Sunday, December 16, 2012

A few little things

 If you've ever got some kind of mildew on your plants, you can bet you'll have a few lady beetles show up to help fight the fire. But as far as timing and attendance go, they're a lot less like the fire brigade, and much more like the demolition crew who come to knock down whatever didn't burn. This lone member of the cavalry is on the scene weeks after the infestation on my swedes. Luckily, the combination of removing dead & sick plant material, as well as spraying with milk really pulled the crop through. All that leaves is for the lady beetles to be aesthetically pleasing, I guess.

 Some miniature mangoes. I won't be keeping all of these, but I'm hopeful I'll end up with two or three.

This is what a sad yacon looks like. After two days without a kiss good-morning from the hose, it really didn't have a great time in the heat today. It'll bounce back after the drenching I gave it, but these ground apples are going have to taste absolutely amazing to get invited back to my garden. They're just so needy.

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

The unlikely friendship dynamic of Pumpkin and Yacon

When I planted these pumpkin in the yacon bed a few months back, I had intended for the yacon to shade the pumpkin leaves and afford it a bit of protection from the hot western summer sun. As you can observe, it didn't quite turn out that way.

You might need to take a closer look to even see that I wasn't just having you on about the yacon in the first place:

But building on the luck that underpins many of my most celebrated successes, it seems to be working out nicely all the same. These yacon are far less drought tolerant than I'd been led to believe - a day or two without watering and the wrong end of the plant will be trying to acquaint itself with the soil. The huge pumpkin leaves shade the plants and the soil from the heat of the afternoon, and I'd imagine are doing something to reduce the amount of leaf burn I'm seeing on the yacon after particularly hot, dry days.

Another unexpected revelation in this whole yacon growing adventure is that the cabbage white butterfly seems to know something about how nutritious the leaves of the plant are, too. The green caterpillars can be hard to spot directly, but luckily this one (pictured) left an enormous steaming pile of overcooked nuggets to help me pin point its location.

Never one to laze around in a bed, the pumpkin have started their summer offensive on the lawn, and as far as I'm concerned, they have the full run of the yard for the next four months. Of course, I don't really have a choice because the female flowers only seem to appear once the stems reach a certain distance over the lawn.

These are some variety of Kent pumpkin, and they seem to double in size between blinks. I'm sure given time I could probably grow one to the size of a Volkswagen - I'm tempted, but I think that will have to wait another season. I always forget to plant giant pumpkin somewhere that has fork-lift access.

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Racing Jalapenos

I was out drinking with some mates after work back in September, and sometime after the third round conversation abruptly and unexpectedly turned to this very literary masterpiece, yours truly, Le Vegging Gardener. I know, I was surprised too - cause I wasn't even the one who brought it up. My mate, otherwise fondly known as The Wombat, told me that his disillusionment in supermarket chilli had lead him to pot a Jalapeno plant on his apartment balcony. A first-time jalapenos grower, he'd visited the blog and left bitterly disappointed, as while the Jalapeno regularly features in my garden, it hasn't so much on said blog. So never wanting to disappoint, I said I'd buy a plant and write about it.
And this is where the true genius comes in: The Wombat says to me "We'll have a race!".

So nursing a 'mild' hangover I walked into my local nursery the next morning, and walked out twenty minutes later with this punnet of jalapenos for $2.49. (Not bad huh? Jalapenos regularly cost $29.95/Kg)I could have picked one larger plant for the same price, but decided take the more economical option and try a few different planting options. And anyway, if you knew nothing about the form, you'd always bet on the guy who had the seven horses in an eight horse race, right?

Like all peppers, jalapenos like a warmish soil - so September wasn't a bad time to kick off the racing season. I planted in three separate locations: Three plants went in the herb garden where there's pretty much all day sun year round - this spot is warm and sheltered, and in the past has produced jalapeno even in winter. Three went in a slightly shadier, more open position - I didn't expect such great results here, and only in Summer. The final plant I put in a black pot (I figured it would keep the soil warm either side of summer), which I placed with all the other pot plants on death row. I have a terrible track record with anything that grows in pots - I'm pretty time poor, so anything that needs more than an occasional look in wouldn't want to find itself in the waiting line in my yard.

Site #1: The Herb Garden
Site #2: The forward retaining wall
On The Green Mile
All plants started in a hole with a good helping of moo poo and a handful of blood and bone. Being a little rushed to get off the mark, I didn't get around to checking the soil acidity - but I'm fairly happy that almost every part of my garden posts a neutral pH, which is just a little above the 5.5 - 6 ideal, and certainly not tragic for chilli.

So some ten weeks into competition, where are my seven horses?

Only one of three in the herb garden is really performing, it's tall and green, while the other two are shorter and a little more sickly in colour - They're all flowering. There's not an awful lot of difference between where they're planted, so it's hard to say why there's such a big difference.

Two plants remain at site #2. The plant that fell behind did so quite early in the game, and the slugs did the rest. The remaining two are tall and strong, and are covered in bloom. I have supports ready in place to carry the weight of the branches as the fruit forms.

Then there's the saddest little pea in the pod. The victim in the pot. It fell out of the starting blocks and has pretty much laid there crying ever since. I suspect its got a lot to do with the size of the pot as much as it does the lack of regular feeding and water that a potted plant requires.

But all things considered, a few losses isn't anything to cry about - for the amount of jalapenos we eat, I only need a single plant to cover our usage. I really was expecting most of the plants to be chewed to the ground by slugs in the first week. So if you like Jalapenos and you happen to be my friend - Well. Its going to be a good year for you.