Saturday, September 29, 2012

A few updates

If you hadn't been able to tell from the eight posts I've made in the last thirty or so days, I'm well and truly back in the garden. And I'm enjoying it - even ignoring the fact that 6am is about the only time of the day I get a quiet twenty minutes out there. I've been up at 6am a lot.

Here's how things are looking out there.

The plastic trellis I set down around the orange trees is definitely doing its job. I've still only been letting the chickens in intermittently, but they're perfectly able to keep the area free of weeds without bringing about the destruction of my citrus crop. However, anywhere without trellis is turning into a deep trench, so pretty soon I'll be extending this little experiment.

The Sacred Basil started shooting this week after a long, tense wait. I'm even pretty sure that is basil - and not just some random weed that found its way to the pots on the wind.

With two additional bottomless pits of food consumption in the house now, we're producing mountain-loads of kitchen scraps - I regularly add a 4-6 litre container's worth each and every day. And so when I turned the compost this morning, I found I had something I've never had before in the history of the plot. A steaming pile of... compost. The heat generated is amazing, and will hopefully kill any seeds mixed up in there - it may be well the first compost I've produced that doesn't freely propagate tomato. Its a touch wet in there, so I'll be adding some more dry material soon. But just look at that black gold down there.

I've planted pumpkins around the yacon - these are of the gigantic type that Grandma-of-Legend always sends us home with. The pumpkin these seeds came from kept for six months and took us two weeks to finish. There's a great reason I've planted these here - the towering form of mature yacon should shade the pumpkin from the worst of the summer heat - and located along the western fence, they'll be protected from the worst of the late afternoon inferno.

That's if they survive that long through the usual slug apocalypse.
Talking about the yacon, it's just popped up out of the soil. It's centre frame - please quietly ignore all the weeds around it.

Saturday, September 15, 2012

A few visitors

Had a few visitors in the garden today...
Looks like maybe there's yet hope for them there plums.


Thursday, September 13, 2012

Herd of Yacón?


Early last week a small package arrived at my house; the much anticipated yacón delivery. While we've already established that yacón is not a breed of alpaca, I thought I'd bring you along on my journey of discovery as to what it actually is.

Yacón is a plant with edible tuberous roots, and what this package contained is a collection of ventilated plastic bags that loudly compelled me to plant their contents immediately. The tubers enclosed are gnarled, knotted and twisted exactly like its cousin, the jerusalem artichoke. If that still doesn't give you a good feel for what they look like, then just try to imagine what would happen if an alpaca ate too many burritos, and left the result to harden in the sun.

As you might imagine due to their shape, these aren't the easiest kind of tuber to prepare for general consumption, and from my experience with jerusalem artichoke, if these were the intended product I'd probably have fed them to the chickens at this point. However, while edible, these gnarled tubers are mainly reserved for propagation - yacón are usually grown for the additional gigantic, ovaloid storage tubers that are reportedly bigger than that fish your uncle caught last summer and won't shut up about.

What attracted me to the yacón, other than trying to grow something completely different, was evaluating the claim that they'll happily grow without any attention what so ever. And seriously, who do you know that would better run that test? Its resume reads exactly as it should for a position in my garden. They're also supposed to taste sweet like an apple (hence its other name - the Peruvian ground apple), and since I'm not doing all that well growing sky apples, I thought I better hedge my bets.

My preparation of the bed hasn't been perfect  considering my long absence from behind the garden-fork, which isn't a problem because apparently yacón will also grow happily in poor sandy soils too, just not as vigorously. So with only a single bag of caca de la vaca to spread over some of the area, I'll be experimenting by planting yacon in two kinds of soil - poor soil, and poorer soil.

I've planted them along my western fence in four separate holes, each about a meter apart, and a few centimeters under the soil. They should grow into a tall unruly mass of leaves and yellow flowers that you could easily mistake for a group of hippies at an open air festival. When they die back after the summer, I'll hire a small crane to lift the tubers out. And the tops of the plants are supposedly highly nutritious veloci-chicken food - so nothing will go to waste!

Will keep you posted on the progress!

Thursday, September 6, 2012

Liberating sacred basil seed

After months of staring indifferently at this tray of dried basil flowers, tonight I finally started liberating the seed to much fanfare (which in this case really boiled down to the Wife's stern why-is-that-still-there look reducing to the slightly more moderate, well-it's-about-time look).

I probably could have been much more time efficient, just crushing and burying them shallowly beneath the soil, but all this warm weather does something funny to my motivation - I'm carefully separating them this evening.

It's also important to get this right, because it isn't easy to come by basil with just the right sweet flavour - and I know this one is perfect, because it came from the Eternal-Basil-Bed that is grown by Grandma-of-Legend. And the sacred basil must be treated with the correct respect.

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Lasagna with a touch of Grevillea, to taste.

As a general rule of thumb, if you can't put it in (or with) a lasagna, its probably not growing in my garden. Failing that, you better be able to make a dessert out of it - or even better, it be a dessert in its own right. Suffice to say, I don't have an awful lot of ornamentals growing around the place because they just don't tick enough of these boxes - and instead tend to get pushed aside in an endless pursuit of more crop space. But within such menu-driven planting decisions, there's the hidden danger that not enough pollinators will show up to the party - leaving me with plenty of blossom, and not enough birds 'n the bees

So given that I barely find enough time to organise planting my edibles - let alone a streaming succession of flowering plants to keep the bees interested - I began to search for the compact, year-round flowering plant that needs no attention, should such a divine expression of nature exist.

Luckily, my mate Rognvald is a bit ahead of the game than me, and I was delighted when he showed up at my place on the weekend with a Silky Grevillea he'd managed to strike from a cutting. From a year-long study in his yard down the road, it is reportedly covered in flower for most of the year, and is irresistible to bees.

Fingers crossed; this is a first step to more produce - and a small break to the general rule of my garden, lest lasagna start tasting a touch more exotic.

Sunday, September 2, 2012