Posts Tagged ‘beetroots’

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.

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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.

What about the beetroot?

22 November, 2009

Earlier today AM, my Other Half, pointed out that of the two rows of beetroot seedlings down at the western end of the main garden bed, only in the higher row were the seedlings growing well. The plants that have germinated in the other row were in general smaller and fewer in number.

I have no explanation for why this should be so, only suspicions. Pretty sure I sowed roughly the same amount of seed in each furrow. AM hypothesised that perhaps the protective pavers holding down the mulch were too close on the northern side of the lower row, meaning the seedlings weren’t getting enough sun. Whether she’s right or wrong I can’t say, but I moved the pavers back a little, just in case.

I read in the most recent issue of Warm Earth Organic Gardening that a garden bed needs to be fairly level for best results. As the various photos of my bed included on this blog show, it isn’t very level, with a low ridge down the middle of it sloping away to each of the long sides. (I had too much soil, basically.) And certainly one row of the beetroots, the better performing one, is higher than the other.

Mind you, the magazine included no explanation of exactly why gardens should be level, so I don’t know how much credence to give that as an explanation for the difference between my two rows. I’d best do some further research, I suppose.

The disparity will probably be less pronounced once I thin both rows out some time in the next few weeks, to give the remaining beetroots the space to grow properly. Until, then, I’ll keep an eye on things – I can always top up the lower row with extra soil and/or seed if it looks like it’s needed.

And I guess, in the end, the proof will lie in the quality of the beetroots harvested, from both rows.

First seeds sprout

12 November, 2009

When I went down into the back yard after work this evening to water the gardens, I noticed a few changes.

  • All the seedlings, whatever their species, are so far growing well, with probably the Lebanese cucumbers doing the best.
  • The first beetroot seeds have germinated and are lifting tiny, red and green shoots above the soil.
  • And two of the climbing beans (out of the 5 or 6 seeds I splanted) are sprouting as well.

Things are on track!

The first radishes sprout

The first radishes sprout

The first climbing beans appear

The first climbing beans appear

The vegetable garden bed, half in the sunlight and half in shadow

The vegetable garden bed, half in the sunlight and half in shadow

The vegetable garden from above

The vegetable garden from above

Initial plantings

6 November, 2009
The garden bed - trellises in place

Figure 1. The garden bed - trellises already in place (I forgot to take a photo earlier in the process)

The garden bed is located close to the lower, northern side of the backyard (see Figure 1). Made from 6 treated pine sleepers from Camp Hill Timber and Landscape, it’s 2 sleepers high on all sides (so I don’t have to bend down all the way to the ground while working in it) and has dimensions of 3.6 x 1.2 metres. It’s positioned so that it will receive heaps of sunshine for much of the day, but from about 2.00 to 2.30pm onwards the Fiddlewood tree down the lower back corner will completely shade it. This will hopefully save the plants from getting heatstroke due to too much exposure to our subtropical summer sun.

Trellises

First task of the day was to make myself 3 trellises, to support Lebanese Cucumbers, Cherry tomatoes and Climbing beans. I was able to make the trellises from fairly cheap materials. Each trellis consists of a metre of plastic coated, wire mesh with square holes 10 cm on a side. The mesh was stretched between 2 pine garden stakes each a little over a metre long. The mesh is actually 1.2 m high, with the top 20 cm folded over to keep things tidy. But I have a feeling I’m going to have to unfold it later, especially with the climbing beans which need a trellis up to 2 m high.

Diagram showing the layout and information about the vegetables initially planted in the garden

Figure 2. Diagram showing the layout and information about the vegetables initially planted in the garden

With the trellises built (it took about 3/4 hour sitting in the shade under the back deck) the action shifted to the garden bed itself. I first moved the sugar cane mulch back from the northern half of the bed, clearing it off the soil  in readiness. I used a rubber mallet to hammer my 3 trellises in a line down the bed, 30 cm from and parallel to the northern wall.

Lunch

Before I could start planting, the Significant Other suggested that since it was the last day of our 2 week vacation (not counting the weekend still ahead, which I suppose we would have had anyway), we should head up to the Rare Pear at Holland Park for lunch. Which we promptly did. Lunch was great, coffees weren’t bad (though not a patch on the coffees we experienced down in NSW last week – is it the milk they use?), and we were back home within the hour.

Planting the veges

Lebanese Cucumber seedlings

Figure 3. Lebanese Cucumber seedlings planted and awaiting mulching

Back to the garden. Satiated and armed with a black and white printout of my handy dandy diagram (see Figure 2) I set to planting with a will.

  • First plants to go in were the Lebanese cucumbers – 3 seedlings, 20 cm apart.
  • Cheery tomatoes – 2 seedlings, 60 cm apart.
  • Climbing beans – 5 or 6 seeds buried 2 cm down and 10 cm apart.

Then, down the southern side of the bed, starting from the western end:

  • Radish – seeds, 1/4 inch down in two rows 20 cm apart.
  • Carrot – seeds, 1/4 inch down in two rows 20 cm apart.
  • Chillies – in 2 rows of 2 seedlings (2 Cayenne, 1 Siam, 1 Anaheim) with 25 cm between them.
  • Sweet corn – seedlings in 3 rows about 70 cm apart, 2 seedlings in each row about 35 cm apart.

I watered the plants at various stages during each planting, of course.

All up, I suppose this process took about 3 hours.

At the end there were one or more seedlings of each kind left over. AnnMaree suggested potting some of them, to go up on the back deck with the other potted herbs and plants. By this stage of the afternoon I was pretty much out of energy, so I promised I would pot some of them and plant the rest in a spare, long-prepared garden bed on the south side of the back deck… tomorrow.

I’ve also put off building a cage to go around the whole bed. It’s to be chicken wire over some kind of wooden frame, set up so that the sides can be lifted up and back to allow easy access. I’m hoping I won’t need to build this – that the possums and crows will keep their greedy claws and beaks out of it. Let’s face it, I’m kidding myself here. But I also know that building a cage of the type I have in mind is going to be a monumental undertaking (for me) and will take all of a day to do. And at heart I’m lazy, when it boils right down to it. So if I can get out of it, I will. I’ll pay for it later…

To top things off, it rained quite strongly for a short while during the night, giving the garden and its plants their first proper watering.