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...