Posts Tagged ‘vegetables’

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.


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!


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.

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.

First cucumbers

2 December, 2009
Closeup of a young cucumber and flower

Closeup of a young cucumber and flower

I happened to be down talking to my neighbour, Helena, this morning when she mentioned that the cucumbers were starting to appear on my plants.

Huh? I responded. Are you sure?

Oh yes, said Helena (who ought to know, having been growing vegetables for some time in her various gardens).

So I went and had a look, and lo and behold, they are indeed!

The monster cucumber

The monster cucumber, tucked away under the foliage

There are perhaps a half dozen small ones coming off the main stems, each with a small yellow flower at its tip. And at first I thought that was all that had happened.

Then I spied it.

A monster, on the middle plant, which has been happily and quietly growing up the trellis right from the start, unlike its two mates. The cuke in question is already about 6 cm long and fleshy – far advanced over the others. I suspect, given the shrivelled nature of its flower, it’s almost ready to pick.

Most impressive. The first fruits of my labours!

Kinda nice of Helena to show me that.


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.

Sweet corn down!

22 November, 2009

The weekend just past, apart from its oppressive heat and humidity (welcome back, Brisbane summer…), was also fairly windy. I’d been noticing since Saturday morning, maybe even since Friday evening, that a couple of the sweet corn plants were not quite upright, and were leaning at slight angles as the breeze pushed them around a bit.

When I watered the garden this afternoon, one of the affected plants actually gave up the ghost under the fairly gentle onslaught and keeled over altogether, while the angle of the other one increased to a dangerous level.

Fortunately there’s plenty of spare soil in the garden bed, along the southern side of the trellises where there’s a gap between them and the non-trellised plants. I just excavated a bit of the dirt, mounded it up around the base of the 2 plants, and firmed it down to give them the added support they obviously needed.

GardenerScampus Tip: Keep a regular eye on your plants in their early days (if not all the time) and shore them up if and when it’s needed. Otherwise you may look out and find your vegetables are lying down on the job, possibly for so long that it’s too late to remedy the situation.

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.


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.


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.