Posts Tagged ‘Gardening’

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.

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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.

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

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.)

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.