Posts Tagged ‘annexe’

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.

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.

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.

Eschallots

30 November, 2009
Eschallot seedlings in their container

Eschallot seedlings in their original container

On Saturday our lower-side neighbour Helena called me over to the fence and handed me a plastic container chock full of eschallot seedlings, growing in compost by the looks. She’d grown them herself, but found she had far too many. Her suggestion was to plant some of them in between the sweet corn, since I had a bit of spare space there.

Four seedlings planted between the sweet corn

Four seedlings planted between the sweet corn

Saturday and Sunday were far too hot and humid to be doing anything but the most minimal garden work (watering, basically) so I kept putting the planting off, and hoped Helena wouldn’t notice. Today, on my day off, it was now or next weekend at the earliest – and I still left it until late in the afternoon to do, because today wasn’t much cooler than the last two.

Seedlings planted out in The Annexe

Seedlings planted out in The Annexe, in the row nearest the front wall.

Anyway, they’re in now. I planted four of the seedlings between two of the rows of corn, but left the space between the other two rows free as they’re a bit closer together. The rest of the eschallot seedlings have gone into The Annexe garden, in a row closest to the brick wall and furthest from the metal fence, in the hopes they won’t be affected so much by the extra heat bouncing off the metal on these hot days.

Close-up of two seedlings

Close-up of two of the seedlings

All the seedlings got a bit knocked around, losing all or most of the soil/compost around their roots as I transplanted them from container to bed. I’m not the most gentle of gardeners, sad to say. They’re not much to look at now, but I figure if they survive my mauling, they’ll do okay. I have hopes that at least some of them will survive and thrive, to eventually grace our dinner table.

As soon as I start harvesting, I’ll have to remember to provide Helena with some of the crops she doesn’t grow herself (not eschallots, natch, unless she’s run out by then). I owe her, and will no doubt owe her much, much more as the seasons go by.

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.

The Annexe

7 November, 2009

The situation

Yesterday’s major effort to fully plant up the vegetable garden left 7 unused seedlings still drooping forlornly in their punnets:

  • 2 cherry tomatoes
  • 1 Lebanese cucumber
  • 4 chillies, comprising:
    • 2 Cayenne
    • 1 Anaheim
    • 1 Jalapeño
Overflow garden as seen from the back deck

Overflow garden as seen from the back deck, next to established plants

There’s a large amount of garden space in our back yard, hugging the fences on all 3 sides. Now it so happens that one part of it, about 3 metres’ worth on the upper, southern side nearest the deck, is empty.

It used to be shaded, a little too well, by a Macadamia nut tree that leaned over the fence from George the upper side neighbour’s yard, so we’d really never grown anything there.

(That Macadamia was a wonderful tree – big enough to partly shade our back deck, making it considerably cooler on those stinking hot summer days of ours. The new, wind-down shade we had installed after it was gone is okay, good even, but still… I miss the tree, its leaves, its birds, and even its occasional possum denizens.)

Anyway, about 8 months back George finally had the nut tree chopped down – it had been heavily crowded out by both our and his back decks for years, so major branches had been lopped off here and there. It was starting to look lopsided. (Hmmm, could it be this is where the term “lopsided” comes from…?)

Overflow garden, planted and mulched

The overflow garden, planted, trellised and mulched.

After the tree went, we realised that the area of never-used garden bed below it was now far more exposed to the sun and therefore more “plantable”. So I got in a half metre of organic garden soil from Camp Hill Timber and Landscape, our nearest supplier of landscaping supplies. After adding the soil to the bed I’d then thoroughly swaddled it in sugar cane mulch and used some of the ubiquitous old pavers to protect the mulch (not all that successfully, let’s face it) from cat attack. And that’s how the bed has stayed ever since, waiting for a purpose.

Well, almost half of it now has that purpose.

The process

I spent a pleasant couple of hours in the middle of the day there (fortunately it was cloudy and so not too hot), first removing the pavers and scraping the mulch back out of the way. I then dug up the areas where the excess seedlings were to go and added a measure of compost to each area, mixing it well through the soil. Wetting everything down thoroughly at each step I transplanted the seedlings into position, putting in a stake or trellis next to those that will need it (the tomatoes and cucumber). I finished off by re-mulching around the new denizens, making sure to keep the mulch at least 5 centimetres away from the seedling stems so the organisms that break down the mulch don’t focus on the stems instead, and “re-paving” the lot for ongoing protection. Step back and away, and the job ’tis done.

Potted chillies (Jalapeno and Anaheim) destined for the back deck

Potted chillies (Jalapeño and Anaheim) destined for the back deck

Oh, and while I was at it, I potted up the last 2 remaining chillies, the  Anaheim and the Jalapeño, and put them upstairs on the back deck.

The outcome

The new, ‘overflow’ vege garden is hereby dubbed the Annexe. I can see it going one way or the other – either down in flames and eaten out because it’s closer to the fence and may be easier and safer for the possums to reach; or it’ll flourish because it’s somewhat more out of site and sheltered than the main bed out in the yard.

What’s the bet?

(P.S. Ignore the date on the photos – it’s wrong. I accidentally set the camera date to the day before after recharging the battery overnight. A true GardenerScampus moment – no doubt merely the first of many more.)