Monday, November 14, 2011

In the dying days of spring

The beans / snow pea bed is off and running.
The corn / pumpkin bed is... well you probably can't even
tell its a corn / pumpkin bed
I had a big win last year accidentally companioning tomatoes
with carrot. So I'm trying the same technique, with added basil,
on capsicum this year.
Spanish onion, being picked as needed
As are the leeks
Brown onion coming along
Building up a nice collection of greens there for summer
And the zucchini bed is powering along
Zucchini, with plenty of accidental pumpkin, by the looks.

Saturday, November 12, 2011

Smallest. Egg. Ever.

Look at this. Look at it. Honest to god, its got to be the smallest chicken egg ever. What on earth do you do with an egg this small?

I reckon it'd make an omelet about the size of a fifty-cent piece. Or some french bite-of-toast? One tenth of a muffin, if I added a pinch of flour and a smear of butter?

Thursday, September 29, 2011

The spring orange festival

What I really like about oranges is that they keep forever on the tree. And that's also the reason why we always get to spring and have to quickly consume bucket loads of oranges to make way for the succession of fruit the September sea of blossom heralds. It's not that we haven't been using them through the year - its just that we seem to get enough fruit off these two small trees to justify throwing a local orange festival.

There's two varieties here on the plot; the Washington Navel (pictured closest) and the Seedless Valencia (shading the coop). Apparently they're supposed to produce fruit at different times of the year, but as these photo's might indicate, they're more in-tune with each others cycle than I was lead to believe they would be. But that's okay, because they each have their uses.

The Seedless Valencia - whose defining trait is not always so accurate - is great for juicing. I say that not because its any better for juicing than any other kind of orange - but because I feel its the only thing its really good for. Its not the kind of orange that comes away cleanly from the skin when you're trying to quarter and eat one. But that's fine with me, because the wife loves freshly squeezed orange juice - so this is definitely her tree.

The Washington Navel is more my kind of tree. I love to eat orange straight out of its skin, and these oranges are perfect for that. The wife doesn't get the juicer anywhere near these babies, even if I do sometimes need to resort to angrily waving a broomstick in her general direction.

And isn't it lovely that I've placed her tree and my tree together in the same garden bed. While they still look happy after four and a half years living together, you should hear them argue over who's on who's side of the bed.

It's merely co-incidence that the Seedless Valencia has grown to take up more than its half.

Saturday, September 24, 2011

Final score on the carrots and parsnip

Its a bit of a mixed bag from the carrot / parsnip patch today. I pulled all the carrots (since they keep really well) and found a variety of shapes and sizes - from baby to baseball-bat. A decent crop though, all very usable specimens - about a month's worth, I'd say.

Sadly some of the parsnips were totally forked, which not only makes them harder to use in the kitchen, but extracting them from the ground is less of a pull, and more of an archeological dig. Their soft flesh damages very easy, and the small forks will sooner break than release their hold on the ground. They grow this way whenever they hit something hard in the soil - these two (pictured in the middle) were right on the edge of the area I sieved last year, specifically to prevent this. Since there's also a few really good ones in there, I'm hopeful the rest will be, too. I only pulled up four today because I reckon parsnip will keep much better in the ground than out of it.

Having never grown parsnip before, I have to say I'm pretty happy with the result - even though it's taken five months to get to this stage. But that's not so bad, since they're not supposed to grow over the Sydney winter at all. Lets hear that score again, shall we? Me: 1, Packet directions: 0.

This is the last crop I'll put in the plum bed - the roots of the plum trees are starting to interfere with the growing area of the carrots. It's also stopped me from properly feeding the plums before their spring growth.

Its definitely time to start thinking about carrot planter boxes.

Friday, September 23, 2011

The many faces of broccoli

Here on the plot, Broccoli is much much more than a one hit wonder. No, it goes on to churn out three more hits I can think of before we hop off the bandwagon and move on to the next plant of the moment. So for the time being, it more than earns its keep in what is very high value property - a good sunny bed in my winter garden through to spring - because it doesn't end once I behead the main stem.

You see, the broccoli doesn't give up there. In a desperate bid to reproduce, it throws out side shoots. I've never known these to get as big as the main flower head - they bolt to seed much sooner - but they're certainly as large as any broccoli McCain's can deliver to your freezer. Tasty little bite-sized morsels.
But the plants still don't give up - they just get a lot less patient. The tertiary stems bolt almost immediately, throwing up tall flower stems of tiny yellow flowers - attracting almost every pollinating insect in a two block radius. If you don't like broccoli or bees, this probably isn't the time to go strolling in my garden. But the plants still have a home - I want them to go on to to produce the tiny black seeds that will be next years crop.

And then after living such a fulfilled life, and working so hard for me - I guess its time I retire them somewhere befitting such a worthy counterpart...

... or I could just throw their nutritious goodness to the raptors.

Sunday, September 18, 2011

Pumpkin in interesting places

You probably thought I was joking when I said it. But you should know me better than that by now. I really am going to grow pumpkins on the car-port roof. To the right we have my three exploratory pumpkin seedlings - over the next few months I'm going to train these up the posts, and let them go nuts on the new frontier.

There are so many reasons why this is a good idea. First of all - Its a huge area that's otherwise completely useless. And aesthetically, this car port isn't going to win any architecture awards - its a large area of ugly that needs to be hidden.

But where I'm really hoping to win big is with the car-port micro-climate. It's a very open site with good air flow, full sun - and a big heat battery underneath. There's also no soil on the carport. This combination will hopefully keep the plants dry and reduce attacks of mildew. While I'm predicting the plants will fry over the middle of summer, I'm hoping the growing period for this area will extend a little further through Autumn. Maybe even into winter.

But most importantly - I could never grow enough pumpkin. They're super easy to grow, and store really well over winter. And when we have an abundance, they find their way into most meals.

And I can't wait to see how it looks on the satellite photo.

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Farewell, snow peas

Death-brown adds such a depth to the garden.
At the heart of any good pitch for another crazy garden idea is a decent crop of snow pea. The wife loves the snow pea.

So after kilo upon kilo, month after month since autumn, I sadly called it a day on my winter snow peas yesterday afternoon. I imagine you can see why, the plant only looks marginally better than it would if you'd taken to it with a blowtorch. That's the cancer of the snow pea for you: powdery mildew. It always gets you in the end. That they'd lasted this long wasn't anything to do with careful breeding or great management, more a combination of dry weather and dumb luck.
That trellis isn't much of a design statement,
but it will empower the chickens to do some weeding for me.

So out they came. Sniff, sniff. I'll remember them when I'm cropping pumpkin from the car-port roof next autumn.

In a very token effort to reduce the number mildew spores that can find their way onto my next crop, this is one of the few things I put out as green waste. I guess you could compost it if your heap got hot enough - but that's definitely not a description of my compost - its a bit less like a sauna, and a bit more like tepid bathwater.

Here's some I prepared earlier
Its not a total loss though - I hear the seeds are still good, mildew or none - and there's always a tonne of pods a lazy gardener like me didn't get to quick enough. After a decent amount of drying, they'll be stored well to support the coming year's crazy ideas.

Consistency and Obstination

Avid followers of my garden would know that there's only about one thing that I do with any consistency on the plot - and that's miss the start of spring. With months to co-ordinate and prepare my attack, something always seems to happen in the middle of August and, oh look. It's half way through September and I don't have a single seed in the ground.

I've had a whole host of excuses over the years, and this one is no exception. A couple of weeks ago I hired two new gardeners - and while they might still be a little green and need a lot of training, I'm still hopeful they won't turn out to be quiet the garden pest many might make them out to be. But by far the best thing about the whole situation is that I can finally use my Tonka gardening tools without attracting any of the strange looks I have in the past.

So you might say I'm also a little behind on the spring maintenance, and with the bit of extra heat in the air, the plot has taken the opportunity to revert to wild. For instance, take a look at my onions. Look at them.

This picture is the very embodiment of what this blog stands for; plants that cling for dear life against a tide of malignant growth while I'm off doing something else. I'm sure you can probably eat some of these weeds. I'm also sure you probably don't want to. Lets face it, the bed looks like a green manure crop, ready to be slashed down and dug in. Its probably what I should be doing to it. But I'm in an obstinate mood today, so I decided to procrastinate a bit more on the seed sowing.

And what I've got now is a sorry bunch of straggling brown onions that somehow managed to escape my less than precision weeding. Not a bad survival rate for a plant that's not supposed to enjoy a bit of friendly competition. But every spring has to start somewhere, and I do have a little more time to give to it this week. And hey, it's still September - that means, really, spring has come early to the plot this year ;)

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

My new blank canvas

I'm getting so good at finishing projects, you might even start to think its becoming a habit. And I didn't even start this one all that long ago. Now to plant it out...

Friday, August 19, 2011

Finishing some "unfinished"

If there's one thing the wife absolutely loves, its got to be the way the yard is littered with half finished projects. Its not just because it gives it an abstract, new age feel, or because the ironing got done. I figure it could have something to do with my euphemistic interpretation of the way her face contorts when I suggest starting another something new. But no matter how much it makes her happy, every now and then it really starts to bother me, and so sooner or later I get around to starting an end to a project.

At some point in the last two years I must have gotten distracted. Because shamefully that's how long its been since we replaced our treated timber retaining wall, and how long some of these gaping holes have been waiting to be filled.

So to start, I had to do something that would distract the wife from the certain distress that would come from completing something that was unfinished. Its a few boards of stained decking timber, so you could say its my back deck, but in truth, its supposed to more closely resemble the function of a seat. What's better, the gaping hole is only covered, not filled, and the seat is removable - so aside from me being able to keep it out of the weather, I can return to the gaping-hole look whenever I want! 

She was so delighted with the result, there wasn't even a hint of a complaint.

Thursday, August 18, 2011


The oranges think so.
The lemon thinks so.
The plums definitely think so.
The apples... Nah. Stuff ya'.

Monday, August 15, 2011

By Rognvald's Mattock!

Anyone over the age of four will tell you that you can't use grass in a salad. And since I am reminded daily that we're currently growing a couple of under-four-year-olds, I thought it an opportune time to reclaim a bit more of the lawn before those few extra sets of eyes join the wife, watching suspiciously whenever I disappear into the yard with a mattock. In any case, I'm going to be leaving at least some lawn, mostly just to cover ourselves in case said under-four-year-olds won't eat anything else green.

I was lucky enough to have both company and experience in the yard with me yesterday - a good mate of mine who has more experience with a mattock than Thor had with a hammer back when the Norsemen started to worship him. I'm sure the Vikings would have given this guy some cool name like Rognvald, and shouted it loud when they did their team gardening. We're talking about a man that regularly removes large expanses of lawn in forty degree heat, if there's anything more bad-ass than that.

Aside from the usual bribery in the form of ice cream, chocolate or ironing board slavery, approval for this project is won by the acceptance of shape and form as marked out by a garden hose. The wife looked reasonably happy with the proposal, and in my book, a yes is a yes, even if it is said with folded arms and an unconvinced tone. With two mattocks smiting the lawn, a lasting and irreversible impression is quickly made.

I've designed my garden to be a lot of things - but if there's one thing that it is definitely not, its conducive-to-wheelbarrow. But unless you're teetering on the edge of death or permanent injury by falling wheelbarrow, I say you're not really gardening. And that's the story of how new topsoil came into my world.

Then in a final attempt to ensure at least one of us would need to build a lasting relationship with a physiotherapist, Rognvald and I began moving large chunks of bush rock I'd acquired from some random's front yard. I assure you though it was totally legit - through a service I can't speak highly enough about (Freecycle). After arranging them suitably in place, the dropping sun was subtly telling me the same thing my lower back was shouting directly into the pain centres of my brain: Its time to throw back a few of Bundaberg's finest.

And with the setting sun, mattocks by the door, and dirt strewn across the back room, so closes the opening chapter in a new epic.

Saturday, August 13, 2011

Getting cold feet

More often that not, its dark when I leave the house over the colder months. When I arrive home its darker. Some nights I still go out to see the plot, when the need is most great. But I'm almost never there in the mornings. It's hard enough getting out of bed, let alone venturing that one step colder. For me, the coming of Winter marks the time where the otherwise steady, stable relationship I have with my garden disintegrates into a series of intermittent weekend flings and one-night stands. Thus, the most used pages of my little black book at this time of year are full of self-confident, independent and motivated types who are mutually agreeable with these kinds of on-again-off-again arrangements. I'd like to think we've become quite comfortable with one another over the years.

Broccoli is performing surprisingly well this year, considering that the plants were eaten down to the ground three times before they gained any traction. I spent April squashing the caterpillar of the cabbage white butterfly, as well as attempting in vain to find out how in gods name the slugs were getting past my defenses.  Next year I'll plant broccoli in late May - when I've found both these pests are a lot less active. My July succession crop of broccoli suffers none of the above problems, but I fear its growing too slow to crop before the hot weather gives it a beating. But all up, since April, the only thing I've done for them is harvest the results.

At the risk of loosing my title as a lazy gardener, I'm now going to carefully use the term succession a number of times more - hopefully not to the shock and disappointment of you, my dear readers. My bush beans grew so well through the June, I was even game enough to plant a succession crop of those right in winter's heart - which are coming along surprisingly well. Up to a kilo a week has been collected in short sprints between the patch and my climate controlled abode.

The onions are doing as onions do. Nothing too quickly. But alas! I even have a succession crop of those!

Despite the best efforts of the seed packet to scare me from planting parsnips in late May, I went ahead and did it anyway. They've been growing extremely well, hand in hand with a row of carrots, all the way through the colder months. Its almost like they don't need me at all.

So maybe I have to admit I did in some ways become a little more committed to the Winter Garden this year.

But only a little.