Thursday, February 15, 2018

Corn and watermelons

Ahhhh, a few days of cooler weather, thank goodness. Time to get out and do some work.
I have the markets on this weekend, and as soon as they are done I will get stuck into planting some brassicas for winter. I know I said I wouldn't be growing brassicas again but when I have spare seed I might as well put it in just in case we get a mild and dry winter/spring.


 With most of my corn being destroyed in the heatwave in January I am happy that at least the Gless Gem has done ok. It was planted in the only tiny patch of good soil that I have and it made a big difference.

I know it is fairly useless, in Australia that is where we don't go in for ornamental vegetables, but it is very pretty.
 I have nearly lost a whole row of melons that were looking very good until a few days ago. The cockatoos have decided to play with them and destroy them.
I think I will have to put a net over them if I can find a spare one. I have to net the sorghum shortly but hopefully I can spare a bit for these melons.

It has been a few years since I last grew this little, yellow fleshed watermelon 'Sunshine' from Hungary.
I thought I had better put some in this year before the seed got too old.

You might recall in one of my posts not long ago where I mentioned that the cockatoos started to eat one of my watermelons, well it was this one. At least I will have a couple of melons for fresh seed.



I have also been harvesting some asparagus seed. I hate that job as they berry sap causes me to get very itchy all over, especially my face. At least that is done now until next year.
I have decided to also grow the purple variety 'Purple Passion' as it is so delicious, so I will have two asparagus varieties for seed.

Not much else is happening for now as the soil is too dry to work but in six weeks when the heat is gone I will be busy rotary hoeing for the garlic and broad beans. I am going to grow a lot more broad beans this winter to try and get more nitrogen and organic matter into the soil. I will also be buying a few big bales of straw to spread on some of the beds - it makes a huge difference.

Straw for mulch does not work well here but it is great to have on the beds over winter to rot in before planting starts again in October.



Saturday, February 10, 2018

melons, melons, melons

What melons survived the heat and sunburn are ripening now. At least I will have enough seed to replant next year.

With global warming making summers hotter I am going to cover a lot of my beds before next summer with walk under shadeloth. It is going to be pricey but there is not much else I can do. All the melons, cucumber and oca will go under the shadecloth and the heat loving things like okra, peanuts and watermelons can go outside.
I will try to build up the soil more with organic matter for the corn next year to try and help it cope better with the heat.


 This one is from my breeding program. For the moment it is called 'Green Granite' because of the rind colour.
This year the plants and fruits are stable so I was going to grow it out next year for seed. Unfortunately not a single fruit has contained viable seed so far, they are all empty. I guess it is because of the heat. At least I have a couple of plants with a few more fruits to go.

It has a creamy soft texture like some of the Russian melons, a texture that I am not particularly fond of but other people might like.
The flavour is mild and not too sweet, but otherwise just like any other muskmelon.

It is not a melon that I would jump from the rooftops over but it is ok and I might improve it later.
All the fruits weigh about a kilo.

A nice little melon that has just ripened this morning is Ha Ogen (or Israel melon). It looks quite striking and has a lovely flavour and texture.
The fruits weight less than a kilo. I have a few fruits left to go so I might have enough seed to put in packets this year.




This is 'Crane'. One of my favourites from the US. It has green spots that turn orange when ripe and a lucious flavour.

The few fruits I got this year were small because the plants didn't handle the heat very well.








I have found that my new mini seeded watermelons 'Peewee' get sunburnt easily so I have lost quite a few fruits but at least I will get a good amount of seed.

The bad thing about growing these is that it is so much harder to harvest the seeds out of them than other watermelons. I will have to work on my technique before next year when I want to offer bulk seed to seed companies.

I think these are going to be a great seller.

Saturday, February 3, 2018

Red Swan bean and damn cockatoos

Well, we are back to hot weather again, another 6 weeks or more before autumn kicks in. I hate the heat.


 Although they are all picked now, here is a picture of Red Swan beans. The bushes are always so tiny but they bear profusely. It is a shame that the red colour goes green when cooked.

I planted a few this year because they were one of the varieties that cope with a fair amount of heat.


Since they had died down I pulled up all the 'Phoenix' nasturtium to get the seed, and found that although they flowered so well they didn't produce seed - I only ended up with a dozen seed, barely over the amount of plants I had.

I am really disappointed.

Small Potato cucumber.
These are always so sickly and fall victim to powdery mildew early every year I only get enough seed to plant the next year.

Since they mostly die before bearing fruit I only get to harvest seed from the toughest. This year they all grew, fruited and didn't get powdery mildew at all so finally I should have seed that I can be confident of every year.
I still didn't get much seed because the heat got them but it looks like I will be able to do a lot better next year. Goes to show that only keeping seed from the toughest works out well.



Cockatoos got into my young 'Sunshine' watermelons and chewed up nearly the lot. They missed a couple that were hidden under some tomato plants so at least I will get a little seed.
This is the first time I have had this trouble so I will have to watch out for it in the future.

At least this was the only variety affected.

Wednesday, January 31, 2018

Okra and Lovers Lunch tomato

Although I lost most of my crops there are a few that don't seem to mind the heat at all. Most of these had a hard time at first when sown or planted because we had nights that were too cold for them up till the first week in Jan so I lost most of them, but I did get a few going.

 This is the first year that I have tried growing okra. I put in a heap of varieties but many of them didn't make it through the cold nights. I have four left.

This pic is of 'Becks Big Horn'. I managed to keep about 20 plants going so it is the toughest of all the ones I tried. The plants are big and healthy.

This one is 'Louisianny Long Pod'. I have about 8 plants of this variety and they are just starting to fruit now.

I tried cooking an okra pod last night. I cut it in rounds, sprinkled with salt and pepper and fried till golden. IT WAS GOOD.

You hear all the bad stories about this vegetable but I was certainly surprised at how tasty it was. The flavour was a bit like zucchini but much better tasting and robust.

I only have a couple of small plants each of the other two varieties that survived 'Jing Orange' and 'Abigails Coffee'.


I managed to get two plants of this tomato 'Lovers Lunch' to survive to a point where they produced ripe fruit. I love the colour and the flavour is good too.
The green and red stripes are very eye catching so I will definitely grow a heap more next year.

I just hope I get a couple more fruits off the plants before they die so I can have a few more seeds.











Saturday, January 27, 2018

Everything destroyed, no income this year

With heatwave temperatures up to 47 degrees C I have lost nearly all my crops. Everything is dry and dead except a few very heat tolerant rows like capsicums, peanuts, snake beans and okra. I have found that everything that I had under the shadecloth row covers has done fine though (oca and arracacha) so I will be shelling out for as much shadecloth as I can afford before next summer.

I am making plans to stop this kind of destruction from happening again, and with climate change it is certain to happen more often.

 The corn is a total write off. I should have enough seed of most of them to replant next year but 'Anasazi' might be touch and go because the heat hit while it is flowering so most of the plants that are not totally dead have lost their flowers.
I am hoping that I have enough seed in my stores to at least plant a few hundred plants next year to produce plenty of seed the year after.

Although all my capsicums are still healthy, the fruit is mostly sunburnt. At least the plants are still young enough to put out a heap more fruit.

I will have to get some more shadecloth as soon as possible to protect the new fruits but in on the weekend we are supposed to get a few days of around 45 degrees so any fruit that is on them now will be ruined. If I order today I should have the shadecloth by the end of next week.
Watermelons are mostly still alive but all the fruits are burnt and will rot off in the next couple of weeks. I am not sure if they are healthy enough and have enough time to set more fruit though.


I am irrigating every two days at the moment instead of twice a week but it still doesn't help in the high heat.




Thursday, January 18, 2018

Corn earworms, and hot hot hot

I am not looking forward to the rest of the summer if it is going to be like this week, in the 30s and 40s. Everything on the farm is frizzling. I am wondering if I will have anything to show on my open day in a bit over a month.


This looks like a bad year for earworms, every single ear of corn is damaged, and I am not looking forward to seeing how much damage they are going to do to my tomatoes and capsicums when they come ripe.
I have been spending some time picking them out of immature ears but it is not doing much good.

All over Facebook people are complaining about earworm damage to tomatoes.




In the next couple of days all my beans (except for the heat tolerant snake beans) will by burnt and dead. Luckily they are all just about ready to pick. I have picked some already but many of those were burnt and the seeds useless. If the seeds are mature they will not be damaged though.



My 'Priscilla' Gladdies are finished now. I love gladiolus and I think I will grow a lot more next year. I will have to fork up for some bulbs as the Priscillas are the only type I have at the moment after pulling out some others that had a virus.

I am not going to go into fresh flowers as I am too far away from markets, but some bulbs to sell might make a nice change.
As some of you know I have been thinking of putting a few beds of flowers for drying but I can't find any info about whether dried flower bunches actually sell - oh well, can't hurt to try some next year.






Just for something to do I have written a short, basic course on 'making money with your garden and back yard'. If you are interested it can be found here: https://farmschool.teachable.com/p/how-to-make-money-from-your-garden 

The cost is $5 (most of which is taken in Paypal and website fees, so I am only making a dollar or so). Let me know if you would like to see some in depth courses on market gardening or other commercial growing. it might be a useful project for the winter when I don't have much else to do.

Sunday, January 14, 2018

Farm biosecurity is important






A few visitors have asked me why I have this biosecurity sign on the gate leading into my vegetable farm.
One of the reasons is to remind me every day to be careful of what I am doing, and what others are doing that may, not only bring pests and diseases onto my property, but also to be careful that I am not impacting the local area with any pests or diseases that I may have on the property.

It is to remind me to keep my risk management strategies up to date when I hear of a new pest or disease that has been found in Australia and regularly do risk assessments of the whole system on the farm. Luckily I farm vegetables in an area with no other vegetable farms around, it is mostly all grazing with a bit of cropping here. This will make it easy to isolate and manage or destroy any risk that does eventually turn up on my property to protect growers in other parts of the country.

It is to remind visitors to be careful of what they might bring onto the property, and gives a good excuse to refuse to allow a visitor to, say, bring a gift of a tomato plant onto the property at my open day, without causing offence. And to help them think of any risks involved with their own actions, especially if they have never thought about it before.

It makes me, not only aware, but actively looking for local and national threats, and keeps me inspecting my plants for changes in that might indicate trouble.

Every day when I drive onto my property I see that sign and it automatically makes me aware of my actions for the whole day and reminds me of what the whole agricultural industry can lose if we fail to be attentive at all times. Sure, I should be able to do all this without the sign on my gate, but we all know how easy it is to become complacent.


I recommend that every farmer, whether farming animals or plants, have a biosecurity sign on their gate for everyones benefit.  

Australians can buy a sign like this at: http://www.farmbiosecurity.com.au/buy-a-gate-sign/