fats, oils – these attract rodents

Carnivore’s manure

Bread – also attracts rodents

How to build the pile

Layers should be 5 – 10 cm thick. These will get stirred together over time, of course.

Stir every 3 – 7 days. (Ooops – so far I haven’t stirred mine once – didn’t think I had enough in there to make it worthwhile!)

The materials should be damp to the touch, the whole way through. Not soggy – that’s too wet. In our dry season we will almost certainly have to add water. Paper, cardboard and dry grass clippings can be used to dry the pile out.

Use lots of manure to speed things up. Soak the manure in water first – helps to spread it.

Don’t leave food scraps exposed in the pile – this attracts bugs and cockroaches – cover them with grass clippings or similar.

Put weeds in water for 6 weeks first – kills the seeds – then add the resulting ‘weed tea’ to the pile.

Deana recommends having 2 bins, and also recommends getting all the stuff together and building one while bin at a time, if possible. With two bins, you can be building one while the other is full and ready to use.

To stir the pile, with a garden fork move stuff from the core out to the edges and vice versa, using a dragging motion. This ensures more even decomposition throughout the pile.

Handy implement recommended by Deana – “Compost Mate” – $20 – good for aerating piles, though perhaps not as good as claimed for redistributing the contents.

Grow comfrey! Seems no good compost pile should be without it.

Using finished compost

The compost is ready when you can’t recognise any of the original ingredients in it – it looks like a rich, dark soil.

Place on the garden and then put mulch over it. I guess it’ll mix in at its own pace.

In pots, use 50% compost and 50% potting mix.

Conclusion

Well, I think that’s enough for one post. Rivetting reading, I’m sure you all agree!

So I think I’ll do a separate, shorter one on worm farms. It’s Saturday morning and time for breakfast…

Collecting parsley seed

11 November, 2010
This stuff would make a good, low hedge

This stuff would make a good, low hedge. One that would have to be replanted every year or 2 but still...

Some months back we planted a bunch of left-over parsley plants in the Annexe, simply because we bought a punnet of something like 8 seedlings and only had room in pots to plant 2 of them, from memory.

The Annexe plants went on to grow like Topsy, as you can see from the accompanying photo.  It seems that garden bed’s combination of wet soil (it cops all the run-off from the yards further up the hill and never seems to dry out) and limited direct sun during the day (due to the back deck being in the way) suit them well. Furthermore, the local possums and bush turkeys obviously don’t like this flat-leaved variety of parsley, as they’ve left them completely alone. (Whereas the Italian variety we keep in 2 or 3 pots on the back deck has often become a tasty snack for the varmints – recently a neighbour spotted a turkey flying up to the deck just so it could bite off one of the plants down almost to the roots.)

Anyway, a few weeks before we went away on our trip to the SW of WA, most of these parsley plants started going to seed. A couple of them were going yellow, wilting and dying, so I pulled them out one weekend. The rest I left in there, not having the time to see to them before we left.

Starting to look the worse for wear

Starting to look the worse for wear

Anyway, looking at them earlier this week, I noticed that only one of them appears to be still in seed, while the others have gotten over their wild and crazy fertility spurt and are turning into masses of useful leaves instead of flowers and seed heads again. So I guess they can stay in the garden for the foreseeable.

But it did give me the idea of perhaps collecting some seeds from the one remaining plant that’s seeding, and keep them for future crops. How to do so, though? It’s not something I’ve done before, not with just about any type of herb or vegetable, and certainly never with parsley.

Jumping on the web, I Googled madly away and came up with the following tidbits of information:

  • Parsley belongs to the Carrot Family (Umbelliferae) – species name Petroselinum crispum.
  • Wait until the seeds turn brown and dry on the plant before collecting them.
  • To collect them, cut off the head as a whole and then crumble it in the hand over your waiting receptacle.
  • To prevent the seeds flying away everywhere, i.e. falling randomly, tie a piece of pantyhose/stocking over them – ‘they continue to ripen as if uncovered’.
  • One source claims parsley seeds can only be saved for a year, and aren’t any good after that. Another source says they can be saved for 2 to 3 years if prepared properly. Hmm… who to believe?
  • And the kicker – parsley plants of different species that haven’t been planted separately with a distance of a couple of kilometres or more between them may cross-pollinate (the rogues).

So, when all’s said and done, it may not be worth the risk of collecting and saving the seeds, as these plants may have been cross-pollinating vegeto-orgiastically with their back deck Italian cousins. Who knows what will germinate from such profligate progeny?

I’ll think about it. Meantime I’ll still keep an eye out and ‘harvest’ the seeds when they’re ready. At least I’ll have a year (or more) to decide whether to use them or not.

Some sources for information on parsley seed collection:

“Vegetable Seed Saving Handbook” by Jack Rowe – http://www.howtosaveseeds.com/seedsavingdetails.php

ABC Online Forum thread – collecting parsley seeds – http://www2b.abc.net.au/science/scribblygum-old/posts/topic23283.shtm

“Parsley” from herbs200.com – http://www.herbs2000.com/herbs/herbs_parsley.htm – the “Habitat and Cultivation” section on this page is a mine of useful stuff in a compact and comprehensive form.

Back from WA

9 November, 2010

Yes,  I know it’s been quite a while between posts. The reason I can do it at the moment is fairly easy to explain: I’m on vacation. By the time I get home on normal work days, I don’t seem to have the energy to devote to such things as composing prose, deathless or otherwise. So I have to make the most of these lovely holidays and do some catching up online.

Albany Windfarm

We’re just back from a superb couple of weeks in southwestern Western Australia. We did a big triangle, from Fremantle/Perth down to Albany, then west through Pemberton to Margaret River (our longest stay at 5 nights) before finishing with a couple of nights in the Swan Valley. Apart from Margaret River the place is very dry – they had something of a drought this past winter (being a Mediterranean climate, that’s when they normally get their rain). But to make up for the brown countryside, the wine and food were good, the accommodation ranged from okay to fantastic, and the scenery along the various coasts was brilliant.

 

The plan is to put a selection of the almost 900 photos I took during the trip up on Facebook and perhaps on Flickr. I also took a few videos, e.g. of the Karri forests between Albany and Margaret River, some of which may find their way on to YouTube with a bit of luck.

Tomorrow I’ll be putting up information about our late Spring plantings, which we’ve done over the past couple of days. Tonight will be taken up with Tiger Trivia at Carina Leagues Club – the first time we’ll have been there in a month. It’ll be good to catch up with Bernie, Shane, Eileen, Trish, Tracey, Jackie…

First corn harvested

7 January, 2010
The vegetable garden at dusk, with sweet corn plants in the foreground.

The vegetable garden at dusk, with sweet corn plants in the foreground.

I came home from work a bit early this afternoon, having had a persistent stomach ache since yesterday evening. Amazed I managed to stay at work for most of the day, actually. I then took to my bed for a Gardener Scampus Power Nap, and was woken by the Other Half arriving home around 6pm.

She suggested maybe it was time to harvest one of the cobs of corn. Gulp. The first corn harvest!

It was with some trepidation that I ventured down the back stairs. While many of the cobs’ tassels have already turned brown and shrivelled up, they’ve still seemed a little small to be harvesting just yet. So I’d been putting that off for the past week or so. But now it was time to find out if the wait (something like 11 weeks) had been worth it.

Because of its reasonable size, I chose a cob from one of the two plants at the eastern, outer end of the box. A twist one way, a twist the other way, and it was free from its nice, cosy spot snuggled up against the plant’s stem. (I had a fleeing thought at this point that maybe removing this particular cob would give a boost to the other cob on the plant, which remains somewhat undersized. Probably doesn’t work that way…)

First cob of sweet corn harvested

First cob of sweet corn harvested, showing the small area of black 'smut' on the husk. False alarm, fortunately.

Pulling back the outermost green husks, I noted a bit of what looked like black smut on one of them. Heavens to hamburgers! Hope this didn’t mean that some of that copious rainwater of the past few weeks had snuck inside and ruined the kernels.

AnnMaree had come down into the back yard at this point, so like the coward I am I handed the cob over to her for the final check out. She pulled back all the rest of the coverings and exposed the all-important kernels. What do you know? They were perfect – firm and yellow, and all there.

Alright! Success!

So now perhaps I won’t be so loath to harvest a couple more over the next few days, before we head to NZ next week.

Tomatoes

Cherry tomatoes, just picked, mixed in with store-bought "kumatoes".

Cherry tomatoes, just picked, mixed in with store-bought "kumatoes" and ready to be added to the evening's salad. (Apologies for the blurring)

While I was down there I grabbed another handful of cherry tomatoes – they’ve been ripening in dribs and drabs for the past couple of weeks now.

With the toms, it’s been a bit of a race between the fruit ripening and the leaves all falling off at least 3 of the plants from the wilt disease (possibly Fusarium Wilt, by its looks) they’ve picked up in the past week or 2.

By sheer chance I originally bought the “Sweetbite” brand of cherry tomatores. Later Peter Cundall told me that Sweetbite ‘is extraordinarily disease resistant’…! Riiiiight. Hmmmph. I fear that my garden appears to be one of those exceptions that proves the experts’ rule.

From other things I’ve read, I’m guessing I won’t be able to grow any more tomatoes in the same soil for at least 3 years, as it can take at least that long for the wilt fungus to work its way out of the soil. Ouch – that’s a long time to wait between crops!

Dinner

We had salad with our pork chops tonight. It included the handful of cherry toms I picked this afternoon. But taking pride of place in the salad were the kernels from our first successfully grown and harvested cob of sweet corn. The kernels were sweet, and, waxing lyrical for a moment, I guess it shows that sometimes life itself can be sweet. Despite a stomach ache.

Progress report – end of Week 9

5 January, 2010

… well, there was no progress report at the end of Week 9, was there?

I was having such a lovely time, enjoying my 10 days of vacation from work, that I could never quite bring myself to sit down in front of the computer for the requisite three hours (I can be a bit of perfectionist with blog posts) and actually compose the report. Basically whenever I turned the PC on, I ended up surfing Reddit, playing trivia games on Sporcle, or keeping an eye on my Facebook network instead.

And you know what? I’m not sorry, not in the least.

But I promise I’ll do the Week 10 progress report this coming weekend and all will be caught up. Actually, that will be the last chance to report on matters vegetative for a while, as we’re out of the country for the following couple of weeks.  And I don’t think whomever it is that ends up keeping an eye on the garden for me will be at all interested in blogging about the experience. I mean to say, go figure.

Progress report – end of week 8

25 December, 2009
The vege garden after a shower

The vege garden after a shower

It’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas. Well, Christmas as it usually looks, here in subtropical Brisbane. Hot and humid, that is. At least this year the day has turned out to be only occasionally sunny, with half a dozen showers blowing through on their way from the Bay southwest towards the inland. Hope they’re lasting long enough to rain hard on some parched farmlands out there, and fill up some dams.

The Annexe in the sunshine

The Annexe, walking in sunshine

Yep, it’s Christmas Day, and we here in the Gardener Scampus residence are embarking on the first of our 10 days of vacation – at our workplace all back-of-house staff must take the time off between Christmas and New Year’s. Not that I’m complaining, I might add!

I went a bit mad with the camera this morning and took a veritable mountain of shots of the vege gardens, the ‘ornamental’ gardens, the yard, even the cats before I slowed down. Also took a couple of videos, the first from the back deck during one of the aforementioned showers, and the second of the house interior while Mrs. Gardener Scampus was vacuuming. Might put the former one up on YouTube – wouldn’t dare put the latter one up where anybody could see it. My life wouldn’t be worth a rotten cherry tomato (more on that later).

Anyway, on to the progress report, I say!

Chillies

Chilli plant ready to explode

Chilli plant with lots of upward pointing fruit

The quiet achievers of the garden, no doubt about it. I like the way they go about their business, neither over- nor under-performing, unlike some of the garden show-offs and ne’er-do-wells (hear that, corn? Beans?)

They’ve pretty much all got fruit on them now, whether in the main or Annexe gardens, or up in the back deck pots. All the fruit is still green, but the single fruit on one of the potted plants had grown so big that AnnMaree harvested it this morning, and I believe most of it has already gone into the marinade for our Moroccan-style pork this evening!

Sadly I didn’t get a photo of the chilli before it was filleted, so you’ll just have to take my word that it was at least 35 cm long and close to 10cm around… oh, alright. It was 10cm long and about 2cm in diameter at the thicker end. But that makes it considerably bigger than just about every other chilli in the garden.

So this was the second type of produce I’ve so far managed to harvest. And it wasn’t long before it was followed by the…

Cherry Tomatoes

First ripe tomatoes

The first ripe tomatoes - later picked and eaten

Yes, I took two tiny, red tomatoes off the smaller plant in the main garden this afternoon – the plant that, while lagging well behind its neighbour in terms of foliage, has been well ahead in terms of fecundity. The fruit will be going into this evening’s salad – how good is that?

Mind you, the mutant next door, when I tied up its wildly waving branches this afternoon, proved to have quite a few new fruit growing in many different places on it. So I hope that it will yet prove to be the equal of its leaner, meaner neighbour.

Healthy tomato plant in the Annexe

Healthy tomato plant in the Annexe

Unhappy tomato plant in The Annexe garden

...and the unhappy plant right next door

Over in The Annexe, it’s the same situation as it has been for the past few weeks. The plant on the left is growing well and starting to fruit. Whereas the poor plant on the right is brown and perhaps diseased in various spots, although the higher branches are green and doing better than you’d expect. No signs of fruit though.

What nasties can it be sucking up from the soil beneath it? Something left behind by the bloke who built the Colorbond fence? I suppose I should bite the bullet and pull it out, ending its misery. But there’s a little bit of Buddhist in me – I just hate to kill any living thing, even one that might be suffering.

Cobs on the sweet corn plants

Cobs on some of the sweet corn plants

Sweet Corn

These are large, green and very happy with themselves, with 2 or even 3 cobs growing on each plant. I noticed this morning that a couple of the cobs’ tassels are turning brown – does that mean those cobs are almost ready? From what I’ve read, that would be at least a couple of weeks too early. So I hope they haven’t caught some nasty disease that I know nothing about how to deal with. I’ll keep thinking positively instead.

Lebanese Cucumbers

Cucumber plants in the main bed

Cucumber plants in the main bed, showing their age

The older parts of the vines in the main bed are definitely looking tired as their leaves pale and go brown around the edges. Each of them still has at least one younger branch that looks and acts vigorous. I tied them all up to the trellis after my Power Gardener Nap this afternoon, and noticed quite a few small fruits coming out. So it appears that they’re currently only experiencing a bit of a lull, and more cucumbers are in the offing.

Cucumber fruit on a vine, main bed

Cucumber fruit on a vine, main bed

The leftmost plant has one or two good sized fruit on it, which will probably be ready to pick by next weekend.

The plant in the Annexe has now got into its daily pattern: during the hot part of the day the leaves droop, only returning to full vigour once the sun goes off the garden bed. It currently also has a 3/4-grown fruit on it – should be ready to pick before the next week is out, I estimate.

Climbing Beans

Bean plants, main garden bed

Slacker climbing beans in the main bed

The saddest story in the garden (so far). None of them look that healthy any more, none of them are growing at all well. When it comes to climbing beans, I’m proving rather a non-green thumb. Oh well, they’re not hurting anything where they are. I’ll leave them there and see how they go. No idea how long they live for – if they make it to the cooler weather (ca March 2010) they might, repeat might, perk up. But I wouldn’t bet on it.

Carrots

Carrots viewed through a trellis

Carrots as seen through the trellis where the beans should be

It’s like the rain during the week acted as some kind of clarion call to the carrots. Their rosettes of above-ground leaves have all put on a massive growth spurt in the past few days – catching up after several dry weeks.

I don’t think there’s much root growth underneath those rosettes yet – but when it starts, thinning the rows out will keep me busy for a little while.

Beetroot

Beetroot in the main bed

Beetroot in the main bed. Note the size disparities!

Of the 10 plants I replanted in The Annexe a couple of weeks back, 8 are still growing, and 5 or 6 of them are growing well. Of the others, it may be that not enough of their leaves survived the passage, and they’re in some kind of stasis right now before they die. Or maybe they’ll suddenly spring into new life and prove me wrong. It’s 50-50, I’d say.

Beetroot, The Annexe

Transplanted beetroots in The Annexe. Most have managed to survive.

Of the 10 plants in the main bed (must give it a name one day, to match The Annexe. Maybe The Island?), all 10 are still growing, if you’ll believe it, even the two transplants. And the two large ones in the upper row are still the two largest ones out of all 18 surviving plants, by a long shot.

As yet I see no red, swelling roots pushing out above the soil under all this thriving foliage, but I’m now hopeful that many of them will deliver the goods, in their own time.

Eschallots

Eschallots, The Annexe

Some of the eschallots in The Annexe, carefully guarded from cat attack

The Eschallots are obviously slow, steady growers, who don’t like to be rushed. There hasn’t been much change in their size, although I note that some of them have pushed up a second shoot now. That’s nice to see – it suggests they might be starting to like their surroundings now. Sure hope so.

I don’t expect to see much from them for quite a few weeks yet.

Whoops, I’ve done it again – set the wrong date (27/12) on the camera! Honest, folks, I did take all the photos accompanying this post on Friday 25 Dec, aka Christmas Day. Looks like Ol’ Fumble-Brain wins again…

We had a couple of storms during the week, each dropping about a half hour’s worth of rain on the place. Suddenly those dead spots in the lawns are not so dead any more, as green shoots go sprong-o! all over them. You can tell how the plants throughout the yard were just laying low, biding their time, and waiting for the heavens’ aqueous Christmas present. Once the rain falls, they don’t waste time making the most of it! Everything is lovely and green out there again, in 3 or 4 days. Just like that.

The main bed from the west

The main bed viewed from the west

I’ve got this nasty feeling that much of the garden’s produce will be ready to pick during those 2 weeks we’re in New Zealand. Damn it. Everybody but ourselves (neighbours, friends, pests) is likely to see the benefits of my (reasonably) hard work out there.

Never mind. What I’m mainly aiming for from this garden, at least for the first couple of years, is an education - to get my gardening knowledge and skills back up to a point where I become a worthwhile and productive gardener again.

Let’s face it, any actual output from the gardens at this point is just a bonus.

Before I forget, by the way – MERRY CHRISTMAS to all, and good luck with all your gardening pursuits in 2010!

Progress report – end of Week 7

19 December, 2009
The garden bed on an overcast day

The garden bed on an overcast day

First, a confession: Gardener Scampus was a very lazy boy last weekend. Well, I was and I wasn’t.

Physically I put the Big Ones in, spending those two broiling hours working in the garden on Saturday morning. But digitally it was a case of never quite getting around to putting together my usual weekly post here about the goings-on in the vege gardens.

So the post for last week’s progress report that you see on this blog was actually written today, a week after the events described. I hope that hasn’t resulted in a scratchy, incomplete effort on my part. Although frankly how will you, my readers, know?

Anyway, on to this week’s round-up. (No, that wasn’t a free plug for Monsanto’s product, Roundup. Au contraire, mes amis…)

Beetroots

Main bed

Thankfully all 10 plants in the main bed are coming back into contention, including the two I transplanted to new positions last weekend. Most of them obviously received a nasty shock when I thinned them out, but the heat, and that nice little storm mid-week, gave them all a fighting chance. A couple of the plants on the higher row are enormous now, but all of them are still in there and battling on.

Beetroot transplants in The Annexe

Beetroot transplants in The Annexe

The Annexe

At this point, of the 10 plants I transplanted here last Saturday morning, 9 are still alive, if barely! But that’s something, I guess. I read something just now that recommended watering transplants once and even twice a day for a couple of weeks, which I haven’t been doing. Will rectify that over the next few weeks.

Carrots

A crowd of carrots

A crowd of carrots - note the big one at top right

Nothing particularly new to report here. Another slow grower, the carrot. I accidentally pulled out a couple of the smaller plants while thinning out the neighbouring beetroots last week, but given how many plants there are in each of the two rows, it doesn’t really matter.

As the accompanying photo shows, the plant at the highest end of the right-hand row is for some reason growing much, much faster than all the others.  Show-off.

Beans

Bottom end of the garden

Bottom end of the garden showing beans in the foreground, beetroot and carrots in the background

If it wasn’t for the fact that I have the neighbour’s burgeoning bean plants in full view, I would think that it’s been too hot to grow beans this summer! Mine are all fairly small by comparison, and as mentioned previously 2 or even 3 of them remain very stunted, to the point where I can’t see them contributing to the harvest in any way.

I might add that the beans are planted in the lowest corner of the bed. Perhaps that has something (a lot?) to do with it. I think, as the opportunity arises, I’ll re-lay the soil within the garden’s boxing so it’s more level right across the bed, and see if that leads to more consistent growth patterns next time around. It surely can’t hurt.

Tomatoes

Tomatoes showing size difference

Tomatoes in the main bed showing the size difference between the 2 plants

Small green tomatoes have now appeared on three of the four plants, but are obviously a long way off ripening at this point. Still, no sign of bugs on them as yet.

The right-hand plant in The Annexe continues to struggle, with most of the lower foliage having browned off. It can’t be the heat, otherwise why isn’t its neighbour in the same boat? But the topmost fronds look pretty healthy this weekend, so I’m still hoping.

Meanwhile, over in the main bed the right-hand plant is massive in comparison to its neighbour, but way behind in terms of fruit production as yet. Too much potassium? Nitrogen? Put it on my list of things to check into online, as time permits. Once again the clarion call goes forth: “More research needed!”

Chillies

Chillies in the main bed

Chillies in the main bed

Just this morning I noticed a monster chilli on one of the plants in the pots on the back deck. It’s green, but it’s enormous – not sure whether to leave it for a bit longer and see if it changes colour, or pull it off now and take my chances. A bit of online reading earlier this morning suggests leaving it to ripen, but oh, the temptation!

Most of the chilli plants now sport a one or more fruit on their spindly boughs, but all are still green and most are small, except for the big hoo-er mentioned in the previous paragraph.

Sweet Corn

Going along swimmingly, thanks for asking! All 6 plants are tall, green and healthy. (You can surely see why they suck so many nutrients out of the soil.) This week the tassels have really started to come out for the first time.

I guess it is only four weeks until the cobs are due to be picked. But by the looks of them, if they keep up the current rate of growth, they may be ready a little earlier than that, and that would mean we get to eat them ourselves. Otherwise they’ll be going to friends and/or neighbours to consume while we’re ‘across the Ditch’ in NZ.

There’s something very pleasurable about sitting under the back deck and just listening to the breezes rustle through the corn, late in the afternoon at the end of a hot day. Especially if you’ve been working in the very same garden earlier that day.

Eschallots

Very little to report. The cats’ digging and mulch-moving activities in The Annexe have led to the death and disappearance of a couple more eschallots there, but the other plants continue to grow, if slowly. I’ve moved in a few bits of old pavers to try to protect the survivors better.

They do appear to be a very slow grower, eschallots. The result is, at this stage, not a lot of progress to report on.

Cucumbers

Cucumbers in main bed

Cucumber plants in main bed

Almost forgot! Our major producers (so far) provided another 3 or 4 cucumbers during the week, and there are at least another 3 on the vines in the main bed, almost ready to pick now.

Cucumbers on the vine

Cucumbers on the vine, including a mutant in the centre

All this fruit producing must be exhausting, and the plants are starting to look a bit frayed and brown around the edges, especially those in the main bed. I don’t know how long they live for, but I’m suspecting it’s not all that long – I doubt they’re perennials. Or it could be that they need fertilising. Once again, time to get online and do more investigating, I suppose. (Never a dull moment when learning to garden, you know!)

And that was the week that was, as a British wit once said, some time last century.

Coming up is the last week of work this year, and it’s a short one, since Christmas Day is on Friday. And then a glorious week or so (10 days, to be precise) of vacation time! I’ll miss the air conditioning at work, but probably not much else.

After that, it’s only about 10 days until we’re winging our way to New Zealand for a couple of weeks. Seems like forever since we were over there last, although it’s been less than 2 years, in fact. I can’t wait.

The garden’s a-glowing

18 December, 2009
The solar lamp amid the veges

The solar lamp amid the veges

We went to a Christmas party last Saturday, at Muzza’s (i.e. Murray’s) place at Sunnybank. It was a gathering of the various people, of all ages and backgrounds, who happen to be members of several beach volleyball teams that play at Sandstorm on Brisbane’s south side. Over the years of playing together we’ve managed to form bonds of friendship as well as being just team mates.

A fun time was had by all, as it was in the previous year. And as in the previous year, we played an interesting type of Secret Santa. In this one you don’t get a person to buy a present for. You simply buy a generic gift (up to $10) and put it under the tree when you get there. Then Kelly, our hostess and games organiser, puts numbers in a hat, each participant draws a number, and then you select a present in order according to your number. BUT there’s a catch – if you don’t like what you’ve chosen, you can opt to switch it with the present of somebody who’s chosen one before you. And, of course, people who come after you in the order can opt to switch with you, too. You have no choice but give up a present, if somebody later in the sequence nominates to switch with you. That’s how it works, and while it sounds a bit weird, last year it turned out to be very entertaining.

Side view

Side view of the solar lamp

This year’s Secret Santa was a quieter affair, with a lot less horse trading going on for some reason. Perhaps the presents were a little less unusual than last year’s (which included $10 of 10c coins rolled up like a cosh, and a huge box with nothing but a $10 note inside it).  Nonetheless it was still a fun time – watching Sean take the super soaker off his young cousin Alex, almost ruining the lad’s night, was a ‘highlight’. (Of course, he gave it back.)

I chose chocolates, which AnnMaree promptly relieved me of when it came to be her turn later in the sequence. What did she swap with me? An all-plastic, solar powered, yard/garden light! Which nobody chose to take off me, for some reason…

Frankly I wasn’t sure what I was going to do with a yard light. It’s not really my thing, you know? But at AM’s suggestion a couple of days later I put it in the vege garden, on a high spot near the beetroot and carrots. The soil is quite firm in that part of the garden – managed to break off the pointy ‘leg’ on the underside that you’re supposed to dig into the ground to provide stability. So I just set it upright in its designated spot and hoped it would stay like that.

And there it has stayed since. I look out some nights and see it bravely glowing in the darkness. It isn’t powerful enough to send light very far, so it’s a bit like a very low-level star, twinkling away all by itself.

Let’s face it, though. Its poor luminosity is probably a good thing. I don’t want to encourage the possums and their nocturnal buddies any more than I must. Well, at all, really.


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