Archive for the ‘Gardening’ Category

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.

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 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.

Useful online gardening resource

7 December, 2009

This afternoon I finally sat down at the keyboard here at home (having left work early – we went and tried out new Honda Civics in the local dealer’s car yard for a bit, but didn’t take as long as expected there) and started looking for information about what exactly is the right time to be thinning out plants, particularly carrots and beetroot.

As I’ve mentioned in other posts, both beetroots (particularly the higher row) and carrots are growing very well, and so closely together that it’s hard to see the soil between them now.

When I first set the new garden bed up, I did a bit of online research as I had few printed resources to call on. I found a range of fairly useful resources spread across a number of sites, including:

Now all of these have proven to be reasonably good sources for the sort of information I need. However, I have to admit I felt that none of them truly went out of its way to be as thoroughly comprehensive as it could be, at least in terms of the information provided about each vegetable. Especially, and I mean especially, from the point of view of gardening up here in the sub-tropics.

Today I may have found a site that actually does strive to provide every bit of information it thinks might be useful about a wide range of vegetables (not to mention fruit). The site I’m talking about is  Successful Gardening with Annette McFarlane.

McFarlane is a local – best as I can tell, she lives somewhere on the north or northwest side of Brisbane. (I’m basing that on where she holds her library seminars and other events – very few of them are on the southside. I also found out from another site that she teaches horticulture at a TAFE college out at Grovely, in the city’s northwest.)  So she tends to write about local conditions, indeed to focus on them, which is just what I’m after. Pretty much all the other sites I’ve mentioned above tend to be rather south-of-the-border-centric. (Damned Mexicans.)

McFarlane is a devoted organic gardener, by the looks. I’m not yet prepared to go quite that far in my backyard endeavours, although I do hope to avoid the use of nasty chemicals wherever possible. Once upon a time I was a fan of the whole idea of permaculture although I never really followed its dictums with much faithfulness, apart from using proper spiral vegetable gardens. that was when I returned to live with my parents on their 3 acres for a time, back in my late 20s and early 30s. Still, I’d rather be doing the soil more good than harm with my gardening endeavours – who wouldn’t?

Part of McFarlane’s site is a set of PDF fact sheets (she calls them ‘articles’) detailing what seems like lots and lots of directly useful data about 30 different vegetables – including almost all the vegetables I’m currently growing. (Eschallots and chillies are the notable exceptions, although there’s a fact sheet for capsicums.) Each fact sheet is anything up to 4 x A4 pages long – vastly more information about individual species than I’ve seen on any other site.

I’ve had a look through a few of the sheets, in particular those for beetroot and carrots of course, and as a result I now know the following (and I quote):

  • “Carrots can be harvested when they are deemed large enough. Immature, ‘baby’ carrots should be ready in around 10 weeks, their selective harvest leaving more room for the remaining carrots to develop to a mature size over the next 6-10 weeks.”
  • “Beetroot can be harvested at any stage that they are considered large enough to eat, but certainly before they exceed 10cm across. Plants generally require 10-12 weeks to mature fully. Overly large or slowly grown crops are more likely to be tough and fibrous”

And this is pretty much all the information I was looking for, nicely packaged into a couple of handy PDFs.

She also says somewhere that the beetroot seedlings removed during the thinning process can, if carefully handled, be successfully replanted somewhere else. Hmmm. My thoughts immediately turned to those couple of squares of unused space in The Annexe. Been wondering what to do with it – and it gives me the chance to experiment and see if other vegetables will succeed in that rather overly warm and sunny environment.

The information in the fact sheets is clearly stated, well worded, and decently broken up with the use of headings so that it’s all quite readable. And there’s even the occasional “Did you know?” to provide a little entertainment as one works one’s way through the drier, factual stuff.

Thank you for all that info, Annette McFarlane. As a fellow Brisbanite and on behalf of all novice vege gardeners around here, I salute you. I hope and suspect your online resources will continue to inform and inspire me. Please don’t ever take them away!

Next up: digging out information about ‘natural’ pesticides that I can have ready for the inevitable day when the flying nasties invade.

Progress report – end of Week 4

6 December, 2009
Main garden bed from the east

Main garden bed viewed from the east

Well, obviously the most exciting thing this week was the appearance of the first actual vegetables on some of the plants. So without further ado, here’s the blow-by-blow.

Beetroot

The plants in the higher row continue to grow in greater abundance and more profusely than those in the lower row. Pity that very soon now I’m going to have to thin them out so that there’s only a plant every 15 cm, meaning about 4 plants in each row. (Actually I’ll probably cheat a little and leave one about every 10cm – hopefully AnnMaree can live with any slight distortion in their shapes due to them having to grow right next to each other.)

As a matter of urgency, I’d better hunt down some information online about just when beetroot plants need to be thinned out…

Carrots

They are all looking pretty healthy at the moment, although not in the same league as the beetroot plants in the higher row. Seems like just about every seed I sowed has come up.

Again, it’s time I looked up exactly when they need to be thinned out. I know the idea is to pull out the unneeded ones when they’re just big enough to provide a nice bite to eat. Just when that moment is, I don’t yet know.

Beans climbing the trellis

Healther beans sending tendrils up the trellis

Beans

Still the same situation – three growing very well, one growing okay, and two very stunted ones lagging behind.

Beans on their 2 metre high trellis in the neighbour's garden

Beans on their 2 metre high trellis in the neighbour's garden

The pacesetters are pushing their tendrils up the trellis with some alacrity. At some point I’ll need to unfold the top 20cm of trellis (currently folded down) and then probably add even more trellis on top, if the beans on neighbour Helena’s 2 metre high stakes are anything to go by.

Chillies

I hadn’t looked closely at the various chilli plants around the place until this morning, when I noticed that two of them each have a fruit starting. That’s the first time I can remember that I’ve ever managed to produce any chillies. Well, they’re not ripe yet – let’s wait and see if they make it all the way before claiming that particular victory, Scampus!

First tomotoes appear

First cherry tomatoes appear, on the supposedly under-performing plant

Tomatoes

How typical – the plant I thought was under-performing, the one in the main bed with the flowers, has turned out to be the one with the first tomatoes growing on it! Of course. It has three fruit all depending from the same main branch, soaking up the sun and growing just as fast as they can.

Now the blowtorch of my gardener’s regard turns on the other three plants, which are currently all about the foliage and very little about the fruit, or even the flowers. Come on you guys, shake a frond!

I have a forlorn hope that it will take several years for the bugs to notice the new garden and its floral inhabitants. Not too worried about most of the plants in there, but the tomatoes are a different story. Already thinking about what natural pesticides it would be good to have at hand – pyrethrum sprays, etc. More internet research warranted.

Sweet corn

The six sweet corn plants are all very green and very healthy and continue to explode upwards, although of course it’s still much too early to see any cobs as yet. What a pity it’s almost certain the cobs will be ripening at the very time we’ll be heading off to New Zealand. Looks like some of our friends and/or neighbours are going to enjoy the fruits of my (well, the plants’) labours.

Cucumbers

Cucumber with sunglasses to indicate size

First cucumber harvested from the garden, beside pair of sunglasses to indicate size

The real success story of my gardening efforts so far! This morning AnnMaree reverently picked the first cucumber, from the central vine in the main garden bed. It was about 12cm long and perhaps 4 to 5cm in diameter – it seemed ready. I think AM felt a jolt of that sense of wonder you get when you first realise that putting some plants (whether seeds or seedlings) in some soil, then after adding some water and sunshine, results in something you can actually eat. It’s been so long, I think I felt a little of it myself.

A number of other fruit are coming along nicely on the various vines, including a fairly well advanced one over in The Annexe. They all bear watching over the next few days – some of them will have to be picked before next weekend, I don’t doubt.

Second cucumber begins to enlarge

A second cucumber puts on its growth spurt

What a pity I don’t like cucumbers! Oh well, AnnMaree will hopefully enjoy them, assuming she likes the flavour.

Eschallots

And finally the newest of the gardens denizens, the eschallots. And being as how they’ve only been in the ground for six days, there is naturally not a lot to report. Certainly they haven’t grown much, although in their defence they’re all still there.

This morning I noticed that one of them had been buried in mulch, which had obviously been flung there by one of the cats burying a turd in a nearby spot. Fortunately he hadn’t actually tried to bury it on the eschallot plant, which is just as well – for him.

Miscellaneous

Using my trusty camera I took about 4 minutes or so of video footage of the back yard and its various gardens yesterday. The video is in four separate bits (my finger gets tired holding the button down, okay?) so I’ll have to knit them together and put it up on my YouTube account.

It gave me an idea about what I’d like for Christmas, though, and I told AnnMaree this afternoon. A proper video camera, even a cheap one, would be very handy. (Not sure that AM thinks so, though – she fears what I might do with it.) If it could take individual frames as well (so I could do stop-motion animation work) that would just be the cream on top.

Hmm, will work on persuading AM over the next couple of weeks. No rush.

Progress report – end of Week 3

30 November, 2009

Not much to report for the week. Things have settled down since the drunken sweet corn episode, and everything is growing apace. Most everything, anyway.

The 2 rows of beetroot compared

The two rows of beetroot compared. (Both look a bit wilted due to it being the middle of the day, but the differences are still obvious.)

Beetroot

That lower row of beetroot is definitely in trouble, for I know not what reasons. The upper row is growing to beat the band, while there are half as many plants in the lower row, and they’re all far punier. Whereas I’ll have to thin out the plants in the upper row, I doubt that’ll be a problem in the lower. Can’t see anything wrong with the soil – it’s the same in both rows. More investigation required, methinks.

After this crop I’ll definitely level the garden bed, instead of having the higher ridge down the centre. The spare soil can go in a pile under a tarpaulin somewhere, for use here and there and in pots as required.

It’s been hot and humid over the past 3 days – our subtropical summer has arrived a few days early. We had a quick storm pass over yesterday afternoon, otherwise it’s been fairly dry, and the grass is starting once again to show it. It will be important to keep the water up to the vegetables.

Cucumbers

Stressed, wilted cucumber in The Annexe

Stressed, wilted cucumber in The Annexe. A little water soon fixes the problem, but must be applied every day.

I tied a couple of Lebanese cucumbers up and on to the trellis in the main bed yesterday – they’d grown to the point where their tendrils were questing out over the edge and heading down to the lawn. The middle cuke had already found the trellis and has been happily making its way up it for the past week.

The cuke over in The Annexe is growing quite well too, but I notice it gets much more stressed and wilted looking on the hot days. As my mate Olsen says, it’s probably copping a double dose of heat, reflecting from the metal fence next to it as well as directly from the sun. All I can do is keep the water up to it and hope it survives. But I’m starting to think that The Annexe may not be the best garden to plant with certain vegetables during our summer.

And that’s about all there is to report this time around, Cap’n. Here are a couple of gratuitous shots of the main garden for the hell of it:

Close-up of the garden

Close-up of the garden; the trellis-tied cucumbers are just visible at right.

Garden bed in front of the Fiddlewood tree

View of the garden bed and the Fiddlewood tree. Bottom of back stairs in left foreground.